Tuesday, May 8, 2012
EVE and Soylent Green
A few Blog Banters ago (#33 to be exact), the topic of the New Player Experience was introduced and discussions on how to improve it ensued. A good number of EVE's more prominent bloggers weighed in with suggestions on how to improve the tutorials and the introduction of EVE's various game mechanics, but ultimately none of the posts I read seemed to hit the nail exactly on the head. At least not to me. But I never could put my finger on why. I even wanted to participate in that discussion, but being unable to quantify what I saw as the central issue I remained silent and filed the exercise away on the dusty mental shelf.
Still, though, the question nagged at me. I had been through the NPE two or three times, had read lots of forums posts on how to get started, asked some questions in Rookie Chat and so on. But there was something lacking in that experience from Day One, something that none of the Blog Banterers were able to fully encapsulate. Thanks to Helicity Boson, I finally figured out what that secret missing ingredient was.
Everything about your capsuleer training, from ship orientation, skills, fitting, travel, everything; it all happens in a vacuum. As a beginning capsuleer, you are the only person in the universe. The existence of other pilots is hinted at, but none of your training covers anything about your interaction with them. You are given a ship, some modules to put on that ship, and some agents to communicate with to get you started. You see others flying around in the same starting system, but the depth and breadth of the universe that lay beyond that first stargate are completely unknown. For most new players, that first directionless jump off of EVE's legendary learning curve is quite intimidating. Regrettably, the majority of pilots who jump out of that starter system end up jumping out of the game altogether. Most never look back.
Again, numerous posts and forum threads regarding how to improve the NPE and turn trial accounts into long-term subscribers have been written. But by and large, they have been wrong-headed and destined to fail in their stated goal of lifting the fog surrounding the EVE universe. And the reason why most suggestions for how CCP can improve the NPE will fail is because CCP can't improve the NPE. They can create and refine all the tutorials in the world, but ultimately only the people who create the game can better explain to new pilots how to play it. And CCP doesn't make this game. We do.
See, EVE isn't even really a game. It's a toolbox. CCP designs the tools we use, but ultimately it's up to us how to use them and to decide what kind of game we want to create with them. WE create alliances. WE create wars. WE create piracy. WE create PvP. WE create drama and tension. WE create the market. WE create this game. EVE might be a sandbox, but all CCP can do is give us the sand and the shovels. It's up to us to build and destroy the castles. And that's why we're the only ones who can show others how to do it, too.
The other day on Twitter, Helicity Boson referenced an article on EVENEWS24 that described how despite their reputation, the members of TEST rallied around a "newbro" who was taken advantage of by a more experienced one. It was a heart-warming tale of camaraderie and a great example of what EVE's players are capable of in terms of goodwill. Helicity's next Twitter post read:
"After that wonderful TEST story on EN24, I have decided that my next event will be the Great New Eden Adopt a Newbie WEEK."
And that's when it hit me. The single most effective way to improve the New Player Experience was, in fact, by involving more experienced players in the process. That's what had been missing from the NPE all along. Don't get me wrong; in it's current form, the NPE does a pretty good job of teaching you about the tools CCP provides you with (minus a few significant kinks, of course), but as I said before, only the creators of the game can teach you what to do with them. And that stopped being CCP a long time ago.
We make this game, now. We can make the New Player Experience as soul-crushing and off-putting or as engaging and immersive as we want to. But for our game to continue to survive and to thrive, attracting and keeping new players is critical. That's why it's up to us, the pilots of New Eden, to help develop tomorrow's pilots today.