Bits and Pieces: April 2015

I've been traveling in Real Life again, though I've been playing quite a bit of EVE Online regardless. Connecting to the EVE Online server via hotel wi-fi is always a tricky proposition, but the Internet gods have looked favorably upon me, and granted me fairly reliable access for a change. I paid tribute to their generosity by awarding several grants to new players, giving away a few hundred million ISK over the last couple of weeks.

Have you hugged a noob today?

I have a habit of maintaining contact with an ever-changing small group of new players. Sometimes I'll see a pilot in my home system whom I don't recognize, and I'll check out their employment history. If they appear to be a novice pilot, I'll open a convo, welcome them to New Eden, and send a little ISK their way. Afterwards, they usually chat with me from time to time, to ask questions or share their latest adventures.

It's always gratifying to see a new player react to an unexpected grant of 25-50 million ISK, which must feel like a vast sum when they have practically nothing. I always reply to their enthusiastic expressions of thanks that they must give me a piece of their capsuleer soul in exchange - as if we really had one. And thus starts yet another informal mentor relationship.

If you have some ISK and a little time to spare, reach out to a new player or two, and send a little cash their way. Offer to answer questions, or to give them a hand, if they need it. I find that most new players are extremely grateful for the welcome and the assistance. I find that offering the occasional tip or bit of advice, to help them avoid some of the obstacles that baffled me when I was starting out, to be personally rewarding. I also enjoy collecting pieces of capsuleer souls, too.  (Insert evil snickering here.)

God bless you, Team Five 0

I have often grumbled about the user interface for corporation management in EVE Online. Setting proper roles for corp members, without leaving massive holes in security and leaving all your assets vulnerable, is difficult and confusing enough if you are running a small corp, but it can be brain-bending torture if you are trying to manage a large organization. When I was a director at EVE University, I did everything in my power to avoid the corporate management UI, as I found myself twitching uncontrollably every time I tried to figure it out. To call it "arcane" would be an understatement of the highest order. This is why most of the larger alliances have their own information technology service teams.

At Fanfest 2014, I asked some CCP developers if they could look into improving the corporate management functions. They all responded in the same way - with utter and complete terror at the prospect of unraveling that circuitous and convoluted code. "It's a nightmare," one dev told me then. "We will have to fix it eventually, but I feel sorry for whoever gets that job."

Role definition for corporations is now so much easier, I feel myself tearing up a bit. Seriously, it's a beautiful thing.

So, all hail the intrepid Team Five 0, who have finally battled the complexity of corporate management, and brought it down to something much easier to use. They've reduced the number of screens to just a quarter of the original set, without losing functionality. It's a dramatic improvement, though they are quick to point out that they have more plans for further enhancements down the road, especially as the new structures become available.

I, for one, am delighted with the changes thus far. Kudos, Team Five 0!

Give me some SKIN, man!

I like the new ship SKIN system very much, especially because they are now a function of a character, rather than of a specific, customized ship. The ability to change ship appearance on the fly, so to speak, is super-convenient.

Being a fan of EVE lore, I worried a little about how CCP was going to explain how this new mechanic worked. Could they find a way to describe how this makes sense in the EVE Online universe?

Never underestimate the creativity of CCP's clever developer and community teams...

I've said before that there are two reasons why people pay good money for luxury items (and ship SKINs definitely qualify): for prestige and for affiliation. This new system certainly aligns well with those players who want to show off their enhanced ability to fly decorated versions of their ships. I know I will certainly take advantage of this, as I'm a natural hoarder and love to display my collections.

Time to redeem some SKINs!

Time to redeem some SKINs!

I only wish that CCP Games would figure out a way to provide us with limited licenses for approved corporate- or alliance-only SKINs. People would pay good money for a ship color scheme that is available only to a particular group. Even better, if we could also display our corp and/or alliance logos on our hulls, I'd bet that players would pay staggering sums for the privilege. Demonstrating one's pride of affiliation is a strong motivator for a lot of people, in both Real Life and in New Eden.

