Let me share a story with you. The setting is a 5 man instance; our main characters include a tank, a healer, and three DPSers, one of which happens to be a warlock. The group is progressing through the instance relatively well, but after the first boss fight the tank notices that it’s taking a little longer to clear trash than expected. He takes a quick glance at his DPS meters and sees that the warlock in the group is lagging behind. He inspects the lock’s gear and sees some improper itemization and shockingly notices that the lock is sporting some unspent talent points. He alerts the group, harsh words are uttered, a kick-vote is initiated and the warlock is booted. Not too unusual right? The lock should know better by now – L2P or whatever. What’s not usual about this story is the setting wasn’t Pit of Saron, or ToC, or even the Nexus, this story took place in the Deadmines. As it turns out our poor protagonist, the warlock, never had a chance. She was a new player (actually new, like this was her main) in a 5 man group with 4 heirloomed-out ICC raiders on alts. In a game where Blizzard is shooting characters to max level with blistering speed, how are players supposed to learn to play in groups? Or even in raids?
Let’s face it; there isn’t much of a chance to learn to play in a 5 man group as players rocket their way to level 80. What options do new players have? There is the dungeon finder, which is great for getting in a group and absolutely horrible for giving you a chance to learn to play as a part of a group. Crowd control has gone the way of the dinosaurs, assisting the tank happens about as often as an eclipse, and generally group chat consists solely of posted damage meters. For a new player still trying to learn abilities this can be a nightmare. To make matters worse, the clearing pace in low-level instances ranges from somewhere between hella’ fast and bzooooooooooooooooooooom. Mistakes generally aren’t well received either, our poor warlock protagonist got booted after a round of mockery – not an uncommon fate in the gaming universe.
Learning how to raid can follow the same script. The first raid instance players experience now is ToC. You can scoff, but ToC is not an easy raid for an inexperienced player. Think of it this way – for many of us (old guard) the first raid instance we jumped into was Molten Core. The mechanics of that space were laughable compared to today’s standards for raiding. I will offer up Baron Geddon as an example. Here is your player checklist – “Am I the bomb?” – No. – DPS boss. Ragnaros really wasn’t any harder either – “Is Ragnaros above the lava” – Yes – DPS boss, No – DPS adds. The very first “fight” in ToC is actually 3 fights, each one has mechanics more complex than most, if not all, of Molten Core. The silencing kobolds, the worms with 2 debuff types and cleansing one with the other, and the wendigo with the targeted charge – any of these mechanics would have doubled the difficulty of any MC boss. Don’t forget that there were 40 of us in MC as well, so if 5 or even sometimes more players threw up a mental airball we were still collecting loot. In 25 and 10 man raids the margin for error is much less. Raids now have harder mechanics and less room for error. The wrath of the Lich King is substantially less frightening to new players than the wrath of 9-24 angry raiders verbally abusing them in Ventrilo or in-game chat.
So what is a newbie to do? Adopt a sticks and stones policy to instancing and raiding? Give up on the whole group aspect altogether? After all, it may take multiple sessions of verbal abuse before they can escape the wrath of their fellow raiders. As experienced raiders we don’t help any either. Most PUG’s on my server don’t even let you join a raid group until you link the achievement for completing that raid in both 10 and 25 player mode, as well as the additional achievement for doing it deathless while blindfolded, hogtied, and submersed in a tank of sharks.
In addition to dispensing anti-shark cream Blizzard could make bigger strides to get new players involved (with substantially less public ridicule) in the end-game content. Blizzard has announced the revamping of character starting zones to give the game a more user-friendly atmosphere to level 10, why not do the same with raiding? Placing a few strategic learn-how-to-instance/raid-here tutorials surely wouldn’t hurt the flow of the game. These pop-up tutorials could become available at level 15, when the Looking for Dungeon tool activates; similarly at level 80 a set of additional raid tutorials could become available. The Looking for Dungeon tool could also be revamped to help out beginning players. Why couldn’t Blizzard offer “relaxed instance” queues in addition to the “uber-fast DPS- face melting, ARARHAGH” setting which we all seem to have on by default? After all, we “advanced players” were newbies at one point too. Eventually we will stop playing (either by canceling our subscription or perhaps more commonly dying) and new players will have to become the next wave of “advanced players” for the game to keep on going. It seems like it is in the best interest of Blizzard to help them get there.