Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Friday, February 1, 2013

You got skillz

Time for a little bit of geek philosophy.

One of the very few things I don't like about the ship balancing effort going on right now are all of the opportunities CCP is taking to add additional skills to the game.  In the aggregate, I think this is a bad thing for EVE Online.  For a new player, the game is already quite complex; obviously, adding skills adds to this complexity.  For that reason alone, CCP should hesitate to add new skills unless it's absolutely necessary.  But there are two other good reasons not to do this as well.

First and the more minor of the two, the addition of skills to the game feels artificial.  Maybe as the game continues to develop and we see how a lot of these new skills fit into the game, they will make more sense.  But right now, a lot of the new skills feel like they've been inserted only to give veteran players things to train as they run out.  This applies particularly to Mining Frigate, Micro Jump Drive Operation, Armor Resistance Phasing, and the forthcoming armor speed skill.  Does the game really need more skills that are only useful for a single module or ship?  For modules, we have lots of those... too many, really.(1)  Does the game really need yet more skills that duplicate other skills?  We already have two skills that increase your ship's speed.  Must we add another?

Where new skills make sense and are independent of existing skills and support new metas -- Planetary Interaction, for instance -- I don't mind quite so much.  But these were unnecessary and artificial.  Again, they feel like they were inserted to give 100M+ SP characters something to train.

Which brings me to the greater of my two concerns: the widening gap between long-term and short-term EVE players.  When the new racial battle cruiser and destroyer skills hit, if CCP continues to follow their current stated plans, Ripard is going to jump some five million SP further ahead of newer players.  Skills like those, the armor speed skill, and the new sensor skills make Ripard just that much more terrifying to newer players I might engage in PvP.  Take ship speed alone.  I already have an enormous advantages in ship speed because I've trained Navigation V and Acceleration Control V.  Since I can immediately jump into the armor speed skill and train that without delay, that will put me that much further ahead of players who haven't.

For players struggling just to train basic fitting skills, are they going to take the time to train these specialized skills?  I think not.

This is why I'm a bit hesitant about supporting the new BC and destroyer skills.  I can see why CCP are doing it and certainly I've done my best to encourage my readers here to be ready for this change.  But it doesn't do new players starting the game this year any damn good...  Alliances are still going to be pushing multiple race metas for fleet doctrines because that's what gives you an advantage on the modern EVE battlefield.  Therefore, these newer players are going to have to spend four times as long training for the multi-racial metas if they want to participate.  It's also that many more skill books that new players will have to buy during their early EVE career.

But I'm also torn because I can see the logic underneath this skill split.  Back when battle cruisers were introduced to New Eden, a Caldari Battlecruiser skill would have given you access to exactly one ship, the Ferox.  That would have been every bit as annoying as the Mining Frigate skill giving you access to one ship today.  ;-)  It made total sense for the game at that time to include a single Battlecruiser skill.  Even that only unlocked four ships.

So I guess what I'm saying here is that it's important for CCP to be striking a balance here, and I'm not sure they've got that balance right yet.  It feels like they're a little too eager to add new skills with insufficient justification for doing so.  As a veteran player, I'm certainly happy about it: it gives me greater advantages against my opponents.  But as someone who tries to keep an eye out for the less experienced player as well, I'm less happy.


(1) Yes, I'm specifically looking at you, eight separate e-war module skills.

31 comments:

  1. Truth to be told, I woudldn't mind the battlecruiser/destroyer skill split either if CCP dropped the ranks of the skills when they perform the split.

    I hear a lot of veterans saying that low SP chars are fine, that you can be combat effective with skills trained up to 3 or 4, and that's just not true a lot of times. In identical fits, an all level 4 character will be doing almost 15% less gun damage, have worse tracking, and perhaps most importantly, never be able to pull range from be veteran because of navigation and acceleration control. In a 1v1, there is almost no chance of winning, and that's ok. But the impact of things like note being able to shoot as far, not being able to go as fast, allows a veteran with some manual skill to demolish large numbers of newbies without breaking a sweat.

    This is not even mentioning the tons of key skills that require lv5 prerequisites, such as AWU, which opens up tons fitting options. Other examples include tech 2 guns and ammo, some of which are necessary to be useful (for example scorch and javelin ammo).

    None of this is helped by the skillpoints system, making it that training up to a decent ship and weapons can not be done at the same time as training the Int/mem skills that allow you to be much more combat effective.

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    1. That's just not the case.

      Don't buy in to the vets elitism of "you must have x milion SP in order to be effective". Almost every time a vet/corp/alliance says that, what they really mean is "you must have x million SP in order to be as effective as us". What it does NOT mean is that unless you have a billion SP you are INeffective.

