I’ve been thinking more about the skill gap issues that most MMOs have today. Skill gap in that the game from 1-max rarely requires any effort and then people are put into group situations that they simply are not prepared for. Cataclysm is a prime example of this problem. It would be interesting to see statistics of how often stuns and interrupts are actually used during the leveling curve…
A couple games recently have taken a somewhat different approach to this problem.
FF14 has trials and forced grouping all the way through the levels. From the very start you learn about situational awareness, prime targeting, interrupts, line of sight and avoiding the red. If you don’t learn, if just one person doesn’t catch on, then you simply cannot progress. This is great. Your leveling experience is complemented with the system intricacies. Outside of tank defensive cooldown usage, it really primes you for all group combat.
The Secret World takes a more direct approach with the Guardian. Given the structure of the game, you can fill any role, so it gives you the choice of defeating him as a DPS, Healer or Tank. All of them are tough battles in that you need to have a very solid understanding of the role, skill synergies and how to manage interrupts. I know some solid gamers who were stuck on this guy for a while, he’s no cakewalk. TSW already has a pretty punishing skill level and this just brings it up to 11. Still, it makes sure people are prepared.
WoW has trials. There’s rumor that they are going to expand on that system for WoD, likely using the Silver medal rank as the baseline. Having done those, I can say that Silver isn’t all that hard to achieve if you’ve ever done group content and were awake. For those that have not, those that have just leveled and done pet battles, then this could be a tad challenging. It’s also quite a shock, since nothing up until this point actually requires skill.
I’m getting of the opinion that all games should have this type of system. While I prefer FF14’s, since it’s from the start, both TSW and WoW have decent interpretations. It certainly will help with bridging the skill gap at the start of end game activities. That naturally will help with the animosity of “noobs” and “l33t” players. Raising players knowledge of the game systems is always a good thing.