Thursday, June 27, 2013

Gratification: Now or Later?

I often feel as if I have not been playing Eve for as long as I have. While I may not be new, I'm not a deep well of experience or knowledge. I'm ignorant of many things. I'm easily stomped by most people that I meet. I'm not particularly good at the game. Sometimes people tell me that they forget how young I am in the game. I have no idea why. It is not as if I have vast amounts of anything but text to unleash upon anyone.


This is Sugar.

I put Sugar's information out there so that someone reading this can see where I have gotten myself to since I started playing. Sugar is only one piece of me. I consider my primary 4 alts to be 'me' but Sugar is the face of me. She is a combat character focused towards PvP. I can now fly up to two racial battleships correctly (meaning T2 large guns in both T2 specializations. This is my idea of correct.) and several types of T2 frigates to cruisers. I still have massive holes in my ability. I don't have T2 large lasers yet, for instance, and now that I have T2 Blasters/Projectiles everyone keeps undocking in Laser Doctrines. Instead of looking at that as a subtle hint that they don't want me around, I just focus my skill training towards my future wants and needs (I need less subtle hints). Those two things are not always the same. 

In my forum skimming I stumbled across a thread where the poster, a newer player, feels that the skill point system discourages experimentation. Now, his thread might be a bit more abrasive then my interpretation but I diluted his irritation to pull the valid parts from it. The point of interest for me was not if CCP discouraged experimentation but how a newer player is reacting to the skill point system.

I think very few of us dream of going back to simpler times when we had under 100k skill points and fitting our first frigate involved selecting every item in the hangar and sticking it to the ship with special care going to mixed ammo types and a solid assortment of guns to deal with all ranges and possible situations in the next mission. Even starting new account often brings back memories of the abilities we come to take for granted on our more skilled characters.

I also think that new players look at that skill point hump and believe that once they achieve this skill point level or this skill they will be in a new, and more special place. That is why I point out my lack of large lasers. It seems that every time I accomplish something that to me is a vast accomplishment such as large T2 guns I get kicked down because I'm still missing something. It is the side effect of playing with people who have been playing so much longer than I have. I may sequel in pride and tickle my 30 some million skill point but they are not an instant invitation to the land of badassery.

One of the biggest problems I see with the skill point system is that people, consciously or not, seem to equate it to their normal and ingrained concept of leveling. Leveling in most games means that you get better. NPCs tend to be at one level and you at another. As those levels meet up and then change again you become greatly more powerful than they are. Without levels, skill points fill that void for many people. Or, they appear to fill that void.

The pattern I have noticed, in concerns to people feeling restricted as a new player, is that they do not feel competitive with other players on the PvP field. It is not that they cannot experience Eve. There is so much effort put out to show and teach people that they can be a productive member of a fleet or corporation while very, very new to the game. It is that they cannot go out and kick other players in the teeth from the get go, most of the time. I will not say always because the stories of the newbie that could will over flow the confines of this blog.
People want to win. People are used to entering a game, getting their feet under them and becoming a badass. Eve doesn't had that to them. They fit their ships - possibly well - and go out to get stomped over and over again. I don't think the stomping is bad it is just not clearly explained why they get stomped. I also do not think that the game can do but so much to explain why someone gets stomped. The information is out there but that involves people searching for it. We could have more comprehensive files in game (and perhaps we should) that people could access but that still involves them being willing to go out and find that information and read (or watch or listen too, maybe?).

It isn't an Eve problem. It is a perception issue and people falling under old and familiar habits. People are very used to having things given to them rather quickly. They come to expect it and the lack of it seems as if something is wrong.

But that does not mean that there is.

At some point the game, to define itself and its restrictions has to say, "No" to people. I don't know when that point is. However, I don't believe that giving people fully fit, T2 frigates in their first week of game play will 'fix' that problem. The rest of the game would adjust to the new normal and the new player would again be in the exact same position that they are currently in against other players.

The push of people against other people is what makes Eve so interesting and so frustrating. It is why someone can beat someone else of greater or lesser skill points. It is why skill points are only part of the equation and not the complete thing. nothing is going to replace the experience and skill that a player gains by simply, playing.

I don't find this to be a bad thing. I can see how it is frustrating to those that are simply here for a thrill and not the experience. But just because I may feel I can see and  understand some of their viewpoints do not mean that I agree with them or think that the entire game should flex to accommodate their desire for instant gratification.

