The NPE we want?


So much has been said of the NPE. How ineffective it is. How poor of an impression it leaves on the player. Even how it might become the cause of EVE ‘dying’. The allegation that the player base is aging, like a sort of virtual Japan, can be corroborated by CCP Quant’s yearly statistic on average player age by account.

So, new players are seen as ‘the way forward’ more than any gameplay change or balancing pass. The amount of care CCP has shown, and is showing, can almost rival the effort corps and individual players put in to make newbies feel at home.

But not all iterations on the NPE have been successful. No matter how good the idea and even quality of execution behind them. The Aura tutorial, Career Agents and the Opportunity System have all had their flaws but they were all consistent in one very important way:

They were insufficient.

And this is a good thing.


Over the horizon looms CCP Ghost’s, mostly untalked about, NPE. But from what we have glimpsed it is supposed to be expansive, immersive and provide as good an overview as a controlled experience can over how EVE would be played in CCP’s vision.

We’re going to be drawn into the game via a storyline, even if structured or unstructured, tied into our race, most likely allowing us to try to have a shot at the various things to do in EVE. Issue is that whatever will be presented there, even if it covers all of that infographic, will only be a small part of the possibilities that makes EVE such a great and unique experience. An experience so compelling that I have written this spaceship-game article while on a plane to attend EVE_NT in Nottingham, to meet space-friends IRL.

But there are so many niches, so many professions and so many ways to play and engage in EVE that don’t even relate to the profession lines harshly drawn by the skill-trees. Showing off a themepark-like list of things you could do would limit the imagination players could employ in what EVE actually allows them to do.

What I fear, fellow capsuleer, is not that a new player won’t get EVE, but that they would think they did and be convinced of it.

Showing off a themepark-like list […] would limit the imagination players could employ in what EVE actually allows them to do

If you check, a good deal of pilots now flying have their ‘birth date’ a few months, a year or even two before you see their corp history take off. How often have we heard “I tried EVE but didn’t get it”, only to have those same people come back later in their lives to check it again, the allure still present of a something they didn’t quite comprehend the first time around.

This happens more than a few times, I assure you, and each one of those people may have the potential to be leaders, valuable IT-minded folk, great FCs or even trivial, but ever-important logibros; core members that make this game work. And we might lose them because the NPE, for once, was good.

Yes they’ll hopefully learn of all the trades present in the game itself, but they won’t learn of the community present on various medias. They won’t learn of the various social channels in the game. They won’t see the web of possibilities and services they can engage in, sprawling before them, that have zero relation to their character’s skills.

All of these realisations come with time and experience and are a strong part of this giant that is EVE Online. The art of forging your way that allows us to live out our fantasies vicariously in this game would be something lost to the people who would play the new feature-complete NPE. Like toys played with without context, thrown away by children too young to grasp their inherent significance.

and then decide they ‘got it’ and the game that they think they know isn’t for them

What I fear are people that understand warping and how sectors are laid out, how weapon systems and mining works, how Factional Warfare and sovereignty function… and then decide they ‘got it’ and the game that they think they know isn’t for them.

And they won’t come back.

Like a potential partner that they think they got a good impression of on the first date and decide they don’t fancy, to never know that he/she cliff-dives off the coast of Italy and delivers meals to the poor. Their minds settled, opinions formed, they will be done with EVE Online, its allure and mystery shattered as the game had disrobed, squeamishly revealed itself to them and had been found wanting.

Falsely so.

And after this flawed judgement, why would they still give it a chance after a new ‘This is EVE’ or a new B-R5? Why would they find themselves installing the client and pushing play yet again? Consuming media content and tossing it aside almost as soon as we’re done with it is part of our daily world now. Hurrying to gob up items on backlists or things pushed on us by the greater media or friends, we have become impatient, having no time for second chances that we don’t deem worthy or interesting.

But the one thing EVE can spur in us, which sets it apart from the mass of online games currently elbowing each other on the market, is our imagination. It can grip us and can entice us more than any feature list or fancy graphics. If we relegate EVE to just ‘a cool space themepark game’, as the new NPE could potentially impose, it would do more disservice to it than just leaving us bumbling in the dark.



Tags: Cosmo, NPE

About the author


Cosmo has been playing Eve Online for the better part of a decade, on and off as most Eve 'careers' go, over the span of a dozen trials and over multiple accounts. He's your average every-man player, with no hats thrown in any rings and with enough perspective to not get bogged down in endless threadnaughts on how every new feature will 'ruin' the game.

He loves the concept of Eve and the potential of what it could be more than the actual grimy bits that currently define the experience. "An Eve Online beyond Eve Online" as he likes to put it.

  • Niden

    I don’t agree with Cosmo’s pretence here at all. I think a structured environment is just the kind of scaffolding new players need in order to get their feet under them and grow roots in EVE. The opposite is the “here’s your Rubik’s Cube, go fuck yourself” or basically “here’s the sandbox, do whatever, bye” – approach, which, although having produced the excellent community we have today, didn’t do wonders for new player retention. At the end of the day, we can’t both keep our particular breed of nerddom as we know it and get new players at the same time. There has to be a compromise. You don’t give a kid that’s trying to learn to ride a bike a 24-speed racing bike, you give them a shitty BMX and hold the bike for them the first few times so they develop the confidence to go out on their own.

