Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mastery and Investment: A Ramble

Scanning is on its fourth major iteration (unless I have missed one). The original scanning involved some type of complex triangulation. The second one created an easier to use interface. The third was released with Odyssey and supported with the Discovery scanner that automatically told you where sites where. The fourth is underway as part of the new star map. It is very similar to the third.

The first scanning interface I cannot speak to. It was complicated and like many of Eve's early features geared towards mathish folks. Much of that was on the back burner with the second change that improved accessibility. The second one, which I did use, required some knowledge. It required knowledge of where to even look for sites and combined information such as what signatures various sites had. That knowledge became irrelevant because the discover scanner told you where to look. Scanning became a matter of getting the exact coordinates and not so much looking for sites. Combat scanning required you to look for the ship still. Now we are only the fourth major overhaul and along the way people have become disenfranchised with scanning as it became more accessible.

Many of Eve's features are fiddly. They tend to lack documentation. Some knowledge is handed down by players that hide under waterfalls atop tall mountains. You must apprentice with them for half a decade before a kernel of knowledge tumbles from their ancient lips. That leaves a satisfactions when the skill is mastered. A satisfaction that is lost when current progress removes that mastery by getting rid of steps and stuff that exist just to be there. It is always not about accessibility. Sometimes, certain things didn't make sense. But, what does that do to our investment in ourselves and our gaming abilities as players?

My belief is that time investment is very important for a player. It is an important part of how we shape our view of ourselves and how we define the meaning the game and things in the game have for us. As CCP moves forward with making things accessible, I'm curious about how this will change the culture of those using the product.

Skill points, for instance, have been changed. This is not the first time this has happened. This is not even the highest that starter skill points have been. Some say that it is not enough. Players should start ready to play the game at a competitive level from the moment they log on.

There is a value in the time it takes to learn a skill. Skill points and skill in game are not the same thing. However, that argument that I am fond of can be turned around. Now, it can be said that having skills doesn't mean they have skill but it lets them earn skill in a more fun way.

That is why I'm pondering investment. I am very invested in my characters. Sugar defines me in Eve. That investment comes from time. Would I still be as invested in her if I had it all instantly? I'm not sure. It is a question that I would ask for those who came into the game and purchased an advanced character to skip directly to the content of the game. How long did it take them to become bonded to their character? Are they even bonded to their character? Does that matter to others as it does to me?

And there is the question of mastery. There is a lot of Eve to learn but not everyone is going to be interested in learning all of it. It leaves a delicate balance. I often listen to people lament that they have mining skills trained on their accounts. I doubt preaching to them about becoming maxed out miners would give them a coveted goal.

Things often feel formless. What are we learning? What are we mastering? What are we in the game? It is easy to attribute it to the nature of the sandbox. In many ways it is. But, Eve is a bit looser than many other sandboxes. In Skyrim, I'm always dealing with being the dragon reborn. But, CCP has embraced the living nature of Eve's gameplay and it brings challenges along with it.

11 comments:

  1. My thoughts on the scanning system kinda go like this. Is it easier? Yes. Is it still more complex than the scanning system in any other game I've ever played? Yes. It may not be everything a certain type of player wants, but it's still loads better than anything else. That said, if I were to make any change to it, it'd be to remove a few things from the Odyssey overlay. I think it errored in showing too much, but I know why the devs did it.. and I can't completely fault their logic. I just don't completely agree with it either.

    That kinda sums up a lot of what I think about rewrites of new systems in Eve. They aren't as fiddly or as deep, but they're still light years beyond anything else on the market in terms of depth.

    My favorite gripe of this type was the Crimewatch rewrite. Any game that has anything like it is almost completely binary, the current system is this huge big complex thing in comparison. But people complained it wasn't as granular as the original, even though it was still so far beyond anything else comparatively that you couldn't even legitimately start to compare them.

    I don't think people stand back and appreciate how truly fluid Eve is within the boundaries of its game mechanics. It's downright awe inspiring.

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    1. Halycon:

      If I may springboard a little.

      “I don't think people stand back and appreciate how truly fluid Eve is within the boundaries of its game mechanics. It's downright awe inspiring.”

