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Some Games Are Tougher on New Players..

Some Games Are Tougher on New Players..

Kirith Kodachi’s new Blog Banter.. 47

Ripard Teg over at Jester’s Trek wrote a post called Don’t Do Anything Stupid and offered it as the basis of a Blog Banter as he is curious what others feel on the subject. Personally, I’m restarting manufacturing that I haven’t done in years and finding myself having forgotten almost as much as I knew the first time around.

So this month’s Blog Banter will gravitate around knowledge, specifically EVE knowledge. Some examples of topics to cover: Is EVE too complex for one person to know everything? Is it, in fact, too complex for one person to know everything about one topic? How do you maintain any knowledge or skills related to EVE over time with breaks and expansions? Does CCP do a sufficient job documenting the features of the game, and if not, what could they do better? How does one determine where the gaps in their knowledge even are?

So, is it too complex to know everything?

Well Yes.. and No.

Is Eve Online complex?  Absolutely.  But the problem isn’t that the game is complex.   Various aspects of the game have been cleaned up for the last couple years now and CCP has worked very hard in clarifying a lot of rules (remember the 47+ pages on how the old rules of aggression mechanics..).  You look at any game mechanic in Eve Online right now and there is nothing that you can’t do or figure out fairly quickly in the basic sense.

The problem is that the “content” is complex.  And what is the “content” of Eve Online?  It’s real, live people.  Real human beings who can be smart, stupid, nice, sinister, good, evil, etc. and not necessarily all the time.  So to expect CCP to develop a “guide” or any game instruction, would literally be akin to a psychology report rather than a gaming manual.  How does anyone know that you are being scammed?  Or that your friend whom you’ve chatted with on Teamspeak is really your buddy?  Or that mining Trit in a particular high-sec system now is far more difficult because of the arrival of a new mining corp?  Or that your corner on Zydrine in a particular constellation has been upended by a major alliance losing sov in a nearby Region?

A good example would be a the typical crafting task of mining.  A game manual can only really say this:

To Mine, you can fit a ship with mining lasers, go to an asteroid belt, and use those mining lasers to extract ore.  You can then refine the ore into minerals, which can be used to build items in game.  The higher your skill, the better mining lasers and mining ships you can use.

Simple, accurate, and yet.. totally wrong.  Sure, you can mine and sell the ore and minerals, but what can you say about the market fluctuations, or the fact that someone might not like you in that arm of space, and may try to undercut your price, or how an alliance losing a nearby region might suddenly change the amount of trit you can sell locally.  Nevermind about pirates who might suicide gank your ship, or people trying to scam you out of your ship and cargo.

.. and none of that is directly based off of game mechanics.

So, why is that an issue?

In an open sandbox game like Eve Online, people start to refine what they do after a while.  And when people start to refine their activities, those that are in competition also refine what they do.  This raises the bar to what works and what won’t, which in turn, becomes more of a challenge to players changing careers as well as new players.  Stuff like that cannot be put in any typical guide per se, because no one knows when the next big change will happen, be it a ship update, game mechanic change, or someone’s brilliant plan.  And such announcements are purposely kept quiet as long as possible because that maximizes the benefit to the ones who thought up the change.

While this makes gameplay dynamic and fresh, it also means that a person’s expertise can become outdated rather quickly and suddenly.  This often leads into a neverending game of catchup as individual people, corporations, and alliances expend isk to develop either a successful version of the latest and greatest fleet, or a successful version of its counter.  Since the vast majority of players do not belong to one of the super alliances, this can drain coffers rather quickly and raise frustrations both on the leadership as well as on the typical grunt.

Some recent examples:

Change to Mining Ships – While the mining mechanic stayed the same, the change to mining ships effectively meant a loss of approximately 500mil isk per pilot (Loss of usefulness of Hulk, need to purchase Mackinaw to return to individual productivity, lack of need for industrial ships) as a roundabout guess.  Not necessarily an easy hit to take if your are returning from a life of piracy.

Change to Tech 1 Ships – This change basically threw out all the previous fleet doctrines out the window, forcing pretty much everyone who wasn’t lucky or trained for every ship to make changes to their skill plan and take a new look at the what and why’s of their fleet doctrines.

