Now that we're about a month out from the release of Rubicon, I'd like to start writing about the features in the expansion that I'm personally a fan of.(1) That starts with a feature that's probably going to end up being overlooked in the grand scheme of things: the new certificate system. Thanks to the SOMER Blink thing, the dev-blog in question is already a couple of weeks old.
I myself started playing EVE with friends, some of whom had a good handle on game mechanics, others of whom came into the game with me and didn't know any more than I did. As a result, I did a lot of reading of out of game sources (rather sparse at that time). But when certificates were introduced in late 2008, I found myself at a number of cross-roads in terms of training and I found the certs to actually be a valuable tool for deciding what order to train things in. Such things were much less precise than they are now; skill queues were still a few months away: once a skill finished training, you had to be around to load up the next one.
This seems ridiculously primitive to me now, but this was how EVE was. Evemon was around, but it was much harder to manage because you had to plan your skills to come out at times you could actually be on-line to update your training. That sometimes meant training a quick pile of short skills while you were on-line followed by a longer train once you headed for bed or whatever.
And for this kind of thing, certificates actually seemed quite helpful! They were just the thing to point to new career paths that you could pick up basic training in quickly.
Only now with the benefit of longer experience in the game can I see how limited and sometimes how silly and wrong many of the existing certificates are. But the theory is still incredibly sound: "here are the skills that you're going to need to be good at X," the game wants to tell you. It's EVE... trying to be helpful!
...I know, right?
So when I heard that certs were going to be revamped for Rubicon, I was instantly a fan. At the summer summit, I was pretty chatty during most sessions but I was particularly chatty for this one. ;-) In particular, I begged and begged to get the specific details of what skills go with what certificates in front of players as soon as possible. I'm thrilled that CCP Ytterbium and the rest of the team did that. The forum thread on this feature will take you to a Google spreadsheet that has the details. And I want to express huge thanks to Ytterbium and the rest of the team for doing this!
If you haven't already, I urge you to go out and give the spreadsheet a once-over. It's not that hard to understand what you're seeing once you play around with it a little. And the great thing about this new feature is the players have the opportunity to make sure that these certificates make sense. That way, all those new players out there that are relying on this information for their early training will make smarter decisions than we made. If that's dumbing down the game... guilty as charged. But it's dumbing it down in a way that I for one can live with.
Of course, this is a nice step along the road, not the destination. Sooner or later, we're going to need corp and/or alliance certificates. The standard Rote Kapelle Ares fit, for instance, uses auto-cannons. And our standard Rapier fit only rarely requires target painters and almost never requires weapons. So for these special cases, it'll be handy to have certificates as a more specific training guide. But where we are is a great start.
It's certainly not one of the flashier features in Rubicon. But from a long-term perspective, it might end up being one of the more important ones...
More about my thoughts on other upcoming features over the next few days.
(1) As well as the opposite eventually, of course. I'm afraid that starts with "M" and continues with "arauder." But, another time.