Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Friday, July 8, 2011

Set the hook

Perpetuum Online is reminding me more and more of my early days in EVE.

One of my favorite franchises from the last few years has been Assassin's Creed.  It's tough to introduce a new IP into today's gaming market, which is why we have so many sequels and remakes of past properties.  So a brand new IP really has to go out of its way to introduce itself well and set the hook to keep players playing it.  For those who have played it, let's be honest here: the first Assassin's Creed was an awful game.  The concept was fantastic: be a middle ages assassin, using stealth tactics and period weaponry to kill your targets.  The implementation, though?  Horrid.  Repetitive combat in repetitive mini-missions to reach the nine repetitive main assassinations, while collecting horribly repetitive landmark and flag tokens.  Once you'd played for a couple of hours, you'd played the whole game.  You just had to replay those couple of hours seven or eight times to actually finish the game.  ;-)

Minor Assassin's Creed spoilers follow in the next paragraph.

So, AC is a terrible game.  All that said, though, it did something really smart right up front: it set the hook really well.  In your very first mission in the first Assassin's Creed, you are the top assassin in your guild, with access to every tactic, special skill, and weapon in the game.  What follows is a ridiculously easy first mission because of all the options you have.  But it was a damned fun easy first mission because you could see and try out every tactic the game had to offer.  It was an inspired choice by the developers: by giving the new player access to everything, players could try out all the tactics, decide on the ones they liked, and get hungry for getting them back later.  Because your first mission is a scripted botch, and Altair -- your in-game avatar -- is "demoted" back to the level of a rookie assassin, pledged not to use all of the weapons and skills at his disposal.  As he completes the nine main assassinations in-game, he is again allowed to take up those former skills and weapons.

That's terrific game design, and really encourages players to stick with the repetitive game play, dangling the carrot that it's already given you a taste of.  Reaching that carrot again allows you to forgive and forget all the hard work that it took to get you there.

Perpetuum Online really should have done something similar for its new players.  As I've mentioned a couple of times already, PO copies EVE's ways of doing things even when EVE's ways of doing things are bad.  EVE Online's new player experience is famously awful... so why would PO insist on replicating it?

When I first started playing EVE, I created a generic combat-oriented character because that's what my RL friends had done.  "You can make money by doing missions, and use that money to buy skillbooks and the ships and weapons you'll need," I was told.  I finished all the tutorial missions, ending up with a Merlin.  I fitted out that Merlin as more experienced players suggested, then started looking at various L1 missions in Caldari space.  Cycling through various missions available to me, the one worth the most money was called "The Blockade" and would have me fighting Guristas.  I accepted it and went in.

Three minutes later, my Merlin was scrap metal.  I was jammed, webbed, and surrounded by enemy frigates pelting me with missiles and railgun fire.  How was I supposed to kill the mission's stasis tower if I was jammed?  Treating the mission as a puzzle to be solved (I was brand new to MMOs, remember), I decided to take a Kestrel in instead.  I'd read that there were FoF missiles that could be fired even if I were jammed.  The Kestrel had four missile launchers.  I figured I could go in, get close to the tower, and destroy it with FoF missiles, then kite the jamming ships as I killed them one by one...

The Kestrel lasted two minutes before it was scrap metal, too.

Without realizing it, I had selected the hardest level 1 mission there was, against the worst enemies I could have chosen.  But I didn't know this, and so I got frustrated in short order.  I asked some friends for help, and one offered to come in and help me with the mission.  We both went in together in our frigates.

And he lasted about three minutes.  I, having some experience with this problem, managed to get my third ship out alive.

My EVE career was about eight hours old at this point, and I was already very frustrated and nearly out of ISK.  I wasn't making money; I was losing it.  I didn't know this, but I didn't have the skill points for what I was trying to do.  I couldn't fly a destroyer or cruiser yet, and my defense and weapons skills were sub-par.  But I still needed ISK for skill books.  How to solve this problem?  Another friend suggested taking up mining, which had a much lower risk factor.  And that's exactly what I did, starting a second account and second toon to focus on that.  That was boring as hell, but it funded my early EVE career and my first forays into PvP.

Now I'm in the same boat with Perpetuum, but at least this time, I recognize it.  L0 missions in PO are easy enough, but most of the L1 missions are very very tough with only a few thousand extension points.  I was coming back from one of them after having struggled with it for almost an hour before finally beating it.  Meaning that I spent that hour making something under 80,000 NIC, a ridiculously low amount of money.  And on the way back, I saw lots and lots of big, square, tracked robots.  Pull up the information for them, and sure enough, all of them are focused on mining and harvesting...

But my interest in that is exactly nil.  I've been down that road already.  With me, PO has failed to set the hook.

1 comment:

  1. I 110% agree with you about Assassin's Creed. The first one presented an entirely new and excellent style of gaming, which I really enjoyed. It suffered from limited combat and repetitiveness.

    In Assassin's Creed II, they fixed many of these things. Missions were varied, you could finally jump down onto people for the kill (or reach up and grab them), and some other cool things happened. It took a great concept and improved upon it drastically, much like Perpetuum should do to Eve.

    But then they started releasing a bunch of bullshit storyline sequels and I lost my desire to play. And that retarded "rebuild the city" thing.

    Anyway, glad to see that someone else shares (at least some) of my views on AC. And another game that "hooks" with the initial uber-poweredness is any Metroid game. You start out with all these cool things, and then... Oh, we're sorry. You've lost all of your weapons/abilities/upgrades. Again.

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