Tag Archives: It’s Friday man

Friday Bullet Points About New Eden

Some little things about EVE Online in one post because I can’t quite get a full post about any one thing going.

  • Anniversary Gifts Claim

If you were as diligent as I was, then today you ought to be able to claim the 16th and final gift for the game’s 16th anniversary.

Last gifts for me

The final gift was a lot of skill points.

Skill points are always the right size

Before this I had over a million unallocated skill points, now I have over two million.  I keep saving them in case I need a skill quickly.  Right now I can get a long skill like Fleet Command V if I need it.  But do I need it.

If you missed a day or two… and somehow I fell behind on one account… you can still keep doing the daily redeem thing for two more days.

  • Will War Come Tomorrow?

On Monday I was writing about the coming war, now on Friday I wonder if it will come at all.  There is a State of the Goonion slated for tomorrow, after which we are supposed to move to war.  However, the most likely targets, Pandemic Legion and Northern Coalition, have, according to Reddit, packed up their stuff to evac to low sec.  This must be that Fabian defense I have heard so much about.

Anyway, we will hear about our destination, if there is one, tomorrow.  It will be amusing if it isn’t Tribute and PL/NCDot, but even if it is we’ll still go blow up all their ihubs.

  • CSM14 Candidate Applications Closed

The window for registering to be a candidate for CSM14 closed at the start of the week.  If you are still thinking about running, it is too late.

While we won’t get the official ballot from CCP until May 25th at EVE Down Under, you can look at the current estimated list of candidates over at CSM Wire.  They have identified 42 candidates so far.

Evaluating the chances of various candidates pretty much means asking who their constituency is.  Aryth will be at the top of the Imperium ballot, a built-in constituency, so he is pretty much guaranteed a seat.  Others like Steve Ronuken or Mike Azariah have built independent constituencies over the years, so seem likely to return.

One interesting addition to the list this year is Matterall, the owner/host of Talking in Stations.  While he is a null sec bloc player, he has his own popular constituency based on his show.

A bunch of people on that list though, they have no visible constituency.  We’ll see if they have some real support when the winners are announced on June 22nd at EVE North.  Only 10 people get elected, and I can spot at least 10 candidates with viable followings.  My gut-level guess at winners right now, in no particular order:

  1. Ayrth
  2. (whoever gets #2 spot on the Imperium ballot)
  3. Dunk Dinkle
  4. Matterall
  5. Steve Ronuken
  6. Manic Velocity
  7. Mike Azariah
  8. Vily
  9. BlazingBunny
  10. BigChols

That would be 7 null sec players, 6 if you count Matterall as an outsider, but I doubt people will, which would be about par for the course.

  • Empires of EVE II Update

On the one year anniversary of the end of the Kickstarter Campaign for Empires of EVE Vol. II, Andrew Groen put out an update.  While the initial estimate for the book was this month, stretch goals and complications have pushed out the ship date to the end of 2019.  However, it sounds like a lot of progress has been made and that it will be a solid follow on to the original book.

  • EVE Classic

With the rush of news about WoW Classic earlier this week retro enthusiast have been agitating for various other dream trips back to old versions of MMOs, and EVE Online has not been spared.

But an EVE Online Classic would be a disaster for the game.  Leaving aside giant technical issues (as we saw at BlizzCon last year, that WoW Classic was possible depended a lot on luck, and CCP ain’t ever that lucky) and the civil war that would erupt over defining what era is “classic,” EVE Online is not WoW or EQ.  It cannot be chopped up into a bunch of discreet servers and remain viable.  WoW you could play solo or with a few friends or with a big guild, and not notice much difference, depending on what you want out of the game.  A server with 100 regulars would probably be an okay experience.

EVE Online though, it depends on everybody being on the same server.

You can bring up Singularity, the Chinese server, if you want, but you’ll note that major groups from there have moved to Tranquility because, basically, a second server isn’t really viable.

EVE Online depends on its in-game economy like no other game I have played, and that requires a critical mass of players.  Splitting off a bunch of players from Tranquility… and we have seen with retro servers in other games like EQ and LOTRO that a bunch of the players come straight from the live servers… and the market is at risk.  And if the market goes, if players can’t go to Jita or Amarr to reship and reload, things grind to a halt pretty quickly.

