Thursday, December 8, 2016

Rummaging Through The Wreckage

One of the interesting things of playing a new alpha clone is encountering problems that a 150 million skill point character can easily sweep away. I encountered one of those situations while attempting to complete a level 1 COSMOS mission this week. The agent, Tzumi Pokkolen with the Poksu Mineral Group, wanted 2 Sleeper Foundation Blocks. I had an autocannon-fit Thrasher. Easy, right?

Tzumi sent me to the neighboring system of Inder and its Contested Minmatar Military Depot Complex. I needed to enter the Ancient Wreckage dungeon and hack containers with a Relic Analyzer until I found the two items required. Oh, and the NPCs respawn fairly quickly. But an autocannon Thrasher can put out a lot of damage, so no problem. Or so I thought.

The plan almost worked to perfection. I rushed in, blapping the ships rather quickly. Even the cruisers. Did I mention the cruisers? Anyway, I managed to clear an area and hack a can. Then I started on another, and the alarms started going off. My tank started to break and I warped off with only one block in my cargo hold. I made three additional attempts, but each time the NPCs forced me to warp off.

Okay, so the NPCs had the range advantage on me, and I didn't have a strong enough tank. Time to change strategy. Instead of brawling, I would snipe away from a distance. I didn't have enough skills to shoehorn artillery into the Thrasher, so I loaded up my skill queue with missile skills and bought a Talwar.

The missile destroyer worked almost as advertised. With an armor tank featuring a reactive armor hardener and a tech 2 armor repairer, I just needed to plink away at range and then rush in to hack the cans. I think the plan would have worked if I could fit a microwarpdrive instead of an afterburner. As it was, the NPCs couldn't make me warp off, but they would make me back off right before I could begin the hack.

I played that game for 30-40 minutes before a Rupture warped in, asking if I needed a hand. Yes I did! He pretty much drew aggro expect for a group of four frigates that respawned between me and him. Four frigates I could handle, and I found the block in the first can I hacked. I thanked the Rupture pilot in local and warped off.

If I played on one of my main characters, I would fly into the room in something like a Stratios, drop a flight of drones, and hack to my heart's content. But on a new character, I don't have the luxury of overpowering the content. On an alpha character, I don't even have the option of changing to another faction's ships. Perhaps one day my alpha character will own a ship capable of holding up under the pressure and able to hack all the cans. But until then, I need to find a more productive activity. The COSMOS missions are tough.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Nearing A Decision

Tomorrow marks the end of the third week of the age of Ascension in EVE Online. More importantly on a personal level, I'm coming up on a decision about the future of my alpha character, Krasiva Pesen.

Krasiva began as an experiment into the viability of playing an alpha clone. Except for the half-speed training, I haven't experienced much of a difference from normal play. But the half-speed training is starting to come into play. When some of the level 3 skills take 14 hours to train and level 4 skills are taking, in some cases, 5-9 days to train, the training is painful. The good feeling of learning a couple of skills a day will soon end. I'm currently training level 1-2 missile skills, then the cruiser skills, but after that, the progression really slows down. With only 850,000 skill points and 15 million ISK, Krasiva is still a very young character. But at the three week mark, I need to decide if I should end the experiment and return to my accounts I currently pay for.

That's the rub, at least for people with paid accounts. Our accounts still train, but how long do we pay for them without playing on them? For myself, a natural decision point occurs in two weeks. Currently on my third account, I have a character that finishes the training necessary to run a data core farm, then she goes on to another area of study. The account also has an empty character slot. The perfect time to begin a new character.

One thing I learned about myself with my alpha clone experiment is that I'm ready to begin a new character. But I don't like the limits of the alpha clone, especially the reduced speed training. I like to log in and see the list of skills I trained. With my main characters on training paths learning 20 day skills, I forgot how much I missed hearing Aura say "skill training complete".

