Qualitative Observation and Analysis of the Post-Cataclysm Gnome Starting Area in World of Warcraft

Josh Foreman

Joel Weiss

Research Question:

How are introductory areas designed to introduce players to the game?


Introductory Area Studied:

Gnome Starting Area (as of 4/10/2019)


Field Notes (taken by Joel Weiss):

Notes taken in italics are recorded after observation and cross-checked with video recording of the starting zone.

    Intro cinematic, skippable

First start with interacting with npc to get quest, teaches player basics of interacting with other

Have to return to quest giver to complete quest

characters (looking at stats, accepting quests, etc.)

Start out with combat, learn how to use sword(warrior) and fight easy to beat enemies

Next start “rescue” of others, teaches player how to navigate map, find objectives, and use items

(teleport stone)

Must use a vehicle to decontaminate yourself

Then navigate your way through to where you need to be cleaned off for a virus, then teleported to the surface

Once on surface you must look for spare parts to build a robot

Forces you to explore surface to see scope of world and learn to navigate a larger map

Once you find your objective, more combat

Multiple quest givers in the area at the same time.

Must explore “toxic airfield” to find objective

Must look for certain items and return them to specific npcs

Then do two quests at once for a single npcs

Two quests were from same person at same time instead of having to find 2 separate npcs.


Summary of Findings:

Our research question was: how does an introductory scenario such as the gnome starting area teach players how to deal with advanced game concepts that will come up later? We gathered our data by creating new gnome characters and going through the game introduction.

Each introductory area begins with a skippable cinematic. This is done to expose the player to the current situation within the area as well as the characteristics of the Gnome race. The Gnome area is notable as the player starts en media res as the player escapes the contaminated area. The ambiance in the area is therefore hectic and adds a sense of urgency to the introduction.

The player starts in a cramped room, with a quest giver and some other non-dialogue NPC’s, non-player-controlled characters. This makes it clear that the player should now talk to the quest giver, who tells the player to clear the enemies blocking the path out of the room. This action introduces the player to a few simple elements: simple linear movement and single enemy fighting. The player is also assisted by a few of the NPC’s in the room. The quest gives more information to the player than the action, however. It begins a very simple introduction to the minimap as well as the quest tracking interface, both of which will be explored in the very next quest. The most important concept shown to players here is backtracking. Once the player finishes the objective for the first quest they must return to the quest giver to complete it, something that comes up very often in World of Warcraft.

The second quest given requires the player to go into a larger room and use an item to rescue other gnomes, which allows the player to learn how to explore and use quest items on objectives as well as become more familiar with the minimap. When this is completed and the player returns to the quest giver they are once again sent on another quest, this time to find a Gnome quite a bit away from the player. Here a player unfamiliar with minimaps or 3D environments can accustom themselves to the experience without combat constantly keeping most of their attention. This quest leads to another, which requires the player to enter a vehicle, in order to sanitize the character. This is done quite comedically, with the character being strung along a car wash inspired cleaning mechanism. The game mechanics involved are not complex, with the player only needing to click on the vehicle to enter then press W to move forward down the ‘car wash’ line. Later on in World of Warcraft, this mechanic is expanded heavily, such that players must combat enemies, dodge attacks, seize objectives, and even siege objectives. After the player is cleaned they finally leave the introduction area by teleporting out after talking to another NPC, thus ending the Gnome starting area.

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