[tl; dr Proposal to automatically assign new characters to special player run corporations – academy classes – during the tutorials ]
How to keep new players engaged in EVE Online is a widely discussed topic. Apart from providing them with clear tutorials and an intuitive user interface many people seem to agree that the most important key to long term player retention is to get noobs into a player run corporation.
In this piece I want to address the question, whether it would be possible to introduce new players more directly to the social aspects of the game. Indeed it is a curiosity that a social game like EVE Online provides almost no incentive for and little information about its key features of cooperative play during the early days of a capsuleer.
For many new players the first time they encounter the necessity to team up with others is during the – fully optional – Sisters of EVE epic mission arc in which at least the final boss is not manageable for a fresh character. CCP has designed the encounter such as to make teamwork almost a necessity. The experience to defeat Dagan with the help of some fleet mates has certainly lead to many a capsuleer forging their first bonds or even joining a corporation for the first time. Why not provide more opportunities like that early in a players career?
If our goal is to socialize new players in the EVE community early on, how could we approach this?
How do you socialize in real life? Well… School! School is the place where you typically take your first steps in a larger group, make friends (and enemies) and finally leave as a grown member of society (at least in theory).
It so happens that the EVE tutorial is set into a similar setting. You start your career as a capsuleer at one of the academies of your faction. So why not group new players together into classes?
The stories revolving around class mates we have read and watched from Top Gun to Starship Troopers are classic.
Make contact with other players the first thing that happens when you spawn in that captains quarter. Assign the character to an automatically generated corporation as he begins his tutorial. This corp is introduced as his academy class. Classes are created dynamically as new players log in. Let him try the corp chat channel. When he first enters space and has boarded his first ship make him join a corp fleet. Encourage him to study the membership list and the corp bulletins. The size of these academy classes has to be large enough to have enough people online but should be small enough to allow for a more focused contact amongst the members than the newbie channel. 20 members might be a good size.
Add new tutorial missions which have to be completed by class fleets. Those missions should be voluntary but offer much improved payout compared to the standard tutorials. They should also require significant teamwork such as a variety of ship types on grid.
At some point the academy class should be required to elect their ceo and two directors. Corp roles and management should be part of a tutorial. Academy class corps will have special rules restricting kicking and accepting new members.
With these structures in place the class is given a final mission the type of which can be chosen by the class leadership. A successful completion of this team centred mission should yield a significant reward which scales with the number of players that participate actively in this final exam. I would love to see a class with more than 75% attendance in this event to walk away with a small POS for example.
After the final exam the ceo has the option to convert the academy class into a regular player owned EVE corporation.
At anytime it should be possible to complete the tutorials independently of what the class mates are doing. Teaming up with class mates should give bonuses. The payout of the large class events is always distributed evenly amongst all class members even if some did not attend.
There are certainly a few loopholes in this system that would have to be dealt with to minimize exploits. It might be for example necessary to ban trial accounts from the final exam. Suggestions and criticism is very welcome.
EVE is a social game and player run corporations are the basic entities in the sandbox. New players should be given the chance to actively learn about these concepts as early as possible. In academy classes they can practice the basics of the game together with people on the same level, explore the social tools EVE is offering and maybe find the partners for their future enterprises in New Eden.