[tl;dr the central fucntion of a new player zone should be to give people the chance to learn basic game mechanics in systems of all security levels. The game mechanics to realize this inside the single shard of New Eden are already in place. No need for instancing.]
The Poet has proposed to give EVE newbies a protected space to learn. Before you continue read his post, since I will assume you are familiar with his idea throughout this article. An idea that some were quick to point out is not new (edit: see also here for another proposal). The ensuing discussion on twitter centered on the part of the proposal that would have CCP basically create a separate server zone for new players which is completely off-limits to more experienced characters. Concerns were expressed that such instancing goes against the fundamental principles of EVE, with its one-shard universe.
I feel that this criticism misses the point. The important parts of the proposal are not the separation of experienced and noob players but rather the idea to expose new players to all parts of EVE space during their very early career. Currently the tutorials only cover high security space. Lowsec, nullsec and let alone wormhole space are neither explained to new players, nor is there encouragement to go there (later in their career). The examples of player frustration when they first – completely unprepared – stumble into some of the less protected parts of New Eden are legion.
I think the central message we should take from Poetic’s proposal is that new players must be given the chance to try out and learn basic game mechanics in all parts of space. This might indeed be quite valuable in terms of player retention. But even if you are not concerned about the number of players — it seems just fair to me. One can question of course whether this really needs to mean the introduction of separate instances. I do not believe so. There is all the game mechanics there to create a zone where young pilots can train basic flight drills in all kinds of space that still lifes in the same universe as the rest of New Eden.
I call it the CONCORD Flight Academy. It would be a set of systems as described (go read it now) in Poetic’s blog. However, in contrast to his idea, these systems would be connected through four highsec gates to the rest of New Eden. At some point during the normal tutorial missions, pilots are send into this region, which is organized and managed by CONCORD for training purposes. There are some safety procedures in place to ensure an efficient training environment. The jump gates leading into the Flight Academy region only allow T1 frigates. There is a permanent cyno jamming effect in place throughout the zone. Experienced pilots with more than 5M skill points can still enter the zone but they will immediately be flagged as a suspect. Furthermore these players will not be allowed to dock at any station in the zone. Younger toons can obviously dock everywhere. A supply of ships up to T1 cruisers should be available and I leave the problem of how to organize the supply chain, how to get (or build) the equipment there for the interested reader.
As they enter the CONCORD Flight Academy new players not only start to learn about the game mechanics in the different security levels, but they also encounter player owned corporations for the first time. I already have written about the academy class concept, so I will not repeat here. One obvious scheme that could easily be organized in such a framework is PvP introduction classes.
There will be one real threat to the noobs, though. Occasionally a wormhole will open somewhere in the training zone and it will lead to any normal low- or nullsec system in New Eden. It will not carry the T1 frigate limit of the official CONCORD protected gates, but of course it will have a (low) mass limit. It will be up to the recruits to defend themselves from these real threats, should somebody come through these holes…
I think such a compromise has a lot of potential for further refinement. The central point is to provide a training range that offers the chance to actually try out basic game mechanics for young players. This could well lead to a reduced aversion against low and nullsec and ultimately facilitate a higher player retention.
Fly smart! Chira.