      This is so true. It can be difficult to distinguish between what’s good for my game and what’s good for the game. The Crimewatch rewrite, for example, greatly curtailed the criminal ‘ninja’ lifestyle (my once upon a time space career). While navigating the obscure cause/affect lines of precrimewatch was great fun if you happened to be of that bent, demanding *every* Hi-Sec player master such byzantine mechanics was not good for the game. So me and mine took one on the chin.

      Hi-Sec criminality didn’t die however. Rather it shifted to depend less on difficult to understand mechanical obscurity towards more psychologically effective baiting. Hi-Sec criminals, if they are to make a go of it, have to wrestle with more with other players rather than wrestle with game mechanics these days. It’s no less complex, in many ways it’s more complex, rather the location of the complexity has shifted. This is not a bad thing.

      Because we particular long term players reached mastery and investment in a particular manner doesn’t mean that journey is the only way a player can reach mastery and investment nor necessarily the best way for CCP to encourage players to reach invested mastery in general. One’s particular experience isn’t inconsequential but it’s far from the entire story. Stepping back to appreciate what we have rather than what we’ve lost, while difficult, can be illuminating.

      ***Special Note***
      I speak not about the specifics of the current iteration of the Discovery Scanner here. Perhaps it distributes too much information up front, perhaps not. In discussing such claims it’s wise to ponder on where one sits and how that colors one’s arguments. This can be difficult but also rewarding.

      “Know Thyself” – Temple of Apollo, Delphi

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  2. Not for a minute do I miss manually positioning scan probes, the automatic "pinpoint" formation and grouping / positioning was an improvement sent from the Gods. That one shift fit with the phrase "easy to play, hard to master."

    The next iteration adding the discovery scanner went a bit over the line toward "master," but you still need to drop probes to identify the signature and decide if it is worth your time, so it is not a complete giveaway.

    On characters: when you roll your own character and skill it up, you are invested in it, in a way that I don't think is possible with a bought / pre-rolled character.

    But after you have learned how the system works and know what you want in a 2nd or 3rd character or account, *and you can afford it,* buying the character you need cuts through a long, frustrating waiting period.

    A new player doing the same thing is in many cases going to be lost as to the full capabilities of a bought character, some of the character's abilities may sit unused and ISK wasted, while the new player takes the time needed to learn more about EVE, and the things you can do in it.

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  3. I do miss deep space probes, and nore specifically the ability through knowledge of ones own self, ship and the possible sigs in the given environment to know what is or is not behind a given sig. That was good complexity.

    - Kynric

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  4. http://www.risdall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Tron-fight-for-the-user.jpg

    Regards, a Freelancer

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  5. The complaint about extra skill points used to be valid when you had to pay to upgrade your clone back in the ancient days of ... early this year. People didn't want to pay extra for skills they didn't use. But now? Who really cares? You never know when those unwanted skills may come in handy.

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  6. Troubling
    Here's some opinion;
    When you make something easy or plain simple to use you run the risk of removing a sharp edge or niche that a player can use to help identify themselves or their role within eve. They've learned to do something that few are willing to.
    The plan is to make scanning less complex?
    I would argue that complexity is a very soft barrier to entry, Anyone in Signal Cartel can tell you how quickly a new player can overcome it if they're interested in doing so.

    Another way of putting it would be to say that with another complex system like POS, I have never been interested in them, asked about them or researched them, If CCP were to make setting up a POS as simple as clicking a couple of buttons and it'd set itself up all automatically I'd feel like I didn't deserve it.

    I get it though, improvement often leads to some learning or skill-set becoming obsolete, it's one of the costs of progress.
    But I guess it's about being completely sure that that cost is worth the pay off, whatever that is...

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  7. Clever girl! This makes a lot more sense after this mornings announcement.

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    1. I thought I had bit more time to think on things.

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    2. I guess there needs to be a cap or...fatigue on on how often a character can be traded, otherwise you can just straight up buy skillpoints.
      Whales will have a field day

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    3. In light of that devblog... this is too complex for me to even hazard an opinion on. One weird thing about it, CCP is being paid for the training time twice under that system if looked at from the wrong angle. But other than that, I don't know what the heck to make of it. I'm conflicted in about 20 different ways.

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