Here’s a Rubik’s Cube…

 

The New Player Experience’ is an issue that gets mentioned at every Fanfest in at least one presentation. Podcasters and bloggers also often talk and write about it. Many problems are correctly identified during those occasions but there are a few things rarely mentioned.

Computer and console games, no matter how complex or difficult, need to be self explanatory for a player to be able to master them. Tutorials are only a part of this. A well designed game does not need an outside reference describing its most basic systematics. EVE Online, however, is almost unplayable without third party tools and external information.

Let’s look at the most glaring problems.

How Does That Fit?!

So there you are – a week old newbie who has just finished the tutorial. You have a handful of frigates and destroyers available and some ISK to fit them. Now let us assume you have found ISIS and read all the ship and module descriptions. That alone can be quite a task, but you will still be able to do it inside the game without having to consult an outside source or third party application.

At this point the problem starts.

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How do you even find out what will fit on your ship? The in-game fitting window tells you the powergrid needs of each single module, but if you want to know which combination of modules will work you are left hanging. The only way to do this would be to buy all possible combinations and try them out.

Let’s say you are crazy enough to do so, or you found out through trial and error somehow. Now you have a fitted ship. The stats tell you how much damage you will do and how much hitpoints you will have.

Or does it?

Now you are confronted with the next problem. All active tanking and resistance modules will not show you their effect while you are docked. Neither will you see the effect of your propulsion module on your speed or your align time. The capacitor depletion time is also not telling the whole story. It only shows you how long the capacitor will last with everything active. How do you find out how long your cap lasts if you hit full speed but you do not shoot your lasers? Or how about not running but active tanking? Ah, right, you have to offline those modules to see the effect. Only, if you do that then you suddenly don’t see how they affect the rest of your fit anymore.

I am not even going to start about the effects of overheating.

In a nutshell, dear newbie, you are lost. You can only hope that someone tells you about the existence of EFT or Pyfa. Then you will be able to appreciate how great it is that someone actually did the work for free that CCP have failed to include into their game.

The Skill Of Learning Skills

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The number of skills available in EVE can be quite overwhelming. ISIS and the certificate mastery system are a good step in the right direction to bring information into the game. The old certificate system was often cumbersome – weeding it out removed a number of redundancies. Still, there is one thing which I am missing from the new system: the difference between required and recommended skills. An uninformed player would look at those mastery levels and conclude that they need things like Sensor Compensation to fly a ship effectively, or skills in all available drone types to fly a Myrmidon or Prophecy. The mastery levels are still not really representative. For example, I have an alt with Black Ops V and maxed out skills for bridging and fuel compensation. I still only get mastery level II on a Widow because I don’t have the Caldari Sensor Compensation skill trained high enough. Someone who would be much less effective in the actual role of flying that Widow could easily have mastery level IV with entirely the wrong training focus.

Planning ahead is another problem which lies at the core of the skill training system. The possibility to do it in-game is missing. If a newbie were told to train for level III mastery of an Atron frigate, they have no way to find out how long that is going to take beyond the first few skills, let alone which type of attribute implants or remaps would be the most sensible for future development.

Again there are third-party tools, but that just means delegating the problem to the players rather than solving it yourself.

Those third party tools also offer another thing which is not available in-game: a skill tree explorer which shows the abilities that are unlocked by training specific skills. ISIS does a similar thing for ship types. Skills in general should get the same treatment. Industry would benefit a lot from that.

Let’s look at that next.

The Old World Will Burn In The Fires Of Industry… Maybe

To be honest, the jury is still out on this one. Crius, and possibly some successor patches, are supposed to make industry much more intuitive and self-explanatory. The horror which is today’s T2 production, invention, reactions and reverse engineering might actually come to an end. The whole process will still be a complex one, but it looks like CCP is at least trying to make it understandable based on in-game information alone.

