"It's amazing to see what kind of stuff people come up [with] if you give them an empty book titled 'New Eden'
and tell them to write something into it." - NightlinerSGS
EVE has a pretty low player retention. It seems very few players make it past the first few months, but for many, once that hurdle is made, EVE becomes an experience that never ends. Obviously veterans tend to see this, and we often attribute it to the Sandbox.
But what is the Sandbox to a new player?
A new player in EVE is ushered in under Aura’s protective arms and they start to learn the mechanics. Most of which are kind of ‘meh’ at best when you don’t know what all is happening. Fitting ships, buying things, flying around seems pretty tedious when you’re just being ushered forward. Many suggest the tutorial and PVE stuff needs to be more involved to counter this. While this could help, making the PVE more engaging won’t ever require that the pilot enters the sandbox, as this is primarily something that comes from different forms of PVP more than anything else.
So, as it stands, the games new player experience is entirely separated from the sandbox. The sandbox is unknown to the majority of new players. They go through tutorials, and maybe some career agents, which are just more specific tutorials. Some new players don’t even realize they are in the “real game” already.
A little later, this newbro will be out mining, or missioning, or hauling some things. People have likely told him he’s not ready to do certain things. That he needs to wait to get more SP. Maybe he’s joined a corporation, but the Sandbox still hasn’t been introduced. The sandbox normally comes to him when he first gets ganked. Or his mining ship bumped. Or his corp wardec. How will the newbro respond to this? He’ll probably run. This isn’t the same game he’s been experiencing, so it feels foreign and unknown.
It’s hard to say how the game itself could fix this. Even if Aura gave you all the steps to entering the sandbox, many newbros wouldn’t even read it anyway. Many never figure out why there are no asteroids in the starter systems. A large number of players ask common questions that are covered in the tutorial. Then they tell you they skipped all that. Obviously the information the game gives falls on deaf ears.
The best way we can get newbros into the sandbox is by other players giving good advice. The problem is the people avoiding the sandbox are normally also the people giving the most advice, and most of it is bad.
So here are my tips for diving headfirst into the EVE sandbox:
1. Get a Ship
I don’t care what kind of ship, but I’d suggest multiple t1 frigates. They’re cheap, agile, and don’t take much SP to fly well. Your ship is another tool in this game, so don’t get too attached, but pick something you enjoy. If you can’t buy any t1 frigates, don’t do what many suggest and mine or mission until you can get some. You’ll likely get caught in an escalating loop.
Instead, talk in local. Go to a system, preferably a heavily populated one (though you may want to avoid Jita) and ask in local. Say, “I’m a newbro and I want to get some frigates so I can explore the sandbox.” It may take a few tries, but eventually some bittervet that sees something cute in you will give you a donation. Maybe some ISK, or maybe even some fitted frigates for you. Remember their name. They’ll come into play later.
2. Go Somewhere
I don’t really care where, but I highly suggest lowsec, nullsec, or, if you’re a little ahead of the game, w-space. Go see the stars. Warp to belts (at range). Warp to things on your overview (at range). Warp to combat sites (at range). Go see things and explore.
3. Meet People
Wherever you go, start talking to people. Most people aren’t shy about talking in local (except for those W-space guys) and, despite what highsec bears will tell you, most people in this game are really nice. Ask them questions about some of the things you saw in step 2. “What’s this cyno thing?” “What’s a ghost site?” “Why did you kill me?” You can ask a lot of this in the rookie chat, and while much of it will be helpful, they won’t as often lead to much. Many of the people you meet WILL try to kill you. And by “try” I mostly mean “will succeed.” I told you to buy multiple ships, remember? So it’s nothing to worry about.
Open a chat with the person that killed you. Talk to him. If you’re lucky he’ll give you more isk for more t1 frigates (no mining required) but most likely he’ll give you advice. How he managed to kill you and how you should have fit your ship will likely be what he talks about. He may even invite you to a public chat channel where you can get connected to more helpful people.
You now have a friend. Remember him.
This almost doesn’t need to be a point, as you’ll probably have been doing loads of this already, but I just want to emphasize it. This isn’t just about losing ships, getting contacts, making ISK or trying to kill people. This is about learning and experiencing. Chances are you now know more about the ship you were flying than you ever cared to, and you’ve learned about things like D-scan, tackle, and transversal. If you haven’t learned anything, start all over and ask more questions this time through!
5. Tell Your Story
This whole time you’ve been a part of the sandbox. You’ve gone to dangerous places and maybe even seen how empty and safe nullsec can be. You’ve engaged in player created content and interacted with the true residents of New Eden. Now it’s time to expand the sandbox. Remember the guy that gave you some isk and a ship to start this adventure? Send him a message telling him what happened to you. He’s going to be happy to see it. Go on reddit and tell them your story. Post it here on Pod Born. Hopefully some other newbro sees it and follows in your footsteps.
Do it all over again. This is your adventure. Live it.