Also, if you are dreaming of another server where you can leave Goons and gankers and scammers and botters and pirates and blobs behind, forget about it.  When you’re done creating your character and pass through the tutorial you will find that they have all gotten there ahead of you, and will be all the more efficient at restoring things to their play style due to years of experience.  The people you hate, they are always the most likely to show up to the party.

Top Five Problems with EVE Online

It is like New Eden editorial week here at TAGN.

With Wednesday’s rambling rant I foolishly used EVE Online as an example of focus.  It was foolish because any mention of EVE Online will seem like an invite for somebody to come and hijack the comment thread and to complain that the game is dying because CCP is neglecting their little corner of space.

Revelations - November 2006

My first EVE Online expansion

“EVE is Dying” is a favorite topic in the community, and the reason is usually, as noted above, because CCP is neglecting some corner of the current user base.  But it is a long running MMORPG and one of the ways to keep an MMO from dying is to attract new players.  CCP has launched into that with Alpha clones and a revamped new player experience.  But there are still things standing in the way of new players joining the game.

The Name

It sounds like a porn site, or maybe something to promote feminine hygiene products.  What it doesn’t sound like is an internet spaceship MMORPG.

Yes, you and I know it is a biblical reference and that is used to include “the second genesis” in the title just to make that clear.  But absent that insight, if you were looking at a list of MMORPGs and wanted to play something in outer space, which are you going to look at first, something named after a popular science fiction franchise (SWTOR or STO maybe) or something that shares a name with one of the co-defendants in Apple-gate?

2003

That was the year that EVE Online launched.  Consoles of the time were the PlayStation 2, the original XBox, the GameCube, and the GameBoy Advance.  That was back when the first Call of Duty was launched, when Toontown Online kicked off, when EverQuest only have five expansions, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was a big deal.

That make EVE Online pretty old in gaming years.  And while it has been pretty much constantly updated over its life, the years still weigh on the game.  An outsider may dismiss it because of its age.  Some players like the game but simply wear out over time.  Bitter vets hang on, looking for one more high point, another good fight or memorable event that will make a story.  The rich get richer in ISK and skill points and new players can feel daunted entering a universe with a hierarchy often dictated by age/time with the game, where corps and alliances can easily have a decade of history under their belt.

Oh That Reputation

Where to even start on this?  Be the villain?

EVE Online is a PvP MMORPG.  There is no flagging, no care bear server, no safety once you undock your ship.  PvP games have a reputation for attracting the worst people to start with.  The joke back in early EverQuest was that SOE rolled out PvP servers to concentrate all the assholes in their own corner and away from the rest of the player base.

Of course, CCP didn’t stop at simply making their game PvP  They allow things that would get you banned in WoW, all in furtherance of the sandbox.  They push that ideal so far that they can seem unsure as to whether or not you can cross a line, as we saw with the bonus room scandal or, more recently, anti-Semitic symbolism in the alliance tournament.

So the game has a reputation built on some bad events and enhanced by a legion of people who hate the game… or who hate the idea of the game, because they’ve clearly never logged in… and who clog up comment threads on gaming sites whenever a story about the game runs.

I was in a Facebook group for old Air Warrior players and at one point somebody put up a post asking what games everybody was playing currently.  I put EVE Online on my response, and another guy in the group just lost his head about it being a horrible game where people swat you to steal your stuff.  Now, granted, this guy was a Star Citizen fan boy who was dedicated destroying all other space sims to further the cause of his God, Chris Roberts (he eventually killed the group by spamming it with Star Citizen posts), but he wasn’t going on about how horrible Elite: Dangerous players were, just that it was a shadow of what Star Citizen would eventually be.  But he knew that hitting EVE with its reputation was an easy shot, something that would scare people away from this threat to his precious.

There are a lot of people out there eager to say bad things about New Eden, and a number of them are people paying to play the game.

The User Interface

The EVE Online store features a T-shirt that says, “How do I warp to something?” that would be very funny were it not so true.

I will grant that CCP had a serious problem in trying to represent three dimensional space travel on a 2D screen where there can be dozens to hundreds to thousands of things in space and around you.  The camera, brackets, the tactical overlay, and the overview work together to try and get you what you need to know.  And sometimes it is just the right balance and it works.

