EVE: Day one lessons not learned for 11 years

There are easily dozens of “How to make an MMO” design lessons in this combat report from TAGN, but clearly the biggest one is that in EVE, a new player is able to not only see advanced content, but meaningfully contribute to it. It has been stated many times, but if you actually break it down, it’s rather remarkable how unique that is to EVE, and what a black mark it is on other MMOs that something similar can’t happen.

Let’s start with some basic stuff. The biggest hurdle the new player got over prior to this was the social one; he was already in a major group that not only accepted him, but also is smart enough to understand that new players are very important and showing them what the game is all about is critical for the Corp’s (and by extension, the game’s) growth. The mechanics of the game make it easier for the Corp to have such a program, and to allow newer players to jump in, but without that initial social connection the new player won’t be about to jump in and see such content so quickly.

EVE does a good job here because the mechanics don’t punish the new player OR the group he joins when they bring him along. In fact, ‘bring him along’ is actually understating the situation, because he isn’t just allowed to come along and view what is happening, he is able to meaningfully contribute. That isn’t the case if the group was raiding, doing set-number PvP, or any content that scales for the number of players. Think about your current MMO; how many of the above pitfalls does it feature?

The true beauty of EVE is that while it allows that new player to jump right in, it ALSO highly motivates him to also keep ‘growing’. He is in a tackle ship on day one, but he saw battleships that are still months away in terms of training and needing the ISK to buy one. Even further out, he saw a Titan, which realistically he is likely YEARS away from flying. The real key however is that while he sees the carrot, and the carrot in some cases is VERY far away, the game doesn’t make him feel useless or a burden until he has progressed. Again, look at the MMO you are playing today, and consider how many barriers the game has placed in front of a new player prior to them reaching any kind of ‘end-game’ content. How much of its other content is FORCED onto a player before giving them access to something else.

What continues to blow my mind about the MMO genre, in a very depressing way, is that the blueprint that is EVE has been around now for 11 successful years. It might be rocket science (see what I did there?), but CCP has done the heavy lifting for the industry. Is everyone else so truly inept that not only can they not figure out what CCP has figured out, but they can’t even copy/paste it well-enough to produce something remotely close to EVE?

#EVE #MMOdesign

22 Responses to EVE: Day one lessons not learned for 11 years

  1. wartzilla says:

    literally everyone else in the industry are cowards, completely unwilling and incapable of breaking the mold.

  2. McJigg says:

    City of Heroes had this. All players leveled up/down to match the group leader. And even then, the custom difficulty scaling meant that everything was still as challenging as the group wanted it to be.

  3. Jenks says:

    “Again, look at the MMO you are playing today, and consider how many barriers the game has placed in front of a new player prior to them reaching any kind of ‘end-game’ content.”

    I’m going to take this in the opposite direction. Today the answer is usually about 1 week’s worth of barriers. I’d love to play a game again where you roll a character and just play the game, not even thinking about ‘end game’ because it was over a year away.

  4. A concerned Minmatar says:

    I’m planning to use that TAGN post as propaganda to try to rope more friends into Eve.

  5. Isey says:

    @Jenks amen. Generalizing here (gratuitously) but wow-like theme park levelling experience is just to slow you down from the end game content they can’t create enough of fast enough. Of course, if more resources were planned around “end-game” (whatever that ended up looking like) instead of planned obsolescence questing (one and done) you might actually have a fun MMO to play.

  6. sid67 says:

    Interesting perspective from a long time critic of the WoW-clone. Personally, I think there are lessons to be learned here but we don’t need a copy/paste of a game that already exists and thrives. We need an iteration that is adapted to another genres.

    There are also things, that from my perspective, are done very poorly. Foremost among them is combat which, setting aside the thrills you get from risking a ship, is incredibly boring and uninspired.

  7. guest says:

    “[…] that not only can they not figure out what CCP has figured out […]”

    Y’know, some days I feel not even CCP have figured out what they have in their hands, so don’t be too harsh on others.

  8. Serge says:

    It’s a great story and a model for players all over New Eden looking to help retain subscribers…and it neglects to mention the thousands of unsubs driven by ganks and scams. Yeah, when the stars align (see what I did there?), heartwarming stories like this one happen. In the other five thousand systems that day, hundreds of n00bs were actively discouraged from playing.

    • A concerned Minmatar says:

      Where is your data for this? I ask because it doesn’t match my experience with the community at all. If anything is driving people out, I think it’s rather the numerous aggressively recruiting but ultimately pointless highsec corps that keep their tax rate at 50% and teach their newbies that the best way to play is to mine and grind level 4 missions until their eyes bleed. They might mean it well, but that is the true cancer of the game. The griefers and scammers are a small, but very visible sub-community. Their impact on the average player is rather small, I think.

      Moreover, stories like the one on TAGN are not rare among goons, each blog I’ve read by a fresh goon player has been pretty similar. It’s a shame only goons seem to understand how to integrate their players from day 1.