Come on, CCP - make it happen! If you do, I think a lot of pilots won't be able to throw their money at you fast enough - myself included.

Speaking of lore...

While I enjoy reading about EVE lore, I'm not nearly an expert analyst like those players who are very heavily into the backstory, or who can speculate on the tinfoil implications of in-game events with confidence. I just love how CCP Games continues to invest in the emerging story arc as a rationale for all the new enhancements appearing in the game. It's being very well done, and gives EVE Online a flavor that is unlike any other MMO game.

The lore also makes me want to try some new - and possibly very stupid - things. For example, I'm off to hunt Circadian Seeker cruisers today, to see if I can collect some Antikythera Elements without getting zapped by a Drifter Battleship. I'll share how that goes in a future post.

Opportunities abound

I have written a lot about my personal passion for helping new players in the game, and I've been following the excellent work of Team Pirate Unicorns' development of an improved new player experience with great interest. In particular, their new opportunities system, which now replaces the old tutorial system, is a big leap forward in introducing EVE Online to novices. In fact, it has been shown to improve new player retention by at least ten percent already.

With the Mosaic update, released today, every player gets the opportunities system, and I must admit, to my personal surprise, I am really enjoying it, even though I am very much a grizzled veteran player. There is something strangely satisfying about having the new opportunities system ping you when you've completed an assigned task. I started a new manufacturing job, and got a notification saying that I'd fulfilled one of the opportunities, and that made me feel disturbingly good. Now I have this urge to make sure I've filled in all the blanks on every opportunity, even though they are for very elementary game mechanics I'd mastered long ago.

I must fill in all the empty boxes. I MUST! I MUST! I MUST!

Yes, I clearly have an obsessive need for completion. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that I find playing EVE Online so fulfilling. And here is yet another way to get another feeling of accomplishment, however devoid of meaning it may really be. It's like Team Pirate Unicorns is in my head! Argh! Get out of my brain, CCP Rise!

Silly wardecs

One of my manufacturing alts received a war declaration from a small corp the other day. This happens from time to time - a small corp sees a high-sec POS tower, with no defenses but lots of manufacturing and research structures, owned by another small (probably one-man) corp, and they decide they want to loot it. So, they declare war, in hopes that the target is a casual player who isn't paying attention. If they time the wardec right - usually towards the beginning of the work week - they can sometimes take out the POS unopposed, and loot the contents before the weekend-only player returns.

This actually happened to me a couple years ago, when I was traveling in Europe and didn't log into EVE for ten days. A small Russian corp saw my high-sec research POS, declared war, and took it out before I logged in the next week - far too late to do anything about it.

The new POS force field effect, just introduced in the Mosaic update, is definitely more attractive and interesting than the previous version.

The new POS force field effect, just introduced in the Mosaic update, is definitely more attractive and interesting than the previous version.

The loss wasn't that much, all things considered, but I'd learned my lesson, and set up the Neocom app on my iPhone to alert me whenever war was declared. That gives me 24 hours to take down the POS and secure my assets.

And this is precisely what happened this time. I got a notice of a wardec, and then logged in to shut down my POS and store it safely in station until hostilities ceased. I must have disappointed the wardec'ing corp, though, because they soon realized that there was no juicy target to attack. They promptly issued a surrender. One day later, my POS was once again anchored, online, and productive again. (And this time, with a pretty new POS shield effect.)

And so, let me state without equivocation: I'm disappointed in the current war declaration system in EVE Online.

I have no problem with a good war. Some of my fondest memories of EVE involve some intense battles during wartime. But as a player who lives mostly in high-security space, I have to say that the current wardec mechanic is just plain silly, because - in my experience - seldom do the corps who declare war actually show up to fight. Most are simply looking for easy one-sided kills - and where's the fun in that, really?

Not only that, but for my industrialist characters, it is far too easy to avoid war altogether, and that is indeed silly, too. If I get a wardec notice, I simply shut down for a week, and play on alt characters doing something else. It's really just a minor inconvenience, if any trouble at all.