Bombers Bar – Coordinated strikes by bombers have always been known to be effective, however Bombers Bar became the gold standard of this tactic.  Their highly effective use of Bombers forced everyone to re-evaluate how they utilized these ships.  To this day, when people talk about developing bomber doctrines, the Bombers Bar is the example they point to.

Rooks and Kings – Capital ship deployment has basically succumbed to the philosphy that “more is better”.  The only alliance that bucked this belief effectively was the Rooks and Kings alliance.  They developed better capital ship combat tactics, often with a view of being outnumbered.  Typically, if you are in an alliance that is just developing a captial ship doctrine, it is very likely that Rooks and Kings setups are on the top of the list to duplicate.

Pandemic Legion – The name often puts fear into the hearts of every small to medium sized alliance.  But it is also responsible for assisting in the development of supercapital fleets, which became a financial boon to the industrial sector as every major alliance struggled to find ways to match PL, at least at a deterrance level.

All of these examples caused dramatic upheavals in gameplay, tactics, and strategies, while not changing any core mechanics.  Some of them, like the Tiercide project, completely forced whole new ways of thinking onto the Eve Online populace.  Others like the Bombers Bar and Rooks and Kings, pushed passed formal ways of thinking in order to expand into new content.

And those mentioned in the examples were just ship related.  We don’t need to talk about the changes done to ice belts, asteroids, the various blueprint/resource costs, upcoming industrial changes, removal of drone minerals, changes to probing, etc., etc. all of which done in the last year.  Each of those changes compound as players take the time to adjust their distribution, their mannerisms, their markets, their tactics.  Again, it takes up time not only to find out about these changes, but time to react, time for trial and error, and time to make isk to replenish your losses during the process.

Ignorance was Bliss

Another big “content” change has been the overload of information through blogs, twitter, and news sites.  When I first started blogging about Eve Online, there were few blogs at all, and the only sources of news were either Eve-Tribune (which tended to be somewhat sporatic weekly, bi-weekly newsweek type blog) and CAOD (Corporation, Alliance, & Organization Discussion) which was pretty much the first Enquirer for Eve Online.  Sure, you had Battleclinic also, but that was a crap shoot whether or not those fits there were decent in actual practice.

That lack of information allowed for changes to take place slowly.  People advanced at their own normal rate of learning while living in a vacuum away from the goings on of others.  This meant that those with better spy networks, or better friends, profited longer when new ways of doing things were figured out.  Essentially you were rewarded for your efforts, both in discovering new ways and for eavesdropping on those you were interested in.

Nowadays, every new fleet doctrine is leaked to either The Mittani, Eve News 24, Kugutsumen, or Failheap Challenge, usually on the day of the announcement.  Pilots who are in these alliances, as well as those who keep a watchful eye on new fleet doctrines, are overwhelmed by each new fleet combo that the major and more popular alliances and coalitions are fielding.

Conclusion

In the end, we play a game that is complex not because of the game dynamics, but because of the minds behind the very aspects of gameplay, the players.  In a world where we the players make the content, it falls on us as the ones responsible for making the game as complex as it is.  We can’t rightly expect CCP to “guide” new players here if we keep on making things harder and more trickier on our own.

Other Contributors:
– Tetra’s Eve Blog – Bantering Over Something Difficult
– Sand, Cider, and Spaceships – Blog Banter 47 – If Knowledge is Power….
– Foo’s Eve Musings – Blog Banter #47 : Eve knowledge
– Extra Vehicular – BB 47: A complex complex of Complex complexes
– Docking Permission Requested – Blog Banter 47#- The Knowledge Game.
– Evoganda – BB#47: Blind Men and the Elephant
– Low Sec Lifestyle – Knowledge’s Tradition: Blog Banter #47
– Fuzzwork Enterprises – Blog Banter #47: How complex is too complex?
– Warp Drive Active – Blog Banter #47: Know It All
– Jakob’s Eve Checklist – Blog Banter 47: Communicating Complexity and a Proposal

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