A returning player came on the NC Discord earlier, asked a question about turning off an animation and then when he noticed that there was an xp/cash malus on the LE, said nevermind and that he wasn't going to bother continuing playing. I have no doubt there have been many more like him who haven't been vocal about it, and I know both the LE malus and removal of city safezones have stopped me doing much more than logging on to look at chat and then nope out of there.

Had a discussion with Xanthos and others, and here are my thoughts:

What's the gameplay purpose of the LE?

To allow players to experience the game without being forced to engage in PVP.

Why do we want this to be an option?

Levels/Damage scale to such an extent that lower/mid level characters even in groups don't have a hope against capped characters

A player being killed can set them back a significant amount of time

A player who's belt/backpack are being camped is set back even further in terms of time (or overall loss)

Some players simply don't want to PVP but do want to experience the world, levelling up, tradeskilling and acquiring new items

What are the benefits to the LE?

No risk from player combat or having belts hacked

What are the drawbacks to the LE?

Not able to join clans
Not able to PVP
Lose one brain implant slot
Reduced XP gain over **/30
Reduced cash gain over 30/**

How has the role of the LE changed since NC1?

LE's were very rare on the two servers I played on in NC1, especially at higher levels. Prime levelling spots were generally self-policing to some extent a ganker at the MB bunker would draw out players to hunt him down, same anywhere in the city where a low level character simply needed to say on chat that they were low level pk'ed. Camping belts/backpacks was basically unheard of, and being found hacking dropped belts of noobs or strangers would see people blacklisted. There was a risk in ganking noobs/levellers (even in places like CRP or the chaos caves) and potentially severe consequences. None such appear to exist now.

How have players and expectations changed since NC1?

Returning players are at least 17-18 years older. They have full time jobs, many have kids and relationships. The vast majority of people simply do not have the time or patience for an incredibly raw HARDCORE PVP levelling experience. We've had almost 2 decades of games becoming more accessable and more conducive to short bursts of playtime. That doesn't mean the core mechanics of NC need to change but then again, for almost the entirety of NC1 and during it's heyday, it had LE's that had no reduced xp/cash malus.

Just a general point. It's better to have 50 people online than 25, even if 25 of those 50 have LEs. They can be convinced to get rid of the LEs at higher levels to join clans. To PVP. To make hunting that bit easier with an extra implant. Players who either a) never return when they see the LE malus or b) quit after getting ganked can't be convinced of anything - even if it changes in the future, they're never coming back.

In aid of that, you could add gentler drawbacks to the LE. Things like not allowing them to enter high level MC5 or to engage in WoC. But having xp/cash maluses on LEs sends a negative message to people whose time is precious or players who simply don't want to PVP.

I was a hardcore op-warrer in NC1, I rarely PVEd and I didn't tradeskill beyond a mid level barterer. I was in a minority, the vast majority of other players wanted to level, hunt, tradeskill and simply take part in the community with any sort of PVP coming a distant second.

To pretend that NC1 was primarily a PVP game is ahistorical and untrue, it welcomed all sorts of players and catered to them to some extent.
Can the same be said about the current version of NC?