Eve Sanctuary

Interesting article over on the Evil One's site today, called Retaining Players in Online Games. One part in particular stood out to me:

"The research by Nicholas Yee is older and based on Everquest, but there is still some interesting reading in The Virtual Skinner Box. Yee makes some interesting points about how players can be drawn in by making life easy at the start of a game. Players are given instant rewards - like easy combat, quest completion, and upgrades - to keep their attention and reinforce the feeling that playing the game is a positive experience. To explain the title of his text: Skinner is known in psychology for stating that the frequency of an action is linked directly to whether the behaviour is rewarded or punished. Rewards are more likely to cause a repeated action, so if players feel rewarded by playing a game, they are more likely to come back and play some more. This is a model that is easy to see in MMOs - when you start out, everything is easy to kill and it’s easy to hit a new level. As the player progresses, it takes longer to complete quests, becomes harder to make kills, and more experience points are needed to gain a new level."

I'm the wrong person to ask when it comes to Tutorials and Manuals. I never do them and I have yet to read a Manual on anything. I don't read "Idiot's Guides" and I rarely bother with studying manuals. I will often refer to a manual, or keep the Quick Reference Chart handy, but that is about it. I'm much more of a sit down and do it kinda guy.

And even though my Newbie days are well behind me, I can still recall the utter horror of that first day in Eve. This was before I was told the "Right-Click Everything" rule of Eve UI design. I was determined to make my ship fly to the exit gate in Todaki and so, like any other space adventure explorer person would, I simply pointed my ship at the gate and started flying there. This is when I discovered the wonders of the m/s speed of my ship. Huh. I hate math, but that doesn't mean I'm not a super-genius and can do calculations in my head. At first glance I quickly realized that at my current speed, it would take me several days to fly to the nearest gate. My first thought was, this Eve game is boring as shit! My next thought was, I am seriously missing some important information.

At that point I signed up for the Tutorials and went thru about three of them before I felt I had a good handle on things. I still don't remember if the tutorials showed me how to warp, or if that came from another player. I do remember saving some tourists or scientists or someone.

The scary part for me, when I think back to those first days, is how close I was to quitting. Again, my Eve play at the time I started is probably not typical. I was starting Eve to play with my Son. We were both were going thru a rather horrible divorce and Eve seemed like a good place to spend some time together. He'd already been playing for a week or so, so I was determined to see things thru to the bitter end. If it hadn't been for that kind of personal motivation, I honestly don't think I'd have given the game the time it needs to sink in.

And I'm Rixx. How scary is that? I mean seriously, if Eve can be said to have a head cheerleader, that would have to me wouldn't it? And be sure to never EVER call me that btw. Not that there is anything wrong with male cheerleaders.

The new player experience within the first few days of logging in has gotten better since I started. I know this because I have created a few alts over the years and once even allowed myself to make it thru the tutorials, just so I could experience them for myself. I do like to know things first hand.

Saying it is better doesn't mean it's good. So how do we fix it?

Eve Sanctuary

1. All Rookie systems are Sanctuaries. No one can enter these Systems. Only those born in them can stay.

2. The first three days are Sanctuary Days. A new player can opt-out of the Sanctuary Program, but those first three days are designed to introduce the new player to Eve.

3. Instead of dropping you into the Hangar and asking you to run the Tutorials, Eve has an Immersion Program for first timers that leads them by the hand thru the basics. This can also be opted-out of, but think of it as a Tour of Eve UI. 10-15mins of hand-holding. This is your Captains Quarters, this is your Hangar - here is how it is organized, here is how the UI works in space, this is you in your Pod, did you know you need to right-click everything? Etc.

4. Graduation Certification. If you complete the Sanctuary Program you receive a certification of graduation and are allowed to leave the system. There should be a ceremony attached, perhaps fireworks outside the station? Upon graduation Eve opens up the chat channels for you and the universe is now open to you. Perhaps graduation triggers some other type of events, but I'd need to think about that some more.

