Thursday, January 21, 2016

What Price The Prize?

Yesterday on twitter a conversation started about the upcoming Skill Point trading in which famous blogger Noisy said some things I disagreed with. Before I get into the conversation, Noisy is one of the best EVE bloggers and someone's whose opinion I value highly, so I was not trying to pick a fight or troll him. Not sure if twitter conversations capture the nuance enough to make that point.

To reiterate something I've blogged about in the past, I've come to feel that the skill points system is an unnecessary limitation that impacts negatively newer players and has virtually no impact on veteran players. So while I would prefer that skill points are removed almost wholesale, I'm not opposed to a system that allows newer players to get skill points if they so desire to reduce the negative impact imposed on them by the system. For the record, the Character Bazaar is a similar system but far more advantageous to veteran players since the skill point trading is done via an entire character and thus the costs per transaction are far higher.

Back to the conversation above. Noisy says that skill point trading is contrary to the purpose of the game which he defines as "to journey thru the galaxy developing your character in hopefully fun and/or interesting ways". That's a good purpose; in fact its an admirable purpose, but I disagree its the purpose of the entire game.

This is the meat of the disagreement here, a fundamental parting of ways on whether or not being willing to pay cash to skip parts of the game is an acceptable practice or not. Other people compared it to purchasing a max level character in World of Warcraft. Noisy is of the opinion that if you want to skip part A to get to part B, then you should just stop playing the game. But I'm of the opinion that if part B is considered enough value to you to skip part A, paying cash for it should not be a big deal and should be allowed. 

In EVE's case, there are multiple "grinds" aka limitations: the ISK grind, the skill point grind, and the ability/experience grind. My enjoyment primarily lies in testing my ability against other pilots in PvP as both a pilot and Fleet Commander. I've been in the game so long that I've past the ISK grind and skill point grind but I could imagine coming into the game, wanting to get into the PvP in a meaningful competitive way, and being frustrated by the ISK and skill point grind and wanting to get a boost past them. PLEX already offers a way for the former, and now Skill Point trading offers a way for the latter. 

Noisy seems to be a hardliner against any form of paying cash to skip any limitation presented by EVE and I can see his point of view, even if I disagree with it. I don't think we should allow someone to pay cash and get "gold bullets" or any other advantage over other players that cannot be obtained in any method except cash, for example. Nor do I think we need to allow them to skip progression entirely so that they skill up to perfect titan pilots in a matter of a few minutes and lots of credit card payments. I do think there is a middle ground to be found to allow those with more cash than time to find happiness in the game without unbalancing the game for those with the opposite.

Noisy's attitudes towards RMT may put him in one minority, but I'm sure my attitudes towards skill points (death to skill points!) puts me in a different minority. I hope the different perspectives help CCP continue to make a good game.


  1. I really, really shouldn't post on Twitter during work....

  2. It opens up areas of the game sooner that would otherwise not be open to you. This will aid in player retention and give them no advantage other that what high skill point players already gain over low skill point players. People that object to the system seem like they're throwing something of a tantrum - it's as if because they had to grind the points the old fashioned way, everyone else should have to.

    It's an attitude that's not good for the continued longevity of the game. We NEED to retain players, not make them feel useless.

  3. The system runs right up to one of the biggest design flaws of Eve. How the heck are you supposed to know the thing you sink SP into is something you're even going to like? There is no try it before you buy it option. You buy and pray.

    I've lost count of the number of stories I've been told where someone originally trained into something they didn't like, but during the SP wait to get the big shiney found something they did like which kept them playing after the let down. This skips that. A new player could end up with a bill of sale for something they can't stand and didn't have the time to develop other options before the sale went through.

    1. Then again, this is the "choice" aspect.

    2. A choice you don't know the effects of isn't a choice. To have meaningful choice you need to know what you're getting into when you make it. Eve is so complex new players will not know what they are getting into before hand. And I'm okay with that for progression as it is now. You learn as you go in a hit or miss organic fashion. This won't be that. It's pay for skills you think you want, or are told you want, but the instant nature removes the time spent learning the game.

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  4. > Noisy is of the opinion that if you want to skip part A to get to part B, then you should just stop playing the game.

    Speaking of SP generation in EVE, stopping is literally what happens to you when you are training a long skill but you’re bored with all of your activities; you just sit and wait until whatever gets to, say, V, after which you’ll be able to fly that ship you or fit that gun or something. You can do ship spinning and hang out on comms meanwhile, or you can go completely offline for days, regardless — it’s still not much of actually playing the game, but in the same time it’s skipping, in a way. Besides, this situation can still be considered a development of your character, because your SP keeps being generated. I think it’s funny how these things are not mutually exclusive.

    Now, what happens if you inject SP? You get your skills, you stop waiting and start playing, so here skipping part A (waiting) to get to part B (do what you want with what you want) leads to playing the game more, not even breaking the natural flow of your character progression (because there is no strictly defined natural flow), and enhances your journey with the newly acquired stuff, whatever the journey might be. No one can judge others’ journeys after all.

    > Other people compared it to purchasing a max level character in World of Warcraft.

    I would like to remind that it’s not max level character, but a character 10 levels below max (at the moment). Mainstream content and grinds in WoW start when you hit max level, so if you’re coming back from hiatus to another WoW expansion, you have to grind the level difference first to get to current content. Which is exactly why this option was introduced in WoW — for people coming back to the game, and for people who cannot stand repetition of leveling 100+ levels on another alt. They even bundled free boost of one character to the last expansion, and I think it played a part in how their subscriptions skyrocketed at first on WoD launch.

    Now, let’s say I have spare cash and want to play different class/role in WoW, for example, I want to roll a healer to heal in my raids because I’m tired of dps-ing and my main doesn’t have healing spec. If I do it the conventional way, I’ll have to spend days of in-game time to level my new character up, but the purchase of the boost reduces that time drastically. Why would I want to spend extra time on leveling if I’ve already done it at least once, and it’s all the same anyway? By using a boost I just bump my character up to speed with my access to endgame and actual content, I don’t even lose any content because I’ve done leveling before. In WoW you literally cannot access most of interesting stuff (raids, pvp seasons, top tiers of professions, most powerful items) aside from some niche activities until you level up first, so much that Blizzard has made numerous drastic tweaks to ease the leveling for everyone, they even have completely overhauled the leveling process from 1 to 60. So it’s absolutely not the same thing with EVE, where with 300m starting SP you can go suicide gank, or join some FW with friends, or go do some exploration in a freshly created character from day 0.

  5. From what I've seen, a lot of players are damning skill trading based upon their hatred other games' pay2win tactics. But unlike those games, nothing you can "buy" in Eve can't be earned with time, or through isk purchases in game. There is absolutely no need to spend currency on anything in game unless you choose to. Moreover, things like sp don't make you overpoweringly better than any gang you could come across.

    In Eve, sp is given away for free based on subscription time; you don't even need to log in to earn sp, you just need to set your skill queue. This is quite different from other games where taking actions in-game earns you experience. In Eve, you aren't even taking a "lazy path". with skill trading, your choice is going to be paying a little every month to earn those sp, or pay a little more per-sp all at once. Is that gamebreaking? I don't think so.

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