Marlona Sky, gifted PvPer and extremely well-known and respected poster on the EvE Online official forums, brings us an interesting analysis on educating pilots for competition, making missions more challenging and interesting and how their current shape works against new players taking their first steps in New Eden.
Master Tang – “Pay no attention to Wimp Lo, we purposely trained him wrong… as a joke.”
This line is from a terrible movie which I will not bother repeating here, but it applies to how I feel about high security players. That is not intended in a vicious and hateful way. That is how I feel about uninformed players when they try combat against other pilots who are aware of game mechanics and how to use them to their advantage. Simply put; the engagement was a joke and quickly dismissed as such.
Why the vast difference? One thing EVE Online teaches is while accumulated skill points and wealth does grant distinct advantages, it does not always guarantee a victory. The difference starts off very subtle and rapidly becomes more and more obvious. Both players were grabbed by the hand and shown what to do. The differences are huge. One is prepared to omni-tank their ship, the other is shown to tank against a specific faction. Human vs. Aura and we may think of Aura as a loving and caring hologram, but the truth is she trained you wrong… as a joke.
Ok not as a joke, but because the programmers of the game could not predict the future and see how two distinctly different players being wedged further and further apart the longer they play the game. The tutorial is infinitely better than what the old-time vets endured. I started playing EVE a few months before Red Moon Rising. When I started the tutorial a friend told me I was wasting my time and they quickly showed me the basics of how to pilot my Osprey into war targets outside Jita 4-4. She was a brave vessel and lasted a few minutes, much like most of my ships these days. The point is a player had given me my first bit of advice which was closing the tutorial. All of my knowledge of game mechanics and tactics had come from another player. Not Aura. I consider myself one of the lucky few; I already knew another player before starting the game.
Most new players do not have the luxury of knowing someone who knows game mechanics. In EVE’s early days there was players who did not know what warping was, much less how to do it. So they spent the first few days slow boating around the station and off grid not knowing where they were. The lucky few have established friends ranging from forum communities to real life friends looking for a trusted wing man to help them take over the universe. Or mine asteroid belts the whole day… what was I thinking?! The tutorial now although better, does not gear the average starting player with the right mindset of players versus other players and the excitement that goes along with it. Sure being forcedto lose a ship implying that losing ships is part of the game, but nowhere near what it should be. The tutorial is extremely slow and lacking the excitement needed to bathe the player in the chaotic scenes of space battles we love to talk about at the end of the day.
Way of the Gun
Introducing players to basic game mechanics such as approaching an object and warping are boring. They need to start with pressing the F1 key to fire the gun of a Megathron, taking heavy fire with explosions and ships flying around. Meanwhile Aura is screaming at you to press that F1 key to place rounds of destruction into the hull of a Scorpion that is jamming your other friends in the fleet . As the fight progresses you introduce other aspects of button pressing like activating an armor repair module or micro-warp drive. Most of the mechanics will be handled by Aura and the ship crew for now. Things such as approaching objects, but the point being the player has started by learning the exciting parts of the game first. Not how to approach a mission gate and scooping a book from a cargo container.
Right from the start the player feels important, they are satisfied from pulling the trigger on a big gun and blowing another ship to hell and back. They saved the day. During the tutorial they will be taught in highly likely scenarios they will potentially meet in real PvP. Just from this different take on the tutorial the player is more excited flying spaceships. They are playing and heading down a path towards understanding how engagements are more likely to happen. The new player on the current tutorial is thinking spreadsheets and wondering who’s starter ship they hijacked and why the local channel wont stop scrolling.
Watering the Flower
Venus Flytrap is a flower right? We want flowers with teeth, not daisies. The reinforcing factor that teaches most players to avoid and hate PvP is lack of knowledge through missions. Or specifically as in Wimp Lo’s case, learning the wrong way to fight. Players do fine in the beginning missions and before long, they ask for help with the difficult missions. What is linked? A third-party website that has every possible mission mapped out. From ships to fly, ammo to load, what to tank, what to shoot and when to shoot. Wrapped up with a nice bow on top. Gone is learning from another players help inside the mission. Trying different things to see which works is completely unnecessary now. It is all right there. So much detail and information. Quickly the new player does math and they realize if they follow the guide, no harm will befall them. As long as they follow this road map it will take them around the dark forest, by-pass the troll, grab that stack of money hidden over there and the fastest way out of all danger and risk. Congratulations, you just created another care bear for life guy who will learn only to mission, avoid PvP and most likely be a loner who does the occasional ‘I don’t know you, but I’m waving to be polite anyways.’ high sec dweller.