So do I continue with the alpha clone, start up a new omega clone, or go back to playing my main characters? Krasiva faces a challenge I need to complete, so I will put off a decision until then. But if I have everything figured out, I complete that challenge tonight.

Right now, I'm leaning toward returning to my paid accounts. Playing on an alpha account is fun, but if I'm paying $33 a month for a game, I want to play the full game and not the reduced version the alpha account represents.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Best Laid Plans

Sometimes, a plan just doesn't come together. Case in point, my plans for my alpha character. At first, everything worked great. The new NPE, which I'm now learning to call Inception, the career agents, and then the grind to 1.0 standings with the Minmatar Republic in order to run level 2 missions with the Minmatar. All of this leading up to running through the COSMOS missions. The prospect of getting faction blueprint copies had visions of ISK dancing through my head.

The first obstacle I encountered involved trying to get a mission from a level 2 agent. I received the brushoff.



What? I don't have the standings? But no, that is not the message the agents give when the issue is insufficient standing. This is.


Dalkar Kersos is a level 3 agent, so the message made sense. But getting rejected by a level 2 agent? I still can't figure out the problem.

Then the problems got a little worse. I gave up on these agents and went to the Sanctum Psychosis in Lanngisi. I received a 3-run blueprint copy of a 250mm 'Jolt' artillery cannon. That's when I discovered alphas cannot manufacture any of these meta modules, as they require omega clone skills. What's worse is I can only create one contract at a time. So even selling the BPC is difficult.

I really thought I had an alternative way to make ISK that would immerse me into the lore at the same time. Looks like I need to come up with another plan.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Two Weeks Of Alpha

Two weeks ago I created a new Alpha account to try out the new content introduced in the latest EVE Online expansion, Ascension. I even recorded most of my play sessions and put the videos up on YouTube, although I failed to record my commentary in about half the videos. Oops! But I wanted a record to look back on. I recorded about 17 hours of game play, which didn't include a couple of market trips and some theory crafting using the new fitting tool. I think overall I spent around 20 hours so far playing on the account.

I think I have enough experience to write reasonably intelligently about my trip through the new New Player Experience, the career agents, and a few hours of play after completing the introduction to EVE. As part of the experiment, I attempted to play as much like a new player as possible. No transfer of funds from my main accounts. No skill point bonuses from using one of my referral links. Admittedly, I did use some of my knowledge about the game, but I don't think it influenced me too much. Then again, I had a much easier time getting through the exploration career agent than I had in the past.

First, a word about character creation. I rushed through the process, yet still spent 15-20 minutes creating my character. EVE's character creator is a marvel even after 5 years. I just wish we could walk out the Captain's Quarters door. I still have a dream that one day CCP will convert our characters to Unreal Engine 4 and introduce some sort of avatar gameplay to EVE. I have to do a little research, but I believe that a player's choice of schools might matter. Okay, I need to do a lot of research on that.

Next, the big addition to the game. the new New Player Experience. At Fanfest this year, we learned that over half the people who try EVE don't last two hours. How long did the NPE last? Two hours. If the goal was to get players to last longer than two hours, the NPE should have done the job. While I didn't have any difficulty, I heard many players did. Those difficulties could have resulted in the low numbers of players completing the NPE. According to CCP Turtle power on the o7 Show Sunday, over 30,000 players had completed the NPE. An impressive number, until one realizes that players created over 162,000 new characters between 15-23 November.

Personally, I liked the voice acting, although at times I thought the dialog a bit corny. The alternating use of the faction fleet commander and Aura was effective from keeping the instructions from droning on in a single voice. A single voice has the problem of becoming monotonous. The bouncing back and forth not only between the two main characters, but the Sisters of EVE scientist as well, helped keep my attention on the instructions. By the end of the NPE, I think new players master the basic skills much better than with the previous iterations of the NPE. The main problem I have is that the quality of the content really drops once the new player starts running through the career agents.