Alas, I must confess that I do not yet have an alternative wardec system to suggest, but this latest experience has me thinking about it a lot. Wardecs should be fun, for both the aggressor and the defendant, with something both to risk and to gain on both sides. As it exists today, it's too easy to risk nothing and secure easy gains in high-sec wars, or even worse, to simply blow it off if there's any kind of potential loss at stake, by either the attacker or defender.

I'm all in favor of war in high-sec, but there's got to be a way to make it actually mean something. Perhaps you, dear reader, have some ideas? If so, please share them in the comments.

I may find some lessons to be learned from factional warfare or the new Fozziesov mechanics, so I'm going to study these and see if I can come up with a better solution than the current, goofy system we have today. That will likely be the subject of a post in the near future.

Until then - fly safe! o7

 

Eroding the Learning Cliff

Since its early days, more than a decade ago, EVE Online has cultivated a reputation for being hard to learn and difficult to master, by design. In fact, CCP Games proudly proclaimed this as an advertising tagline, "EVE is hard", in marketing campaigns.

In the past, CCP Games actively promoted EVE Online as a hard game, and not for everyone - the result being that some potential players were likely scared away.

EVE Online's challenging reputation has always intimidated typical gamers. And for those who bravely downloaded the client, they were greeted only with a short video and then tossed into a tedious and heavily text-based tutorial system that was tough to navigate and a chore to endure, even after several incremental improvements by CCP Games.

It has been a long-established joke in the EVE Online community that while many multi-player online games have a significant learning curve, our beloved space game confronts players with a sheer learning cliff, which seems designed to weed out the faint of heart and the uncommitted as rapidly and as punitively as possible.

The relative difficulty of EVE Online - the "learning cliff" - has become an established meme.

CCP Rise spoke of this problem frankly and openly in a revealing presentation during Fanfest 2014. He described the principal challenge of new player retention - about half of all new players drop the game in their first month - and how an improved NPE could help to stem that outward tide.

The Tutorial Menace

An excellent examination of the inherent problems with EVE Online's NPE can be found in a new podcast, The Learning Cliff, which is following the adventures of a player engaging with EVE Online for the first time. I cannot recommend this podcast highly enough. While listening to the adventures of the novice Ruskeydoo as he attempts to surmount the difficulties of EVE Online, even under the patient tutelage of the experienced Rashabar Zemayid, I find myself alternately chortling and cringing. It's surprisingly enlightening and entertaining, even for experienced EVE Online players.

If nothing else, The Learning Cliff provides a case study of all the things that go horribly wrong with the old-fashioned, linear tutorial system, which assumes that players will docilely follow the defined thread of lessons provided by Aura, the tutorial agent. It also shows how much the current NPE emphasizes mechanics at the expense of explanatory color and background. In episode 9, Ruskeydoo begins to ask some critical lore-related questions. Are all capsuleers inherently evil? Why do the empires allow dangerous capsuleers to exist? The tutorial provides few answers, leading to his continued bafflement and confusion.

After listening to The Learning Cliff, it's very easy to see why so many new players give up so quickly on EVE Online.

A New Hope

At Fanfest 2015 a couple weeks ago, I attended a discussion session about recent changes in the new player experience (NPE) in EVE Online. Team Pirate Unicorns, the group of CCP Games developers who focus on improving NPE, talked about what they are doing to make it easier for new players to understand the game - and start having fun - faster in EVE Online. Their goal is to improve the retention rate of new players, converting more of these into ongoing subscribers.

I wrote about the highlights of that breakout session in an article for Crossing Zebras. (Also see Sugar Kyle's quick summary here.) Team Pirate Unicorns has made progress in improving NPE in numerous ways, including:

  • Adding pop-up tooltips with context-sensitive help
  • Incorporating a consistent game notifications system
  • Upgrading the star map, and integrating the system map within it
  • Adding new player landmark sites in starter systems
  • And many other small changes—such as starting a new player in a ship in space, instead of in a station, to get players engaged faster

But the most significant change is the addition of a free-form tutorial system called "Opportunities" that points out different play options to new players, introduced in their changing context of engagement within EVE Online.

