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Dreams of Anarchy - New Player Experience

This is the eighth of a series of articles based on my extensive game experience. I have written editorials in the past with suggestions to Funcom on changes that I would like to see in AO to improve the game (some which were implemented).

These articles will be on the same subject, but it will be detailing what would I change if I was a Dev, and I will try to be very thorough. Not only will I cover what I would like to change/update about my favorite game, but also what I would like to add to it...expect to read ideas about new quests and locations that could enhance the AO experience if they were ever done.

It's been a few years since I've done a DoA article. Today's article will focus on the New Player Experience of Anarchy Online.

A New Start

I believe new players are completely confused, and when they get to learn a bit of the gameplay in newbie island one of the most common questions is "why isn't there a tutorial?". This may change with the planned new starter experience that Means has mentioned but since (to my knowledge) there hasn't been any details as to exactly what that change may be, here are a few suggestions.

A new player should start with ALL his starter nanos, a backpack, a full faction sided set of armor, both RK and SL healing labs/kits/coils and a welcome note with a list of basic commands (the note should also state when the cursor is on top of it that to read it the player needs to hold shift and left click the note).

Nobody wants to play in a small starter area for 5hrs trying to figure out what gets him/her enough credits to get all the fancy new stuff which he should have started with (which btw is rings, only loot rings and you will get creds fast, but for someone new to AO that can take a while to figure out). The better approach would be to either change the description of items or add new items which clearly state its "Salvage" with the value based on QL.

For example a QL 1-25 would be "This is a Very Low Value Salvage". It would be something like this.

Very Low Value
Low Value
Average Value
Moderate Value
Medium Value
High Value
Very High Value
Extremely High Value

Make quests for upgrades of the stuff you give the new player. Also making it more clear they need to talk to an NPC to learn how to get quests and such. Blue names these days have little to no meaning to someone new to the game. What is needed is not a simple change. Add a very visible rotating icon/sign above every NPC which gives out a quest or is part of a quest-line. This visual clue would need to be seeing in the darkest and brightest environments.

Skill System

There are 69 skills, of which a few are almost useless or a waste of IP. We can condense/combine some skills without dumbing down the game itself. One of the AO's shining attractions is the fact that is so complex and deep, which can easily turn off a new player used to most MMO's which are far easier to play.

I would suggest a few changes could make things slightly easier on new and current players.

All Vehicle Skills and Map Navigation could be combined, into a single skill. Think about it, these days most drivers can use a GPS system quite easily with the touch of a button. In the 30th millennium we should be able to easily drive any type of vehicle and read a digital map just as easy. The new skill could just be called "Navigation" or if you want to make it sound more fancy "Planetary Nav". Now we're down to 66 skills.

"Breaking & Entering" and "Trap Disarmament" could also be combined since they are close enough in concept. Let's compare them to some real life. In the show "It takes a Thief" both hosts are former burglars which easily disarm alarms and break into people's houses to show how easy it is to break in (later on, they show the house owners how to prevent this and steps to make their home safer). So it's quite feasible that a person can develop both skills together. As for the name, could be tricky. "Lockpick & Disarm" sounds ok, maybe "Disarmament" could work as well. Now we're down to 65 skills.

My next suggestion may be a bit controversial. From the start of the game "First Aid" and "Treatment" have been separate; also nano coils/rechargers have a Time & Space check. I think it would be best to consolidate both into one. With the "Treatment" skill you could use either and removing the T&S requirement on nano coils/rechargers would make it a bit easier to start the game. Down to 64 skills.

"Chemistry" is hardly used, however if instead of that skill "Pharma Tech" could be used, it would make more sense and we could remove that old skill. 63 skills.

"Swimming" is utterly useless, however "Adventuring" could easily cover the same role and now we're down to 62 skills.

"Parry" and "Riposte" have been the talk of the town for years, does Parry work? nobody can answer that question, how useful is Riposte? no answer either. My suggestion, remove them both and any weapon that has that requirement switch it to Martial Arts. Down to 60 skills.

"Sharp Objects" and "Piercing" it's an obvious option.... remove "Sharp Objects" and anything that requires it can use "Piercing" instead. Now we got 59 skills.

"Grenade" and "Heavy Weapons"... I don't know what to even suggest here, so few people use these skills it's sad, also they are expensive (IP wise) to raise.

Do these suggestion dumb down the game? not really, it just makes it a bit easier for new players to start the game (and keep playing).

I've talked to a lot of players, new and old and most agree that if AO Universe didn't exist, they probably would have moved on to other games or would be playing it a lot less. I'm proud of AOU, but at the same time concerned that if it didn't exist, 3/4 of my clan wouldn't be playing the game.

Friends List

AO needs a complete revamp of this window, it should look similar to the Team Search window to be honest. If the lft window can tell you where players are, the friends window should tell you were your friends are as well.

The window should be tabbed as follows: Chat Windows, Friends List, Organization Roster, Recent Messages.

Chat Windows should work pretty much as it does now, I don't see a need to change anything related to this specific feature.

The Friends List window should be more user friendly. Instead of just a red/green small indicator next to a name, it could be a more obvious indicator with the word "Online" or "Offline" either as a replacement or as an additional feature so a player is 100% sure who is on and who isn't. Also there should be an easy way to clean up the entire friends list with a single click of a button (with a warning of course that it cannot be reversed once clicked). Like with the team search window the "location" of each friend should be available.

The "Organization Roster" list should be an automatic list based on the people of Rubi-Ka org listing and there should be a small disclaimer stating that some new members may not be listed until 48hrs after they joined (I believe that is about the time when the PoRK database gets updated, and yes it was a pun). The suggested Online/Offline feature from the Friends List should also work with the Organization Roster. Again, displaying the location of where orgmates are should be available.

Of course there should be an option in the Preferences to be "Invisible" if a player wants to have some privacy. Another thing which should be implemented is the simple feature that if someone wants to add you to their Friends list, they need your approval. This is a common feature in most MMO's and Instant Messenger programs currently being used.

The "Recent Messages" should be automatically logged into a file (like a chat window being logged) so that a player can check it at anytime after he logs in. Player sometimes don't notice offline tells so having a log to look up is very handy. There should be an option to "clear" the log of course.

I got a few more things I'd like to change, but I'll leave that for the next article which will be focused on the GUI and Gameplay features.

Special thanks to my orgmate Gortoe who suggested that "Pharma Tech" could also cover the role of "First Aid" and "Treatment"

Last updated on 12.07.2011 by Khuri
Article written by Windguaerd
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