The career agents. I have to say that the optimum order of doing the career agent chain is to do the industry and business agents first, then the military and exploration agents, with the advanced military agent last. Both the business and industry agents have missions that require manufacturing items, which can take up to 4 hours for a single batch of items to complete. During my run through, I spent eight hours with the career agents, so the content exists to fill up the space. Unfortunately, I saved the business and industry agents for last. Spoiler alert: don't do what I did.

After 10 hours of play, I went free-style and started doing the highest level missions I could: distribution missions. Hey, at least I wasn't mining, which some horrible people tell new players to do. I didn't do too bad either. I did sixteen level 3 missions in a little over an hour and made approximately 1.9 million ISK and 2300 loyalty points. More importantly, I managed to get a faction storyline mission. I did have to mine in a Venture for 20 minutes, but the +3 learning implant I received sold for 7.5 million ISK in Rens. On top of that, my standings with the Minmatar Republic is now 0.98, which means I have almost unlocked all the level 2 agents in all of the Minmatar NPC corporations. Not too bad.

For comparison, I also ran level 1 security missions for an hour. I completed two, gaining 400,000 ISK in bounties and mission rewards, 223 loyalty points, and 500,000 ISK in salvage and drops. This hour of level 1 missions is the reason I'm so excited about unlocking all of those level 2 agents.

Finally, I did a little exploring in a Probe in high sec. I managed to complete one data site with little problem, but I only received about 800,000 ISK in items. I did find a combat site and tried to run it in a Rifter. I need a lot more skills, or a Thrasher. I will say, though, that I had fun, even though most of what I scanned down were wormholes. The Probe served me well. Then again, I do have a little experience probing things down.

I also have to say I enjoyed the process of putting ship fittings together that a 700,000 skill point character can fly. The new in-game fitting tool is fantastic and I wish it existed when I first started playing. I managed to put together a good Wreathe fit, pretty good Probe and Venture fits, a passable PvE fit for a Rifter, and an acceptable beginner's fit for a Slasher. I also have a Thrasher that I will learn to fly today, but I won't have the fittings for a few more days yet.

After two weeks, I have 11.7 million ISK in my wallet with another 11.7 million in fitted & unfitted ships and miscellaneous items in my hanger. I still have not only the Sisters of EVE epic arc to do, but the Minmatar COSMOS missions as well. I also can join factional warfare if I pick up the pace of my ISK making. I've never farmed FW missions. Maybe I should begin. I also have a couple of ideas for something to do that I've never done on my main characters. Or maybe I'll start running Sisters of EVE missions and try to get some of those sweet SOE loyalty points. Those are usually worth something, even if I cannot fly the ships.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from my experience is, despite the seeming limitations of the alpha skillset, that after 20 hours I still have so much content I can explore. The big question is, do I want to? I have three paid accounts and I just spent the last two weeks spending all my play time on a free account. Seriously, I really don't have that much time in my life.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Fitting My Wreathe For My Alpha Clone

I finally finished running the career agents on my alpha clone character and asked myself the question, what next? The last career agent in the last mission offered the helpful advice to look for an agent like him. So I clicked on the "Agent Finder" button and the game presented me with a box that looked something like this:


That's right, I saw two level three agents. Level three agents are better than level one agents, right? Who wants to do stupid level one security missions when I can do level three distribution missions? Besides, the career agents gave me two Wreathes. What's the number one rule of EVE? Don't fly what you cannot afford to lose. I can afford to lose a Wreathe, because I already have a backup. So with the helpful prodding of CCP, I prepared to do distribution missions.

Judging by my blog statistics, I was not the only one thinking that way. since the launch of Ascension, I receive a lot of hits on my "Mastering The Wreathe" post every day. So why not use my own work to start the fitting process?



