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.
You can follow along, if you want...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Trial by fire

Reading through my notes on the summit on the plane coming home, it occurs to me that someone might ask "What about the new player experience?  Does this CSM not care about this at all?  Is CCP dropping it?"  The answer is "Definitely not!"  NPE was on a lot of people's minds and came up explicitly in three of the summit sessions.  You'll be reading about it in the minutes once we know which part of CCP's plans do and do not fall under NDA.

In these discussions, I got the opportunity to tell an amusing story of my earliest days in EVE Online.  I've told this story before, way back in 2011, but the post was tagged Perpetuum Online and as a result a lot of you probably haven't read it.  I want to resurrect it now both as a reminder of how NPE often is and because it is, after all, a pretty amusing story.  Keep in mind as you read it that this is either before eve-survival.org or at least before I'd heard of it.  Keep in mind also that I was playing on a trial account at this time.  It's kind of a miracle I subscribed...
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 skill books 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.
The story got me some laughs when I told it at the summit, but also illustrates that a lot of the implied problems in the game from way back then still exist now... cripes... almost six years later.  Has it really been that long?

So yeah, this subject is still on people's minds in Reyk, only now they're getting ready for a completely different way of looking at the problem.  As I said, more to come on this in the minutes.


  1. The big question that no one seems interested, or capable of answering is this: If the Eve subscription base is growing, is it growing in breadth, or is it simply the same players with more alts?

    CCP must have the retention rate on all new accounts. Why don't publicize those numbers? Or are they so terrible, given how much they have wrecked high sec, that the retention rates are NOT something CCP wants to make public.

    If they are terrible, it would demonstrate the disastrous decision to cater the game to the interests of a few powerful null sec cartels. And there is no way the cartels and their inside people in CCP will let those numbers go public.

    So I look at this in one of 3 ways:

    1. CCP does not have the retention numbers, which seems ridiculous in the extreme.
    2. They are terrible, and CCP and the cartels don't want them made public, because the obvious solution for CCP would be to reverse the damage they have done to high sec, and that will not sit well with the RMT lords.
    3. They are good, but for some bizarre reason, CCP does not want to make them public, but if that was the case, the NPE would not be of such importance.

    1. It's a good question, Dinsdale, but I think the answer is very simple: it's Number 3 on your list. They must have these numbers, but it's not for some "bizarre reason" they don't release them. It's because there is no good business reason to do so. The NPE is a sidebar issue.

      I don't like the huge nullsec coalition arrangement that has evolved any more than you do, but your repeated claims of massive RMT are getting old. It's an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence in my opinion. Evidence that is not apparent from any source. No doubt RMT goes on, but there is no credible source of information that leads to any conclusions about how widespread it is nor the magnitude of it overall.

    2. Can't you just go obsess over UFO's, Roswell cover-ups, faked moon landings, how 9/11 was an inside job and how big pharmacy is hiding the cure for HIV from us with the other crazies? Or do you have some special need to be some sort of hipster flavour of crazy and obsess over EVE?

    3. I believe the game's population is growing in breadth, but there are things to consider.

      For instance, a new player will have a hard time getting started in EVE, because the game is different to what they're used to due to the very sandbox nature of it. Sure, you get in, you get those early missions to figure out what to do, then the game sets you lose upon the world. Now what?

      I think it's a mistake trying to make NPE similar to the rollercoaster MMOs because it sets wrong expectations about the game. However, at the same time those very early missions tell you something about the nature of the game, give you the basic rundown, give you at least something to work with.

      So in my opinion, the solution isn't in ramping up the NPE - it's in the transition between those early tutorials and the game itself. For instance, exploration tutorial teaches you how to scan. What would be awesome to have is missions that would require the player to hunt down a known holder / slave / corporate spy / terrorist trough the use of exploration mechanics. Have people drawn into this type of gameplay by throwing out subtle hints of empire past or ancient factions, then I'm sure those of the exploratory type will follow that profession on their own. So a new player would learn the basics, then slowly transition out into the wide world, where adventure awaits him, rather than be abruptly thrown into the wild, expecting to survive with nothing but a butter knife.

