Friday, 28 December 2012

Day 185 : Land of the Noobs

Rixx Javix posted something about the future of EVE and encouraging new player intake by getting them playing rather than the slowly-walking-barefoot-on-hot-coals trial-by-fire that the new game can be. He wasn't satisfied with the post and subsequently took it down. Not before I caught it via Google Reader, and not before it made me think. (NOTE: he subsequently rewrote and posted this version

My character is six months old now and a new expansion has just been released. I'm in a good position to look at that expansion and how it improves things for the new player because I still have clear memories (and an entire blogs worth of less clear memories) of being that new player. Maybe I am in a good position look at these improvements and suggest more that would benefit new players without being unfair to existing players. Maybe my perspective will be useful. Maybe I'm not in that position but I'm going to do it anyway because conversations leading up to this post revealed that leaving stuff in your head rather than writing about it causes headaches and other phenomena related to intellectual rot.

I can't summarise the entire of Retribution for two reasons. Firstly, did you see the patch notes? I had to have a rest in the middle of reading them and that wasn't because I was laughing after running them through Secondly I've been on a carebear kick recently so I'm wary of bias. I'm going to write as if that bias didn't exist, just to see what comes out and trust in the fact that my carebear activities are all mainly to do with being able to afford non-carebear activities in future.

1. Dscan, Complexity and Time

   Complexity was a draw. Difficulty was a draw. Yet some things were time consuming with no need. Some things need to be complex, but time is already a precious commodity in EVE and it shouldn't be part of the most basic tasks. The new camera tracking allows play and action without pointless faffing around. Sure some people will have become expert in it. I've practised it a lot myself. That doesn't mean it wasn't a pointless life drain on the gameplay. EVE is often compared to the tactical nature of submarine warfare. We want that intense tactical tension in the same form as a WWII film might provide it, not in the realistic sense of sitting in the middle of the ocean sweating for days on end. Complexity without time. If I had to point at a single genius idea of the entire expansion, camera tracking and the interaction with Dscan would be it.

2. Crimewatch and Simplicity

   Before crimewatch I had fights where I didn't consider what state I'd be in afterwards. This was mainly because I wasn't sure what that state would be. It wasn't clear enough in any documentation and the volume of reading defeated even my tolerance for reading in a browser while mining. Crimewatch has made the law of EVE simpler to interpret. It is still relatively complex compared to other MMOs which is a good thing, but it is no longer something that causes arguments akin to family Christmas feuds borne out of obscure boardgame rules. This means that. Determined cause and effect. Control. You no longer have no idea WHY.

3. Expansions and Populations
   The expansion brought people back. It must have. Populations went up. With higher populations there was more conflict. Conflict was easier given the new Crimewatch rules. Conflict is the source of EVE dynamism. That's the stuff that really goes on in the game, whether it is being done by you or to you, whether by NPCs or by PCs, spaceships that shoot at each other and go boom makes a game. It makes a game whether you are attempting to make them go boom or attempting to do something entirely different while not going boom. It feels like people are staying longer than I expected (or maybe there are even more mining concerns moving into my home system). I think the iterative process refreshed a lot of EVE rather than replacing the most focal part of it with something else.

 So what else could be done? I'll highlight an example of each and see if anyone else comes up with any more examples.

1. Complexity and Time

Invention is already complex enough to be intriguing. Sourcing the materials and fine tuning a research process is an exercise in logistics that not everyone would enjoy but I found it interesting. Not interesting enough to become a super industrialist but enough to dabble. If you have ever done Invention then you'll know about the cycle time being small and the number of clicks to submit an invention job being monotonously high. There should be some way to chain similar actions, for example submitting five invention jobs at a time rather than one. Perhaps there should be a way to automate the submission of such jobs but I'm uncomfortable thinking about the repercussions of such automation. It might lead to less people logging in as jobs complete by themselves.

2. Simplicity

I often Show Info on things to find out one row of detail from the attributes. It is commonly the meta level of items or the ME of a blueprint where I have multiple copies. It's a pain in the arse frankly. I think you should be able to configure an overlay for icons of simple information from that type of object. Imagine if you could have the meta level of an item in the top right corner of its icon, or the ME of a BPO there. The bottom right corner already shows the stack number which is presumably the hardest bit - the overlay code and the server based information. The overlay code must already be there and the configurable information should all be client side.

3. Populations

How do you retain a population between the peaks of expansions? To a certain extent things like the market, the invention process and PI cycles make it a requirement to log in every now and again but not to fly. You have to make people want to go out and try something, or to see something. Nothing is going to have the same effect as an expansion but form of regular changes might keep small spikes of population happening. That's how expansions draw people in : change. What could you change regularly while requiring limited developer time? CCP have already done this recently with their Live Events but what could you automate? Some ideas:

*  A single hi sec systems sun has an event lowering CONCORD response times and introducing fluctuating wormhole conditions.

* CONCORD abandons a particular system after a collapse of law. Drug running and all other illegal activities can be indulged in.

* CONCORD attempts to get a foothold in a low sec system, destruction isn't assured but there will be a response. Will industrialists attempt to take advantage of the extra safety?

* The death of a noted industrialist reveals a will requiring his wealth to be seeded randomly through EVE in cargo cannisters that must be scanned down. might require more developer time but you can imagine people flying to view it's progress and the inevitable scraps.

* A stable wormhole opens between two busy systems and it might last for the entire month. Constellation wide traffic patterns change. Perhaps the wormhole could open from hisec to the nearest low sec system near a far trade hub tempting traders to take the risky fast route.

* A situation causes the spawn rate of belt rats to dramatically increase in a particular constellation.

* A gas planet suffers a gravitational shift throwing PI raw materials into space where they can be scanned down and collected if your cargo bay is large enough.

One more idea before I go that is sourced from the difficulty of the first month of EVE. The crimewatch system makes for easier combat situations but the barrier to combat remains the price of loss. Give every new player who completes the tutorial missions a fitted frigate every two days, a frigate that you can't remove the modules from or sell on. It should be a frigate that the player can fly within a few days training and the fit should vary (buffer/active tank, long/short range, etc). A combat viable noob ship that exists only to be blown up.

I meant to post this before Christmas and failed due to holiday overload. It didn't turn out to be the article I thought it was going to be because it was written over a long time. I can't be arsed to make it focus properly. Any spare time over the holidays has been spent reading other blogs rather than writing this one and being lost in more carebeariness than I am happy with. The quest for an easy regular income to fund being blown up goes on and has been slightly extended by the discovery of T2 production and PI. Hopefully I'll have a Noob guide to each coming up soon. Once I've got that out of my system I should be back to getting my pod handed to me by the end of January. Any suggestions on a focus for getting blown up would be highly appreciated.

EVE Track of the Day

Heavyweight Champion of the World - Reverend And The Makers



  1. I started just before Apocryphia, Retribution seems similar. Good times.

  2. I do like the idea of week / month long stable wormhole connections between Empire, Low Sec and Null. Even better if they appear on the overview once found, or only require the standard ship scanner to identify. Get them used by lots of people while they exist. Anything from trade to exploration to invasion options pop up (particularly to links direct to deep null).