Blog Banter #33: The Capsuleer Experience
The Eve community has developed over a long period of time (well, for an MMO anyway) and has a strong base. Together with the type of player it attracts and the availability of various social media formats, if you look outside the actual game you will find a plethora of information and opinions. It is entirely possible to ‘metagame’ and spend a great deal of time ‘playing Eve’, without even logging into the game!
One such example of this are the multitude of Eve blogs, just like this one. Well actually, many that post far more frequently than myself, but regardless I still consider them similar One player by the name of Crzaykinux started grouping Eve bloggers into an easy to find and consume RSS stream called “The Blog Pack”, and eventually he passed the torch on to another player, “Seismic Stan”. Another tradition that Seismic has carried on is called the “Blog Banter”. Basically a topic of interest to the Eve community is put out there and Eve bloggers are invited to respond. I have been interested in participating in this for some time (you don’t have to be a member of the blog pack to respond) and figured it’s about time I rolled up the sleeves, learned to juggle life and game commitments a little better, and waded on in
So here we go. The topic for Blog Banter #33 is “The Capsuleer Experience”.
Blog Banter 33: The Capsuleer ExperienceLike mana from Valhalla (yes I know I’m mixing my religious metaphors), the latest Dev Blog by CCP Legion asks questions which make for perfect Blog Bantering. To quote him “…we want to make the first days, weeks and months in EVE enjoyable and not just something ‘you have to plough through in order to get to the good stuff’” and the newly formed Player Experience team will focus on “…where and why people lose interest in EVE…”.“We invite you to pour your heart (or guts) out and tell us what you think is good or bad with the current new player experience and what you think could be done about the problems.”So let’s get self-eviscerating. Banter on.
Of all the topics I could get started on, I have to say I think this is a good one!
I started playing Eve in 2004. I was a refuge from Earth and Beyond (an EA sci-fi MMO) and entered Eve and Star Wars Galaxies at the same time. Both very different games, yet both spoiled me up front with their underlying sandbox (Eve wasn’t at the point it is now in overall maturity, so it’s sandbox was still being filled). Over the years I left and returned to Eve many times. MANY times. Here’s an overview of the history of my account subscription:
- March 2004 – June 2004 (4 months)
- January 2006 (1 month)
- July 2006 – November 2006 (5 months)
- October 2007 (1 month)
- June 2008 – January 2009 (8 months)
- November 2009 – Current (28 months)
What is it that caused so many issues with my staying in game? I think I can potentially call myself a “new Eve player” a couple of times over lol. After all the game has changed so much since 2004, each time I returned it was like a new experience. So what was my problem in staying?
Well firstly the Eve new experience has always been a brutally steep learning curve. The infamous diagram showing the dead bodies being shovelled off the edge is unfortunately pretty accurate. I myself have suffered from it, many friends I have introduced to the game have suffered from it. I believe there are two issues with Eve that prevent a greater uptake of the game. Some people wont like to hear this, as I believe it will attract a more “casual gamer” to Eve. Please note I said “casual”, not lower class.
Eve needs things to do that are more casual friendly. Then it will be “new player” friendly. I think the work done on improving the tutorials has been solid. I have been through them a number of times including the last few months, as I took friends through them (and created new alts for the purpose of going through it with them). Whilst not perfect, these do expose players to a large number of potential activities, and given the interface and world they ease them in fairly well. There are some gaps however I’m sure these will be filled in over time.
What Eve lacks is the ability for these new players to log in and do something in game that can be done without training for days, logging in for long periods and committing to things they are unsure of (signing up to a particular corporation for example).
So for example if a system or area of space was designated by the governing body/CONCORD as a “Pilot Training Area”, and the entry gate/acceleration gate was restricted to starter ships only (possible as many mission and faction warfare gates are restricted). Then within this area were activities that allowed new players to try different styles of gameplay. So potentially an entire ‘system’ where they could experiment with scanning and exploration, running complexes etc. A “trials” area where they could enter and fight different styles of NPC opponents and of course an area where they could experiment with PvP. These would all allow players to complete tutorials and then continue to try various aspects of the game without being forced into a cold, harsh world where they don’t really know where they are going.
A second area I think Eve needs to improve is in it’s explanation of it’s mechanics. Hear me out as I know that sounds a little odd. Many players, myself included, enter the game expecting to plug in a joystick or use the AWSD keys to move the ship around. When you get in the game and start thinking “THIS is how we control the ship? That’s shit!” you start feeling unhappy from the get go. In particular myself coming from Earth and Beyond where exactly that style of play was in place, it was a fairly difficult transition. Putting some sort of explanation around this may help. The concept of ship crews and having to give orders rather than tugging on a joystick (even though the capsuleer is supposedly connected intrinsically to the ship…but that’s another story…) may help people frame their thinking here…potentially.
I guess my ultimate issue and a breaker for newer players is actually knowing what to do. I listen to a number of Eve podcasts and have been interested to hear others had similar experiences to myself. They subscribed, played, tried mining and/or missioning, and ultimately left because that is potentially some of the weakest Eve player experiences. I played solo many times and the times I have been on longer than a month or two have been with friends who subscribed, or a group I encountered that I enjoyed playing with. And that is what made the big difference for me…entering Eve with the mindset of wanting to play with others. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to be able to play on my own and for bried periods here and there and this is still a massive struggle for Eve. However examining my former subscription history, a trend becomes apparent:
- March 2004 – June 2004 (4 months) – Played with former Earth and Beyond guildmates
- January 2006 (1 month)
- July 2006 – November 2006 (5 months) – Played with a Real Life (TM) friend
- October 2007 (1 month)
- June 2008 – January 2009 (8 months) – Played with a group of Real Life (TM) friends from another MMO
- November 2009 – Current (28 months) – Started with a group of friends, moved to Faction Warfare and discovered semi-casual gameplay and some great players to play with
You can’t force a new player to be friends with others and whilst throughout the tutorials and gaming material it encourages players to join corporations, this goes against the “Eve is brutal, Eve is a Sanbox, trust no one”. It’s a victim of it’s own strengths.
I think the better way of doing this is to help players find activities they will enjoy and can start off casually, before progressing deeper into them. Then allow them to follow these paths and through provision of support and guidance they can then more naturally find a place to do what they enjoy in the company of other players.
So that’s my thoughts. A little rambling, but that’s to be expected when it’s early and I couldn’t sleep But it’s a start.