Wednesday, January 20, 2016

To Play and Pay and Play Again

There are few thoughts in my mind right now that are not related to the weather and how much it will disturb my plans to pickup my puppy on Sunday.  My puppy food was even delivered today. However, I was hanging out on Twitter and caught the someone entering into a conversation that had happened a bit earlier in the day. Work ate my day off so I back tracked to see what was going on.

Nosy Gamer has written his opinions about the new skill point trading system. I've expressed my own feelings that I am not a fan. I'm still not although I both understand and accept that Eve is going to change. However, the actual topic that caught my interest was Eve's playability.

Over the years I've played, I've been in many discussions about PLEX and payment for your game of Eve. Before I started playing Eve, I did not know that 'buying gold' was real. It never occurred to me that someone would pay money to get a bunch of game currency that they could earn on their own.

Looking back, I had little understanding of fast game play. I played games as I enjoyed them. I played games because I enjoyed them. I might not enjoy every piece of a game. That is one reason I got into sandbox types games. I hate racing challenges for instance. A game that makes me win racing challenges to continue will be a game I put down.

In the twisted strands of the Twitter conversation the question of playability emerged. Nosy finds a game that requires him to pay real money to continue is a game he does not want to play. Other's point out that they enjoy the ability to skip pieces of Eve's gameplay by obtaining PLEX and using it to skip activities they do not wish to do or accelerate into activities they do wish to do.

I'm not focusing on the fact that we all have opinions on value and our disposable income. Instead, the aspect of the topic that discusses a games playability caught my attention.

Often, I focus on the individual aspects of Eve as a game. If a player wishes to play the miner and another wishes to play the PvPer, I accept that both are acceptable ways to play the game. Each player has entered into the game and chooses what aspects of the game they wish to play. That leaves choice as a focus of playability in Eve. And from that I sift through the sand to see how buying advancement will change the balance.

Back when this was first announced it was pointed out that the Character bazaar was available for a player that wished to accelerate their playing. I agreed. I had no problem with the character bazaar simply because it kept money in CCP's pocket. But, I could ignore the bazaar in a way that I cannot ignore the skill training changes. To step away from liking or disliking the change the potential impact the change will have to the games climate is huge.

It asks, will Eve become a game where you have to pay to catch up?

I use italics for have because there are few things we have to do. We don't have to buy PLEX. We don't have to go to Jita. We don't have to do many things but if those things are not done will it put Eve into a state of unplayability?

In pay to win games where a player can leapfrog over everyone and step into badassery with the swipe of a credit card, what options are there for players who choose to approach the game without assistance? I ask a question because I am ignorant of the answer. I've not played other MMOs nor have I been drawn to any particular Pay to Win style games.

It seems the closest place to seek an answer would be to research the changes to World of Warcraft when they introduced the ability to buy a maximum level character from the start.

I want to believe that Eve will remain playable with the changes. After all, carving out your niche in the game has a lot to do with you as a person. Much of what I have enjoyed has had little to do with skill points and much to do with my approach.

In reality, I am confused, but thoughtful. I'm curious about how this will change Eve's environment. I'm now old enough that my appreciation and thought process for what Eve is will probably not change. But, there will be a new generation coming along and I wonder what their world will be like.

18 comments:

  1. I feel like some sort of dinosaur at times. If I run into a central feature of a game, like ISK generation in EVE, and I can't stand the content, I am not going to keep playing that game.

    As for the skill trading, does anyone remember the skill training skills? Veterans would tell new players that the first thing they had to do was learn those skills. So the poor new players who received that advice would basically sit around doing nothing except training the learning skills for two months. Needless to say, a lot of players wound up quitting.

    Will the new skill injection packages become the new skill training skills? I sure hope not.

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    1. Actually while I don't think they'll be the new training skills, you have a good point. I wonder if Corporations asked for minimum SP will increase? That's a possible negative side effect to something I like.

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  2. Sp allows you to do more, but it's not a clear win button for any activity in game. Anything you can do by buying plex can be done with time and effort. This won't change anything.

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  3. Catch up to what?

