There are few MMOs on the market today that can seem as intimidating to a new player as EVE Online. Some of this comes from the infamous things people have heard about the game, tales of deception and betrayal, but there is a fair amount of complexity to EVE as well and no shortage of digital villains prowling New Eden's thousands of solar systems injecting risk into the game.
The first days and weeks of gameplay experienced by many pilots has led to more than a few descriptions of the experience as an initiation of sorts, conjuring up images of hazings, an analogy that actually holds true in many respects. Anyone who sticks with the game learns through trial and error that the setting of New Eden, by design, can be quite harsh. Even if you're not into PvP, it pervades EVE Online; at the very least players who are to succeed in the game must ultimately learn to adapt and evade the more malevolent players, if not defend themselves from attackers directly.
While EVE will likely never be as easy to get a handle on as some other MMOs out there -- the game's depth and complexity actually being a major draw for its subscribers -- CCP Games has taken steps to better ease new players into New Eden with the New Player Experience (NPE) which was part of the Apocrypha expansion launch. But is EVE's New Player Experience, which does not separate rookie pilots into a safe zone to learn the ropes, the right way to introduce players to the game? This is the focus of a WarCry article by Steven Croop titled "Aura is Aura by Any Other Name".
Croop writes: "This effort's aim has been to bring neophytes into the fold of EVE's living, breathing world; no easy task, considering the galaxy's heart races along to the beat of a hummingbird's. Action on behalf of new players is more likely to open up debate rather than settle it, and now factions wonder ceaselessly whether EVE is being softened, its values compromised in a deal with the bumbling, Ibis-bound devil."
Since EVE's New Player Experience doesn't isolate the player from the rest of the game community as some tutorials do, it has the effect of showing some players the possibilities in EVE and hooking them on the game, while quite likely driving others off. As Croop puts it, "The strong are allowed to surge ahead to triumph from the very beginning while the weak realize EVE isn't for them, or settle into a boring hi-sec livelihood and complain about the Privateers."
Croop argues that despite the importance of having a good tutorial system in the game, it's really the things that a tutorial can't truly explain that are worth seeing and doing in EVE. He writes, "It is the things we're not taught about, what we're not shown in the tutorials that we are compelled to explore. If the EVE world were handed to us piecemeal, if we were comfortably acclimated to each scenario we might face out in the starry sea in an isolated microcosm, the galaxy would hold no wonder for us. We are driven by the hinting, flashing grin of the unknown."
Have a look at Steven Croop's "Aura is Aura by Any Other Name" over at WarCry and see if you agree with his views that the game should never shelter players from EVE's harsh realities, even if it would bring in more subscribers.