I read CCP Legion's DevBlog the other day and started to compose a forum post, but my response was lengthy. Since Seismic Stan turned the question into a topic for blog banter, I decided this was a far more appropriate place to post those ideas.
EVE has the most unusual new player experience of any game I've ever played. CCP drops new players into the game in a useless ship, with practically no isk, no skills, a couple of chat windows with players that laugh at you when your ship blows up, and a few dozen tutorial missions to get you acquainted with the game. Is it any wonder that only a handful of people who share CCPs sense of humor would continue beyond the tutorials?
But wait! Now that you've endured the tutorials and have 10s of thousands of isk, a handfull of the most useless ships in EVE and no skills to speak of, you get to grind for months in the most monotonous PVE environments before you can make enough isk to pay for your first battle-worthy combat ship. Soon after that comes the realization that support skills are more important than the skills that let you undock in a battleship followed by 6 more months of training and grinding missions. Finally, 9 months after your 14-day trial expired, you reach the magical confluence of knowledge, skills, and wealth to take your first cruiser into low-sec (at which point you promplty lose it to the gate guns!) A year in, your character is breaking 25m skill points, you have access to some of the more advanced ships and modules and you only have to spend about half of your time grinding isk to pay for your losses, you can finally start to enjoy the game! Is it any wonder that the vets think that since they had to endure it, all the noobs should also? Is it any wonder that if a player can endure the first two years of EVE that they're unlikely to quit? Most importantly, is it any wonder that most players who try EVE don't make it past their 14-day trials?
Ok, you already know all that: we've all already endured it. What to do about it?
I. Introduce a new tutorial system. The new tutorial system is abbreviated, context sensitive, and happens almost entirely outside of mission space. Yes, you will still have to grind rocks. Yes, you will still have to hunt a few rats. You will also get a lesson on how to adjust your overview settings and how to use the directional scanner. You may even be assigned to melee missions with other players to introduce players to the concepts of aggression timers and PVP. Also, Aurora should coach new players through the stereo system of your rookie ship rather than via tex messages.
II. Re-invent the NPC corporation. New pilots should not be assigned to a new corporation right away. Aurora, having learned about the new pilots play style, assigns the pilot to smaller player corporations based on the pilots preferred language, when the pilot is most likely to be active, and what the player seems to like most. The new NPC corp has an NPC CEO who assigns missions (both group and solo objectives - see III) and declares war on other NPC corporations. Gradually, as the player and corp matures, the NPC CEO becomes a less active until he/she resigns his post, and either assigns the CEO role to the most active candidate, opens elections, or merges the corporation with another NPC Corporation (in case the NPC corporation is too small or inactive).
III. Abandon missions for organic objectives that are more consistent with the player/corporations' objectives. Missions haven't changed significantly in the three years that I've been playing EVE and frankly, they're boring, outdated, and create a class of players that are commonly referred to as 'carebears'. There will always be miners, industrialists, marketeers, explorers, and mission runners, but new players should at least be introduced to the non-pve career paths. This is an opportunity for some creativity. Think pirate NPC corps, FW NPC corps, Sovereign NPC corps.
IV. Accelerate new player development. I think its unreasonable to expect a new player to play the game for an entire year before they get their first solo kill mail. At month one, a new pilot should be able to fly a frigate with 90% of the ships maximum capabilities. By month 6, a new pilot should be able to fly a battlecruiser with 90% of its maximum capabilities. Some of the core fitting skills should be automatically acquired and acquired in tandem with development of ship and weapons skills. To balance the new skill acquisition, the more advanced ships should be tougher to get into.
The new player experience as it stands is flat, boring, and out of date. If this is a players first experience with EVE, its no wonder they leave so quickly. The new player experience should be tantalizing enough so that he will endure steep learning curve, the long skill queues and the isk grind to realize the depth and immersion of one of the best MMOs around.
Welcome to the reincarnation of my blog. This will be a public forum (why else would I publish it to a blog?) but mostly I plan to use this space to organize my thoughts about EVE Online and maybe a few random thoughts that are only peripherally related to EVE. I'm familiar with the characters on EVE forums, so comments will be moderated. Trolls, griefers, and those with nothing constructive to add will be ignored. I may also delete anonymous postings; I'm putting myself out here and showing you my face - the least you can do is show yours.