Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mentoring in EVE Online

Let's start by saying that EVE can be a complex game.

I started playing in 2006 (or even a little before that with another trial account) and while the game was a lot harder to play back in the day (tutorials? what are those?) the core concepts did not get any easier over time.

A lot was polished and more helpful messages were added but also a lot of new mechanics were added that make things even more complex. This is not a bad thing, EVE is a sandbox game after all and all these options give you more possibilities to be creative. I've once heard a CCP developer say that the idea of EVE was comparable to card games like MTG (Magic: The Gathering) or maybe even modeled after it. This might be even more on-topic by knowing that the first thing CCP made was not EVE but actually a card game.

So what is the reason EVE is so complex?
As said before, there are numerous mechanics in play on all parts EVE. Look at any single aspect in the game and almost always there is a lot of detail behind it.
Take the market, at first a very easy concept to understand but why are some traders more effective then others? There are time zones into play, the market is heavily influenced by in-game events (caused by other players and often not easy to predict), changes in patches, skills trained, standings with the corporation that hosts the market you use, locations, trade hubs, shipping routes, connections to manufacturers, other traders, alliances, etc... And all of these are almost equally complex on their own.
Some mechanics are often not fully used or expanded to their fullest extend by CCP themselves (for example the corporation shares system could easily be expanded upon to make them tradeable) and guarantee lots of possibilities for future expansions but even these are every now and then used by players in a creative way.

Are the tutorials alone not good enough to introduce players and get them going?
Yes and no. The tutorials have greatly improved over the years and I tell everyone that joins EVE to do all of them before they even start thinking about a way to go and find a corporation to join but still, they only scratch the surface of what is possible and only highlight the features that are at play most. To stick with the sandbox idea, imagine a parent showing their kids how to use a bucket to make a 'sand castle' while there are still numerous other options available.

This well-known image that pokes fun at EVE's learning curves compared to other MMO's is somewhat true. The first start is okay (tutorials) but then the freedom takes over and you'll have to create your own content to stay entertained.

So, what is and what is not mentoring?
Many think of mentoring as if it is a teacher-student setting. Personally, I think it's not.
For me, mentoring is much more about building a friendship. In fact, most mentoring happens without even knowing it. How often do you answer a random person a question about something in EVE? Even if it is a corporation member, someone random in local or somewhere on the internet - you are helping someone out.
A teacher is steering his students and giving them a direction to go, in some cases even limiting their choices. Teaching is not about giving someone freedom to do what they want and supporting them but mentoring is. If someone is asking me about mining in EVE, I will give them honest answers. I can still give them the advice that I would not prefer it as a primary income but I'm not limiting their choices.
There are corporations that claim to be mentors in EVE (for example EVE University / E-UNI, which are still doing a super good job) but in my eyes they are more of a teacher. They often have strict rules to obey to and there is no absolute freedom to do what you like. If you leave the corp you also leave the help you were getting behind in a lot of cases (unless they have members that still want to be your mentor, in the right way, but that is much more an individual task).

Why find a mentor?
EVE is complex and it is really hard for a single person to know all about it. For example, I know not much about lasers (never bothered to really skill into Amarr ships even tho I can fly them all) so when I need information, for example to make a fitting for a corporation member that is Amarr-skilled, I will try to find someone who knows his stuff on this topic. Off course there are guides, but separately from that there is a lot more to EVE. Personal experience is hard to capture in a wiki or information sheet and it will teach you a lot about how to use certain mechanics to your advantage. In this sense, even I need a mentor (on some topics) every now and then. Also things like discussing ship fittings can still be super interesting for more experienced EVE players. As I said before, you are not always aware of being a mentor.

Why be a mentor?
Why should you spend hours of time talking to complete strangers while you could also make very nice income with the knowledge you have, and keep it to yourself? Off course you need to like sharing your knowledge and I do not suggest sharing your business secrets to everyone you walk into but being a mentor can be very rewarding. Often you will end up with having a nice friendship in the end, and someone that is friendly with you is often also more interested in doing stuff together with you, sometimes not even in EVE only (I ended up with lots of 'real-life' friends that I initially met in EVE). Also being a mentor is very good for your own knowledge. You will often start thinking about things you thought to be very simple once you dig into them deeper. I must admit that in a lot of cases I do not know the answer directly, but I can use my knowledge of information sources and how to interpret them to give a sufficient answer and also learn from it myself.
And last but not least, and a bit a cliche is that it is also good for your skills outside of EVE. I learned how to explain stuff to people in a way that makes it understandable to almost everyone, which is a pretty good skill to have for a software developer.

Where to find a mentor? 
There are a lot of experienced EVE players out there that are willing to give you all kinds of help. There are also specialized sections on the EVE forum, chat channels (rookie and help chat) and special areas on for example Reddit ( Really hopeless? Feel free to contact me in-game or on Reddit!

Where to find someone to help out?
You don't have to search if you know where to look for. How often do you see someone ask in a chat channel about something? Be in a trade hub for 5 minutes and you will encounter this. Give them an answer and maybe start a conversation. You see someone new to EVE? Make a nice chat and welcome them to the game. Let them know that you are there to answer questions if they have them. The help channels are also a good place for this. Often when I make a new character I'm annoyed by the rookie chat channel popping up for the first X days, but on the other hand, I often find myself answering peoples questions for hours and hours and making friends.

Last but not least, a chat channel!
If you want to talk more about EVE Mentoring (or just find a mentor / someone to mentor), feel free to join the chat channel 'EVE Mentoring'. You can do this by clicking the chat-balloon icon in the chat toolbar.

I hope this post inspired some people to dig deeper into the sandbox that is EVE and find the answers they are looking for, and also inspired experienced players to be helpful to new players. Off course every new player is a "noob" but that is why you are there!

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