The ‘New’ New Player Experience: Dev-Blogs Galore

2021-08-25

Late on August 24, CCP dropped a series of dev-blogs alonside a Singularity update, covering a signficant update to EVE’s New Player experience. This was accompanied by broader changes to the Skill queue and training UI.

First, the New Player Experience [NPE]. This marks the fifth iteration of the NPE since 2015, by INN’s accounting. Based on the amount of development resources that keep being put into the NPE, CCP is dedicated to improving the first impression of EVE Online.

The second focus is a revamp of the skills UI, including the introduction of ‘Skill Plans’. The rumors of the skill plan update and the ability to share completed plans between players has been anticipated for a very long time, and is a significant quality of life improvement for anyone trying to herd cats on a large scale.

The Importance of New Blood

New players of all types can consistently agree with the bitter vets on two things: first, that there are not enough development resources to go around; and second, that the tutorial is not very good.

EVE is littered with good ideas that were released in an incomplete state, and some with minimal testing. Even in situations where players and CCP agree a change should be made, it often takes a long time to push improvements to release. Therefore, CCP’s decision to dedicate their limited resources to the NPE (over and over again) makes clear what CCP feels is most valuable. To quote first line of the secondary blog: “Capsuleers are the lifeblood of EVE Online.”

To quote the final header of that same blog: “New players are the lifeblood of the community”. Anyone who has been around for the last 14 months has watched vast changes in the EVE ecosystem, including an incredible week-on-week drop in the concurrent player count. CCP had two choices – invest in addressing existing player complaints, or invest in getting more people into the pool. CCP has consistently chosen new players over the existing playerbase.

Exploring the decision

From a business perspective, there is a real value proposition in getting new players in once, versus getting old players to come back.

EVE Online is one of those games that almost all “serious” gamers have either considered or sampled once. The challenge of the most brutal and punishing MMO of all time is a draw all its own. As a result, if CCP can increase the rate of new butts in seats (even if just for one month), they win. Further, if CCP can entice even one month of subscription from a significant fraction of those new players, that represents a big chunk of revenue.

In addition to that, the development scope for the NPE is much smaller than the vast footprint of everything else that must be fixed. This allows the development resources to be focused much more to get the end result of butts and subs into the game. From a business case, investing in the new player makes a lot of sense, however:

“New players are the lifeblood of the community”…
Welp, guess all the old bittervets are shit out of luck

Dirk Stetille

As a long time player (sheesh, almost 10 years now), I wish I could get CCP to focus resources on what I feel is important. But I have to admit that my wishes are not going to appeal to a lot of players, and do not represent a significant return on investment for CCP.

A Few Details from SISI

That is a pretty bowhead

The INN editorial staff sent a volunteer to do some initial recon for the changes. The images and opinions coming back to INN reflect a few things that are good, and a few things that are “meh”.

Well, that’s a big f**k-you to existing lore. ~Arrendis

As new players zip through the tutorial, they get new lore splashes. As a disclaimer, I am not a super lore nerd. I like lore, and I want a good story to follow, but I am only a surface consumer of it. The editorial staff, however, batted around the impact of the statements provided to the NPE. While lore is not vital, it can add depth and flavor to completely fresh eyes.

Beyond that bit of ‘controversy’, the NPE proceeds along the same lines as the previous version. The progression goes faster than prior iterations, and pushes the new player to the career missions marginally faster than before.

However, there is one new hook for the NPE that wasn’t there before.

The First Taste Is Free

Hey kids, want some skill injectors?

Now, a quick point to note – when the NPE gives players these skills, they aren’t actual injectors. The are awarded 25k SP to their training queue. But by using the term “Skill Injector” they are creating an important association. If I want to get those new skills right now, I just need to buy injectors. Oh look: those are on the market.

That said, buying those injectors takes one of two things. The player needs to grind and make real isk, which implies paying a subscription. Alternately, the player looking for a shortcut will likely just buy plex. Either way, CCP wins in the revenue game.

Skill Trees and Sharing

Going along with the new “skill injection” is the long awaited Skill Plan sharing mechanics. This is now integral to the NPE. All new players appear to be funneled through the new Association for Interdisciplinary Research (AIR) corporation. Those new skill points are then used to clear a skill plan gate before you are directed to the usual career missions.

It’s dangerous to go alone, take this

CCP has provided players with two key elements in this series of improvements. First, helping new players select the right skills for what they want to do. Then, providing player organizations the opportunity to push out ideal, customized training plans.

