I was teaching a newbie how to play for about an hour (without looking like it) by letting him kill me and presenting challenges. While doing so I was watching what kind of mistakes he made. And it really brought me back 10 years to really seeing what he is doing, rather than through my experienced eyes. I found he had a hard time aiming, leading, would bounce on walls a lot, and would thrust and let go of thrust only when he is at his target.
The solution I took was to slow things down, and also add drag. But I can’t do this by slowing down the game as whole or it prevents no challenge at the high-end. So I swapped ships, giving the slow heavy ship as the beginner ship, and also adding linear dampening on it (drag basically) that only takes effect when you release the thrusters.
It made a BIG difference! After that change I never really saw anyone quit right away, and they played for several hours. Because the ship was slower, it was less skillful and more tactical, plus newbies could generally follow you around and shoot.
For a few minutes I even had fun 🙂 Mostly though I am holding back, knowing I still could beat the other team in 30 seconds by myself if I wanted to. This is a bad thing – it means that it’s still too skill based and therefore not fun for very new guys and not fun for very old guys.
Another thing I did was drastically reduce the time between levels. I’m still trying to find a good balance there. Right now people are gaining one level every 5 minutes, which definitely keeps them around, but also doesn’t have any longevity prospects. I’ll have to tweak numbers to find a happy medium.