There needs to be a total and complete revamp of how missions operate. They need to incorporate as many aspects of what combat is like playing against another player and the risks and rewards involved in such things. There are missions that are industrial and science related, but that is something else entirely and deserves its own spotlight. The point is from the very first level one mission they need to be taught to fit their ship on the most common and basic ways they would in real player combat. Activating a warp disruptor, omni-tanking, focusing fire, maintain distance for example. Also try to avoid having them fly the mission alone. As part of the mission they are to meet up with another player at the mission gate. If you must, introduce NPC ships as part of the new players fleet. I’m not saying toss them into some mission with hundreds of NPC ships versus other hundreds of NPC ships and they are stuck in the middle, but you get the idea. The player needs to be continually baptized in likely situations they would find out of high sec. Missions where they are not in a battleship blasting away, but in a logistics ship trying to keep NPC ships alive. Missions where they are a scout or tackle for a fleet and if they don’t learn how to come in at an angle instead of hitting the approach button, they will die and the friendly fleet was never able to get a warp in.
Perhaps by far the most important aspect of this new take on missions is completely and totally random factors. I am not talking about if the Damsel in Distress is in can number three instead of can number one. What we need to see is a cyno going up and hostile ships jumping in during the mission. Perhaps another new players mission has them come into your own mission with the intent to carry out a different goal. The creators of mission guide website did an amazing job, but these new missions should be impossible to half way document. There should be a hundred different options on fifty different aspects of the mission. Sure keep slight themes going on depending on the agent assigning the missions, but they should not be predictable. Zombie pilot blitzing the mission without a care in the world wondering if the next song on EVE Radio will be “Never Gonna Give You Up”, should never be possible. This new style should apply to all variety of mission types. Progressing from the first mission, all the way up to the extremely dangerous level five missions. Into the unknown is critical to being prepared for interaction with other players and adds excitement back into an otherwise boring profession.
Now you have a huge difference in player mindset and interaction between the Daisy player and our new Venus Flytrap player. One is singing “Over the Rainbow” while the other has scary teeth. Ignorance of game mechanics is a huge issue for players new and old. I used to prey on mission runners for a while and while it was rewarding in ISK and humor, it only was successful because I was shown by other players how to fit and fly a ship for player versus player combat while my unfortunate targets only knew how to shoot red crosses and assumed the same tactics would apply against me. Most of the time after the mission runners had died they would ask me how did it happen the way it did. If they were not screaming and acting like a child I spent a good deal of time trying to teach them about the game when it comes to PvP and about half the time if the ship I blew up was not expensive, I fully replaced their ship with mods, ammo and rigs. To top it off I did my best to introduce them to player organizations that I felt they would learn from and or fit in with and learn. Players who made a spectacle in the local channel and or on the forums, I would simply wish them better luck next time and be on my way to the next victim.
Have Ship, Will Travel
While great level four mission hubs create market hubs in or near the same system, they teach mission runners there is no need to travel. After all, why bother? All their needs is here, in system or extremely close. Ships, equipment, local mission runners that you can wave to and all your worldly possessions are neatly stacked and cataloged into one station. You are home, forever. This is terrible! Granted I love the idea of solo play and lone wolf players, but for a MMO game to push new players into wanting to play in a tiny fraction of available systems in the game is a tragedy. I have encountered players who have been playing for months and even years, only fly around to a few key systems. Again in their defense, aside from curiosity they have no real reason to go to other places. Unless of course a better paying agent becomes available after the standings grind and they can eek out a bit more ISK per hour.
So with mission runners tied to agents which never move around, how do we get the player to travel? Simple. The agents will travel. Maybe it is not simple to code, but the idea is simple enough and the impact will be significant. Agents will pack their bags and move to a different location after players have exhausted some missions. How many times can the same chick be captured in the same system over and over? How many times is some invading force going to high jack a star gate to get into a specific system before they realize they need to try a different one? Hopefully you understand my point. After so many completed missions by any player the agent will move. Example being agent Smith moves after two players completed fifty of his missions or fifty players completed a mission each. It makes no difference as long as the job was done by somebody.
Where did they go?
