When we last checked in with Eve Online, players were embroiled in a big space war with invading NPCs. We (I) fantasised about how the balance of power among Eve's eternally warring player factions would be forever altered, a Game Of Thrones style outside threat forcing alliances while, perhaps, encouraging betrayal. None of that really happened.
With the war amounting to little more than a damp space squib, developers CCP have turned their attention to newer players. As part of a broader attempt to ease new pilots into the game, moderators will start checking in with players when they lose a ship for the first time - and they might even refund them. I do like my "counselling" with a side of bribery.
The news comes from the latest Eve fanfest, which took place at a Finnish player's house two weeks ago. Steven Messner attended for cheery RPS fanzine PC Gamer, reporting on CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson's keynote speech where he told space tiddlers that he had their back.
"Right now, Pétursson said it's common for new players to die and, thanks to Eve's abstract depiction of combat and UI, have no understanding of what led to their precious ship going up in flames. Sometimes they'll email customer support (which will often give them a ship as a gift), but players are also just as likely to throw their hands up in frustration and quit, like I did the first few times I started playing.
"But right now CCP Games is building the tools necessary to alert its in-game moderators whenever a new player loses its first ship. That moderator can then message the player and help them understand what went wrong and possibly reimburse their ship. 'We're going to start by doing it manually, so we can cover all the cases,' Pétursson explains. 'But once we've done it manually [for awhile], we can start to automate the process of grief counselling when you lose your ship for the first time.'"
"Grief counselling" might be headline-attracting overstatement, but I do like the idea. Yeah, we're 'just' talking about videogames, but I can see how losing something you put dozens of hours into could be profoundly dispiriting. Especially when you don't understand why: someone stepping in and explaining what I could have done differently might well make me feel better. Or it might just make me want to throw things at them.
CCP have been making life easier for newer players for years, most notably with 2016's Ascension update.
There's no word on exactly when post-calamity check ins will make it into the game, but CCP have already overhauled the automated guidance system that ushers newer players into PVE activities, as well as setting up a scheme where volunteers and in-game moderators greet new players and help them get settled. It all sounds weirdly friendly for a game I associate with non-stop skulduggery, though other parts of Messner's article have begun to dispel that.
"'What happens a lot in Eve is that a veteran player kills you and if your reaction is a certain way — not just crying about it but asking why — usually what happens is that the veteran player gives you money to buy a new spaceship, and if you show that [you're willing to learn], they'll even invite you to [fly with them],' Pétursson says".
That "usually" is a big claim, which the cynical/realistic might point to as an attempt to paint the game as more palatable than it really is. Who even needs counselling when you can just be a good sport and have your ship's murderer take pity on you?