Friday, December 26, 2014

New Player Experience and the Skill Queue

Several months ago, I wrote about my issues with the skill queue system in Eve.  I really like the time-based skill queue, mainly because it removes any incentive to grind in order to progress your character's skills (which generally leads to un-fun gameplay being optimal).  Furthermore, there are always more skills to train, no matter how long you've been playing, so I always feel like I am unlocking new abilities as I continue to play.

However, I think the skill system needs to be refined in order to improve the new player experience.  A brand-new pilot will less than 1M SP can be useful to any fleet as a scout or in a tackle frigate.  In order to branch out to other roles, with T2 modules and decent support skills, it will take about 10M SP of focused training into combat skills.  This is enough to get into Interceptors/Assault frigates for a couple races, plus a basic T1 cruiser hull to V with T2 weapons.  The 0-10M SP range is where people either get hooked on Eve, or quit in frustration, and one of the biggest complaints I hear about is with the skill training system.  I think some of the issues can be resolved by helping newbies bridge this 0 to 10M SP gap faster.  This can be done in a few simple ways:

1. Get rid of attributes already!

Ok, maybe not completely.  What should be done is to make every skill train at 2250 SP/Hr, which is then modified by learning implants.  The result is that the rate of skill training is the same as it would be today (with an optimal remap), but one will no longer have to worry about optimally using remaps in order to train the skills that they want. Many of the key support skills that new players need early on have vastly different attribute requirements.

Attributes and remaps might add interesting game-play choices for veteran players, but I think they are overly restrictive to new players, and give too much of an opportunity to make a mistake that you cannot easily recover from.  When I first started, I wasted two of my remaps stupidly, which ended up greatly adding to my frustration later on when I realized what I had done.

2. Condense or remove "required" skills

There are a LOT of support skills which are basically required for any serious PVP character.  These include:

Basic Fitting Skills (1.295M SP total):
Power Grid Management V (1x)
CPU Management V (1x)
Weapon Upgrades V (2x)
Advanced Weapon Upgrades IV (6x)

T2 Tank Skills (1.476M SP total):
Mechanics V (1x)
Hull Upgrades V (2x)
Repair Systems V (1x)
Shield Operation IV (1x)
Shield Upgrades IV (2x)
Tactical Shield Manipulation IV (4x)
Shield Management IV (3x)

Capacitor Skills (1.024M SP total):
Capacitor Management V (3x)
Capacitor Systems Operation V (1x)

Drone Skills (1.5M SP total):
Drones V (1x)
Drone Avionics V (1x)
Light Drone Operation V (1x)
Medium Drone Operation V (2x)
Drone Interfacing IV (5x)

Navigation Skills (1.1M SP total):
Navigation V (1x)
Spaceship Command V (1x)
Acceleration Control IV (4x)
Evasive Maneuvering IV (2x)
Afterburner IV (1x)
High Speed Maneuvering IV (5x)
Fuel Conservation IV (2x)
Warp Drive Operation IV (1x)

Total: about 6.4M SP, or 118 days of training at 2250 SP/Hr.

This does not include other skills that I'd consider mandatory, such as Gunnery or Missile support skills to at least IV, secondary drone support skills, targeting skills, rigging skills, e-war skills, cybernetics, and spaceship command skills for your ships of choice.

This is four months of training, and almost none of it allows you to unlock new ships, weapons, or other fun things.  That is a big problem.  CCP really should try to condense, or eliminate many of these skills in order to reduce the skill training time, especially the fitting skills.  It's pretty ridiculous that the most accessible ship class (frigates) is the class with the tightest fitting requirements and has the greatest need for good fitting skills.

3. Free SP giveaways for new accounts

When a new trial account is first subbed, I would give away 1M SP that can be freely spent however the player chooses.  I would give away another 1M SP when the account is 2 months old, and another when the account is 3 months old (for a total of 3M SP).  I think this would do a lot to help newbies get established, and give them something to look forward to each month while they are trying to find their place in Eve.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Thoughts on the Recon Rebalance

Last week, CCP Rise announced a proposal for a Recon rebalance in the upcoming Proteus release here. This has received more of a response from the community than anything since the jump fatigue changes in Phoebe.    The most controversial aspect is the addition of d-scan immunity to Combat Recon hulls, but this also includes a substantial buff to the resist profile and capacitor of all 8 hulls.

I've had some time to think this over, and I think that the strength of d-scan immunity in combat recons is vastly overrated by the community. Cloaks are just SO MUCH more powerful in nearly every situation apart from maybe ganking plex runners. Some people are actually suggesting that d-scan immunity is BETTER than covert-ops cloaks, which I think is a ridiculous statement. The arguments against d-scan immunity basically boil down to:

1. People will camp inside medium faction warfare plexes and farm kills all day

I can already do this with force recons if I want to. I have two recon-capable characters, so I could literally just sit inside a medium plex with an Arazu & a Rapier with a scout on the warp-in gate, and just pop frigates all day if I really wanted to, and I can't even be detected by combat probes if I do this. This was also supposed to happen when the scan inhibitors were introduced, but I have not once seen someone actually do it.

2. Wormhole sites and low sec plexes will become too dangerous for PVE

They already are dangerous in w-space because of force recons (or bombers). D-scan immunity only matters if the site is within d-scan range of the wormhole and they manage to hit d-scan within the narrow ~2 second window that a force recon would be decloaked. Let's be realistic, someone who gets ganked by a Combat Recon in Proteus would get tackled today by a Force Recon >90% of the time.

With respect to DED plexes, I think this argument holds some truth, but there are still ways to be 100% safe. You still see people probing the site, and you can always move yourself >100 km from the warp-in beacon if you're paranoid, which keeps you completely safe from anyone coming in, regardless of what ship they're flying.

3. People will camp low sec DED sites with combat recons

This is countered with combat probes by the paranoid. And again, I can clear out the first room of a DED plex, and camp it with an Arazu/Rapier combo today if I really wanted to. It's usually more profitable (and less boring) to just run the site.

4. The decloak delay makes Force Recons balanced today. Combat recons won't have to deal with this.

The decloak delay for targetting is almost exactly equal to the delay between a combat recon showing up on the overview, landing on grid, and it being able to target after it decelerates from a warp. People have tested and measured this on sisi. In either case, if you are aligned and paying attention, you will be safe.

5. The new meta will be 20-man Lachesis/Curse gangs. There is literally no reason to fly anything else.

I'll believe it when I see it. It might work in wormholes, or assist with ganks, but recons are still not great pure combat ships and they'll get wrecked by a proper gang. Combat recons will indeed probably become the ship of choice for scouting wormholes though.

On the other hand, I think the change to Recon resists and capacitor is potentially very, VERY big though, and it could make e-war a much bigger factor in HAC/Battleship fights. For example, the ability to field tanky damp ships can provide a way for smaller HAC gangs to engage other HAC gangs who like to run with a large number of logi.