That's it. Automatic 1000% better first days experience. Not hard to implement. Doesn't require tremendous resources or changing much about New Eden at all. Heck if CCP needs help with the Immersion Program I'd be happy to volunteer to write and design it with them.

I'm willing to do whatever I can to help retain more players.

I mean it.


  1. I agree-I am a relatively new player (born May 16th) and the learning curve at first was daunting. I didn't mind too much because I love a challenge, but lot's of players don't want that challenge at first-they want to play now not later. Definitely the newb experience needs a reboot!

    1. I joined this game because I like spaceships and I heard it was hard. Like really hard and I'm still having fun and dying a lot to this day. Problem is I feel it's not advertised that way and it needs to be I'll tell you one thing their is no lack of gamers who love a challenge.

  2. It's funny how now everyone is talking about how to improve new player retention, once that those poor devils have endured for years all kinds of shit both from players and CCP. You really thought they would never run out, didn't you?

    But now it's too late, dudes. Anyone planning to try a space based MMO in 2015 will look at EVE, will look at ED, will look at SC, and will wonder why should he bother himself with the worst of the pack.

    1. The worst of the pack? I don't know if I would go that far but I haven't tried ED yet as they're slow to get it onto my preferred computing platform. SC... not even sure what its status is... isn't it even not really a game yet? :P

    2. I agree with Marc, one of those is still in Beta and the other is in development Hell, not sure we can call quits on Eve just yet. Plus I've been hearing about the death of Eve since day one and it ain't dead yet.

    3. @Marq - Elite Dangerous is very much heavily into beta now and extremely playable. It will rank right alongside EVE as one of the great space opera based game experiences. Star Citizen also has lofty goals and the devs have released an arena module that let's you experience the flight model and a bit of pew pew. Both ED and SC are heavily weighted towards space flight simulation with full 1st person modelling and space flight dynamics.

    4. The original intent of EVE Online was "Elite with friends". Then it took a few turns to the weird as development landed on the shoulders of a video FX producer (TV guys make good game developers, apparently) and ended up being what we see now.

      Elite Online is the Real Deal. As all human enterprises, it may succeed or fail, but it haves the enormous advantage that it's the kind of game why we old farts ended up playing EVE Online in lieu of anything better.

      EVE Online is a inbred TV son of the kind of games we played before the Internet.Elite: Dangerous is one of those games, and SC aspires to be The Game.

      Why should someone bother with a point-and-click, unfun, newbie hostile, casual impossible, solo awful, soul-crushingly bad PvE, spreadsheets in space, second jobbish and griefers galore 11 years old piece of partially broken junk code?

    5. @zaphod6502 - I'm not denying ED is heavy into beta and has some serious potential. I'm quite intrigued by it myself but unfortunately I'm in the minority with a Mac and so therefore always get the cool toys later than others. SC... that just feels like it'll never go anywhere but I don't follow it heavily and refuse to throw money away...

      @Angry Onions - I'm assuming you've played the game, yeah? I'm not entirely sure about you, but PvE to me only ever keeps me entertained for a very very short while in an MMO. Whats the point of an MMO if all you're going to do is grind NPC's with your buddies... Spreadsheets in space... I'll give you this one. Second jobbish... yes, you can make it that way, or you can just do what you want, when you want and how you want. There are things that are broken but what large code base has 0 bugs and issue's?

  3. One thing that absolutely must be in any kind of new player initiative is a clear message that once they graduate and are allowed out into the rest of the universe, there are players that will try to scam them, blow them up, trick them and otherwise be devious and evil, even in hisec.

    Ovbiously, don't scare them off, but make them aware of that type of gameplay, and that it's allowed.
    Maybe it could be a live resource maintened by the ISD (or some similar group)... kind of like a live news team that would say (at this moment in time), be aware of the New Order. they do [things]. Also be aware of Marmite Collective. They do [other things]. etc etc

  4. I would argue the point for a 2 tier high sec. One of which is very protected either by the NPC corporations that the capsuleers start with, or by system. The latter is probably easier it must be said.