The new Opportunities system prods players to try different aspects of EVE Online gameplay, without forcing them through a linear, inflexible and text-heavy tutorial.

The Opportunities system avoids many of the problems with the old hard-wired tutorials, and instead helps players to discover aspects of EVE Online more naturally, as they are playing the game. The Opportunities system simply points out different game play options, and provides encouraging nudges, with minimal text, to engage with different game mechanics. CCP's initial tests have been encouraging, and as a result, they are expanding the Opportunity system to encompass more aspects of the game. Eventually, it could replace the tutorials altogether.

Team Pirate Unicorn's incremental improvements in the NPE, and in particular, the development of the more responsive and reflexive Opportunities system, are helping to erode the steepness of EVE Online's learning cliff. I'm encouraged by what I see, so far, and over the next year, I suspect that we'll see new players guided gently through a broad range of options in the game. The end result should be a subtle but sustained increase in new player retention.

However, as much of an improvement the Opportunities system represents, I do not think it goes far enough. Further, there are still significant obstacles to new player retention that can't be solved by CCP Games, no matter how brilliantly they develop NPE features.

The Veterans Strike Back

Many of us who overcame EVE's learning cliff have become part of the NPE problem. Too many veterans actively resist CCP Games' efforts to simplify aspects of the new player experience.

For years, many experienced players derived great mirth from the poor souls who failed to absorb the harsh lessons of survival in New Eden, watching them fall unceremoniously into the abyss of non-subscription. Congratulating themselves on their higher level of perseverance and superior intellect, "bittervets" proudly displayed their learning scars as a badge of honor, and belittled those who sought an easier path.

A few people saw the problem and did something about it. Morning Maniac founded EVE University, and other organizations have since arisen to embrace and support the developmental needs of new players - RvB, Brave Newbies, OUCH and others.

Despite these laudable efforts, I'm always surprised at the legions of veteran players who react negatively whenever CCP suggests changes to make EVE Online more new player friendly. The introduction of the "safety button" in 2012 produced some classic forum rage posts from grizzled players, who complained that CCP was "dumbing down EVE". The recent change to provide an optional block to intra-corporation aggression generated a huge amount of consternation from veterans, who said the change made EVE "too safe". My recent article on Crossing Zebras about the possible elimination of character attributes and neural remaps produced similar tirades. I was even invited to debate the idea at length in an episode of the "Legacy of a Capsuleer" podcast.

I understand where this mentality comes from. Even though I try to support new players in EVE Online whenever I can, as a veteran with more than five years of experience, I find that my natural reaction to proposed simplifications in game mechanics is consistently negative, at least initially. After all, I had to overcome the old mechanics - why should new players have it any easier? And isn't that part of the appeal of EVE Online - the challenge of mastering it?

Only after some thoughtful reflection do I consider the possible value of improving the experience of novice players, balanced against what legacy features might be lost by veterans. I admit, however, that balanced perspective is not always my first reaction to change - and this is not inconsistent with what I see from many other veteran players.

Though some players would deny it, CCP Games is remarkably responsive to protecting the interests of veteran players. They see long-term subscribers as loyal customers, and rightly so. As a result, they are always torn between protecting the status quo, which favors the veteran mindset, and introducing changes to encourage the entry of new players, who represent new revenue for CCP Games. Veteran players know this, and they sometimes use CCP's dilemma to collectively, perhaps even unconsciously, resist the introduction of changes to EVE Online - changes that might encourage new players to remain in the game.

However, since the introduction of the six-week development and release cycle last year, CCP Games have become emboldened about introducing new-player-friendly features at a more accelerated pace. Whether we like it or not, the pendulum between preserving veteran interests and supporting new player interests is definitely swinging with increased momentum towards NPE.

