DAoC New User Journey – Facts and Predictions

Article copied from a blog I won’t be using anymore.

Four months ago in June the Dark Age of Camelot producer hinted at a “New User Journey”, in this article I consider what that I think should be included and then realistically what might be include considering the user interface and content.

DAoC Lesson Quests

What we know so far

In the DAoC Producers Letter in June, Stuart Zissu said the following:

First, remember all those new people we brought onto the team a few months back? Well we have been putting them to work creating what is best described as a New User Journey.

This new content is focused around new and returning players who may not know or remember all the intricacies that make DAoC great. The plan is to create hubs which will teach players important lessons about Dark Age of Camelot gameplay while getting them ready for RvR warfare.

Some of the lessons we have planned are:

  • Assisting
  • Pets
  • Crowd Control
  • Peeling
  • Stealth
  • Guard and Protect
  • Templating

The goal is to get new players up to speed and out into the fight as quickly as possible while giving them the tools (both in terms of itemization and basic knowledge) to be viable.

This new approach to DAoC content will not make someone an overnight RvR master, but it will definitely bring able bodied players out into RvR.

So what does this mean for you?  Well if you are one of those people who hasn’t played the game in a long time, getting back into it will be easier than ever. If you are already out there spilling blood on the battlefield, then be prepared to see more compatriots and more enemies out on the field contributing to the war effort. The New User Journey should be out within the next few patches and once it is, I am sure everyone will enjoy the results.

The next we hear is from a developer John Thornhill in early september in a Developer Diary post.

As most of you know, Dark Age of Camelot is a complicated game. A player must learn and master many things, some of them unique to this game, in order to excel in combat, particularly in RvR. The idea for these Lesson Quests to teach players various game features, mechanics, and tactics was born out of the desire to better prepare new and returning players for the dangers of the Frontiers; and who knows, they may teach some veterans a new trick or two! Our hope is that the lessons facilitate the training of new and returning players so that the Battlegrounds and Frontiers are that much more populated with enemies and allies alike.

These Lesson Quests range from teaching players about /stick, /follow, and /face, to assisting, to interrupts, stealth, and to the various races and which classes they can be. Some Lessons are interactive while others are simple demonstrations. Some offer rewards, such as Buff Tokens, while others may provide a potion or other unique benefit. Additionally, each Lesson Quest will be echoed in the /help menu, so if players want a “refresher,” they can read all about it at their own leisure. All Lesson Quests will be denoted by a new “book” icon over the head of NPCs that offer them.

Kai posted a comment on a thread saying:

The new hub system in version 1.110 that Stuart teasered in the last Producer’s Letter as part of the New User Journey will let you level quite fast in the Classic Zones.

Warhammer’s New User Journey

At the end of 2009 Warhammer Online released a “New User Journey” which did the following:

1. Consolidated the starting areas

This has already been implemented in DAoC.

2. Voice-over tutorials

 The initial tutorial quests in DAoC have been voiced, I hope that all of these future ones are.

3. New tutorial window (pictured above)

 A better system to deliver the tutorial is drastically needed in DAoC, the old quest window (dialog options) are still used in a lot of the tutorial, and the new quest window isn’t as good as it should be.

4. Content and quest flow

This can always be improved, the whole gameplay of DAoC needs to flow, with linking quests and quest hubs.

5. New player guild

This has already been implemented in DAoC.

6. In-game help manual improvements

 This drastically needs an overhaul, it is very dated.

What I Think Should Be Done

Lesson Quests

Mythic have said they will be having lesson quests to show new and returning players game concepts, I think the lesson quests should be:

1. Voiced

Far easier to process the information, Mythic have already done this for some tutorial quests

2. Interactive

Reading text just isn’t fun and most people skip the main body and go straight for the summary. (Did you even notice the explanation of bind stones?).

Some of the quests (and even in the screenshot at the top of this article) the quest text is a sizeable chunk. If text is going to be long it has to be split into paragraphs for readability, and ideally, as short as possible.

Mythic has hinted that some of these lessons will be interactive, some may involve watching NPC’s play out a situation, or you may take part in one, this is a much better way to learn.

3. Centre screen objectives

Without a quest objectives bar, and without having your journal constantly open, a quick reminder for what you have to do is key.

Game play

Repeatable Battleground Quests

DAoC Battleground

I am a big fan of the repeatable battleground kill task quests. They provide great experience and equipment for your level. Granted this kills off the PvE areas of the game. Seeing a more focused shift towards the RvR experience and the RvR end-game isn’t necessarily a bad move.

However  I would like to see the repeatable kill task quests moved into the 1-5, and 5-9 battlegrounds, so that people wanting to skip the tutorial can get straight into this action.

Tutorial

The tutorial zone is a well designed zone, but the game play is not representative of the final product, which is RvR. This is no longer a PvE questing game.

I feel that many of the tutorial lessons should take place inside the battlegrounds zones, teaching each new aspect as it becomes available. It also allows for a better representation of what the player will be facing throughout the game.

The tutorial portal keep or area near can be protected by guards, and so players are funnelled into the area and directed or choose to take on player kill tasks.

Playing on live servers recently I loved how many players I saw in the tutorial areas, seeing this on an MMO brings a feeling of a server that is alive, I have been on numerous MMO’s where I did not see anyone, Warhammer has this in the PvE areas after Tier 1, the game feels dead. So the tutorial areas cannot be split from the main game, and is why I think the battlegrounds are perfect options.

Quoted above is a post by Kai which says the tutorial quests will take place in the classic lands, and will provide good XP gain, is this an attempt to revitalise the classic areas?

Instanced Battlegrounds

Something that I worked on and never released was an instanced battleground server, where players of each realm would queue in a warcamp, receive an invite and join a battleground with an objective.

