Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ways to Improve the Skill Training System

A good friend of mine is getting out of the military in August.  Since we used to play first-person shooters and World of Warcraft together 8 years ago, it makes sense to me that he might want to try Eve.  To plan for this, I started training a PVP character on a new account earlier this year.  He'll have around 10-12M SP in August, will have good all-around support skills, and will have Caldari Frigate V & Caldari Cruiser V with T2 missiles.  If it turns out that my friend isn't interested in Eve, then I can either keep this as a Tengu alt, or sell it on the Bazaar for a couple Billion isk.

Eve is great in that a 2-day old newbie can fit a out a frigate and be useful in any fleet as a tackler or a scout.  In WoW, if I just start playing then I'm completely useless to my level 90 friends until grind through the quests and reach level 90.  This takes a couple months with a normal level of play (at least it did when I last played wow, it might be even easier now).  In Eve, after the same couple of months...you're probably still going to be flying a tackle frigate in most organized gangs.  While a brand new character can be useful to any fleet, there is a large skill training "gulf" that must be bridged before you can start branching out to other roles or performing optimally in a solo pvp situation.  The 10M SP that my new alt will have is really what I consider now to be somewhat of a minimum in order to fly a decent variety of ships well.  When you reach 20-30M SP, then any ship you can fly you can fly well, and training only gets you into an ever-broader variety of increasingly redundant ships.  It's no coincidence that many PVP corps have minimum SP requirements near this level.

I think that to be more accessible to newbies, Eve needs to help players bridge this gap between 0 - 10M SP faster.  I have a few ideas on how to do this.

1. Condense Existing Skills

There are too many "mandatory" support or fitting skills that are frankly quite boring to train.  In terms of fitting skills this includes CPU Management V, Power Grid Management V, and Weapon Upgrades V.  I would also argue that the Armor Tanking, Shield Tanking, Navigation, and many of the basic Drone skills also fall into this category.

I would condense many of these into a single skill; for example I would have a single skill that covers CPU & Power Grid management, which would significantly reduce the amount of time needed to train fitting skills.  Why not combine the armor repair and remote armor repair skills?  How about shield operation & shield compensation?  And do we really need four separate armor & sensor compensation skills?  This is actually pretty minor and wouldn't have a particularly huge impact, but ultimately it means less time training boring support skills and more time training into fun new ships to fly or fun new weapons to use.

Unfortunately, recent trends show that CCP is actually moving in the opposite direction here.  The most recent example are the revamp of the drone skills.  After the Kronos patch, newbies will need to train a 1x skill to V in order to use T2 light drones, plus an additional 2x skill to use T2 medium drones.  Ironically, I stand to benefit greatly from these skill changes because it means I will not have to train Combat Drone Operation to V anymore, and I will simply be given Light & Medium Drone Operation V.  I really believe that this is a mistake and that CCP should make more of an effort to help new & future players catch up to established vets.

The other example, which I firmly believe was a mistake, was the splitting of the Destroyer & Battlecruiser skills, which happened last year.  Certain players who trained accordingly in anticipation of this change benefited immensely in the form of millions of "free" SP in these racial hull skills.  Someone who makes a new account today will have to spend 4 times as much time training in order to have the same capability.  This is MONTHS of additional training time!  No wonder there's a perception that new players can never catch up.

2. Accelerate Skill Point Gains for New Accounts

Ok, so there is technically already a booster that greatly accelerates skill training for new characters, but I think CCP should go a step further.  I would do something very simple: give away SP that can be spent however the player chooses.  For example, when an account is first upgraded, I'd give away 1M SP.  After another month, give away another 1M SP to the account.  One more month, another 1M SP.  This is on top of the normal skill queue and any boosters taken to enhance attributes.  I think this would do a lot to help newbies get established, and would probably also help retain new players.  Personally, I would also give away 1M SP to every account a couple times a year unannounced, because I think the whole community would appreciate it.


Obviously, I haven't thought these proposed changes through too much.  I'm not sure of what the unintended consequences of this would be, particularly if established players start new accounts to abuse this.  I suppose it would also become much easier to create new hauling, PI, and industry alts, which may impact the overall economy.  I still think that some of these are worth considering.  Also, I want to be clear that I mostly like the skill training system.  The greatest thing about it is that it completely removes any pressure to grind XP, and as long as my queue is running, I never feel as though I'm falling behind.  On the other hand, changes can certainly be made in order to make the game more accessible.


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