"You know," said Arthur, "it's at times like this, when I'm trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young."
"Why, what did she tell you?"
"I don't know, I didn't listen."
Ah, the New Player Experience. CCP's supposed justification for why Incarna provided no new content to bitter vets, instead focusing on making the game a little less daunting for the uninitiated. Well, is it true? Let's find out shall we...
Wanting to field test The Road to Yarrr myself, I saw this as an opportunity to also run through all the New Player Tutorials again. After all, it wouldn't exactly be realistic for me to just send over tens of millions of isk to myself and then claim that a brand new player could accomplish the same feat. I instead started from scratch, cheating on only one minor detail.
For my first attempt, which due to author bias as well as the wonders of Alphabetical Order, I'm starting a new Amarr character. The cheating comes from sending myself an invite for a 21 day trial before activating my account, which gives me three weeks to test a two week plan. The reason was so that I could write a series of posts detailing the New Player Experience without cutting into the precious little time I'd have for PvPing. After all, I'm sticking to a pretty strict schedule of skill training, but the tutorial missions often ask you to train some other skills to complete them. I'd also be wasting a fair amount of time actually writing all this when I could be out looking for targets, so I think it balances out.
When I started writing these posts (for those curious, I'm already done with them by the time I'm typing this) I wasn't exactly sure what they were going to be. It started off as just me typing some random notes when I noticed something particularly noteworthy. It turned into a sort of guide/walkthrough/review/critique of the entire NPE, spanning seven posts and thus hijacking this theoretically Pirate-themed blog for the better part of a month.
What that means to you, is that it's going to be a while before you'll see any posts actually dealing with PvP again. If you've come here for that, I personally recommend all those blogs over on the right there, and you might be better served checking them out. If, on the other hand, you'd like to bear with me as I discuss everything from game design to (shudder) mining, well then you'll be quite pleased.
A new life: Your first days
The introduction to EVE is far less painful than it used to be. You're now greeted to a slow fade in on yourself standing there, and the soothing voice of Aura explaining what the hell is going on. It definitely beats being dropped into a Rookie Ship in the middle of space with a live fire exercise taking place. Your first moments in the game are infinitely better without instantly worrying about a HUD and an Overview and why those red crosses have started flashing. No matter anything else I say here, that first impression being better simply can't be emphasized enough.
Now, since I got that out of the way, onto the bad. Some of this is a bit nitpicky, I'll go ahead and admit that upfront, but it's what struck me. I'm also going to be making note of anytime I was forced to take a break from the action due to the real-time skill training, which I really consider poor design choices. One of the first things Aura instructs you to do, after explaining how to walk with the WASD keys anyway, is to start a skill training. While this is sound advice, she goes so far as to provide you with a Repair Systems skillbook and then tell you to fill your Queue up to Repair Systems IV. That sort of seems like overkill. If it were me, I'd tell someone to train Repair Systems I, and then start getting their Racial Frigate to III, but they didn't ask me.
I'm not entirely sure if it's just a limitation of the engine EVE is on, but I find it annoying that Aura's voice instructions can't detect when I've completed a step in the tutorial and simply continue. I never notice it when the tutorials are all just me reading and clicking next, but since they're narrated, I find myself simply listening to the instructions and my eyes are drawn to whatever button in the NeoCom I need to be pressing. It would be nice if the tutorial could detect me pressing those buttons and simply continue, instead of me manually pressing next to get fed the next step. Oddly, sometimes it does actually do this on its own, but only when you're on the final step of any given tutorial piece, and moving on automatically starts the next one. When it doesn't it just feels a bit outdated when almost every modern tutorial I've had in a game simply advanced automatically after I did whatever it had just told me to do.
I've now started the game without a ship, undocking only in my Capsule. My first mission being to warp to a Deadspace complex and activate an Acceleration Gate into an area that contains an empty Rookie ship, just waiting for me to board. Now, it's never explained why this ship is just out here waiting for you, but it's unlikely to be something that occurs to you in the moment. It provides a rather elegant progression from walking around, to being in an Escape Pod, to being in a ship. Although many of us had our immersion shattered with the idea that we'd ever get out of our ship if we're un-killable Gods while in them, to the new player it seems only natural as they started as someone walking around.
Upon completion of the first mission of the New NPE, I'm provided a free Gatling Pulse Laser and Armor Repairer. I still don't have Repair Systems I done...it's a 9 minute skill though, so I suppose I've been moving faster than a true new player. I don't see why you wouldn't just give a starting player that skill at level one if you're going to ask them to use it this soon. After all, I started with the skills to use the Gatling Laser, so why not both? I take a break and come back when it's done training.
Sent on the next mission, I'm then provided with a Multifrequency S crystal in my cargo and told to load my weapon. I'm then tasked with destroying a fuel depot. I'm then treated to a pretty explosion, and also 50% of my armor gets shaved off by the blast. Although it gives an excuse to explain how to use the Armor Rep, this is a little confusing considering explosions don't really ever damage nearby ships any other time...would be cool if it did though. Self-destruct might actually be useful for more than denying killmails.
Towards the end there's a mission which sends me to the Amarr Academy to pick up a certificate which is straight eye candy. Dozens of each Frigate, a handful of each of Destroyer, Cruisers, Battlecruisers and a single of each Battleship and Freighter. Quite neat having them all parked in formation. This is also when the Look At tutorial starts, in a clear case of CCP showing off. It works though, and I'm not the only one who noticed apparently. Later on I saw this in local "Xanetia Thara > Oh nice! THat's that awesome ship I saw when I got my papers at the academy!"
Finally, Aura gets rid of me by sending me on a courier mission to the Old NPE agents. You'll see me refer to what are technically the Career Funnel agents as the Old NPE to differentiate them from the New NPE that was just added in Incursion. I know that the New NPE replaced the old Crash Course, but that's just how I'll be referring to them from here on out. The entire process of the New NPE took me about 45 minutes, and I can't imagine it taking a genuinely new player longer than an hour.
That really brings me to my biggest gripe about the entire thing. I'm not sure how CCP can claim, with a straight face anyway, that this expansion provided more for New Players than anything else, when the parts they changed last an hour, but the 50 or so Missions you're about to run during the Old NPE are still the majority of the New Player Experience...and they haven't changed since I did them a year ago for the first time. At least, not in any way that I've noticed.
Continued next post with detailed discussion of the Old NPE. One last thing to add, as it's technically different and you experience it before severing ties with Aura as your mission agent is that the agent division restructure has caused all the Old NPE agents to be Distribution...this is sort of confusing. Mostly because with all the Sci-fi names, I find it hard to remember which agent is which...in the old system, they had useful divisions, like Command, Admin, Manufacturing, Etc...would be nice if they could put them in their own unique divisions considering they only give out 10 very specific missions each.
PS Marc over at Wanderlust is doing almost the exact same thing right now. Great minds think alike it would seem. Head on over to his blog and check out his take on the whole NPE.