Project WoW Noob: Day 1 – Getting Started

December 2, 2010

Boy, I had no idea what I was in for.

First, let me just start by saying that it has been a little more than week since “The Shattering” patch hit World of Warcraft, and while I haven’t personally made a new character to try out the changes yet, I’ve been reading up on a lot of opinions coming out of the blogosphere. What I noticed is that amidst the feedback both positive and negative, the one consensus seems to be that the starting zones are way too easy — the terms “hand-holding” and “on rails” tend to come up a lot.

Love it or hate it, I gotta agree that the new Azeroth was clearly not designed for us. Instead, Blizzard has remade the lower levels of WoW with a wider audience in mind, hoping to make the experience more streamlined and intuitive for newcomers. That said, is it even going to make a difference?

Reading Pete of Dragonchaser’s recent post made me contemplate the “spectacle of the new player experience.” On the whole, I find myself agreeing with one of his many points — that perhaps Blizzard is indeed treading a fine line here by coddling new players and making the early game too easy, and ultimately this will end up hurting player retention numbers instead of helping them. On the other hand, I also think that many of us who have been playing MMOs for a long time forget what it’s truly like to be a newbie. Even I find it hard to recall my first days of WoW sometimes, and that was only a handful of years ago.

This is why I was so excited last week to hear that my best friend will be picking up the game (I guess that Thanksgiving weekend Blizzard sale was just too irresistible to pass up). She’s not a “casual” gamer by any means, as her tastes range from games like Rock Band to the more recent StarCraft II, but never has she taken the plunge into an MMO. So what this means is, not only will she be new to WoW, she will be new to the entire genre period.

I figured, what an opportunity to analyze the new player experience! My interest piqued, I asked if I could do a series of blog posts about her newbie adventures, and fortunately for me she agreed to be my guinea pig and provide me with her thoughts and opinions.

* * *


Player: @jarira
Character Name: Saalua
Race and Class: Night Elf Hunter

Jar and I have been talking about her getting into WoW for days now. I’d originally wanted to step back and play the “observer” in order to avoid interfering with her new player experience, but when I messaged her the other day asking about what class she planned to to make, and whether she would prefer a DPS, Tank, or Healing role, she wrote back with “WTF, speak English please!”

That was my first clue that maaaybe I would need to get a little involved.

So last night she finally got the client downloaded, installed and ready to go. She direct messaged me asking me which server I was on, so I answered, “Silvermoon. Make your character there, then let me know your name. I’ll come find you then.”

Moments later, I get her reply: “I’m Ilthalaine. I don’t know where I am!”

I quickly do a /who Ilthalaine from my main to try and go rescue her…but there were no results. Boggled, I asked if she was sure she was on Silvermoon. Apparently, she wasn’t. Or maybe she was. I don’t know. Because when everything was finally sorted out and I went to the Night Elf starting area to find her, I saw that the first quest giver where you start the game, his name is Ilthalaine. I guess to be fair, you are like, almost right on top of him when you spawn. I was like, “Um, Jar, did you think the quest giver’s name was your name?” She was like, “Oops, yes!”

Damn, if that’s not a /facepalm moment, I don’t know what is. I’m going to make fun of her forever for that one, but that’s okay, she knows I still love her.

Anyway, I invite her into my guild and taught her the basics of communicating with people in the game. And I mean the real basics. When everyone said hi to her she couldn’t say anything back at first, because she had no idea to type /g to talk in guild, or /p to talk to your party, etc. I think she was a little embarrassed, but my guildies were very welcoming and pitched in with the instructions, and one even admitted to my friend that it took her several days to learn to speak in different channels when she first started the game. That stuff really isn’t as obvious as we think. After that though, Jar was able to figure out a lot on her own, including several emotes.

Later on, we shifted the conversation to our guild vent server, to make things easier. Getting that set up was an ordeal too. In fact, according to Jar, the whole new WoW gamer experience was an ordeal, in her words, “a geek out to the usability/gamer side of my brain.” And guess what? We didn’t even start questing yet. Questing can wait, first we gotta let her get a good feel for the MMO world.

