Daily Archives: May 12, 2014

Capability versus Opportunity

Last week I wrote a battle report of sorts… I think of it more as just what I saw on any given outing, but I guess that is sort of the same thing… about a fleet op where I was out there in the tackling role, something I had never actually done before despite having played EVE Online for more than seven years at this point.

Guns blazing

I did have the ship ready though

(That Rifter was the same one I loaned Potshot back in September.)

The post included a bit about a player on a one day old account, Jelly Knight.  I could have chosen pilot Robert Crend, another one day old account that was out there tackling with us as well, but Jelly Knight was speaking on coms a lot more and so was part of the atmosphere of the fleet.  I always try to include bits of atmosphere in my posts about fleet ops, as they can be very much a part of the flavor of such ops and anybody who was along on coms will probably say, “Oh yeah, I remember that!” upon reading the post later.

I also included him both to juxtapose a new player with only a few skill points and an veteran player with more than 120 million skill points being in the same role in a fleet and to point out the oft stated claim that a new pilot can be useful in fleets on their first day.  Day one players have that CAPABILITY.

SynCaine, Zubon, and then Rohan took up that point, the idea of new players being able to participate in what might be termed “end game” activities… or at least to get into the game and be effective beside their more experienced peers, something that EVE Online has going for it.

Mabrick, on the other hand, seemed to take offense at the idea and accused SynCaine and I of arguing an anecdotal fallacy.  Technically, my post wasn’t arguing anything, it was an observation on a fleet action, but SynCaine was using my post as an example of how new players can get deep into the game quickly, so somebody was building up an argument about CAPABILITY.

Mabrick though appeared to be upset because not every new player in EVE Online has the OPPORTUNITY to go out on a fleet op, sit on a titan, and tackle some hostiles on their first day.  Plus there is a good dose of “Grr Goons,” because they require an initiation fee which no new player could ever afford to join their alliance. (They do not actually require such.  In fact, their recruiting page says if you paid such a fee, you got scammed.  They only take members of the Something Awful community.  But that makes them elitists, and we return safely to “Grr Goons” again.)  So SynCaine and I were effectively painted as spreading lies.

I find that response hilariously poorly aimed.

What Mabrick should be mad about is that there are so few opportunities for new players to get so involved in the game.  Rather than the knee-jerk “Grr Goons” reaction, which is essentially getting mad at one of the few groups in the game that actually provides OPPORTUNITY for new players to use their CAPABILITY, he ought to be asking why there are not more groups out there helping new players… the life blood of any MMO… get invested in the game.  Why aren’t there more organizations like Brave Newbies or EVE University or even Red versus Blue?

Because EVE Online has a problem in that regard.  Jester has a post up about the New Player Experience panel from EVE Fanfest this year, and it does not paint a happy picture when it comes to the aforementioned new player life’s blood.  Look at this chart, which Jester took from the presentation and which I, in turn, stole from him.

New Player Trajectory

New Player Trajectory

That chart shows where players who get past the free trial and actually subscribe for at least a month end up.  Leaving aside the “I wonder how many people start with the trial and don’t even get that far?” question, half the players that opt-in for the game drop out during their first subscription cycle.  40% of those go off to solo/mission oriented, which is what the tutorial has always taught you to do.  There is a reason I have high standings with Caldari and Amarr.  When I wandered into the game, I just kept doing what the game told me to do.  And while that is a perfectly legitimate course to take, I ended up getting tired of it.  There are only so many missions, and a lot of them add up to “don’t die while you shoot the thing.”

Now, I ended up dragging friends into the game.  I ran missions with them.  I started mining and manufacturing and playing with the market.  Then one of the friends I got into the game ended up in a null sec corp and pulled me out there with him and I started doing that.  I wasn’t unhappy doing the other things in EVE. It had its moments certainly.

Double Boom!

Double Boom… in my upgraded Raven!

And it was fortunate that as I tired of them I had an opportunity to do something else.  Success story.  But if I had only stuck with “leveling up my Raven” as CCP Rise put it, I probably would have wandered off and never returned.  And EVE Online, in its usual way, made it difficult to go beyond that.  You have to go out of game to figure out how to do a lot of things in EVE as it guards its secrets well.  Solo EVE can be a difficult vocation, but satisfying for some who pursue it.

The question is, of course, what should CCP do?  There are lots of potential knee-jerk reactions.  The chart certainly suggests that, if CCP wants to drive subscriptions, then it should make a deeper and more interesting… and implicitly safer, for whichever parameters of that you prefer… solo experience in the game.  CCP, ever focused on EVE being a dangerous place where PvP is always a risk, wants to create a new player experience that brings people into a group oriented PvP.  That is what they view as the heart and soul of the game.

I am just not sure CCP can “fix” the problem on that chart AND drive people to PvP.  Yes, they give players that capability, even with their day one characters.  But how to give them the opportunity… and, more importantly, to get them to take advantage of it… to use that capability is another story indeed.  I am not sure how much more ubiquitous Jelly Knight’s experience would be even if there were ample opportunity to sit on a titan and tackle for a fleet on a players first day.  As they say, you can lead a horse to water, but PvP isn’t watering hole that many MMO players are willing to drink from.