I recently posted an article about what new players should know before starting their life in New Eden. It generated a lot of responses from the community, a lot of which were extremely positive. I can’t call it universal acclaim because of my warning that newbies shouldn’t try to play Eve solo when starting out.
A lot of solo players took umbrage at that. The most complete reaction came from Eve Hermit, who wrote a counterpoint about the virtue of solo play. It’s a quick read and makes several defenses of solo play, all of which support the general idea that it’s quite possible to play the game solo and be very happy with it.
And this is all absolutely valid, and completely true. Solo play is a great thing in Eve (it’s also the best form of PvP).
Yet… diving into Eve with an intention of playing solo from the start is not an optimal way to approach the game for the first time.
And the goal of my article was to tune new players’ preconceptions so they are more compatible with the reality of Eve. If someone pitches Eve as a co-op game with clear progression tracks (ie. you unlock the super-powerful ability that makes your role viable at level 40), you’re going to be frustrated at the lack of structure once you start playing.
If we can tell people the reality of Eve in a way that makes them feel encourages and interested, we can increase that 10% retention rate to something along the lines of 30, 40, or 50%. I personally think CCP needs to market Eve based on the differences between it and other MMOs more. “No waiting to have an influence (ie. scamming, awoxing, scouting for fleets, all of which can be done with new characters). “There are no GMs to save you… or the other guy.” “Pirates in space: all the matters is what a player can do and what he cannot; there is no ‘should’.” “Own and influence the world around you.” But that’s another post…
Solo play is certainly viable, but solo play is not a starting point that tends to lead to long-term engagement. The driving force that instills passion in Eve players is – universally if you look at the stories they tell and the events raise their Irish – the interaction with other players. People hate Goonswarm because of the interactions they’ve had (Burn Jita, hulkageddon, scamming and awoxing, market manipulations). And that hate drives them to join communities to do something about it. To quote the sith, hate makes them stronger.
Oh, and it keeps them subscribing, logging in, and providing someone to shoot.
Passion, emotion, and investment of their time and their soul is what makes Eve compelling. That’s why we have bittervets… in any other game, they’d simply unsubscribe. But they enjoy their corpmates – in fact, their friends – and continue playing because of the people around them. You don’t get bittervet solo mission runners… they just unsubscribe.
And retention rests heavily upon new players making those connections. Once they’re made, there’s nothing preventing you from going solo and doing all sorts of things on your own. There are a lot of people in Repercussus who don’t join the large fleets, but are hanging out on comms chatting while they solo-hunt in wormholes, or look for fights in FW.
If players start out doing things on their own, they set a pattern of being unconnected with the rest of the community. Yes, they may read the Eve guides and find out what’s happening via the forums, but that’s just information. Information provides knowledge, but there are a lot of games I know a lot about that I simply don’t play anymore. Knowledge and familiarity doesn’t lead to long-term engagement and subscription… passion and connections do. That’s the power of the sandbox… the grains get under your skin.
For a real-world example, look at your family. You know a lot about them. So much, in fact, that a purely rational conclusion is to never speak to them again. But the memories, history, and emotion you feel drives you to try to keep a good relationship with them even when your brain is telling you they’re nuts. You’re level of engagement and connection is very high with your family, and you stick around because of that.
Solo play is certainly viable, but it’s an end-stage after you’ve already been drawn in. To encourage new players to immediately follow a path of solo-play is counter-productive. If you do that, a great many will never make the connections they need to feel connected to the game, and their player lifespan will be much shorter as a result.
But if they do the reverse… have solo-play tendencies and first join a community of players… they’ll be making emotional and personal connections with other players as they acquire base game knowledge. If they later decide to move to solo play, their roots are already deep in the soil of Eve, and the likelihood of them remaining is much greater. We play for the emotion.
And finding ways to quickly engage new player’s emotions should be the point of a new player’s experience. Nothing does that even half as effectively as bonding with other players.
Great post though, Eve Hermit, and a great defense of solo play. I agree completely!