    • DireNecessity

      While I believe your absolutely correct Niden, I find I agree with Cosmo at the same time. It’s not an either/or question, but rather one of realistic expectations. EVE’s NPE has a very theme parky feel to it which, if you ask me, is the best we can hope for since all it’s designed to do is carry the participant through the scaffolding and theme park stories are a good way to do that while still maintaining interest. The difficulty is the transition when players ‘go out on their own’ and this is where Cosmo is on point. No NPE iteration to date has prepared players for the social experience that is EVE. I’ll go a further and proclaim that no NPE will ever do a good job of that. Computers aren’t people. Accordingly, expecting computers to prepare people for genuine human social interaction is fool’s errand. If CCP ever actually managed to pull this off we’d have genuine Artificial Intelligence underfoot and I’m pretty confident CCP would lose interest in maintaining space pixels having cracked AI.

      So EVE’s NPE’s will always be insufficient and this is good thing because computers can’t teach you how to socialize with humans, socializing with humans does.

      • cloaky sniper raven

        This is so true. How many times do I suggest to friends new to EVE to just join a newbie friendly group right away, where people can help them get started and they all say, every damn one of them, “I will once I am good enough”

        Then, 3 weeks later, they send me a screenshot of them shooting rocks with lazers and quit.

        They are all to afraid of the social aspect. They want to “figure it out” first, then maybe, just maybe, join a group.

        In a few of small cases, they join PH, Brave or Karma and meet 10,000 nerdspergers in local chat and get turned off and then they quit.

        • Cosmo

          A lot of people get to null and then.. they’re stumped. They can rat, i guess, and join fleets, but they very much are left wondering around aimlessly. Niden made a good point on slack regarding giving players structure, which i may revisit in a follow up, but also too much structure would lead to railroading.

      • Erutor of Eve

        Dire Necessity is spot on here. It can’t be either/or. As a toddler-bro myself, I agree the transition from NPE is the difficult part. I made the jump to NS (too?) quickly, and found myself in a fail-cascade without the skills (mostly meat skills, not digital skills) to be successful on my own or any idea of where to find a better player-run organization. As a result, I gave up on EVE for several months, before deciding I wasn’t willing to let it end that way. It worked out fine for me in the long run, but several of my close associates gave up not long after the NPE and haven’t returned. People are more willing to learn by failure if the primary audience is an AI than if it is real people, who may (and let’s face it, in EVE, will) remember and mock you for failure for a decade or more. We need to help those people get to the point where they have sufficient confidence to fail in public.

        A longer NPE would have given us a chance to train more skills, and be slightly more relevant to our corp, as well as help us figure out what sort of corp we wanted to pursue. Ultimately, though, there’s no NPE that is going to adequately prepare players for the social experience that is EVE, as DN says. The opportunities system is well equipped for that post-NPE experience, with achievement-style guidance serving as the transition from the theme park career agents to “real life” beyond. Unfortunately, it ends too soon. One answer then, I think, is for an extended NPE+Opportunities system to more effectively guide players to a new-player corp. Newbro corps could compete for slots/ranking in the list of suggested corporations by earning points based upon Omega conversion rates, newbro surveys (this is a thing now – got one recently on my first alt), and post-NPE opportunities completions by newbros in the corp. There’s a CCP corp, perhaps standings with CCP could be used to provide a public record of new-player corp status, as well as to offer in-game benefits (even small things, perhaps cheaper skillbooks?) to new-player corps.

        tl;dr – we need a longer formal NPE, then some sort of opportunities-driven internship with new player corps.

    • Cosmo

      I do agree with your points, but about keeping our particular breed of nerdom… I’m not fearing that we’ll lose people in general, since we’ll lose people even with the best NPE/tutorial in the world, i fear we’ll be losing willful and intelligent people which would be turned off by a themepark gameplay. And if the first hours are handholding, be it carefully guided or free-roam-with-goals unstructured, it’ll give the impression that that gameplay is all there is to do.

      There was a dude on reddit at one point, too bad i don’t have the link, saying “i mined in HS/NS ice and ore, i huffed in WHs, i did DED 1 to 10’s, i engaged in 150 man blobs and been part of microgangs in LS, i also set up posses and did JF logistics and also was part of a high WH corp for a while.. but i got bored of it, is this all Eve has to offer?”

      I remembered that guy specifically because, as much as he experienced Eve, he missed all the important parts of it.

      • Free Can

        CCP don’t want 1 wilful nerd when they could have 3 mainstream themeparkers who buy items from the cash shop.

        • Cosmo

          CCP knows their numbers. They could take advantage of a numerous amounts of things to brutely improve profit, and also increase the supply of highsec ‘daddies’.

          But it has so far shown it doesn’t want that. It doesn’t care about breakout success.

  • Mike Dawe

    Why is it an either/or proposition? Yes one type of gamer wants a free run to learn and the others would like structure to the lessons. Why could you not have a choice at the outset to do one or even both? The code is there, you would just need the branching mechanism.