      Don't get me wrong, I know this is the whole point of the sandbox, but imo, it feels a bit intimidating to a new player, especially when he's used to thinking that there's linear player progression and that he'll never catch those players who started back in 2010 or 2005 or whatever. What EVE in my opinion needs to show the new player that even he, the unknowing noobie, can be incredibly useful to those older gamers even in their capital fleets, that he has his fate in his own hands and that all those skill points others have over him are not a gaping chasm, but a mere crack's worth of advantage. Imo, the "I was there" trailer shows this the best, as a single interceptor changes the course of battle. But there needs to be a way of showing this to the new player.

      That, imo, would massively increase new player retention and possibly even improve recruitment.

    4. there were some numbers released by some devs a while ago. i think it was something around 2,5 accounts per real player. (and probably rising)

    5. Actually a lot of the changes rolled out helped high sec out more than those "cartels" you speak of. They made some changes that made Incursions less profitable. That probably hurt a few highsec only farmers but had an equal effect on the null and lowsec PVPers that used Incursions to fund PVP. CCP made mining ships harder to gank and reworked aggression mechanics. I honestly do not know what you speak of with the "damage to highsec".

      1. You can bet CCP has the retention numbers and has a plan for them.
      2. It is also a safe bet that CCP is following their tried and true slow growth paradigm. We would not want to have everything made easy in this game now would we?
      3. If you had performance metrics on your own business, in which "niche" genres were growing and reaping profits, would you make public all the information your competitors needed to better compete with you?

      There is medicine for the voices you are hearing and those feelings of persecution.

  2. DP: If CCP is a public company... Buy some shares then demand access to the information as a concerned stockholder.

    It is a bit peculiar that they won't release the numbers but I think you are wrong. *if* there are rmt cartels, they want more players, because more players means more buyers. But if you really care about this, do the legwork DP, prove us wrong!


    1. CCP is a private company, therefore for no way to demand information as a shareholder. As for digging around for RMT, CCP says "yes, we have a constant war against RMT", then refuses to release any information about it. Noizy Gamer does a ton of work researching the value of ISK on 12 RMT sites, but he does not have any hard numbers either, and can only infer what job CCP is doing combating RMT by the repercussions on those sites.

      I ask why does CCP not release some numbers about RMT? Hard numbers. Not just "we confiscated X amount last year" More like what alliance they have gone after, what individuals.

      It strains way way beyond any credulity to think that people like the goons use every meta-game, every exploit, every analysis tool they can devise, every scam they can use in-game, to maximize their huge pile of ISK, then just sit on it, watching the number grow, but these same scammers/sociopaths then say "oh, but I draw the line at RMT".

      Yeah, right.

    2. "It strains way way beyond any credulity to think that people like the goons use every meta-game,... but these same scammers/sociopaths then say "oh, but I draw the line at RMT". "

      No it doesn't. Given how CCP punishes RMT, drawing the line there is quite credible. Much more credible, for example, than the conspiracy theories you promulgate.

    3. Yeah, right! It's completely beyond credulity that they draw the line at meta-game, analysis tools, and scams. After all, they're all forbidden, too. Oh... wait.

      And therefore they would never report exploits. Oh, wait. Again.

  3. I have to say, agree, that the tutorials just don't cut it. Sure they are a good way of explaining the basics of the game... But after them you've only shot at about 2 (very bad) frigates at a time. The next thing you (can) do is hop on a mission and all of a sudden you are shooting at way more than that, and maybe even larger hulls. EVE is a hard, harsh, game, we all know that. It's even harder when you just start.

    "An" idea to solve the missioning thing is to only make an story-line available before releasing other agents, explaining more about missioning and which let the player gradually shoot at more NPC's.

    Basically (in my "humble" opinion) there are two types of players who manage to get the missioning sorted:
    - Players who take their time, and google de sh*t out of it (and find eve-survival and stuff like that)
    - Players who happen to join the right corp right away or have friends playing eve (and even that didn't seem to work for you)

    And I just can't imagine a way you could justify that (after 6 years). Whether someone likes missioning or not, they should at least be able to try it (more successful).

