Last night at around 6 p.m. EVE time (GMT), there were over 38,000 players online, and only 1,200 were marked as trial accounts. I logged in to find 2,800 players in Rookie Help, a mandatory help channel exclusively for characters under 30 days old. That means just over 7% of characters logged in at the time were either rookies or veterans starting new alternate characters. With only 1,200 of those characters being on trial accounts, a healthy number of the remaining 1,600 must have been recent signups on fully subscribed accounts. Even the most cynical player has to admit that these are encouraging numbers of new players.
In this week's EVE Evolved, I give the new EVE tutorial a spin to find out whether now is a good time for new players to sign up.
A fresh start
Character creation has been polished to a mirror shine, and the Incarna full-body avatar designer remains one of the best character designers in the industry. Once your character is made, you're deposited into a station and can immediately begin walking around the captain's quarters, though the multiplayer station environments are still closed for now. The Aura tutorial pops up unobtrusively in the bottom-right hand corner, and the Rookie Help channel is open by default for any questions you have along the way. The tutorial tells you to set aside around 90 minutes for its completion and promises to provide your first starship and other goodies.
Rather than start the game already in your first rookie ship, you now undock in your pod and board one of the redesigned rookie ships in space. This is a nice touch and should help players understand that they are a character in the escape pod and that their ships are just replaceable tools. The actual tutorial content was solid, and new concepts were introduced individually in a way that hopefully should make sense to new players. Once you've been through basic ideas like looting containers and jumping through stargates, the tutorial doesn't patronise you the next time it's required. I also found the pacing to be much better than the old tutorial, and Aura even provided extra reading material when I was waiting for the autopilot to finish trundling along toward a stargate.
Years ago, fantasy MMOs figured out that the best way to get a player successfully through the tutorial is to fully integrate it into the game world. Reading reams of text and following a long list of instructions isn't nearly as engaging as having the instructions pop up in the game world itself. The new EVE tutorial gets this half right, retaining the reams of text but integrating the instructions into the game world using a new in-space tooltip system. The game is introduced piece by piece, and every new gameplay element is highlighted.
Unfortunately, much of the tutorial is still dependent on the player reading everything and doing exactly as he's told, making it easy for players to deviate from the plan and get lost. The game could be made to detect when the player is in the right location before continuing, but that may be too much work. Aura also sometimes displays a small image of what to look for in the agent window or overview, but I can't help thinking this is a lost opportunity to highlight the area on the actual screen using the new tooltip system.
Funneling people into EVE
When my friend Kajatta examined the new player experience shortly after Incarna, he found that starting the game as a humanoid avatar made it more obvious that he was not a ship. When he finally lost his ship in a particularly difficult combat mission, it didn't seem like much of a big deal. The current tutorial goes one step further by having you undock in a pod and board your first ship in space, introducing you to your escape pod before you lose a ship in a military mishap. Understanding that losing ships isn't a big deal is one of the biggest humps players who aren't used to EVE have to overcome, so anything that accomplishes it is a good idea.
I've often said that the single most effective thing a new player can do to stay interested in EVE is to join a player corporation, so it came as a pleasant surprise that the tutorial introduced player-corporations very early on. The final tutorial leads you to a nearby solar system and drops you on the doorstep of five career agents offering courses in Exploration, Business, Industry, Military, and Advanced Military. The career agent courses have always been fantastic, so I hope the new tutorial helps funnel people into them.
If I could honestly change anything about the tutorial, though, it would be to replace the reams of text with videos and voiceovers, and to use the new tooltip system to place as much of the tutorial information directly into the game world as possible. If you've ever tried EVE and couldn't get past the tutorial or user interface, I definitely recommend picking up a free trial and giving it another go because now is your best chance yet to make it stick. For best results, I advise new players to finish the whole 90-minute tutorial, complete at least one of the career courses, and try to join a player-run corporation. Good luck!
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.