I think this is an important change. Sure, we can make jokes about “noobs” but a lot of people who try WoW out for the first time have no experience with MMOs, and let’s not forget this game has a wide-ranging demographic.
Off the top of my head, I know a 67-year-old grandmother who plays a Resto Shaman, another grandmother who plays a Blood Elf Hunter, an ER doctor in his 50s who uses the game as means of spending time with his kids. And I’m always surprised when a random, well-played pug member turns out to be a grade school kid. (Which is why it’s a good idea to watch your language in PUGs, even if you assume most kids that age would have their language filter turned on.)
Speaking from personal experience, I began playing WoW in early 2007, when the game basics had long been second-nature to most seasoned players. I had experience in online gaming, but WoW was my first MMO. I’d played lots of RTS games before (Age of Empires, Battle for Middle Earth II), lots of FPS games (Quake, Unreal Tournament) and quite a few role-playing games, going all the way back to the original Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy on the NES.
But I had no concept of talent specializations, instancing group dynamics, the mechanics of aggro and the difference between soulbound and non-soulbound items. When I began playing WoW, I was so clueless it took me a couple of days to figure out that in-game currency was returned to the player through the mail after they lost an Auction House bid. So I spent way too much time grindng the Harpies outside of Thunder Bluff to get my first overpriced greens, which I’m sure looked hilarious: “Why is this level 15 Shaman spending hours slaughtering Harpies three levels below him?”
Along the way, I met some extremely helpful players, starting with the Druid who led me to the stashes of Ambercorn beneath Mulgore’s tree groves — back then, we didn’t have sparkly graphics to clearly mark quest items, drinks only cost 10 cents, and we had to walk uphill both ways to Thunder Bluff. None of that Purified Draenic Water for us, thanks.
But on a more serious note, griefers who invite noobs en masse to raid groups for the sole purpose of stranding them in their starting zones without quests or any direction on what to do have undoubtedly ruined the early game experience for more than a few players, and who can say how many people let their 14-day trials expire out of frustration because of incidents like that?
They’re not idiots, they’re noobs, and all of us were new to this game at some point. I’m glad Blizzard is taking steps to make it easier for those folks in Patch 3.3 — not only is it beneficial to everyone to have new blood in the game, it also signals a belief by Blizzard that, five years into WoW’s lifespan, the developers still expect significant numbers of new players joining in on the fun. And that’s a good sign for all of us.