Just like a player should, hopefully, progress to more challenging goals. The agents will seek a new station to base from. Such a place should be a bit more dangerous than the last system. So fulfilling all the needs in a 1.0 system the agent would seek business in a 0.9 system. Spending time there, on to a 0.8 system, so on and so forth. Which leads us to the great barrier of what it means to go from safety (well mostly) to danger and excitement… traveling to a 0.4 station. At this point they are a very different type of player compared to the mission runners we see now. They have a solid understanding of fitting ships. They have core PvP understanding. They know what it takes to travel around the game and most importantly; they most likely have friends that are of the same mindset. They are not the terrified mission runners who shy away from PvP because they know as well as seasoned vets, they will get their ass handed to them. These are bears with teeth. Confident bears who are not afraid of losing a ship, they have lost many before. They are not afraid of your pirate friends, they brought friends too. They are not afraid of your PvP fit ships, they were born and raised in one.
And so the mission runner is now out of Concords protection running missions, fighting off pirates. Perhaps pirating himself to keep the agent around for a longer period for himself to profit from making more friends along the way. By having more players in low sec out in space running missions and fighting other players, we now have vastly more activity in low sec. None of which is the typical activity we see now; a life long pirate gang camping a gate ganking a random noob who accidentally went into low sec because they accidentally went the wrong way. The next ships they see come in are combat ready. Ships that are not afraid of them. Not afraid whereas they know, or at least have a general idea, of what to do.
The agent continues further down in security systems and ends in null space. That is correct. Mission agents in null space and not just NPC null space, player owned stations. At last, a real use for the stations that litter null space with no one bothering to dock. Also some new incentive to control them. Not to be over looked is the ISK and LP involved in these changes. Depending on player activity with the agent, it has made its way from high sec, to low sec and into null sec followed by competent players. Also breathing new life into targets which is not a boring structure. Some agents are content with staying in their space ship and assigning missions regardless who owns the system. So when roaming gangs come and the locals choose to dock/log off and wait till the coast is clear… the roaming gang just might run missions, make cash and speed up the agents departure. If the gang stumbles upon people running missions, no longer will it be with their pants down sporting PvE fits. Their PvE fits are PvP fits.
Which brings me to the end of the agents cycle. After finally having their last mission completed by any player, they will seek out the next Interbus shuttle back to a 1.0 high security system to start the cycle all over again. Initially most of the mission related income will be in high security we see now. What will happen is it will travel across the map slowing more and more as it goes from high security to low security and to most likely spend a good chunk of time in null space due to the majority of players being in high sec. So depending on how fast they burn through the agent missions in each system will depend on how long they stay.
So how does this affect my EVE?
There is a variety of factors this system will change. From having a serious impact on trade hub due to the population fluctuation over New Eden, to war declarations to fight off players from taking missions from agents. A reason to log on a null character to run missions in, wait for it… in null space. Player income which can be taxed and for an alliance, have a bottom to up income. Incentive for players to help and protect said income. With some agents not being restricted to stations it will create a reason to fight invaders instead of ignoring them. Granted agent missions should pay out better the lower the security system is when the mission is completed. By far the most important and positive effect of all the changes is the player mindset. Combat is no longer foreign to them. They have a solid grasp on how to fight and how to connect with other players. Not by just linking them a website on how to blitz missions and make the most ISK per hour possible with little risk. They know what it is like to carry out goals, fight for what they want and enjoy blowing up internet spaceships… even if the spaceship being blown apart is their own.
There will be some skeptics who will proclaim high sec players will never learn PvP, much less like it and want to do it. I have seen many threads on the forums these days demanding nerfs from high security missions all the way to removing all industry related activity if you are in a NPC corporation. All of these demands are crude and barbaric do nothing to address the core issue; bad initial player environment. People are a product of their environment and time. Majority of players spend most of their time learning how to play the game before striving to connect with other players. They need to be excited to log in and learn. It all starts with the tutorial and nurturing them through the missions. The incentive to go to war and fight for an income source in high sec will be controlled by the players and in the process give real desire and knowledge to venture into deeper and darker parts of space seeking fortune and glory. Adding some arbitrary tax on an activity will do nothing to change the game landscape, player knowledge and activity. Players, especially mission runners in high sec, will know the potential income they have available is controlled by other players and more importantly, themselves. Self empowerment is good.
While there will always be players who choose to stay in high sec; it will no longer be because they don’t have the knowledge to survive in other space, but because they want to. I truly believe there is a place in EVE for everyone and where they go, what they do should be based on how they choose to play and nothing to do with lack of knowledge in-game mechanics. Educating players is not dumbing the game down. It is in fact the exact opposite. While it may be funny to watch a new player flail about in frustration because they do not understand what is going on only to quit the game or farm high security missions isolated – the real losers are the rest of us stuck fighting the same group of players over and over all the while wondering if and when someone new will come.