Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Path's Many Points

City of Heroes had, to me, a very simple method of letting people play together. If your level was higher then the group you joined, you decreased in abilities down to the level of the group. 

This came to mind this morning when I was going over a some feedback that I had requested. One topic was about a very experienced player who wanted to play with his friends who had just started the game. This is something that I approve of. I believe playing with people new to the game keeps ones perspectives in a very good place. What new players what and what veteran players think they want often diverge in interesting ways. 

A topic that comes up quite often when it comes to new players is that they should receive some type of bonus to their training to get them up to speed. This comes in from suggestions that they start the game with T2 small guns and the ability to fly cruisers and most of their support skills intact to those that ask for an increased training time to make newer players more competitive with those who have been flying for a while.

It is not a set of ideas that I like. I have never believed that playing Eve is based off of skill points. It may appear that way. Many games now allow you to basically purchase a maximized character that you can then mold into what you wish it would be. I believe that there is value to be gained from actually playing the game. Value that will never be purchasable with a character.

Skill points are a beautiful frustration. Even when you can fly something you may not be able to fly it well. Even if you can fly it well you may not be able to fly it correctly for the group you wish to fly with. The only thing that corrects that is time because skill points are only gathered over time.

But, of late I have been questioning what seems to be an inflexible nature of Eve. I have seen the meta embraced and almost listed as a measuring point. "We fly this," and that means that you must also fly that. A person must meet a particular standard otherwise something awful will happen.

They will lose their ship.

Losing ships is inconvenient but a lot of time is spent convincing people that it is not a bad thing while crouched, protectively over teh statics of a kill board. There is something bad about it even if it socially bad. It is bad enough that people consider ship loss to be a thing that should cause someone to stay in a station for weeks or months training skills about.

As this was laid in front of me and I blinked owlishly into consciousness (for I had woken up not long before) I immediately thought myself, "Why can't they just go into a cheap, ewar frigate or cruiser? Sure, they will die, but they will be out doing things and playing. They will matter to the fleet. Not every skill needs maximum usage. And, along the way, they will learn to play as their skill points accumulate."

I may be far off in my understanding of how this works. I may also be chastised by those who do not support EWAR mechanics. My concepts of strategy centrally do not fit into the way things are done it seems. If it does or does not is not the case. There are pathways and avenues that people choose to close. That does not mean that they are not there.

I've always supported the tackle frigate. I know that they can be one or two shot off the field. I don't think that is a big deal. I know that people want to feel as if they are doing something in a fight, but is that enough to just start people out with 2-5 million skill points? And, will they feel like they are doing anything if they have the ship but still don't know how to fly it?

Or I may be drowning in my own delusions and pushing my beliefs onto others. Fair enough. There are times when I will not be able to avoid doing so. I feel that stepping down may be more beneficial to all parties involved then stepping up for the newer people. 

24 comments:

  1. Sugar,

    Remember that in CoH, there were two options for grouping characters of different levels. Yes, a higher level character could "exemplar" himself down to the level of another character in order to join a lower level group. A lower level character could also become a "sidekick" to a higher level character as well, bringing him within one level of the higher character.

    That having been said, I completely agree with you that giving new players more skills to start with is not the answer. As you say, you have to learn how things work before you can make proper use of them. I do think that giving new players a better idea of what skills would be useful to train first would be a big help.

    The unique thing about EVE compared to other MMOs is that there are no "levels" to separate players. In other games, players of different levels can't access the same content or areas of the game, either by hard limits or practicality. In EVE, all players regardless of age can join up and participate in just about anything. More experienced players may have an easier time doing so, and players with more skill points will have more options in how they participate, but anyone can get involved.

    As for the loss of ships as a deterrent to new players, I have often wondered what EVE would be like today if kill mails had never existed. I think there are at least a few aspects of the game that would be improved by their absence.