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    2. That's exactly what is being said here. Not that the people with the skills trained to 3 or 4 will be ineffective, but that they don't stand a chance against someone with those same skills trained to 5. If I'm a lower-skilled player in a fight against a vet and manage to get my opponent to half armor I definitely wasn't totally ineffective, but I lost the fight which at the end of the day is what matters.

      The other thing with this is that the impact of your skills is inversely proportional to the size of group you're with, from basically not mattering in a large fleet to being the difference between life and death in a solo fight.

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    3. That is entirely false, it just means you need to change your approach. Agreed in a 1v1 a veteran player will decimate a new player. Not only do they have an in-game stat advantage but also time spent in those ships gaining real life experience and skill. But in groups, especially organized with specific strengths and weaknesses a new player can inflict massive damage on veteran players. GSF was built on 'every Rifter pilot is a valuable fleet asset' and has shown that numbers are the ultimate trump card in EVE.

      Another example where new players excel is the arena of black ops. The alliance I'm in regularly recruits new players where the only pre-req is the ability to fly and fit a stealth bomber. These can be cheap fits with meta torps and mods and regularly are, and yet these players are still participating and some are even getting they're first KM's or capital kills. Another example of this would be the infamous bombers bar which has shown just how potent a weapon the SB can be in the proper hands.

      If these ships or skills still seem like too much work than maybe your in the wrong game, because flying these requires a mere month or so of training which is negligible in comparison to the time requid to fly a BS properly skilled and fit.

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  2. New players would have much less of a problem if the ranks of those skills would be lowered: cruisers to 3 and bcs' to 5 (or 4 even).
    And yes, I know that means ppl can get into t2/t3 cruisers faster, but from what I understand about tiericide CCP wants just this, a faster way to spezialisation. Older players would also suffer less, because the total sp would not increase as much therefore keep the clone costs lower (clones have their own place for discussion...). The only ones complaining will be ppl with toons specialised in a single t3 (can still be satisfied with free sp or something alike). Still I'd much prefer one group of complaining players over adding walls for new pilots to overcome.
    I'd do the same to destroyers and frigs btw. For race specific skills the ranks should be frig 1, dessie 2, cruiser 3, bc 5, totalling in 44 ((1+2+3+5)*4)ranks of skills for all sub-bs ships for all races combined (atm being 36((2+5)*4+2+6), so still a small increase in total sp needed, which is also wanted to make generalized toons suffer compared to future spezialized ones (according to CCP, not me)).

    Beel

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  3. The problem with CCP is that they try to use one valid case - ie. the BC skill split - to justify a bunch of invalid cases - ie. introducing more module-specific skills.

    This is the one area where Fozzie isn't being reasonable and is acting like the old CCP devs. He has some sort of blind obsession with adding new skills, wrongly arguing that they don't increase the separation between new and old players, nor increase the SP slope that new players need to climb.

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  4. "Alliances are still going to be pushing multiple race metas for fleet doctrines because that's what gives you an advantage on the modern EVE battlefield. Therefore, these newer players are going to have to spend four times as long training for the multi-racial metas if they want to participate."

    Keep in mind that this problem already exists, and has been recognized by CCP as a major barrier to new players.

    This is actually one of the problems that Fozzie has been tasked to address with the ship balancing, and the reason why the ships in each class are being homogenized.

    When the ship balancing is completed, there should be little or no overall advantage to choosing one race over another, and much less incentive to cross-train. Situational advantages, sure - but, no overwhelming superiority to one particular ship in any given class.

    Fleet doctrines, as usual, will adapt.

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    1. Some alliances are careful to leave the door open to newbies when planning fleet doctrine. We had a pretty strict rule that T1 frigates (any fit) are always welcome and anyone complaining "can they at least bring assault frigates" got fiercely shouted down.

      More some mid level ships were included in most of the doctrines. Foxcats for instance is a pretty pricey doctrine but includes a role for people in Mallers - much more accessible to people who aren't ready to fly Navy Apocs or Guardians. I think Celestis was added too but I may be misremembering.

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  5. I don't think that "shallow" skills, those w/o level V prereqs are a big problem. A newb who needs one can train it to level IV, and have a large fraction of the power of you oldies with your level V.

    It is skills gated with a level V (or many such) that are a concern. At least to this young player. Since they are not doing that, the new skills are not a big problem.

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  6. I have already given up hope on it really, and nothing really matters anymore after that, its a nice place to reach.