New players have 25 skill plan options tailored to their needs by CCP. These ‘Certified Plans’ are separated along both racial lines and specific outcomes. For example, in the Enforcer tree, there are two splits for each race – one for running missions, and one for doing bounty hunting. New and old players alike have found (at least once) that they have put an unnecessary skill in their queues. Pushing skill plans to the NPE that are free of waste will reduce that disappointment.

This tool improves the lives of veterans as well. Organization planners now have the ability to push out new doctrine skill queues to their players. Players can keep up to 10 skill plans active at any time. Additionally, the number of skills you can queue in a single tree moves from 50 to 150, and if that weren’t enough, the 24hr training restriction on alpha accounts will be lifted.

Additional Comments from Sisi and CCP

Two additional interesting bits to add come from the Redditswarm. Sharp eyed players found that there are 200 new star systems are on Sisi as of this test update. As expected, speculation abounds. Predictions range from the mundane to the amusing.

I think the second hit is more interesting. CCP Aurora states in a comment that the NPE update is the first piece of foundational work towards an overhaul of the career missions, the long-maligned and incredibly antiquated holdouts from the distant past. In my opinion, good riddance. Additionally, if they do a good job at that overhaul, then a complete revamp of the boring, easy-to-bot mission system might be on the horizons as well.

Summary

Overall, the updates to the NPE seem positive. However, things are always subject to change. The stated September release date makes major changes unlikely, but stranger things have happened. One never knows.

The NPE presentation changes seem good on balance, and if nothing else they are faster to get through. If they lead to mission running overhaul, then they are dev time well spent.

Skill queue updates have been promised for years, so finally getting to test and plan around them is a good improvement. Anything that cuts down on wasted time can only help improve player retention. The change also improves the quality of life for vets and coordinators alike.

I am interested in the 200 new systems, but there is nothing to base analysis on. So I remain neutral on that particular change.

Let your voice be heard! Submit your own article to Imperium News here!

Would you like to join the Imperium News staff? Find out how!

Comments

  • Guilford Australis

    I liked the NPE circa 2016. You were sent on a suicide mission against the Drifters, died, and then learned about the cloning technology that allows you to live on even though you died. The thing I liked most about it was that it made you feel important even though you were only flying a rock-bottom rookie ship with no skills. It was great.

    I don’t know why they keep monkeying with the NPE, unless it’s just a tacit admission that EVE just isn’t really a player-friendly or accessible game.

    August 25, 2021 at 6:59 PM
    • kwnyupstate . Guilford Australis

      It is accessible for people who aren’t morons and know how to deal with other people and be part of teams.

      August 25, 2021 at 9:12 PM
    • Garreth Vlox Guilford Australis

      “unless it’s a tacit admission that EVE just isn’t really a player-friendly or accessible game”

      It’s an admission of what they have admitted before, they don’t understand how to get new players to stay, and they don’t understand how they got the vets to stay. So they keep fucking with the NPE out of some misguided belief that just one more change will be the difference between 25k concurrent users and 1 million concurrent users. In essence its just further proof CCP has no fucking clue what to do with the game so instead of making some useful major change that players have requested for years, ( a new less shitty sov system, citadel balances, teiracide FINALLY being completed a decade after it was started, lowsec being made uesful again, etc.) they just keep fucking with something they changed repeatedly in the last few years even though their own past numbers show their changes will have next to no impact on what they hope to change.

      August 26, 2021 at 7:22 AM
      • Xelistren Garreth Vlox

        Ccp really doesn’t understand that if the vets have issues that stretch for years on end without resolution, that new uninvested players tend to be more willing to leave then those vets over those issues.

        August 27, 2021 at 3:08 AM
        • Garreth Vlox Xelistren

          CCP has spent the last decade + proving NO ONE in their C-suite level leadership went to school on how to run a business, because they cover, “keeping a single existing customer is many times chearper than attracting and keeping a single new long time customer by more than a factor of TEN in most case” in business 101 these days. But if you really want a look into the mind’s eye of a CCP manager look up the interviews with the people who left the company after the failed attempt at world of darkness. Some of the shit they tell about how managers asked them to do things with the vocabulary and expression one would expect from a toddler explain a lot about why CCP is as bad as they are at pretty much everything.

          August 27, 2021 at 4:07 AM
    • Romulus Loches Guilford Australis

      This was one of the NPEs I found more engaging and also hated as someone who was just spinning up another alt. Largely because I wasn’t expecting it to be a suicide mission so I had everything in my cargo.