    On an only tangentially related topic, just in case you weren't aware, negotiations have been going on for the past several months in an effort to bring back CoH, with significant progress so far. It's an ongoing process that will take some time, but it is entirely possible that this game will be back online in the near future. In case you're interested, details are here: http://www.cohtitan.com/forum/index.php/topic,9675.0.html

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    1. Yah, but without levels a sidekick could be said ewar ship I outlined.

      I also never got to be anyone's side kick so I never played that way.

      But, I don't feel that we need to all have the same SP and ship access to make a cohesive, productive fleet.

      And, I've heard rumors about CoH. I won't be to hopeful, but I will hope.

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  2. I hope they never do a pay-for-skills option. For a new player, soft skills (player skills) bottlenecks before hard skills (character skills). It provides a needed scale of not letting you fly something too advanced before you really know what you're doing.

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    1. As a player and CSM I will fight this to my last day in this game.

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    2. A pay-for-skills option already exists... the Character Bazaar... so, forgive me but your, As a player and CSM I will fight this to my last day in this game. is a little late...

      Anyone willing to spend the $ on PLEX (or cheat and go to an RMT site) can purchcase a preskilled char for damn near any job in the game, and that's before we talk about players selling off their toons for fully 'acceptable' reasons, IE RL stuff etc.

      So uh, this is really kinda moot, aint it? I mean I agree I dunt ever want CCP to condone much less roll out any kinda SP-for-ISK scheme... but in truth, The Char Bazaar IS just such a scheme in fact if not in detail... isn't it?

      I have never felt the Char Bazaar was a good idea myself. But my joy in the game is growing, learning and making it on my own... Hell I oft feel PLEX is a cheat in some ways... I mean, you shouldn't be able to just 'BUY' billions in ISK any more than you should be able to buy SP either... right? Both give you an unfair advantage over those as either can't (like me) or dunt wanna (also me) 'cheat' in that way.

      Just one guys opinion... =\

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    3. @TurAmarth,
      As you surely know, with both plex and the character bazaar, game mechanics aren’t short circuited. With plex, some actual human being did the space labor. With the bazaar some actual human being tended the skill queue. Hiring others for specific actions floods the game. PvPers don’t usually produce their own damage controls, they pay industrialists to do it. Industrialists don’t usually mine their own ore, they pay miners to do it. I think CCP deserves kudos for providing clever ways to space labor your game time, and/or game time your ISK and/or ISK your way into well trained characters. Strikes me thoroughly free market and very, very Eve.

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    4. You compare the character bazaar to buying skill points with a PLEX from the NEX store, Tur? Really?

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    5. @Sugar

      I'm not normally one to agree with Tur, but on this I see his point. Either way, a player is purchasing access to skills that they did not themselves earn through time and gameplay.

      Is it really that different if you were to offer a new player the option to pay for extra SP to be added to their brand new character, compared to letting them buy a previously used character that already has those same SP in place? The end result is the same: after an exchange of funds, a player ends up with a character that has significantly more skills trained than a normal new character starts with.

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  3. Eve skill discussions often fill me with a deep sense of foreboding as they all too often highlight “waiting on the queue” irritations (usually couched in bringing noobs up to speed language) while neglecting positive features the system brings to the game. It may be helpful to ask what would be lost if skill point importance was substantially reduced or eliminated (via say free bonus skill points handed out on signup or the option to plex inject skill points directly into a character).

    Right now high skill point characters are valuable entities. That value originates in the inordinate amount of time it takes to train them. Proposals to short circuit that time investment tinge me with concern since so much of Eve is about patience and planning, not instant gratification. In this sense Sugar’s, “Skill points are a beautiful frustration” is wonderful metaphor for a central aspect of Eve. Decentering patience and planning seems more loss than gain to me.

    Caveats:

    1) I’m shifting the way Sugar uses “Skill points are beautiful frustration”. She uses the statement to set up the crucial observation that a skilled character does not equal a skilled player while I’m using the statement to highlight how patience is required ingredient of value. As both uses hinge on time invested (both the character’s time and hands behind the character’s time), the statement ends up performing double duty without breaking a sweat. Wonderful turns of phrase do that.

