Daily Archives: September 14, 2021

EVE Online Gets Another New Player Experience and Skill Training Updates as a New Quadrant Arrives

The summer vacations are over and CCP is back with a new Quadrant.  The Foundation Quadrant is over and the Gateway Quadrant has arrived.

Didn’t we all get stuck out here after that gateway closed?

And with that CCP is focused again on its favorite obsession of the last few years, the new player experience.  This time the NPE has been rebuilt around a new NPC faction, the Association for Interdisciplinary Research which will introduce new players to EVE Online.   The highlights from the dev blog are:

  • More immersive experiences and faster iteration
  • More dynamic visuals
  • Gradual UI reveal
  • Improved UI highlighting
  • An integrated intro video
  • Beautiful visuals

To the cynic in me that works out to “pretty,” “pretty,” “working with the UI we already have,” “working with the UI we already have,” “pretty,” and “pretty.”

I mean, there is room in there for real improvements, and maybe it is a better NPE, but CCP has chosen to emphasize the superficial and that the UI is too much for new players in its own description.  What is that supposed to tell me?

The new NPE is also said to be story driven, but so was the NPE two iterations ago, which was going to be a big new thing until they quietly ditched it, because everything PvE had to go into The Agency…. and probably also because once you got done with the story the actual game is nothing like that, bait and switch not being a great idea for player retention.  I hope CCP learned something since last time and aren’t just jumping back on the same idea they previously axed.

Though the NPE has been through the wringer more than a few times, CCP has been especially adamant about new player retention being an issue since EVE North back in 2019 when they gave us this chart.

How many new players log back in as time passes

As I noted at the time, that seems pretty dismal without any context.  But the one publicly available study on the topic I found seemed to indicate that those retention numbers are pretty close to the industry average for MMORPGs with a free to play option.  Given EVE Online’s legendary difficulty, obtuse UI, and open world PvP, that CCP does so well is probably an achievement.

So while I get that CCP likes to keep reminding us that new players are the lifeblood of the game… and I hope this next revision of the NPE helps on that front… farming the installed player base, the lapsed veterans and such, is how games like EverQuest and World of Warcraft have revitalized their bottom lines.  Here is hoping that another investment in another new NPE pays off.

The NPE is also emphasized in the trailer for the new quadrant.

I feel like I saw that launch sequence in the EVE Valkyrie opening… but I guess all tube launches feel kind of the same.  I’ll have to find some time to give it a try.

So that is the first thing on the list.

Next on the update front is skill training with the introduction of skill plans and a revamp of the training system UI.  This feels like a feature that benefits both new and old players alike.  Players will be able to create plans for specific goals, with milestones to mark improvements for specific configurations, and even certified skill plans aimed at new players to help them decide what to train.

There is also a revamp of the skill training UI.  Being an old fart that has finally gotten used to the current setup, I immediately wondered how badly could they screw it up? This morning already saw calls for the old UI on r/eve, but they hate everything there.  But here is the new UI on day one.

The New Skill Window – The red arrow thing is not part of the UI

For openers, skills now have their own window, no doubt because the game UI doesn’t have enough independent windows floating around, and it defaults to the new training plan UI, which I won’t even delve into right now, but it feels too big and not all that helpful.

For those of us who just want to see our current skills and queue together, the second tab has that, with all the skill groups now in alphabetical order finally.  I know, there is outrage that Spaceship Command isn’t in the upper left, but whatever, and my brain wants to read left to right along rows first, then down columns, and the sorting is by columns, but I’ll get used to all of that.

The window seems bigger than it needs to be.  It defaults to full screen, which is obnoxiously large on my 34″ monitor, but even when I make it a window it remains too wide for my taste largely due to the black dead zone between skills and queue (marked with the red arrow in the screen show above) that cannot be sized down by itself. (The gap between skill names and their states seems pretty wide as well.)

Anyway, there is always EVE Mon still if I need a more compact view.  Oh, and your character sheet is different now, lacking all those skills… and I hope you remembered to put pants on your avatar.

A fuller body view now

All of this comes with a couple of big changes to skills queues:

  • The current limit of 50 skill entries in the queue will be increased to 150 for both Alpha and Omega clones.
  • The current restriction of the Alpha clone training queue allowing only the skills that would start training within the next 24h will also be removed.

As somebody who came from the “one skill at a time and make sure you start a long skill the night before the next patch update” era, these seem huge.  150 skills in the queue will let you build up a might skill plan… I’ve bumped into the 50 skill limit a few times since it became a thing… and the removal of the 24 hour queue limit will be huge for new players.

And old players.  I can even now see people rolling up a new alpha, sending it the ISK for skills, setting up the desired queue, then letting it run for however long it takes until that suicide gank character or whatever is on the shelf and ready to use.  There is no improvement that EVE players will fail to exploit.

There are a few other items with today’s update.  A new skill points for sale pack is in the store.  EVE Online will be available in the Epic Store come September 23rd.  And, in a nod to the promise to relax the economic starvation plan (now planned for November), there was this tidbit slipped in at the bottom of the announcement:

More ice has been brought back into New Eden with its availability having doubled, and the availability of Mercoxit has also increased.

I wonder if the ice availability got boosted due to the jump drive fuel crisis that hit the game when World War Bee ended and PAPI had to move home?  Anyway, there is alleged to be more ice now.

So that is the what has come with the launch of the new quadrant.  Here are the related dev posts for today’s update: