Tuesday, 11 January 2011

My Sister the Rookie: Trial Period, Part One

When you've played EVE for a number of years, it's hard to recall those first tentative weeks staring up the sheer face of The Learning Cliff. Things that are second nature to the veteran can be impenetrable to the rookie. We forget how much we take for granted. I was about to be reminded.

Just over a month ago, I convinced my younger sister to give EVE a go.

I was curious to see what she made of my quiet little internet spaceship obsession. She was an intriguing candidate for an EVE trial, although definitely only a casual gamer at best these days, she has had some previous experience of MMOGs and was once fairly obsessed with Everquest 2. Back then, she weaned herself off the habit by having children and a career. Now over half a decade has passed and I've managed to lure her back into the world of online digital entertainment. But no more cliched fantasy guff, this time it's the harsh sci-fi quasi-reality that is EVE Online. This article is the first in a series aimed at documenting how she gets on.

Whilst it was in my interests to ensure she enjoyed her early EVE experience, I didn't want to be holding her hand through every step. I was also curious to see what she made of the New Player Experience and how effectively it would get her on her feet. We live over one-hundred miles apart so I wouldn't be able to physically mentor her anyway, but there was always voice-comms for when we were on at the same time (although setting up and familiarising her with Teamspeak3 over the phone was a challenge in it's own right).

Given that I was currently operating in Amarr high-sec, I advised she opt for an Amarrian character so I would be nearby to provide assistance if required. She quickly rattled through character creation, the process having now been streamlined with the removal of the convoluted processes of attribute point distribution and starting skill selection that I remember. Lozyjoe became a capsuleer.

Whilst I listened on Teamspeak, she took her first steps into New Eden and was instantly overwhelmed by the myriad of buttons and information on screen. I think we forget that the EVE interface is the gaming equivalent of a Boeing 747 cockpit with literally hundreds of uniquely clickable options from the outset. I directed her attentions to the tutorial pane and I felt a pang of sympathy as I listened to her begin to grapple with the basics of the Heads-Up Display and User Interface management. I found myself praying she didn't just give up there and then and wander off to watch a less taxing DVD.

The first tutorial mission still requires you to approach and destroy a basic hostile frigate. However, Lozyjoe was already struggling and I was having difficulty understanding why. It was only through patient and methodical questioning that we realised that she a) couldn't make sense of the overview and b) didn't realise that it was a third-person view and that it was HER ship in the middle of the screen.

Rather than dive into the dry topic of correct overview settings, I thought it was of critical importance to make something fun happen and quickly. Something needed to explode. Following some basic orientation advice, Lozyjoe soon managed to approach and orbit the target, then lock and fire upon it. At least I thought that was what she was doing, but for some reason she didn't seem to be doing any damage. Further questioning revealed that although she was orbiting the 'red cross', she had locked and was firing upon a nearby asteroid. I guided her to correct this and soon she witnessed her first explosion. The emotion from both of us was more relief than elation.

Having earned her first kill, next was her first experience of warping and docking. Although to regular players this is an instinctive part of getting around, to a new player it is anything but intuitive. Grasping the concept of what is physically near your ship and what is millions of kilometres away is yet another thing that veterans have learned and forgotten to teach. With a very basic look at the overview (ordering overview objects by distance with closest at the top was key) we managed to get her home.

Phew.

This early stage in Lozyjoe's trial has given me a new understanding of how we play EVE. Unlike most games, where everything about the game design is geared toward easing you into a fun and immersive experience, EVE's UI is more of a versatile toolset, where every click leads to a bewildering rabbit-hole of new options. It's more akin to grappling Photoshop or a word processor for the first time than it is playing a game.

Furthermore, simply looking at the EVE interface only gives you an impression of your environment, rather than the complete picture provided by most regular games. It's more like reading a book, where you allow the information provided to percolate into your brain where it is extrapolated into the full environment with your imagination filling in the blanks. Only a seasoned player's brain intuitively takes in the myriad of information on the screen, compiling overview details, ship information and a host of other factors to develop an understanding of where your ship is in the universe in relation to other ships and objects.

