Why “Expert Systems” Won’t Create Expert Players and How to Change It

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In a recently published article, CCP introduced their newest way to “help” new players in EVE Online. You might think it would be a better tutorial, a more guided approach to learning the nuanced mechanics of the game, or even a meaningful way to shoe new players into groups that fit their playstyle. It isn’t. Instead, it’s a get-skills-quick scheme that encourages new EVE players to open their wallets as soon as possible. This is thinly veiled as a way to get new players out and about and playing the game, interacting with rocks and NPCs, among other things.

With this new set of packages, capsuleers can “discover and experience new activities” by purchasing specific packs of skills that they can try for one week. These packs can be purchased as many times as a person desires and give access to skills that can take anywhere between 9 days to more than 70 days to train. This means that some of these packs could be purchased ten times before the capsuleer purchasing them could normally train the skills. Instead of buying the packs, well, they could just buy skill injectors. You know, with all that ISK new players earn from their training missions.

From the outside in, this looks like your standard run-of-the-mill microtransaction. It’s something that makes it easy for a new player to experience something enough to get hooked on it. It’s something that makes that new player open up their wallet and “put some skin in the game” as CSM representative Brisc Rubal says. Dunk Dinkle, a former CSM representative, had different sentiments, “I spent a lot of my time on the CSM trying to get CCP to make the Magic 14 less of a hurdle and possibly a reward for completing tutorials to allow players to do more, faster.  To see it become an EVE Store purchase is disheartening.” Dunk and I are on exactly the same page here.

There are a handful of meaningful changes that could be made to the way new players are introduced to New Eden. I’m no coding expert and won’t pretend to be so I have no idea how difficult these changes would be to implement. Fair warning, some of the things I’ll talk about in this editorial will be head in the clouds type changes. But, for now, just let me dream.

Hang the Tutorial and Make the Epic Arcs Introductions into Mechanics, Skill Points and EVE

First things first, let’s talk about the tutorial for new players in EVE Online. While it has been at least 3 years since I went through these first tutorial missions, I periodically create a new character just to see the progress on the new-player experience’s development. My tutorial experience was to complete several missions related to combat, retrieval, mining, and exploration and then take my shiny new Rifter (that was rewarded to me for completion of quests) and drive it straight into a hive of enemies- destroying the hive and my new favorite ship in the process. This marginally taught me about loss in EVE Online and set the expectation that I need to do the following to succeed in the game: approach, lock, and orbit. This guidance was echoed in a more recent foray into the tutorial when I was going to start streaming a look at the new player experience from day 1 to day 30, exploring the ins and outs of a player’s introduction to EVE.

This approach, while an easy introduction to how to lose ships in EVE, is not something that properly explains the universe of New Eden or offers anything of value throughout the process. In my mind, a better approach would be to hang the tutorial all-together and, instead, guide new players to an epic arc, like the Sisters of EVE storyline. Doing this would allow a new player to experience everything the game has to offer in a more controlled environment and, as the end of the storyline nears, they can venture into low and even null-security space to learn of the dangers of unrestricted space. Not only that, these missions could reward new players with their very first skillpoints– the Magic 14. Players wouldn’t need to be given level 5 in these skills but, as a reward for completing a related mission, could be given level 1 of the skill an learn a little more about why these skills are important. During this time, the skill queue could be disabled (with the ability to forgo the introductory missions at the cost of losing the opportunity to gain these skills through mission completion) which would make it less lucrative for a veteran player to create an alt to farm these missions for an easy boost to skill points to use for skill extractors.

Look at other MMOs, specifically World of Warcraft, one of if not the most played MMO in history. A new player starts in a starting zone. Every single new player of a specific race is given the exact same starting quest that sets them on their way to learning how to play the game. This introduction teaches them how to cast their abilities (even to drop them on their action bars for easy button pressing) and gives them a reason to do it. This same principle could apply to EVE Online in the introductory phase of a new player’s career. For example, give a player a mission to catch an elusive prey in a nearby system. This prey is always just 2% faster than the player’s ship. Once a player realizes that they are not fast enough to catch the target, Aura comes in and says “Maybe we should train the Navigation skill, it would make our ship faster for each level.” The new player trains the skill and suddenly is able to catch the target, completing the mission. This example not only gives this new player a reward in the form of their skill being trained for them, but teaches them to look deeper at the skill and see exactly what it does. The hope would be that this deeper look and investigative nature would carry on into future skill research and a way to show the pilot that they need to think before they train.

