CZ Minutes: New BloodXander Phoena
On the last edition of CZ Minutes, the staff of Crossing Zebras discussed exactly why certain people choose to observe the myriad possibilities of New Eden through the lens of nullsec. The ripples of B-R are still being felt throughout Eve Online with a huge influx of new players but the game is notorious for it’s difficult learning curve and poor New Player Experience. This week we try and fix one of the most important and fundamentally broken aspects of the game…
Xander: B-R has cast a shadow over all of Eve Online and will do for the foreseeable future. One positive outcome from the largest battle in the game’s history has been the massive influx of new players eager to experience a little of New Eden for themselves.
What they will encounter once signed up is the notorious Eve Online ‘New Player Experience’, widely regarded as one of the worst in gaming despite many recent improvements. CCP still seem unable to find the solution to get those interested in reading about Eve through those initial weeks and months and into long-term paying subscriptions.
What is the solution here? How do we improve the New Player Experience so it accurately gives a taste of all of what New Eden has to offer a gamer? How can we prepare those interested in Eve for a life amongst the stars?
Niden: In many ways the natural explanation to why this has been such a difficult issue for all the years New Eden has been in existence is at the very core of what EVE is. The freedom and the consequence of actions made possible by that freedom is what we love about the game. However it’s also what makes it so hard to teach. A themepark MMO has a lot more accountable rules, and that quality inherently makes it a lot easier to get new players to understand it. EVE is anarchy compared to most games out there. The EVE learning cliff gets a lot of bad rep, but to me it’s part of the challenge. There is a sense of accomplishment once you climb up that fucking thing (or at least get half way, like most of us). WIth that in mind; I do think one of the most valuable resources of any game and its community is the new player. A resource that has to be cultivated and nurtured. The question is how to best ‘shield’ the new player from the nasty stuff for a time rather than dulling it down, and how to feed it to them bitesize.
Jeg: The barrier for entry to Eve is ridiculous. In order to actually play the game with any sort of ability takes days of training. The new player experience is one of a huge myriad of options that frankly no-one new to the game is equipped to deal with. There is no tutorial that will be simple enough that could cover enough to be useful. The current push and effort to get real people into system with new players at least goes some way to alleviate that, but there really needs to be more of a push to get new players into corporations that will support them. Nothing wrong with solo play of Eve, but when it comes to learning the basics, there really is no substitute for other players.
Forlorn: When I started Eve in 2007 all veterans said that new players should skip the tutorial, over the years CCP worked on the NPE so well that all veterans say to new player to do the tutorials first before doing anything else. That is progress.
Niden: Aye, CCP have made progress. I actually also tell new players to do the tutorials. I did some of them a while back and they’re a ton better than they were in the past. One thing I really want to say is that I’m very positively surprised the way the EVE community at large has gone out of their way to help out the new players coming in, from spending time in the help channel to arranging events that cater to newbies. Just to give you an idea; Brave Newbies used to have 3 000 members, they now have 13 000 (Editor’s note: The actual number is ~7,600. This was a miscommunication by Xander in CZ37 – blame him!). Tutorials are all good and that, but it’s the community that will create the best content for new players and the EVE community is unique in its participation and involvement in this area.
HVAC: I had the advantage of joining Goonswarm in 2007 and they pretty much just said, skip the tutorials and we’ll teach you everything you need to know. I can’t even imagine what the average pubbie must go through. I’ve never done an EVE tutorial in my life.
Niden: Einstein once said “I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” And it is in this respect CCP and we as an involved community must regard the new player. We can not show them the whole nature of the beast at once, lest they be overwhelmed and learn nothing. Or even worse; recoil and go back to some half-assed waste of time like themepark MMO’s because it’s a world they can more readily comprehend. There is potential in every one of them and it is essential that we old farts that have been doing this for years let go of our pride and let them in without the “I didn’t do a fucking tutorial, nub”. A tree needs to be cultivated and nurtured before there is any use in chopping it down, the same way new players must be cultivated and nurtured before they can be shot, scammed, ransomed, podded, awoxed etc.
Xander: One of the major criticisms of the current NPE is that it all but ignores what is arguably the most key fundamental of Eve Online – PvP. I’m not exactly sure how CCP integrates Player vs Player tutorials into the game but surely they need to attempt to do something? Someone suggested a deadspace area which only allowed a maximum of two players with a capped SP. I don’t necessarily like keeping certain people out of certain areas of the sandbox but this isn’t something we don’t see in other areas of Eve. Wormholes restrict the movements of fleets while in FW, plexes are restricted in ship sizes. There needs to be a way that very new players can duel with one another at very low risk safe in the knowledge that they won’t be intercepted by people looking for an easy gank.
