Tuesday 17 May 2016

An Eve for everyone: #1 the New Player Experience

In my last blog post I voiced a strongly worded objection to Neville Smit's influential Occupy New Eden post.

Let me be clear: I disagree with the method, not the goals. The Monoclegate player riots of 2011 saw CCP lay off 150 staff, saw alarmist articles about the company's over-extended financial position and a threat from The Mittani to take his people to a different game. Eve could have closed. Player rebellion is a nuclear option and one that once started is impossible to control.

But Neville's goals?

Broadly they're based, I think, on the feeling that CCP  has experienced some kind of "regulatory capture" where the influence and political shrewdness of the nullsec alliances has placed their concerns front and centre, to the detriment of the 85% of us who inhabit other parts of the sandbox.

I'm going to write a short series of articles exploring how we can make an Eve for everyone, no playstyle left behind.

Today: the New Player Experience.

So I started a new character and responded to what I saw on screen. I clicked through the opportunities until I got stuck. I got stuck at the opportunity that wants me to fit a low slot module. I didn't have a low slot module. I had been given no information about where I could get one. I couldn't progress to the next set of opportunities until I solved this one.

I decided to try killing a couple of rats to see if they dropped a module then realised I had no information about where the rats actually live. In games like Wow you walk out of town and the rats are just there. In Eve you undock and it's just you and a couple of other newbies there.

I "cheated" and used prior knowledge to warp to a combat anomaly where I killed several rats without getting a low slot module. So I "cheated" again and bought an armour repper off the market.

This is concerning.This is a clickout point, a point where an internet user loses interest, gives up and clicks away or alt tabs and does something else. Giving new people a task that appears to be essential but which is not solvable is disastrous.

With the opportunities chain unfinished I next went off to do Career Agents. In fact I'd forgotten how to find them and was told by helpful people in Rookie Help Chat to press F12.

These are clickout points 2 &3.

You can't finish the initial opportunities chain without going off  to do something else. I think a lot of people will want to finish what appears to be the tutorial before going off to do a completely different quest chain in a different area of space but in practice you have to. You can't, for example, complete the Fit a scan probe launcher to your ship opportunity when you're in a rookie ship in Duripant with no money. So broken quest chain is one clickout point.

The other is that you need to talk to people. In most other games the chat is where you call people names after you lose, or spam macros or generally crap in. Many people on starting a new game will minimise chat and never look at it again. For the game to require that you proactively ask the right question and then get helped by someone knowledgable is asking a hell of a lot and for many people this will be their clickout point.

On to the Career Agents. I actually think the agents are pretty good as quest chains, my concern is what they teach. After doing all 5 the only clearly viable way to make money appeared to be mining, Eve's dullest profession. Sure there's scanning down sites but most of those will be too tough for a newbie in an Atron, plus scanning is horrible with newbie skills even if you know how to do it. Those sites where with perfect probe positioning and lowest AU but it still won't get better than 99%: more clickout points. There's missions but the Career Agents don't point you to one nor show you how to use the Agent Finder. Plus the pay from missions is awful. I can go afk in the Venture with a day old character and come back to 1 million isk of minerals in the ore hold, why would I do some horrible level 1 mission for 20k? You're also set up with blueprints but so poor you need to do My time is free style mining to use them. One of the saddest things I saw in Rookie Help Chat was "where do I mine Kernite or Jaspet - I need some Nocxium for my  Career Agent quest." Props for the newbie for figuring out so much, and get it together Eve Online that you're giving people missions without the information needed to succeed.

I'll repeat: it's very bad game design if the new player experience game can't be solved without help from other people. Would it hurt to give the nearest systems with those ores in the mission briefing while reminding pilots to consider buying directly from the market? Maybe you could even give limited duration but unlimited "Civilian Ventures" so rookies could go mine in low sec,but get a new ship if they die.

Then I tried pvp. I went into a Novice plex, I got blobbed and killed, rip my poor frigate. The people who killed me convoed me and offered a corp invite so that was pretty nice.

I tried again but got killed 2 jumps in on the gate by a battlecruiser. As a newbie you're easy to tackle even in a frigate because it aligns a little slow.

This is my next clickout point. Although Eve is meant to be a pvp game there's no New Player pvp. Yes I'm aware Suitonia can beat people with 20  day characters but that's a very good pvper with a focused  skill plan. So for most new players the only option here is to join a corp you can't pvp without submitting to a whole host of rules and obligations that goes with joining a player corp. Even FW doesn't solve this - you're still going to be a free kill until someone helps you.

So I searched the recruitment page in the corp window and found a list. My search criteria were fw, new player friendly and low sec. Joined their public channel, asked about joining and they said no because I was too new. Another clickout point.

So then: an Eve for everyone.

I think the NPE is a good example of how the game can go in the  wrong direction if player feedback is collected from the very loud passionate invested communities that attend Fanfest and the other player meets. Ask players at those events about starting Eve and they'll say Eve is awesome , the community is awesome, join a corp. Clearly it isn't awesome, in fact it's deeply flawed for new players and joining a corp is fraught with clickout points - maybe they want intrusive background checks, maybe you have to install software, maybe you have to change playstyle (eg always be on comms and in fleet), maybe someone's rude, maybe someone simply doesn't want to group up. This may be a good case of where "listening to the players" is bad for the game.

