October 22, 2015

SP changes: Shaking up the Gerontocracy of Eve

The Eve meta is still processing the Dev Blog "Exploring the Character Bazaar & Skill Trading."  There's been a lot of good discussion out there (and a lot of brainless posting and posturing), but I think the older players in particular just haven't quite gotten what this means to new(er) players.  As was commented on The Tinfoil Factory, Eve is a gerontocracy where power accrues to players simply for having been subscribed longer than others.  The changes we're talking about now dare to shake that up and thus undermine the advantages of older players.  Given that, perhaps it's not a surprise that people have taken a very cautiously named blog and run to their pitchforks, assuming it's a feature about to roll out.  This is all particularly interesting when combined with the new Blood Raider Cerebral Accelerator.

Pay To Win

Let's get this one out of the way first.  The suggestion here is that if I have a friend (let's call him Adam) started playing Eve two years before me, then it is somehow Pay to Win if I am given a way to catch up to him in skill points.  Let me say that another way: simply pulling up even to an older player is considered Pay to Win?  This isn't golden ammo, this isn't using a credit card to get an advantage in PVP that can only be countered by another credit card.  This is younger players being able to catch up to older players.  I can see why the older players might consider that threatening, but that's clearly not Pay To Win.  We don't even need to break out the existing Character Bazaar topic to see that, right?

Options for New Players

In the Dev Blog, we see Team Size Matters floating a concept with a very steep curve of diminishing returns.  This is clearly set up to get players into the 50M to 80M SP range, with only a truly massive level of expenditure making this worthwhile for those over 80M SP.  As someone who is sitting at just under 80M SP, I think this is a good limit.  We have prominent examples of Kil2 and Gorski Car who both starting playing Eve and went to the character bazaar in order to get a character with competent PVP skills.  This gives other players that option without the much more dramatic step of buying an entire character

I hear a number of comments in the meta about how people want to maintain the emotional connection to their character.  This mechanism allows players build up the character that they've been playing, rather than have to discard it.  If anything, people who want that person connection should be thrilled at this new mechanism, if only they can think on this from the perspective of a newer player.

As a new player, you don't have any other options to get skilled up.  In other games where skills accrue from your actions, you could be a really intense player and grind out the levels or skills.  In Eve, there is nothing you can do but pay your monthly fee.  In fact, maybe the best way to get started in Eve is to buy six months of subscription, line up your training queue, and then don't log in except to add in a skill you just cleared the prereqs for.  Is that really what we want to tell a person who is considering playing Eve and wants to get in and be able to compete in at least cruiser-level PVP?

Options for Older Players

At the same time, what if you're an older player who has trained your main into a space coffin and you're feeling trapped?  This mechanism means you could sell that Titan, extract those supercapital skills, free yourself from that obligation and fund yourself for capital and down PVP for a long time.  Get back to enjoying Eve, which is what the game should be all about.  This is also true for older players who don't see any skills that they really want to train anymore, not wanting to get into that space coffin.  We're hitting that for a lot of older players.  Does it make more sense that they should train skills that they will never use?  Is that a decision that adds to the game?

I agree that there may be a lot of supercap toons that are unsubscribed now which might be re-upped for the sole purpose of stripping them down for SP.  The market could be flooding with people taking advantage of this to cash out.  I don't see that as a bad thing at all.  If people aren't having fun with those characters, there is no advantage to the player, to CCP, or to the Eve community to have them sitting around unsubscribed.  I'm sure that a lot of people would not cry if there was a sudden drop in the total number of super-capable hotdroppers in New Eden either.  Maybe Eve would be a healthier place for that.  (Now of course we'll see what Eve Vegas brings for capital and supercap rebalance of course)  I don't buy the "protect players from themselves" flavor of these arguments.  Eve is Not a Nanny State.

Blood Raiders on the coattails

One must wonder if the Dev Blog on skill trading was intentionally positioned to start the controversial fire right before the Blood Raider event was started up.  Against the backdrop of the SP Trading, I haven't seen a single person (even on reddit) claim that the Blood Raider Cerebral Accelerators were "Pay to Win."  But why not?  After all, this allows the same catch-up mechanism as skill trading by breaking out the credit card.

There is an important difference in that this approach is not instantaneous.  Even doubling your learning speed 24/7 still means that I'd need a full year just to catch up to someone two years ahead of me.  This is not a solution to the "I need all the skills to fly T2 tank and guns in PVP" problem.  But is this an intermediate solution?  If people are not okay with instant skill injection, would they be okay with the injected skills being applied over time?  Consider a mechanism where I inject one TSP of 500K SP and thus double my rate of learning until they are gone.  Consider if stacking was allowed so if I really want I can inject 9 TSPs and learn at 10x rate for a while.  Now an would-be Kil2 can speed through the core fitting skills while getting into frigate PVP, quickly moving into the cruiser range but without jumping in one credit card transaction.