To the new player it's all just bright lights and noise.

[Go to My Sister the Rookie: Trial Period, Part Two here]

10 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing up this account of your sister learning to play.

    I had the exact same experience a couple of months ago. My 22 year-old sister had hung out while I played and listened to me flying in fleets and was interested, so I sent her a trial. The first couple of hours (I mean of play, not the first literal two hours of her perfecting her character portrait) were near torture trying to help her with the right balance of getting to the immediate goal, explaining broader concepts, and trying to let her learn things on her own.

    She played to the end of the trial but didn't end up continuing. She had the basics down, but other things came up and since she didn't have a clear objective in the game she never got around to renewing her account.

    I'm hoping to try and rope her back in, maybe the NEW character creator on Friday will help!

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  2. Very nicely done.

    We do forget how convoluted and confusing the overview is. How people spend way too much time making a face that will just be a small icon (for a little while longer)

    The followup question I have for you is what direction are you going to gently guide her? Carebear> Eve Uni? If you say minng I will remote rep Greenbeard and anyone else who takes a shot at you.

    m

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  3. Wow, this took me right back to when I started! My other half had to nag me into it for quite sometime before it stuck, I stumbled around quite lost for a long time. Been here 4 years now so there's hope for your sis yet heh.

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  4. It is interesting to note how many folk this struck a chord with. Several Tweetfleet commenters have had similar experiences of attempting to encourage a family member, with mixed results.

    It does still seem to be an overwhelmingly complex process initially, although there is certainly evidence of improvements later on in the New Player Experience. I'll cover that in more detail in a future installment.

    Lozyjoe's future is currently uncertain and her choices will come under scrutiny in a later episode, but I couldn't rule out the need for Mike Azariah to keep his remote repair modules in a state of readiness.

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  5. Reading this, I had a thought: maybe it would be useful if somebody created a new toon, and frapsed playing through the tutorials. With a proper voice over, this could create teaching videos for those people who learn better by watching than by trying.

    I'd caution though that making a good educational video is harder than it seems - at minimum you need a script of what to demonstrate when.

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  6. Sounds like a job for EVE University. Or perhaps CCP themselves, I recall they did a quick video tutorial of the new scanning mechanic when it was first introduced. I think it would definitely help, even just an audio track that could be played in the jukebox might be helpful to many.

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  7. Ah I loved this post! This was exactly me when I started out -both my husband and son play but I wanted to make my own way and there were many hilarious mistakes at first as I bumbled about doing weird things that I'm sure CCP never intended :D

    I've stuck at pve for about 18 months and loved it but feel the need to branch out to pvp and there's a whole new mystifying learning curve that's opened up. Thank goodness for all the helpful players out there sharing bits of advice.

    Hope your sister is still enjoying her experience. I think its great you're helping her out :D

    Penelope Star

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  8. Great post!
    That's very sweet of you to help your sister out.
    Tell her if she wants to chat to other female gamers in EVE, to join the ingame channel "WGOE=Public" and/or send me an EVE mail :)

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  9. Honestly, it's extremely refreshing seeing someone address this matter.

    By many standards, I'm a noob, myself. I've been on EVE for less than two months, so while I have most of the basics comfortably established in my mind, there are advanced matters that I know I still haven't begun to touch.

    But I joined recently enough that I can still clearly remember how intimidating this game was when I had first started.

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  10. I love not only that you're doing this for your sister, but also that you're blogging about it!
    I'm working on getting my ex-wife/current gf...yeah, a BIT complicated ;)...into the game with me, but the learning curve is daunting for someone who works as much as she works..
    About to have her spend a week or so at my place and sit and play with her at the same time.. I think that would be much more helpful than voice-coms, cell phone texts, and frustrated "ARRRRRRGGGG!" phone calls :)
    Can't wait to read the rest of her experiences and find out what she REALLY ends up doing in the universe...

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Lay it on me.