[Wreathe, Moving Van]
Type-D Restrained Inertial Stabilizers
Type-D Restrained Inertial Stabilizers
Expanded Cargohold I
Expanded Cargohold I
Expanded Cargohold I

10MN Monopropellant Enduring Afterburner
Medium Shield Extender I
Medium Shield Extender I
Thermal Dissipation Amplifier I
EM Ward Amplifier I

Medium Hyperspatial Velocity Optimizer I
I couldn't go crazy because I only had 6.7 million ISK and a little under 600,000 skill points to work with. Also, in the spirit of the alpha experience (and that pyfa was giving bad numbers), I'm using the numbers from the in-game fitting tool. At an estimated worth of 2.7 million ISK, I think I built a nice little fit.

I left the high slots empty because, expect perhaps a Salvager I, the ship really doesn't require anything in the highs. The low slots are set up for optimal performance for level 3 distribution missions. If I recall correctly, no level 3 Minmatar distribution mission requires more than 4,200 m3 of cargo space, and the fit above will hold 4,939 m3. The fit also makes use of 3 of the 4 Expanded Cargohold Is I received as mission rewards from the career agents. I also picked up one of the inertial stabilizers somewhere along the line, so I only needed to purchase one additional stabilizer.

The mid slots show an effort to maximize the tank of the Wreathe. The meta afterburner is used instead of a micro-warp drive (MWD) in order to fit larger modules. The Wreathe has a major shield resistance hole for electromagnetic (EM) damage, so I purchased an EM Ward Amplifier I. The Thremal Dissipation Amplifier I is present in the fit due to the prevalence of the Catalyst in suicide gank fleets. For my industrial ships, I try to defend against the thermal/kinetic damage the Caldari ships produce.

I should add one important note about the shield tank in this fit. I chose to use shield resistance amplifiers instead of a shield hardener because in case of a gank, the player doesn't need to remember to turn the tank on. The tank is running full out the entire time. All a player needs to do is crash the gate and jump back through to safety, assuming no bumping or tackle is applied by the ganking force.

For rigs, I only filled one of the three slots with a Medium Hyperspatial Velocity Optimizer I. With only 6.7 million ISK, the 1.7 million ISK cost of buying one took a big chunk out of my wallet. But just adding one increased my warp speed from 4.5 AU/second to 5.4 AU/second, giving the Minmatar hauler a warp speed just a shade slower than an assault frigate (5.5 AU/second). Eventually I will fill all three rig slots, although I may only install one more warp speed rig.


[Wreathe, **Moving Van]
Type-D Restrained Inertial Stabilizers
Type-D Restrained Inertial Stabilizers
Expanded Cargohold I
Expanded Cargohold I
Expanded Cargohold I

10MN Monopropellant Enduring Afterburner
Large F-S9 Regolith Compact Shield Extender
Kinetic Deflection Amplifier I
Thermal Dissipation Amplifier I
EM Ward Amplifier I

Medium Hyperspatial Velocity Optimizer I
Surprisingly enough, one large meta shield extender gives more protection than two basic medium shield extenders. With the slot freed up by using a large shield extender, I added a Kinetic Deflection Amplifier I. I added the module specifically to counter damage from Catalysts.

As an experiment, I ran level 3 distribution missions for one hour using the first fit in this post. Okay, the fit I used only had one inertial stabilizer and four expanded cargoholds, which means for my experiment I ran a sub-optimal fit. The results, however, pleased me.

In a 60 minute time frame, I completed 13 missions. If I run three more missions, I am eligible to receive a faction storyline mission that not only increases my faction standings, but also potentially gives a big payday, like a +3 learning implant, which are selling for over 9 million ISK in Jita. Of course, I could get a level 3 security mission that I can't run, but those are the breaks.

For those 13 missions, I received 1.6 million ISK and 1993 loyalty points. For new players, or those unfamiliar with EVE, loyalty points are a type of secondary currency used to purchase powerful items. The items are not bind on pickup, meaning that the player can turnaround and sell the items on the regular market for ISK, often for a tidy profit.


The above screenshot shows the types of skill hardwirings I can purchase after just one hour of running distribution missions. I can get a full set of Poteque "Prospector" implants that improve all aspects of using probes by 2%.