Another possibility is having side quests that are available that introduce new players to the lore of EVE Online. For instance, a mission to talk to Caldari and Minmatar representatives and find out why they hate each other. This could allow a player to “choose a side” in the conflict, encouraging them to join faction warfare space for player-vs-player action while also giving them a reason to fight for their chosen side. Imagine a world where a new player not only learns how to play the game (at a base level) but is given the skills required to do so and a reason to do it. Wouldn’t that be a boon for the retention of new players? Wouldn’t that be better than saying “Here are some skills you can try for a week for a few dollars. Come back next week if you haven’t bought PLEX to buy skill injectors to get the skills for yourself. Oh, you don’t know what skill injectors are? Well keep logging in every day and we’ll give you skill points for free or you can buy one of these new player only packs and get a heap of skill points. Oh, you don’t know where to put them? Okay here are some skills you can try for a week…” and so on.

Create a Worthwhile System for Assigning New Players “Recommended” Groups Based on Activities

In 2018, CCP launched the Activity Tracker, a tool used to track the activities of capsuleers in New Eden. It’s a personal tool, good for nothing more than taking a screenshot and bragging about how many NPC ships you’ve killed or how many systems you’ve jumped through in your career. What if, instead of using this tool for absolutely nothing, we used it to guide new players to groups that would fit their playstyle?

For example, let’s say a new player starts out and they’re super into exploring. They spend their time in EVE scanning down anomalies and diving deep into wormholes for that loot that they’re both excited and terrified to go after. Why not recommend they join a wormhole group with people in it that also spend a lot of time scanning down anomalies? Instead of showing them where the corporation finder is, why don’t we just try to find a corporation that’s a good fit for them. Hell, we could even create meaningful NPC corporations for each playstyle for each race. After playing for a while if a new player hasn’t joined another corporation, they get a recommendation to join one of these new NPC corporations. No leaders, no politics, no nonsense. Just grouping new players who like the same kinds of things so they can find other players to do it with!

We all have a pretty good idea of the impact a player joining a group has on them sticking around in EVE. Realistically, the community is the only reason most of us are still around. I feel like creating these communities of new players (maybe even moderated by ISDs) will allow them to learn and grow into capable pilots and prevent the conversation of “Which corporation do I join?” being so frequent, especially since the most common answer is “Join Brave, Horde, or KarmaFleet”. Once players are ready, they can move out into the already established groups. Maybe we can even have a max time they are allowed to be in the new player corporation (say 30 days) and then that player is asked to find a new place to call home using the corporation finder.

Stop Creating Packs for New Players to Purchase, Create Packs for Them to Earn by Playing the Game

While I understand that CCP Games is a business and, as a business, they need to have a steady stream of revenue to stay solvent. I am confident that they would see more revenue by focusing on more content instead of just more ways to spend money. What I mean by this is simple. Let’s say you want to introduce a new pack based on a particular in-game event. This pack is chock-full of skins and skill points and comes at a very affordable $44.99! That’s right, you can simply purchase this pack if you want to and get everything you could’ve gotten if you just did the event. Full stop! Why not, instead of offering the pack, you only offer it for completion of the event? Every single pay-to-win game in existence has a mechanic for players to earn the items that other players can grind for, why doesn’t EVE?

This would create a surefire increase in the amount of things to do in EVE Online as every event would be teeming with players trying to earn their in-game items. This not only increases the amount of travel (possible PVP), player interaction (possible PVP), and engagement levels (possible PVP) but also shows players that they can’t just throw money at EVE Online to get good at it. They have to participate and compete with other players to succeed. Sure, you’d still want to sell certain packs so that CCP can still make money, but those packs need to be able to be earned fully in-game so that players don’t feel that they must spend money on EVE to play.

While I understand that this would take away from CCP’s bottom line when it comes to sales of packs and SKINs, it would also create a worthwhile reason to keep players playing the game. Active engagement is equivalent to subscription numbers and I would imagine that the loss of sales from packs would be negated by the increase in subscriptions. Not only that but players could spend more money on PLEX, making that price point more affordable for those players that use in-game currency to pay for their monthly subscription.

So what’s the point here? Does it actually matter that CCP is planning on selling these packs? No, not in the long run. If there’s something else that they can do to make money off their player both new and old, they will. That’s their current business model. Money in the bank keeps power to the servers and the more they get, the better our experience. I’ve often been chastised for having too hopeful of an outlook on certain aspects of EVE Online. Most recently I was given quite the talking to for thinking that servers would be able to handle a massive titan fight in a reinforced system. However, wouldn’t it be nice if the new players that joined EVE actually had a reason to stick around without being referred and there wasn’t a company desperately trying to get them to open their wallets to get them on the hook?

I think so.


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Redline XIII
Redline XIIIhttps://www.newedenpost.com/
I am a 4-year veteran of EVE Online. Though my exploits are not legendary, I have spent time in several nullsec alliances as a fleet commander and am the self-proclaimed Hero of the North. I am also the editor-in-chief of the New Eden Post, executive producer of our streaming platform, and a host of CrossTalk.

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