That said, I definitely think we take the new player experience for granted. Even with the new changes, for a total newcomer to the game (e.g. the casual gamer checking out an MMO for the first time) the learning curve is still steeper than we think — which is something I did not initially expect. But between bouts of laughing my ass off at Jar’s noobishness, the memories started coming back; the times when I was the confused nubcake, when I was the one overwhelmed by the shear size of the world, who didn’t know what LFG or WTB or any of the myriad of acronyms meant, who didn’t even know how to switch servers. In order to get the entire WoW experience, there’s just so much for a new player to take in. There’s like even a whole new language to learn.

In fact, now that I think about it, the only way I was able to get into WoW was probably because I had my brother to advise me and answer any noob questions I had. And now the tables have turned and I’m playing the role of the guide, helping someone else take their first steps in Azeroth. Jar even admitted she thinks this would be a lot harder without knowing someone in the game. She had this to add:

On the flip side of having someone take you around WoW you dont really get a chance to relish in your own n00bness to figure it all out – it’s like you’re in MMO bootcamp with people telling you to do things and you have to figure them out right then and there as opposed to being able to just wander around aimlessly if you were playing on your own. Which wouldn’t be as fun. I remember the first time I played I ran around killing stupid creatures for like an hr to level up, which wasn’t very exciting.

She also said something else that made something in my mind click. Before she signed out (and I thought it was funny how she was sooo worried that the game wouldn’t “save” when she left, just like someone used to single-player gaming) she wrote, “Although, I’m enjoying my n00bness in WoW more than the game itself so far.” The enjoyment for her may be in the actual learning, upholding the theory suggested by Raph Koster.

Still, I’m a little relieved she rolled a hunter, a very new-player-friendly class and very fun to play. I think she’ll have a blast with it…if she keeps playing. Hopefully we’ll finish up with WoW Basics: 101 tomorrow and get some questing in, and we’ll see if we can make a MMO gamer out of her yet!

Also, since in all likelihood she will be reading these posts, any advice or suggestions to someone who’s just starting out on MMOs would be deeply appreciated.


  1. Thanks for this!

    But of course I’m an ornery old cuss so I have to play devil’s advocate.

    I’d like to ask Jar if she can imagine what it would’ve been like if she hadn’t been invited into a guild and had that scrolling chat window to keep track of. I know whenever I get into a guild (and I usually only last 5-10 minutes before my abrasiveness causes me to get booted) the only thing I can focus on is all these names and welcomes and worrying about making a good impression.

    If Jar had been alone, she wouldn’t have had to know her character’s name or how to chat. She could’ve just putzed around and focused on the help pop-ups that crept up. [I’m trying hard to remember if the game prompts you to click on that first quest giver.] That might not have been as much fun tho, I’ll admit, and over the long run…heck over the medium run, having friends and folks to answer questions is always going to be better than not.

    Now all that said… for all the easiness of the new player experience these days, they never teach you a thing about chatting or grouping. At least not that I recall, though maybe my eyes just slid right past that stuff since it’s such old hat. In fact when folks started talking to me via RealID, I had no idea how to reply at first! /blush

    And now that I think about it, there’s no “new user experience” for creating a first character, picking a server and all that. I think they certainly *could* improve that experience for new players.

    I can’t wait to read more. And Jar, if you’re reading this… I just want to urge you to give it a chance! It’s an *incredibly* fun game if you have friends to play with!!

    • When my guild invitation flashed on my screen I recognized immediately that it was basically like a WoW privilege I was being given. I can imagine the time it takes to build relationships within the game to get into a guild – it’s just so much easier if you know someone. The general WoW chat is crazy, all these comments and achievements that may or may not have anything to do at you being flashed constantly, it was really overwhelming.

      I think that’s the best way to describe WoW so far, utterly overwhelming.