I don't know if people are doing better in other ways. I highly suspect exploration, especially that done in dangerous space, is much more profitable, both in ISK/hour and fun/hour terms. I do think, though, that I prefer distribution missions to hours of mining.




Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Harry Weller, RIP

A member of CCP's board of directors, Harry Weller, passed away unexpectedly in his sleep Saturday night at the age of 46. A married father of two sons, Mr. Weller is a former Navy FA-18 pilot and Duke University graduate who obtained an M.B.A. from Harvard in 1998. Weller headed up the East Coast practice for New Enterprise Associates, one of the largest venture capitalist companies in the world. According to The Wall Street Journal, Weller was an incredibly successful investor who had appeared on Forbes magazine's "Midas List" nine times, including last year's.
According to NEA, Mr. Weller at the time of his death was a board member on at least 13 of the firm’s portfolio companies. Those included software-building platform Appian, enterprise security firm Barkly and foreign language education app Duolingo.

Among past investments by Mr. Weller were an early bet on daily-deals provider Groupon and on software specialists Add This and Eloqua, both of which were acquired by Oracle Corp.; and Cvent, now owned by Vista Equity Partners.

He is listed as a co-founder of eeGeo, a 3-D mapping software company based in Scotland, according to PitchBook Data Inc. He served as president of FabricLock Inc., an NEA-backed startup in Chevy Chase, Md.
Weller appeared on the radar of EVE Online players last November when CCP announced a $30 million investment led by NEA into CCP for the development of virtual games. I think at the time people wondered what interested a large outfit like NEA in a relatively small game developer in Iceland. An article on Weller's death that appeared on Washington Business Journal might shed some light:
When Appian Inc. CEO Matt Calkins first met Harry Weller, he left behind a copy of the board game he made, Sekigahara, about the unification of Japan — not expecting it to do any more than make a great bookend on a shelf.

But to his surprise Weller, general partner for New Enterprise Associates, played it that following weekend and called Calkins back that Monday to talk about it. A techie and a gamer, Weller couldn't help but be interested in military history, having flown jets in the Navy before becoming a venture capitalist — and, as Weller had told Calkins, he wanted to design his own game.

“He used to predict that we'd write a game together someday,” Calkins wrote in a LinkedIn post after Weller’s unexpected death Saturday night. "He wanted my advice on a design he was writing this summer, WWII in the Pacific, I think. I never saw it."
Most of the articles that dive into Weller's death reference a Facebook post by TrackMaven CEO Allen Gannett. I'll focus on a part of the post that the business writers pass over but may explain some things to long time players familiar with CCP and its CEO, Hilmar Veigar P├ętursson:
I first met Harry when I was 21. A mutual friend had suggested we meet as we were starting to think about raising our Series A.

As a young, gay CEO, institutional investors were intimidating as a concept. I didn’t look like the enterprise software CEOs I read about. My hair wasn’t gray. My hobbies definitely did not include golf. To make it worse, this was not any institutional investor, this was THE Harry Weller. The guy who ran the east coast for the largest venture fund in the world. To say I overprepared would be putting it mildly.

When Harry met me in our conference room, I was a nervous mess. All I wanted to do was impress him. Which metrics should I talk about? Should I jump into a demo? I plugged my computer into the television, and, in a oh-so-cruel twist of fate, the song 22 by Taylor Swift came blasting through the TV speakers.

Blood rushed to my face. I am terrible at raising money.

Anxious that I had just embarrassed my way out of any chance of raising a Series A, I avoided any eye contact. How could I have left that on Spotify? Why do I even listen to this stuff?

Then, I heard a laugh.

Harry thought it was funny. I hadn’t known the guy for more than five minutes, but this was my first peak into what Harry was truly like. It wasn’t what you looked like, talked like, or did in your free time. He was all about ideas. He was all about execution.

Harry was eager for me to continue.

I maybe got four minutes into the demo at which point Harry cut me off.

