Changing The New Player Experience

2021-02-26

Art by Cryo Huren

CCP’s announcement of its Expert Systems pay-to-play option has already been met with strong opposition over adding another payment option, especially one targeted specifically at new players. EVE media is awash with complaints at this latest move, in particular the effort to capitalize on a new player’s lack of knowledge of game mechanics.

With 1.3 million players starting the game during 2020, CCP is aiming to give them a taste of what EVE can offer. But temporarily giving them a fairly limited set of skills in exchange for real world money is not the best way. The skill plans revolve around racial bonuses to pilot T1 exploration frigates with scanning skills, a Mining Barge option, a “grand prix” interceptor option giving them access to all racial ‘ceptors, and the Magic 14 Alpha skills.

The latter is a real blow to some former CSM members, with Dunk Dinkle stating, “[I] spent a lot of my time on the CSM trying to get CCP to make the Magic 14 less of a hurdle and possibly a reward for completing tutorials to allow players to do more, faster.  To see it become an EVE Store purchase is disheartening.”

If Not Expert Systems, Then What?

What does the New Player Experience (NPE) require for EVE in 2021? The game must be one of, if not the most daunting games to learn. The depth of knowledge required to reach a stage of even basic understanding requires weeks, months in some cases. This is where most games lose their player base – if it’s too complex they simply stop playing. The tutorial is brief and works fine to understand the simple mechanics and then it’s on to the Career Agent Missions.

Give them a guide

The role of an in-game advisor is not uncommon – a constant partner to steer new players through the galaxy. Career Agents were supposed to fill this role, but although they have been improved there is not enough education, missions are short, unprofitable and in some cases throwaway. The game needs to be teaching players as they progress through their EVE life, not showing them shortcuts and pointing them to EVE University to learn more.

Give them rewards

Why not give new players something to focus on? Complete the Industry Career missions and you receive Industry IV. Complete the combat ones and the game rewards you with your racial preferred turret skill. Mix these with small ships and modules and we will see new players come out of the career agent missions with better skills and, if educated properly, understanding what they mean.

Give them a goal

When the starter missions are complete, we move on to the next step in learning. The Sisters of Eve Epic Arc. This series of 52 missions is a grind. Many of the missions are very basic and whilst they reinforce the muscle memory established within the Career Agents they don’t build on the experience. This first epic arc needs to be a tour of the galaxy. Guided by an in-game advisor to let new players experience all that EVE has to offer. Take them to Jita and tell them why this is a trade hub, then instruct them to buy something cheap and bring it to Rens. Whilst you are there, introduce them to the Minmitar struggles against the Amarrian Empire. But as we take these new players on a journey, the game must tell them why they need this skill, or this module, or this damage type. Every step must be an education, not only in lore but also game mechanics.

Give them a taste

The new Expert Systems has merit in its intent, but not its application. It should not be a pay-to-fly-a-heron system. Instead, using the mechanics of the SOE Epic Arc or even a follow-up racial epic arc give the new player a mission where they must pilot a battleship. Temporarily give them the skills, give them a fully fitted ship that is designed so it cannot be sold or stripped and only allow that specific player in that loaned ship to enter that mission.

The player gets to fly an enormous battleship early on in their career and gets a taste for what they could be flying. It would be simple to create a mission that actually tests new players skills, calling them to move to different ranges, using different ammo, give them a small fleet of NPCs to logi, give them immersion. Once this mission is complete, they return to the station, receive appropriate rewards, and the skills and ship are returned. Post mission they can access information on what skills are required to fly a T1 Battleship and how to reach Level 4 Missions.

Give them choice

Our new player has now completed the Career Agents missions, they have done the SOE Epic Arc and flown the galaxy. They have bookmarks for all the Trade Hubs, they know why the Caldari and Gallente are at war. This is the time to select your race and culture. Enjoyed the struggle of the Minmitar peoples against Amarr? Sign up. Fell in love with the Tristan, then join the Gallente!

