Don’t Blame The Noob, Blame The Game

We’ve all had bad group experiences with players who don’t have a clue what their doing. Healers who don’t heal, tanks who haven’t even placed taunt on their action bar and DPS classes who ninja AFK and loot everything in sight (not that I’m pointing fingers or anything). In fact, bad players are so common and that they’ve become, at best, a running joke in MMORPGs and, at worst, a story used to scare your kids away from ever joining random pick-up groups and thus scarring them for life about the horrors that lurk on the Internet. But have we ever thought about why these bad players actually exist?

As you may know, my brother recently started playing World of Warcraft and whilst he’s been busy learning the ropes of the game, I’ve been busy exercising my patience and anthropological skills. I’m grouping with him on a regular basis in order to impart my Yoda like MMORPG wisdom and mock his lack of knowledge at the same time. The whole process is like toilet training a puppy. Yesterday’s lesson? What a tank is.

He’s a Warrior so I figured it best to explain to him, sooner rather than later, the whole concept of tanking/healer/DPSing (y’know, the Holy Trinity of MMOs) and why it’s important. I lectured him on the general MMO concepts of being a meatshield, duties and responsibilities and the like, and more specific stuff relating to WoW like Defensive Stance, using a shield and taunting. He’s a bright kid, I think he got it, but it made me wonder: if I hadn’t been there to explain this, what would’ve happened?

Chances are my bro would’ve continued to climb his way up the Warcraft leveling tree all by himself like a happy little chimpanzee only to discover that when he tries to group with the other monkeys at the top, life is suddenly a whole different ball game. The bottom line is that pretty much every MMORPG I’ve ever had played has neglected to actually teach players how to be whatever role they’ve undertaken. In the past this duty has fallen on our gaming brethren to school us as we level but in more modern MMOs, were soloing is so convenient, grouping is almost a rare occurrence. And even then people just storm off with a “you suck” comment under their breath if you expose your own noobiness.

We can’t, and shouldn’t, blame noobs for being, well, noobs. It’s not their fault. Most MMORPGs assume that players are either already familiar with the genre and know what they’re doing or will pick it up as they go along. The latter is not very structured or sensible and doesn’t really work at all with games like WoW that have a learning curve which goes from Solo King to Group Joker in one instance. Players are slowly introduced to the world of questing and soloing but when it comes to grouping, we’re all just thrown into the deep end.

So next time you end up with a bad tank in your group, instead of muttering obscenities about their mother towards them, why not take a moment to chat with them, explain to them what they’re doing wrong, and try to teach them how to play. I’d bet you no one else has ever tried.

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  1. Dickie says:

    Dang it! Why do you have to go making a sensible post about nuturing new players an teaching them the ropes! It’s so much more fun to rip on them for being terrible, and thus chasing them away from the genre we love!

  2. Brian Inman says:

    That is the difference in MMORPG’s these days. In EQ you basically had to group from day 1 so you learned your role rather quickly. In World of Warcraft you basically solo to 80, and than you experience what grouping is all about.

    You hit it right on the button that this is why we see so many noobs that get accused of buying accounts because they were used to playing completely different soloing. That is why forced grouping isn’t always a bad idea.

    • Gordon says:

      Absolutely. Older MMORPGs forced grouping and thus players learned through pain and experience at very early levels. You had to be an expert tank to survive even Blackburrow.

      I think there’s two sides to the coin: teaching players how to play and trying to close the gap between soloing and grouping. Soloing is so different from a group role and you’re never going to learn grouping without doing it which, in the case of WoW, can easily not happen until the level cap.

  3. Eliot says:

    In the old days, there was a clear distinction made between a newb and a noob. A newb was the shortened form of “newbie,” someone who didn’t know the ropes yet and was expected to be relatively clueless about what they were supposed to do. “I’m a newb, sorry” was pretty much your no-blame excuse for the group to calmly explain what they were supposed to do, offer feedback, et cetera. A noob, on the other hand, was what newbs who refused to learn became. The noob is clueless, but not because no one has explained what to do – it’s because she doesn’t bother to listen.

    Unfortunately, somewhere along the line the two terms became one, due in no small part to the fact that they sound identical, and new players were instantly assumed to be useless scrubs fit only to lick one’s boots. That, of course, did nothing to endear anyone to the idea of grouping…

  4. Guthammer says:

    I have found only one game that teaches in game what your class roles can be like: LotRO’s new skirmish system did a great job about it.

    Its amazing how much MMOs don’t teach you about playing the game–particularly once you start grouping and raiding.

    My take is here.

