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The lowdown on EVE Online's New Player Experience

James Egan

Among all the massively multiplayer online games out there, with their respective learning curves, EVE Online perhaps has the deserved reputation for being the hardest MMO to get a grasp of. Much of that confusion is because the game itself is such a departure from your standard fantasy MMO, in almost every respect: open world/single server, PvP can happen everywhere, a harsh setting, and a UI that's a far cry from anything a player has seen in World of Warcraft.

The EVE in-game tutorial has been revamped a few times in order to make it easier for new players to get a handle on things. What is currently offered is a noticeable improvement over the tutorial of a few years ago, but CCP Games is in the process of completely reworking a player's first steps into the game's setting of New Eden. EVE Online developer CCP Fear's latest blog is, in his words, required reading for anyone interested in the game, new player or not. He says, "I want to get one misconception out of the way. This blog *will* concern you and everyone else. If you have played for a year, 6 years, 3 months or a week, you will want to read further than this. Chances are there will be changes that will affect you!"

EVE's New Player Experience (NPE) is arriving with next month's Apocrypha expansion. It's all about easing new players into the game, rather than having them make choices about character creation up front, when they don't know what they're doing. Eliminating those initial choices allows the rookie to focus on how to play the game, via an improved tutorial that slowly guides them through the possibilities. CCP Fear says, "For Apocrypha, we simplified this process. We eliminated choices that had no effect on you whatsoever and moved these choices to a more appropriate time where you could make an informed decision. You are in charge of your destiny."

A noticeable change is the reduction in skill points a player starts out with -- as some of the skills a player begins with in EVE are either not of use to them (at first) or are typically misunderstood. Once the NPE begins with the Apocrypha expansion, rookies will only receive about 50k skillpoints, as opposed to the 800k they begin with now. However, the idea isn't to impose limitations on a new player, but rather allow them to choose the path that best suits their playstyle as they discover it.

(As an aside here, a number of the dev blog's readers have pointed out that -- unless new players are able to earn skillpoints at an increased rate in the beginning -- a new player will find it difficult to do what most of us could do from day one with our 800k skillpoints. However, it's also worth mentioning that the game's older players began with far less than 800k skillpoints as well.)

The ability to alter your attributes is something new to EVE, as many of us made some choices with their attributes that were... a bit sub-optimal, let's say. Anyone who's played EVE for a while is well aware of the fact that the attribute choices you made at character creation directly impact your skill training times in certain areas, and many lament ever boosting Charisma at all.

CCP Fear says, "A new player will have the opportunity to respec his attributes twice. This allows a new player to change previous decisions they made resulting from not knowing the system. Once a year you -- and everyone else -- can take 14 attribute points, and re-arrange them within reason. Attributes can be set at values anywhere from 5 to 15. This means, that every year, you can take all your spare charisma points and put them into perception if you so please. Or the other way around."

As EVE Online is a game where players aren't locked into a given class, career, or profession, its present character creation system doesn't really reflect this. Not having to make some of these choices right off the bat means players won't pay the price for being ill-informed in the beginning as, let's face it, most of us are in the beginning. These changes allow for more dynamic way to play your character over time. For instance, it'll now be perfectly viable to start out as a mining/industry character and later move on to being a dedicated combat pilot.

The missions available to new players will teach them the basics of particular career paths. Each career will have 10 missions designed to show new players the ways that New Eden's pilots make their way through the game, be it industry, business, or military pursuits.

All of these changes are explained in greater detail in CCP Fear's dev blog "Your Revamped Rookie" and, as he said, it's definitely worth a read. The other devs have more blogs on the way that will provide more details on the New Player Experience in Apocrypha. They're also providing some clarifications in the related forum thread -- note that it's been confirmed that existing players can now only re-spec their attributes once per year, free of charge. You can see the thread for more on how EVE is changing in ways that affect existing players.

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