They have made an educated choice rather than a random one during character creation – then reward this progress by giving them access to an equally rewarding Empire Epic Arc. This is also the time to offer them character re-sculpting, with a reminder that they will not be allowed to change further into the game.

Give them safety

New player areas are also essential to the growth of a player base, and many people in other games meet their first in-game companions in those areas. Those areas are also rightfully protected. New Eden is a brutal environment, but if CCP wants to maintain its player base it can’t have them encounter a CODE Catalyst the first time they try to mine in a Procurer.

The new player systems should be moved and redesigned as a separate part of space. This should include a PvP area where they are encouraged to fight each other in bespoke Faction Warfare style pockets, and also given an introduction to wormholes and their mechanics. Once new players have completed their starting experience and/or reach a certain number of skill points, they leave and can get a free contract to move their items.

Give to receive

You will notice the continual theme of giving throughout these suggestions. Imposing a pay wall on new players to try a different profession will only cause them to leave. How many times have we all tried a new mobile game only to realise it’s a Pay-To-Win game and quit? We must get our new players invested, and if cashflow is a consideration for CCP then surely an established player who subscribes and occasionally buys PLEX is better than a lost opportunity when a newbie doesn’t return to the game.

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Comments

  • Carvj94

    EVE will simply never have the appeal or playerbase of more streamlined and forgiving MMOs. One of the main reasons EVE keeps its niche is because of how unforgiving it is in regard to losses and high knowledge requirements. The only way to improve the NPE is to continue to refine and expand the tutorials to cover practically everything including in depth explanations on how fitting works instead of the basic a** “if you have power grid and CPU available then you can fit this and there’s nothing else to it”. Then maybe spotlight a few curated mid sized hisec organizations at the end of the tutorials, so as not to favor any null entities, to help get new players into a functional and fairly active groups. Making things “easier” for new players isn’t actually helping them and its ruining its own niche appeal.

    Also as I said in another article the new Expert Systems is pretty much a waste of time because skill Injectors already exist and are permenant skill boosts. Who’s gonna pay for temporary skills?

    February 26, 2021 at 9:20 AM
    • Guilford Australis Carvj94

      I agree with the main points. EVE isn’t for everyone, and that is largely due to persistent design decisions, not the new player experience. Player retention in EVE is so awful mainly because of the exhausting and unrewarding core gameplay mechanics.

      CCP decided to forego the traditional MMO ‘experience point’ model of character advancement in favor of real-time passive skill training. With an EXP system, players are rewarded for their labor – immediately and directly – which encourages a high level of engagement. With CCP’s skill system, players are literally told to sit around until they’re allowed to do what they want to do. It’s not hard to imagine why new players lose patience with that and log out permanently.

      February 26, 2021 at 12:15 PM
  • Jacob Reynoso

    Yup. Good points, esp. the ‘Taste’ & ‘Choice’ bits.
    Not exactly sure about the ‘Safety’ bit. On one part, losing a ship to player early does drive home the ‘realities’ of EVE, but too soon and with not enough guidance…and, yeah, player retention could suffer.
    (also lol’d at ‘give them Safety’, considering the name of the CODE successor(?) alliance 😀 )

    I started playing EVE (on and off) in 2008. I don’t really remember much of the New Player Exp. for my earliest characters, but I do remember one from some years back (before the current NPE).

    It was a longer tutorial mission, it had some slow/boring bits, but it ended with a ‘big’ NPC battle with a massive space structure as part of the environment (I think it was some sort of space ring) and with the player getting podded.
    It wasn’t perfect, but it was kinda memorable.

    The current NPE (which I’ve gone through twice recently for new alts, incl. doing the career agent missions and SoE arc for both alts)…is ‘functional’, but not memorable.
    And, yeah, the SoE arc is a bit of a grind.

    One just needs to look at the Rookie Help channel to see the shortcomings of the current NPE.

