[Addendum: This post refers to the 2006 version of the EVE Online tutorial. It has since been revamped multiple times. It still has problems. Different problems, but problems none the less.]
I have seen EVE Online mentioned in more than a few places over the last two years, so I was aware that it existed, but I did not know anything about the game really. (Not even that little bit about a game you can really “know” without actually playing it.) But after hearing a bit more about it over the last few weeks while going through some MMO podcasts I decided to try it out. I downloaded the software, signed up for the trial account (which does not require a credit card), ran the install and signed in.
Noob Yet Again
Into the game and I know nothing. I know even less than I usually do when I start in on a game, especially an MMO. I have no friends playing, I have not read much about the game, and I have a downloaded copy so I do not even have a back-of-the-box view of the game.
First I have to create a character. I am ignorant on the differences between the races and bloodlines so I choose pretty much at random. This is a first character, which as often as not, ends up being more of an alt than a main for me.
I am Wilhelm Arcturus, a Caldari of the Deteis bloodline. Time to get into the game!
You start with the tutorial. At several points before and during the tutorial you are told how important it is to complete it. I am all for it. I know nothing, I want to learn, I have a couple of hours free (as recommended), and I am ready to go.
Unfortunately, at several points the tutorial makes me want to uninstall the game and forget I ever heard of EVE Online. The first occasion happens almost immediately.
Hangar? I Don’t Even Know Her!
You start in what I can only describe as a hanger bay. In the middle is an egg-shaped pod. The first thing the tutorial shows is the command bar, called the NeoCom. I am told to open our ship hanger from the NeoCom. In my mind, pod = ship, hangar = where we are. I start looking for a way to open up this hanger. It cannot be done.The button I am really looking for is a few steps further in the tutorial. Nothing, except the tutorial, has the word “hanger” anywhere. I try to skip forward in the tutorial to see if that will give me a clue, but I am told that “The Ship Hanger needs to be open before continuing.”
I spend five minutes trying to solve this puzzle. I want to scream. I am such a noob that I am bogged down three steps into the tutorial. I walk away from the computer to get a drink. I read and re-read the tutorial text.
I finally figure out that the tutorial wants me to click on the ships button on the NeoCom and leave open the window which comes up. The word “hangar” is in no way involved with this button. I have just demonstrated what is a continuing theme in my gaming life: When presented with ambiguity, I will always make the wrong choice or assumption. It never fails.
Pirates, What Pirates?
The tutorial goes on and I manage not to get lost for a while. It takes me out into space and back into the hanger… or whatever it is… again. Then the tutorial starts me on the path to killing a couple of local pirates. This is the first thing in the tutorial I am really up to do. I realize the value of learning all of the basic functions, but going out and popping some pirate scum, which sounds more like fun than learning.
The tutorial tells me to warp out to one of the Deadspace Training Complexes in the system. There are five of them. When I get there, pirates are supposed to be in the vicinity.
When I arrive, there are no pirates. I try the next closest Deadspace Training Complex. No pirates. Given the hanger incident, I think I must have made a mistake again. The tutorial shows you a picture of what you should see on your overview when you come out of warp, which is two pirates. But I see none.
I ask about this on the Rookie Help channel. Somebody helpfully tells me I should follow the tutorial.Somebody else says I need to go to the Deadspace Training Complex. I am pretty sure I did that correctly, but I go back to my starting point and try again with the same result. No pirates.
The tutorial makes a point of mentioning, as you arrive at the Deadspace Training complex, the Ancient Acceleration Gate that you need to use for the next step of the tutorial. Is the “next” step, the step I am on, or something that comes later? Maybe I have to use that. I approach and activate it. It scoots me along to another location. When I get there, the tutorial tells me I need to be at the Deadspace Training Complex to continue. I warp back there. Still no pirates. But then there were no pirates where the acceleration gate sent me either.
I skip ahead in the tutorial hoping to get a clue as to what I should be doing to make pirates appear. The tutorial eventually tells me to use the Acceleration Gate, assuming that I have slain my two pirates and am ready for a bigger challenge. I float in space for about ten minutes hopping between two of the training complexes in the hope that some pirates will show up. They do not show up.
Still No Pirates!
I use the acceleration gate and continue on with the tutorial. Again pirates are on the menu and again I must guess that the kitchen is out of pirates at the moment. I am supposed to kill a pirate to get a key for the next acceleration gate. There are a few cargo pods floating around, so I guess that pirates have been here. I skip ahead in the tutorial until it tells me how to loot a cargo pod. I do so and get the key I need. I also learn how to mine an asteroid. This will come in handy later.
I use the acceleration gate and end up in a new location with the instruction to kill pirates until a special cargo pod drops.
I see a pirate when I arrive! At least I know what they look like now. However, somebody else is killing him. As before, no combat but plenty of cargo containers floating around, including a few of the one I needed to finish the mission. Being a bit out of patience with the “no pirates, no combat” situation by that point, I pick up the item I need and move on.
After that, the tutorial ran along as designed without any noticeable flaws. I even killed some pirates when I did the mission for the tutorial agent, though I had to learn how to fight by experimentation at that point since the tutorial assumed I was accustomed to combat by then. It is a good thing that the tutorial pirates are pretty weak.
In the end, the tutorial gave me the basic knowledge I needed to get started in the game, but I am not happy about the way it ran. The “hangar” problem was perhaps more my literalist mind-set than the tutorial, but the pirates were a fiasco. If you are going to make users go through an inflexibly scripted tutorial, you had better make sure that what the tutorial says is what the user sees. I spent an hour of the tutorial unable to do most of what the tutorial was telling me.
Furthermore, every day I see in the Rookie Help channel the question, “Where are the pirates?” so I know I am not alone in having this issue. Ironically, I have never had this problem since I started doing agent missions, only during the tutorial. The bad guys are always there waiting for me now.
A tutorial is a way to get a new user into a game and make that user want to become a paying customer. This tutorial falls short and could end up discouraging players who might otherwise end up enjoying the game.