If I were a) clever or b) awake I’d do summat funky with this. As I’m neither…

Blizzard came out of left field yesterday (can’t beat a good baseball metaphor, because if I said they emerged from third man most of you would just look at me strangely) and announced it is establishing a Mentoring programme. Considering the amount of discussion there has been across the player base in relation to how the neophite learn the game, it seems a perfect reaction… except, is this really as great an idea as it first appears? Is this simply a Hobson’s choice that absolves Blizzard from the need to do the work many people feel it should be undertaking in terms of new player education?

When people apply to join our Guild, we initially ask them 10 questions:

1. What’s your favourite joke?
2. What’s the best 5 man instance currently in game?
3. What has been the best show on TV over the last 25 years and why?
4. If you had a choice what would it be: cake or pie?
5. Should Blizzard put more crowd control back into dungeons?
6. Have you left Trade/General chat channels at any point, and if so why?
7. Who would you choose as the next James Bond?
8. What’s the best change Blizzard has made to the game in the last twelve months?
9. Who was better: Blur or Oasis, or some random third band you may now name.
10. If you had to ask me one question, what would it be?

These questions have been refined over time to give myself and the officers a pretty good idea of whether the potential applicant will fit into the gaming environment we play in. As you can see, we’re pretty relaxed, and our questions reflect the fact that in Guild at any given point the conversations aren’t necessarily game-related. Being in a Guild isn’t simply about playing Warcraft, after all, and I’d like to think as we’ve been going now since Vanilla, pretty much without a single piece of Guild-splitting drama to accompany us, that we grasp that it isn’t simply a case of recruiting people based on their raiding experience. This won’t work for everybody, and here is the first major problem I can see in terms of mentoring: managing individual expectations.

People joining Azeroth at this stage have been educated by MMO’s and other games which have spent seven years trying to be as popular as Warcraft still is. They already have a basic understanding of the quest mechanics, that classes have particular skills, but the subtleties will undoubtedly elude them, and here is where being in a Guild would be a distinct advantage. However, it would need to be a group of people willing to spend the time teaching. With the current lack of new content this is a perfect time to start a mentoring programme, encouraging older players to roll new characters in an attempt to take new players through the content and teach them ‘in situ’. However, in my personal experience, a great many new players aren’t bothered to learn that much at all when levelling, and just want to get to end game as quickly as conceivably possible… often by borrowing other people’s 85’s or (gasp) buying an 85 on Ebay. I’d be interested to know if Blizzard has any plans to restrict those people joining the programmes by their level… ^^

Capped about 10 minutes ago. I cleared the window yesterday…

One of the biggest concerns I’d have with a mentoring programme would be maintaining a decent level of communication. I had my doubts when Blizzard introduced the Guild Finder feature, and although we have found a couple of people using it, in the main it is pointless, because of the reason shown above. People don’t communicate. When you can’t even be bothered to type ‘Hi I like your Guild advert, would you consider me?’ why would you think they have any interest in being involved to begin with? It is as much about the person wanting to be taught as it is those willing to impart their knowledge. However, there is a far larger issue that needs to be addressed, and that does have nothing at all to do with the game.

Many, many people entering Warcraft at this point in its evolution do simply not grasp they are becoming part of a community, which lives and breathes. This is not like joining an Xbox party, or playing on Steam. These things are still communities, but they lack a certain something that I think you only find in Azeroth, an intangible quality that games like Guild Wars 2 hope to reproduce on launch. Guilds doing mentoring will not simply need to pass on wisdom in relation to the game, but they may find themselves having to act as social mentors to boot, and that might be a far larger problem over time. An awful lot of the player base are under 18, many of them playing below the PEGI recommended age. Then I find myself wandering into a grey area I’m not sure I even want to start discussing without a lawyer and something with caffeine in it by my side…

There is no doubt in my mind that something needs to be done in terms of educating the new players in Warcraft, because they keep on coming. Making the player base accountable for itself is an admirable idea in principle, but there are an awful lot of variables to consider. I also think, like many ideas Blizzard have thrown out to the community over the years, this could have done with a bit more work in the early planning stages…

6 thoughts on “Hobson’s Choice?

  1. 1. Not got one
    2. Whichever is quickest
    3. West Wing – Brilliant writing
    4. Cake
    5. No
    6. Yes – childish spam
    7. Colin Farrell
    8. LFR – the best and the worst
    9. Oasis
    10. Can I join please?


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