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  7. My suggestion: significantly reduce the training time (including TO FIVE) of the core fitting skills. This would help new players get up the curve faster and would naturally push them toward these.

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    1. Or better still let's just start new characters with Electronics V Engineering V and Weapons Upgrade V without penalising the amount of additional skills that can be trained at double speed.

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  8. Part of the justification for the new skills was that other training times would be shortened as part of the rebalance and CCP didn't really want that. As I understand it both T2 crusers and command ships will train a bit quicker and I think a new player will get to capitals faster, though cross training multiple races will take more time.

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    1. "Part of the justification for the new skills was that other training times would be shortened as part of the rebalance and CCP didn't really want that."

      This isn't what happened, though. CCP has introduced a bunch of random skills, for specific modules - none of which affect the player's ability to get into any ship.

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  9. I don't really have a problem with forcing players to stick to lower 'tier' ships via a skill wall(time constraint). It forces players to master the basics from day one and fully digest PvP in Eve, making your losses less detrimental(and understandable) and more consensual. New players need to understand their vulnerability in New Eden and plan their character development accordingly. I understand a need for growth early on, but people seem to jump into situations and expect one thing and receive another. idk, I'm drunk. Good post!

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  10. Change Mining Frigate to ORE Frigate, change Mining Barge to ORE Industrial, and the extra skills make sense.

    The sensor compensation skills are code smell associated with the change to ECM. The mechanic of ECM could simply have been changed to breaking locks, rather than setting a ship's maximum targets to zero for 20 seconds.

    You are right: these new skills smell like "filler" for bored veterans. But they also smell like "filler" for "we don't know what to do next."

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  11. It is pretty clear that the only solution is to reset everyone to zero SP.

    This makes the playing field more or less fair for noobs and vets. Vets still have the advantage of more experience in playing the game, ofc.

    And, the Goons and PL are such uber players that they should have no problem holding sov with subcaps for a year or so, until they can train back into supers, right? :)

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  12. And, what do you think about the new racial Sensor Compensation skills? Maybe CCP will split *all* of the skills into racial variants. Wouldn't that be fun?

    Off-topic, I also wonder when CCP is going to get around to renaming all of that Magnetometric, Gravimetric, Ladar, and Radar stuff to Gallente, Caldari, Minmatar, and Amarr. Don't want to confuse those DUST bunnies, right?

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  13. I think CCP should introduce higher skill levels to existing skills rather than introducing new skills, in order to give the 100M+ SP players something to keep training.

    Also, it would be better if CCP were to actually reduce/consolidate the number of skills, particularly those skills which only affect a single module. The existing number of skills is already too high and unnecessarily increases complexity for new players. Removing skills would not penalize older players, since the SP can now simply be refunded and applied to other skills.

    Adding new skills increases the separation between new players and older players; consolidating skills and adding more levels would actually decrease the separation, because the incremental improvement with higher level skills is diluted by the increased time to train (for example, if training to level 5 takes 5-6 days, for a rank 1 skill, then training to level 6 would take around 25-30 days).

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    1. This. Adding level 6 to skills would give vets something long-term to train, but it would only be a marginal advantage, not an overwhelming one.

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  14. I have to disagree, adding new highly specialised skill is exactly what CCP should do. As you said it adds something for old players to train to 5, but as those skill are narrowly specialised advantage they provide, compared to new player that has them trained to 3 or 4, is manageable.

    I think you underestimate importance of adding new things for old players to train, it represents additional content for them, new goals for them to reach, and new ways to improve their toons. It rewards their loyalty to game. As long as advantage they get does not make them invincible, and small advantage that is difference form lvl4 to lvl 5 skill does not make them invincible, it is appropriate reward for their long term commitment to game.

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  15. But Jester, Racial Battleship only unlocks three hulls (two for Caldari for all purposes), so surely we only need a single Battleship skill to make sure that all the new players can get into battleships as soon as possible. And all those pesky Level V requirements should be eliminated as well, just to make sure players can get what they want more quickly, even if they can neither afford it nor know how to make use of it.

    In my experience, players who say that they've quit EVE due to skill training times are just making an excuse. They'd have lost interest in EVE after a month or two regardless. They are not the target demographic of any MMO, aside from the sort that specifically targets players with ADD and tries to milk them via the cash shop.

    If everyone can use something, then there's no value in getting it. Players need goals to work towards; if they're handed things on a platter, then they'll play around with the thing for a bit and then leave. Also, skills in EVE have diminishing returns. You may have tens of millions of SP more than a new player, but all those Level V skills aren't going to make that much of a difference in reality, especially when real player skill comes into play.

