As the impact of the latest major conflict in New Eden ripples out into the wider gaming community, many new players will inevitably be inspired to get involved in the great space opera that is EVE Online. The last time interstellar war reached these awesome heights was the Bloodbath of B-R5RB in early 2014.
The Overwhelmed Newbie
I remember it clearly; it was at that very moment that I finally made up my indecisive mind and took the plunge into an MMO I had kept on my periphery for some time. While, of course, I was overwhelmed by the notorious learning curve and lost in the somewhat directionless void, it was something else – something far more damaging – that ended my brief career. A misconception that had, at that time, already existed for many years and still exists today: the idea that due to how skill points are gained in EVE Online you will never catch up to the hardy release-day veterans and hence never be able to truly compete. That feeling that you have missed the ship and there is no way to make up the ground, the galaxy will forever be ruled by the elite few with the dedication and perception to ride the wave to its heights two decades later.
I realize now how wrong I was, but more importantly, just how truly damaging this misconception is to EVE Online’s continued player growth and retention. It is understandable that many new players come to this conclusion when looking at the mechanics of the game. This problematic misconception has been talked about many times before in forums and on social media, but I hope I can do my part to help resolve any confusion surrounding it.
The Skillpoint System
The skillpoint system is the closest thing EVE Online has to a typical MMO “level.” Upon finishing the tutorial, you are told to place skills in your skill queue and these will progress at a steady rate even while you are not online. A default Omega (subscription) character gains roughly 30 skillpoints per minute (1800 per hour) while an Alpha (free to play) character gains half that amount.
All skills can be leveled from 1-5 and the higher the skill you train, the longer it takes. For example, a simple skill like “Navigation” (influencing the velocity of your ship) requires 250 skill points to level from 0 to 1 but 210,745 skill points from level 4 to 5.
Furthermore, all skills in EVE have a training time multiplier which determines the length of time it takes for training to be completed. Skills with a training time multiplier of x1, like Navigation, take roughly four (actual real-world) days to complete while x3 skill takes 12 days and so on. These skills are fundamental to your participation and enjoyment of the game; they allow you to fly more ships, fly them faster, tank more damage and much more. Due to these mechanics, it doesn’t take one long to come to the misguided conclusion that if you must train these skills at the same pace as everybody else, including the veterans of the early 2000s. “How could I ever reach their level?”
Level 5 Cap Means All Pilots Are Equal
To the unfamiliar and uneducated, the misconception that a new player could never catch up to a veteran makes perfect sense; it made enough sense to me that, when combined with my utter confusion and frustration with the game itself, I gave up entirely after a mere number of days.
This is not an uncommon story when speaking with people who have tried to get into EVE several times and failed to pass the first hurdle. Having finally done so myself I want to provide the insight I have gained from sticking it out regardless of overwhelming doubt.
I have referred to this idea as a misconception because that is exactly what it is; it is wholly incorrect and I want to make it clear why. That veteran player may have 50x the amount of skill points than you, but when put on a level playing field, you are equal. Different ships provide the standard roles of the MMO genre such as DPS and healer and each of these roles have skills associated with them which, in turn, have a level cap of 5. There are no skills that go beyond this hard cap.
Let’s take the logistics cruiser for an example. This is your classic MMO healer with a Sci-Fi spin; you provide shields and armor to other players’ ships as they take damage in an effort to keep them from exploding. As a new player, if you decide this is the role you wish to fill, you can dedicate your training to this and over the course of a few months you can maximize your effectiveness with this particular class of vessel. The general piloting skills and experience gained by flying your preferred role are even more important than the raw statistical boosts to your chosen ship. This means that the first time your capsule merges with a massive Force Auxiliary capital logistics ship, you will have already gained the critical experience and knowledge necessary to fly it effectively.
By training the required skills that provide bonuses to the desired ship all the way to level 5, you have now hit the level cap and are as effective as possible. More importantly, you are as effective as any veteran flying the same ship. When you know what you want to do and put your cybernetically enhanced mind to it, you can be just as effective in fleets or solo as the veteran player.
Veterans Fly Bigger, Not Better
The only difference between you and veterans now is variety. They may be able to fly a titan or a dreadnought, but when they hop down into their logistics cruiser, you are equal. They pay the same price, they have the same statistical bonuses and they activate their modules just like the you. Give it time (maybe a lot of time) and you too will have access to the wide array of ships which fill common and niche roles, from the advanced electronic warfare class frigates to the recently revised supercarrier class vessels. (If you are interested in more detailed information on how to optimize the path to your chosen role check out EVE University’s fantastic newly released Pyramid Skill Plan.
I believe that if you are going to present a problem, you should also do your best to present a solution. I am not a game developer and can only speak from my personal experience as to what might have helped me come to these realizations earlier and helped to ease my early days in New Eden. Over the years CCP has created many fantastic tutorial style videos; this one, in particular, does a fantastic job of explaining exactly how a new pilot can be just as effective as a veteran. However, it would be extremely beneficial for new players to have these videos and others like them (such as the Flight Academy series) accessible via an in-game system rather than having to be found independently outside of the game. Ideally they could be found by accessing The Agency window.
Coming to better understand this misconception has allowed me to foster a healthier outlook and attitude towards my goals and progress. Understanding that strength does not come from owning the biggest nor the most expensive ship, but from the knowledge and the ability to identify which ship is best for the job at hand; that is the true path to success and prosperity in New Eden. With this knowledge, even the newest players can specialize and expand their skillset as they take on the elite at their own game.
Gaining that knowledge on your own can be a long and draining journey, but with the right people and organization, the journey itself is fun and rewarding. New players can start their career in EVE Online with the confidence and the understanding that just because they are a new pilot that does not inherently make them the underdog.