The Attack of the Newbies

While the Opportunities system represents a major improvement in the quality of the new player experience in EVE Online, I do not think it goes far enough to provide an environment that maximizes the conversions of trial accounts into subscribers.

Last summer, The Mittani wrote a very interesting post on the poor state of the new player experience in EVE Online, in which he wrote:

Eve's newbie experience (the 'NPE') is notoriously awful. The most common newbie interaction with the game is to load Eve up, look around confusedly, and uninstall it to go play something actually fun, all within the first five minutes. Eve came out in 2003 and the NPE has been a goddamned disaster the whole time.

When I was with EVE University, we heard far too often about new players getting killed when they undocked to run the tutorial missions. While abusing new players in career agent systems is considered a major offense by CCP Games, it happens more often than it should. A wily predator can easily convince a new player to open a jetcan to get offered ammo or other "free stuff", thus making the new player a suspect and a technically legit target. This is a symptom of new players undocking without understanding the nuances of Crimewatch - they are completely unprotected against players with more expertise.

To create a safe harbor for new players, The Mittani suggested opening a reserved "Jovian newbie zone" - a space maintained separately from the rest of New Eden. In this zone, they could run tutorial missions, protected from the predatory instincts of unsympathetic players looking for easy kills.

It's uncanny how similar The Matrix's population and EVE Online's capsuleers appear...

It's uncanny how similar The Matrix's population and EVE Online's capsuleers appear...

I like this idea a great deal, but I would go one step further. I would make at least some of the new player experience and tutorial missions operate as a simulation, inside an in-game virtual space - think of The Matrix inside EVE Online (or, for you EVE lore enthusiasts, a virtual reality similar to a Sleeper construct). This provides the opportunity for new players to learn how to operate their ship in a completely controlled and safe environment, with no direct interference from other players.

The user interface could be simplified in these simulator-bound early missions, with more complex features added as the player's knowledge increases.

Also, learning to fly spaceships in a simulated environment is consistent with the lore of EVE Online - it presents less problems to the legacy lore than what The Mittani suggested, while at the same time, accomplish the same purpose.

After completing the basic simulator missions, a new capsuleer could then undock into the "real" world of New Eden with a full understanding that they do so with some scary players waiting for them out there, with all the potential consequences known.

Should we take a cue from the Sleepers, and start new capsuleers in their own virtual world construct?

Should we take a cue from the Sleepers, and start new capsuleers in their own virtual world construct?

I've seen some veteran players (ironically, they are usually members of the ganking community) argue that keeping new players separate would backfire, and that more new players would quit before they ever experienced the joy of encountering another pilot. They argue that player interaction is what keeps new players in the game. I would argue that a more controlled and protected NPE could actually help to encourage a larger proportion of players to join corporations and begin interacting with the community, if part of that experience includes a lesson that describes the benefits of joining a player corporation, how to do so, and what they could expect from teaming up with others for a common cause.

Throwing unknowing innocents into random interactions with likely hostile veterans is no way to welcome new players to EVE Online. That is what is happening today, and the poor results  speak for themselves.

Revenge of the Lore

Human beings love stories. A good story entertains and enthralls us. And while the main story of EVE Online is made by the players, it happens in the context of the lore of New Eden - a world as rich as any developed in science fiction.

I think CCP is missing an opportunity to use the rich lore of EVE Online to draw new players into the atmosphere of the game. Recall the previous example of Ruskeydoo from The Learning Cliff podcast - after learning some of the basic flight mechanics, he began to ask why capsuleers exist. What motivates them? What are their goals, and what obstacles do they face?

Ashterothi, of the Hydrostatic Podcast, suggested in an interview that the initial NPE could be more cinematic and plot-line driven, in order to explain the background of the story and the player's role in it. He envisions a series of missions designed to illustrate the potential paths a capsuleer might take, culminating in a giant fleet fight between two warring empire factions.

This fits well within the idea of providing these missions in a virtual world, instead of in "real" space. How many people read about the bloodbath of B-R5RB, or saw the "This is EVE" video, and wanted to experience a giant space battle themselves, only to be disappointed by the rather tame and undramatic NPE in a starter system? I suspect that the majority of those people decided not to subscribe, unfortunately.