    I like lore stuff, so aside from better tutorials about the game’s mechanics, I’d like to see better engagement with the setting/lore. Including better ways for new players to catch up.
    Suggestion: new/more cinematics, explaining the events so far (EVE gate, the Empires, the conflicts, Sansha, the Drifters/Sleepers, the major wars of the Null alliances/coalitions from EVE’s earliest days until the current WWB). Or at least narrated stories, maybe w/ some ‘moving pictures’ (like an animated comic). Something…anything, to better engage people with the setting/lore.

    New players should learn stuff on their own, for the most part, sure, but I imagine that it would help to give them more of a reason and understanding of why to further engage and play the game.

    It doesn’t help that some stuff in game now kinda hurt the NPE.
    Example: new player flies around, ends up in Perimeter…gets blown up by Triglavians. ‘But I thought High Sec was Safe?!?’
    Before that point, would a new player have necessarily known about the whole Pochven + wormholes thing, and the Triglavian Invasion?
    Or why it’s probably a bad idea to shoot at Autothysian Lancers? (lol, it’s not just new players, too…was in a Baltec fleet a few weeks ago, and a carrier pilot had his fighters engage one…)

    I guess tied to the above would be wanting a better PvE experience, too, which I think some previous INN articles have stated.

    TL;DR: I hope the NPE gets better. More lore stuff would be nice.

    February 26, 2021 at 9:41 AM
    • Guilford Australis Jacob Reynoso

      Good points. I also did the NPE you describe when I started playing about five years ago, and I liked it. It taught the basics of flying a spaceship and made me feel important.

      I definitely agree that if I were a new player in highsec, I’d quit instantly and permanently if I was ganked by unexplained Triglavians on the way to sell a bit of ore in Jita. I get that Hilmar read some Chinese science fiction books and decided EVE should be just like the cool stuff he read about in The Three Body Problem (in which the alien invaders are called “Trisolarans,” in case anyone wonders where the “Triglavian” concept came from), but I’m confident in observing that parking a bunch of Raznaborg Damaviks on gates, structures, and ore belts in highsec will NOT help new player retention.

      February 26, 2021 at 12:35 PM
      • Jacob Reynoso Guilford Australis

        yup.
        I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to the Triglavians doing what they do now IF EVERYONE, including New Players, KNEW what that whole thing was about and why.
        Getting blown up for apparently no reason, esp. if it happens to a new player…yeah, a lot will go ‘F it, this is BS, I’ll play something else’.

        That and I want more cinematics and story stuff. 😛

        February 27, 2021 at 2:02 PM
  • kwnyupstate .

    CCP is selling skill crack to newbies who need to keep paying or experience withdrawal.
    It’s like taking a loan from the mob.
    Taking advantage of the people based on the very trait you identify them having a need in.

    February 26, 2021 at 6:00 PM
  • kwnyupstate .

    Why not just give all new characters certain temporary skills for free to really help people become engaged or just give them some free skill points to help them out?
    You don’t engage new players by charging them more money.

    February 26, 2021 at 6:04 PM
    • Guilford Australis kwnyupstate .

      I think a limited amount of free SP is the right approach. It’s basically impossible for a new player to do anything enjoyable with under about 2M SP. So if the goal is to retain new players, why not start them out there?

      It’d make a big difference to new players (AND push them up against the 5M SP Alpha limit faster, which might benefit CCP financially) but wouldn’t be so significant that new Alpha alts suddenly become overpowered.

      February 26, 2021 at 8:24 PM
  • Crush Project

    wow. talk about greed. they really are just going to milk the ip into the ground with the new owners…

    February 26, 2021 at 6:21 PM
  • Garreth Vlox

    They finally went full pearl abyss.

    February 27, 2021 at 10:09 AM
  • Michael Porter

    Some new players are expecting to play space wow. They’re looking for big animated cut scenes, voice actors, storylines, character development. And some new players are like f$&: that shit, give me some pew pew. I don’t think temporarily letting them do something they enjoy at what I assume is great cost, and then yanking it away is the solution. Like others have said, a certain amount of starter SP would probably be better. Also, why doesn’t CCP test this stuff out with the community before hand? They just dump it in game to see if it will stick. We have a perfectly good CSM, shit.

    February 27, 2021 at 4:47 PM