Art by Empanada.
Are you new to EVE Online, but frustrated by the nearly vertical learning curve? Or, are you considering downloading the game, but your friends who play have noted that you must “first endure a useless and broken tutorial?” If you answered “Yes!” or “Preach it, brother!” then like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars Episode IV, you have a new hope.
“Help me, CSM Kenobi; You’re My Only Hope”
The recently released minutes of the Council for Stellar Management (CSM) meetings with CCP (the developers of EVE Online) reveal that the New Player Experience (NPE) was much on the minds of both the player representatives and the devs. The NPE takes up a three-page section of the minutes. More words (1646) in the minutes are taken up with the NPE than with server issues (928 words), which have been the bane of the CCP for years, or with customer support (1247 words) or sov and fleet warfare (1531 words). The devs are clearly taking notice of concerns about the NPE, perhaps because CCP was recently purchased by Pearl Abyss and a large portion of the purchase price is performance-based. Regardless of the reason for the attention, here are some things EVE has already done.
First, if you are a very new player, your tutorial is more new-player friendly than the former tutorial, which many players found tedious and unhelpful. The minutes noted that “CCP Affinity discussed getting players into the game quicker, removing the bulk of text and [focusing] more on what the players need to learn and [introducing] them to player choice and the Agency. The issue with the [previous tutorial] was that it was too linear and didn’t introduce players to EVE.”
“I Want To Learn the Ways of the Force and Become a Jedi Like My Father”
I can vouch for the improved nature of the tutorial. For my main character, I experienced the old tutorial and struggled with it, as did others who complained about it in the rookie chat channel. Recently I started an alt character and almost immediately found a different structure that very quickly guided me toward the Agency, which offers simple training missions with little risk of danger. I liked the change because it drove the action forward more clearly. I was less confused and the rewards came more rapidly and with less frustration.
Another change in the NPE concerns a different approach to skill training. The minutes noted that “Skill rewards were added this time around to delay the tutorial for skill training. Instead [the new player] simply inject[s] the skills in a trained state.” This change addresses what had been one of my main gripes about the first few days of EVE—training. Under the old system, skills necessary to proceed with the tutorial could take aggravatingly long to train, creating an unnecessary blockade. Now, the skills needed to proceed can be injected and trained simultaneously, meaning that the player can proceed immediately to the next part of the tutorial. I haven’t gotten far with my alt character and am still in the tutorial phase, but I can say the changes the devs made were both apparent and helpful.
Changes had to be made, I believe, because the game was so new-player unfriendly that it frightened away many people who could have become hardcore players. When I started playing, four other people of my acquaintance also joined. I’m the only one still playing regularly. When I queried one of them about his early experience in EVE he said, “I still play on and off, but not as much as I did when I started. I’d say I don’t play as much because I didn’t realize just how open it is. Sadly, it’s so involved to make minimal progress, I don’t have enough time to truly involve myself.” I can’t help but wonder if he would react the same way if he started over with the new changes in effect.
While these two changes have already been instituted, many more potential changes to the NPE were discussed in the minutes.
CCP Affinity said that “the industry path for the NPE was not ready at release but will be coming.” In other words, the Agency’s potential training missions will cover more careers. This change could benefit not only new players, but wily and experienced vets who have perhaps focused exclusively on one area of EVE, such as PvP. Brisc Rubal suggested that “getting . . . many different aspects of the game introduced into the tutorial would even potentially get veterans to try out new things.”
“I Can’t See a Thing in This Helmet”
Much discussion revolved around ways to potentially assist new players in correctly fitting their ships, a process that most attendees at the summit agreed was important but currently overly arcane. CCP Affinity noted that “a revision to the fitting tutorial would be added at a later time.” Many other potential fixes for the fitting difficulties were brought up. Aryth suggested that in the first 72 hours newbies shouldn’t even have to deal with fittings; rather, they should be given pre-fitted ships. The Judge picked up that idea, suggesting that the skills the tutorial gives away could easily dictate what fittings the pre-fit ships might have. The Judge went on to note that “the key point is to introduce fittings when the player is seeking that information out.” Jin’taan clarified that point, noting that new players really need information about fitting “when they are getting into cruisers, or assembling their first ship.”
The discussion then moved to how newbies learn to assign skill points. Aryth suggested that the new player should have relatively few crucial decisions to make during his or her first 30 days of piloting; rather, ships and skills should simply be “pre-loaded.” Jin’taan noted that beginners can easily dump skill points into an area that seems logical at the time, but later prove to be poor choices. Sort Dragon followed up on this idea, saying that such skill-improvement mistakes can cause “a scenario where new players get into a situation where they have ‘broken’ their character.”
Several other representatives had other suggestions. Some remedies for the NPE might include giving players more skills to start with, then just turning them loose to play. Another suggestion concerned making progression about ships rather than skills. Yet another possibility concerned giving new players skill points via drops for the first three-seven days. CCP Affinity asked the representatives for feedback regarding “replacing the training of specific skills with earning unallocated skill points whilst offline,” a suggestion that met with a generally favorable response, based on the notes recorded in the minutes.
“I Assure You, Lord Vader, My Men are Working as Fast as They Can”
One of the most interesting suggestions concerned how to get new players hooked on the game early, rather than it being such a slow grind. CCP Burger asked the representatives what they would have wished the game contained when they were new players themselves. Aryth suggested the possibility of being in a big fight and Merkelchen concurred. As a new player myself, I had the opportunity to get involved in such a fight after only 38 days of play. I can confirm that such an opportunity was the most fun I’ve had in EVE and has made the grind of seemingly-endless training feel tolerable. Indeed, the promise of more such fights is a definite incentive not only to play EVE, but work hard to study it and learn its many intricacies.
I was delighted to read the minutes of the 13th CSM. The reading itself reminds me of playing EVE: a lot of tedium, with some real golden nuggets in there. Nothing pleased me more, as a relatively new player, than to find that other brand new players will not only have an easier time getting introduced to the game, but that they will also have new hope of fewer frustrations in the future, meaning that EVE can continue to grow and prosper for years to come.