And then you hit bracket overflow and it is killing your performance so you have to turn them off, which makes the camera just a source of pretty pictures.  Meanwhile the overview has 50 pages of information in it so you sort by distance, but the FC wants you to sort by name and target somebody with a name close to yours alphabetically, only your name starts with “W” so you’re trying to find that and then another hostile fleet warps in range and now you aren’t sure who to target then the FC, realizing this, tells everybody to go to a destroyer only overview, but you scroll down the long list of overviews and find you don’t have one, but you have a frigate overview which includes destroyers so you select that and the enemy completely disappears because it is an old overview and doesn’t have T3 or command destroyers selected because when CCP adds new stuff it is off by default in overviews so you’re digging in the settings trying to find the right boxes to check and the FC tells the fleet to align but you’re almost there and you check them and suddenly the overview is populated by hostiles yellow boxing you and then the FC warps you off but you’re not aligned yet and are dead before you get off grid and the FC wants to know what they hell you were doing and you say, “Sorry, phone rang” and slink off because the real story is too much to say over coms and finally somebody pods you so you can log off.

True story.  And I had been playing the game for about 8 years when that happened so I was able to tell what was wrong and try to fix it on the fly.  To paraphrase Yahtzee Croshaw “The overview is like the working class, if you cannot control it, it will seek to destroy you.”

And the overview is just one part of a UI that is often very unhelpful about telling you what you need to know to do what you want to do.  And not being able to do what you want to do because the UI isn’t helping can be hugely frustrating.

Ship and Module Complexity

I would love CCP to give us a count of how many people have that damage table about what damage type to use against which NPCs as their biography.  That so many people feel the need to put that there to remember what sort of ammo to load is a pretty clear sign of something.

As with the UI, CCP has a problem in that equipment in the game doesn’t map to most other entries in the MMORPG space.  Medieval fantasy is so popular in part because the gear is easy.  A helmet protects your head.  Some number shows you how well, and you can compare that to other helmets to see which one to wear.  A sword does damage.  Another number tells you how much and you can compare your sword against new ones.

Spaceships and the equipment for them though… a little more complex.

I consider myself lucky in that I started as Caldari back in 2006.  Missiles were a weapons option and missiles are easy.  I tinkered with rail guns, the other Caldari weapon system, but went back to missiles.  There are only four basic flavors of missiles, one for each damage type, heat, explosive, kinetic, and electro-magnetic.

Missiles have flight time, so they do not apply damage immediately like the other options, but they don’t miss due to transverse movement.  No tracking worries, just get something in range, have the right flavor loaded, and shoot.

Of course, a new player picking ammo still have a slew of choices if they look up light missiles on the market.

Not shows, defender light missiles

Not shown, defender light missiles

Then there are rockets, which are the shorter ranger but higher damage alternative to light missiles which have their own parallel ammo selection.  And then there are the various flavors of launchers, modules which can enhance missile damage, hulls with bonuses to missiles, and even implants to improve missile performance.

Such variety exists for all the basic weapon systems for each empire, and that is just offense.  There is also defense, how to beef up your ships defenses or keep them repaired as well as mobility and targeting and stealth and scanning and probing and fleet boosts and probably a few more things I am forgetting.  The idea of giving Alpha clones access only to their own empire’s ships makes more sense when you look at all of this.  At least your Gallente pilot is just going to have to learn about drones and hybrid weapons, since lasers and projectiles won’t be an option.

Now, such complexity isn’t a bad thing from one angle.  There is enough rock-paper-scissors going on that there isn’t one absolute winning doctrine we all fly.  Theory crafting fits is a viable pastime in New Eden.  But for the new player… or the player that just wants to undock and shoot something without learning the fine craft of fitting… it is a serious issue.

Bonus Item: Terminology

POS, station, starbase, outpost, citadel, complex, depot, welp, gate, jump, cyno, beacon, bridge, bomb, smart bomb, hictor, dictor, tank, alpha, Alpha, point, web, scram, tackle, bubble, drag bubble, camp, gank, FC, anchor, logi, perch, scan, probe, and so on and so on and so on.

When EVE Online players speak or write about the game, we often drop into the jargon of the game, made more dense by our own shorthand for in-game concepts, that makes understanding what is going difficult for the outsider.

And sometimes it is difficult for the insider as well.  Earlier this week CCP announced that after next week’s patch players would no longer be able to deploy outposts.  I was pretty sure that meant the deployment of what we generally call “stations” in null sec, but I went and read it carefully to be sure.  But that didn’t stop people in the forums from jumping on this announcement thinking that CCP meant Player Owned Starbases, those structures built around a tower that have been, among other things, the only way to mine moons and build capital ships up until now.