One way or another it's going to be a brave new world out there.  With any change like this, there are going to be people who resist it either by general conservatism or because it undermines their personal advantage.  If Eve is going to thrive for the next decade, I think we need bring in mechanisms like this.


  1. You don't get it...I'm not worried with noob 'catching up' with vets... I'm primarily concerned with what new players will do when they realize they've been tricked…

    New players ALWAYS want bigger, faster, etc., etc., ships because they don’t know better… IE they have not played long enough to have LEARNED that ‘bigger is not always better’ in EVE.

    The old skill queue gave you so much to look forward to. Each skill line you cross brought Aura’s sultry “Skill training complete.” And that was like audible sex… with presents! And we had TIME… time to learn how to fly, how to fight, how each class of ship was important and had its role to play.

    When I was a noob I had no idea how try and to manage engagements based on any understanding of my ships abilities + modules and how they affected my ship etc., etc., much less any understanding of my opponents abilities based on his ship & possible fit. That took YEARS to learn. I was far better off losing cheaper ships and mods as I skilled up my toon AND I learned RL skills than being tricked into feeling like I could BUY skill in EVE… ‘cause you CAN’T… ever.

    That’s right… I said tricked. Buying SP ‘looks’ like P2W to some… but we know it’s really not… and guess what else it's not? P2Catch-up... cause you won't. You CANNOT pay to catch-up to months or years of human experience in anything... and the problem is the noobs don’t know that.

    (1) Buying SP looks like an easy way to avoid the Learning Cliff… but it’s not.

    The Learning Cliff is not about SP… it’s always been about Player Skill in the game. By buying SP noobs will think (IE be tricked) that they can get around the need for patience and the investment in time and effort that, SP notwithstanding , will still be required to actually be successful in EVE.

    (2) Buying SP runs the risk of attracting gamers who want Pay to Win, those who want Instant Gratification… to their ultimate disappointment.

    Buying SP in EVE does not and cannot make anyone ‘competitive’ or even ‘competent’ with the ships, fits and tactics in EVE’s very not-yo-daddys-WASD-Themepark gameplay. Imagine a real noob, a few days or even a few weeks or so old with 200m SP and ask yourself how that would really work out for him… How much is he going to KNOW about fitting? About transversal? about range control? how much experience is he going to have?? Really think about it...

    Jacob I respect you man but you have to know playing EVE well, PVPing in EVE competitively is (IMHO at best) 2/5th Skill Points and 3/5th Player Experience... and for most much more like 1/5 SP and 4/5th PE... that's how it was for me when I was a noob.

    I am not AT ALL against noobs catching up with vets... but buying SP will not do that... It will however allow them to buy, poorly fit, and lose far more expensive ships than they can AFFORD... and that breaks EVE's Golden Rule now doesn't it?

    1. I believe that confusing the gaining of SP with the gaining of experience in how to play the game is a false starter position. You're right that players have to learn not to fly what they can't afford to lose, and that we see lots of Purple Ravens (or Orthrus for PVP) out there. That's not going to change one way or the other if we let players buy SP.

      Why do you feel that you want to control whether a player can choose to increase their SP, and force them to buy a character or do it the slow way? Do you think that all new players accrue experience in the game at the same rate, and that rate is the same as the rate of accruing SP?

      Why not instead let them make that choice, but in a more granular way that having to buy a whole new character? Why deny players the option? Again, Eve is Not a Nanny State.

  2. I wouldn't go as far as Tur, stating “you don't get it” as you are saying: “Consider a mechanism where I inject one TSP of 500K SP and thus double my rate of learning until they are gone. Consider if stacking was allowed so if I really want I can inject 9 TSPs and learn at 10x rate for a while.” I would argue that 10 times is too fast but 5 times? You could catch up with your 2 year mate in about 4-6 month. If you are an invested player you get the personal experience needed to make such a fast progress.

    Important is that it is not instant. We have to avoid new players that jump right into a Battleship fitted with 2 small 2 medium and 2 large guns, because in many Sci-Fi Movie you see a ship has guns against different types of targets. They need some time to learn that.

    And to the point of “vets loosing their power” … no? I am on the way beyond 180m skills and all I can say is “I can fly almost any ship with any weapon system and any tank”. I don't have the routine to fly every ship and combination. I don't know how experienced my opponent is with his ship. And once I sit in mine and he attacks only those few skills concerning this ship count. But it needs practice beyond having the skills to know that. And I really doubt that power is linked much to SP on a character in game as social as eve is. What brings those vets power is that they know people and mechanics, both things that a half year old player can achieve if he is invested in the game (and seeking it).

    Finally, I agree with you that gaining SP is NOT pay to win. It is a way to give new players an option to catch up with older players, like you said, somewhere to the 50 – 80m SP. But it shortens the time for experience, so a limit to that speed of progression would help to keep the culture of patience needed. If the new player feels entitled to get instant access to the next ship level or module, why shouldn't be entitled to get instant PvP action? There is no “give me player interaction” button. You have to leave the station and seek for it.