    The game has always had different skill levels. With patience and a monthly subscription any character was able to become optimally proficient at any particular skill. Once November 2008 rolled around, players were given the option to continue real life moneying that subscription or, if they preferred, ISK grinding it via Plex. Soon, in addition to the old patience and a subscription option, specific characters will be able to gain skill points via skill point trading though, much like Plex, they’re going to have to obtain the Aurum/ISKies for that trade somehow. Meanwhile the patience and a subscription option remains unchanged and whatever ‘catching up’ means remains unchanged as well. If new skills available only via skill point injection were being introduced (or even worse, old skills were being shifted to skill point injection only), I would be getting bent out of shape but that’s not happening.

    With the exception of losing the ability to taunt younger characters with a, “Hah, hah, I have more total skill points than you and, should I stay training, you’ll never, ever catch up to me,” my game remains undiminished. At least one character on every subscribed account I have will still be actively training something. Having a new way to acquire skill points won’t change that though exactly what’s being trained may alter if I plan to start snipping skill points for transfer to the alts or sell on the open market. Skill points have always had value. They’ll retain value in the future. Being able to snip and shuffle in 500,000 chunks won’t change that.

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  4. It can only result in better player retention imo. That's great for EVE and its long term success.

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    1. To me it looks like CCP making money out of people who leave the game or are in the process of not playing any more/not caring anymore. I'm not sure this will attract many new players at all.

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    2. Those who have SP and ISK and sell SP get a better deal than those who don't have them and buy. This change is not about favoring new players; among other things, because new players don't have the knowledge to decide whether the new game they're playing is worth paying extra money on top of the subscription.

      If they just skip paying extra money, the feature does nothing for new players. But if new players feel the slightest compelled to buy SP to "play" EVE... That's it. End of the road for EVE.

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  5. There's some thought that in regards to World of Warcraft, allowing players to buy a max level character was bad for the game on a monetary level.

    The general idea with most themepark MMOs is that the game starts at max level. All the levels before that are simply introduction, learning game systems and world layout. Upon gaining max level the real game begins on grinding whatever your actual goals are. Achievements, gear, boss kills, money, whatever.

    The people who believe that are idiots.

    Lower level gameplay is where you fall in love with the game, learning all the stuff you need to play at high level is where you make goals and decide what you want to do. Instant levels means players who bought into it never got that, they hit max level with everything open to them but no understanding of what all the possible choices were and no goals. They never went through the process that's supposed to hook them.

    Some themepark MMOs stupidly fast track the learning process and dump multiple systems on players at max level that weren't open to them until that moment. Meaning they don't have any connection to the thing that's supposed to keep them playing the game. But that's a different discussion.

    I don't know if that's really a 1to1 apples to oranges comparison to what Eve is doing though. Eve is just so weird. PLEX is a not unsizable part of CCPs revenue, I don't think WoW's Token System(PLEX) has really taken off in the same way. Their in game economy is completely different and doesn't support it the way Eve's does, EXP also means more in WoW than it does in Eve. Level calculations are done all over the place, and they are far more weighted than skill levels learned are in Eve. It's hard to pin down what will and won't work in Eve based on what's going on inside other MMOs because Eve is so fundamentally different, and vice versa.

    Personally, I don't think skill trading will make the splash CCP thinks it will. CCP does a crap job of letting players know what you can do in game. It'll get a big send off during it's launch, then quietly fade into the background in a bit and the average new player won't even know about it till much later in their career when they're no longer able to get the most out of the system. It won't have the same market penetration PLEX does because PLEX is inherently aimed at older richer players who know the game who won't get anything out of this, not poor new players who will.

    But that's just my guess.

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    1. This, pretty much.

      I see this not as a new player thing, but an old player retention thing (and a stealth way to sink SP). In WoW, you insta-level your character because you already have a max-level DPS raid character, but some guy stopped playing and now the crew needs a max-level healer. So you can power-level the new healer to max the old-fashioned way, or you can pay for the insta-level and be done with it. It's for people who've already done the storyline.

      Similarly, this is for veteran players who already have more SP than they know what to do with, but hey, their alt can now zip through the tedious part of their skill plan more quickly.

      Pools of unallocated skill points only benefit people who know how to spend them wisely, and new players don't. That's not even getting into the gulf between a new player's knowledge skill and a veteran's.

