Friday, November 23, 2012
Protecting Our Newbies
As someone who came to EVE Online late, April 2011, I have an occasional worry about EVE dying. Especially when the bitch level from veterans gets particularly high.
(Even from me, although I cannot see myself leaving EVE unless CCP does something monumentally stupid, like turning highsec into a nearly PvP-free zone. I feel more confident that CCP will not do that, much more confident than I did a couple months ago. I have the Ministry of Love to thank for restoring my faith. While highsec has become somewhat safer this last year, the balance hasn't significantly tipped toward carebear gameplay.)
A game that's been around for as long as EVE Online, it's a major outlier compared to every other MMO. There have been MMOs that have been around longer, though their playerbases are but pale shadows of what they once were. That EVE has continued to grow for as long as it has, that's a complete anomaly in the industry. Currently EVE seems to have reached a plateau. EVE seems to be teetering at this moment in time. It's playerbase could very well start to shrink. That's what worries me. I'd like to be playing this game ten years from now.
It seems the only way forward, to grow the game once again, is to attract new players to the fold. EVE is always going to have the slow bleed of veteran players, so we need new players to replace them, plus some.
EVE is such a harsh and unforgiving game, that it doesn't take much to totally turn off a new player. It doesn't take much for them to click UNINSTALL. And I think that's because most new players are used to being coddled by game mechanics. They aren't used to a community that often prides itself on eating its young.
I feel that if new players are given the opportunity to explore the game, to gradually get accustomed to the community, the harsh realities of New Eden, that they'll come to respect how this game is played, that they'll respect that a game that doesn't coddle its players is the more rewarding game experience, that they'll come to respect the actual strength of the community. But this realization is not instant, not in a game like EVE, not in a sandbox, it takes time to shift players from their old expectations and habits.
So, from that I wonder, do we, or should we, as a playerbase, be trying much harder to help our newbies, accept and integrate them into our community, be less critical of their mistakes and assumptions and prejudices? To teach them what EVE Online has to offer as a gaming experience? Should we spend less time feeding on our young, and more time raising them?
There are, of course, excellent examples all over the place of people helping newbros. Giving them ships. Giving them ISK. But there are as many examples of new players that leave the game because they've been treated like complete shit, nothing more than easy marks and tear processors. Certainly, some of those stories, of new players going off the deep end when attacked or scammed, are hilarious, but is it healthy for the game if those stories become more prevalent? Some of those players weren't going to cut it, no matter what, but some may have, had they had a more gentle hand guiding them, rather than a knife to the gut. Someone to give them a pole and instruction on how to use it, rather than just a basket of fish.
Now, before anybody starts screaming. The last group of people that this post is directed at is CCP. This is a player issue. Not a CCP issue. I do not want, would rail against any, mechanic changes that would make it easier for newbies. Players can play how they want. If someone wants to spend their game time trying to scam and/or kill newbies, make their game lives miserable, then so be it. This is a sandbox. I wouldn't dream of telling those people to stop being assholes to new players. Part of the appeal to EVE is the assholery that happens.
So, this is not an issue where CCP needs to step in with game mechanics as a solution. This is purely a sandbox issue, one that is entirely in the hands of the players. Assholery happens. When it's directed at new players, I'd hope it's the exception, not the rule. And I'm pretty sure that is the case.
I know many of us give out fish, often. I've done it. Just the other day I killed a dude, and after looking at the killmail realized that a) he was flying a really inexpensive meta-module fit, and b) his character was eight days old. Fear that this guy might get fed up being killed all the time (and he was getting popped frequently), that he might give up on EVE, I sent him a nice evemail and 25M ISK, and a couple suggestions on where to go for some PvP and general EVE training (Fweddit, of course, was one of those suggestions.) I know Sindel has her angel project, where she gives out free ships to newbros. I know Fweddit itself pitched in and helped replace a Loki after relieving a relatively new player of their's. These stories are everywhere, but all of this is just handing out fish.
What about giving out the rod so that they can catch their own fish?
There is EVE University. But I've always thought that they mostly churn out the wrong type of player. They teach mechanics and such, for sure, but when it comes to teaching players how to approach the game, that's where EVE University mostly fails. They don't teach the value of conflict, but how to avoid conflict. We need fewer players with a sense of entitlement about their playstyle and their stuff. We need players who accept and/or embrace risk, not those averse to it.
There's blogs and video, too. I've written articles explaining the differences between EVE and the generic theme park MMO. I'm currently writing a series about skill training for PvP. There a lots of blog entries out there doing the same sort thing. All of this is fantastic. (I welcome anybody to post links to their newbie-related articles in the comments.)
I'd like to see more of it.
I know there's already lots of goodwill in this game towards newbros. I'm not suggesting there isn't any. But I think all too often we give out fish and think that solves problems. I'd like to see more effort from players on handing out rods and instruction thereof. I'd like to see more alliances, especially the larger alliances, with more prevalent newbie recruiting practices, with infrastructure in place to teach these new players about the game (not just how to press F1.) I'd like to see more mini EVE University's, but churning out players with the right mindset for this game, players embracing the conflict, not despising it.
The next time you kill a newbie, maybe stop, take a moment, start a conversation with them. Be patient. Give advice. Maybe point them to an alliance that has a strong newbie ethos.
The longevity of EVE Online depends on new players. We should do all we can to teach them the value of the sandbox as a gaming environment. Once they learn the rewards that come from the sandbox, then you kill the shit out of them.