EVE Online has a new player problem. It doesn't exist just in attracting new players, but in turning those fledgling pilots into meaningful and contributing members of EVE Online. For years, CCP has toiled over the best way to introduce new players into the game. But for many, the answer has been quite obvious: Get them to join a corporation. Even then, solving the newbie problem in EVE is a tough nut to crack. Fortunately, many player-run corporations have risen to the challenge. Karmafleet, led by CEO Markonius Porkbutte, is just one of many, the only difference being he's carrying the biggest hammer.
Over the past year, Brave, an alliance dedicated to bringing in new players and showing them a side of EVE rarely glimpsed by fresh pilots, was rocked by a series of scandals. Directors left Brave, often stealing billions of assets, and Lychton Kondur, the executor of the alliance, was temporarily forced out of power in a dramatic coup. By that time, Markonius Porkbutte had already parted ways with Brave, but he was there when the gasoline was readily being poured on the fire.
Like many, it took several attempts before EVE "clicked" for Markonius. But when it did, thanks to the Playstation 3 shooter tie-in, Dust 514, Markonius decided to not hang around on the fringes of EVE culture. He began using his real life skills to create propaganda for Brave, eventually working his way up to Director of the Brave Intelligence Agency.
"I'm not just going to play EVE Online to get in my little spaceship and go mining or run missions," Markonius told me during our interview. "I'm going to get into EVE Online and join up with these players and fight for their space and blow ships up with them."
Last year, Brave set out to capture sovereign null-sec space in Catch, a region infamous for being a stone for alliances to bludgeon each other's heads with. The campaign was long, exhausting, and an eventual failure. Markonius toughed it out, but after talking with Sion Kumitomo, Goonswarm's Chief of Staff, Markonius was given an offer he couldn't refuse.
As the most influential alliance in EVE Online history, Goonswarm has never suffered a shortage of veteran players capable of flying the most powerful ships in the game. But as much as the Goons have a reputation for fielding experienced players, Sion understood the necessity and benefit from bringing in new pilots. Until then, their efforts at doing so had proved fairly lackluster.
"He was talking to me about starting newbie programs," Markonius said. "And over time it led to a point where it felt like I could confide in him."
Markonius discussed with Sion his reservations towards the direction Brave was headed, and how that new direction no longer spoke to him on the same level. Shortly after, Sion came to Markonius and told him that Goonswarm was looking to reinvigorate their new player initiatives, and Markonius was just the person they thought should lead the charge.
"It hit me like a train."
Markonius was intrigued but also rightfully cautious. He decided to take some time and think through the decision, Sion agreed to do the same.
"He came back and said, instead of just coming and joining Goonwaffe [the main corporation of Goonswarm] and doing that, why don't you start your own corp?"
The offer was extraordinary. Instead of folding into Goonwaffe ranks and dealing with the established culture and politics there, Sion offered to bankroll a wholly new initiative. Markonius could create his own corporation within the Goonswarm alliance and have total control over every aspect of it. It was a huge opportunity.
"It's been incredibly empowering," Markonius said.
With the might and resources of Goonswarm at their back, Karmafleet has been able to achieve things that few other new-player focused corporations and alliances could ever dream of. While the corporation offers the routine packages of free ships and skill books to new pilots, they've also been able to start initiatives that are practically unheard of.
One of those initiatives, the Chimera Incentive Program, offers a 500 million ISK skillbook for training the Chimera, an extraordinarily expensive capital ship, to pilots who join the corporation and are close to actually being able to fly the ship (a task that could take a brand new pilot almost 6 months to a year to complete). While Karmafleet exists to expose new players to a more compelling side of EVE Online, Markonius told me that they actually have a very wide range of players in terms of experience.
Since starting in January, Karmafleet has become a massive success. They maintain their own quadrant of space in Deklein, have grown to over a thousand members, and continue to lead the charge for bringing new players into the "real" EVE. But even still, Markonius is incredibly humble about his success.
"I always like to think that we can be better, we can always do things better," Markonius told me. "As long as newbies are having a hard time adjusting and getting into EVE Online, there's always going to be a place for us to improve."
"We're thankful to have the resources to help those pilots."
But being the CEO of Karmafleet gives as much as it takes. Talking to Markonius, he was quick to express how much of what he has learned in this time has impacted him both in and out of the game. The management skills he has acquired and being able to tap into the wealth of knowledge possessed by Goonswarm's leadership has been invaluable to him. Though EVE might just be a game, the skillset required to manage thousands of players effectively is no different than running a real business.
But, what I found surprising, was the deep attachment Markonius felt for the community he was a part of—both Karmafleet, Goons, and EVE Online in general.
"I think the EVE community, more than any other, has recognized that we are all people," Markonius said. "We don't get reincarnated in a fresh clone when we die. When we die that's it, and people come together because of that."
"I think that's why in EVE you see some of the best fundraisers that ever happened in gaming."
Markonius certainly was willing to address the fact that, for many, Goonswarm are the villains of the EVE Online community.
"We are that group: we have griefed people out of the game before," Markonius said. "But we really do care about our people."
"The bonds often go way beyond the pixels and the video game."
Talking with Markonius, it was overwhelmingly apparent that his passion for not only EVE Online, but the community of players behind it, was paramount to the success of Karmafleet. For a new player to tackle the harsh realities and incredible depth of EVE Online and stick around is nothing short of a miracle. It's a big problem. But it's pilots like Markonius, who have dedicated themselves to breaching that issue and make the vast stretch of space in EVE a little less black, who are making EVE Online a better game. If you're brand new to EVE or tried it before and hated it, Karmafleet is absolutely worth looking into.