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.

17 thoughts on “Capability versus Opportunity

  1. Rohan

    In my opinion, it is the fear of AWOXing and spies that is causing issues. The mechanics of Eve should be pushing corps to recruit madly. Every pilot adds to your fleet power.

    WoW has zerg guilds which send blind invitations to every new character. And these are guilds where players don’t actually do anything with each other, it’s just for chat and the off-chance that people might play together.

    Yet when I played Eve, every recruiting add for a serious, ambitious corp I saw had high skillpoints requirements, ranging from 6 months to *2 years* in one case. I just didn’t see any reason for this, unless the corps actively feared new players. It was a very discouraging part of the new player experience.


  2. Noizy

    There is a lot of “Grr Goons” in EVE, but you have to admit Mabrick comes by it honestly. When MiniLuv first started operations, it tried to drive Mabrick out of EVE. It didn’t work.


  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Rohan – There is certainly a comparison to be made between WoW guild and EVE corps. When we rolled up on a new server in WoW, it was easiest to join a guild just to stop invite spam.

    In EVE, I am not sure where I would find a home in null sec if my corp gets around to kicking me. They just have to say “black listed” and I am banned CFC wide. Meanwhile, I was in the CFC, so that is an automatic black mark elsewhere.

    So, yes, clearly a big problem to solved. And I don’t know how CCP can even get a handle on it, given the state of things.

    @Noizy – Sure, but when it drives him to set up a straw man argument against my post… he pretty much went for a fallacy in order to accuse me of perpetrating a fallacy… it might be time to take a deep breath.


  4. bhagpuss

    There are, of course, any number of ways of interpreting that retention data. It might mean, as I think both SynCaine and CCP would hope, that if only a new player has the good luck to fall into a big Fleet Op on Day One he’ll be so bowled over by the experience he’ll want more and stick around to get it, whereas if said new player just pootles around on his own he’ll either end up quitting or soloing because he knows no better.

    On the other hand it could just as easily mean that 40% of new players come into EVE hoping to fly spaceships rather than fight other people and find pretty much what they were looking for. Or a million other variations. There’s just not enough data there to support any kind of meaningful analysis.

    Whether CCP have much chance of increasing the numbers on the active PvP side I somewhat doubt, although clearly they won’t find out unless they try. I suspect that even highly PvP-minded players want a much more on-demand form of PvP than EVE offers. It’s evident just from reading your excellent and entertaining accounts of Fleet Ops and other activities in EVE that there are considerable downsides.

    It’s amusing enough for me to spend a few minutes reading your dry asides about how DBRB kept you entertained while nothing much happened for an hour or two or how you dropped everything to rush out for some carnage that never actually happened and that was your evening gone. It’s not nearly so amusing to live through this kind of thing in real time, as I found early on in DAOC.

    SynCaine’s argument on this, that it’s the very longueurs that impart the emotional impact to the sudden, infrequent bursts of action, has a lot of merit but the evidence for an appetite for such self-controlled delayed gratification among the general MMO public seems very thin on the ground. People who want to pew pew tend to like to get their pew pew on, not sit around waiting for putative future pew pew.

    Then again – zombie survival genre…


  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – Well, *I* don’t have any data beyond that chart, but the person giving the presentation was from CCP and had much more data, and it was his interpretations that I brought over. The link to Jester’s post on the subject goes into much more detail. And even then, I have my own doubts, as expressed at the end of the post.

    And yes, there is a reason why I have to play EVE and another MMO. I enjoy EVE when the pew pew is on, and I don’t even mind it so much when there is a fleet call up and little or no pew pew. It can be amusing just to be on coms. There is also a certain amount of satisfaction in just being part of something.

    But there are many nights when Jabber is quiet, or calls for a fleet just as I need to go do something or it is really time for bed and I have to pass. So I have other games with action on demand which I play while waiting for the comparably rare action in EVE. The game is actually kind of nice in that there is a role for an on-call pilot for fleet ops. But you can’t plan for it most of the time.


