Friday, February 24, 2012

Igniting the INFERNO (Blog Banter #33)

(This is a response to Blog Banter #33: The Capsuleer Experience.)

Yesterday we heard a few words about the upcoming summer expansion, which will have a clear focus on overhauling the war systems that drive conflict in EvE and will rewrite the very rules that CONCORD enforces.  The advantage to being a little late to jump on the most recent "Blog Banter" discussion is that now I get a chance to share with you the unique opportunities I believe the new expansion could offer new players if CCP plays their cards right.

By now many of you are familiar with Ripard Teg's infamous subscriber curve (or lack thereof), which grabbed media attention last summer and forced CCP to admit that the real fruit of an expansion – community growth – was sorely missing from Incarna.   Crucible was an improvement but largely focused on appeasing existing customers, rather than giving new players a reason to get excited. INFERNO, on the other hand, offers huge opportunities to advance new player enjoyment if CCP gives new pilots the resources they'll need to join the wars they are hoping to inspire.

The expansion title itself sets a high standard for customer expectations – players are going to want lots of explosions this time around. War has stagnated slowly for differing reasons in all of EvE's regions, and any successful attempt to reverse the trend is going to get players talking with their friends again. I hope that CCP is mindful here that selling a war expansion means selling the chance to be involved in those wars to new players as well. Without making a concerted effort to win over new customers and convert them into permanent subscribers, CCP could starve INFERNO of much of the fuel it will need to truly set New Eden ablaze.

The current tutorials do a decent job of instructing players on the basics of mining and missioning, but both activities are simply lackluster when compared to the epic stories that entice most players to create accounts in the first place. What is missing are some of the critical tools players need to start participating in fleet work. New pilots need to be useful to other players in a matter of days, and need to have had their first “butterfly effect” moment within their first week. That is how you hook new players and make lifelong customers.

This is how you make a noob giggle with excitement and pony up for a subscription.
I was lucky enough to find myself in this situation after only a few weeks of play.  Fleet warping BLEW MY MIND.  I probably lasted 20 seconds in combat once we were engaged, but it didn't matter. The important thing was that  "I was there!"    

Tanking skills are one of these critical tools currently overlooked by the existing tutorial. We've all seen those kill mails where the pilot was fitting armor plates and shield boosters at the same time. The problem is that the tutorial gives out these mods and explains how to physically mount them on the ship, but teaches none of the nuance about why it makes sense to stick to only one form of tanking or provide an example of what a proper fit looks like. The result is that PvE-oriented pilots grind excessively, losing ships to trial and error, and PvP pilots end up trolled for their fitting choice when really they didn't know any better.

Last time I checked, the advantages of fitting a shield tank vs. an armor tank, or a passive vs. active tank, are all gameplay fundamentals that haven't changed in years. There is no reason these basics should not be included in the tutorial.

Despite the lack of details in the recent dev blog, one of the features named for inclusion in the expansion is of course Faction Warfare. Over the past few years, the militias have devolved into a gaggle of paranoid veteran corporations, but a golden opportunity exists here to restore FW's ability to provide a fun, active place to learn PvP. Lack of information is once again the major underlying issue.  It pains me to hear so many pilots asking three years later what exactly we do and how it all works. Nothing could more clearly demonstrate that CCP isn't doing a good enough job making this information easily accessible.

Whatever changes are made to the Faction Warfare system, there needs to be a thorough and simultaneous update of all the information about the mechanics, rewards, risks, and drawbacks in an easy-to-locate Evelopedia source. I urge any developers reading this to keep this in mind, otherwise the fruits of their labor will be wasted if they aren't enjoyable for players of all skill levels.

A major overhaul of the Militia window UI is also long overdue. The UI should provide real-time feedback as to the progress of a system takeover. It should be easy for players to locate the front lines of the war, so they can contribute to their faction's efforts by fighting in the appropriate plex. Nothing should replace traditional scouting for tactical details about enemy fleet presence, but it should still be common knowledge what systems are under attack and where a player can go to find a fleet to help.

The second known update CCP has given us details on is the rookie ships overhaul. My biggest concern here is that re-skinning the rookie ships won't do much to “enhance the new player experience” if they don't also become more useful in the process. I'd love to see a wider array of civilian modules to allow for experimentation and learning without skill limitations. There has to be some real substance here, cosmetics won't be enough to hook players alone.

The last detail sorely missing in the new player is a pilot's very first podding.  New pilots should be coached through every stage of initial loss from ship to clone, be advised as to the importance of insurance on both, and  grow accustomed to the fact that death is only a temporary setback.  

Its never too early to start teaching new players PvP if they want to learn, and I hope that the INFERNO coming this summer invites new players to join the fun as much as it gives veterans the tools they need to enjoy “good fights” every day. It's time for New Eden to grow again, and to facilitate this much-needed growth we simply need to be sensitive to how the changes will affect new players and make sure that they get a chance to participate in all the excitement as well.


  1. I've been following this banter and read some of them (to say the least) and came across many good ideas and how things might get improved.
    Somewhere i picked something up concerning default fittings to teach the new players what to fit in order what to gain. To train them the principals of a passive/buffer tank and how an active will work and in which cases what is useful.
    Since there are many good fittings which require skills like "all basics on V" i would suggest that meta 1 and 2 components should follow a different approach. They should have lower stats than standard Tech 1 but also lesser need of PG an CPU. This would help noobies to fly "pro fittings" with less pro stuff and so they can be useful faster in fleets.

    Another idea i picked up somewhere and expanded it a bit is about newbie support inside corps. Was somewhat related to communism as in order to grand someone access to corp stuff you need to trust them. There was the idea of a market inside the corp so I can create orders for my corpmates to provide them stuff much cheaper but not with unlimited access to the hangar. If something like that is done i would appreciate it if it was extended to standing dependent orders so i can say "hey this guy is +10 he gets a 10% discount on my stuff" or i don't like that dude (-5) he has to pay +10% if he wants my stuff.
    This would provide the industrial corps with some power to influence the politics of PvP corps. Not exactly related to NPE in the standing part but still would like to here your thoughts about that.

    I don't know how much FW is promoted for new players but I would call it the best way to get in to PvP fast, it should be referenced as that in the tutorials or maybe even have it's own tutorial path which will guide a PvP interested player into his militias information channel. (a channel where hopefully some guys from the FW corporations are already waiting to lend them a hand or maybe even recruit them for their own corp)

  2. I'm really looking forward to the Faction Warfare expansion, not least for the storyline-driven marketing. If the videos are anywhere near as emotive and stirring as the "Raise the Flag" Empyrean Age campaigns, it will surely attract new players.

    There is a huge opportunity here to propel EVE Online's sci-fi pedigree into the minds of a new generation of players. If they don't, I'll march on Reykjavik and write the scripts myself. In blood.