CapriSun wrote a pretty good blog post today about how, by and large, the "Newbie Corp Syndrome" isn't really a net positive for EVE. It received a mixed bag of comments, some agreeing, others disagreeing, and others on the fence. I thought it was really interesting and agree with his sentiment for the most part. But I think it's important to recognize groups that foresaw this issue long before the first "newbie corps" like BRAVE existed, groups that still continue teaching new players to think for themselves and take initiative.
I'm going to toot my own horn a lot here and focus on Noir. Academy and Mercenary Academy, but there are other organizations in EVE that follow a similar mindset. Again, to reiterate, I know that NA and MA aren't the only ones who do this in EVE. So, please, do comment and let me know what other corps do this, but don't comment that I'm trying to say there isn't anyone else out there.
Before we dive into how Noir. Academy (now Mercenary Academy) works, it's important to understand Noir. For any new players, there are mercenaries in EVE who are paid by other players to do a job which can range from destroying a POCO (Player Owned Customs Office) to assaulting entire regions to denying the enemy all ratting in an area to shutting down a particular pipe. The sky is really the limit here because contracts are created in the mind of the employer - truly one of the best parts of EVE. Noir. was created in 2008 and was always a small corp that strove to punch above its weight class, but favored skill and critical thinking over pilots who simply followed orders. Noir. had its heyday in 2010 when Dominion sovereignty was first released, but in the years that followed mercenary work in general dried up as people began to realize the futility of trying to compete outside of the new coalition meta. Many, many mercenary groups folded or stopped being mercenaries because the ISK dried up, but Noir. remained.
In 2009 Noir. Academy was created to help bolster membership in Noir. (turnover was always high due to cultural and gameplay factors). The goal of the program was to take relatively new or inexperienced players and teach them how to fly like Noir. pilots, which is to say how to think for themselves and be efficient as mercenaries while completing contracts. This takes a lot of work, and over the years the program evolved into a 1-month crash course to a 4-month ramp up, which is basically its current form. Noir. Academy took for granted that players coming into the program knew the basics of the game, how to use their overview, how to make ISK, what the lingo was, etc. No one was a brand new player, but our goal was to mold them into experienced ones. When I assumed command of the program my goal was to ensure a baseline standard for all graduates. People may not come out as masters of everything, but an FC could be confident in everyone's abilities to do certain things that were expected of Noir. members.
Noir. Academy is now a thing of the past, but its spirit lives on in Mercenary Academy. Most of the components that were present in the program when I took over are still present and I'm proud to say that many of my small additions are still being used. One of the major differences in Mercenary Academy is that they accept everyone. Like other newbie friendly corps, you can join Mercenary Academy and never leave, logging in and playing casually to blow things up and log off for a few months with no issues. But there is a program within Mercenary Academy which teaches players and gets them to a baseline standard. Part of that baseline teaches players how to take the initiative, how to be more than another person anchoring blindly. If successful, a new pilot may have the option to join Mercenary Coalition.
CapriSun asks "Where's the teaching?" And that's a good question. BRAVE does have its Dojo, EUNI has its wiki, and I'm sure others have something similar, but my experience with these groups is that mostly people are taught to accept a free ship and be part of the fleet. In MA, we've broken down some of the more important skills, in our opinion, and hold practical classes on Singularity and Tranquility, helping people understand the mechanics of EVE, how to think, and how to read their situation and environment. We have a lot of buy in from Mercenary Coalition where our FCs take out fleets and give them a taste for how we do things in MC. Every instructor in MA right now is an MC pilot. It lends a level of authenticity and experience to the program that I'm not sure exists outside of Mercenary Academy.
In my experience, when you teach someone how to think through problems and situations on their own, they stick around longer and become better integrated into the culture of the corporation. If you look at Noir. right now, every one of its directors and CEOs came through Noir. Academy. Most of the people who have been in the corp for years are the same way. These are also the guys who are leaders in the corp and alliance, the FCs, the guys who make things happen, the ones who are on the front lines day in and day out. There are a lot of factors, I'm sure, but I'm very confident that the way they learned to play the game had a huge impact on that.
The bottom line is, not everyone wants to be thrown in the deep end and learn how to survive on their own and how to entertain themselves with no helping hands. Personally, I enjoy that type of thing, but I'm not going to enforce it on everyone who comes into the game. But there are organizations out there who offer a path to more than a player-made theme park.
EVE is all about choices. Sometimes it's up to us as the players to create the inflection point for other players. Do you want to be a cog in the machine? Here you go. Do you want to be taught how to survive on your own? Right this way. Either way, we should instill a sense of importance on each path.