    2) My comment is not intended as obscure “HTFU”. Noob play doing noob things should be enjoyable. Vet play doing vet things should be enjoyable. While they should intertwine, they need not and often should not be identical.

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    1. You get to beat me if I start running around telling people HTFU, Dire.

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    2. I suppose “beautiful frustration” could be construed as obscure HTFU. I, however, was merely trying to inoculate myself from the charge, not impugn you with it. That being said, be aware that you’ve now sent me on a Sugar Kyle HTFUs someone hunt. While chances of bagging such prey are dim, settlement would be glorious!

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  4. I always thought the killboards of Eve were weird and don't make much sense. There are only two scores that matter: your personnel combat prowess, and the ISK war. We should have two killboards: one for each.

    Combat prowess should be based on how much damage your opponent can do to you. Killing a BS with a Frigate is impressive since they have amazing tanks and can one-shot you if you do not have some degree of player skill. However, killing a BS with 100 Frigates is not, and the killboard should reflect that (giving you 1/100 of the score). Also, killing a mining barge says nothing about your ability in combat, since they don't usually shoot back (thus giving you zero).

    The ISK killboard isn't so much a killboard but a measure of how much ISK damage you are doing vs how much you enemy is generating (generally mattering in wars). Thus, it would be more useful to corporations than individuals. This would be tracked by measuring the potential ISK generated by the ships you kill over a set period of time (determined by an average of active ratting and mining of that ship) combined with the money spent replacing the combat ships you destroy, all divided by the ships you lose and the ISK potential they destroy of your side.

    While I can see a lot of people complaining as their huge ISK efficiency disappears off the combat killboard, I think this would impact player behavior positively in the long run as combat score is gained by fighting combat ships and not griefing, which is instead mostly replaced by corporation guerrilla tactics and attrition warfare.

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  5. The main problem for me as a new player was not knowing what I wanted to do & therefore what to train. I did know that what i probably should be training (core skills) don't unlock fun toys. And you need a sample of those toys before dedicating training and maybe a remap to them, so it's a vicious circle.

    Frustrating as it is, I believe keeping those shiny toys coming is a huge part of the long-term appeal and progression should not change, apart from making some core skills quicker trains.

    The tutorials give a nice intro but they don't help with the covops vs t2 turrets vs cruiser 5 vs battleships vs t2 tank decisions I used to agonize over. Plus I dabbled in industry etc etc. I got great advice from corpies, without which I probably would have quit again.

    Structured training plans like the Goon plan get people useful in fleets fast (I can imagine hauler miner plans) as well as providing insight into more specialised roles, and imo newbie-friendly corps should have plans, at least as guidelines.

    Instead of buying SP (albeit Cerebral Accelerators exist) we need better training in corps, more avenues for players to find better corps, better tutorials... and more imaginative fleet compositions.

    One plus is, fewer options means getting naturally drawn to small/medium fleets - and therefore meeting new players which is hugely important to retention. So it's not all bad, and as more experienced players we need to be less selfish and focus more on their fun, which breeds more fun all round.

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  6. SP is also one of the first indications of how long a human has been playing EVE. I dont expect a 60M SP toon to ask as we form up how do fit "xxx" this module, hmmm did daddy buy you a toon? It's also very telling when a 2M SP toon doesnt have to ask "how do i manually pilot my interceptor?" Please dont let CCP give away skills to new players as that will not solve the retention rates amongst new players. They already find EVE waaaayyy too hard, they lose ships they cant afford to fly, to "the bitter vet who beat them up on the play ground" and they quit, giving a brand new toon 5M SP (my number) to open access to more shineys' that they can't fly well nor can they afford to lose them will only make them a more shiney kill mail which will not help with the retention rates. It was also stated above that "In the beginning" I didnt know what I wanted to be so I didnt know what to train, I think that comment is very close to how all EVE players start out unless they have a friend or mentor to help them along with the first 60days or so. Friends and associates is what keeps people in EVE, when a corp/alliance/coalition shuts down the toons who stay long term are the ones who find more or make new friends and associates to keep flying with, new players need friends and associates to teach them that, not more shiney lose mails for them to gnash their teeth over.

