I admit I wasn't too excited about this month's Blog Banter topic. Not because its not interesting or worth exploring, but because it makes me so mad. So prepare for a rant.
EVE Online is a harsh universe where complexity abounds, both "good" and "bad" kinds. It has some problematic areas like trying to understand moon mining and if you have it set up right or setting the corporate roles and permissions interface, but these are minor compared to the overall state of the game which is quite sound when you get down to it. And not unexpected for a game this mature; you should be able to confidently log in and get in a space ship and go do something without too much difficulty.
But where EVE falls down is the risk to reward ratio that changes as characters age in the game.
New players are risking a lot, sometimes everything, as they play because the extent of their wealth is small compared to the ships they fly, and they lack the skills and knowledge and experience to protect them from mistakes or traps. How many newer players have lamented about undocking in a hauler and doing something that gets them killed? Or taking their new shiny destroyer out for a spin in low sec and ending up on the wrong side of a blaster?
Conversely, at a certain point a player is wealthy and experienced enough to lower the risk per action they take while the rewards only increase. Veteran players think nothing of losing four or five cruisers in a busy night, and very veteran players simply through entire battleships or carriers to the wolves for the sake of *content* and amusement.
EVE is a backwords bizzarro universe where the neophytes face the biggest dangers and challenges and the journeymen never fear nor struggle.
To make matters worse, for the uninitiated of EVE's PvP culture, we hide away the best tools and resources away from easy access. In game map? Pathetic compared to DotLAN maps. In game fitting tool? Useless for experimentation and research, you need EFT or Pyfa or Osmium. Guides and teachers are found in teaching corporations and websites and podcasts, but nothing in game. ISIS was a good start to directing people to what kind of tanking and weapons a ship requires, but the tricks to fitting a ship properly are still obscured and found only by trial and error for those without a mentor.
The new player is ignorant of these things, the veteran takes them for granted. Go ahead, veterans, play EVE for a week without any out-of-game tools, not even using the in game browser you cheater. Try leading a fleet without DotLAN or Dingo toolbox. Plan some skills without EVEMon. Come up with a new ship fit. I dare you.
And as a new player once you discover these resources? Things get better, you reduce your risk and increase your reward. Congratulations, you are no longer a newbie.
But until that magic point those players are handicapped, crippled, and mocked. Mistakes happen. We say "oh that player is over a year old so should know better than to undock a battleship and go into lowsec with three different weapon systems and dual tanks" but outside of the relatively new ISIS feature how can they know better? Where is the Clippy assistant to say "looks like you are trying to dual tank, that might be a bad idea"? No where, that's where. So they undock, they go to the wrong place, and they die.
And we mock them. He hold up the killmails, jeer in local, and chase them back to station. We take them on podcasts, blogs, twitter, and mock the fools.
The community as a whole despises weakness and ignorance so we mock and shun them, those unfortunate ones who failed to find the magic key of the meta-community and tools. We bring the new players into our house and then try to strangle them in their sleep.
No, that's true. There are many noble souls who try to help out. Sindel Pellion's Angel Project, EVE University, OUCH, RvB, numerous corporations and entities that will help mentor players into the enlightened status, but they are a minority compared to the overwhelmingly uncaring majority.
So, while the in game resources are so paltry, while the risk is so high and reward so little for the new players, and while we hunt them and mock them without mercy for the most part, new player retention will continue to be a problem for EVE. And if it remains a problem in the long run, old player retention is going to suffer too.