Slightly startled, Harry started to pitch me on all the reasons why we had to work together.

This pitch meeting I had prepared so much for quickly turned into Harry pitching me. Within a matter of minutes, Harry had decided that we were going to work together. He was going to will it into the universe.
I don't think that a staid venture capitalist would invest in what one might describe as a "unique" game company located on an island in the North Atlantic run by a bunch of internet space Vikings. The picture of Weller emerging after his death is of someone who is anything but staid.

What Weller's death will mean for CCP is anyone's guess. But apparently Weller's faith in CCP was warranted, as Hilmar announced at DICE Europe that CCP was on pace to recover the initial $30 million it had invested in virtual reality games by the end of 2016 or early 2017. CCP is still using the funds obtained from NEA and others to continue development of other games like Project Arena.

Monday, November 21, 2016

EMP S And The New Player Experience

I am still running my alpha character through the career agents. I decided to do two yesterday, the exploration and business lines of missions. The exploration went a little better than expected. I guess all that practice probing down anomalies while in Signal Cartel paid off. But when I got to the last mission of the business line, I wound up rage quitting for 10-15 minutes.

Why the rage? The agent handed me a 200-run EMP S blueprint copy and asked for 5,000 rounds of ammunition. Oh, and I had to make the ammunition myself. What?!

First, let me back up a bit. Throughout both the new New Player Experience and the career agents, players are guided to use EMP S ammunition. That doesn't even make sense, given that the main NPCs new players fight belong to the Angel Cartel. EMP S is a type of ammunition that does 75% of its damage using electromagnetic (EM) damage. The Angel Cartel is most vulnerable to explosive, followed by kinetic, damage. The rounds that players should use against the Angel Cartel are Fusion S, which consists of 83% explosive damage, with kinetic damage making up the remainder. EMP ammunition works great against the Amarr Navy, but new players don't run into the Amarr.

Logically, by the time I am asked to manufacture ammunition, the agent should ask me to create Fusion S, not EMP S, rounds. The manufacture of Fusion S rounds requires isogen, pyerite, and tritanium. Isogen is found in omber and kernite. In Minmatar space, omber is found in any 0.6 security system and below while kernite is found in 0.4 systems and below. Given that information, a new player should stumble upon isogen-bearing ore. Even if the player manages to wander out of the Minmatar Republic into either the Ammatar Mandate (Derelik) or the Amarr Empire (Devoid), once the new player enters a 0.6 security system, all the new player needs to do is warp to a belt in a Venture, fill up the ore hold, and return to base. Simple.

With EMP S rounds, the instructions are misleading. EMP S requires nocxium, not isogen, to build. The agent helpfully tells the new player that nocxium is found in pyroxeres (0.9 security and below), jaspet (0.4 security), hemorphite (0.2 security) and hedbergite (0.2 security). The only problem is, of the four ore types, only hedbergite is found in the Minmatar Republic. So what can happen is that the new player, thinking he only has to go to a 0.9 system, goes to belts looking for pyroxeres. How much time is the new player going to spend looking? I don't know. The problem is worse if the player goes into low sec looking for jaspet. Not only will the player not find the jaspet, but might wind up on the wrong side of a kill mail.

In a best case scenario, a true new player may have heard that mining is cancer and never do it. In that case, the player goes to the nearest market, buys the materials, and produces the 5,000 rounds that way. In the worst case, the player wastes a lot of time looking for ore in places the ore does not exist, gets frustrated, and rage quits the session.

I, on the other hand, am not a new player. After realizing my character only had 5 million ISK, I hopped on Dotlan and found that Jask, in Derelik, was the nearest source of nocxium. So I headed out that way and filled my Venture's ore hold with viscous pyroxeres, and returned to the station. Did you know manufacturing 5,000 rounds of EMP S takes almost four hours? So I started the process, logged off, ate dinner, took a nap, and listened to a podcast. I logged back in with one minute left on the job. Once the job completed, I opened up a conversation with the agent, hit the compete button, and received a Wreathe plus 206,000 ISK as a bonus for completing the mission within the allotted time. I then logged back out.