    Human children do not come from the womb knowing what to do, how to do it nor are they quick and agile at doing it, it takes time and patience to learn life, EVE is no different.

    Sly

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  7. Wouldn't it be great if new players were given an opportunity to train a specific path over a defined period of time. For example, when a new player joins Eve (paid subscription) he/she watches a short video that explains the different carrier paths available: FW, Pirate, PVE, Miner, Industry etc... Then he's given an opportunity to choose a path. Once chosen his tutorials are tailored to that path. After he accomplishes certain levels of the tutorial he is awarded with skill points that he can assign as desired. Thoughts?

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  8. Removing clones cost may be a good way to not repels vet players from pvping in small gangs among low sp players (lowsec pvp, factional warfare) and share their knowledges, help them.

    Because, honestly, when your clone alone is worth more than 10 fitted frigates, it's as if you are not supposed to be here anymore.

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    1. Now that the infinite skill queue has become a near reality, perhaps getting rid of cloning costs can be next? Please? :)

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    2. Fighting the goodnight for you. ;)

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  9. The game doesn't help matters by giving new players half the skills they need--and especially if they're Gallente or Amarr, I do mean *need*.

    Where did you first hear about Capacitor Management? Energy Grid Upgrades? Hull Upgrades? Those are just three of the skills that oh-by-the-way you're supposed to find out about on your own. How about Jury Rigging?

    Good luck running that active-armor blaster boat, or that tracking-disruptor laserboat.

    I've been harping about this for years, but however they do it I would like EVE to fully introduce new players to the core fitting skills rather than throwing them out there with Industry 1 and a half-dozen ships they can barely fly.

    Never mind doctrines, most new players can't even fill the slots on their ships because their fitting skills are not so much bad as lacking entirely, and they don't know about rigs.

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    1. A better structured starting skill plan?

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    2. That would be good. *Any* starting skill plan would be good. Right now the tutorial just sort of throws things at you. An Aura spiel about fitting skills? Just granting the skills at 3? I don't really care how it's done, I just think it's silly to complain about new player competence when they can barely fit a MWD and a full rack of guns at the same time, never mind a tank.

      When I posted a big writeup of the tutorial a while ago, before Odyssey, I mentioned the possibility of killing several birds with one stone by a) giving the new player a scanning boat at the *start* of the scanning tutorial, rather than at the end; b) giving them Jury Rigging and Astrometrics Rigging, and; c) showing them that if they fit two Small Gravity Capacitor Upgrades they have used up all the calibration on their ship even though they nominally still have a slot free. Not only could they then fly a ship that could scan well, they could learn about rigging and one of its gotchas! Instead, CCP made scanning trivial. Oh, well. I tried.

      I know I sound kind of frustrated. I try not to be, but I just ran an alt through the tutorial again and it galls me every time. I'm more than happy to leave the how of it to the game designers. They have, or can get, the information about who gets how far into the tutorial and how many people get lost where. I just want new players to be able to leave the tutorial with the basic skills they need to fit and fly a ship.

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  10. As a relatively new player, I would be excited to see a skill path layout for a profession. And with the new limitless Que time I think that is viable from both CCP and Players.
    The problem for me often came/comes from working on a skill and then finding I need to switch over to fit X doctrine real quick (10 days or so) and then have to remember what I was doing.

    As for more SP, I am good with the learning phase. If I "needed" more/faster I have 2 options; either train cyber 5 and fit +5 implants, or buy a "X" Million SP char.

    However, I was talking to a friend yesterday trying to get him in. He said, yea but older players have a huge advantage with that style. True statement, and a steep entrance for new players. It probably evens out after a while (2-3 years) where skillwise, older character are the same in your chosen area, they just have multiple areas where they are good.

    In the end, the games offers ways to get around the obsticles is you really want too. Thats the best thing I have found in the game. There is always a solution if you are willing to work for it.

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