Universe Building


There is a lesson here that applies to Eve, especially to the new player experience. Just be patient and I promise to bring it all back around by the end of the post.

In addition to spaceships, comics, video games, science-fiction, actual science and other nerd corners of the universe, I happen to be a huge film geek/nerd as well. My morning ritual involves a half-dozen websites with movie news and reviews each day. So I read a ton of information about film. I enjoy story-telling of all types. One side-effect of so much reading is picking up on various tropes and common themes that run thru the heart of so many stories and reviews. One of these tropes reared its head this morning over on Variety. Geoff Berkshire's review of the upcoming Duncan Jones film Warcraft. Which, no surprise, he didn't much care for.

This post has nothing to do with Warcraft or Geoff's review specifically. It has to do with this common theme that pops up in his review. And I quote, "With little concern for all those already perplexed at the mention of orcs and mages, “Warcraft” plunges headfirst into a fantasy realm teeming with mythical creatures, magical spells and exotically named characters and locations. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it approach likely to have most audience members opting for the latter, though devotees of the immersive role-playing source material may have an entirely different experience."

This kind of description will pop up often in reviews of genre material. Reviews of AMC's The Preacher is yet another recent example. I read this kind of thing often and I find it rather odd. Clearly this is the author's own biases showing thru the narrative as they struggle to wrap their heads around a corner of the universe they personally may not be familiar with, but is it a universal bias? In the case of Warcraft are there people out there thinking to themselves, "This story has Mages and Orcs in it? I don't understand what that means!" Really? And this has nothing at all to do with people liking Mages or Orcs, that is a side issue. But after hundreds of years of fantastical story-telling, from children's books, fairy tales, and beyond into modern film-making, is there truly an audience out there unfamiliar with the basic underlying tropes of fantasy? Or for that matter science-fiction?

Warcraft the movie may very well suck, I won't know until I see it myself. But I doubt it sucks because people are confused about the universe it lives in. The highest grossing film of all time was an original story set on a planet full of blue people that worshiped a giant tree and plugged into native animals thru a USB port in their hair. Audiences had no issue following along with that weirdness.

So we are left with the knowledge that it isn't the fact of the universe that the reviewer finds issue with, but the way it which it is presented. Certainly most intelligent humans are more than aware of the basics behind most genre at this point on our planet, alien invasions, time travel, fantasy, science-fiction, comic books, name a genre and I bet most people can tell you the basic beats in most stories told in them.

So what does that mean for Eve? As CCP Ghost works to help develop the New Player Experience for Eve Online I think it is an important lesson that needs to be understood. Potential players are not unaware of the basic tenants involving science-fiction or spaceships, especially those that are willing to give Eve a chance. What I think they need is a faster way to set themselves into that universe, understand their place in it, what the basic rules of engagement are and are not, and what that means for them as a player. Eve, especially at first, has always been challenging. When I started playing back in 2008 it was essentially like being thrown into a lake by your Father in order to learn to swim. Welcome to Eve! Now go play.

Personally I would dismantle and re-build the ENTIRE entrance portion of the game. I think it is time for a fresh look at how we bring players into Eve, what they are presented with, and how they are presented with it. Less decisions at first, more immediacy, and engagement from the outset. Keep the experience smaller, while revealing the larger potential. Eve can be extremely overwhelming at times, even for veterans, so let's try and manage that fear better at first. Think about how Disney manages rider expectations during the long process of standing in line at one of their parks. In much the same way, we need to better manage player expectations while we work them into Eve.

Even a very slight increase in retention would be significant for Eve and for its long-term survival. If the numbers are to be believed then plenty of people are trying it. We just need to transform more trials into subscribers.

Cause, let's face it, spaceships are awesome.




13 comments:

  1. There are lots of people who don't know the basic beats to a science fiction story. I seem to know all of them. ALL of them. It's depressing to be a geek in the land of Not Geek.

    They know Startrek, or Starwars. Probably Avatar. Space Opera. They can tell you Space Opera. Which is the least of Scifi. Start talking about uploading minds, body swapping, hardware embedded in a brain, genetic engineering, AI, and all that... they get completely lost. Avatar works for them not because they know the tropes, but because it's presented in a way they don't have to. It pretty much force feeds it to you.

