What if the problem with the EVE new player experience is simply one of ISK?
As a wormhole corporation, we have the reputation of living in some of the harshest space in an already harsh game. I hear it often from people I am recruiting. "I don't think I can survive there." My response is often one of ISK. Maybe you can't jump into running sleeper combat sites as a one week old character, but what we can do is get you some ISK while you get ready. Our planetary interaction is excellent and you can do that while you do all your normal activities out our high-sec static exit until you are ready. The problem is, it takes two weeks to train enough PI skills to really get the money rolling. Two weeks. Half of your first subscription and you can't train it on a trial account.
ISK is the great equalizer. If you have it, that ship you lost while running your mission doesn't feel so painful. If you don't, it is devastating.
What if the problem with the new player experience is simply that the new player simply cannot earn enough ISK to fund their gameplay in a short enough period of time to retain their interest?
It is, after all, why people mine early in their career, isn't it? This isn't a new idea. Mining is, however, the thing that many new players are almost forced into in order to make some reasonable ISK. It is still where I make ISK though I have the luxury of large chunks of EVE time that others may not have.
Is it simply the case that EVE is impossible for the casual player to play? Many of the people ranting about the upcoming industry changes think so at least when it comes to industry. Market gurus like those linked in my post yesterday would tell you that it isn't impossible at all to earn large sums of ISK as a new player. But is EVE as a .01 game any better than EVE as a mining game for the new player? Is it better than mission grinding for pennies?
Simply showering new players with ISK cannot be the answer. There is game balance to consider. Much of the recent industry focus has been on encouraging players to cooperate. Corporation membership can be key in EVE but shouldn't be required. However, joining up with other players will often provide the necessary assistance a new player needs to continue playing.
The harsh and awful truth though is that EVE actively discourages group play in most PVE content by forcing division of the rewards between participants instead of scaling it up. From some previously released statistics, the largest ISK faucet (ISK created out of thin air in EVE, not from product changing hands) is Bounties from killing pirates. It is these very bounties that are split, not balanced between members. If a person in a corporation can complete a mission/rat/explore alone, they are disincentivised (is that a word?) to include others.
What if corporation or alliance membership combined with presence in a fleet actually increased the bounty and mission rewards in EVE? Would it break the EVE economy? Would it tip incursions over the edge in value? Would null-sec ratting generate too much income?
I think there is a way that group play can be encouraged in the early stages of EVE. Allow for combat anomaly, DED, and mission bounties and rewards to scale up with player participation in a fleet in a corporation or alliance. This would encourage player corporation members to band together, run sites and complete missions for greater rewards than they could do alone.
Of course, none of this would help us as a wormhole corporation. I think some of the ideas from the wormhole community around lower class wormhole escalation content brings this same idea to lower-level wormhole space. Add more people or certain ships in combat and the rewards increase. But when it comes to the new players in EVE, in high-sec, I believe this mechanic of increasing rewards for groups is invaluable to both retaining players and promoting a more enriching and rewarding early EVE experience.