      If I had to play WoW alone I imagine I would’ve wandered around aimlessly following the in game instructions (which are there btw). There are markings on the maps which I assume will allow you to progress in the game.

      In Starcraft the chat allows you to tab through the different groups/parties you are in, so instinctively I tried to tab my way through the different chats, since they’re both Blizz games, but it took me a while to figure out the command lines.

      • Actually, run around unguilded for long enough and you will find tons of guilds eager to recruit you and send you an invite right there (sometimes even without your permission, ugh). In my experience, those NEVER work out.

      • Y’know, now you got me thinking…

        My return to WoW has been *very* quiet. Maybe because I’m on an ancient server (Silver Hand) or maybe I just have /general turned off, but my chat window tends to stay empty.

        There are people around but they’re mostly talking in /say rather than in channels.

      • I know people that form their guild only for their alts. Just to avoid Invites. And to access a larger bank.

    • In my mind I had us off questing the first day, hitting the ground running, so to speak. What I didn’t expect was all the other stuff we had to go through first. I guess what I learned is that a lot of tutorials will teach you a lot of the game basics, but not the MMO basics. In a big way, I still agree with your point in your article — that perhaps someone familiar with MMOs but haven’t played WoW before (they still exist!) will be bored out of their minds when they try the game as it is now. For a casual gamer checking out WoW for their first MMO ever though, one could argue it’s still not easy enough!

      BTW, I have yet to have anyone talk to me via RealID, I didn’t even know it would be a different process! Guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get there myself!

  2. You’ve let her roll a NE hunter… Damn… 😛
    Seriously tough, I’ve made that same kind of experiment back in wrath with a friend of mine(He’s transfering to silvermoon soon) and I had the same kind of experiences. He tried to find a crossing from kalimdor to eastern kingdoms for a day or two before figuring out how and where the boats took you to.

    • Eff my life, there are boats? Is it like waiting for the subway in real life or something? 🙂

      • Yeah, that was how I came to find you originally, remember I was talking about waiting for the boat?

        And speaking of subways…wait til I show you an actual subway in game 🙂

    • LOL I know, I know… “Friends don’t let friends roll Night Elf Hunters!” That is so going onto a shirt I’ll give her if she ends up ultimately getting into the game 😀

      Speaking of boats…there used to be signs on the dock telling you where which boat goes. They don’t seem to be around anymore. Hell, now even *I* get lost.

      • You need to make a quick jump to horde too so I can say hi and she can see both sides.

      • Eh, my first toon was a NE Hunter. He ended up being my farming toon for the longest time since they’re so fun to just wander and blast stuff.

        As for the boats, no signs, not that I recall. But the NPCs next to where the boats dock used to tell you where the boat for that dock went to when you talked to them.

      • My first character was a hunter too LOL. Somehow I think that’s the case with a lot of people 😛 It was really fun, except I just fell in love with the druid after I got her past level 20.

      • Cripes, we are peas in a pod. First toon NE Hunter to about 40 or so. Then decided to go Druid since our tiny guild had problems fielding a tank and/or healer at times. Fell in love with it and was Druid for a loong, loooooong time.

  3. Great post! It really does sort of come like slap in the belly with a wet fish just how far back you have to go to get to the *real* beginner stage doesn’t it..

    For two years my non-gamer wife, my two kids, and non-gamer brother-in-law and his wife through City of Heroes. Setting up Vent, discussing classes, and being the only “gamer” in a regular group of non-gamers was an extraordinarily enlightening process. I’m always surprosed how new players will sometimes pick up immediately on things I might think they’d have troubles with, and then stumble on things that seem drop-dead obvious to me.

    While it was a difficult process.. watching my 8 year old daughter exlain the concept of aggro to a friend that came over to play for the first time was DEFINITELY worth it. 🙂

    Hope your friend stays with it, and look forward to hearing more of the exploits!

    So naming my next toon Ithalaine..


