Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Plight of the Newbro: Part 1

As I've mentioned before on Twitter and Facebook, the recent humble bundle sale inspired me to give Eve another try as a newbie. I dropped 5 bucks on a new account and set myself down to the brass tacks of giving Eve a try from a fresh perspective. Of course I can't erase 10 years of Eve playing experience, but by completely separating my new account from my main (no dual box help, no isk transfers, no name drops, complete fresh start) I hope to keep the experience as authentic as can be reasonably achieved.

CCP has stated on numerous occasions that new player on boarding and retention is a HUGE issue that needs constant tackle. The New Player Experience (NPE) needs to be as good as it can be to keep as many people as possibly playing the game and signing up for subs. First impressions are everything in today's gaming world. Once you get a new player to download and give your game a try, you've got a very short window in which to hook them in and keep them around. According to one of the presentations this past fanfest, this has been a challenge for Eve.

Creating a new Legacy

I had some initial choices to make with my new account. My main account has 2 Intaki and 1 Jin Mei character. DJ FunkyBacon is obviously my public face, Mirana is my main, and then I have a 3rd I just keep parked in a market system to buy stuff and set up shipping for stuff i need on my main out in the dregs of lowsec. Obviously, my main lot in Eve involved gratuitous violence and shooting at people while maintaining an income to support that lifestyle. I didn't see much being served by tracing down my old path, I know it too well, so for my fresh start I decided to head in a different direction.

I went for an Amarr character, Ni Kunni, and graduated from Hedion University. These choices used to mean a big deal in the old days, but also lead to just about everyone who knew enough about them to roll Caldari Achura characters with the release of RMR. We also used to not only be able to pick schools, but classes of instruction to start the game with around 800-900k SP and a decent start on being able to do something at least on a mediocre level almost right out of the gate. This is no longer the case.

It felt like the character creation was purely cosmetic. It didn't really affect anything one way or the other which race or bloodline I chose, and schools didn't seem to matter either. It seemed a lot more like picking my favorite color than making any real choices, but I also understand the reason for the shift to this. It was thought at some point a few years ago, that players just getting into the game couldn't quite grasp the consequences of making early decisions, and would often end up with a sub optimal character in terms of starting skills and attributes for what they would eventually want to do. Those people who were not really new, would tend to gravitate towards the generally optimal Achura line (Charisma being a generally useless stat, that line had higher average attributes in all other areas and a very low charisma).

Good or bad, all characters are pretty much created equal now, new players can focus on what looks nice, and need not worry about gimping themselves in the future. Less to worry about I suppose, but I found myself quite limited coming out of the gate. I knew coming into the game that it would probably be a great idea to claim my +9 all attributes booster (that works for the 1st 2 weeks of play only) and get some skills training right away, but I opted to wait until aura told me to. That took a little while, and she never told me how to claim that booster. I cheated, and grabbed it anyway.

The old tutorial from when I first started in 2003 (and wasn't much improved when I rebooted in 2005) was a simple, "here's how to fly, here's how to shoot, mine this rock, good luck" experience. The new tutorial is a lot of reading. It's got some good basic guidance, but I can't help but wonder how many people keep clicking "next" without fully reading or appreciating what this information represents. I managed to get through the initial Aura tutorials and on my way to the career agent system 2 jumps away without much incident.

For the career agents, I decided to do all 5 before making any decision about what to do next. I would let how impressed I was with what was on offer lead the way to the next step. It took me 2 evenings of play to get through it all, though I wasn't going for hardcore speed or anything. In the end, I found the business line to be most appealing to my new player as I had no friends yet, and the advanced military agent made it pretty plain that without friends I was likely to get munched up by bigger badder people than myself.

Strictly Business

My plan at this point was to attempt to make my way in eve as a business person. Trading may play some part in it at some point, but capital off the bat was an issue. I had maybe 1.5 million ISK, 2 frigates, 2 Ventures, and a Sigil from doing all the career agents. I attempted to run some level 1 missions, and followed that up with some mining to get a feel for which way to head in the business of capital gains.

