Landmark: New User Experience

Landmark New User Experience Poll

The EverQuest Next Landmark team is asking for feedback on improving the new user experience via a Roundtable poll.  I voted, then gasped at the results.  Notice a trend?  Yeah, I tend to differ from most people.  Sometime it’s because I believe niche mechanics are more fun.  Sometimes it’s because I want a game to be more like another.  This time I am positive that my answer is all about improving the new user experience and the experience for all players: Refine the Building Tools!

Character customization is an obvious throwaway.  Add more faces, etc.  Done.  To me that falls into the ‘delighting your customers’ category.  We can get to that when the rest of the game ‘works’ properly.

Clear, established goals are a slippery slope.  I don’t necessarily want ‘goals’ to complete.  In fact, the most fun I’ve had in Landmark was in the first 5 minutes when I logged in, ran 20 feet away from the spawn point, and starting breaking the earth beneath my feet.  Then I chopped a tree and watched it fall explode and realized I was in a shared world manipulating the terrain and resources  Those are lightbulb moments I wouldn’t take away from anyone.  It’s in those moments when people realize all of the opportunities and potential of Landmark and the upcoming EverQuest Next.  Sullying that with goals would be sad.

Easier to identify resources and improvements to crafting – No to the resources  All of the resources are intuitively colored and literally all on the surface.  That alone is already ridiculous (it’s Alpha, it’ll change) so I can’t really fathom making it easier to identify the massive blob of red rubies you can see on the map from any distance.  Improvements to crafting I think will simply come over time and aren’t a ‘new user’ experience.

Better controls sure.  I think the camera while building and gathering — especially digging downward — are not friendly to a new or existing player at all.  We need the ability to pivot the camera while building or to be able to control the angle.  Building in first person is really awkward at times.  I think the entire camera and controls experience could use polish.  Heck, I didn’t even know holding shift let me sprint.

Okay, now the one I feel is really most important and I can’t believe it received the least amount of votes so far.

Refinement of Building Tools

First, they are definitely awesome.  They are powerful tools giving me the freedom to build unlike ever before.  That said, they need work.  The line tool is so glitchy.  Single voxel lines do not work.  Making lines will sometimes make jagged lines for no reason. There are tons of shortcut commands affecting how the tools work.  Using the add tool (+) you can press G to snap to a grid or not, hit Shift+tab to influence where the placement happens, etc.

The smoothing tool acts more like a melting tool.  Having to coordinate the select tool and/or utilize overly jagged edges to avoid your voxels you want to smooth from melting into puddles isn’t natural.  The melting tool in square form still confuses me.

Those who can master and manipulate the current tools can take the same things I make and create masterpieces.  That’s something I feel new and even proficient users like myself can benefit from moving forward.

  • I think you have a different conception of what “New User Experience” means to me and probably to SOE when they posted this poll. I think they are asking specifically for thought on that infamous first few minutes, variously rated as anything from five minutes to half an hour, during which the majority of players make a final an irrevocable decision on whether or not they will carry on playing or uninstall the game. It’s a well-known problem for all MMOs and devs frequently complain about it, so I immediately assumed that was what they meant.

    On that basis, I voted for Character Customization. It’s the first thing you see and it has incredible impact. If you can get a player invested in the character he or she has just this minute made they will be more likely to stick with the game for a little while longer than if they already felt, even before they logged in, that they were wearing shoes that don’t fit.

    Conversely, “Refinement of Building Tools” seems to me to be so irrelevant to a “New User Experience” that I can’t actually see why it’s on the list at all. No New User s going to be building anything. First they have to work out where they are and what to do, then they have to find a claim, then they have to gather resources and only then can they start building. That’s going to be way past anything I’d call a “New User Experience”. If they ever get as far as trying to build something then they’re already “in”.

    The two options that are running neck-and-neck are the most important, in my opinion. The camera control one might be if the current controls were terrible but they seem fine so we can discount that. The resources and crafting one, again, might be more important if the current options were highly confusing but they’re not, and anyway, as we all know, they are only temporary so it’s hard to vote in anticipation of how they might need improvement later.

    If they’d wanted to know how I felt the experience could be improved for players after they’d been playing for a week or two then yes, I agree entirely that the building tools still need a lot of work. It would have helped if they’d quantified “New User” I guess.

  • I would say the selection tool needs to be unlocked sooner. The voxels are too small to want to build anything meaningful brick by brick. My first few sessions were spent doing nothing but grinding resources for the selection tool, and when I did my first thought was ‘finally I can build.’ I would also say combine the stone axe and pick together. Get players used to even using tools in the first place, and then separate axe from pick at the copper level.

  • @Jenks: Those were my thoughts.

    @McJigg: The selection tool really can be earned in a matter of a few hours. I don’t know if I’d make the selection tool earlier to get, or the earlier tools better.

    @Bhagpuss: I think they left it broad on purpose because they want feedback on both. Regardless, I think fixing things comes before adding things and making things less sandbox should never be on the table.

  • I am in agreement with bhagpuss, at least in the sense that most of these polls can be interpreted in so many different ways, so as to be largely irrelevant.

    I do think the term “new user” is specifically designated to mean how one’s immediate first log in experience could be improved and is supported by one of the questions referencing the “first few minutes of play”.

    In this context, refinement of building tools is likely to be irrelevant given the immediate lack of building resources.

    Interpretation of these type of polls is plagued by vague question design, general lack of focus of the respondents (not noting the difference between “new user” experience and a more general “stuff I want to be seen implemented in the game” choices), and people purposely trying to meta-manipulate the polls (like user reviews on Metacritic).

  • I completely disagree that a user ceases to be ‘new’ after a few minutes, thus I can not conclude that the poll means within a matter of minutes. They would not have included half the options if that were the case. In fact, they specify some options for a few minutes in and others are clearly meant to be hours even days such as crafting and tools.

    I’ll reiterate: They mean everything from minutes to days+. I believe the most important option on the poll is the one referencing the most underdeveloped and least user-friendly feature relative to its impact on gameplay.

  • Well that is exactly what I mean, namely it is hard to make heads or tails of such poll results when the respondents are interpreting the questions in significantly different ways.

    I fully agree that in a primarily building type of game refining building tools is of primary importance; this is basically a truism.

    Nonetheless I wouldn’t have listed that option highly in the way I interpreted the questions. 😉

  • @Keen: True it’s only ‘a few hours’ in, but that’s a few hours of people wanting to get to the building. There’s a whole lot of people who don’t want to put in the 2-3 hours into ESO before they get to the main open world game. I do say there needs to be progression, I’m fine with the line, smoothing, painting tools etc being earned later. But the selection tool needs to come earlier, let the gathering of the resources be the barrier to having a your first home. Not whether or not you have the selection tool.