I saw some newbies play for 10 minutes, fly right into a hail of bullets, say “I can’t play against ships this powerful” and quit. The real reason they were quitting is not the power of the enemy ships, because all weapons and ships are equal. It is because of a perceived unbalance, where other players of higher level would have a wider range of weapons available and this was assumed to mean more powerful. As it is a convenient excuse for poor play, it was considered as a game inbalance, and they quit.
On my part, there were three problems here.
1. The skill balance difference is still too high, with a 4:1 ratio between the best and worst players. This is far better than before, and I’m running out of ideas on how to balance it. It would be good if I can get it down to 3:1 though.
2. The initial weapon I was giving newbies (standard momentum based gun) still took too much skill to use, as in you’d have to play for a while to get the feel of how fast your bullet moves, how much to lead, how fast your ship rotates, in order to hit anything. It’s sort of like the first time you use the grenade launcher in quake, where everyone else has chain guns. It wouldn’t be very fun unless you were unusually patient or skilled. In response, I increased the Guided part of guided rockets, and make this a level 0 item, so you get it for free right away. Guided rockets take little skill, mostly strategy, and from what I’ve seen newbies like having it.
3. Even with the first two points, newbies are willing to tolerate this if they feel the challenge is temporary and surmountable. I took my queue from Planetside here, and made it so you can unlock all the weapons and items in a few weeks with dedicated play. This is much different from my original play of taking 6-9 months. Planetside is also a skill-based game, and I can see how having unusable weapons can feel unfair. What’s funny is people actually complain now it’s too easy to level, but I think that’s just because they were used to the old system. It actually takes about a year to reach max level if you were to play religiously, but right now you don’t get anything past level 20 or so.
Every time I ask people how they like it I get positive feedback. It feels good, but I’m only hearing from the people that stuck around in the first place. I’m more concerned about the guys that jump in and leave in 10 minutes. It happens less, but it still happens, and I hope to discover and address why.