Seriously, 4 hours? Okay, I get to use the remaining 150 runs on the blueprint copy, but the ammunition is the wrong type to use against the local NPC pirates. I know this suggestion is too late, but CCP needs to change the ammo type to Fusion S and reduce the amount of ammunition required to produce from 5,000 down to perhaps 1,000.

On Thursday, I wrote about how unexcited I was about the new NPE directing me to the career agents. The experience with the final business mission is worse than I remembered. Hopefully CCP does a fix before doing a marketing blitz to attract new players to the game. A four hour AFK mission? Ugh!

Friday, November 18, 2016

EVE: Ascension Early Numbers Are Encouraging

Usually, the move of an established MMORPG to some sort of freemium or free-to-play business model results in an initial surge of new players flooding into a game. So far, all indications available to the public show that EVE Online is experiencing the same phenomenon over the first three days of the introduction of the Alpha and Omega clone sets.

The source of the following information is Chribba's Eve-Offline.net. According to the site, EVE's Tranquility shard has seen over 10,000 characters created in a single day six times. Those dates are:

16-Nov-16: 26,543
17-Nov-16: 19,463
15-Nov-16: 17,815
06-May-16: 14,157
30-Jan-14: 11,696
20-Aug-16: 10,109

Note that the top three dates are the first three dates of the Ascension expansion. But the list also shows that a lot of character creation does not necessarily result in long term concurrent usage, as two more of the top six character creation dates also occurred during 2016.

But the number of players online is up. Here are the peak concurrent usage numbers over the past four days.

14-Nov-16: 29,117
15-Nov-16: 36,620
16-Nov-16: 38,221
17-Nov-16: 39,496

Anecdotally, I can report from the numbers in Rookie Chat, which is made up of all characters online less than 30 days old, that new characters seem to make up 10-15% of all logged in characters. This, to use a technical term, is a good thing.

Personally, on Sunday I expect the PCU number to exceed the mark for 2015 (45,637) and exceed 50,000 for the first time since around March 2014. The question is whether CCP has improved the new player experience enough so that a sizable portion of the players stick around.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Is That All I Get?

I finished up the new New Player Experience last night. I jumped through a stargate for the first time, visited a couple of sites outside the new player system, and returned via pod express. At the end of the session, I was left with one thought. Meh.

I only had two major problems with the second half of the content. The first involved the use of the autopilot. No. Just no. Friends don't let friends use the autopilot. Yes, the autopilot feature is very valuable in picking out a course to a destination. But please, don't make players have to push the auto button in order to advance to the next step. At one point, one of the tool tips completely covered the autopilot button and I had to scramble to figure out how to move the UI element to the top of the screen in order to push the button. Ugh!

The second is the use of the redeem feature when I received new items from the fleet commander. Look, I realize that with the conversion to a freemium model, acquainting new players with how to redeem their purchases from the cash shop is important. But players really shouldn't get used to the fact that their mission rewards come from the same place as their cash shop purchases. Please, don't blur the lines.

Not that the second half of the two hour experience didn't have its moments. The fight where I tackled a carrier was cool (although I should have used a scram). The visit to the Asterhaus and the subsequent fly through the Minmatar fleet had me rubber necking like a new player. And I have to admit flying into the final fight was pretty cool. The sight of a Drifter battleship slowly disintegrating and finally exploding below me was great. And this final part of the fight is pretty epic. The video should begin at the 1:00:00 mark and lasts 2 1/2 minutes. (Warning: strong language involved and is not safe for work).



The "meh" thought occurred because of the message Aura delivered when I woke up back in the station. The fleet commander left me a Venture, a Rifter blueprint, and the advice to go to the career agents. The career agents? Ugh! What a buzz kill!