    @Disndale Pirannha, I would be very interested in those numbers as well. Is EVE just one giant alt fest or are there (a significant ammount of) new players as well?

  4. I sincerely hope that one of the coming expansions will focus on PvE, because it's in sorry shape in genreal. Missions are extremely formulaic and you can literally learn them; rats rely on quantity rather than quality; the PvE combat is about as detached from PvP combat as possible; there's effectively 5 ship types but only 4 mission types for a solo pilot; loot tables are outdated, with some modules never dropping while other drop at insane rates; and so on.

    As for NPE, there is a feedback in the Newbie Q&A full of good ideas. Let's hope CCP uses some of them.

  5. The way you described the hook in Assassin's Creed sounds very similar to how the Gnosis has (reportedly) been used by newer players. Given how it greatly improves the earning potential of newer players as well as letting them experience pvp in a ship with a higher margin of error, would it be worth considering including it in an extension to the NPE?

  6. It's confusing as hell to me now, but the new skill trees will probably improve the NPE.

  7. NPE is terrible, if not worse. I've started a new alt account recently, so I had the rookie chat open while doing my carebear stuff ;)

    So what I saw there? Many people have troubles doing even the very 1st mession of the tutorial. Read it one more time - 1st mission of the tutorial!

    Ppl are leaving saying 'I cannot understand anything, so I'll delete this game' just because no one bothered to guide them in the very first hours of their life in New Eden. And after they finish their tutorials (unfortunately not all who started then :( ) - they just cannot understand what to do next, so they leave. Again.

    So is it THAT hard fort CCP to create a step-by-step guide for the tutorial walkthrough and let the Aura to point on it? Tell ppl what to do while they leard how to live in this harsh sandbox. Teach them. And they will stay in EVE.

  8. or 4. They are good, but CCP doesn't want them being misinterpreted or compared out of context.

  9. I wonder how much this came up: http://penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/tutorials-101

    The voice effect on the narrator is irritating, but the content is worth putting up with it. EVE is used as a negative example, specifically because it front-loads everything: "Here, capsuleer, scour the web and a bunch of little windows for about three days' worth of reading!" If I hadn't had people in the game willing to show me the ropes from the get-go, I would certainly have floundered as well--except that it never occurred to me to decline a mission for a better one. I always just did them as they came.

    I'm not really worried about EVE losing complexity if it gains a sensible NPE. It has loads and loads of intrinsic complexity, and that's the interesting and engaging part of the game. (At least, as far as the game itself goes--the msot interesting and engaging part of any MMO is other people, and how to hook new players up with other people in a PVP sandbox is another significant issue.)

    I'm keenly interested to know how CCP is looking to approach this.

    1. I just watched that video and pretty much through all suggestions they made I found myself thinking "That wouldn't work with a sandbox MMO game". The sandbox nature requires that players have access to all the gameplay and UI elements while the single-shard MMO universe makes it impractical to limit those for newer players - you can't really disable access to UI or gameplay features for new players until they've reached a particular milestone while they're in a very competitive game exposed to players with those features available.

      The best workaround that I could think of is to remove the second half of that problem - put new players through what is effectively an "instanced" solo experience that has virtually no connection to the main game, then run them through a tutorial that actually does limit access to core features in order to introduce them at a more sedate pace and via a subtler method than text boxes.

      Explain this tutorial to players as being a simulation they go through as part of becoming a Capsuleer, have it cover the basics covered in most of the current tutorials and some of the career agents while also giving players some sandbox elements to play around with - for example, the mining/industry segment could involve players going to a small asteroid belt to gather resources and leave the belt remaining so they could go back and mine more if they wanted to; any BPCs would have more runs than needed for the tutorial so they can build more. Make sure that it's brought to the player's attention that none of this will carry over out of the tutorial though. At the end of the tutorial, players start off with most of the same resources they received from the tutorial missions, but nothing extra they gathered.

      Obviously that's still going to be limited in its ability to prepare players for dealing with each other, but it's never going to be practical to teach that kind of complexity in a tutorial. At least this way players could get a more gradual introduction to the game than the current tutorial, which is severely hampered by the information overload that comes from dropping a new player into EVE's UI.