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  16. Does anyone remember learning skills XD? I spent the first 2-3 months of my characters career just training those... at least it is not still like that.

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  17. While I agree with the sentiment that some of the skills that CCP is adding seem to be baseline skills that are "must have" skills and by adding skills that are "must have" new pilots are put at a disadvantage I have to say that the destroyer and battlecruiser skill rebalance is a GOOD thing for new players.

    I really dislike how you are holding on to a "bad way" of thinking about new players, skill points, and old players.

    New players, when they specialize, "catch up" to old players in a relatively short amount of time. How long does it take to reach max level in an MMO? Why is that not part of the discussion when people bring up this silly point in the first place?

    A new player is effective at anything they want to do within a week of playing. A week to get into PvP. A week to get into mining. A week to get into exploration. A week to get into trading. A week to get into industry...

    A single week to become productive and beneficial. After that initial week the player will continue to get better and better and if they specialize they can "catch up" to the mystic 9 year old 200 million SP player in between a month and three months.

    Yes, three months to "catch up" to a 200 million SP player in a specialize ship type. That's pretty awesome.

    That you are carrying on this bad way of thinking about EVE is really really really disheartening. New players will walk away with the wrong idea.

    I had the wrong idea when I first tried EVE. That was the reason I stopped playing. I didn't think I could ever catch up (this was a year after EVE was released.)

    A few years later I finally realized that it DOES NOT MATTER and I could catch up in specific roles in a relatively short amount of time compared to max level in other MMOs.

    The changes to battlecruisers and destroyers REDUCES this time even further. So this is a GOOD thing for new players. A new player can get into a racial battlecruiser faster than before when the change goes live.

    I am amazed at how you didn't appear to put any actual thought into the situation or analysis. Instead you seem to be regurgitating words that others have spoken before you without thought.

    Perhaps you plan is just to provoke discussion and you are being successful at that... the only thing is that it is at the expense of yourself.

    Everything that you write from this point onwards I will view with suspicion. Not only because you are wrong about this but because of how you didn't bother to even think the issue through.

    You have opinions, that's great, but at least base them in fact. You're not even bothering to do that.

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    1. The notation of a 3 month, never mind a 6 month newbie catching up to a 4 year vet is a notion that can be quite easily debunked with a bit of skilpoint math.

      Lets say for example, the ship in question is a Drake. a newbie wants to fly a Drake with enough skills to be combat effective. This means tech 2 weapons, tech 2 tank, rigs, shield and capacitor skills at 4, decent targeting, navigation, drone, and tackle skills, how much time does this need?

      My Eve Mon says 110 days, almost 4 months, given perfect remaps and +3 implants. So this is a very well informed newbie indeed. Keep in mind, this is just to fly a Drake with tech 2 HML's. IF that newbie wants BC V he will have to tack on another 20 days.

      During this 4 months this newbie is extremely strapped for cash. How much money can he make with a Drake? not an awful lot, L3 missions is about it. giving him roughly 11M/hr of income, keep in mind this newbie has no SP in social to payment is low. Every Drake he loses while PVPing will cost him 5 hours of missions.

      Realistically speaking, to achieve decent SP in flying a T1 cruiser/BC will take about 6 months on a more relaxed training plan that lets the newbie also financially support himself. 6 months is a long time in the world of MMO's, during that 6 months, Drakes or HML's could be nerfed to something useless, and that newbie would have to start from scratch on another Ship and weapon system.

      CCP deciding to make cross training harder is a terrible decision, as newbies who specialize into ship's and weapon systems are the ones most impacted when ships are balanced. While Vetreans can just slip into another ship. Any mechanic that adds time to a newbie going from subscription to combat effectiveness is going to impact EVE's retention rates.

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  18. I can level to max level and get geared effectively in ANY MMO much faster than I could make a new toon and get it up to speed in Eve, even with specialization. And lets be honest...how many new players know what to specialize in. Most of them test the waters to see what they like. I was one of the lucky few when I started I knew what I wanted to do. And while yes I could fly some basic stuff within a couple months it was A LONG time before I could say my SP were not a LIMITING factor on my gameplay. And thats the crux of the matter SP are a severe limit to what sort of gameplay a new player can achieve...and even characters 6 months to a year old can still be limited in extreme ways. I cant think of any MMO that would take me near as long to reach max level get geared and raid, pvp etc on the top of the scene.

