You ask me why Im weary, why I cant speak to you

You blame me for my silence
Say its time I changed and grew
But the wars still going on dear
And theres no end that I know
And I cant say if were ever...
I cant say if were ever gonna to be free

- Veteran of the Psychic Wars, Blue Öyster Cult

Here at Ask Massively, we've sought to inform and educate the masses on the esoterica of MMORPGs, but today we are going to go back to basics. We're going to give you some advice, or, if you consider yourself a Veteran of the Psychic Wars on the Internet, some reminders about how to act like something other than a complete and total... well, I'm not sure I can use that word without incurring the wrath of my editors.

Our question, this week, is from someone who has had enough.
Dear Massively,

I'm done. My last nerve has been worked like Eric Bloom's guitar string after the 4th hour of a Blue Oyster Cult concert with no cowbell.

One of the attractions of Age of Conan, for me at least, was the fact that it caters to a mature audience. The game is rated (depending on where you live) as such, and the subject matter is obviously not for children. Instead, the public chat channels are awash with "OOOH LOOK! BEWBIEZ!" and the kind of banter that would make embarrass a 6th grader for being too lame.

If it isn't the avalanche of nerds who have apparently never seen a naked female breast before, there are the chronic "N00bz" who stand right in front of a quest NPC and shout "How do I get any quests in this game?"

Finally, it looks like gold farmers have infested Hyborea. Does spamming a chat channel, or sending tells to players at random actually work? What kind of gullible moron would go for such a sales pitch? Of course, I'm going to answer myself and say that it is the kind of moron who would pay someone else to play a game for them in the first place... Please disregard that last part.

My question is this. I understand that new players can often feel lost in an MMO, and that they should be encouraged to turn to other players for help, thus fostering a sense of community within the game. What are the generally accepted rules of etiquette for dealing with other players? Am I being too sensitive to players that can't be expected to do any better? or are the "noobs" just that much more rampant in today's games?

- Virtually Scarred for Life

In the immortal words of Keanu Reeves, Whoa! There are many references to MMO etiquette out there, and I have even been asked to conduct a "class" on MMO etiquette at an upcoming convention. (I am not saying that in order to plug Dragon*Con, you'll get plenty of that later.) This is more of an exercise in empathy and common sense than a list of gaming commandments.

I'm going to deliver my answer in three parts. The first part is meant for the "Noob" who might stumble across this column while doing a Google search for "Age of Conan Walkthrough." The next part will be for folks like VSL who have had enough of the rampant "Noobism" (that's not a word, but it should be). The last part is going to be a surprise, not the good kind, for the group of people to whom this will apply.

Ok newbies, we're going to start with you because your problems are the easiest to fix. Since the average noob isn't exactly awash with empathy for their fellow players, I'm going to try and explain to you how it is that the rest of the players on an MMO see you. In order to keep this column under the length of a Russian novel, I'm going to present these tips in the form of easy-to-digest bullet points.

  • We understand what you said the first time. Shouting or incessantly repeating yourself will not get your question answered any faster. If we didn't answer you the first time, we aren't going to answer (kindly) after asking 250 more times.
  • There is no "super secret guide" to your MMO of choice. If you don't know how to find something, start exploring and look for it. We're busying enjoying the game for ourselves and don't have time to hold your hand for you while you learn to play. There are wikis and websites all over the place that can point you towards the info you need.
  • If you are starting a guild for the first time, learn how to advertise properly. Spamming chat in a newbie zone is not going to help you create a top end raiding guild. If you want a top end guild, then go hang out where the top end players are playing. If you don't know where that is, then you probably have no business leading a raiding guild.
  • I love surprises, but surprise guild invites or group invites from people I've never met always get rejected. Don't be that guy.
To illustrate this principle at work, observe the following screenshots.

Now, if our newbie friend followed these rules, he could have checked here for an answer to his question. A simple google search for "age of conan mining prosepcting weaving" would show this as the second link. Google is your friend.

Here is the punchline to this little lesson. He was standing right next to me when he asked me to "plzplzplz" (Somehow, I don't believe James Brown sang it that way.) show him how to get to the Purple Lotus Swamp.

So newbies, with a little research and exploration, you can save yourselves the trouble of begging strangers to hold your hand in a brave new virtual world. Play the game, don't be afraid of mistakes (they make the best stories later on) and have fun with it. Respect the time of other players and when you really do have a good question, (read: you've looked, and can't find any help at all on your own) ask politely and you might get lucky. Don't feel bad if nobody answers, it means they probably don't know either.

Now we get to folks like our friend, VSL, the grizzled old-timer who played EQ on a 286 while walking uphill, both ways, to a one room schoolhouse without air-conditioning in the summer time. There is really only one rule you need to know. In fact, I want you all to go to your favorite message boards and change your signature to this sentence.