    Life is seldom binary choices. well . . . it either is or it isn’t . . . dammit, I am gonna go lie down till my brain stops spinning.


    • Rob Kaichin

      Because, perhaps, the ‘self-lead’ gamer doesn’t remain self-lead if there’s too much structure.

      Not saying I believe that, of course.

    • Cosmo

      Didn’t mean to make it appear as such. There may be a middle way to all of this, but it’s pretty hard to structure around. Think of this piece more of a ‘the end is nigh’ with a grain of truth

  • Viince_Snetterton

    I was in Jita today. A new char fell for a scam, where the scammer was offering in local a skill injector about 20 million below market price, but sold the new player an extractor. The new player then stated in local what the scammer did. The new player was then assaulted in local by about 4 people in less than a minute about “welcome to Eve”, suck it up”, go back to WoW”, the usual crap.

    That is the New Player Experience. And CCP is not planning on touching that part of the game, because the idiots in charge get off on that shit. So until that “part of the game” is addressed, no changes to any UI or directions for new players will help. People will be exposed to the open sewer that is a significant segment of the Eve community, and quit just as fast as they joined.

    And don’t tell me other games are just as bad. CCP revels in this sociopathic behaviour, even markets it (Be the Villain). Well guess what, the vast vast majority of the gaming population does not revel in this evil. And CCP hugely overestimates the percentage of gamers that will enjoy the current Eve social environment.

    That is why this Alpha clone bullshit and any new NPE rollout is doomed until CCP curtails the evil in the game.

    • DireNecessity

      I always admire virulent anti-toxicity. It’s such righteous poison.

      • Viince_Snetterton

        My choice of words and tone does not mean I am wrong.

    • Free Can

      Scamming has always been in the game, it did not stop it growing for ten years. Neither in fact did the (lack of) NPE.

      Seems a lot of scapegoats and personal bugaboos are being brought up to explain the recent decline of eve. Common sense says if something has gone recently, one should look to something that has changed recently.

      • phuzz

        Just because it’s always been a part of Eve, doesn’t mean it’s good. Anyway, Eve has been dying for years, it’s in all the comment sections so it must be true.

  • dagger906

    Just dump new players directly into Eve University or Horde instead of NPC corp, and let things sort out themselves.

    • Cosmo

      I’m surprised to hear Eve Uni and Horde in the same recommendation. They are both quite different beasts and both have downsides. Eve Uni ends up feeling like an actual Uni, stifling the pace of those that learn faster and get into the game quicker while also making it a ‘career’ corp, decently isolated from the rest of the game. Horde, like Brave and Karma, are really make it or break it corps. You’ll either instantly fall in love with Eve, or make you completely hate and leave the game.

      I would suggest people pick up quasi-active, 5-15 people online prime corps. Those are the best mix of a closed community, a good way to make connections with people, participating in the Eve at large, and also providing a learning experience.

  • Provi Miner

    The draw of eve, is not “this is how to do it” but rather “what the hell do you want to do today” The issue as I see it is that it so hard to do some things early, somethings require time and team work. Note I didn’t say “problem” on purpose the draw of eve is much like model building it takes care, thought and patience to see the goal appear.

  • Anthony Gray

    The problem with EVE is not the NPE or the subscription. The problem with EVE is its a niche game from top to bottom. Over the past 13 years a lot of people have tried the game and left for different reasons, but it all boils down to the same thing, EVE just isn’t for everybody. Your average person just isn’t interested in a game that encourages sociopaths and dirt bags to prey on people, and then blame the victim for being attacked and taken advantage of.

    EVE is an amazing game, it has a play style and overall feel you can’t find anywhere else, but it will never appeal to a majority of players because it is a brutal, no holds barred fight for survival where you are never safe, and you can never really trust anybody. That kind of game appeals to a few people, but only a few. Most people would rather just fly around and do their thing without constantly being paranoid and looking over their shoulder.

    Believe it or not, your average person will never be “OK” with having their ship blown up for no other reason than somebody was bored. They worked for that ship, took time building it just the way they liked so it did what they wanted. It doesn’t matter if it was an optimum build, or if the modules they put on it made no sense at all, it was their ship, and for somebody to come along and destroy it will never be “OK” with them.

    They say, “never fly what you can’t afford to lose.” That makes sense from a practical point of view, but that is not how most people think. Most people will spend time training piloting skills to get the ship they want, then when they have the skill they will spend the rest of their time saving money for their ship. The second they have enough money, they’ll get their ship and want to fly it. Plain and simple. It doesn’t matter if it took every ISK they had to buy it, they are going to fly it. Then a couple hours later, a group roamers gank them and blows it up for no reason other than boredom, then they throw some trash talk in there for good measure and boom you just lost another customer.

    That scenario or something like it is exactly why EVE will never be anything but a niche game, even if its going free-to-play this November. Hell, I’ve already spoken to some of the low sec gangs in corps, they are already meta-crafting fits and strategies to efficiently farm newbies in low sec space when alpha clones come out, en masse compared to bit by bit as it is now…