BB #74: Fanfest 2016's Biggest Reveal

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 74th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are, please visit the Blog Banter page.

So when this Blog Banter goes live, Fanfest will be over. Hungover geeks from around the world will be departing Reykjavik after a five-day binge of important internet spaceships and partying. Whether you were there in person, watched the streams or read the dev blogs on your mobile hidden under your work desk there was probably something in there that gave you a "nerd-boner".  What for you personally was the most important thing to come out of Fanfest 2016?

Clearly, the focus of Fanfest this year was on Citadels, which add whole new levels of player control and game play options. When the expansion is released this week, I'm certain there will be a massive rush to try out all the new features of the new structures.

Citadels are the first of an entirely new line of structures, and will soon be followed by more specialized industry, mining and other platforms. Structures will likely change how players interact in EVE in many profound and unpredictable ways. 

But Citadels and structures are not the biggest new things shown at Fanfest this year. Two other reveals were much more important to the future success of CCP Games and EVE Online.

I want to be Tron

The first of these is Project Arena. Though not yet completely ready for general release, this virtual reality (VR) game could be a bigger hit in that rapidly emerging market than EVE:Valkyrie. I had a chance to try the demo and found it to be very easy to understand while being challenging and fun to play. Think of the flying disc scene in the original Tron movie and you get an idea of what Project Arena feels like.

This is the kind of game that appeals to a very wide audience. If it were to become the reason that people buy a couple sets of VR goggles, then it could become a huge moneymaker for CCP. Project Arena has that kind of mass appeal.

Fixing the Leaky Bucket

The second big reveal was the introduction of CCP Ghost, who will be leading the new Team Genesis on refining the new player experience (NPE). According to him, EVE has no trouble attracting new players. Nearly 1.4 million people tried EVE Online last year. The problem is keeping them - more than half gave up in less than two hours. 

CCP Ghost

CCP Ghost

The opportunity system introduced last year succeeded in providing help and guidance to novices as they were flying in space, but it did not go far enough. Those opportunities covered the essential mechanics, but they did so without context.

CCP Ghost believes that new players want a safe zone in which to be guided to mastery when first starting the game, then relaxing that support as players become more proficient. One way to do this is to put the new player in a narrative, in which they complete tasks that are relevant to an emerging story. This approach not only explains how to do things correctly, but also provides reasons why one would do them.

This would help new players to develop an emotional connection to their character and give them a greater sense of achievement. The rich backstory of EVE Online provides ample opportunities for engaging players in the game, and also provides a way to show how they can create their own meaningful story inside that universe. 

in addition, CCP Ghost wants to give new players more "pinnacle moments" of deep, exciting engagement. Many new players join EVE after reading or hearing about large battles or wars, but then they discover that they may not have such an experience in the game immediately, and drop out. By giving a new player a taste of such experiences - in a simulation or an NPC scenario, perhaps - that interest is reinforced, and the player remains, wanting more,.

This is the kind of NPE that EVE Online needs badly. Today, plenty of new blood is pouring into the game, but like a bucket with big holes drilled into it, EVE's current NPE is letting far too many of those players to leak out far too quickly. If CCP Ghost and Team Genesis can close those holes, then the impact on the game would be extraordinary.

Imagine what EVE would be like with double its current population, and the funds for new feature development that growth would provide to CCP. It would change everything.

Fly safe! o7