Problems versus Problems

Having removed the barrier to entry that was the subscription (sort of) and assuming that the updated new player experience is no longer going to drive people away, those are what I see as the top five problems with EVE Online because they are barriers to getting new people to try the game and to help replace the attrition that any MMORPG faces over time.  To me that trumps most bitter vet complaints that are generally balance and mechanics issues.

Some of my list can’t be fixed.  The game will always be from 2003, and changing the name would cause more problems than it would solve at this point.  Other items on my list are double edge swords.  The reputation does bring some people to the game, as a challenge if nothing else, while the complexity of ship fitting gives the game depth and does lead to interesting choices. As for the UI… well, that has been a work in progress for 13 years.  It is better now that it was when I showed up in 2006.

But the fact that you can’t fix a problem, or can’t fix it easily, or can’t fix it today, doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem.

Anyway, those are my picks.  I am sure you have your own ideas about what is wrong with EVE Online.  I won’t even argue with you in the comments.

Addendum: Or maybe some new masters will change some of these points.

Addendum: Po Huit takes this list and runs with it.

Google Tells Me Nearly All Games are Dead

There is a game you can play with Google… well, there are probably many, but this is one of them… where you enter the name of something, followed by “is” to see what pre-filled search suggestions come up.  These results are driven by what people have searched for previously.

As I was playing this game the other night instead of doing something important, I began to notice a trend in my searches.  It seemed like Google was declaring most everything dead.

Sure, sometimes that was apt.

GSAbeVigodais

Abe Vigoda, after being reported dead by mistake on multiple occasions over the years, does indeed now sleep with the fishes, having passed earlier this year.

And sometimes the result wasn’t so spot on:

GSObamais

I’m pretty sure somebody would have mentioned if he was dead… or a mack daddy.

I decided to see if that trend held for video games on my side bar.  First on the list was, of course, EVE Online:

GSEVEis

Given that “EVE is dying…” is practically an meme at this point, that wasn’t too surprising.

Likewise, EverQuest, at 17 years of age got a similar result:

GSEQis

At least it wasn’t both “dead” and “dying” I suppose.  Of course, that last item lead me to World of Warcraft:

GSWoWis

Three of those aren’t so good, “dead,” “dying,” and “boring.”  Even EVE Online didn’t get “boring” as a top result.  That lead to a series of other titles, all of which at least got dead as a result:

GSGW2is

GSLOTROis

GSRiftis

GSWildStaris

I had a whole run there where “dead” wasn’t just a result, but the top result.  Then I started branching out from MMOs:

GSSCis

GSTF2is

I finally hit a game where “dead” wasn’t the top result, though I am not sure that was a good thing:

GSStarCis

Even Minecraft got “dead” as a result, though at least it was in fourth position, which was practically an endorsement at this point:

GSMinecraftIs

Hey, “awesome” came before “dead!”

Landmark was odd, but I think it suffers from having a generic name:

GSLandmarkis

Still, I think “dead” might be in there just for it.

Then, finally, I hit a game that wasn’t dead:

GSLOLis

League of Legends is only “dying,” not “dead.”  Also, it is “gay,” which I think says more about the demographic that is searching for things about it.  Still, it is doing better than Heroes of the Storm:

GSHotSis

“Dead,” “dying,” “bad,” and “free!”

Then at last, I hit a search where “dead” wasn’t even a result:

GSHearthis

I’m not sure Hearthstone was really winning with that draw.  I mean sure, “dead” wasn’t on the list, but the rest was hardly an endorsement.

Friday Morning in a Hot Spell

It has been close to 100 degrees here almost all week… which is actually pretty normal in Silicon Valley at this time of year.  My memories from childhood and the start of school always included some really hot days a week or two into things, just in time to find that the air conditioning in one building or another had broken down over the summer.  And so my daughter gets to experience the same.

So in the cool of the evening I am throwing together a few items too short for posts of their own.  The return of bullet point Friday!

  • Asheron’s Busy Signal

Asheron’s Call was put into unsupported limbo, being free but essentially unsupported, by Turbine some time back.  Now we are getting a taste of what that might mean in the long term.  MMO Fallout reported earlier this week that the game had been brought down for maintenance a couple weeks back and failed to come up again and has been unavailable ever since.

asherons_call_full_logoThe thread reporting the problem has been updated and indicates that moving that transferring the Asheron’s Call to Turbine’s new data center, where the LOTRO servers are going as well, would be expedited, but that the game would not be up again until that happened.  The statement was that the game should be up by Friday.

