Thursday, October 23, 2014

Learning Content

Spinks has a interesting post up about learning content in MMOs:
I feel increasingly that random group content in MMOs is an anti-learning environment. If people zone in with someone who is learning the fight, they’re likely to be disappointed because it will take longer. They don’t want to take ‘the hit’ of being part of someone else’s learning experience.
This reminds me of one of the biggest differences between Japanese and North American culture in FFXIV. FFXIV has two forms of organizing group content with strangers:
  1. Duty Finder - This is the random group finder. You sign up, and the game matches you with other people in the queue.
  2. Party Finder - The leader lists her party, desired instance, and requirements. Other people apply to join. The leader can approve or disapprove of applicants.
My understanding is that in Japan, players use the Party Finder to form "learning parties". After they learn the fight, they use the Duty Finder to do the fight quickly with other experienced players.

In North America, it's the other way around. Party Finder is the province of experienced players, who usually require a applicant to have previously completed the instance. If you're new to a fight, you generally have watch videos and then sign up for Duty Finder and try and learn the fight on the fly. Too many new players in a given Duty Finder group generally leads to an unsuccessful run. Difficult fights (Titan HM before the patches) can be very hard to successfully complete in Duty Finder.

The Japanese system seems like a better experience to me. Expectations are clearly laid out in both cases. However, it suffers from two flaws. First, it is vulnerable to "cheaters". Someone who doesn't care about social opprobrium can just sign up as a newbie to Duty Finder and hope to be carried. 

Second, it requires that people be willing to form those "learning parties". I have seen NA players try to form learning parties. Their parties never fill, and just sit half-empty in the finder for hours. My personal theory is that the Japanese approach to schooling, with formal study groups and cram schools at an early age, makes this approach a lot more natural for Japanese players.

There are ways the NA devs could forcibly shift players towards the Japanese model. For example, suppose that you had to previously complete the instance before you could sign up for it in the random group finder. That would mean that you absolutely had to use the Party Finder system for your first kill.

I am not sure if such a requirement would fly with NA players. It might work. For example, running learning parties would be an astonishing recruiting tool for established guilds. If the easy path wasn't there, maybe individuals would step and start learning parties, and thus form stronger and better networks.

But on the other hand, maybe it won't work. Maybe we want to be anonymous and not bear any responsibility towards other people. If we end up with more failed groups, so be it. We can always just try the instance again, and get a new group of people. Maybe if this was a requirement, people would just quit or roll alts when they hit that point.


  1. The problem is that there shouldn't be a need for a duty finder.

    After you've reached a point where you can silent and blind fly through a dungeon, the dungeon doesn't offer you any challenge anymore. You shouldn't be in that dungeon! Games aren't fun if all you do is run boring, easy content for rewards.

    It would be much better to add more challenge to these dungeons to keep player in the learning phase. Very good examples are the fractal system of GW2 or the greater rift of D3.

  2. I suppose WoW is pushing towards a similar way of thinking by requiring players to complete Proving Grounds:Silver before they can queue for heroics in LFG, but letting them do so without it in a pre-formed group.

    Obviously the learning there is a more general class/role based one, but it's a similar idea.

  3. Rewarding group leaders or entire groups that incorporate players with few or no kills might help. Sure it would be gamed, but if my new character had some value to balance the risk it might create some demand and opportunity for teachers.

    Perhaps a first kill player would boost the party's drop rates a bit. Maybe continue up to the 5th kill.

    How great would it be to see in chat, "Cool, we got a couple of noobs! Drop rate doubled!"

  4. Bristal - FF14 actually has a decent system for that: When you are in a Duty Finder instance and at least one person has never finished it, there's a large XP and money bonus awarded at the end of the run. The only queues that do not get this bonus are the raid instances.

    In general, given the descriptions Rohan gives, I would say that the Japanese system is the preferable one. At the end of the day, the point of an automated group finder is that you just want to run some content, and don't care how you do it. If the idea of the automated finder is that it's ONLY for people learning the content, then it'll dry up very fast and become unusable, whereas the idea that it's where you go once you learned it means there'll always be people in the queues that you can team up with.