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...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

New players represent

First, my apologies.  This is going to be a full-on CSM-related political post.  You're probably gonna get a lot of these around here for the next couple of weeks or so.  Sorry about that, but it's the nature of the beast.  ;-)  Still, my normal posting will also continue in between all the politics.

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!


  1. More engaging tutorials...hm! Might be a job for Jessica, CCP's ingame thingiemajiggy...or at least more hand holding. Nothing wrong with rich multimedia tutorials that covers everything from A-Z, including what to do when you lose your first ship. For example, when I lost my first ship in a mission, I was staring at the screen for a few minutes wondering what to do...'cause I don't recall that being covered in the tutorial. No sense in NOT covering ship losses in a tutorial, no?


    1. 2 different tutorial missions include losing your ship as a mandatory part of completing the mission.

    2. That was covered in the last career mission revamp, actually - the advanced combat series now forces you to lose a couple of ships so you'll know what it's like.

      (Of course, NPCs don't podkill you. That bit you still have to learn on your own.)

      Scanning is a different story. I've linked those Youtube scanning videos to more new players in the last few years...

    3. One of the existing new player tutorial missions already includes an obligatory ship loss for the player.

    4. There's a suicide run tutorial in the latest iteration. My Velator got blown up and I had to pod back to station.

  2. I would also like to see the new player tutorials give the player a sense that they're doing something more significant in the earliest days. EVE from very early on tends to give the players a sense that they're small and insignificant in the universe. There's very little around, the early missions do a poor job of introducing the lore and they do a poor job of explaining the significance that the player could have. The commercials talk about "I was there", but once they get into it it's hard to discover where everything is because it's certainly not where the players start. In most other MMOs it's usually in the first day or two that the new player is introduced to the player hubs and gets a sense that people are around. In EVE the player could have done some things and left long before they ever find a trade hub and larger groups of people.

    Additionally it would be very helpful if the basic UI elements of EVE were iterated on. Specifically the map. It can be hard for a player to get a sense of where they are and where things are from the get go. Perhaps if the default map highlighted population centers that might help people find their way. CCP does wonderful jobs showing off advanced maps in their trailers and commercials but those neat looking maps never seem to make it full fidelity to the actual game. I think that itself would help people navigate the world. Because otherwise it's just a bunch of dots on the screen.

  3. The biggest new hurdle I see for a new player is really just what they have to do and what actions to take to start doing it.

  4. How about at the beginning they give you a voice over and a status of your faction. The new character generation may be better, but the beginning of the game it does a lousy job of giving you any sense of what on earth is going on. Not even a hit of the larger picture. I think they could certainly do a better job in that respect.

  5. Jester,
    Been reading your blog since I've started playing Eve, first time posting though. Your stance on the NPE is really one of the primary reasons i'm voting for you in the CSM. It did get me thinking though about this, what exactly is a "new player" in this game? With around 6 months invested in EVE I STILL feel like a new player now that I've ventured out into nullsec for the first time.
    For me, the hardest part wasn't in the first few months, when I was occupied with learning the very basic elements of the game and was making skill plans on an hourly or daily basis. The hardest part for me (and a number of others I've spoken to), has come pretty recently now that the thrill of getting new skills has slowed down, yet you still feel like you're way behind everyone else. You can't exactly give somebody a tutorial at this point, as the basic game mechanics have already been learned.
    Any ideas to help combat the feeling of (helplessness?) that some of us are getting after our first few months when we want to start getting more involved, but hit these huge Nullsec alliances full of multi-year veterans?
    Or is that just a waiting game?

    -Sten Tsurpalen

    1. My first eve account is from beta. I still feel like a new player sometimes ;)

    2. In core skills, mostly 4s with well picked level 5s is competitive with "all V" maxxed out veterens. The main difference is that a 6mo char can be competitive in a handful of roles, whereas an 8yo char will be competitive in basically every role.

      My main's got 130 million SP, and literally less than 50 ships or mods in the game that I can't use (mostly titans, warfarelinks and weird esoteria), but there are 1 year characters that have better skills than me in a 1v1 frigate battle.

      The biggest barrier to new players winning in PvP is getting new players to take part in the first place. Many serious PvP corps don't like newbies because they worry about their killboard stats, spies and theft (especially an issue for WH corps), so new players are told to come back when they have more experience, a nice catch-22. They often end up carebearing around whilst they grind SP, become risk-averse and quit when they can't take any more boring PvE.

  6. Agreed, I'm a fairly new player and I'm now simply annoyed by CCP Fozzie constant tweaking. Thanks Fozzie, for the loss in range and now having t spend even more time in ratting chores I don't like thanks to you. This is supposed to excite me to play?

