This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss EVE’s development.
So, CCP have put a team together to focus on ‘The Ease of EVE‘; specifically working on how best to introduce new players to EVE so that they decide to actually stay beyond the trial period.
There are probably some easy tweaks that can be made to entice new players, but some of the issues are deep seated ones in the EVE experience. I started playing EVE nearly eight years ago, and was fortunate enough to have my brother on hand to show me the basic controls (he had started a few months earlier) as back then EVE had practically no tutorial at all. I literally undocked and at first wasn’t even sure how to make my ship turn.
Things are better today. 😉
The core problems then were that the game sucked at telling you how to do anything, or hinting at what you might want to do. And you started with next to no skills at all so to fit even the most basic of mods meant buying another skillbook and doing another 15+ minutes training to fit anything but a ‘civilian’ module, assuming the game had bothered to tell you that such things existed.
Today there is a tutorial, which was recently re-built in Incarna (I maintain that Incarna was an expansion aimed at new players, which is why it was so devoid of content for veterans) and new characters start with considerably more SP and basic skills. Also learning skills are no more getting rid of that dead time in character development where you would spend weeks training skills that just let you train other skills in less time.
So things are much better these days for those starting out in EVE. But there are still problem areas. The first is that new players tend to feel at a major disadvantage when they realise what established players are able to do by comparison.
When a newbie asks what ships he should be flying, an established player is probably going to tell him to train for a battlecruiser or something T2. If he hears about Incursions and what others fly, he might be even be shown a bling-fitted faction battleship or a logistics ship.
Obviously no newbie should expect to be flying a 2 billion isk Nightmare any time remotely soon. And a well skilled logi setup is going take them months on end of training. But imagine how daunting that task might seem!
Lets assume they are realistic and realise that those ships are long term goals. Lets look at the much more achievable BC’s or T2 frigs. Our newbie might have built up something like 5million ISK by the time they are asking these questions, they might not. Even so, buying a fully fitted BC, assuming tier 2, insured and tech 1 fit, is probably going to cost them around 50mill. A T2 frig, say 15-20mill. Given that it probably took them days or even weeks of ‘typical’ gameplay to earn their first 5mill, the prospect of quadrupling that is again going to be pretty daunting!
So how do you address that? Just give new characters more ISK? No, EVE has plenty of ISK in circulation. More SP? No, character progression is a core element of EVE. How about lowering that barrier to flying someting half-decent?
How about buffing tech 1 cruisers? T1 cruisers are cheap, usually under 5mill per hull. Back when I started playing EVE there were no BC’s, and getting your first cruiser was a milestone achievement. And people actually still flew them on a regular basis! BC’s have taken over the role that cruisers used to fill and basically do everything your typical cruiser does, only with more DPS and EHP. Skill training wise they are easy to get into once you can fly cruisers too.
I think that a problem facing newbies at the moment is that the ships they can actually afford are under powered, forcing them to grind ISK to get their first ‘decent’ ship. Most newbies will spend alot of their earliest days doing PvE to make ISK to buy ships and skill books. And they will be aware that they need to raise their first small fortune to buy a ship that is generally considered the bare minimum. Improving tech 1 cruisers would be good for new players and might even bring them back into regular PVP usage too. I hear CCP are keen on rebalancing these days… 😉
A major thing that CCP’s new team is working on is making EVE easier to learn, and to guide new players towards their goals. The new EVE website has a personality questionnaire to guide players towards career paths. Its a bit of a gimmick but serves a purpose. A feature that already exists and should be overhauled is skill certificates. When introduced many players dismissed certificates as pointless. They missed the point that it wasn’t aimed at them.
But the largest obstacle in getting into EVE is the social aspect. EVE is best played with other people, and getting involved with other players will often be the make or break in whether or not you keep playing. EVE is a poor single player game in many respects, I have never understood why some people even try to play it as one.
Maybe CCP should be looking at creating multi-player mission arcs that the tutorial links into. At the end of your single player intro (you did do the tutorial, right?) you might be handed a mission offer to go undertake an epic arc designed for groups of newbies. You are pointed to a chat channel and told how to form a gang and use EVE-Voice, then set out together with your fellow noobs on a series of missions.
What I don’t think that CCP should be doing is relying on player-run ‘training corps’ to do the job of introducing newbies to the game. That puts a select few player groups on a pedastal that they might not entirely deserve, and funnels new players away from just setting up their own corps and setting out on their own.
When I started, I randomly met a couple of other noobs in our NPC corp chat who agreed that it would be fun to try killing battleships with frigates. Within a week of creating my character I was helping to found a new corp that I was with for my first 20 months. I’m still with the alliance that we joined together.
Throwing people together to share some danger in ships they can afford is the way to go IMO.