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  19. another view about skills:

    during the first ~20 mio skillpoints your char is almost unique skillwise. specialisation is the key. with 20 mio sp you can fly an interceptor with lv 5 skills including overheat skills, drugs, 5% implants if you wish and so on.
    or you can have your first carrier to be able to move your shit through 0.0 together with your alliance.
    or you have a good skilled carebear ship or you can fly everything with t1 guns.

    with 50 mio skillpoints most chars have their fitting skills done, have compensation skills and such shit at lv4 and can fly most ships with t2 weapons.

    with 100+ mio skillpoints the only difference is that one char has remote sensor dampening lv 5 while the other char prefered to skill shield explosion dampening at lv 5

    its all the same. if you have 100 mio skillpoints your char is 99% equal to all other 100 mio skillpoint char of the same playstyle.
    that sucks a bit.
    in my opinion it would not be a bad thing if there are no perfect chars at all.
    even with 200 mio skillpoints you should have to decide either specilize on that or that or skill everything and have disadvantages against 200 mio sp chars who are specialized.

    having little skills for everything is imho a good thing and in my opinion ccp should give us even more skills. and not only for pvpers also for industrial players
    i mean it doesnt win or lose a fight if your zealot flys 50m/s faster or needs 4,6 sec to aling instead of 4,9 sec or has 1 sensor strengh more or has 37000 ehp instead of 36500 ehp.


    you can train all those shitty skills to lv 2 or 3. that makes even fun to have such small skills to train. the last year i trained my rigging skills to 5 and shield/armor compensation skills to 5. thats no fun.

    but there should be a choice in what i should train.



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  20. If I remember right it's something like 1.2 years to get Fitting Skills, Gunnery, One Flavor of Tank, Navigation Skills, and Base Drone Skills to 5. It's been a very very long time since I've thrown it all into Evemon.

    That doesn't give you any ships beyond a newbie frigate, and it doesn't give any guns beyond the ones you started your Eve Career off with. Still need to put points in all of those. We are only talking skills which will effect every single ship you fly.

    1.2 years.

    At a time when CCP seems to be so worried about new player retention does it really seem like a smart idea to put that big of training debt on newbies just to be able to start to fly on an even playing field with older players?

    Even if the newbie in question trains them all only to 4, which is still a huge chunk of time, he's still missing out on over 100% points worth of bonuses from all of those skills. And fitting skills are so universally important he'll still have to train a few of those to 5 to be combat effective at all in some ships if he decides to specialize in them.

    Most anyone commenting on this blog is going to have all of them at 5 and we did it all over 2-3 years of playtime while also training ships, guns, and money making skills. Which are all equally as needed.

    I don't know where I'm going with all that really... other than to say it gives a HUGE lie to the old saw that a new player can be just as effective by specializing early. There is a wealth of generalized skills that are just as, if not more, important than the all trumped narrow approach they are supposed to take.

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  21. Jester, I am going to disagree with this; "Back when battle cruisers were introduced to New Eden, a Caldari Battlecruiser skill would have given you access to exactly one ship, the Ferox. That would have been every bit as annoying as the Mining Frigate skill giving you access to one ship today. ;-) It made total sense for the game at that time to include a single Battlecruiser skill. Even that only unlocked four ships."

    It would have been better to keep this consistant with entire skill structure by having racials at day one.

    As for mining ships? Have you ever compared some of the skills? Can of worms alert (the can opener was mentioning the frigate).

    Mining Laser Upgrades is a poor comparison to Weapon Upgrades. With the weapon version are passive skills and provide decent return for ship fitting. MLU skills only works when the MLU module is fitted. It's CPU return is extremely low. The current 'choice' of not fitting a MLU to deter ganks, means the skill is worthless. Maybe this skill actually might have done something in the area of mining battleships - but not anymore. Plus MLU only increase yield, they don't reduce cycle like a weapon upgrade.

    And there is no mining AWU to help manage grid which is always tight. Tanking a hulk requires one and sometimes two power mods for fitting reasons - and no provision for a utility. A combat ship which needs two power mods would be regarded as a failfit.

    Shall I mention that each of the specialty mining crytals has their own skill? You mention 8 ewar skills?!

    MT

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  22. I see the need for new skills for veterans to train (one of my characters is a mission-runner with over 40M skill points; the chosen ship types are nearly maxed out). I also see the need for new players to be able to compete at PvP against the old guard.
    I think there is an opportunity here: specialization. New skills that are added should be (a) very expensive to function as an ISK sink, and (b) high-tier so they train slowly, and (c) _specialized_ for specific ship classes (tech II, tech III, future stuff) so that while the skills are helpful they don't directly make the new guy in a T1 battlecruiser look bad. The new skills wouldn't help him anyway.
    Just my $0.02.

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