CCP announced the biggest of all bombshells in MMOs today: Eve is going free-to-play. Well, not really, but kind of. Go read the dev blog if you haven’t. The short version is you can now start a new account or stop paying for a current account and retain access to your character’s racial ships up to cruisers and many “basic” skills, up to 5m skillpoints. This is pretty freaking huge.
As a player that recently passed 100m skillpoints, and who has unsubbed a few times on the way to getting there, being able to not go silent is a boon. If you get busy with life, need to save a few bucks for a few months, or just want to scale back? You can, and still derp in your T1 ships and stay in touch with people. This is great for older players.
For prospective players, you can train up through that hump of starter stuff and get your feet wet in Eve at your pace. For those that care for the long game, the hook will be bitten and the subs will follow. I honestly see no negatives here. Adding bodies, even if they end up not paying or only max out the 5m skillpoint ceiling, will still result in more bodies in space to hunt or recruit.
I do think a few things from the blog, and Eve as it operates now, are worth considering.
Before I start talking about specifics, there is a point I want to make clear. If the new free to play model is to target new players, it has to either get naive to Eve players or win back those that have tried and failed to stick with the game. For both groups one idea is paramount: What we as old Eve players think about the game or the mechanics doesn’t matter. That game and those mechanics are what people are choosing to NOT play. So any perceptions of unfairness or old players getting an advantage will poison any free-to-play model, perhaps irrevocably. Keep that in mind.
CCP should not lower training speed for Alpha accounts. The first six months of Eve is a slog through utter garbage skill training. If the core fitting skills must remain (I think they should be consigned to the dust bin where learning skills lie) these should not be drawn out any more than they are now. That training time is awful. The worst part of starting Eve is realizing you are at minimum six months or a lot of injectors away from basic competence in fitting. Furthermore, slowing down training speed only helps older players stay briefly ahead in the fitting game, and will give Omega players skill, ship AND module advatanges that an Alpha will never touch. While old players will debate actual skill vs skillpoints, new players do not care about this distinction. Get new blood in and up and running quickly so they convert those Alpha accounts to Omegas to get to the good stuff.
Racial restrictions are also dicey. I might argue that the cap for skills should be multiple races, or just all the T1 cruisers and below in the game. Let players try the different ships styles. Let new players experience a bit of everything, so that they are more likely to find the right thing that pulls them into PLEXing or subbing.
Look at High Sec combat again. Alpha accounts may need safeties locked in HS. Not because of new bros, but because of old players using it to further the agenda of HS ganking and wardeccing. While these are valid playstyles, they are extremely asymmetrical in who is having the fun and how much is risked and gained. New bros will not enjoy getting ganked by old hands, and paying customers shouldn’t suffer at the hands of freebie accounts being used as disposable gank platforms by bittervets who don’t want the blood or inconvenience on their main.
I’d also say now is also the perfect time to look at war decs. I know enough players that left the game because they landed in a nice friendly HS corp, but got wardecced to the point where they decided paying was a waste of cash. Yes, many players get over this and find creative ways to deal, but new players are the least equipped to do so, and the least likely to see anything other than savvy older groups using unfun mechanics to attack those who want to be left in peace or who don’t understand the actual ways HS wars work. Get rid of wars. Change the mechanics to allow defenders to counter bribe CONCORD. Limit legal targets to combat ships. Change the mechanics to force attackers to engage meaningfully. Put in serious re-up costs or victory conditions for attackers to prevent consecutive wardecs. Do anything to make war decs in HS less shitty. Most of the tools to avoid HS ganking or wardecs are outside the grasp of the new players this free to play change will bring in, and these are the players we want to stick around.
One possibility around the whole HS combat thing could be starting new players in low sec, with resources to go along with the increased danger. This might get new players used to the fun and bloody side of Eve instead of starting them in the deceptive non-safety of high sec.
Along the lines of unfun mechanics being abused, there probably also needs to be a limit to free accounts active on a computer. If there are not, I know my corp will suddenly have a fleet of disposable NPC corp alts watching every wormhole in our chain. We already have T1 cruiser fits for Alpha clones designed. Nullsec corps could blot out the stars with Derptrons or Caracals. Gankers could drop as many Catalysts on targets as their computers can handle. Essentially the new alpha accounts should be for actual new players and hard for existing players to abuse in service of their mains. Want an RvB or Faction Warfare alt, great. Want a stable of disposable alt scouts and tacklers, not so great.
So those are my initial bittervet comments on the free to play model. It sounds really cool. With a bit of tweaking, I think it could be great. November looks like an intersting time to be in Eve.