First-impressions are quite important, but I feel like not all current popular MMOs are good at showing new players what the hook of their game is.
EDIT: Because I feel like I should elaborate on a few things.
- I personally think that Guild Wars 2 offers a pretty poor starting experience nowadays. Don't get me wrong, I had an absolute blast when I first started it… but I've heard more and more complaints from people over the years. An this comes from friends, strangers and even online reviewers and streamers.
- The old-fashioned away of grabbing a Level 1 character and going through the story and map completion in order to get to Level 80 is no longer as appealing as it was years ago. A lot of new players don't seem to stick around for too long if they do this, as they eventually get pretty bored halfway through. The fact that dungeons have been abandoned hasn't helped either, as a regular MMO player will assume these are crucial to be part of… only to realize nobody does them or that it's only veterans looking for quick runs.
- There's also the fact that most of these people will want mounts or some sort of visual progression–which doesn't happen. Gear looks fairly the same (with really bad dyes on top) throughout most of the game, and mounts are only available in the latest expansion (despite the fact that the vanilla game was built without them).
- The Level Boost is another issue. I'm strongly against newcomers starting off with this boost, because they will be thrown at end-game content with shitty gear and zero basics about how this game and world work. They will be confused, frustrated… and will undoubtedly stop bothering soon enough. I have seen plenty of this.
- Final Fantasy XIV is another one that comes to mind. While it might be considered as one of the best modern MMOs in the market, the fact that the notorious slogfest of a story (known as ARR) is pretty much mandatory unless the player cashes more money to skip it… ruins the whole experience. The game starts off feeling clunky, slow and really uninteresting. The cutscenes come off as pretentious and the lack of voice-acting and variety in the cutscenes makes it a painful experience to go through. No one wants to sink 200 hours just to be able to get to the "fun" part of a game. Locking classes behind story content isn't a great idea in my book, either. No way in hell was I going to spend hundreds of hour playing a class I had no interest in just to gain access to the class I always wanted to try.
- I might as well add WoW, too. I started off as an orc and a worgen. I found the first few levels pretty standard when it comes to a MMO, but once I got past Level 10 and the world opened up… I just felt a little lost, you know. I didn't really know where to go and the majority of areas that I could visit were deserted. Nobody talked in the big cities, too. There was nothing to motivate me to keep going.
But that might be just me. I'd like to hear other people on this.
I'll also add an example of a MMO that does this right… which is SWTOR.
- SWTOR has marketed itself as this heavy-story MMO in the typical BioWare style. The story is the game's main hook even though there's still plenty of people whose main focus is grinding, end-game content and PvP.
- New players will be thrown at this huge world where every single quest is fully voiced (by the player character as well) where choices and consequences actually exist. The pacing of the first starting areas is really well-done and provides enough variety to keep players going. Once that tutorial phase is over, players are then thrown into what is one of the game's best solo-dungeons in the whole game.
- A lot of people seem to agree that the story aspect of SWTOR is what made it work for them, and that the lack of any proper counselling in the end-game (plus the grinding) is what eventually drives them away.
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