      My guess is that they are going to try and do something similar to this again. Have a new player area that is strictly controlled where they can teach things before being loosed into the rest of Eve. There are complications with that though, so I’ll wait to see what actually happens before I criticize things.

      August 26, 2021 at 3:03 PM
    • I don’t know why they keep monkeying with the NPE, unless it’s a tacit admission that EVE just isn’t really a player-friendly or accessible game.

      The thing is, they keep tying the NPE to current events. For example, the Drifter NPE. Secret empire research base. SoE scientist. Blahblahblah… but then the story moved on, and new players would be left coming out of that going ‘wait, the Drifters aren’t a thing at all anymore?’

      BTW, tell me if this sounds familiar:

      You start the NPE outside a ruined station. The station was destroyed by unknown enemies, and speculation is that it was because of secret new technology developed in cooperation with the Sisters of EVE.

      Cuz that’s the new NPE, too.

      But CCP needs to stop tying the NPE to current events, and just make it into something like a ‘here, this simulation represents your final exam at the Academy’ or something that can be left evergreen and only tweaked as needed.

      Then they need to fix the thing that really drives new players away…

      Everything after the NPE.

      August 27, 2021 at 6:07 AM
  • Lord Benz

    You spelled queue correctly in most of the article but wrote “cues” twice

    August 25, 2021 at 8:55 PM
    • Rhivre Lord Benz

      Thanks, thought all of the homonyms were caught in editing.
      They are fixed now

      August 26, 2021 at 7:07 AM
  • J Moravia

    I think CCP’s value calculations are off. Between the amount of dev hours they’ve poured into the NPE over the past few years (at the opportunity cost of not iterating on existing features that badly need work) and the amount of money they spend advertising the game, I believe they’ll find that luring new players is drastically more expensive than simply retaining old ones.

    New players may or may not ever give CCP any money. Veteran players will continue giving CCP money every month unless CCP annoys them enough to unsub – which has happened in mass waves several times in the past few years.

    I don’t think most people realize how expensive it really is to attract new customers. I know for a fact that the cable/internet company in my area spends about $300-400 in advertising for each new customer who signs up. Once those customers are on board, though, they’re a constant source of income as long as they have no reason to switch cable companies. CCP is about to learn the same thing the hard way.

    August 26, 2021 at 10:30 AM
    • Xelistren J Moravia

      A very informed opinion, a lot of companies will do anything to increase appeal to continuous customers because the cost poured into getting new people tends to exceed the cost of retention.

      August 27, 2021 at 3:04 AM
  • Kyeudo

    The most interesting thing is the 200 new systems, which sounds like 5? new regions. That’s enough space for another few groups in nullsec if that’s where they add the space.

    Any lowsec groups looking for a chance at the deep end of the sandbox?

    August 27, 2021 at 12:44 AM
    • Arrendis Kyeudo

      the 200 new systems are in the ‘VR-001-5’ regions. As in, ‘simulated’ space. Because the new NPE doesn’t take place in an identifiable system. So there’s 200 system nodes that the NPE will be running in.

      August 27, 2021 at 6:09 AM
      • Kyeudo Arrendis

        Well, that’s just no fun. More space for sandbox empires would change the game in some interesting ways, akin to discovering the New World.

        August 27, 2021 at 7:11 PM
        • Arrendis Kyeudo

          Maybe when the existing systems start to fill up again.

          August 28, 2021 at 12:55 AM
  • kwnyupstate .

    What CCP really should do is create some tutorial videos which explain major aspects of the game and give new players an excellent broad understanding. They should answer the types of questions a new player would get answered if they sat down with a real veteran player. This would pave the way for new players to join a corporation or alliance and doing that is the greatest factor affecting retention.

    August 28, 2021 at 2:29 AM
  • I really don’t understand CCP’s endless forays into “expanding the appeal” of EVE Online. Everybody knows EVE Online is not new-player friendly (or a good game)– those elements are part of its unique allure. I feel like most people quit EVE because EVE isn’t ~*for*~ them, not because the NPE failed to explain any particular thing. Anyone who’s really intrigued goes off and reads wikis and joins player orgs anyway. If a person doesn’t have any ability to research and self-teach, or at least seek out helpful advice from the other players, they don’t really belong in this game anyway IMO– they’re not going to be a serious long term realbux prospect for CCP.

    August 29, 2021 at 5:01 AM