  9. […] This is true. In any PvP game (or game with a significant PvP element), a major factor must be time to PvP effectiveness. From the time I start, how long until I can be worthwhile to have along and how long until I am at parity with long time players? This is mechanical, numerical parity; you may still be lousy because of having no strategy or practice, but how long until I can shoot a bullet that does as much damage as the next guy’s? […]

  10. SM says:

    I was a new player for 6 months, finally joined a corp and mined in hi sec. Ugh. Then got war dec’d and podded three times by T3 cruisers. That’s when I lost interest. The risks vastly outweighed any fun or reward.

    Eve is ok for most people except for the pvp stuff. This is why no other companies copy that model. Except Perpetuum, which is totally fail.

    • Raelyf says:

      EVE isn’t okay ‘except for the pvp stuff’. EVE is good BECAUSE of the PvP stuff. It’s the glue that makes the crafting, the markets, the trading, the politics, etc. all function. None of it would work otherwise.

      But you’ve also highlighted EVE’s greatest problem: it leaves new players lost in a huge universe. What guidance it gives seems to lead new players into, frankly, shitty aspects of the game like mining and mission running in hi-sec – which are neither fun nor rewarding when you factor in isk/time/risk.

  11. How common is it for the average MMO player to have a community supporting them when trying out a new game? If anything the goons should be commended for that aspect.

    What it really showcases, however, is that community in a game matters. Not some silly bullet point in some marketers spewed nonsense on a game box, but an actual reason to play a game. Game difficulty (maybe depth is a better adjective to use?) and community seem to be paralleled in MMO history. EverQuest was held up as the shining example of community done right, and it was one of the harder MMOs to come out in the last twenty years. Everything since then has become easier and easier.

    Even WoW in its early days was relatively difficult, though it did a good job at making certain things more accessible to more people.

    EVE is one of those games I love to hold up as an example; but they clearly have some very serious issues facing them if they want to go another 11 years; Their aging and out of date code base for one prime example.

  12. kiantremayne says:

    Unfortunately, the experience with GW2 is that if a company tries flattening the power curve and making events be open world (so anyone can join in and there’s no pressure to exclude all but the ‘best’ players) then there is a storm of protest about lack of ‘progression’ and zerging. I don’t think it’s so much that nobody else can and will try EVE’s approach – it’s a realisation that it’s a niche approach working with a niche set of customers, and if you want to make the big money you need to appeal to a mass market that actually seems to FAVOUR elitism, at least as long as they dream that they can be part of that elite and get to sneer at the “noobs”.

    This would be why we can’t have nice things.

  13. Justin says:

    The issue, and someone addressed this above, is that in most games pvp consists entirely of doing damage or doing healing. All the crowd control is incidental to damage or woven into a damage rotation. Once your fleet is over 5 people in EVE you’ve got fast tackle, heavy tackle, damage, heals. You might have anti-tackle, scouts, scanners, someone to +1 or -1 (stay one jump a head all of the time, or one jump behind all of the time). Most of these supporting roles can be filled by very, very low SP players (except for heals).

    In a game where all your tackle is built into damage characters you don’t feel the need to bring along some two week newbie because they have a stun. Modern MMO’s are extremely reluctant to make crowd control classes or builds because it’s perceived as damaging the other player’s experience.

    ESO could actually do this, if they made two changes. First change: Massively increase the health scaling in cyrodil. No one wants to spend 10 minutes running to a battle to get 1 shot by a VR5 character. Second change: pull the vast majority of CC out of the damage skill or weapon line. You want to create huge pools of slows or spammable stuns? Fine. You do no damage beyond base melee. Then newbies could spend an afternoon leveling the CC trees and be useful.

    Right now ESO (I believe) tries to fill this gap by letting newbies run catapults and similar. Fuck. Vehicles. I don’t play a rogue because I want to be in a ballistia or a trebuchet.

    Give me a reason to bring someone who does no damage, and I’ll grab 10 day newbies and bring them along.

    Malcolm

  14. RohanV says:

    On the other hand, since everyone is so terrified of getting AWOX’ed, a true newbie can’t actually join any serious corps. At least not without an out-of-game relationship paving the way.

    So I guess it’s great that the mechanics allow this gameplay. Too bad the politics make it inaccessible for most of us.

    • Justin says:

      That’s such a myth. Sure you can’t join a corp in PL at the drop of a hat, but if you want to get into a serious null sec alliance or small gang corp all you have to do is put more than a soupcon of effort into it. Get in the public channel, talk with the recruiters, get on the forums and comms and give it a week or two. This is not unreasonable. The first guild I joined in wow (only guild I had for 5 years actually) had a way longer application process.

      Sure you can’t just make a forum post application and get in, but if you try to make connections and appear earnest you’ll find tons of groups.

      Malcolm

  15. […] Looks at the one great failures of most mmos, that new players are unable to contribute to the game, player or the economy. It’s something […]

  16. […] SynCaine, Zubon, and then Rohan took up that point, the idea of new players being able to participate in what might be termed “end game” activities… or at least to get into the game and be effective beside their more experienced peers, something that EVE Online has going for it. […]

  17. […] Syncaine’s comment about how cool that is […]

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