Friday, July 27, 2012

Ascending the Learning Curve

By now we've all been a part of and been made painfully aware of EVE's steep learning curve. Hundreds of posts have been written about it. Devs are furiously iterating and re-iterating upon the NPE. Newbies fall victim to it every day. Some of these intrepid souls drag themselves up out of the clone vat and into another ship to have another go. Some just go.

The how and the why of EVE's learning curve have been discussed nearly to death, and I see no need to heave another rag into the laundry basket. But I took part in a particularly enjoyable evening the other day that got me pondering the when of that curve. As in, at what point do you know you're closer to the top than the bottom? For some I'm sure this is a gradual realization. For me it was an epiphany, occurring on the night in question.

Our alliance has been on the move, having recently departed SpaceMonkey's Alliance and the CFC in a bid to become full-fledged members of the Honey Badger Coalition. Part of this process involved a logistical move out of Branch and into a staging system to facilitate the transfer of our alliance assets to the exact opposite end of the galaxy. The initial staging system was in lowsec, where, by the way, you're still allowed to shoot people in the face. After chasing off a gate camp to secure our pilots' ingress, I whipped out the ol' scanboat and got to work on nailing down some extra-curricular activities for the boys in system.

By that point, most of the mates had logged for the evening and those that remained were committed to station-bound activities or making supply runs. So the alliance XO, myself and one other took to some PVE boats to take advantage of our opportunities for making some last-minute iskies before the final push into our new home.

The first plex was accomplished in short order, with a decent score of faction mods and a Gila blueprint for the effort. Our third companion docked up for the evening but the XO and I labored on. As we were half-way through the second plex, however, a new contact entered local and a Drake popped up on d-scan.

"Drake," I reported.

"Keep an eye on local, he may not be alone..." was the reply.

We kept at it for a few more minutes until another contact, and then another entered system.

"We're in PVE boats. Better safe up for the moment." the XO suggested. So we docked up and I switched up for something a little more appropriate for the occasion. And as my Ares burned clear of the undock, the two new contacts either logged or left system leaving only the original drake.

"Drake's still here, mate..." I relayed, the excitement and anticipation of what might be a satisfying kill slowly building in my voice. "Let me see if I can get a bead on him."

"Roger that. Getting into the Tengu now. Call point if you get it."

I've been putting some work into my d-scan skills as of late so I had the location of the Drake narrowed down pretty quickly, though my heart sank as I resolved it to be at one of the two towers surrounding the third planet in the system.

"Balls! He's in a tower." I defeatedly called out as I began warping to the towers to get visual confirmation of the Drake's position. Which, for some reason I couldn't quite comprehend, I was failing to do.

I double-, then triple-checked my d-scan settings trying to figure out why the Drake was still in view of my instruments but not my eyeballs. Frustrated with my obviously fail d-scan fu, I aligned for the station when some other possibility finally occurred to me.

"No way..." I thought to myself. "There's no *&^%-ing way he's at the planet. That'd be impossible."

Sure enough.

"POINT!!!" I hollered into comms as I frantically began coordinating the cavalry's arrival. The Drake offered only slightly more resistance to being destroyed than did the pod, eating only 2/3 of the way through my shields while the XO did the heavy lifting.

"YARRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!" My first lowsec kill. Now a T1 exploration-fit Drake isn't exactly the shiniest trophy to hang on the wall but it's a trophy nonetheless. It's my trophy. Riding high on the achievement and the later destruction of an afk cyno-pilot (and pod!), I logged off for the evening proud of my minor accomplishments. I had successfully d-scanned, tackled, and destroyed a neutral in lowsec. And taken my sterling 5.0 security status all the way down to -0.2 in the process. Lowsec is dumb like that.

It was while replaying the events of the prior evening in my head the following morning that I achieved my epiphany. "I've done it! I've graduated from TOTAL noob-dom and gained admission to LESSER noob-dom." I've climbed a great many rungs on the famous curve, with many more to come.  But the Drake kill drove the whole point home for me; my EVE-prowess is growing.

As wonderful a feeling it was to finally realize I was no longer the worst player in the game, one question nagged me persistently. What the *&^% was the Drake doing on that planet?! He HAD to know better. And if he didn't know better, why not? I already knew the Drake was exploration-fit based on the killmail, so I knew WHY he was in system, but it wasn't until I checked the pilot's employment history that the rest of picture filled itself in.

The pilot was in fact a newbie, 6 months old. Ever so gently, remorse began to set in.

Please don't misunderstand me; I'm not the least bit remorseful for the space violence. Although I didn't start out this way, I've come to like exploding other people's spaceships. It's a challenge and a rush unlike any other. But as I was contemplating the explosion of this particular spaceship, I recalled the day of my first loss in lowsec and my introduction to the harsher side of EVE. I had just learned to fly a Catalyst and was proudly burning around highsec belts in my shiny new destroyer when I thought I'd poke into the island lowsec system next door. I warped to the top belt looking for rats. I didn't find any, but I did notice a ship land 30km off me and start locking me. Ignorant of what my attacker was trying to achieve, I warped to a different belt in search of rats, and again was soon joined by the aspiring pirate. Only this time he landed on top of me. There would be no escape this time, and while I was sat in my pod confused by what had just happened to my shiny new ship the pirate offered a bit of advice in local.

"If someone tries to tackle you when you're not ready to fight and you get away, don't give him a second chance."

A sage, if obvious, piece of advice that wasn't so obvious to my tiny, greenhorn Eve-brain. But it's advice I've heeded ever since. And it's why I felt remorseful for violencing the obviously green Drake pilot back to his med clone station.

Whether or not he would have listened, it was incumbent on me to pay forward the favor paid me all those years ago.

We're all steadily climbing up the EVE food chain. Step-by-painstaking-step we're all STILL ascending the learning curve. And whether you like it or not, you are part of someone's learning curve just as someone else will be a part of yours.

You may shrug that off. But it's our duty and responsibility as capsuleers on our eternal trek to the "top" to help others along the way. This doesn't mean we all have to hold hands and sing "Kumbaya." But it does mean that when you're in a position to help someone learn something about this game, it's your obligation to make that moment as instructive as possible. We don't just owe it to the newbies, we owe it to New Eden. And if we truly want EVE to continue to grow and to flourish, we owe it to ourselves as well.


  1. Exciting story with a very nice conclusion. I really like your attitude.

    I usually start talking to people who kill my ship or pod me. Most are really surprised that I'm not complaining and raging at them and then tell me all kinds of things.

    I usually also initiate conversation with people I kill, and when they are not insulting me (one Russian once called me something that google translated as "you are the drainpipe in my house") I also discuss their fit and tactics with them.

    One of our recruiters even got someone to join our corp after such a conversation.

    I like those moments where you switch from relentless killing machine full of adrenaline to an 'out of character' conversation where you wind down with your killer or victim during a nice conversation.

    Maybe next time you kill someone (outside of the massive fleetfights you will probably have) why not convo them?

  2. Yes, exactly this, EP. I should have done this straightaway. I think I was still in shock over having been successful and trying to figure out the particulars of what GCC meant for me. I won't make the same mistake again. :)

  3. Helping your victim learn what they did wrong is an excellent way to wait out your GCC after the kill.