It’s fairly easy to spot that Realm’s current earlygame is incredibly lacking.
The tutorial guides you through the absolute basics, as it should, and then drops you off into the Realm. This works somewhat OK, until you get like maybe a few hours in and then you’re completely lost on what to do. You’ve got a character to level 20 from plinking away at bandits and cubes perhaps, is that the end of the game progression? You’re not sure where you can find rings higher than your t1 speed ring. You’re about to stop playing and go find some other new game to try out, like many others before you, but then your friend finds out you’ve been playing RotMG and holy crap he also plays RotMG and he teaches you about maxing and gland farming and dungeons. You keep playing for a while more, but you keep dying due to lack of experience and losing your progress after getting your character to 1/8 and 2/8. It doesn’t feel like you’ve made any tangible progress at all aside from your pet. You put down the game and stop playing.
There are several issues present here. The tutorial does not adequately prepare you for the actual bulk of the gameplay. In fact, you’re going to struggle to figure it out on your own without guides, which is not very conducive to attracting new players into the game because generally people don’t want to spend all that time reading for something they don’t even know if they’ll play for much longer. Then, for the rare players who do continue onwards, enjoyment is hampered by the fact that they only have one character slot and must either pay for one or wait 5 months(!) for what is probably one of the most important game-changers you will experience gameplay-wise.
Additionally, F2P games make most of their money off of “whales” (aka big spenders) rather than small purchases, and each new player you’ve failed to attract could possibly have been one willing to spend big bucks if they fell in love with how the game plays. This is suboptimal.
I present a very simple idea that can tackle these problems.
Let’s say a brand new player has finished the tutorials and is now placed in the Realm. They see the standard UI we all see, but with one extra chunk of text! It tells them to kill nearby enemies for armor. There’s also an icon next to this chunk of text, and clicking on it brings up a menu that explains how the task is to be done in more detail (perhaps there isn’t much more to be said about “kill enemies get loot”, but other tasks in the future may have a bit more nuance that’s hard to capture without flooding the regular UI).
In fact, this menu could kind of resemble a “questbook” in design, as well. It can have a tab that shows general progression through the quests it contains in some fashion (though not revealing the details of the future quests quite yet), and then at the very end… we have a character slot! And the text at the top of the page says you’ll get a free character slot for completing all the quests!
OK, let me explain this a bit further and my reasoning behind it.
As I mentioned, F2P games primarily rely on large spenders for most of the income. So already, the money spent by new players on buying their first char slot is likely not a significant portion of revenue. In fact, it’s possible the revenue gained from the first char slot purchases is heavily disproportionate to how much of a gameplay-changer actually having two character slots instead of one is for a new player. The easy thing to do would be to perhaps just give new players two slots to start out with, but there’s still a problem with fixing the tutorial and earlygame. So we can bundle improving the earlygame with giving new players a drastically needed quality-of-life change, and knock out two birds with one stone.
The “tutorial” quests I envision would basically give a clear direction of how to progress in earlygame up to perhaps almost the start of midgame. New players should be able to easily follow it, and experience the game as richly as we do as more experienced players. This will help to get them attracted towards the game, and perhaps they will wish to stay after they’ve managed to finish all the quests. Additionally, having something to “work” on is always enticing and keeps one focused, rather than being left to meander and get bored.
For example, here is a sort of preliminary main “questline” that I thought up just to illustrate the idea. It shouldn’t be taken as the definitive final list because I think that it should be finetuned and it is really just to get a sense of what I would imagine.
- Get armor from killing enemies (showcases that enemies drop loot)
- Enter the midlands (possibly the game will hint as to direction of midlands, this introduces concept of different regions of the Realm and can additionally introduce varying difficulty depending on region since quest text can explain this)
- Get an upgrade (anything that drops that would be a higher tier than what they currently have equipped; this would showcase harder enemies = better loot)
- Find and complete a pirate cave/other earlygame dungeon (maybe, it wouldn’t add too much but otherwise we’d neglect these poor dungeons)
- Enter highlands
- Enter godlands (there can probably be level suggestions or even requirements interweaved with these as well so someone doesn’t try to speedrun the whole thing and enter godlands at level 5)
- Kill X amount of gods (get the player accustomed to fighting gods)
- Enter and clear a glands dungeon (the game could suggest snake pit/sprite world)
- Use the stat pot after the defeat of the boss (this poses an issue if you were to enter a dungeon with more than 2 people and didn’t get the guaranteed drop, perhaps the game can force a guaranteed pot or just tell the player to keep doing dungeons until the pot drop happens)
- Get a stat to max (I imagine this as the final quest before the character slot is unlocked)
But wait, we can’t possibly cover everything with just static, unchanging quest goals! You’d have a tough time trying to clear a snake pit if you’ve just been sent to Oryx’s Castle. And what’s this differently coloured bag with a UT item doing here?
We can add some dynamic function to the questbook. If the Realm has closed, a new, previously unknown quest can show and take priority, explaining a bit of what’s about to happen. This appropriately changes the current goals from “clear a snake pit” to “survive the castle”. Similarly, if someone happens to luck out and get a white bag as they are farming their snake pits or sprite worlds or what have you, the UI can make a big deal out of it and introduce them to the concept of very rare drops, appropriately showing and completing a hidden quest that they didn’t have before.
If one dies, the quest can change appropriately to explain to the player the natural process of death and that there’s nothing to worry about, as well!
I imagine that after the final main quest is completed, these hidden quests could reveal themselves so that if someone hasn’t completed all of them before completing the main quest, they can now work on doing those for no reward other than a very satisfying checkmark. The UI could also tuck away the quest text and icon and place them somewhere else, now that the main stuff is all done and otherwise it would get in the way.
I imagine if this were introduced, it’d be available to all players old and new, even if it is pretty trivial for experienced players to complete the quest and obtain the free character slot. It can be seen as a celebratory gift perhaps!
This would only give one character slot for completing the quests, and for non-paying players they would have to wait 5 months in the calendar for the next free character slot, as normal. Still, having two character slots instead of one is such a significant change compared to three character slots instead of two.
I also don’t know if giving away a free vault slot as well would be overkill, personally I don’t see it as super necessary but perhaps you believe differently.
There could be some small rewards though for reaching certain milestones in the quests. Perhaps a free DEF pot for obtaining your first stat pot, now that you know what they do, for example. A free pet egg could be given away once one completes killing enough gods or reaching the godlands (the free pet egg could even prompt a dynamic quest change to teach the player how the pet yard and feeding pets works), and even earlier than that, reaching the midlands could prompt the game to give you a t4 armor or something as a reward. Maybe even if someone ends up dying for the first time, a compensation/pity reward could be given to lessen the grief.
So, that’s basically my idea explained. I believe it’s a very logical step towards making the earlygame more interesting and helping boost new player retention. I would have liked to add some images to this to better illustrate the concept, and because it’d be much more of an interesting post with some nice pictures, but I don’t quite have the time to draft out the concepts. I may add pictures to illustrate the idea better in the future. If there’s anything I didn’t quite explain well enough, I can hopefully explain the idea better if you ask!
Also, what this won’t fix or what this idea will be impacted by are deeper/core issues with the game as it is right now, such as the emptiness of realms being a deterrent, or the impact of event spam on the game’s sense of progression. This idea assumes the game population is rather healthy and the realms are decently populated (while not essential to complete the quests as proposed, I don’t think people want to play an MMO in solitude).