Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Boot Camp

This is a call for CCP to set up a system of boot camps for new EVE players.  A boot camp is a special corporation, which a newbie can join for a limited time, run by selected players.  There are three goals for the boot camp experience.  First, to provide each newb a specific experienced player or two for information, guidance and support .  Second, to teach each newb hands on how to do particular in-game professions.  Third, to establish a social environment so that newbies can meet each other and make friends.

I. Models

I think my biggest inspiration is OUCH, the Open University of Celestial Hardship.  They run a nullsec survival and PVP boot camp.  (Here's the recent dev blog community spotlight featuring OUCH.)  I am not thinking of anything that complicated, though. 

Another inspiration is EVE University.  They are a great resource, but I think that going into lowsec to live is intimidating to many newbs.  How do you make money there?  EVE U. seems like a very big step.  I think many people don't want or need that much guidance.  They just need a little bit, and they need personal attention.

I should also give a mention to the Goon training materials, and the attitudes which they seem to point to within Goonswarm.  Goons seem to be very focused on bringing in newbees, helping them, and getting them going. 

II. Why Boot Camps?

New player retention and the new player experience are big problems for EVE.  EVE is a cold, dark universe.  It's a place of griefing, of tear-extraction, awoxing, scamming, reverse-awoxing and the gank.  This is as it should be.  Keep EVE dangerous.  But still, there's a general feeling, which I share, that many newbies are lost and need more guidance and structure before being thrown in the shark tank.

I don't think we'd need boot camps if everyone was a Goon.  But most players aren't.  It is true that many corps have good recruitment and training.  But this is generally of use only to real life friends that bring in someone, because otherwise how does a new player even know about these groups?  And how does a smaller corp know that a player is not an awoxer?  They don't, and so it is generally only larger corps that recruit widely.

On the one hand, we want players to join corps because we want them to have friends in the game, because people with friends keep playing.  On the other hand, joining any corp is potentially dangerous.  This is not really a problem for a vet, who knows the score.  He should know how to check up on a corp.  He won't contract all his assets to some Goon recruiter to jump out to null.  If he does fall for a recruitment scam, he deserves to lose what he loses.  But it does run against the expectations of a newbie, and the potential loss there is much more.

Similarly, the war dec mechanic is awful.  The best response is to drop corp, so you can keep playing.  So much for your social environment.  The experienced player knows he can chat on coms or on a chat channel other than corp.  He won't lose his social environment.  Indeed, the experienced corp owner knows how to duck wardec.  The newbie?  That's unlikely.  He'll stay in corp, and keep playing, and become a cheap target.  

People always propose developing the newbie mission system more, but the problem here is that it is very hard to know what each individual needs and what he has missed.  And it is also hard to teach some of the more subtle things.  Certainly I don't see in-game tutorials ever explaining wardecs, or ISK doubling scams.

III. How Boot Camps Should Work

The boot camp is a special corporation.  Boot camps should have a distinguishable name and ticker reserved for them that normal player corps cannot take, and emulation of these names should be frowned upon.  Boot camps should be wardec-proof.  Other than that they can be normal corporations.

The CEO of a boot camp is its lieutenant; he should have one assistant, his sergeant.  Collectively these two people are the officers; they are the teachers.  The newbies are recruits; they are the students.

Officers should be required to agree to and follow a code of conduct, including the following items:
  • they will always attempt to advance the best interests of their recruits
  • they will advise their recruits to the best of their knowledge
  • they may not recommend or discourage any specific corps as later homes; they can give general advice on how to choose a corp, but no specific advice
  • after a recruit moves on, all knowledge they have about that recruit will not used in any manner, either to favor or hurt that recruit, without written (email) permission from that recruit
After boot camps get going, each officer applicant should be required to take a boot camp as a newbie, just to see how it goes and what works.

Boot camp officers should given access to newbie chat.  They should also have a special recruitment channel for boot camps.  Access to this channel should be restricted to boot camp officers, and new accounts for a limited time.  Perhaps it would be the first six months of an account.

Each boot camp should have clear skill requirements to enter.  These should not be very high, of course, but they must be there so that standard fits can be proffered, and a newbie can partake of all of the training and do hands-on.  Boot camps should require an API for the purpose of verifying skills and for advising newbies in general.