We all want to see how a good story ends. CCP would be well served to bear that in mind as they consider development of the new player experience. Get new players involved in the story, and they are more likely to want to remain a part of it.

Return of the Players

There is one last aspect of the NPE that is largely beyond the control of CCP Games, and yet has already been proven to be one of the most effective aspects of retaining new players and convincing them to subscribe - the efforts of the EVE Online community to embrace those players and make them feel welcome.

CCP Seagull commented on this during the Fanfest 2015 keynote address, acknowledging that the "adopt a newbro" outreach to new players, whose curiosity was aroused by the ultra-successful "This is EVE" video, made a difference. That huge surge of interest was greeted by a plethora of initiatives from many individual veterans as well as from established alliances and corporations.

Veteran players volunteered to help in the Rookie chat channel. They gave away ships and modules and advice to new pilots. They directed them to new-player-friendly corporations for help. They provided resources and information and explanations. They ran open fleets. They provided special events, like free-for-alls and races. And much more.

As I was listening to episodes of The Learning Cliff, it struck me that if not for the patient guidance of Rashabar Zemayid, the novice Ruskeydoo would probably have given up long ago. Indeed, any player who tries to overcome EVE Online's daunting orientation entirely by themselves is likely to be overwhelmed by the experience. Only with the support of current, experienced players do newbros stand a chance of surmounting the learning curve.

CCP Games can only do so much to improve the NPE. The rest is really up to the rest of us who are already flying comfortably in New Eden.

Hug a newbie today. It makes a difference.

Fly safe! o7

 

EVE Online's Biggest Challenge

I've been listening to the consistently well-executed and highly informative interviews of candidates for the upcoming tenth Council of Stellar Management (CSM), conducted by the CapStable podcast crew, with great interest. Even better, they have also assembled a knowledgeable panel of noted EVE-O-philes and pundits who are conducting a complementary series of roundtable discussions about the candidates - these are even more interesting than the candidate interviews themselves.

A Quick Tutorial on the CSM

If you are new to EVE Online, and you don't yet know what the CSM is, you only need to understand this: the CSM is a group of EVE Online enthusiasts elected each year by subscribers to represent player interests in CCP Games' plans for ongoing development of the game. Since the founding of the CSM nearly ten years ago, it has become an useful stakeholder in most, but not all, of CCP's development decisions. The CSM is unique among MMO games - no other game community has a similarly representative body.

While some CSM'ers and players complain that the Council has issues with uneven communications with CCP Games, there is little argument that the CSM has become a valuable sounding board and focus group for many devs. Thus, the CSM's level of influence has grown, especially over the last three years. This is why voting for the CSM is important for everyone who plays EVE Online.

Concerns about 0.0

Each of the CapStable CSM interviews follows a consistent series of questions, with some variations depending on the positions and interests of each candidate. One of the standard questions asked of every candidate is: "What do you believe is EVE Online's biggest challenge over the next year?"

It's a good question, and helps us to understand the priorities of each candidate. So far, the nearly universal response has been some variant of "Improving the sovereignty system in null-sec space."

Anyone who plays EVE Online regularly anticipates that 2015-2016 will be the Era of the Great Null-Sec Fix. CCP devs have been quite open about long-term plans to update how null-sec space works. There is an established team of developers, the Nullsec Working Group, focusing on this: CCP Scarpia, CCP Fozzie, CCP Ytterbium, CCP Rise, CCP Bettik, CCP Delegate Zero, CCP Masterplan and CCP Nullarbor, among others. EVE Online's Executive Producer, CCP Seagull, indicated that null-sec sovereignty mechanics are a development priority in an interview conducted by the Hydrostatic Podcast team just last week. In the latest CSM winter summit minutes, an entire session was focused on these prospective changes - and blocked from publication under non-disclosure agreement limitations.