CCP Ghost told us about the millions of players who try Eve then immediately leave, my look at the game as new character showed me a bit about why. If you're a blogger and want to add your experience to this discussion roll a new character and tell us about your clickout points. Alternatively for people without blogs just post it on /r/eve or Eve O. Link  it in the comments.

Finally I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our newbie-friendly cousin, Pandemic Horde. To join them click the little speech bubble in the chat window to join a new channel and type Join Horde as the channel name. I don't think  you should have to join a corp to start Eve but should you choose to they're one of the best.

Thursday 5 May 2016

Neville Smit's Occupy campaign is bullshit, here's why

Over at his blog, Neville Smit has called for player uproar because of his view that new content is "mostly to the interests of players who operate in null security space."

I think this is simply a mistaken impression, a result of what CCP is hyping, not what CCP is doing.

Certainly in the trailer for the new Citadels it looked a lot cooler to be one of the wreckers rather than one of the builders. On top of that CCP's excellent staff band released a new number, "Bring on the wrecking machine."

Smit goes on to add: "It was my hope that CCP was going to turn more of their attention to enhancing game play options outside of null-sec."

Well, sir, how about a whole new type of space, that isn't null-sec?

 For the past two years CCP has worked on a grand project: player-built stargates. This isn't an addition to lowsec, hisec or nullsec. Like the Apocrypha expansion of 2009 this is a whole new type of space, different from anything we've seen before.

How's that for enhancing game play options outside of null sec? A whole new type of space.

In addition there are a lot of things happening that are huge enhancements for the game play of people all over New Eden. Citadels have caused a huge and lasting boost to the profits of miners and PI managers. There simply aren't the materials to meet the expected demand, a problem that will become more acute as more structures are added to the game. This is great news in particular for people who make P4s, which are traditionally concentrated in high sec. This is because P4s are equally profitable anywhere while extraction of P0s is much better in lower security systems.

In addition to the Citadels that support player organisations there's the new player-made stargates to be built, another huge industrial project.

For the first time Eve players destroyed more than they built. The April Monthly Economic Report shows Empire looking very healthy relative to nullsec: it has 4 of the top 5 mining regions (over 1 trillion isk worth mined in each); all 5 of the top producing regions, the top 5 regions for market value (dominated by Jita) and. in incursions, one of the highest isk/hour activities in the game.

Meanwhile in nullsec the safe and tamed North West has been burnt to the ground and is now an unrecognisable mosaic of interceptor gangs, broken POSes and new immigrants. The vast industry of The Imperium is broken allowing miners and industrialists in Empire to claim a larger share of the profits.

Low sec is flooded with content. 28,000 homeless people have moved in and are clumsily flying around trying to belt rat or do sites or fight the locals.

High sec is flooded with value - isk has become worth more, accounts are easier to plex, competition has been disrupted or destroyed, demand is up.

Now there was a time before when something similar happened, and I'd say for a similar root cause.

In 2011 outraged players shot the Jita monument in a player rebellion against the introduction of a cash shop monocle. This was ridiculous. Who gives a shit if someone puts on a cosmetic item? Monocles have now been in the game for 4 years and I couldn't name a player who has one - not because I don't interact with such but because I simply don't notice. No one does. It's negligible.

The reason players objected is from a kind of bad place: "he's getting something that I'm not." Reacting in a kneejerk way to something that really doesn't matter, that doesn't really affect you. So what if they put something in that isn't specifically for you that isn't all wrapped up in a bow in a parcel with your name on it bestowed on you with a thank you thank you thank you? Throughout its entire history Eve has worked on certain elements of the sandbox one at a time. When they worked on battleships it was not a slap in the face to anyone who does not fly a battleship.

Consider. One of the occupy Eve bloggers, Drackarn, explains his outrage by referring to the crimewatch round table. A few years ago we had a whole 6 months expansion devoted to Crimewatch, frankly an amazing amount of time for something that's really rather incidental. But CCP fixing that formed part of a greater whole, where they make the overall game better. The rest of us didn't riot when crimewatch was added even though it has zero affect in nullsec, in wormholes or on peaceful people in high sec.

It really feels to me, like the Monocle, that this is a vanity issue. Sure CCP have added a ton of things that improve PVE like burners and new drifter content, that improve industry like citadels and Crius but they didn't specifically yammer about it at Fanfest and now some poor entitled bloggers are feeling insufficiently pampered.

Everything on Neville's list of demands is something they are actively adding to the game if only he'd pay attention. NPE? They've just hired a new guy who gave a major presentation on it at the Keynote. Lore-based PVE exploration? They've been developing drifter content for a year with continual updates and new features. Variety in harvesting? They've just added new frigates designed for extracting resources from danger zones. He wants mercenary to become a viable career? Wake the fuck up, Neville, half the game is currently on mercenary contracts.

So here's my message to the "85%." Rant less, play more. The content you want is in the game and more is coming. So what if CCP has picked some other people in the community to fawn over and tell them how special they are. Get over yourselves. The road map is not for nullsec. The road map is new space, it's for whoever wants to go there when it's unveiled. Just play the damn game.

Sunday 1 May 2016

Rest in peace, John Bellicose.

A cyno vigil was held in game for former player John Bellicose who we lost to suicide 2 years ago.