Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Two Weeks Of Alpha

Two weeks ago I created a new Alpha account to try out the new content introduced in the latest EVE Online expansion, Ascension. I even recorded most of my play sessions and put the videos up on YouTube, although I failed to record my commentary in about half the videos. Oops! But I wanted a record to look back on. I recorded about 17 hours of game play, which didn't include a couple of market trips and some theory crafting using the new fitting tool. I think overall I spent around 20 hours so far playing on the account.

I think I have enough experience to write reasonably intelligently about my trip through the new New Player Experience, the career agents, and a few hours of play after completing the introduction to EVE. As part of the experiment, I attempted to play as much like a new player as possible. No transfer of funds from my main accounts. No skill point bonuses from using one of my referral links. Admittedly, I did use some of my knowledge about the game, but I don't think it influenced me too much. Then again, I had a much easier time getting through the exploration career agent than I had in the past.

First, a word about character creation. I rushed through the process, yet still spent 15-20 minutes creating my character. EVE's character creator is a marvel even after 5 years. I just wish we could walk out the Captain's Quarters door. I still have a dream that one day CCP will convert our characters to Unreal Engine 4 and introduce some sort of avatar gameplay to EVE. I have to do a little research, but I believe that a player's choice of schools might matter. Okay, I need to do a lot of research on that.

Next, the big addition to the game. the new New Player Experience. At Fanfest this year, we learned that over half the people who try EVE don't last two hours. How long did the NPE last? Two hours. If the goal was to get players to last longer than two hours, the NPE should have done the job. While I didn't have any difficulty, I heard many players did. Those difficulties could have resulted in the low numbers of players completing the NPE. According to CCP Turtle power on the o7 Show Sunday, over 30,000 players had completed the NPE. An impressive number, until one realizes that players created over 162,000 new characters between 15-23 November.

Personally, I liked the voice acting, although at times I thought the dialog a bit corny. The alternating use of the faction fleet commander and Aura was effective from keeping the instructions from droning on in a single voice. A single voice has the problem of becoming monotonous. The bouncing back and forth not only between the two main characters, but the Sisters of EVE scientist as well, helped keep my attention on the instructions. By the end of the NPE, I think new players master the basic skills much better than with the previous iterations of the NPE. The main problem I have is that the quality of the content really drops once the new player starts running through the career agents.

The career agents. I have to say that the optimum order of doing the career agent chain is to do the industry and business agents first, then the military and exploration agents, with the advanced military agent last. Both the business and industry agents have missions that require manufacturing items, which can take up to 4 hours for a single batch of items to complete. During my run through, I spent eight hours with the career agents, so the content exists to fill up the space. Unfortunately, I saved the business and industry agents for last. Spoiler alert: don't do what I did.

After 10 hours of play, I went free-style and started doing the highest level missions I could: distribution missions. Hey, at least I wasn't mining, which some horrible people tell new players to do. I didn't do too bad either. I did sixteen level 3 missions in a little over an hour and made approximately 1.9 million ISK and 2300 loyalty points. More importantly, I managed to get a faction storyline mission. I did have to mine in a Venture for 20 minutes, but the +3 learning implant I received sold for 7.5 million ISK in Rens. On top of that, my standings with the Minmatar Republic is now 0.98, which means I have almost unlocked all the level 2 agents in all of the Minmatar NPC corporations. Not too bad.

For comparison, I also ran level 1 security missions for an hour. I completed two, gaining 400,000 ISK in bounties and mission rewards, 223 loyalty points, and 500,000 ISK in salvage and drops. This hour of level 1 missions is the reason I'm so excited about unlocking all of those level 2 agents.

Finally, I did a little exploring in a Probe in high sec. I managed to complete one data site with little problem, but I only received about 800,000 ISK in items. I did find a combat site and tried to run it in a Rifter. I need a lot more skills, or a Thrasher. I will say, though, that I had fun, even though most of what I scanned down were wormholes. The Probe served me well. Then again, I do have a little experience probing things down.

I also have to say I enjoyed the process of putting ship fittings together that a 700,000 skill point character can fly. The new in-game fitting tool is fantastic and I wish it existed when I first started playing. I managed to put together a good Wreathe fit, pretty good Probe and Venture fits, a passable PvE fit for a Rifter, and an acceptable beginner's fit for a Slasher. I also have a Thrasher that I will learn to fly today, but I won't have the fittings for a few more days yet.

After two weeks, I have 11.7 million ISK in my wallet with another 11.7 million in fitted & unfitted ships and miscellaneous items in my hanger. I still have not only the Sisters of EVE epic arc to do, but the Minmatar COSMOS missions as well. I also can join factional warfare if I pick up the pace of my ISK making. I've never farmed FW missions. Maybe I should begin. I also have a couple of ideas for something to do that I've never done on my main characters. Or maybe I'll start running Sisters of EVE missions and try to get some of those sweet SOE loyalty points. Those are usually worth something, even if I cannot fly the ships.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from my experience is, despite the seeming limitations of the alpha skillset, that after 20 hours I still have so much content I can explore. The big question is, do I want to? I have three paid accounts and I just spent the last two weeks spending all my play time on a free account. Seriously, I really don't have that much time in my life.

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