    1. Yeah, you're right about the power of older players not coming from the SP. Maybe I got too excited about the title-line push. :)

      I don't see how adding an ability to get SP immediate leads to a desire to get content/PVP immediately. That's an already previously existing desire that we keep hearing come up, whether it is for an official Dojo or just by joining something like RvB (which I'm sad to hear sounds like it is decline without Mangala). If someone says they want (closer to) instant PvP I'd just tell them to join us in Factional Warfare! :)

    2. Jacob et al, I sincerely apologize for the "You don't get it..." it was said conversationally but came across more aggressively than I had hoped (especially considering I wasn't going for aggressive at all)... my bad.

      But... you sorta made my argument though, a little bit, "...we see lots of Purple Ravens (or Orthrus for PVP) out there." 'as things are now'... You say this won't make it better or worse and I disagree in the strongest terms... This will ONLY get worse not better... and as noobs will not know HOW to properly use the stuff 'unlocked' by the purchased SP, it most it will hurt them the most. These aren't swords or magic bows... are they?

      I do not want to control other players... I want the game to do that. I want the game to ease them into new stuff at a rate that allows them to LEARN about the new stuff... You must crawl before you walk, and walk before you run... Buying SP only gives noobs the ability to stand up and run, not the knowledge of HOW to do so safely.

      "Do you think that all new players accrue experience in the game at the same rate..." Yes. One hour of experience for every hour playing the game... same as me. Now what they DO in those hours is up to them, same as it is for everyone.

      "...and that rate is the same as the rate of accruing SP?" Yup... one hour per hour same as every other toon. What they skill up FOR in those hours is up to them, same as it is for everyone.

      Dood if it weren't for the fact that there would be a black market for toons without the CharBazzar I'd be actively speaking out against it... but we all know there would be and this is one of those "OK, we'll sell you the liquor & cigarettes instead of leaving you with no other option than moonshine and lefthanded smokes." =]

      "Eve is Not a Nanny State". Mmmm... actually, it is a bit for our noobs, as it should be. Noob systems have special rules for PVP and such. CCP does try (I really feel they could do better though) in getting the word across to noobs that EVE ain't yer daddy's Themepark MMO... but like all Nanny's one day, and in EVE that's as early as the noob wants, often too early IMHO, the toddler leaves the cradle and warps off into the Black... to whatever awaits... ready or not.

      IRL we don't kick our kids out the door when they are still babies or toddlers... so may I ask why do YOU want to dump our virtual toddlers out into the Black at birth?? EVE could (and should and I believe CCP is trying to) do a far better job of preparing our nubbins for the dangers of New Eden... but letting them buy the ability to just pick up bigger guns and sit in faster cars without the knowledge of how to USE them aint the way to do that... now is it?

    3. Hey Turamarth, sorry I took so long to reply. I was just going to say "no worries" about your apology, but you deserve more. That's a classy thing to do and kudos to you. A lot of time we get wrapped up in these internet discussions and it's easy to lose track of your tone, or even that's there's a real person on the other end of the conversation. So thank you, and much respect.

      So in that spirit I'll say that I've learned a lot my listening to people talk about this topic in blogs and podcasts. I'll be curious to see how CCP moves this along balancing all of these thoughts and concerns.

  3. Jakob, your arguments don't hold water. If you a new player can "catch up" on skill points, why would they stop at pulling up even? They will pass, if they can afford it. If skill points matter, buying skill points is absolutely pay to win, and separating skill points from characters *dramatically* changes the landscape. So now instead of having a gap between old players and new players, you create a different gap between poor players and rich players. The gap between rich and poor is worse for the game.

    1. Anon: If the gap between older and news players was acceptable, please explain why the same gap between richer and poorer players is unacceptable. Also, explain why the diminishing returns proposal doesn't seriously dampen your argument. Consider also the concept of the maximum number of skill points that actually matter in a hull of a given (particularly small) size.

      It seems like you're exploring a very very corner case which would have great expense, but not actually change the demographic or power structure of the game today.

    2. The difference between older and newer players is EXPERIENCE.
      One can gain experience ONLY by time and effort... period.

      The difference between richer and poorer players is MONEY.
      Money, or ISK is not really an issue. And IMHO and experience there are more players who are willing to throw money at problems than those who are willing to invest the time and effort required to gain real experience.

      I say this because anyone who can afford a computer, 'Net connection and the time to play EVE for fun or to at least grind for PLEX obviously isn't homeless, panhandling or even really worried about where their next meal is coming from OK? And if they are in one of those categories why are they wasting their time playing a game instead of improving their situation??

      So while some may not be able to afford to buy PLEX, EVE players aren't "poor" they just might not have as much extra cash or ISK as some.

      Investment in the game... That's the difference.