    This was made blatantly apparent when I watched Ex Machina with a friend. I thought the movie did a bit to much explaining when setting up the ground rules. My friend? I had to spend 30 minutes after the movie was over answering questions. She'd only ever come into contact with bastardized monster movie versions of Frankenstein, and never seen anything which treated AI as a serious subject matter.

    That is not uncommon.

    Blade Runner is another prime example of losing an audience without genre knowledge. They get the main story, but they utterly miss the metaphor. Tell them Decker is a replicant they lose their minds, and even upon watching it again they still miss it.

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    1. Upon reflection perhaps I wasn't being as obvious as I should have been, you are correct and that was my entire point. While I think most people "get" the basics, Eve needs to do a much better job of force feeding the details that matter. So much of what we take for granted as players is not entirely obvious to new people. And while too much information cane be its own worst enemy, finding a proper balance and method for guiding a new player into our universe should be extremely important.

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    2. Upon rereading that makes more sense. When I first read the article it seemed disjointed. Like you were making one point in the first half then jumping to a devils advocate stance in the second. I mis-read a bit.

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    3. No worries. Sometimes I trip over myself trying to be clever.

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  2. Here's an example that supports your argument. Players will know that spaceships have weapons, shields, armor, etc. They get that, from the moment they open up the fitting window or mouseover the rings around the capacitor.

    But they need to know they CAN open up a fitting window, what a fitting window is, or what it does. They need to be told they can mouseover things to get info about them. They need to be told their capacitor will recharge over time. They need to be told about tracking, missile velocity, delayed damage, that you warp when you hit 75% of your current max speed (not ship max speed, not absolute max speed, etc.).

    That's the stuff they need to learn about... how Eve translates the obvious aspects of science fiction for the game.

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    1. Exactly. As I said in my reply above, I think Eve could be doing a much better job of guiding a new player along a course that opens the universe to them than it does presently. While things have gotten better since I started, we have a long way to go yet.

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    2. I think one of the things that keeps Eve from truly delivering a proper introduction to the game is its inability to let go of its identity as a cold and harsh place. Cold and harsh environments don't have cheesy but informative Tip Windows. Universes where you can lose everything you own don't have friendly NPCs that guide you through the UI using separate windows with animation, voice overs, and displaying the results of these interactions. The farther depths of space don't show you INSTANCED mini-tutorials.

      If Eve wants to make it easier for new players to stay and subscribe, it must remember that it is a game. And the best way to keep new players is to actually tell them the rules.

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    3. Rules would certainly be a good start.

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  3. Different take but same concept. By lack of a user manual, EVE could use this kind of "tutorial server" to teach the basic stuff:

    https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&t=482657&find=unread

    Maybe not as something appart of Tranquility but a "safe playground" so young pilots can be young without being punished before they even know WHY they are been punished. Also would be interesting the "how you become a capsuleer" storyline.

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    1. BTW I was replying to Talvorian Dex...

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  4. Well: If I would have to do a NPE I would do a walking in stations tutorial. A class for new capsuleers centering around some sort of simulator (think enders game) so you can split "real eve" from the training. So nobody messing with your nice tutorial in the first five minutes. And just imagine the feeling to get scripted missions alongside titan. Or even piloting one in the first hour of the game. Having that simulator would allow also for a duel league etc. So it would be easier to stage tornaments etc. But that would be more a side effects. I find that most friends I introduce to EVE don'T get hooked because the dull phases of the gameplay are worse a newbie ...

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  6. Already in game, there are rules that prohibit older players from harassing newbies in the newbie systems. What might take that one step further are the tutorial systems disallowing players over a certain age or sp - say three months or 1.25m sp. Make it so that all interactive objects can't be touched - rats and players can't target you or be targeted by you, 'roids can't be mined, that sort of thing. All agents in that system don't offer missions to anyone over the limit, or somehow forbidding them from jumping into the system at all. It would let the new players dip their toes into the world, without losing it all as we are all prone to do the first weeks.

    Next would be taking the fantastic arc that is SoE and making it a more prominent place in the opening narrative, and tweaking it so that the character gets to see their actions and feel themselves making a difference. We need more than just a passing reference to player run corporations at the outset, since player corps are the lifeblood of the game.

    In short the NPE needs to be Vibrant not Dull - and yet safe for the brand new player until they are ready for more.
    Mine rock, shoot rat, wash rinse repeat is not fun.

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