  10. "The Blockade?" Oh, I can one-up you on that. My first mission after completing the tutorial in 2006 was "Worlds Collide." Eff me, but I am surprised I stayed with the game, as it took me nearly a week to get past it. After my first few dead ships, I went off and mined until I earned enough money to buy and fit a destroyer, including skill, and then went back and finally conquered it.

    I suppose the lesson it taught me at the time was "go get a bigger ship," which doesn't always work out either. But how much of the mission content actually prepares you for the rest of the game in any case?

    1. I remember WC1 in 2007. Mine was Angels and something. I forget what the other thing was (maybe blood?). Lost tons of frigates, finally up-shipped to a Thrasher with a medium shield tank and suddenly it was easy mode. I was pretty terrible at the game back then, but it's my favorite mish to this day.

      Agreed, missions are pretty much an isolated experience compared to the rest of the game.

  11. To be honest, if you go through all the career agents before you actually start trying to play independently, you wind up with a pretty good foundation for getting started. Seems to me when I started in 2011 by the time I went though all the career agents I had a destroyer, a few frigates and a small industrial ship, and lots of times the missions gave me the skill books I needed to fly them. Within a week I was in a cruiser. Looks like lots of guys get into the game with friends and bypass all this, but it really does help if you do this early work.

  12. It's good to know this is still on the right people's radar. At the risk of thread-jacking, I'd also like to see someone, anyone, start talking about Wardecs again. In the run up to CSM8's election it seemed like every candidate (and one former candidate in particular) had an angle on them. Haven't heard much about them since.

  13. I started EVE in Jan and recruited five friends by March. Only one, a high sec industrialist in a 1-man corp is still playing. After a few low-sec disasters, it was clear we couldn't do anything useful as a group and needed to branch out. Two guys joined two different starter corps where they were robbed of everything they had (on the same day). This got posted to our extended gaming group and discouraged others who where considering playing from doing so. I got into EVE University as it seemed more reputable, while my other close friend got rejected and quit after encountering string of badly run, barely active corps. EVE PVE missions are dull and the community is not easy to learn how to navigate. I'm sure I'll give EVE another shot at some point - but I got to believe there is a high degree of churn with new players.

  14. I'm a beta player; virtually all of my Earth and Beyond guildies made it in the beta, and we were sooo stoked to play that we simply plowed through the joke that was the beta tutorial and got out into the game.

    I recently had a friend start a trial acct to play with me. He's a wow player and xbox fanatic, and I figured with today's tutorials he'd breeze through it and we'd be killing Guristas together in no time.

    He barely made it through the starter missions and quit after a couple days, never to return. I don't blame CCP/EVE for this ... I believe this is proof that WoW rots your brain.

    1. WoW and Xbox rots your brain xD Yep

      We are a bunch of reallife friends who started EveOnline more or less togheter this year.

      It wasn't easy, we lost some BS (2 of them with blingbling fitting) to Ninjalooter-/Killrights- and Concordmechanics. But who cares.
      We are moving to lowsec and hoping for guddfigts xD

      The tutorials are good enough. But whithout blogs like these (thank you Ripard!!! ) and Eve-survival it would be much more hard to enjoy Eve :-)

    2. One example is "proof"? Meh. I'm a WoW player, quit Eve a few months back due to RL reasons. And I have no major issue playing Eve, so that disproves your "proof" that WoW rots my brain.

      On topic: Yes, the NPE is horrible. Yes it needs revamping. Everyone and their cats knows this. But CCP already knows this since forever and have done little to improve it. The last revamp done still can't impart what new players should know for their future in Eve. And I doubt CCP will devote the necessary resources for the NPE and subsequently for the PvE content.

  15. "How to solve this problem? ... starting a second account and second toon"
    " it was something around 2,5 accounts per real player"

    A great new-player experience welcome.
    Nuff said.

  16. There are corps out there that help learn survival. OUCH (Open University of Celestial Hardship) does a great job of tteaching null sec survival/pvp to day 1 characters all the way to bitter vets.


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