Full Disclaimer: I have played back in 2016 pre-outpost, but I still only have 40 hours into this game, so I will for all intents and purposes, consider myself new to this game.
I have recently picked this game back up, hoping to get back into the scene, but I have a few hesitations, and upon lightly investigating this forum, I decided to put some words out here, from the perspective of a newcomer. I would also like to note that I do make some parallels to Eve Online, and I am aware of both the similarities and differences of these 2 games. Safe Zones:
When I entered the game, I did indeed notice the safe zone indicator first thing, and I had a positive reaction to it. Just leaving the port and being able to tool around without having to worry about being griefed my first day back was reassuring. Doing my first few battles in the basic cutter, worrying about being invaded wasn't a thing, and I could just focus on beating down the AI ship. Granted I haven't gone and done any measuring of the safe zone, but I would say this feature should stay if indeed this game is going to grow its player base. I know it only takes a few battles to get into the next ship, but getting out of that cutter is a milestone for new players, and that first purchased ship will probably consume all of their cash just to get it basically fitted. I have learned from Eve to never take out a ship you cannot afford, but when you are first starting this is all players can afford. So its either do a lot of these minimum level battles to be able to afford multiple 6th rate ships, or jump in and be proud of your achievement of your first paid ship. Eve does in fact have a very large high-security zone (as I am sure a lot of players here know), and this is done by design, to allow players to get a feel for the game, vs AI and get a feel for how they want to play the game. If they do all this and decide that they never want to leave high-sec, how does that affect the PvPer? Well, in Eve, the PvPer can either leave them be and fight someone else willing to fight, or take a large risk to goad the person into combat, or outright kill them (resulting the "Eve Police" to warp in and destroy them). I can draw a parallel here in this game, if someone wants to PvP in or near a safe zone, the risk is more weighted towards the PvPer. Essentially, only extremely large well organized fleets will be able to sustain a hostile presence in these safe zones. Solo Hunting:
I have seen this topic in a few areas, and this usually is coupled with a complaint about the size/frequency of aforementioned safe zones. This might be because of my newness, but from my perspective these are players looking to essentially do some seal clubbing for some easy PvP marks(I am aware of this currency, but do not know much beyond that yet). I personally have no sympathy in this case. The generally mentioned suggestions I have seen are, find a group and PvP with them, which seems acceptable.
When operating in open waters(not near safe zones), chasing traders, etc, do what you want, you know the risks. High Level Economic Opinions:
With any open world economy game, there is a need to move resources from A to B for X reason(s). These trading activities should be profitable in most cases (unless you are ignorant of price checking), and the engagement is also a requirement. As far as the reward for killing said traders, I think it should be minimal. Get the loot (in its original form, not gold value) from the sunken ship all fine and dandy, but in my opinion, the reward of PvP marked should be markedly less than a combat ship. My reasoning being: 1. You are actively hunting these traders to hinder faction X's economy to in turn give you an edge in the immediate future. Or 2. Going after easy kills because you don't want a fair fight. I understand traders should travel in convoys and all that, but the currently limited player base this isn't always feasible. I know this isn't a good solution, but I am merely offering a voice on the other side of the spectrum.
A second note about this, in general, economic incentives should be given to those living/operating outside of the safe zone, as they are taking a greater risk and therefor should get a greater reward. That being said, safe zone living also should not be equivalent to a ghetto because they are in said safe zone. Major cross-faction trading hubs should be available, and in most cases these are secure to incentivize trading in this region (Jita anyone?).
I also read a post (and I apologize as I should be posting this part in that section, but I am late to the party) that mentioned people living in these safe zones for 80% of their lives. If that is what they want, then fine. Not everyone has to to PvP, (arguably everyone should, but a different topic) and there needs to be an economic 'backbone' for each faction so they cannot be permanently crippled in doing even the most basic tasks. Taking these example to its extreme, if you completely and utterly crushed the entire faction of Prussia for example, and then kept the pressure on so any players doing anything, even as simple as gathering ship building materials, this would in inevitably drive players away from the game. Which leads me to my next talking point. Hardcore Players vs Casual Players
First off, I tip my virtual hat to all the players that have dedicated a ton of time to this game (or any 1 specific game), as they are typically helpful to newer players and/or clan leaders to drive content into games. That being said, please do not take my next statement too harshly, as these are simply my opinions, based on my current exposure.
I recently stumbled onto a post that player X didn't safe zone because he wanted to essentially test new players mettle (I.E. see if they would rage quit and not come back). This is a behavior that cannot be sustained long term, especially since the player base of this game is at a low level. The 'revenge' incentive will work for some, but most would rather actually get a feel for the game and its complex mechanics before being thrown into the wolves hours into the game. The game is PvP oriented, and time and skill should be factored in when a battle does commence, but trolling new players is a great way to be the last highlander.
That being said, I might be missing the target audience of this game, as my gut is telling me I am a casual player, though I feel I do play more than (I think) most would be able to. I can game maybe 4-5 hours most of the week, but on weekends I could game all day. That being said, I don't have kids (or any other major time consuming activity), and they are a huge time sink. So if there are people out there like me (as I am sure there are), it shouldn't matter if we come on, make a few ships during the week and spend the majority of our time vs AI, because that is all we can commit to. Sure, I would like to join a fleet for port battles, but it is hard to commit a solid 2+ hours straight, without interruptions, to do them(Wife aggro anyone?). Weekends would be our only opportunity. The solution to this? Probably widen the player base, and we all have our own opinions on how to do that, but just remember the ratio of hardcore to casual ratio, in that casuals will almost always outnumber hardcore, though hardcore contribute more to the game. TL:DR Balance.
Holy crap, quite a novel here already, isn't it? Maybe I talk too much. Quality of Life (It's a question!):
So I have heard this term get tossed around on the forums here, but I am a little fuzzy on the particulars. Quality of Life for the players in general, QoL for playability (UI, tooltips, etc.), QoL for the game (documentation for features, API's, Road maps, etc)? If someone would be able to fill me in on this, I would be appreciative. Closing comments:
Overall I do like this game, and I see the potential in it (cannot wait to see the new UI in a week or 2!), but I do worry about longevity of the game, and the Elitist attitude of the ideas for the direction of the game. One steam review mentioned a 'new player purgatory', and I wonder if this was done accidentally, or if it occurred because of the lack of constant new people coming in, and spiraled out of control from there. We were all new players once, lets not crap on the new people because you aren't new anymore.
I am probably missing a few key pieces of information at the time of writing. Feel free to correct any mistaken assumptions I have made, and I am open to having meaningful dialog.