The real problem I have is that we had two hours of voice-acted content and players are now sent to the career agents. That's a pretty big drop in the quality of the content. I really hope that players don't look at that and have a "Tortage" moment where they feel they are the victims of a bait and switch. The good thing CCP has going for them is that most of the players who may object aren't paying for the game, so they may stick around anyways. Hopefully by then the new players will have learned that the real game is played with other players. Still, I can see where players could think differently.

I plan on continuing documenting the adventures of my new alpha clone character. I just have the feeling the next few sessions won't have the attraction that these first two had.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My New Alpha Character

A lot of people created alpha characters yesterday. How many? Possibly a record number.

From Eve-Offline.net
Of course, a lot of veterans curious about the feature created free accounts to try out the new New Player Experience and how alpha clones work. I know I did.

The process of creating an account was easy enough. I didn't have to worry about downloading the client, so I just filled out the information, verified my email address, attached my Google Authenticator app to the account, and away I went.  I should add that I'm glad that CCP allows players to use 2-factor authentication on free accounts. Not all publishers do. I wish I could apply 2FA to my Star Wars: The Old Republic account, but I guess EA/Bioware believes security is for paying customers.

The character creation process is pretty much as I remembered it. EVE has one of the most detailed character creators around. Even relatively rushing through the experience, I still spent 20 minutes creating my character. Too bad we can't leave the studio apartments we stay in when docked up. I hope one day CCP will redo avatar gameplay in Unreal Engine 4, but that's just wishful thinking.

I created a female Sebiestor Tinkerer. Yes, I went hard mode with the Minmatar, although I hear some people think the Amarr are worse off. I originally wanted to create a male character, but I fell in love with the name and gave in. I have a back story floating around my mind for my character. If I had created a male character, I would have chosen the Rebel ancestory. I need to write the idea down. I think I may actually have a good story.

Upon hitting finalize, I was immediately thrown into the tutorial, with a voice actor playing Fleet Commander Valdari giving me the background of my current situation in space. Also, my introduction to Aura. I don't think the voice of Aura is bad in the tutorial, but the words flow too fast when she says "warp drive active."

As I stumbled through the first part of the tutorial, I have to admit I liked the text that floated in space designed to show elements necessary to completing the tutorial easier. Except, that is, when the text covered up my capacitor and hit points. That was annoying. Especially when I'm into half-armor. Or at least, I think I was at half-armor. I couldn't tell because the UI element was in the way.

Having gone though the old NPE which was walls of text, I think the voice acting does a much better job of transmitting information. I do have to say I wish the instructions came just a tad faster the first couple of times I fought against the NPCs.

As I running through the tutorial, I was a bit concerned that my Reaper wound up with an armor tank while the skills an alpha clone can train are weighted very heavily toward shield tanking. Upon reflection, the tutorial is not just for alpha clones and Minmatar ships often can fit both an armor or a shield tank. Still, I can see where alpha players may run into some confusion.

I did manage to finish the industry section that results in the construction of a civilian data analyzer. The industry section contained two improvements over the old NPE industry line. First, instead of getting sent out to an asteroid belt to mine, the fleet commander told me the fastest way to get the minerals was to raid a den of pirates. The second, and more important improvement, was that while the data analyzer was under construction, the voice acting kept me occupied until the item was ready. Under the old NPE, players were basically told to go get something to drink, or maybe even get a sandwich, as manufacturing would take awhile.

I stopped at the point in which I needed to use a jump gate for the first time. The activities from the end of character creation to when I finished the last activity in the starter system took a little under one hour. In my opinion, that is pretty good pacing. Also, the tutorial presented a natural break point to return to real life.

So far, I like the tutorial. From what I've heard, the tutorial runs between 5-10 hours in length. I only want to spend an hour or so each day playing on my alpha account, so I think I'll finish the tutorial sometime this weekend.

Oh, and the crazy idea I alluded to in yesterday's post? I streamed the session to YouTube so I could have a copy live. The video, for anyone who really wants to see me stumble around, is below.