    • Definitely, in setting Jar up with WoW I realized there are many levels of learning to an MMO, the quest tutorials are just one of them. I had the class discussion with her too, and I didn’t realize how difficult it was to explain it until I actually had to do it! How would you describe hybrids? And how do you explain what a tank does without having to involve the concept of aggro, a term which would be just as alien to a MMO newcomer? It’s funny, because I’m sure I went through all this too, but I can’t remember now. But it must have taken me weeks too, if not months to understand everything, from handling the basics like hotkeys to more complicated game mechanics like figuring out a rotation.

      • I usually just try and figure out a Starcraft equivalent right now in MMO speak … I imagine WoW as if I were the ACTUAL marine in Starcraft … so a tank is literally a tank and takes damage, and a healer is your medivac LOL etc etc

      • I usually try to use more regular English and throw in the jargon, like so: “aggressive monsters or ‘mobs’ and the need to avoid or attract their aggression or ‘aggro.'”

        Helps non-gamers (or non-MMOers) relate.

      • Oh I should say my job involves doing the same sort of thing, teaching computer jargon to non-hackers.

    • also, part of the appeal of playing WoW is so I can feel like I’m in The Guild (not gonna lie, huge Felicia Day fangirl!)

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by MMOGamerChick and jarita, MMOGamerChick. MMOGamerChick said: Project WoW Noob: Day 1 – Getting Started. I follow a MMO newcomer on her adventures through Azeroth http://wp.me/pLnnL-1dv […]

  5. Fascinating read. I was familiar with Ventrilo because we used it at work. I didn’t use it as part of WoW for months or years, about the time I started running Kara I believe. My friend who got me started spent time in person playing with me for a session which helped trememndously, and then we played occasionally in person after that.

    I think you’re right in saying the *social* aspect of the game may be the steeper part of the learning curve. The game itself, both in “vanilla” and now seem to guide people pretty well where to go and what to do.

    • I agree with that as well. The socializing part was really difficult – I tried really hard not to say anything stupid or n00by at first cause I didn’t want to lose my street cred 🙂 but after the frustration with figuring everything out I just didn’t give a damn.

      But within the game itself, I actually hate the tutorials. They had these pop up boxes showing you to “left” click (with an actual picture of a mouse and the left button in red) on certain things. This is just a personal bias but I hate instructions, and I hate reading them. Let me make mistakes and learn. The map indicators were enough for me to realize “Oh I need to go there” and what items/characters I could interact with were pretty clear as well.

      Maybe we need to do a WoW experiment with someone who doesn’t game AT ALL.

    • Yeah, MMOs don’t typically come with a instruction booklet on all you need to know. Small wonder some people purchase third party guides, when they don’t know anyone to play with them to help.

  6. This experiences shows that WoW is not always that easy to learn, but an acquired (bad!) taste. Just think about the concept of the “Tank, DPS, Heal” trinity and the quirks of the dated chat interface.

    I am tempted to make a prediction: Jarira will soon get bored by the ! -> ? -> ! quest scheme and either turn away from WoW or start running dungeons with you. Either way, you have become Caylinn the Corruptor. 🙂

    • I’ll let her know you’re our resident WoW hater. 😀

      In spite of everything, I do think WoW is a great first step into the world of MMOs — it’s polished enough that one can gain a lot of knowledge in one place, and once you “get” WoW even if it’s not the game for you, you can easily jump into another MMO without any issues.

      • Definitely. There’s a reason why (for better or worse) WoW is the baseline for the industry.

        Now stop making me want to reinstall. I just got my wife into LotRO after 2-3 years of struggling. 🙂

  7. Hey Jarira, best advice I can give ya from an old-fart (both in terms of age and MMO experience), don’t worry about asking questions when you’re in a guild. Most guilds are very tolerant of newbies as long as they show progression. I think that goes doubly so for any guild that would count MMOG in their ranks. There’s a lot to learn in WoW. It’s not the deepest or most complex MMO out (hard to believe, but true) but it is a solid MMO that people love and love to hate. As MMOG mentioned elsewhere, once you get WoW you’ll be able to bounce around other MMOs with little trouble.

