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.
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