Header art by Redline XIII
On Feb 20, CCP Karkur, Senior Software Engineer, posted a peek at a prospective new feature which is presently available to be audited on Singularity. It’s the UI Pointer Tool—designed for people who want to help newbros learn. Go check it out. Now. Full stop.
Karkur made a comment that such a feature has been requested in the past and that it was brought up again at EVE Vegas 2018, which got the ball rolling on seeing what such a feature would look like.
I was very pleased to see her make this prospective feature open for public review since I was the one who suggested the feature. She reached out to me with an early concept look in what I thought was just dazzlingly-fast turnaround, and I am just so excited to see where this is going.
So, what did I do with my ask that helped CCP to consider the idea? Well, I can’t tell you what happens in any dev ‘s head, but it probably helps that I made the ask an easy one.
I teach newbros; that’s my focus in New Eden and what drives my passion for this game. I started off with EVE University. There, I very quickly realized that one of the best ways to learn this game is to teach it. So I joined the teaching staff. I eventually joined the events department and became education coordinator for the Solitude campus.
If you’re new to the game, inexperienced, and not sure where to go I strongly recommend that you consider E-UNI. You don’t have to join E-UNI to benefit; they offer public classes, and you can find the upcoming classes on their calendar. They have a lot of great pointers, and it can help you to really grow your knowledge.
Just under three years ago (May 2016) I started a YouTube channel focused on teaching newbros. The E-UNI class library is available on YouTube. However, a lot of the content is audio or recorded public classes. That means it can be a bit difficult to follow if you don’t know what you’re looking at—the knowledge wall can be a hard climb to make for different kinds of learners.
I wanted to provide a higher production quality version of the lecture material and class-ware provided by E-UNI, and I’ve enjoyed some small success in that medium. While I’ve moved on from E-UNI to Iron Armada, I still focus on teaching newbros and attempting to make the game mechanics more approachable and intelligible. This is why a pointer is important.
This is where the idea for my request at EVE Vegas originated. More specifically, it started with CCP and the New Player Experience.
The New Player Experience (NPE)
When the NPE received one of its more significant updates about two years ago, I was really just beginning to find the style and focus for my videos. I had switched from class-form recordings to using Google Slides to build informative and attractive presentations. People responded well to the format, and it alleviated some of the frustration that I had experienced. CCP could pop an interactive pointer up on the screen, but I couldn’t.
While teaching classes for new players with E-UNI it was not at all uncommon for me to be giving verbal prompts to those following in the class. I would talk new players through where to click; help them to identify the overview, and how to find the settings. I also taught people how to change broadcast settings in fleets, and so on.
I don’t think there’s an FC (fleet commander) playing EVE today who hasn’t had new fleet members—or experienced ones—end up sitting on the wrong gate or lost in space. Sometimes it’s because their overview wasn’t setup correctly. Sometimes they didn’t know how to “follow the yellow-brick road” (route highlighting in the overview). It’s precisely these little things which enticed me to attend the Little Things panel at EVE Vegas, because I know just how not little these things are to new players and just how hard they can be to communicate.
I work in IT. I have spent endless hours giving the sight-unseen walk-through of software and hardware solutions to people. Solutions which aren’t—by any reasonable definition of the word—”intuitive”, no matter what the sales guys say. It turns out this is precisely the skill set required for teaching in EVE, and speaking from experience it doesn’t need to be that hard.
I just wanted CCP to give me the same power they had—to be able to give players an on-screen pointer which very clearly indicated that this is the thing I want you to click.
The Little Things Panel
EVE Vegas was worth every penny to me if only for the access it gave me to the developers. I mean, it was a hell of a party, but that pales by comparison.
I had a lot of great conversations with several of the devs and I was incredibly surprised at how receptive they were to feedback. No. It goes father than that. They were participants in the conversations in the same way I would expect of a colleague when hashing out a network issue. They would take a thread of where my mind was going and throw back a “what if it worked this way?”
Special thanks go to CCPs Mannbjorn, Lebowski, Karkur, and Burger for the time they spent talking with me. Really, the entire team is amazing and I came away from Vegas feeling like my faith had been shored up.
I was even more surprised when a couple of key devs reached out to me by email following Vegas soliciting additional feedback or probing different topics I’d raised. I hadn’t expected that. A lot of really, really good ideas got aired at Vegas and I was nowhere near the top of the contributors list.
As is the case with Vegas, though, panels rarely have more than an hour or two to hear what players have to contribute.
A lot of things players asked for most definitely weren’t little things. The devs very patiently waved away a lot of the repetitive requests to ‘fix cloaky camping’, or ‘fix Sov’, but many more of the actual small suggestions have already made their way into the game. Those include things like hangar deposits from outside of dock, remediation of missile mechanics, and improved dissolve effects on object destruction (asteroids) or as overlays in ship skins.
UI Pointer – The Original Ask
Since I asked openly at Vegas, and there are recordings, I don’t mind detailing my original ask here. I won’t go into the details of conversations with devs, but I will say that I am excited they decided to run with this development.
I had asked for NPE-style window and control highlighting for player-led instruction in fleets. Of which, I said the following:
The NPE currently hosts window-highlighting with instructional text boxes. I spend a fair amount of time teaching newbros. Being able to say “Join my fleet and I’ll teach you”, then highlight their Overview window remotely without having to worry about where they’ve put it… that is huge. It doesn’t even need to be as fancy as what we see in NPE, it could be based on the same behavior that puts broadcast targets at the top of the Overview. Just make them flash to draw attention.
I felt it quite reasonable to have this expectation considered as a little thing as it readily met all the criteria of being:
- able to address a core facet of attraction and retention (numbers)
- easily accommodated within the existing design (effort)
- able to add a lot of value for content producers (exposure)
- unlikely to be exploitable as a feature add-on (security)
- based on existing UI/UX feature sets (sunk time)
- low threshold for development (money)
In case you’re wondering, if you can weigh any of your asks to CCP from the perspective of “how does this solve a business problem CCP has”, you’re way more likely to have your idea considered.
Now, I’m not saying that what CCP Karkur has done with this idea is easy—it’s not, by any stretch of the imagination. Anything the devs do takes time from somewhere else, and they have to pick their battles. She’s freakin’ brilliant and this is awesome, even as a testable concept.
I am also not the first person to suggest this type of feature. Not by a long shot. However, I do believe that the timing for this—with respect to the excise of old code, and their new release-then-polish model of updates—and the fact that I made the ask simple made it a lot easier for CCP to say, “Yeah, okay, let’s see where this goes.”
The New UI Pointer Tool
If you are someone who teaches new players, or wants to teach new players, or if you’re a mentor to the junior members of your alliance, then you should go test it and give them your feedback RIGHT MEOW!
This is not a definitive new feature. CCP Karkur has said that this is at best a definite maybe, and “has not been slated for any release right now, we just want to start getting your feedback and see where it goes.”
But that CCP is even willing to show us an in-development feature and let us play with it before they’ve committed to it is hot new ground. Go explore it.