Mark Jacobs says: mentoring systems punish new players

He replied to a point I also suggested for Warhammer. I can’t stay silent when he says such absurdities.

The proposal is about something like a mentoring system where players can access lower tiers (levels) of the game. So “delevelling” their characters to play along with friends who aren’t in the exact same tier. My proposal was more complex but that’s the main point.

His reply:

That’s one I’ve always had mixed feelings about as a designer. The pros for doing that are obvious but the cons are what concern me. If players can easily move down in levels to help other players, I worry that new players will have a harder time getting in groups. After all, if you could choose an experienced player playing at a lower level or a new player playing at the same level, you’ll go with the experienced player. His/her knowledge of the game will always be an advantage to you and to h/h. So when the new player is LFGing or wants to get into the fun in a situation where the number of participants is limited, h/h might have a more difficult time of it in this system. Like I said, I have mixed feelings on it.

One wonders. Because the main reason for that system to exist is to reduce the gap between veteran players and noobs, while Jacobs thinks it has the exact opposite effect. This can’t be “opinion”, either one or the other state must be wrong.

His thesis is that noobs should to play with noobs, because if there was a veteran player then all noobs will want him in the group. So the noobs will be sitting out of groups? Wait, it doesn’t work.

His thesis is that in a world where there’s a majority of veteran players and a few noobs, the few noobs wouldn’t get in groups because they are, well, noobs. And in competitive, limited PvP (which is a flaw in itself and much discussed in forums) no one will group a noob.

Okay. So to solve this we remove veterans from this scenarios and what we get? A few noobs exactly as before, with the exact same grouping possibilities as before. So he fears that veterans group with veterans and noobs with noobs. Hello? In every game already happens. And the mentoring system (whatever the implementation) has absolutely nothing to do with that.

Really, Mark Jacobs sucks at game design. That’s not complex reasoning, it’s logic. The two worse alternatives are:
– Veteran players who can’t go back in tiers, so they group together at higher tiers.
– Veteran players who can go back in tiers, so they only group together among themselves because they don’t want noobs.

How this scenario affects a noob who’s looking for group? In no foreseeable way, because in the first case there are no veteran players to group with, and in the second there are, but they won’t group with him. So how this is detrimental to his group possibilities? Since Jacobs fears that a veteran player won’t group with a noob he FORBIDS him to do it. So he is absolutely sure that there isn’t the RISK that a veteran player may group with noob who can’t find a group. Like if this could help.

Letting players go down in tiers has the only effect of keeping lower tiers more populated than they would if you could only more forward in tiers (everyone with a minimal MMO experience knows that lower zones become deserted over time). This means that the pool of players available for grouping INCREASES, if you let players move down instead of only up. The more people may be picky and not willingly to group with noobs, but this doesn’t decrease the numbers of noobs in the system. And you can be sure that, even if in small numbers, some veteran players *will* be willingly to play with noobs, especially if the system is well designed and rewards this behavior.

So the best and worst case oscillate between “only few more players available”, and “a lot more players available”. In ANY case a mentoring system has a negative effect on the grouping possibilities of brand new players. In fact it is a partial solution.

The problem that Jacobs sees there has NOTHING to do with the mentoring system, and a lot to do with an intrinsic flaw of the close PvP system they decided to use. Moreover this flaw is foreign again to the mentoring system itself and WILL be present in ALL tiers.

Eldaec on F13 discussed this for months. How a “sport” PvP where results are charted and projected on the overall campaign will have a strong negative impact toward new players, because their participation may be detrimental to the result of the faction.

That’s what you get when your “war” is faked. That’s what happens when you OPEN that gap between veteran players and noobs because you designed a system that PUNISHES THE PARTICIPATION OF NOOBS TO PVP. With or without a mentoring system.

And that’s also the MAIN reason why that “game design” will feed the hatred of veteran players toward noobs that want to play and finish to ruin the “performance” of the experienced team.

Mark Jacobs, get a clue. A mentoring system, in all games and in all implementations, is MADE TO HELP NEW PLAYERS. It is made to let people play together without levels being unsurmountable barriers. It is made to reward interaction between veterans and noobs. It is made to build with the time a welcoming community opposed to an hostile one.

It is made to keep the game accessible and playable after the first burst of players at launch is over.

YOUR OWN PvP system, instead, the one you defend. THAT’s the source of hostility between players and the opening the gap between noobs and veterans. That’s the one that promotes SELECTION instead of INTEGRATION. And that’s the reason why the “war” in Warhammer won’t even be close in quality to the war in DAoC. Where realm participation was ENCOURAGED instead of being detrimental to the battle.

Make everyone a favor, let real designers do the game design, and you just think to management.

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