There is an area where the game is trying to catch people without (I hope) giving up to much of the future depth for an immediate now. It sounds weird to tell someone, "Wait it gets better" in a game. Many feel they have waited weeks already.  But when people are asking for a faster and easier (if training large skills is hard as many find it to be asking for skill improvements sooner would mean easier) leg up on other players the subject needs to be understood in its whole.

The thread I referenced earlier says CCP does not encourage experimentation. That was never what the thread was about. The thread was about wanting a change of beating older players, early on, in frigates, not understanding that a proper fit is a piece of the key to success, not the entire thing. It is a tune about a single player getting to run around the game and try everything in a productive and successful manner to decide what they like in their first weeks of playing the game.

And maybe that is what should be pointed out. In many games you start alone and later you band together for content. While you will (almost) always band together with people to do many, many of Eve's activities being able to do them by yourself is future content not immediate. I may need to start a new character and see but as I end this I wonder if the information that is lacking for new players (from their game info) is the fact that Eve truly is a social game at its core, for early success and much of the later content. It is not that you cannot do things alone it is that you have to develop the skills to do it alone and the game can only help you with a piece of that.

Maybe an experiment for this weekend.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for putting that caveat in there about T2 guns being your version of correct, Sugar. I was all set to rail against elitism and whatnot, but that stopped me cold :)

    Speaking to the main point of your article, I think it really underlines that Eve is different from almost every other MMO out there and that no matter how hard it tries to get that across, on some level most (new) players seem to not take the statement at face value. They're used to the way all those other games are and even though EvE says it isn't, the natural reaction is to say "Sure, whatever". It's hard to blame players, really, since I've experienced the same thing in many a game, be it RPG, MMO, what-have-you, where the game text/tutorial makes a big show of consequences and choices and how the player has to be super-aware and then it turns out to be not as big a deal as the game said it would and the player can get along just fine applying the standard set of assumptions.

    Maybe having a pop-up saying "We really mean it. Honest," might work? :)

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  2. Typo right underneath the picture "eve doesn't had that to them"

    Also, speaking as a rather old toon (130M SP), skillpoints are just like anything else in eve that is "better", minor advantages. Honestly, having the right ship for the job (and the correct fitting) will matter just as much if not more, than a SP advantage once you hit a certain minimal SP point (That SP point depends on how concentrated your skills are, and what ship you want to fly. I will have minimal (if any) advantages to a pilot with 6M SP flying a frigate, yet I would have a rather large advantage if that same pilot tried to fly a Dread. All in all, at a certain point you don't get much from skills, because just like isk, you need exponentially more skills to get linearly better results.

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    1. Durr, I would disagree. As a veteran like you (just pushing 100M SP) my major advantage over a new player is enormous. While sitting in the same ship with the same fit the bonus doesn't look that big, the real difference is in the actual terms of an engagement.

      I possess the ability to reship into a hard counter to practically any ship a new player with less than 15-20M SP is likely to fly. Even if they fit and fly correctly, any 1v1 engagement that isn't completely on the fly has me winning just due to having more options (both in ships and the wealth to fly them).

      Lots of newer players get discouraged when they do things correctly and then discover that their opposition is basically able to always up-ship or out ISK them. Most games are designed with hard caps on how high that kind of disparity can go.

      This becomes especially discouraging when taken in the context of new players in high sec corps getting wardecced or players moving into low sec for the first time solo. They either do a lot of running away or a lot of clone updating.

      I dont' see the solution to this problem as nerfing the SP system but CCP should be looking for ways to get new players into opportunities for pvp that don't involve wild disparities in power. RvB is a great example of the players solving some of that problem themselves with the limits on engagements they set.

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  3. As a very new player (5.5 million sp) I find myself losing 9 out of 10 fights if I attempt to do them 1 on 1. Whether that is attributed to my skill points, my knowledge of how to properly fit a ship, or how to adjust to my opponent, I don't know.

    I understand that I need a lot more focused training. Like most noobs, I trained all over the board because everyone kept saying "You need THIS, or you need THIS" and for a while I kept buying into everything they said, and have SO many skills at level 2-3 it's ridiculous. If I were to start over knowing what I know now, I would have focused much sooner.

    That being said, I know that lesson now, and I am currently focusing and not jumping all over the place anymore.

    To fix my kill/death ratio, I've just accepted that I need to fleet up more often to even the odds, and I know the day will come that I can hold me own. Till then, I just keep having fun.

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