They just did not say which Friday.

However, it appears it might be today, as people at the end of the forum thread are reporting that they can log in.  There has been no official announcement or update since August 31.

Addendum: Turbine posted about the servers being up on Facebook, though no word yet in the official forums, where players are looking for compensation for the down time.  I say refund them double their money!  Wait, the game is free?

  • The Wonder about Drunder

Daybreak announced their isle of misfit players, the Drunder prison server, back in August.  However, we haven’t heard much since.  Over at Atheren’s Adventures there was a report of a thread about the new server over on the Daybreak forums.

Fortress of Drunder is included on the Drunder server

Fortress of Drunder is included on the Drunder server

The thread kicks off with a post from somebody who has been banished to the new server and has found that it isn’t actually working yet.  How do you open a ticket on a server where you have been denied all support?  Anyway, there is clearly a hole in the system if people so banned can still post on the forums.  The rest of the forum thread is mostly scorn for cheaters, questions about what gets your there (as opposed to just outright banned), and why Daybreak has bothered with this at all.  Key comment from the announcement thread:

Update from drunder: server was a complete flop, no one plays there. Banned people continue to just make new accounts.

Still some of the old SOE “Hey, let’s just try this!” moxie left in Daybreak I guess.

  • Transfers Begin in Middle-Earth

The server consolidation effort for Lord of the Rings Online, which was referenced at the beginning of the year in the Producer’s Letter and for which we finally got some concrete details early last month, looks to be kicking off next week.

There is a post up on the forums indicating that the first two servers up for free, one-way transfers will be the US server Elendilmir and the EU server Estel.

Players on EU servers will be able to transfer to one of the following servers:

  • Belegaer
  • Evernight
  • Gwaihir
  • Laurelin
  • Sirannon

Players on US servers will be able to transfer to one of the following servers:

  • Arkenstone
  • Crickhollow
  • Gladden
  • Landroval

The US server Brandywine remains off the list of possible destinations for the time being.

  • Saying No to Windows 10

Long gone are the days when I would install a new operating system on day one or, heaven forbid, during beta.  I think the last beta OS I installed on a machine I owned was Mac OS 7.1, part of the System 7 chain of releases, and I regretted it.  I don’t even want to  get into the pros and cons of Windows 10.  I am happy and everything is working on Windows 7, so there is no reason to change.  I’ll move when I need to.

However, Microsoft seems quite intent on telling me about Windows 10 every day when I start up my system.  I am not interested in a “free” copy of Windows 10.

This, every single day

This, every single day

Finally sick of that, I decided to try to at least do away with that notification.  As it turns out, Microsoft slipped that in as part of the Windows Update cycle as KB3035583.  Uninstalling that update removed the daily reminder about Windows 10.

Unfortunately, Microsoft is so eager to hand out copies of Windows 10 that they might be pushing it to people who haven’t even opted in.  Just what I need clogging up space on my SSD.  Something else to fix.

Summer Reruns – The War in Fountain

Technically summer starts tomorrow according to the conspiracy of pendants and calendar makers, for whom there must be a set of fixed dates for something as nebulous as a “season,” but I still think of summer as just being June, July, and August, those being the span of “summer vacation” from school when I was a child.

And here we are in the latter half of June, with E3 behind us and the annual Steam Summer Sale under way (see, Steam is with me!) and I haven’t anything new to write about.  Sometimes I just get to the Friday post and draw a blank.

But that is okay, I’m all about nostalgia most days of the week, so it is time to drag out the Summer Rerun post format and bring back some posts on a specific topic.

This time it is the War in Fountain from last year, which ran from early June into August and saw the demise of TEST Alliance as a power on the null sec sovereignty map.

Reinforcements bridge in

6VDT-H Fight

This is essentially my diary from the war.  I just so happened to “be there” for a lot of the key moments, from the first battles over J5A in Caracals and Tengus to the clean up at L7-APB in Megathrons and dreadnaughts.

These posts reference a number of other sources and, as is the way of the internet, have suffered from a certain amount of link rot.  The biggest missing pieces are battle reports from EVE News 24, which appears to have purged all of their pre-2014 posts.  So supporting reports are pretty much limited to The Mittani.