    And above all else remember this on the days it gets frustrating… Just imagine all these MMO fluff balls playing SC2 as their first ever RTS. All the confusion coupled with a time limit. 🙂

  8. This is a great project. Watching people learn about something you enjoy is always instructive to me too. Even if it’s just by learning about what assumptions I’ve come to expect over time.

    I’ll be sure to say Hi in guild chat sometime, Jarira.

    • And speaking of awesome guildies, it’s Anjin! 😀

  9. […] MMO Gamer Chick has an interesting article up with some real noob experiences.  Insightful stuff. […]

  10. I think the leveling process should be enjoyable and not drawn out. I have really had a great time with the new revamped quests. More so than I was in other games recently, going about the level grind.

    Nice to see your best friend is playing. I hope she enjoys the game. You should have brought her to the cooler faction – Horde!! 😉

    • We’ll get to the Horde in time, in time 😉

  11. Advice for a new WoW hunter?

    -Don’t take it personally if you hear the term “Huntard”–most people don’t mean it as a personal attack.lol

    -Never set your pet to Agressive. Maybe while questing, but while you are still learning, and especially inside instances, keep your pet on Defensive so they only attack when you do, or when you direct them to.

    -Your first experience in an instance/dungeon might be a bit jarring. Depending on the group, you may be moving at a more frenetic pace than you are used to. If you are unsure of what to do, don’t make a move until the tank has a few seconds to gather the attention of the monsters you are fighting. Also, don’t be afraid to let the group know you are new. If you’re lucky, they’ll be nice about it and help you along.

    -When loot drops in an instance, you’ll have two choices to pick from: Need or Greed. Take a good look at loot before you click Need on anything. Ask your WoW veteran friends what kind of stats you should be looking for on gear your class genuinely needs (Hunters are similar to Rogues, so your your gear will be leather, and the stats would be Agility & Stamina). When you see something that is better than what you have, “Need” it–most people won’t get on your case if it is something you really do need early in the game.

    -There are some good people in the game, but there are also A LOT of assholes in World of Warcraft; don’t be discouraged by the assholes (most are harmless) when you meet them (which you will).

    -As soon as you hit level 20, get to your race’s capital city (Darnassus for you) and get a mount. They are fairly cheap, and after walking for the first part of the game, you will notice just how much nicer the world seems when you’re not moving like a crippled snail.

    -If you’re in a guild, see if someone can help you with bags. A new player isn’t going to need much, but items and trash build up so fast it’ll make your head spin. Luckily, bags–even the Frostweave 18 slot bags–are dirt cheap now that Cataclysm is on the way. You should be able to get a couple of bags for very little money.

    -Since this is your first toon, you should take professions that will help you along with your leveling. Engineering & Mining is pretty decent for Hunters if you want to be able to make your own guns and scopes. But if you just want to rely on instances for that sort of thing then Leatherworking & Skinning will allow you to create the armor you’ll need while you level.

    -You have a racial ability that may save your life someday: Shadowmeld. If you ever bite off more than you can chew, dismiss your pet quickly and hit Shadowmeld. Then stand perfectly still until your enemies walk away.

    Other than that, enjoy the sights and sounds.

    All this stuff will become second nature the longer you play. You won’t be a noob forever.:)

    • All great tips for a new player. I remember freaking out when I first faced with the choice to need or greed. I got so scared that people might think I was a ninja I would pass on things even if I could use it LOL 😛

      We’re going to see about getting some bags made, or I’ll see about passing out some of those adventurer’s backpacks. I’ve collected a pile of those over the years, and I love giving them to my starting alts to use because they’re not bind on pickup or equip.

      Crafting, instances, mounts…that’ll all have to wait for now 🙂

  12. […] Go here for Project WoW Noob: Day […]

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