The concept for this was initially demonstrated on Tolakram’s Storm server where players could create their own instanced arena for solo or their group, with various objectives, PvE, RvR or PvP.

In this screenshot you can see how a queue could work from a Battlemaster NPC, with status updates delivered by a dynamic tool-tip from a buff given to the player.

See more from my development album.

The benefits from this are seen in Mythic’s latest game Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes where 3 teams join an arena and fight it out for a specific time over specific objectives. Jump in and out of the action and fill 15 minutes of your day.

This is something that can be done with the current DAoC engine but would split from the open RvR state of the current battlegrounds, you can see how this affects games such as Warhammer, RIFT and World of Warcraft.

However static battlegrounds have been a core DAoC feature since release and as such there will be hard-core fans against this idea.

Bolster

A concept from Warhammer Online  – Bolster is a temporary buff gained in RvR which increases your effective level and raising your stats. This provides an incentive for people to take part in RvR at an earlier level thus increasing population and enjoyment.

With the existing system on DAoC with Effective Level and buffs I believe this is achievable.

Other UI Improvements

Journal

Keeping track of quests should not be a chore, a summary should be provided at a glance and not through several clicks, and more in depth information should be available on a click.

My suggestion is to follow the standard MMO pattern in this regards, the journal should by default be larger and take up more of the screen, I am a big fan of the Quest Log from World of Warcraft:

  • Split quests by zone for organisation
  • Display levels for quests (Already done)
  • Display difficulty of quests (Group, Dungeon)
  • Display status of quests (Complete, Repeatable)

There should also be a quest tracker, which lists the quest name and objectives, hovering over it should provide the quest summary. This is a great feature on Warhammer Online, and I miss the summary on some other games I have tried.

Quest Icons

Recently on DOL I added support for displaying two new quest icons, they were Lesson and Lore icons. Having different indicators are very important for recognition from an overview.

The addition of the quest available and quest completed icons were welcome additions to the live servers.

However I had problems with the Quest Completed icon, this was usually only shown after speaking to the final NPC in the quest, which made it redundant.

Recent checks within the client files show that there is a Quest Pending icon coming, which will be a welcome addition.

Scrolling Combat Text

This is a far better way to present information to the player, to see when they block, or how much damage they are doing, how much experience they are getting, or when they are in combat.

This may hit an engine limitation.

Tooltips

World of Warcraft - Tooltip

This tool tip from World of Warcraft shows when you hover over an item, it shows the Use. The tool-tips for equipment show stats in a more presentable format.

On DAoC right clicking the item and pressing info is too many steps. A big improvement to the game would be these mechanics.

Tooltips over NPCs instead of clicking on them would also be a great feature, however I think the game engine would prevent this without serious development.

Unit Frames

World of Warcraft - Unit Frame

Unit frames are a useful way to track the status of the player, the target, the group, and even the battle-group.  BobsUI has shown this can be implemented in DAoC but still could be improved with more information released through the UI adaptors.

The best way to show the game off should not require having to find and install a new UI, this should be standard from the install.

What I Think Will Be Done

The realists in us will know that DAoC doesn’t have many resources devoted to it, it has been running in maintenance mode for years now. Whilst the dreamers will hope that something special can be done for the 10 year milestone anniversary.

DAoC is a great game, and a great concept that has been unmatched (until the sci-fi Prime is released – I prefer fantasy genre), but it was developed very early on in MMO history, the server code will have limitations, the game engine will have limitations.

Warhammer has proven that you can have pure PvP levelling all the way to end-game, with large scale fights happening in every tier. The battlegrounds could be like this, depending on the direction the players are funnelled.

Although neither population numbers are high, DAoC’s subscriber numbers are increasing, there are constant posts on the VN Boards regarding returning players, and from my personal experience the Tutorial area and Battlegrounds don’t feel empty.

Predictions:

(Definite) Classic area quest hubs

In an attempt to get players back in the classic area, the lesson quest hubs will be located there. More than that, I don’t think the classic areas will change.

(Definite) Lesson quests

Interactive, voiced, much like the other tutorial quests. I expect to see NPC’s fighting and demonstrating, and being able to take part in combat myself.

(Likely) A new UI skin

A touch up of the dialog window, perhaps splitting the classic health bars replicating popular features in other UI’s such as BobsUI’s unit frames.

(Likely) Unchanged end-game

 Although perhaps  the way players are funnelled through the battlegrounds towards it.

(Likely) Improved in-game help

 I would be very suprised if during the new user experience that they don’t retouch the help system in the current game. It is pretty bad, and I don’t remember looking at it even once.

(Hopeful) Improved Journal

Apart from a cosmetic change, I don’t think we will see much journal enhancements, certainly not the window resize and objective display.

(Hopeful) Improved tooltips

For quickbar and inventory

Edit 21/09/2011

Michael Knudson made a post on the DAoC website today elaborating a little more on some of the upcoming changes.

Now we’ll move on to the actual Quest Hubs.  One of the features that we will be introducing is a series of Epic Encounters in each of these hubs in which players are participating in.  These encounters offer players an opportunity to apply what they have learned and to work together to defeat a superior foe and a chance to acquire unique rewards through specific Epic Encounter quests which are available.  One of the more interesting things about these Epic Encounters is the credit system we’ve implemented.  This system grants an area credit when the encounter is complete to any and all players in the area, regardless if they are solo, grouped, or battlegrouped; giving every player a chance to progress without ”waiting in line” for others to finish first. This is just a taste of what to come with the upcoming patch.

I like the idea of epic encounters, some experience that means more than a standard quest you can work towards. Area credit is a great idea, I do hate waiting in line to kill the same NPC or worry about being grouped with. Those awkward “hi, thanks bye” or silent groups.

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