In addition, I did a couple of posts about the propaganda war in Fountain, which was as hard fought as any aspect of the campaign.

And, finally, there is what I consider the video of the war:

There are so many “I was there” moments for me in that video that it, as much as anything, brings back the feelings I had during the campaign.

So that is the war in Fountain.  It represents my high water mark for involvement in EVE Online so far.  While there have been wars and deployments since, including the battle at B-R5RB, nothing has matched Fountain to this point.  It is up there with being in West Karana in early EverQuest or the instance group in vanilla WoW on my list of great MMO times.

Now to go watch Boat’s Oddity again.

Should Blizzard Expand the Starter Edition?

Technically… if you look at it from the right angle and the sun is shining from behind it and you squint your eyes just right… World of Warcraft has a free to play option.

WoWStarterEdition

It is called The Starter Edition, and it lets you create an account, download WoW, and play for as long as you want, no credit card required or anything.

There are just a few restrictions:

  • Can’t play expansion-restricted content (new classes, continents, etc).
  • Can’t exceed level 20, 10 gold, and 100 trade skill ranks.
  • Can’t participate in Pet Battles.
  • Can’t chat in channels other than say and party.
  • Can’t whisper another character unless they add you to their friends list.
  • Can’t create or join guilds, invite players into a party, or create calendar invitations.
  • Can’t disable experience gains.
  • Can’t trade, mail, or use the Auction House.
  • Can’t use voice chat or Real ID.
  • Can’t use value added services (character transfers, faction changes, etc).

Something about a long list of negative statements make me want to say, “Don’t do what Donny Don’t does.”

Anyway, aside from those restrictions, you’re free to go about your business, stay as long as you want, and enjoy as much of Azeroth as you can soak up.

I have no idea how successful the “Starter Edition” has been, if it actually brings new players into the game in any significant numbers, or if Blizzard just keeps it around to ward off suggestions about going free to play.  Look, we’re already free-ish!  But it has been around for a while now… I recall it starting somewhere between Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria…. and I started wondering if it ought to change.

Well, actually I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, “Why stop at level 20?”

Sure, there are reasons, both historic and emotional for level 20 being the cap.

Historically, in any number of old games (EverQuest or TorilMUD for example), level 20 was sort of a coming of age point.  You could see all your stats.  You had enough skills and had learned to use them.  You could petition for a last name.  You probably made a few friends along the way.  It was time to venture out into the wider world, into zones not adjacent to your home town, and really get yourself into trouble.

And the first 20 levels of play can sometimes seem like the most enjoyable.  There are few decisions to be made and not much tramping about the world is required.  Everything is fresh and new and simple.  This is the happy vision you want to sell.  Once they pay their money, then they can get mired in Stranglethorn Vale or try to find their way up to the Plaguelands.

On the flip side of all that, 20 zips up on you pretty quickly in WoW these days.  Sure, it is a milestone in that you can buy a mount, but not much else gets unlocked.  And in terms of play time, 40 feels like the new 20.

So why shouldn’t they raise the cap on the starter edition to 40?

40 gets you to the mount level once known as epic, the 100% speed boost ground mount.

How about 60?

You can go to 60, but can’t train for flying mounts or run off into any of the expansion content.

Or is that going too far, giving away too much content or letting people get into what might be considered the grind of the mid-game?

What, if anything, should Blizzard change?

Is the Learning Cliff EVE’s Biggest Problem These Days?

This picture is pretty much a staple of MMORPG lore now.

Learning Curves

Learning Curves

The objective is to show how insanely hard/deep EVE Online is compared to the standard MMORPGs.  There are many things you can do in EVE, many career paths which you can follow, but the game is quite miserly in doling out information about them.  The learning cliff was the biggest obstacle I faced back when I started playing, which was almost 8 years ago at this point.

At EVE Fanfest this year, CCP had a panel on the new player experience (video here) in which they trotted out some depressing figures, represented by this chart (which is discussed in the video at the 16 minute mark for about two and a half minutes).

New Player Trajectory

New Player Trajectory

Basically, of new players who subscribe… which means that they got past the trial account period and actually paid money… half of them leave by the time their first subscription period runs out.  After putting down money, they decide the game isn’t for them and they are gone.

Another large chunk goes on into mission running or mining and never goes any further.  That is certainly where the current new player experience pushes you.  That is the route I took way back when I started playing EVE, two or three new player experiences ago. (The tutorial was a lot less smooth back then.)  It is basically the closest EVE has to a standard MMORPG progression path.

