Experience Matters: Stick Time VS Skill Points

2016-03-11

EVE Online has generally been considered a game where time played is always advantageous in one way or another. Until now this was mainly due to our realtime training skill point accrual system. Recently however, this dynamic has changed dramatically with the inclusion of skill point extraction and trading, rendering the basic premise that “the older a character is the more dangerous he might be” unreliable at best. For those only learning about EVE Online, the realtime accrual system has some obvious benefits to other MMORPG’s. Less focus on grinding levels and more freedom to take a break from playing without worrying about remaining competitive are just two of many compelling bonuses to this format. That said, until now there was no means for someone with excess time and a bit of determination to progress faster than someone who simply wanted to collect their SP/Hour and ship spin. Now, by earning in-game ISK either by being extremely productive with your time or simply selling PLEX purchased from CCP, you too can have a 2 day old character flying Black Ops Battleships. It is a fascinating time to be a pilot in New Eden.

There are a lot of different stances people have taken regarding the implementation of Skill Injectors. The one I’d like to write about today is that SP is not the be all. end all of how good a player is in EVE. This concept is not new to any player of the game, particularly to those of us who engage in PVP. A brand new player might have access to this mountain of Skill points, and have the drive to conquer all who stand in their path, but similar to an ALOD (Awful Loss of the Day- for the uninitiated), money doesn’t by knowledge. EVE Online is complex, mind-bogglingly so. A surprising number of the ships in the game have a nice plateau where a pilot can be generally as effective in a single hull as anyone else despite having less SP. In this instance we find a place where having more experience under your belt serves you well, but cannot be measured on a character sheet.

Game Mechanics – The Plague of the Newbro

Newbros are cute: they know literally nothing, and spending time with them with even a cursory amount of knowledge about this new game they’re just getting into makes you feel like a super-intelligent space faring warlord billionaire. Additionally, helping them works off your negative Karma, you know- that Karma you earned for being a cancer-Svipul-flying, gate-camping troll. However, what the new player most lacks, even if they’re chock full of skill points fresh off the market, is the knowledge of what exactly they’re doing in space.

Orbit, while experiencing a change that makes it more forgiving as a combat tool, is useless unless you’re aware of how your weapons’ range and tracking combine together to magically determine if you hit or miss. Have you ever had that moment where you forgot to turn off your safety? Whoops. How about that time where you burnt out your weapons because you forgot to manage your heat?  What is that pretty bubble on the first null sec gate you ever go into? How did that hauler cloak and instantly warp, evading your carefully planned gate camp? EVE complexity doesn’t just stop at the sheer amount of skills you can train. Understanding how to actually fly your ship, to interpret the information offered on your overview, and mechanics as simple as aggression timers can make or break you. How else would you recognize that your otherwise completely equivalent ship is losing to an enemy with links and using boosters? Only true experience can teach much of this, and it’s experience that is often hard won.

EVE Online allows those well versed in game mechanics to triumph over the ignorant, a fact that sometimes might make a victim feel exploited. There are a lot of ins and outs, from not running your micro warp drive while getting bombed in your frigate to setting up your overview to understanding what each ship actually does in the game (a skill invaluable for the rising FC). While it might seem slightly unforgiving, this game knowledge is the largest advantage an older player has over the newbie, and at least in this writer’s opinion; is the very definition of having stick time.

The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth, The Rest Collect the Property Tax- Resources

I’m certain there are many Credit Card Warriors floating around New Eden. These heroes are flush with ISK garnered not from the sweat of their digital brow, but instead from the trading of PLEX and Aurum purchased from CCP with real honest to goodness currency. I’m personally not one of them. I pay for my accounts, occasionally use a PLEX to dual train, but beyond my yearly subscriptions- I opt rather to acquire my toys with the ISK I earn in the many varied activities I pay CCP to engage in as part of a hobby. I agree that the best ISK per hour is going out and getting a real job, but I don’t get to fly a spaceship at my real job… and odds are you probably don’t either. Many people I do know who manage  to engage in the art fine of playing EVE while at their place of real life employment admit to doing menial ISK producing activities such as Ice Mining.

A legitimate new player with piles of SP will likely have a small pile of ISK for their troubles… but will need to invest in the time to learn how to maintain that pile or risk having to return again and again to the PLEX sales screen. This isn’t really a difficulty, as there are guides aplenty on how to run missions, incursions, mine, trade, or scam- but there is no substitute for actually doing these things to learn more about the game. Admittedly I feel that those who pay for everything with a credit card lose a key part of EVE Online’s charm… The true feeling of value, and loss in the game. Knowing I worked hours to earn the ISK to buy my ship lends gravitas to these feelings, and while a finite dollar amount is certainly a method of assigning a culpable loss to someone in real terms, I often feel like losing $15 gambling in a poker game is less compelling than losing a 1.2 billion ISK ship in EVE, despite the fact that it’s realistically the exact same amount.

It’s All About Who You Know- Social Advantages

The long-term player has likely built up a number of Social Resources that new players with purchased SP will not have access to, like Intel Channels, Mailing lists, or a specific knowledge of alliance politics. Simply knowing what is happening in your home constellation is such a powerful tool for any player, and it is often overlooked as a benefit to being in an organized alliance or corporation. Many high end corporations will not recruit you without being vouched, despite how amazing your SP might be. Trust is hard to gain and easily lost in EVE, and with the advent of tradable skill points, it’s easier than ever to simply consolidate your various accounts, and start fresh with no API footprint for scrupulous recruiters to be wary of. The contacts, friends, and fleet members a player accrues through the years speaks volumes about that player’s nature, and in this new age will likely be the new credentials to maintain. Burn bridges at your own discretion but there may come a day when you’re going to need those vouches.

Lastly, I find that much of the joy that is derived from EVE Online is from its intense community. New pilots might not realize the innate value of such things as the EVE Online forums, TweetFleet, and the EVE Reddit. Beyond being helpful tools that can be searched for information, these are all parts of what I’ve come to refer to as the “EVE Out-of-Client Experience”. The external resources and arenas augment a player’s knowledge, and can provide access to important social and cultural resources, introducing them to the connections they can use to prosper later. It may not seem like this is much of an advantage, but it’s one of the things that many long-term players cite as part of their reason for sticking with this admittedly tough game when it gets hard and other interests begin drawing attention away.

The Good the Bad and the Ugly

In the end, it’s useless to debate if skill trading is good for EVE or not. It’s here and the landscape of the game has changed, likely forever. The days of gauging a character by its age are done, but the cost of our surety rewards the future of the game. The change helps eliminate the inherent idea that we are limited in success by Skill Points and older established players. I am of the opinion that any effort to rid the game of that stigma was a good call, and that what really happened was not a ‘dumbing down’ of the game. Instead, I think will pave the way for personal skill to be even more relevant than it was prior to the change. As we wait to see what changes occur with Citadels being released, we can only wonder how much more the game will evolve and hope that it’s all for the better. I, for one, am cautiously optimistic.

This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Roland Cassidy.

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