  • /ignore is your best friend.
You can't save the world from retardation or newbishness (mmm, more words that aren't words!) and it is folly to try. Ignore them and move on. You will be happier, they will be just as oblivious, and there is an extra bonus. If people who engage in anti-social or impolite behavior don't get a reaction, they eventually stop acting that way. My ignore list reads like the New York City white pages. Usually, if someone is acting particularly obnoxiously, I'll send a snarky tell to satisfy my inner sense of outrage, slap a "kata-ha-ignore" choke hold on them, and get on with my life. What you do not want to do, under any circumstances, is engage the previously mentioned twit in a war of wits in a public channel. You cannot win. You might have had the moral high ground initially, but spamming everyone else's chat with a series of profane, and rarely funny, retorts makes you look just as retarded. If you simply must give a jerk a piece of your mind, remember the phrase "Snark and Run". Hit him with your best shot, then promptly leave the field of battle (/ignore... remember that!) lest you become contaminated by whatever pathogen resulted in your victim's attack of imbecility in the first place.

Your end of lesson quiz for this chapter:

Identify the "non-jerk" in the following chat-example. (shamelessly borrowed from WoW Wiki)

[1. General - Barrens] [Player 1] Anyone here like metalica?
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 2] Metallica sucks and ur a noob!
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 3] all metal bands suck, u guys are both ghey.
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 2] %#$@ u, u just listen to rap crap and think ur so cool
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 4] Who likes starburst?
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 2] losers like starbust
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 4] I bet your mom is a loser
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 6] guys where is mankriks wife? I cant find her
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 5] Can you guys just shut up an play, plz? kthx?
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 7] LFG WC
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 1] stfu player 5
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 2] shutup player
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 3] no they all like crap music
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 6] How much wood would Chuck Norris chuck if Chuck Norris could chuck wood?
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 4] all of it
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 2] all of it
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 8] Hey everybody! New guild looking for members all levels and classes whisper me
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 3] Nobody cares about your guild player 8
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 5] oooooold!!!111
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 1] where is stolen silver!!!
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 8] where do I learn shadowbolt?!?!
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 1] Mankrik's Wife
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 6] WHERE IS MANKRIKS WIFE?!?!!1111
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 6] sorry caps
[1. General - Barrens] [Player 5] sftu player 6, shes in my basement

Using our lessons previously learned, we can eliminate "Player 6" ("Where is Mankirk's wife?" = Noob),"Player 8" ("Thou shalt not advertise your guild in a lowbie zone"),and "Player 1" (OMG! Lrn2play).

  • How about "Player 2"? He's a real charmer. Ditto for "Player 3."
  • "Player 4" is clearly enjoying himself and is perhaps the least obnoxious, but he is also clearly tweaking the noses of the other participants.
  • "Player 5" is who you are most likely to be taken for if you insist on trying to save people from their own idiocy.

"Player 7" is an innocent bystander who is just trying to get a group. He's really the only person who isn't guilty of being a jerk to any degree, but he is also lost in the shuffle of all of the other players in this little melodrama. The lesson is that no matter how much you may know about a game, or how much expertise you might have, you'll look like just as much of a jerk as a clueless newbie if you insist on getting involved in "Barrens Chat" on a regular basis. In this context, "Barrens Chat" can apply to any zone or any MMO, it is not unique to this particular area.

Here comes the surprise for many of you. This group of people is the largest group of "problem children" in all of MMO gaming. More clueless than the average newbie, and wielding far more influence than the most uber power gamer. These people represent everything that is wrong with the social skills of the most obnoxious MMO players you've ever imagined. I'm talking about parents. Worried about all of the 14 year olds in Age of Conan who keep screaming about naked boobs? Blame parents for not doing their homework and buying their precious little snowflakes a game that has been widely advertised as being for mature audiences only. Do you think these pubescent little twits would be acting like such jerks if mom and dad were looking over their shoulders like responsible parents should? If television makes a poor babysitter, leaving your kid on the Internet without supervision is even worse. I'm not saying that all 14 year olds are jerks, and I'm also not saying that all jerks are 14 year olds, but I think a large part of the naturally occurring drama in MMOs would be attenuated if the people behind the keyboards were held accountable for their activities. Parents being responsible for their kids would be a good start.

I also think that MMO companies should come up with some innovative ways to deal with the more antisocial players in their games. Perhaps a set of servers for folks who get "voted off the island" by their peers? If you generate too many complaints from other players, your character, and all their gear and money, are transferred to a server where they can deal with other miscreants. If they want to go back to their old server, they can pay a character transfer fee just like anyone else. Mom and Dad might get a little more interested in their children's activities when they see an extra 25 or 50 dollar charge on their credit cards. The details would have to be fleshed out, but it would be nice to see games take the initiative and try some of these concepts.

That's enough for this week in Ask Massively. If you have a question or a rant that you would like for us to answer, please drop by our tip line or send an email to ask AT massively DOT com. If we're lucky, maybe we can put all of the gold farmers, spammers, and obnoxious MMO newbies on a PVP server and let them duke it out.

This article was originally published on Massively.