We had a nice long chat with the EVE Online devs recently. First we talked about how creative their players are, then we asked them about Elder Scrolls Online and DayZ . Today, we hit them with the most common accusation against EVE: is it really too hard to learn?
PCG: One of the big bullet points on Inferno's official website is that the expansion lowers the barrier to entry for the game. I think every EVE expansion has claimed this at one point or another. Do you actually believe that EVE can have a low barrier to entry? Or is the game just too complex?
Jon Lander, senior producer: We've actually been working on this. We're always working on it, because we recognize that EVE is hard. But I think it's really important to separate two things out. One, EVE is a game which, if you've never played a computer game before, you are going to struggle with. This is a game where you have to be a reasonably savvy games player already to really appreciate what it is you're getting into.
What that doesn't mean is that EVE should make you bleed to learn how to play it. The game is difficult, but we shouldn't literally make people cry when they try to learn the game, because that's just crazy. So we've done a number of things which actually enable people to get closer to some of the more, if you like, longer-term gameplay. Getting to that in a more forgiving kind of environment.
So, factional warfare does that. EVE, one of the great things about EVE is the PvP and the fact that it has consequences, the fact that loss means something, but as a result, so does winning. That has always been seen as the preserve of, "Well, you're going to have to have played the game since launch or you're never going to get anywhere." What factional warfare has done is make it so basically anybody can get involved very quickly. Get involved in PvP, which is such a deep and meaningful part of EVE, without having to sign up to a 4000-person alliance and set your alarm clock at four in the morning.
It's a stepping stone towards the sovereignty, taking your own space and building your own home. It's taken that and it's said, "You know, you can still be involved in this. Nobody's going to shout at you in your corporation if you haven't turned up for two days because you needed to sleep." That has lowered the barrier to entry.
Another thing that we're looking at right now is all those thing [a player's exposed to] when a brand new player starts. It's just hard. The tutorial is hard, the tutorial is complex. It's not very intuitive at times. We've got a few teams just looking at that and trying to smooth out as much of it as possible.
It's a first step towards the real question we need to ask ourselves: "In a sandbox game, does the linear tutorial make sense?" We've created a team and we're getting them to look at that. Because like I said, EVE is a hard game, and you need to know your way around a computer game if you're going to get the most from it. But we shouldn't make it masochistically hard to get into.
Kristoffer Touborg, lead game designer: I'm playing a lot of Diablo these days, and I've said that EVE is like the MMO equivalent of running Inferno solo with a naked barbarian, if that makes any sense.
It isn't really hard, but I think there are customers that you can lose in a good way and there's customers that you can lose in a bad way. If people come in and fundamentally don't like EVE Online, then I think that might be a good way of losing customers. EVE isn't for everyone. I wish it was, but the reality is that there are some people who just enjoy playing another game more. And that's not really that bad.
I think the shame is when people see EVE and they really want to play it and they get hit by this learning curve and the system discourages [them from playing]. Sometimes our players ask us if we're dumbing EVE down, and I don't really think so. I think we're just getting closer and closer to a place where the people we lose are people that it's okay to lose. If you don't like sci-fi games, if you don't like spaceships, then this might not be a game for you. But if you really like spaceships and you can't get past the fifth page in the tutorial, then we're losing you for a stupid reason.
These changes we simply have to make. That's absolutely doing good stuff with the learning curve, and as Jon said, we're working on that right now and hopefully making that easier.