I personally think that a thrilling, close bout of PvP with another new guy is far more likely to get the pulse racing and adrenaline pumping which in turn, will convert into an active subscription than, I don’t know, another fucking courier mission somewhere.
Jeg: While that is true, there is an inherent fear of loss that any new player has to get over. I made a suggestion just over a year ago about the new player experience. That there should be some part of the tutorial that you simply cannot win. You will die, you will lose your shit, and that has to happen. Some pre warning that the mission they are embarking on is extremely dangerous and that ship loss is “likely” would be necessary, as well as rewarding them appropriately in some sort of vengeance mission perhaps. When the barrier for entry into the game is already high, and the risks are obvious and significant, there needs to be more emphasis on the ‘why PvP’ and what the rewards are.
Niden: I don’t know how long ago you lads checked up on the actual tutorials, but a part of the PvP tutorial is just that – losing your ship. Also, some common PvP terminology and concepts are explained. At the end of the tutorial the player is recommended to consider enlisting in the militia (if I remember correctly). But a thunderdome-like system with FW-type mechanics for new players only is something that might be considered. Make it optional, SP-capped, one time only and give a reward once the player reaches a certain amount of ‘LP’ for the ‘thunderdome’.
Jeg: I hadn’t actually realised that they had acted on my suggestion! I may have to go and run through some of the tutorials again at some point and experience that myself. I still think the learning cliff however is up on the list of deterrents to new players staying, combined with the somewhat arduous skill tree to perform even the most basic tasks with proficiency, and the seemingly insurmountable tree that you need to climb to get into those big toys!
Niden: This is another area where I think Faction Warfare shines. Even the lowliest newbro can fly a derptron and get in on some action with no more than a couple of weeks training. The main thing here is to get new players into corps asap. The support for recruitment could be improved drastically to make this process a lot faster and easier for both recruiter and recruitee. I think one would see direct results in player retention.
PS Jeg: what ever the fuck it takes for your lazy ass to undock is good, btw 😉
Jeg: FW sounds great, but “A couple of weeks training” is still a long time! If I rush out and buy a game I want to be instantly in there doing something. Perhaps, and it is just a random thought, new pilots should be given say a million SP to allocate instead of the double training speed implants and similar ideas of the past. Stern warnings given or advice on how to spend it. Or perhaps the SP could even be given as a reward for completing the tutorials. That first few weeks of play as I remember it were horrible, though that was with the tutorials of old, a lot of it was the waiting for skills to finish, as well as the confusion on what to train next.
And yea, anything that gets me undocking is more of a miracle than anything.
Xander: Niden, the problem with the PvP tutorial is that it is still PvE. And no matter how thrilling losing your ship to a rat is, it’s never anywhere near as excited as testing your mettle against another actual human being. This is even more true when you know that you are actually meant to lose the PvP tutorial you refer to. It’s a rigged fight.
Proto: Not to take a page from another game, but perhaps it should be required to duel three real players as part of the military agent training. Just a thought. At any rate, I believe the majority of this influx of new players aren’t going to have much difficulty in training, especially in Brave Newbies. They still must go through the tutorials, but there is a large support system in place. I was helping at least four new people through the scanning tutorial yesterday. One of which fell in love with the idea of exploration, but I was sure to point out that the tutorial doesn’t teach you how to combat scan a real player. It was frustrating to the other three to think that if they wanted to go into wormholes that this skill was absolutely essential. They’ll adapt, but the learning cliff will always be there because of the multiple mechanics used for various styles of play.
Forlorn: I don’t think that PvP is the essence of Eve. While you can argue that the PvP tutorial only has NPCs, I don’t think that the final goal for all players is PvP. Therefore I am actually fine with that. It is really hard as player to make the step from the tutorial to actual gameplay. I sometimes spend time in the NPC starter corps chat and help newbies, but it really gets tiring after some time. Especially when you explain the same stuff over and over again for years. I am really thankful for training corps/alliances.
Niden: Given the complexity of EVE, this paradox we both love and hate, I think that at the end of the day we, the community, will be the deciding factor whether a new player decides to stay or not. It’s a lot easier to climb a cliff with a friend by your side.