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  7. The instant high level char in WoW was mostly meant for the returning player who had been away for a bit and now could start the new expansion with his friends. You got a lvl 90 char with the purchase of the expansion which went from 90 to 100, and now you get a lvl 100 one with the expansion which offers levelling from 100 to 110. Makes business sense when there are more people who have played WoW in the past than the population of many countries (over 100 million people by now).

    Buying an extra level boost was added mostly for the hardcore few who would jump through loops to add one otherwise.

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  8. "Will Eve become a game where you have to pay to catch up?"

    To speak on another 'pay to win' game, it depends on the implementation. World of Warships has a premium account mode and a premium currency:

    1) Premium account users earn more credits and XP,

    2) Premium currency users have stronger abilities (which recharge faster), and unique ships, which are stronger (in some cases).

    So, how is this related to Eve?

    The higher end of the progression system is balanced around Premium users: Ships shift from being easily attainable as a 'free to play' player, to being vastly expensive. The cost of ships and upgrades go up exponentially: at each tier, the cost doubles (at least!). You need the increased earning potential (which is somewhat analogous to SP) to advance.

    In a competitive MMO, which EVE is, there's a risk that 'Pay to Win' items lead to an arms race. Ranked matches in WoWS have led to a 'don't take part if you don't have all the advantages' narrative on the WoWS subreddit: newer players are punished for not being competitive. Premium advantages lead to a toxic environ.

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  9. I still see no reason why getting 500K SP is worse than buying a 50M SP pilot.

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  10. "The investment of money in EVE should not give you an unfair advantage over the investment of time."

    Source: http://community.eveonline.com/news/dev-blogs/accord-reached-at-ccps-special-summit/

    Congratulations CCP Games, you found a Bullshit way to skip the extremely interpretative Unfair wording part of that accord.
    You can now spend real life $ to get an advantage over the investment of skill training time, and because it's available to everybody it's not Unfair. FU Poor.

    Regards, a Freelancer

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    1. Skill points don't afford advantage, they just move you into a different bracket of competition.

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  11. Optimistic about this change, believe it will be interesting to see how valuable SP are once the initial demand wears out.

    Like how this benefits capsuleers across the spectrum. Older capsuleers who don't need skill points or capsuleers who've found a nitch they want to stay in can defray the cost of PLEX or just make isk by selling SP on the market. And younger capsuleers can get access to skill points to accelerate their gameplay, particularly early on when their are so many places you want to invest SP (to make isk, support skills, & combat skills).

    As someone who started on a very industrial / mission running / trading track, felt like PvP was always a little out of reach because my skill deficit in a lot of key skills. Particularly with respect to doctrine fleets. Two years in, I finally ended up with 7 accounts because I was so sick of having to wait to do things because my couple mains didn't have skills yet. There is so much content in this game, particularly if you aren't just restricted to PvP, players need to be able to pursue some (or all of it) without needing lots of specialized alts or years of patience. Could have bought characters on the bazaar, but I've always loved being able to grow my characters up, to feel like they are completely my own.

    Think there is an increasing need for this, particularly in null. Seems like caps are being fielded more often, in greater numbers, and by more alliances, and many of the base doctrines are skill point intensive (HACs, faction battleships). And the meta (at least to me) seems like it is shifting more often. Don't think it means that someone has to use skill points to keep up, but it gives younger players an ability to rapidly shift skills points into an area (like missiles, for gunnery oriented characters) rather than feeling like they have to sit out for a month (or more) when doctrine changes occur. Expect to also see alliances subsidizing skill point training of new pilots to help them get into more useful ships. Believe that will give new pilots more opportunities to contribute.

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  12. https://forums.eveonline.com/default.aspx?g=posts&t=406137&find=unread

    I can point at this thread here. And generally there is a clear rejection of editing skill points. Yet how different is it that (coming February) I can purchase a tool from the market. Remove redundant or unwanted skills and then re-assign to any FotM?

    Q. will Eve become a game where you have to pay to catch up?
    A. In some ways I would contend it already is. The use of off-grid combat fleet boosts is a method of paying to gain advantage.

    As I have noted elsewhere. I will weigh up the cost of market SP, verses the potential income gain my alt slots can generate passively. And decide accordingly.

    And one thing I will add, it does need to be 512,000 because skills are not in base ten, but are base 16. 512,000 is the total SP for a x2 skill. So I cannot remove this skill nor in other direction, can I completely train this skill through market SP trading.

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