Monday, October 19, 2015

Time Based Progression?

My post on Friday had lots of good comments but one in particular from the respected blogger NoizyGamer stood out for me:
Just an observation. Putting aside the whales who will throw money at a problem, what you propose is turning EVE from a time based progression to where the more active you are in a game, the faster you progress, with ISK the means of progression. That's a pretty big change in the game's design.

Hmmm interesting. Is EVE designed such that progression is Time based?

On the surface of things, yes it is. Even veterans have to wait for a skill to ding and unlock a new module or ship they could not use before.

Except... except not really. That may have been the intent a long time ago but the game's evolution over the past decade have conspired to create a situation such that progression is constrained by three factors: time (skill training), ISK (buying new stuff), and experience (know-how to succeed in the game).

The experience progression is pretty straightforward and highlighted by EVE's learning cliff image:
Its not 100% accurate; any veteran will tell you that you need to constantly learn new things and practice old skills to remain competitive in EVE, but for the most part its correct: the first few months are a flurry of information to assimilate and then after a steady increase of knowledge as you expand your EVE experience.

The other two, time and money, are less clear.

A new player, flying in tech 1 frigates and fitting tech 1 modules, generally speaking will earn all the ISK they need to replace their ships and buy new skill books. (I'm not talking days old new players just starting out, but players that have finished the tutorial and gotten the hang of warping, shooting rats, running missions, mining, etc). But no matter what they do outside of implants and neural remaps, they cannot train skills faster.

So think about what a new player needs to train in order to become proficient in say, a Corax destroyer. Caldari ship skills, missile weapon skills, and shield tanking skills. Not to mention all the core and specific support skills for one should at least consider like capacitor skills, power grid and CPU skills, shield skills, navigation skills, missile skills, etc. And that simply let's you fit and fly a tech 1 version of the Corax, it takes more training to fit it with tech II modules.

That player is definitely time constrained! In the amount of time it takes to train those relevant skills he could earn more than enough ISK to buy and fit that ship.

However, the equation starts to change when he considers his next objective, the fearsome Caracal cruiser. Yes, he needs to train heavy missile skills instead of light missiles, and Caldari cruiser skill, but all the support skills carry over to the new vessel, as well as the shield tanking skills. Its getting to the point for the player that the ratio of getting the ISK to afford the ship compared to the time to train for it is getting closer to equal. Jumping to Drake battlecruiser is even easier, and Raven battleship only slightly harder. By the time that player is pricing out Ravens and cruise missile launchers, he is constrained more by his wallet than time to train skills.

Now, there is a drop back to time constraints if he decides to cross train to another ship line whose weapon systems or tanking system are different with different support skills, and another huge jump if they go for capitals as there is a lot of big capital skills, but more and more a veteran player will find himself not measuring their progression on how much time it takes to unlock a ship but more and more on affording the bigger and/or flashier ships and modules available in the game.

In other words, progression becomes ISK based instead of time based. The extreme example of this is the rich players who decide its easier to buy a new character off the character bazaar for a purpose than bother to train one up from scratch; their progression is blocked by the ISK in their wallet and not time.

On top of all of this, I would like to point out another wrinkle to this thought process. Remember that Corax that our hypothetical new player was working towards? Because of EVE's design a lowly tech I destroyer or frigate still has a role to play in a 9 year veteran's hanger. In other words, in EVE you don't progress from one ship to another so much as you ADD a ship or module to your repertoire of options. And as your plethora of choices grows as you mature into a veteran player, you find yourself less and less concerned with skill blocks as you can leverage your hanger options to work around them. Rarely is a veteran truly blocked from content by any skill training time.

My point is, I believe that EVE's progression in the long run is already ISK based. Its only really time based for new players and I think its unfair to punish them thusly, hence why I think at a minimum all support skills should be rewarded for free to all new characters.


  1. And to add a personal observation (and I think it supports your point): not every veteran player is space rich. I have the theoretical skills to fly most of the flashy ships in the game - but I usually toodle around in lowly frigates or cruisers because I can't be arsed to grind ISK.

    In a no-SP system, any rookie player could take me on on equal terms, and it would come down to who is the better player. And isn't that what EVE is really about?

  2. The downside is: such a system would diminish the "RPG" aspect even more. And I'm sure there are people who want to grow their character in such fashion.

    1. The lore already supports learning via implants and capsule interface, getting boosts from other items does not diminish "RPG" IMHO. And nothing about skill trading is mandatory. In fact, I can see RPG opportunities in painting skill boosting from transeural thingys as having unsavory side affects ;)

    2. I was more thinking of the typical RPG mechanics - attributes, and necessity to decide how to develop you character. Like in a game like Skyrim you need to decide if you go light or heavy weapons. Some people like this kind of game, but it is less and less found in the MMO area (it seems).

      From an interactive RP perspective you are right - SP transfers open up new story possibilities.