But as with leveling in games like WoW, there is a limit to it.  You end up the master of level 4 missions or you earn and skill yourself up to mining in a Hulk… or I guess a Mackinaw these days… and there isn’t much more to do other than grind rep with specific factions, make ISK, and do the same thing over and over again.  So those people tend to end up leaving as well.

And then there is the small group, described as 5-10% of players who pay/subscribe, who end up beyond missions and mining.  They engage in more of the wide range of activities that make up EVE Online, get involved in PvP, appear on kill mails, and stay with the game for a long time.

Clearly, if you have a game whose revenue benefits most from retaining subscribers for the long term, this chart represents a problem.

CCP’s response in the video is to try to get the new player experience to push people into areas of the game that have high retention rates.  I might ask if people stay longer because they do those things, or do they do those things because they stay longer, but I’ll allow for the moment that CCP has data that drives their assumption.

There is a not insubstantial number of players out there who look at that chart and say, “Well, duh!  Provide a richer (and safer) PvE experience!”  To make money, give people what they want.

That can lead to a more philosophical discussion.  CCP clearly has a goal and a vision for EVE Online.  Does altering that vision, which appeals to a good number of their long term subscribers, to chase another demographic make sense?  That sort of thing has blown up in developer faces in the past with things like the NGE in Star Wars Galaxies or Trammel in Ultima Online.

And that still leaves the biggest group, the 50% of players who just walk away without even getting into missions or mining, a group that I would guess is actually vastly under represented in that chart.

A reader dropped me a note that, among other things, pointed out that the chart above doesn’t address people who download and play the trial, made it through the tutorial, and then never subscribed.  We don’t have any data on that, but I would guess that if you included those people in the chart, people who invested enough time to get through the tutorial, that 50% number would grow substantially.

Now, why they dropped the game is unknown.  There are a few possible reasons, including the incomprehensible UI.  But the same reader also included what he went through with the new player experience:

I started working my way through the industrial tutorials…and about halfway through you need to gather resources from within the system, but it isn’t your own private patch of asteroids.  This is a basic function, and I’m fine with it.  The problem is, while tooling around the system in which the tutorials are offered, I get harrassed and threatened by no less than 3 different players over the course of two hours, stating I need a permit to mine there…threatening to blow me out of space…demanding an insane amount of ISK from someone who’s spent a total of 3 or 4 hours in game…and finally threatening to report me as a bot if I don’t pay up and get out.

A few people got angry at me the other day because I mentioned that a player (actually two) on his first day in the game was out in a fleet with us and tackling hostiles.  I was accused of putting forth an anecdotal fallacy, ignoring the fact that I wasn’t arguing that their experiences were typical for new players in the game, misunderstanding… perhaps deliberately… the difference between capability and opportunity.  That it is possible speaks well for EVE.  That such opportunities can be difficult to find does not.

The quote above is also an anecdote, yet I will guess that the very same people who cried “fallacy” a few days back won’t do so again.  It fits their narrative about bad people in EVE.  And there are certainly bad people in EVE.  I don’t think CCP changing their ad campaign from “Be the Villain” to “Be the Hero/Villain” will alter that. (Nor do I think the “Be the Villain” campaign changed the game in any noticeable way in any case.)  To use the tale above as evidence of widespread bad behavior would be a fallacy.

But I will go back to capability and opportunity.

You can assert that some new players may not have the opportunity to get their legs and discover good aspects of the game before the harsh realities come and find them.  More concerning is that “bad” people, for lack of a better term, have to capability of going after new players while they are still getting their first impression of the game.  When you get a PvP game where the established players start thinking that going after the new players in the starting zone is good sport, and the devs do nothing about it, the writing is on the wall.

So I want to know more about that 50% on the chart above.  Because if new players can’t make it out of the tutorial without facing that sort of thing, if they think the player base sucks before they have had a chance to discover the game, then the writing is on the wall for EVE and all the “HTFU” in the world won’t bring it back.

You can argue about what CCP should do about it.  I am sure suggestions will range from putting the tutorials in their own instanced space… though you still have to enter the real game at some point… to making high sec space PvP free… a complete departure from CCP’s philosophy and something in the NGE range of options.  But if new players are important to the game… and they are… then CCP needs to look at that 50% who just leave and why they go.