  7. You can't help new players without helping alts more. The max-attribute for 6 month would be a great boost to cyno alts, trader alts, hauler alts, miner alts. The new players lose more skillpoints to not knowing what to learn than to attributes.

    There are ONLY two way to help new players without helping veterans more (therefore widening the gap even more):

    One is spreading information: better tutorials, better wiki (that's a mess), sending GMs to sit on the in-game newbie channel and answer questions, better description on modules and ships, a feature on the fitting window that places a !!! sign if you fit "unorthodox" modules (you can still fit small lasers to a Rokh, but you get a tooltip saying battleships use large guns and Rokhs are bonused with blasters and rails). Information helps newbies and veterans already have them.

    Simplification of the game, removing "elite" features that need lot of learning and practice to master. The safety settings were great example, as they made the "when can someone shoot me" question simple, but it indeed removed lot of "complex" functionality like flipping and other baiting mechanics. Some more complexity to be removed:
    * inter-corp PvP (awoxing is the No1 reason why newbies are not welcomed, nor advised to join corps)
    * concord pulling (concord should always despawn after combat, currently there are 3 states of Concord: in belt, non-spawned, somewhere lese)
    * combat refitting
    * tracking (are you under someones guns or not is obscure even to veterans, it's better to have only 2 mechnics affecting damage: distance (optimal, fall-off) and signature (large guns are penalized on small targets)
    * the missile explosion radius/explosion velocity nonsense, to allow small ships to avoid being hit by large missiles it's enough to mess with missile speed and missile agility, allowing the small ships to outrun or out-turn large missiles.
    * remote buy and sell orders, knowing how many lowsec systems are in the 5 jumps range of Jita is not exactly transparent

    I'm not saying you should remove all these. It's hard to find the difference between removing unneeded complexity and making the game WoW. But you can't help newbies by giving them anything as veterans will get more of it, widening the gap.

  8. This is one of the reasons I'm voting for you.
    New players are a wonderful thing, and I spend a lot of my in-game time helping them. I enjoy it, but it's a little frustrating sometimes. The tutorials really don't people get into PvP at all, and I see bad fits every day. Once someone completes the tutorials, they're pretty much on their own. Some progress to doing the SoE arc or joining a corp but most have no idea what they're doing.
    I also agree with Orion on the need for a few more helpful things on the map, and perhaps a map tutorial.

  9. Remove remaps and attribute enhancers, set all attribs to max, and provide new implants that boost specific attributes at the expense of others (+8 int,-2 everything else). That keeps all the gameplay value of attribs and remaps whilst making it less permenent, opens an isk sink and makes it easier for newbies.

    I totally agree with making the game simpler, but whatever you do for npe you also do for alts. Character trading and alts severely devalue character development for all players, but especially those who have just 1 account. Its much less fun to finally get to use a ship or module after half a years training if you know you could have just bought an alt to do it perfectly for a couple of bil. What are your views on the current alt and char trading mechanics?

  10. On the iteration/new features front, I think CCP really had to go too far on that front. They absolutely needed to get players asking for New Tricks, to make sure the Summer of Rage and :18 months: was properly done with.

    And, in fairness, I think that we're there.

  11. As a new player I remember doing a lot of Googling before I created my first character. It took a while to sort out that there was no longer a benefit to a particular "race" and that the advice about training your learning skills no longer applied. Lots of out of date webpages out there that still hit high on the Google pagerank.

  12. I suggest that all new players consider going to minerbumping.com, rolling up a Gallente pirate alt, and get involved in highsec ganking.

    You will know exactly how highsec aggression mechanics and CONCORDOKKEN works, and will have a perfectly hilarious time learning.
    ( starting skill list is here )

    If you tire of nuking miners, you will have a perfectly viable lowsec pirate character at the end of this.

  13. +1 for removal of attributes. As a bit of compensation to the vets maybe lower clone prices a little (not that fun pvp'ing on a 100mil+ SP clone in 0.0 in a rifter and have your clone cost half a dozen fully T2 fitted rifters).

  14. I am 3 months old and have 4 accounts already. that gives me 4 votes. what is the best voting strategy? i like jester and one other. should i give both 2 votes? or find 2 more? my losec corp does not have any preferences to guide me....

  15. Character attributes date back to the original D&D RPG, for crying out loud. It is looong past overdue to remove such archaic game mechanics from a modern MMO.

    While you are at it, let's also dump the death clones. All they do is make high-sec carebears even more gun shy about engaging in battles, or venturing into areas of space, where they might get podded.

  16. Best thing to do is get rid of the whole concept of medical clones.


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