    The counter could be as simple as a number of small NPC frigates turning up to web/damp the aggressor to a near stand still as we already have Concord for gankage response. A standings hit every time and ongoing harassment in space (like the faction police) where the NPC corp has stations should help dissuade any longer term picking on the new players.

    Obviously, this would need to come at a cost, say 20% tax and less valuable resources in a fully protected system. The longer view is more from setting the expectation of going from an easier zone to a more difficult one, protected high sec, to high sec, then to low, and then to null.

    At present the step from high sec to low is too much of a change IMHO.

  5. The tl;dr of Skinner's work: "If pres butan = receive bacon, then player will pres butan moar. If pres butan = shock to nipples, player will pres butan less, unless player is sadomasochist." Filed under "Duh," and "We really needed a study to prove that?" Apparently, we did...yay science, gg.

    The success of vanilla-themepark MMOs vs EVE is pretty clear: vanilla-themeparks offer rewards, which reinforces the behavior of playing, and tread very lightly around offering any sorts of "punishment" -- at worst you lose a handful of XP, have to go get your stuff, and have another try at it. You get "rewards" frequently and at known intervals (thus causing more excitement, knowing that the XP bar is filling up--that DING! is coming soon!), and at _worst_, "neutral" outcomes (no real setback, just try again). Like Pavlov's dogs, the average themepark player is wired to salivate upon hearing that "DING!"
    EVE, on the other hand, is pretty much exactly the opposite. "Rewards", as measured in the classic MMO metrics of "cool gear", "tons of money", and "phat lewt", are hard to come by, even if you are Generic Henchman #1138 in Nameless Sov-Null Renter Corp #23241 (hence the raegquits when a carebear's faction/officer-fit T3/Rattlesnake goes POOF during a wardec). On the other hand, "punishment" for missteps is very real, and happens very quickly and mercilessly. EVE is quite literally the "Dark Side" of the Skinner Box -- it's honestly a lot more like the Gom Jabbar Box. Unfortunately, CCP lacks a poisoned instantaneous-death needle with which to kill people for unsubbing. :-/ Clearly, that feature needs must be implemented, and soon, or EVE shall surely DIAF. ;-)

  6. Eve is hard. Eve is cold. Eve was real life In a space ship and now everyone wants to water it down to keep players that don't want to be here in the first place. CCP don't need to make it Easier for new players they need to make it more fun for the players it has. If a new player stays its because they dig the harsh realty that is eve and will see it thru until they can twist it into what they want out of it. That my friends is what was and can be great about eve. You want to grief ,can flip ,mine ,scam,steal,rob , explore ,mission ,create empires it's all there for the taking.....but your going to have to work for it get blowed up for it learn from your mistakes. But if you dumb it down for a few days they will stay for a few days once you put them into eve for real same result....but you have remover content from the game and the loyal players that have stuck with eve and carved out what they want from the sandbox that is EVE ONLINE one of the greatest games I have ever played. Don't protect them no one protected me or the other 30k people in space with me. I had to learn and die and fend for my self it made a stronger pilot. I rather see eve die then turn it into wow in space because if you change and soften what is eve your killing it all the same

  7. One should really research how CCP, ISD, GMs (and Eve tutorials, etc.) already work AND try their very own hands at helping New Eve Players in the in-game Help channels, or by making corps to help newbies, etc., before attempting to find potential solutions in the problem.

    If one had done such background research before, one would find that CCP has already out-perfomed that which is mentioned in the above article with ; rookies systems, semi/perma band to shooting new players, assisting newbies in special dedicated channels over 30 days, more rigid-rules in the Help channel (where trollers get warning, then semi/permaband after repeated offenses), etc. One should piss on the number of viewcounts or popularity an article can bring, and REALLY help new players for the benefits of Eve online.

    I am saying this, cause I had a new-player friendly corp where I helped people in many (including financial support) at the same time helping people in the in-game english help channel for more than 6 months. Eve is hard, and harder on new players. I only helped them for the sake of my passion for Eve online. My corp tax was set to 0%.

    - leduc


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