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Currently there is no readily apparent way to understand which skills you need to build something. The only way to find that out is clicking through a succession of blueprints and reading their skill and material requirements until you have assembled the whole skill tree necessary. That is not so difficult for simple T1 items, but becomes increasingly complicated beyond those simple jobs. After almost six years of playing EVE I still haven’t fully figured that one out. Granted, I never tried very hard, but there is a reason for the existence of so many third party applications, wikis and spreadsheets which explain a process that is not clearly outlined in-game.

I have read the ISK Guide – yet another third party source – and the roughly 70 pages of information on reactions, inventions, reverse engineering and advanced production mostly made my head spin. I am curious how CCP will manage to include all that information into the game comprehensively.

It can be argued that T2 and T3 production are hardly newbie content, but new players need perspectives and goals to keep them with the game. If it is so hard to even find out what you need and which skills to train for your future career as advanced producer, you will lose hope before you even began.

But let’s see what Crius really brings to that particular aspect of the game.

External Information Malaise

When I started playing EVE, I read a lot about ships and other things on EVElopedia when I could not log in. Since the ship rebalancing and tiericide program, it is completely impossible to find any reliable information there. A comment on the EVElopedia page for the Prophecy battlecruiser says it all:

As with the other rebalanced ships, the above information is outdated and completely useless, as was everything that was written here. Unfortunately, normal players are completely unable to edit the above section, and nobody who is able to edit it has bothered to do so. CCP, the solution here is to let us players edit the above sections.

As it stands, a new player will have to find their way to third-party information sources yet again. The EVE University Wiki is a much more authoritative source. CCP should be ashamed of the fact that unpaid volunteers do a better job at documenting their game than they do. Not only that, they also seem to offer little possibility for such volunteers to contribute to their own information sources as the comment above shows.

In other areas the lack of comprehensive information is just as bad. Let’s look at an example.

I mentioned that it is difficult to find out what one needs to do for building a ship. Ok, let’s follow the blueprint link for the Absolution on the Wiki. Indeed, there it is, a list of required components. But wait. What are those special materials I have never heard about? I find out that an Absolution requires – among other things – something called Tungsten Carbide Armor Plate. There is no link available for those. Ok, let’s paste it into the search field. That leads me to a number of other materials and blueprints. In the end I learn that there is something called a reaction necessary to build it. So what is that? No idea because this is the end of the line. No more links and no more search results to tell me how a Tungsten Carbide Reaction works.

Back to the third party information sources if you can find them.

Pretty Please CCP

We all know that EVE is a complex game which requires a lot of patience and the will to explore. That alone can be enough to deter some potential players. The problem becomes exacerbated by the fact that a player’s attempt to learn the necessary things in-game or even from CCP’s own documentation is frustrated by false or missing information.

The title of my article is derived from a quote by CCP Soundwave. He used it during a Fanfest presentation (skip to 31 minutes into the video) to illustrate how things should not be [1]. Since then, there has been at least a glimpse of improvement but there is still a long way to go. In addition to the major things I mentioned, there are many small features where information is lacking inside the client. What is the mechanic behind the clone soldier tags? Which are the actual mass limits on wormholes and what do their signatures mean? How do the overview settings really work? What are the effects of different actions on security status?

Most of those things can be found somewhere hidden in devblogs or third-party sources. Veteran EVE players know where to look for that information. New players do not.

It does not matter how much the tutorials are improved, whether newbie ships look or perform better or how much protection newbies are offered in starter systems. As long as a new player can not grasp basic game concepts intuitively or at least find all necessary information quickly, they will keep leaving the game through sheer frustration.

[1] For a little piece of irony, keep watching a bit a listen to Soundwave announcing the upcoming Strategic Cruiser subsystem refits at SMAs. In 2011! That took until the 2013 Winter expansion to actually appear on Tranquility.

Tags: industry, new player experience, NPE, tarek

About the author

Tarek Raimo

Former nullsec spy (no not under that name of course) and current failure at lowsec solo PVP, Tarek spends his time not logging in to the game as much as he keeps thinking about its social and metagame nature and sharing some of those thoughts with the CZ readers.