I've been asked several times lately what my position is on new players and the new player experience (NPE). Of course, I've written about this a lot before but my opinions are kind of scattered across a half-dozen blog posts. Therefore, I think there's some value to be had in writing a full post on the subject that pulls all of these threads together that I can point people to when they ask me this question.
Ready? Here goes.
As my readers know, addressing the new player experience and attacking the learning cliff has been a big part of my blogging for the last two years, and to help guide CCP in their efforts to bring in new players without breaking the game is one of the most important reasons I'm running for CSM8. In particular, I favor removing or flattening needless complexity in the game. One suggestion I've made, for instance, is that attributes should be removed from the game. What do they add to the game, after all? Alternately, if attributes are not removed, I've mentioned the idea of setting them to maximum values for the first six months of a new player's life and only at the end of that six months would the player be asked to do their first attribute remap (after they understand what it means). In this way, veteran players would not be affected and the richness of EVE Online would be preserved... but new players would have an easier time of it in their early career.
To further assist new players, I've written more than 40 guides to playing EVE Online as well as dozens of "fits of the week" aimed at newer players to teach them to fly their ships more aggressively and well. I've also written extensively about the NPE on my blog. For instance, in my post "Strangled in the crib", I talk extensively about the struggle of a new players to break into EVE's mid-game. In my post "You got skillz", I bemoan CCP's work in widening the skills gaps between new players and veterans.
In short, I feel that I'm one of the friendliest -- if not the friendliest -- CSM candidates to new players and I welcome both the support of new players in my campaign and questions from new players in any area I can help them.
Regarding the larger question, CCP's challenge with attracting new players in the coming two years can be made on two fronts. First, it's my belief that CCP has tipped the balance of iteration versus new features too far over toward iteration in the last year or so. Iteration is fantastic, don't get me wrong, and I've argued for it in the past quite extensively. But it needs to be balanced with exciting new features to draw new players into the mix as well. In my recent post "Fractional warfare", I pointed out that CCP's most successful expansions have been the ones that pushed the envelope -- Apocyrpha and Incursion, for instance. As I put it at the time:
I'm all for iteration. But it's a diet of bread, water, and vitamin supplements. It'll keep a person alive for a long while, but it's not particularly nourishing.It's time for some real nourishment and to his credit, CCP Unifex sees that. I think we'll see the first aspects of that in Odyssey. The next CSM can assist by helping CCP as a focus group with their ideas regarding Odyssey and its winter follow-on, and with a poke here and there toward ideas that will appeal to both new players and bitter-vets.
The second front, as I've already mentioned, is making the early game simpler for EVE players. In addition to removing needless complexity, I would also encourage CCP to develop more functional, enjoyable tutorials that truly guide new players through the difficult concepts in the early game. The current tutorials simply aren't getting the job done in this regard. I feel a much better model are the early steps in a player's advancement in Guild Wars 2, which I wrote about extensively. I think CCP should shamelessly steal a lot of the concepts from early GW2 play that were so ground-breaking for their own game. ;-) Again, the CSM can guide them in this regard, particularly players like myself who are still relatively close to our early days in EVE...
All in all, as long as the character of New Eden is respected and maintained, I support bringing thousands of new players into the game. They're good for everyone: more people buying ships, more people losing ships, more people to shoot at. But how CCP treats new players has to change. In business, we talk about retention of staff and it's important because training a new staff member is expensive. Finding new customers for your business? Equally expensive. High retention is preferred. EVE's new player retention stinks, and must improve.
Thanks to those who asked the question!