  5. Pindleskin says:

    I remember going into RFC for the first time back in 2004. We were all pretty new to the game, so it took many wipes to figure out that hey, the warrior seems tougher than that awesome warlock, lets have him (eg. me) take the damage. That was with a big 2h axe, but soon I picked up a shield and sword and the carnage turned into a passion for tanking that never left me.

    Yes I know RFC is before you actually get tanking spec/skills; in the early levels the warrior’s dps was enough to keep agro. or

  6. Since Gordon likes sexual analogies: MMOs are like sex. Everyone’s expected to be experienced and capable, but where do you get the experience from except from starting as a clumsy newbie? ;)

    Elliot wrote:
    In the old days, there was a clear distinction made between a newb and a noob.

    In the even older days, we used to distinguish between “newbies” and “clueless newbies”. Same distinction, more typing. Now, get off my lawn with your lazy typing and new-fangled phones that send text messages. ;)

  7. [...] can be complex and overwhelming to new players. Even one that seems simple to experienced players. Gordon@We Fly Spitfires has written a few blog posts about his experience of playing with his brother, who is a genuine [...]

  8. Ercles says:

    I don’t mind grouping with newbies at all (I use the term noob for those who act like newbies when they really shouldn’t). What makes me twitch is the newbies who seem to think they know everything.

    I remember running SM quite a while back when I was leveling my mage. Several times I ran into this mage (before cross server PUGs) who kept meleeing mobs. I tried to explain to him that using a wonder was better if he wanted to conserve mana. His response? He mocked my skill in daggers and told me to go do various things to animals…


  9. Sven says:

    I remember my first experience as a tank, playing EQ2. I had no concept of what the holy trinity was, let alone aggro. I had a vague idea that as the guy wearing the heavy armour that I should be the one who stood at the front & took the blows, but that was it.

    Fortunately for me, several people in the group realised that I had no idea and, rather than spouting insults, quietly whispered tips to me in private. By the end of that (admittedly low level and fairly easy) instance, I was tanking like a champ. I dread to think what would have happened if I’d been a new tank in WOW today. Whilst the level of courtesy on RP servers is still high, the wonders of the dungeon finder mean that you get exposed to people from other servers who are … less polite. OK, that’s an understatement; some of them are vile individuals who would rather mock a newcomer than help them.

    I wonder how many potential new players will get turned off WOW by that attitude. My own answer to this would be to set up specific new-player servers, so that people who choose to use them can learn together.

  10. Kiseran says:

    I occasionally try to lecture someone who does particulary bad, but the distinction between newb and noob usually breaks my neck in this. Both kind of players play somewhat alike, the difference is just: While the newb is willing to learn something new, the noob just wants you to tell him that he is great and then shut the fuck up and give him his loots.
    The sad thing is: There seem to be much, much more noobs than newbs out there. Whenever I try to teach someone something the usual answer is something like “Others tell me I play just fine” or “Why do you complain, we are not wiping!” (Yeah, because I’m massively overgeared and my heals make you nearly immortal..) or just insults. The last time I really met a newb was in Pit of Saron about two month ago. Two DDs were doing abysmal damage, simply below the point where we could manage the instance, so I tried to do something about it. One of them learned just fine and went from 500 DPS to 2000 DPS even if it took about half an hour of explanations. However the other one (who seemed to be too nice for insults and his faults were too glaring to deny them) actually prefered leaving the group over being taught anything.

  11. LifeEquals42 says:

    I remember when I was leveling my Druid there was a quest in Arathi Highlands to escort a night elf to check out a building in this little village. I did it by healing the night elf as I wanted to heal in endgame, problem is it was ridiculously easy and since then I have had this recurring wish that Blizzard would sprinkle in solo quests that challenged you in whatever role you played. If you played a tank then make the escort do good dps so that it was a challenge to hold aggro. If you were dps and the mob acted as tank then make the mobs spawn in waves fast enoigh that you had to do decent dps to get the first wave down before the next came but also not pull aggro from the escort. Maybe even make these quest really hard and give a really nice reward on completion so people who see you with the gear will know that you have some competency. This idea could be extended to class specific quests that require you to use a certain ability in order to complete it, for example kite mobs or CC them. Oh well as they say wish in one hand and…

  12. nugget says:

    In the even older days, in MUDs, people would actually teach newbies, just the way you taught your brother. Because in most MUDs, newbies are valued as people. They’re fresh blood that you want to stay, to have enjoy your world, and make it richer.

    MMOs? Pfft. What can I get out of this person? Oh, it’s a noob? Nothing then. U suk. Kthxbai.


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