And so, null-sec residents are collectively holding their breath, waiting for the pending changes to appear, with both dread and anticipation. The large null-sec political blocs have been promoting an "occupancy based" approach to sovereignty, a concept with many merits worth careful consideration. Regardless, CCP Games has not revealed their full intentions yet - at least, not publicly.

It's little wonder, then, that almost all of the people running for a position on CSM X would be primarily concerned about the importance of changes to null-sec space.

And it is indeed very important that CCP Games get the changes to sov mechanics right, or else they will disenchant a large segment of players who enjoy living and fighting in the outer regions of New Eden. That is indisputable. There is great pressure on CCP Games to make adjustments to 0.0 only in ways that enhance and uplift the quality of the gaming experience there - and they really only have one shot to do it well, lest they risk losing hordes of subscribers forever.

Nevertheless, the CSM candidates are wrong. Fixing null-sec is not EVE Online's biggest challenge. It's not even close.

EVE Online's Biggest Challenge

At last year's Fanfest, I attended a session presented by CCP Rise about the new player experience. It was refreshingly frank and revealing. He acknowledged that the initiation of new players into the harsh environment of New Eden was sub-optimal, without a doubt, and the result was that over half of new players were dropping out of the game after about a month.

No matter how you look at it, losing a majority of new players who try the game is an ugly statistic. It bodes very poorly for the future of EVE Online.

CCP Games' move last year from a bi-annual release schedule to more frequent releases, one about every six weeks, has had some positive effect on the average daily log-in numbers, but not so much that the game's subscription base is yet growing at an impressive rate. In fact, the average number of players logging in each day has hovered around the 30,000 figure for several years.

Now, imagine if CCP Rise and his team are successful at guiding new players towards richer experiences in their early days in New Eden, and they are able to cut the awful drop-out rate by half - from about 50 percent leaving after a month to around 25 percent. Further, for the 40 percent of new players who opt to play primarily solo or independent activities, many of whom get bored and leave after a while, imagine that half of this number are also successfully introduced to more engaging and rewarding experiences, encouraging them to stay subscribed as well. These two changes combined would produce an increased retention rate of 45 percent of new players joining EVE Online, and propel the average daily log-in numbers into sustained, double-digit growth rates.

With such an increase in new player retention, EVE Online could withstand even a massive departure of players from null-sec, who may very well feel disenfranchised and choose to leave no matter what kinds of changes CCP Games ultimately unveils. In fact, I sadly predict that no matter what CCP chooses to do in null-sec, a significant number of residents in 0.0 will not choose to adapt, and simply drop out of the game. Change is hard for most people - even if that change is good for them - and the most typical response to imposed change is to evade it, if possible.

But if a constant, vibrant stream of new players are joining us in New Eden, then any vacuum left in 0.0 would be filled quickly by players eager to try their luck with the new sov mechanics. The rapidly rising tide of new entrants into EVE Online would sustain the ongoing success of the game.

The new player experience affects everyone who plays EVE Online - a strong and healthy influx of new blood enriches every kind of space: high-sec, low-sec, wormholes, and null-sec. This is acknowledged by nearly everyone who served on CSM 9, including null-sec representatives.

Hug a Noob Today (So You Can Kill Them Later)

Many new players were encouraged to try EVE Online after the fantastic "This is EVE" video was released. According to some of the CapStable interviews with incumbents running again for CSM X, the initial indications show that the retention rate on this surge of new players has been good, although it's too early to tell if they will yet follow the typical trends and leave. I'm encouraged, however, by what I see from the player community to support and engage these new entrants in a welcoming and friendly way - and to collectively overcome the limits of the current, highly ineffective new player experience.

Imagine what kind of growth we might see in EVE Online if we were to combine these player-driven retention efforts with an improved and more engaging new player experience.

Taking good care of null-sec is important, to be sure, but it is not EVE Online's biggest challenge. Taking good care of our noobs, in whatever kinds of space they choose to fly in, is far more critical to the future success - and perhaps even the survival - of EVE Online.

Fly safe! o7