Boot camps should run for a limited time per training squad.  I'd suggest a period of no more than one month.  The point is emphatically not a long-term home.  It is acclimatization, advice and training.  At the end of each month, the boot camp should kick all recruits and start over.  Hopefully, a boot camp would have enough applicants lined up to immediately cycle after discharging the last squad.  However, this may take time.  This may allow some recruits to spend extra time in the camp.

Boot camps should take in recruits in squads, so that they join and leave synchronously.  This makes running and scheduling them easier, and also puts the recruits on an equal footing socially.  Squads should be relatively small.  I would suggest no more than 20 recruits per squad.  Maybe more could be handled, but that's where I would start.  Once the camp has its 20, it should start its training cycle.

Each boot camp should be run for a specific time zone, i.e., "evenings from 8:00 - 11:00 in Eastern Time".  This would be advertized as such, of course. Both officers would be required to commit to the same time zone.  Both officers would be required to leading a training session one night per week, at least three hours per night.  This would give the corp eight training sessions over the course of a month.  These sessions should be used for getting people on coms, then lectures and group activities.  Officers should also be logged on, though not necessarily leading anything, for at minimum 3 nights per week in addition to the one they are on duty.  This gives them time for one-on-one chat with individual recruits, or generally to help fine tune recruits as they independently do whatever they do.

I expect some variety of boot camps, but not that much.  I imagine boot camps focused on mining, exploring, missioning, etc. -- the basic highsec income staples.  In the last week, they could have a few classes on lowsec survival and attempt to make some money out there.  

One kind of boot camp that I think would be particularly fun and interesting would be one focused on PVP.  The recruits could be fleeted and taken into lowsec to be slaughtered.  They'd learn that losing ships and even being podded is not the end of the world.  They'd get adrenalin and feel the fun.  In the last weeks, two cooperating boot camps could wardec each other and have fun learning how to fight in highsec.

IV.  What CCP Would Have to Do

Boot camps can be implemented largely within the existing game.  There are a few places where CCP support would be very helpful or necessary.  I'll try to identify those.

The biggest thing CCP needs to do is to create a division of ISD for the boot camp officers.  Every officer should be screened, interviewed, and doxed similar to how ISD does things currently.  Boot camp is part of CCP's public face and must be above reproach.  There must be internal processes to remove bad and/or incompetent officers.  This would require at least one CCP employee to run.

Each boot camp officer should get an ISD account to be used only for doing boot camp stuff.  This account would be free.  Otherwise there should be no remuneration for officers -- it is a calling, not a business.  (It is interesting to think about how it might become a business.  But start small.)  Officer accounts should be allowed to give ISK and items to their (current) recruits only.  However, they may not accept gifts of money or goods from anyone except CCP.  Any ISK they have would be because they generated them in-game, incidental to their work.  If a boot camp is deemed to need special equipment (i.e., lots of frigates for a PVP boot camp), then CCP can supply those or ISK to buy them.

It would be very convenient if CCP were to implement boot camps specially, as a corporation subclass that cannot be formed by unprivileged players, and which cannot be wardecced, and in which awoxing is Concorded.  However, these effects can be simulated via special rules when using normal corps.  That is, just as there is a game rule that suicide gankers in highsec must die, there could be a rule that boot camps are not wardeccable, and a clear warning that awoxing in a boot camp is a bannable offense.  Corps impinging on the namespace would be renamed.

As previously mentioned it would be helpful if boot camps had easily distinguished names and tickers reserved for them that normal player corps cannot take.  I.e., CCP might reserve all strings "Boot Camp X" in the corp namespace for boot camps.  And they might reserve "BT_XXX" in the corp namespace.  And while I am thinking about it, they should also have a unique corporate symbol.

Finally, it would be important to refer newbies to boot camps as a part of their normal Aura training.  Explain what they are (that is, a limited-time but safe environment to learn), and that they can be found on the corp recruitment interface as follows, blah blah.  And open up the boot camp recruitment channel.

5 comments:

  1. Amen, brother! I've seen you mention this a few times in comment threads, and it's clear you've put a fair amount of thought into how to make things work. I really like this idea, and I hope it can be sold to CCP. I think it'd help a lot.

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  2. I would gladly help as an boot camp officer.

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  3. Hiya
    This is rapidly becoming one of my favourite WH related blogs. Keep up the good work.
    Tuscor

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  4. Nice write-up, though we sort of do this already, just on a smaller scale. Still, for one night a week, I'd do it in an official capacity.

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  5. This sounds like a great idea. I'd gladly do a few rotations as an officer.

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