EVE Evolved: The new player experience, part 2

EVE Evolved title image
Two weeks ago, I began an experiment to look into EVE Online's new player experience from the perspective of someone who has never played the game before. I convinced my friend Kajatta to try the game for the first time, with his only prior knowledge being the same stories, videos and screenshots that anyone will have seen before signing up to give the game a shot. In the first part of this investigation into the new player experience, Kajatta delivered a harsh first impression of the user interface and character creation.

A common story I've heard when I'm talking to current EVE players is that many didn't really get into the game the first time they played. As happened to Kajatta, some found adapting to the UI and control scheme a jarring experience and were put off as a result. It was usually the second time they played EVE that seemed to make the game stick, whether that was restarting a new character immediately or giving the game a second try up to a year later.

Could it be that EVE is most likely to appeal to new players the second time they play it? To put this theory to the test, this week Kajatta took a fresh second stab at EVE Online and played through all the career agent content. But has his first attempt provide the equipment necessary to scale EVE's famous learning cliff, or did the UI and control scheme prove as impenetrable a barrier as ever?

In this week's EVE Evolved, Kajatta delivers his verdict on whether EVE is better the second time around and delves into the Cash Flow For Capsuleers combat missions.

Second time around image
Massively: The first time you played, you found the user interface overwhelming. Did that change in your second time through the game?

Kajatta: It's still a big scary calculator, but it's taken me a second play-through and a good few hours of gameplay to get used to it. I still don't know what a lot of the UI does, but having that bit of starting experience definitely helps. If I had continued on from my first play-through rather than starting over, I would always have thought the start experience was rubbish. You definitely need more experience with the UI before you even start the tutorial, to make everyone's first time in the game like my second time.

Did your views on character creation change this time around?

Not really; it still needs to be changed. The lack of information on what you're meant to do is silly, and picking a race still makes no difference. The only thing that seems to change is the ships, but then why not show some ships during character creation? I picked a race (Gallente) that's upstanding and noble, but my character doesn't feel like it has to be like that. There's no standards I have to uphold; I could be completely the opposite of what the race description says and they won't refuse to work with me. The character design itself is still really cool, but it makes no difference in-game yet.

After playing through in-space content, has your view of the captain's quarters changed?

I can sum up my views now in one word: pointless. I've just found how to go to the ship dock screen, and I'll probably never go near the captain's quarters again now. I thought it was cool to start off with; it gave me a feeling that I'm a pilot, and I really like that. But after playing through missions and getting into the game, I noticed that every time I go back to dock, I physically don't move my character. I go through all the mission stuff and the things I have to do, and then undock.

I really can't find any use for the captain's quarters, I've heard CCP is planning to expand on it, but until then it's just a tech demo showing off what it can do. Docking in on the ship itself rather than the captain's quarters is also quicker.

What was the biggest difference the second time around?

Because I was used to the UI and the way the game works, the game wasn't as intimidating as I kind of knew what was going on. Doing the simple things that should come naturally in games like moving and attacking didn't come naturally the first time, but they did this time around, and it made a world of difference.

Combat tutorial image
The Cashflow for Capsuleers mission series is designed to introduce you basic gameplay. What did you find out during it?

I learned that the AI can be cleverer than just standing there and getting shot at. They started closing in and then flying out of my weapons range when I fired, so I had to swap my blasters for railguns. I learned all the basics of combat, flying along, locking on and firing. I learned that certain weapons do well against certain enemies, certain shields defend well against certain enemies, and that weapons have different ranges.

From the sounds of it, I'm going to be refitting my ship to counter certain enemies. I learned that blasters have ammo, and when I ran out of ammo, I had to go onto the market and find out how to use it to buy more. I figured out how to use the market myself -- it made sense. I liked that there was a system to buy stuff off the market without going into the full market window.

I also learned that there's more than one way to target and attack someone, like clicking weapons and then clicking the person, or using the drop-down menu or the overview. I found a way I liked and stuck with it. I particularly like how every time I do something new, the game pops up a tutorial on it straightaway. I haven't seen that kind of reactive tutorial in a game before; it really helps.

What was your favourite thing about the mission series?

In mission 6 or 7 I had about 20 pirates around me and they were all going pew pew pew pew pew. Guitar music kicked in and I yelled, "AHHH HAH HAHAH I'm invinceable!" I felt kickass as hell; they were all using my old ship, and it was like swatting flies.

Was there anything the missions didn't do a particualrly good job of? Anything confusing?

Mission 6 told me to destroy an outpost, and there was a big building in front of me so I assumed that was the outpost. It didn't tell me to use the acceleration gate, so I wasted loads of ammo smashing stuff to bits before I worked it out. There was nothing really bad in the mission series, though; everything from shields and weapons to ammo and the market was pretty smoothly introduced to me.

Tell everyone how you got blown up on mission 8 of 10. What was that like? How did it make you feel, and what did you do afterward?

I wanted to kick the UI so hard in the face; it was so irritating. A tutorial popped up and told me to set up my overview to show large collidable objects, and then the mission told me to investigate an exploded building. When I warped in, I got ripped to shreds by a bunch of ships I couldn't see. I was unable to target them properly because I had no idea where they were due to all the clutter on the overview. The UI genuinely killed me. I almost got killed earlier by being careless, and that would have been fair enough, but no UI should ever kill a player.

The first thing I did was warp back to the station I'd been going in and out of, where I was shown a tutorial all about my ship being destroyed. I proceeded to look through all the different types of ships on the market. I didn't know there were so many different types! I eventually found the same ship that I lost and bought it again because it was cheap as heck and it was the best thing for what I was doing.

I had guns left, but my shields were gone. I eventually found similar shield modules on the market, but I didn't have the skills to use them. I had to go in, find the skillbooks, train them, and then put the shields on. I was basically waiting idle for 35 minutes while the skills trained so I could get my shields on. Luckily I knew how to use the market system; if I hadn't known already, it would have been a pain in the ass to find everything and figure out how to install it.

What's the biggest improvement CCP could make to the mission arc?

To tell you the truth, I'm quite enjoying it. It is very much "go here, destroy that, come back." It could benefit from a bit more diversity, but because this game's kind of fresh to me, everything's new and interesting. I could see this getting old after doing a lot of them, though. It may be a pretty basic series of missions, but that's exactly what you need at this point. I'd say it's pretty good -- I liked it.

Final thoughts image
Brendan: With a week of previous gameplay under his belt, Kajatta definitely seemed to get a better impression of the game the second time around. It's been fun to sit across the room from him during his daily trip to New Eden, and it's been difficult to resist the urge to dive in and help him or answer too many of his questions. Hearing him shout "There's ammo?!" in an incredulous tone as his blasters ran out of antimatter, followed quickly by "Can I just run head-first into it and destroy it?" had me in stitches.

For next week's final installation of this series looking into the new player experience, I'll get Kajatta to try his hand at joining a player corp and getting involved in some multiplayer action. Until then, enjoy the gallery below full of screenshots from Kajatta's tutorial adventures.
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 brendan@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.