Yesterday CCP released the latest version of its New Player Experience (NPE) onto the live Tranquility shard yesterday. I was less than impressed with the feature when initially introduced to the Singularity test shard three weeks ago. I ran through the tutorial again yesterday to see how much the experienced improved over the last three weeks.
The first improvement is the initial video introducing the tutorial. When I tried the feature on Singularity, CCP used a placeholder video. I rather liked the live video. I thought it gave a little bit of entertaining background for why a player is sitting in space in a pod. For the NPE to work, the devs need to get the player engaged quickly. I think the video does a good job of that. The Gateway - Quadrant 3 trailer is pretty much made up of the tutorial introduction video.
An observation I made back in August is that I thought having a pre-existing overview set-up might have made my experience worse. For yesterday's session, I used an old alpha account I had lying around with a character using the default overview. I went ahead and created a new character and the guides pointing around worked a lot better.
I also really like the use of the slowly emerging EVE user interface. When I started playing I found the UI pretty overwhelming, so I liked the presentation of the UI to new players. A welcome side effect is by revealing the elements slowing, a new player has less of a chance of screwing up the pre-programmed tutorial script.
One big improvement I saw in the live version of the tutorial is the timing in the interactions between the NPCs talking to the new player. I think the tutorial only had one moment where I sat moving in space for more than 10 seconds without some sort of audio or visual stimulus to keep me focused on the activity at hand.
I thought having the player get into a damaged ship shortly after the cutscene was a nice touch. Not only was shipping into the damaged Astero a chance to show off the graphical battle damage, but provided a link to the exploding station the player just escaped. Once again, providing a chance at immersion. Also, the tutorial proceeded to show the new player the ability of ships to repair other ships in space. Who knows, playing a space priest could appeal to some players.
One part I thought was weak was the fleet warp. I don't know if a new player would understand why he went into warp by not touching any buttons or keys.
Following the fleet warp was the battle to protect the fleet of civilian ships. During this time, the new player hopefully learns the three steps to engage with an enemy.
- Orbit the ship
- Target the ship
- Do something to the ship
The first combat encounter involves frigates. Players are instructed to just destroy the ships using the three steps. Next, a cruiser breaks free of the pack and starts heading for the civilian ships. At this point the player is instructed how to use a web to slow down the cruiser while the player fires on and destroys the NPC ship.
The final group involves stopping a battleship. An Astero can't stop a Machariel, but one fit with a jammer can prevent one from doing damage. This was the encounter I really disliked on Singularity because it took so long for the battleships to destroy and pod me. But at the same time the explanation of the jamming mechanics was one of my favorite parts of the tutorial. Fortunetly the devs considerably shortened the destruction of the Astero on the live servers.
One of the nice touches before getting podded was an NPC explaining that for the civilians death is permanent but for capsuleers death is just an inconvenience. Upon the destruction of my pod, the customary death scene and rebirth in a station occurred.
Upon waking up in my pod, I was given instructions on how to get a corvette, also known as a rookie ship. One criticism I have is the story made receiving a corvette a special tutorial event and not something down-on-their-luck players can do. However, trying to explain the mechanics might take away from the simplicity, so not a big issue for me.
When the tutorial first started to demonstrate how to fit a module into a ship, I thought the sequence was strange. But then I saw the logic. First, the player is instructed to put the module into the ship. The module does not activate because the player does not know the skill to use the module. Then the tutorial guides the player through the process of how to learn the skill using an injector. Along the way the player is exposed to the skill queue and skill plans. But the exposure is very brief. Then again, I think the emphasis was not to bog the player down too much.
Finally the tutorial leads the player to the career agents. Aura talks the player through using The Agency to find the career agents and then set a path to the station where the agents reside. Along the way Aura teaches the player how to undock from a station as well as provide a running commentary as the player travels to the career agent system. The tutorial finally ends when the player accepts the first career agent mission.
Overall, I like this version of the tutorial. The introduction is good, the end links straight into the career agents, and the steps are simple enough to limit errors as players advance through the content. Hopefully CCP will consider the tutorial good and move on to producing other content to aid new players in finding a home in New Eden.