It’s that time of the year again when players – often with little qualification to do so – scream from the heavens about how we need to fix the game we love/hate under the guise of CSM candidacy. As usual there are the obvious problems of sov mechanics and their nullification of gameplay, the potential concerns surrounding new features that CCP have announced, and the NPE pulling players out of High Sec and into the rest of the game. Yet is the NPE the real problem with High Sec?
CCP’s own figures show their development of the NPE couples with the addition of Alpha clones has been a success. CCP has announced that this has been one of their golden patches of profitability and this is a good thing for all players in all parts of space. Numbers of new and returning players have been noticeably growing and groups like Karmafleet that encourage them to try null-sec life have been growing also. The only way we and CCP could invite more people to try out the sandbox under the current mechanics any further would be to tinker with sandcastles we can prepare for them.
So when FanFest rolls around and CCP Quant releases his figures on sec participation, does anyone expect the vast discrepancy between the number of players in High Sec and other sec statuses to be diminished? In our hearts we all know the answer will be no.
When talking about High Sec, CSM candidates often fall into 2 camps: those who want to improve industry and other activities which don’t require players to interact with each other; and those who talk about improving the NPE to get more players out of High Sec space. Speaking as a reluctant High Sec resident, I think this misses the biggest reasons people don’t leave High Sec after the NPE: ‘The Cliff’ of fear and boredom.
In the NPC corps of High Sec, whenever a new player asks for advice of how to progress, there is a stock line of advice – follow the NPE the do the SoE mission arc to learn what you’re interested in and then join a corp that specialises in that area. So what happens if these small tasters doesn’t whet one’s appetite?
I have been playing the game on and off for a year and yet I still don’t know what I want to do. Not being able to commit much more than casual hours to a game, I have tried most things in High Sec before getting bored because of how hard it is to do most things that require engagement with others in an area of space that discourages it. This is the natural step to move to a corp, yes?
Try something for me. Open the game and click on the corp finder. Choose any profession and choose new player friendly and High Sec as your area of operations. After all, using the language of games the starting area should be the place to learn the basics of how to play, no? This is the point of the NPE being in High Sec instead of randomly spawning in an area of space. Have a look at the list of corps advertised based on CCP’s ‘best match’ system.
I will be willing to bet you that the top 5 corps proport to do everything. Want to mine? Join us! Want to PvP? That’s great too? Ganking? You know we have miners right? If you have a group of people who are all pulling in different directions, they can’t possibly go anywhere. Would you join any of these overly generalist, directionless, low member count corps? How can you learn from a corp that doesn’t know what it wants to be?
So, again, using the language of games, one’s next natural thought is to move on from the ‘starting area’ to the next level – low sec. So you jump to the gate – excited yet nervous – ready to move onwards. And then a message pops-up that is designed to advised players of the increased risk of Low Sec space. Yet, instead of weighing up the risk/reward ratio or make it a natural evolution of gameplay, it only serves to overstate the risk and ignore the possible rewards of leaving High Sec. It may as well read as follows:
IF YOU JUMP THIS GATE, YOU WILL LOSE YOUR SHIP AND, BECAUSE YOU’VE HAD TO MINE NON-STOP FOR A WHOLE MONTH TO GET TO THIS POINT, YOU’LL LOSE ALL YOUR PROGRESS UP TO NOW AS WELL. I MEAN, WHAT BENEFIT CAN THERE REALLY BE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF HERE? NO, TURN AROUND. YOU DON’T WANT TO RISK IT. GO HOME.
People are naturally risk adverse and, for a game that sells itself as riskier and freer than all others, such a warning seems so damning to the spirit of the game it is in. It’s why freighter pilots complained about Burn Jita – High Sec is sold as nigh-on risk-free which, in itself isn’t bad. But when other sec spaces are sold in a negative light of being of increased risk instead of in the positive light of being higher reward, High Sec becomes the safe space in the minds of players. And safe is boring. So you go to the corp finder and…
And this is ‘The Cliff’. And it’s all your fault
Remember those CSM candidates? They are elected by your vote. Or, even worse, by the absence of your vote. Have you asked them how they plan to lobby CCP to get players who have become ‘stuck’ in High Sec out? Have you discussed with them their ideas on how to engage players with a community they haven’t been able to engage with before?
I don’t want to be a hypocrite. Complaining about people shouting ‘NPE!’ whenever matters of High Sec and engagement without offering an alternative is the easy choice. So how about we pose these questions to our potential CSM candidates instead.
- Do you feel the warnings of changes of sec status should be changed to show the positive side over the negative, risk-focused warnings we have on gates and missions currently?
- Do you think CCP needs to prioritise a smarter corp-finder as a matter of importance?
- Should CCP consider High Sec as Eve’s version of a ‘starter area’ and, if so, how should they make moving from High Sec a more natural process of player evolution if they wish to take it?
- How will you suggest CCP use the natural language of games to develop the sandbox so no-one feels ‘stuck’ in High Sec?
I can’t tell you how to vote from there but, by asking these questions, perhaps we will see an evolution within the game that doesn’t focus on just the easy answer to High Sec’s problems that is often trotted-out: NPE.
Dod o’Dixie is a High Sec pilot who has no direction in game and is the most casual of casuals.