My attitude towards questions in general chat is a mix of sympathy and scorn. I see where Endgame Viable is coming from, because people ask some fundamentally stupid and lazy questions, ones where the answer was probably already on-screen but they clicked past it instead of reading (or asking that exact “endgame viable” question in a newbie zone). I am also the veteran of a dozen MMOs where broken quests were the norm rather than the exception, so it seems reasonable to ask whether you have the right answer. I suppose my dividing line is between “is this the right answer?” and “what is the right answer?”

I just played Anna – Extended Edition. (Quick review: creepy atmosphere, nice story breadcrumbs, some interface dodginess.) It has some of the classic adventure game insanity I described in the linked post and Old Man Murray described in the post linked therein. It matters which of several bladed objects you use to cut particular objects, and essential items are hidden in drawers (but some desks’ drawers are purely decorative and cannot be opened). I am pretty sure this is a game where the atmosphere is the point more than the game itself, and I felt only the most minimal shame in having a walkthrough open on my second monitor. While the point of a puzzle game is to solve the puzzle, I do not feel lessened because I did not guess I was supposed to find baby hair in an object in one of the cribs, nor that I did not independently guess which dark brown rectangles on one of fifteen shadowy shelves per room was a book.

In MMOs, the social aspect of the game is supposed to be part of the game. If content is meant to be puzzled out on your own, not in cooperation with others, it pretty much needs a big sign over it saying, “Go in unspoiled!” because our default is to collaborate. You could solo the scavenger hunt, or you could work with your friends. And with 100,000 “friends” playing, at least 100 of whom will update a wiki or post a comment, it seems little wonder that people expect the guide to be written for them.

I am all for asking for a nudge, direction, or confirmation in general chat. I think my wife gets a better puzzle game experience than I do because I either force my way through it or Google the help, while she has someone in the room she can ask, “Am I doing this wrong, or am I doing the wrong thing?” I wish we had a better way of teaching new players to ask that question rather than “tell me how to do it.” Whatever your thoughts about giving a man a fish or teaching him to fish, “can you fish in rivers or just lakes?” seems like a fair question.

: Zubon

5 thoughts on “Asking”

  1. Min/maxing the fun out of a game is somewhat similar.

    Currently in Darkfall the ‘best’ way to gain prowess early is to go out on a fishing ship for 10 hours or so solo. As you can imagine, that’s a terribly boring 10 hours, but if you are skilling up an alt, it makes sense since it can be done semi-afk.

    When you are telling brand new players that’s what they should do, you can’t act surprised when your ‘newbie friendly’ clan can’t retain 80% of their recruits.

  2. Tend to agree. While I like helping new people discover a game that I’m familiar with, I also find myself rolling my eyes at certain questions that have been asked over and over in general chat. I’m so tired of people in the LOTRO starter areas asking how they can get a mount…when I’m pretty sure that’s a question I asked, myself!

    We have to be careful to put ourselves in their situation and remember how confusing some games can be to newcomers.

    Also be prepared for the predictable response: “You mean I have to PAY for a riding skill???”


  3. I think it’s proper to differentiate between lazy questions (please tell me something the game just showed me in the quest text but I clicked past without reading because reading is hard), stupid questions (“what is the best class” – you mean all the other classes are wrong choices and were just put in by the evil devs for a laugh?) and fair questions where people could honestly need help.

    I don’t mind answering fair questions. People asking the other two probably do deserve some abuse, but the problem is that you’ll get abuse from mouthbreathers in general chat no matter how fair your question.

    I would also suggest that anyone asking or answering questions in public channels should probably be considerate of spoilers. Take it to whispers if it involves plot points, people.

  4. In the tv-series Royal Pain, there was excellent version of this fishing proverb. If you teach a man to fish, he spends summer in the boat drinking beer. Walkthroughs and ease of googling has taught many players just to make minimal effort to solve things and then either ask or google the answer and continue. But if that is their vision of enjoyment then who are we to question that…

  5. Wikis and walkthroughs are excellent to have – for the times when you just can’t work it out on your own, or you want to get this one done quickly, or whatever. For adventure/puzzle games I was a huge fan of, with their layered hints that go from obvious observations to specific instructions (how many times in a Myst game does the first hint say “there is a lever to the left of the screen” and I say “…really?”)

    A large number of MMO players are extremely goal-oriented though – they just want to get through the content, as quickly and efficiently as possible. As far as I can tell, the reason for this is to spend the next week complaining about how the rewards weren’t worth it and there wasn’t enough to do, but whatever the case people want the shortest route from start to finish which, to me, is pretty much the opposite of the definition of play!

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