There was a time, when I was originally a newbie, when the best mining ship a newbro could get in Gallente space was an Imicus (don't look at me like that, the ship was WAY different back then). At that time, mining in an Imicus and running level 1 missions amounted to around the same ISK. Missions were far more engaging for a new player back then than mining, so you can guess which way I went with it in 2003. That is not the case any more.

With the introduction of the Venture, once I was able to train some basic mining skills, the ISK income from mining and selling the ore outstriped running missions by quite a bit. Spending 15 minutes filling my venture with Plagioclaise amounted to around 780k ISK, while running a level 1 mission in the space of about 10 minutes was netting me in the 120-180k range after bounty payments.  It appeared that if I wanted to make the most money for my time as a new player, mining was going to have to be the way to go.

During the minutes and hours of watching my mining lasers blink, and between trips to station to offload, I imagined myself the captain of one of those crab boats on Deadliest Catch. I began to formulate a plan for advancement. Make some money mining, but sell the ore, don't dare re-process it yet. Build some capital, get better mining equipment and get the skills up for re-processing, and eventually manufacturing. If I could get a steady cash flow going, I could get myself started on my way of being an international businessman of mystery.

The Plight

The biggest problem with my plan that I could find was the excitement factor. It was about at 0. There's only so much "game play" involved in mining, but with it being by far the most lucrative of the very few options available to me, I felt more or less obligated to go in that direction. One can only watch the pretty blue of mining lasers blink for so long before the eye begins to twitch. I began to peruse Eve-O and fired up my main account while waiting for my ore hold to fill. This ended up being fairly convenient for keeping up with CSM stuff that's been going on, but I can't help but wonder how the average new player feels about this. There's quite literally nothing to do in eve while the ore hold fills up. I mean, you can explore the different interfaces and buttons, pull up the map.... that gets old pretty quick.

CCP may want to take a look at this, because I suspect that once the veneer wears off of the shiny ship, nice space visuals, and someone realizes they're using their game time to catch up on their reading, porn, or both, they may begin to realize that those things are even easier to catch up on without Eve running in the background. This may be where we start losing new players to the abyss.

There's really just no engagement in mining, and I've come to terms with the tediousness of mining being the reason I originally quit Eve and sold my first character back in the late summer of 2004. That's also why I've avoided it like the plague since I returned fresh in January of 2005. The fact that it appears, at least on the surface, to be the absolute best option to make money by far for a new player not immediately interested in hitting up the PVP path of FW in lowsec, does not help matters.

Let Me Tell You 'bout My Best Friend

I couldn't let my newbie story end on a sad note. One of the benefits of playing Eve for over 10 years is that I know a thing or two about how the game works. Everything is more fun with friends, but I needed to find the right kind of friends. I began hitting the in game recruitment ads looking for some carebears that looked like they had senses of humor.

It was a challenge sifting through all the ads of mining and industrial corporations claiming "new player friendly" but warning off people with less than x number of skill points, or who were newer to Eve than a month. A lot of people also seem to take themselves and their mining/industry pretty seriously. I did finally find an ad that seemed appealing, written by a fellow that seemed slightly off his rocker and might be interesting to fly with.

Upon joining the public channel for this corp and speaking with a couple members, it became apparent that they were recently the victims of a highsec wardec. They'd recently lost some folks, but felt like it was mostly dead weight. The guys that remained seemed to be enjoying themselves, and their leader was a bit off kilter. Seemed as good a bunch as any, so I packed up my stuff and headed out to their space for a few days to see if they were everything I could hope and dream for in a carebear corp.

To be continued....


  1. please continue, a good approach, this is good stuff for CSM and CCP to take note eve hermit said how does ccp keep the 50% of solo players leaving? high end the lvl 1 missions or count tutorial as lvl1?.....

  2. Reading this makes me think it might be nice to show newbs is a listing of various "stuff one can do" in EVE, along with skill points needed, danger levels and ISK/hour one might expect. You might then see that L1 missions suck compared to basic mining, but that L2 missions are OK and L3 are better.

  3. Hmm. I look forward to seeing what happens here.