EVE Online: Newbies in Space
It was Janurary of 2006, and North Star Networks (NSN), a corporation
in the elite Mercenary Coalition alliance, was running into trouble.
They had been hired on a short-term contract with a simple mission: go
to S-UA84 in Syndicate and slaughter Goonfleet, a corporation made up
almost entirely of newbies unable to fly anything larger than a
frigate. A small outfit specializing in fiendishly expensive and
faction-fit Heavy Assault Cruisers (technically, a 'heavy assault
ship', but no one calls them this), NSN had anticipated easy pickings.
Sure, Goonfleet outnumbered them by a ratio of 4 to 1, but they were
newbies. Newbies in frigates couldn't even touch someone in a HAC; they
had no armor, did no damage, and had no skills. Yet as soon as NSN
entered Goonfleet territory, things began to go wrong. Swarms of tiny
frigates began to mob the HACs; twenty goons would be destroyed for
each NSN pilot, but the ammunition being used to shoot down a frigate
cost more than the frigate itself. A single HAC lost was the equivalent
of two whole fleets of frigates. A loss to newbies was simply
inconceivable; the rest of the Mercenary Coalition was called into
Syndicate to help NSN against Goonfleet. Something seismic was shifting
in EVE, though few realized it at the time; the failed NSN contract was
the beginning of the end of the Old Guard in EVE, and marked the
ascendancy of the newbie.
EVE has legitimately acquired a reputation as being the most Darwinian
of MMOs, and for many years that perception was advanced by CCP's
unstated policy of doing their level best to make the game as
newbie-unfriendly as possible. It seemed that the Icelanders
affirmatively did not want the hoi polloi to play in their spaceship
playground. In order to get past the barriers of entry, a prospective
newbie would need to run through a formidable gauntlet of both tedium
and frustration: nonexistent or incorrect documentation, a deliberately
misleading playerbase, a character progression system inherently tilted
towards the old guard, and quite possibly the world's most boring
tutorial ever conceived in any game, anywhere, ever. These were the Bad
Assuming that a newbie made it past the tutorial - or skipped it midway
through, which was the most common reaction - he entered a world where
skillpoints accumulated over time, which meant that it would be
literally impossible to catch up to an older player’s level
of power. The game forums were a minefield of players lying about how
the game worked, and there was essentially no manual for the game at
all - fundamental gameplay mechanics would change abruptly, and often
the only way one would discover this is after getting blown up or
surprised in some way. Economically, newbies were excluded entirely
from the top level of the market because they had no way to acquire a
T2 blueprint, which was the only way to produce a Tech 2 item or ship.
These precious BPOs had been given out through a 'lottery system' in
the earliest days of the game, and they granted a functional monopoly
on production to the oldest and richest players. At an alliance level,
T2 monopolies allowed certain sets of players to buy these precious
items at or near build-cost, while on the open market they could only
be acquired for up to two hundred times build cost - the Cap Recharger
IIs spring to mind. With their superior knowledge of the game, higher
skillpoints, and better economic situation, the position of the 'old
guard' in EVE was unassailable.
Even in this dark era, however, it was possible for a single newbie to
make a difference. Scorned and ignored in 0.0, a newbie who managed to
overcome the endemic fear of losing his ship that plagued most
Empire-dwellers could wreak havoc. Armed with knowledge and training,
even though he lacked in skillpoints and isk, one pilot, Paradigmblue,
managed to tackle and hold a Moros dreadnought barely four days into
EVE. "Two points on the Moros" became a rallying cry of the power of
the newer players against the old.
Several years ago there was a revolution
of sorts at CCP wherein the
developers realized that having more newbies in the game might result
in both more profits and less stagnant gameplay. CCP merged with White
Wolf, forcing the company to grow up. The developer responsible for the
T2 blueprint system was caught in a corruption scandal and thrown under
a bus. The T2 lottery was replaced with the invention system, which
immediately meritocraticized the economy by allowing anyone who felt
like it to produce T2 items. CCP even undertook strenuous and continued
efforts to improve both the game documentation and the newbie
experience. The formerly terrible tutorial and character creation
system is now passingly entertaining, rather than a nightmare. Perhaps
more importantly, it is no longer possible to completely ruin a newbie
character with poor attribute selections before the game even begins.
Yet, even though the Bad Old Days are dead and gone, it is still
difficult to be a newbie in EVE. The biggest risk to a newbie is sheer
ignorance. EVE is horribly complex, and only recently did CCP begin
addressing this through improvements to the in-game tutorial and href="http://wiki.eveonline.com/wiki/About_EVE_Online"
target="_blank">documentation. You can expect to
spend hours simply reading and learning the href="http://wiki.goonfleet.com/" target="_blank">basics
of the game. Once the learning curve is ascended, a newbie
needs to begin to grasp the unwritten rules of EVE. As a sandbox game,
those who cannot cope with the dangers of human interaction or navigate
the inevitable hypocrisies of society will face greater difficulty, as
there are no forces of law and order to keep the naive protected from
the cunning and malicious, and all the deterrents against criminality
in real life - imprisonment, death, pain, bankruptcy - are absent.
One of the first tests of a newbie's adaptability to the sandbox comes
from how they surmount the crippling poverty which afflicts anyone new
to the game. Without isk, you can't get far.
The vast majority of newbies join the game and begin trying to make
money in Empire, usually through mining veldspar or running level one
missions. I did this myself when I switched from playing WoW to EVE; I
was given an Osprey cruiser and mined Kernite in Empire for a couple of
weeks, and then I was finally able to afford a battlecruiser - which I
promptly fit mining lasers on and began the tedious process all over
again. I was bored silly after a month or so and quit.
By contrast, the streetwise newbie realizes that there are no rules in
EVE, and as soon as he feels comfortable he sets about scamming anyone
he comes across - or otherwise thinks a way out of the
mining/ratting/missioning grind. Personally, I advocate scamming for
all newbies. A single accomplished scam equates to hundreds of hours of
mining veldspar. With an injection of capital, market manipulation or
production becomes a possibility. Better still, the process of scamming
teaches players about the underside of EVE; it's easier to defend
yourself against deception if you yourself specialize in it.
Another challenge for the newbie in EVE is finding something he enjoys
to do. EVE doesn't spoon-feed content or quests; to succeed, a newbie
needs to have self-direction. Part of that involves seeking out things
that one actively enjoys doing in the game, and that inevitably
involves people. One of the worst mistakes a newbie could make is to
play only by himself; as Yahtzee found out the hard way, going solo in
EVE is a href="http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/208-Eve-Online"
target="_blank">frighteningly boring experience.
If you have no social contacts, I'd suggest joining a training
corporation, such as target="_blank">EVE University, which specializes
in teaching newbies the ropes and gives an initial social network to
Most newbies think that a terrible grind is required in EVE because
newbies are 'powerless', or because other MMOs insist that you hit
wolves with a sword for hours on end before you can level up. The
greatest thing about EVE is that you are able to think yourself out of
almost any situation; your best weapon is your mind, and you're pitting
your wits against other humans, rather than pixelated monsters. While
in the Bad Old Days, the deck was stacked against the newbie, in this
day and age the only thing holding back a newbie is a lack of
imagination, daring, or cunning.
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