  6. HarbingerZero

    Am I the only one that looks at that chart and knows that CCP should spend a lot more time invested in giving the solo/PvE game the same depth and attention to detail that it gives the group/PvP game?

    Because that chart screams to me that 80% of EVE’s active player base is starving for new content.


  7. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @HZ – Clearly. I am sure nobody else ever would have jumped to that very conclusion.

    (Didn’t read the post I guess, where I mentioned that as a potential option should CCP want to drive subscriptions, and you certainly didn’t go and look at Jester’s post where the comment section is alive with people screaming for that.)


  8. Sunrise Aigele

    It seems to me that you and Mabrick are not so far apart from each other. Deep breaths are a good idea.

    A new player does not know, or want, to play something else while waiting for some giant action, even if it involves a titan. They are excited. They want to play the game. They want to become immersed. They want to see what they can do. And they want all this without knowing about alts, without knowing all of the things that “everybody knows.”

    This is where EVE fails them utterly. Come for B-R! Stay for belt ratting, or high sec mining! Oh, you want to join this alliance you read about? “You need 20 million skill points, n00b, and we’ll schedule you for a full colonoscopy because you could be a spy. What? You don’t have a full API key? You don’t even know what that is? Stupid n00b.” (I realize that not all alliances do this. But many do, and some of the CFC alliances have their own obstacle courses for new players.)

    I know that it is a truism of EVE that the metagame is the game. EVE must always be driven largely by the metagame to remain its unique self. But the metagame moves slowly and cautiously. The walls around the various powers are tall, and the gates are often closed. There should be some good games to play in the in-between times, especially for people who are new to it all.


  9. SynCaine

    Side note: I find nothing more annoying than someone making a clear mistake with info, having said mistake pointed out, and when they have no other way out, they claim they were just ‘trololoing’. Really, really hate that, and it’s probably the fastest way for me to lose all respect for someone.


  10. zaphod6502

    @Syncaine: Agreed. And now this Mabrick has suspended comments on his website (which he has the right to do). I assume this guy has some prior “history” with the Goons?


  11. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Sunrise Aigele – Indeed, so I was a bit surprised to find myself being accused of arguing via a fallacy.

    @SynCaine – That or having your comment declared “off topic” and removed because… I don’t know… “Grr Goon Ally?” and replaced with a patronizing “go play elsewhere” message. I’ve pulled a couple of comments from my blog over the years for people I felt were behaving badly, and would not deny him the same, but I thought I was gave a pretty mild response to what I was clearly being accused of. Friday blog war fail. You live and learn.

    @Zaphod – If I recall right, he was a trial run for the MiniLuv group in GSF to make war in game on people calling out Goons on blogs and forums. That was a while back, but history can be a visceral, living thing in EVE.


  12. Duncan Ringill

    The referenced post was anecdotal in the extreme…but that doesn’t make it any less of a model for CCP to consider in opening or bolstering any other player activity. A day-one potential for meaningful contribution *is* a thing to get excited about, even if an awful lot of stars have to align for it to be realized in the way you made happen.

    My own introduction to EVE was analogous, if not as pulse-pounding. A little mining frig in which I tagged along on a mining op. I lased ore as hard as I could, alongside other players who could explain things as we worked. I saw ships I was weeks or months away from flying, and because I was there, everyone’s take was a little bigger.


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  14. wartzilla

    There’s literally a million corps in the CFC that happily accept tackling newbies. That’s how I got my start. People like Mabrick are too stuck in their hisec mentality, and evidently too socially stunted to join a corporation’s public channel and talk to people, to realize this.


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  16. HarbingerZero

    No, I did not read Jester’s comment section. Was that required reading for your post? I did catch your mention, but the weight of the possibility cries out for more than that.


  17. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @HZ – When somebody asks if they are the only one who sees something obvious, and in this case something that was mentioned, I think they should expect to be mocked for it. I know I would.


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