CCP Rise gave an interesting presentation on CCP’s plans for the EVE new player experience. They have clearly given it some thought, and their thoughts are clearly backed by data. But there is an air of impatience to it all. I understand. They appear to have a near-term attrition rate of around 56% among new players who commit to accounts. They have said nothing about their attrition rate among trial accounts.
The goal is that new players should join alliances. Players in alliances are less likely to leave. As tentative as it is, the general idea of “opportunities” to entice new players is promising. The problem of retention runs far deeper than the ill-conceived tutorial, which I will not dwell on because it is a known problem which CCP is investigating.
If you are new, the most obvious thing you can do in a social game is to make a conversation with the people visible around you. In EVE, this is strangely difficult. Your only obvious choices are a one-on-one conversation, which is a particular level of intimacy, or /shouting yourself to everyone in the solar system. By far the most popular and social means of communication is outside the game, in gated servers that often require significant levels of security and disclosure before you even know where to find them. How new player friendly is it to require people who still don’t know how to fly their ship by double-clicking to navigate the character API interface? I am not asking for every alliance to open their TeamSpeak servers to all comers. I am saying that CCP has to find a way to fill this void. So that this is not merely a rant, I will offer some ideas.
- My alliance mate Duncan Ringill suggested that corporations have the option of publishing skill training goals and ship fits. New players can compare what they have learned to the published options and get training goals, as well as a concrete sense of which corps will take them and what they should bring. If a corp or alliance has open comms, that should also be published in the information provided to players searching for corps and alliances. Corporations who do not wish to attract new players can simply not publish anything.
- ‘Local’ should be an on-grid chat channel, and there should be a brief “ping” animation when a ship’s pilot posts there. The current ‘Local’ can become ‘Solar System’ or something similar. This would enlarge the game considerably: currently, each system is like one big room, which has always disappointed me. It is an entire solar system! It should feel like a vast space.
- Once EVE has single sign-on, EVE Voice should be per-player rather than per character (although the settings should remain per-character) so that a player can remain on comms between characters without resorting to a third-party tool.
More important than any of these specifics is newcomers have reasons to stay with the game while they acclimate to EVE’s depth, however long that takes. If we are to preserve the absolute sandbox nature of EVE, then we cannot also require new players to dive in to the deep end immediately. It must be easy for them to pick themselves up if they are beaten down. It must be easy for them to find people to talk to with only the in-game tools. It must be easy for them to find corporations to join. Those corporations should have criteria which are clear and easily found. Until the new player has found a home, they should not ever lack for opportunities. They will only ever learn on their own time.