I don't want them to get frustrated and quit. I want them to love it, to subscribe when the 14 day trial is over and come join the rest of us in space.
That is what I want. What we have is a reality far, far away from that. What we have is an overly complex and overwhelming experience that probably scares the living crap out of most people. It is dark, complex and nothing ever really happens. ( My wife said to me the other day, having watched me explode a Frigate, "That is the first time I've ever seen anything happen!!" She wasn't that far off.)
I've written about the New Player Experience before. I've even made a few proposals here and there. What I've learned since then is nothing is easy when it comes to explaining Eve. And developing a system, that works, that is fair, equal and compelling, for New Players is almost impossible.
No wonder CCP has spent so little effort on it over the years. Sure, it IS better than it was when I started playing in 2008. But that isn't an example of how good it is now, rather on how bad it was to begin with.
So what can be done? Do we limit rookie systems to just rookies? Do we create Sanctuary Systems to give the young player a sense of the game before they head out into space? More tutorials? Mini-games? What exactly can be done without ruining the sandbox that is the backbone of the Eve experience?
Eve has existed for over a decade now. The new player experience has always been historically worse than it is now. But Eve has managed to live despite this inherent flaw in the system. So what we have now is working after a fashion. Could it be better? Of course, there is always room for improvements.
Here are some suggestions for improving the overall quality of the new player experience:
• The Basics
After you create your Avatar and enter the ships hanger for the very first time I'd like to see a clean screen, darkened hanger and only your pod hanging in space. "This is your Pod. The Avatar you've created is safely secure inside this Pod." As the narrator continues additional sections of the screen, such as local chat, channels, the overview, ship, and slot fitting windows are revealed. One at a time, with a brief description of the function and purpose of each. I've actually given some thought to creating a video like this. But I think such a brief (five minutes) introduction would help tremendously at the very beginning.
• Choose Your Own Adventure
I think more moral choices in the early tutorials would also be helpful. For example, imagine a mission in which the new player is presented with a choice, he warps to a belt only to find two others already engaged in combat. One is a negative sec status npc pirate and the other a positive sec status ratter or miner. Which does he assist? The choice is his, but whatever he chooses leads him down a slightly different path in the chain of tutorials. And like the book above, each choice leads in a different direction. This isn't intended to force anyone along a specific learning direction, but simply to illuminate the possibilities of such choices in the sandbox.
• New Player Advocates
Imagine a channel that doesn't exist within the normal channels of the game. An invitation only channel managed by CCP, in which new players are given access for the first two weeks only. Also given access is a new type of Eve player, an Eve player who has applied for and been given access, an Eve player who is called a New Player Advocate. I think I know a bunch of people that would be interested in helping with such a channel, heck I'd probably do it myself. Miners, Industrials, Soldiers, Pirates, NPA from all over New Eden in channel to answer questions and assist the new player. And encourage them.
I also think interviews with the NPA's Avatars would be incredible. Little slices of Eve life from the perspective of those that live it and available in-game and out. Imagine Rixx sitting on his couch in the CQ, "Hello. My name is Rixx Javix and CONCORD has labeled me a Pirate." Or, "Hi, my name is Thor Buildalot and every ship in New Eden comes from these hands." You get the idea. Bring the career path to life. It is a common tactic for educational institutions, why not use it for Eve?
• OP Success
Nothing is more frustrating for New Players than frustration. Eve is a long haul, immediate satisfaction is hard to come by for the very young. I would imagine this issue results in more quitters than any other. And while there is nothing we can do to change that, nor would we want to, we can engineer earlier success into the game. We can actually control that. This is an extension of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" aspect of the tutorials, but an important one. I strongly believe that all tutorials should be written with this in mind, to give the new player a sense of actual accomplishment and achievement. Of OP Success. Nothing beyond their abilities, but built on their own level.
The important thing is that all of these efforts spring from an overall strategy, supported by marketing and development, that is aimed squarely at retaining trials. DUST is going to be bringing more and more players to Eve. It would be great to keep more of them playing. New blood is good for everyone, especially now that we've entered our second decade.
What are your thoughts?