EVE Offline

I enjoy reading about newcomer’s experiences to EVE Online as it’s like watching a mouse trying to negotiate a maze in some crazy science experiment (my Physics classes at school were fun). With the game being so much more difficult to comprehend and master than most MMOs (I’ve been playing for a while now and still have absolutely no clue what I’m doing), it provides a lot more entertaining stories and thought provoking articles than other games, at least for me anyway. Give me the intelligent librarian over the bimbo any day.

EVE Online Skills System

The EVE skill system. Slightly less complicated than brain surgery.

Tobold has recently taken up the challenge of trying to decipher the spacey enigma that is EVE and wrote an interesting article about its skill system. He’s not too fond of the design principles behind it’s progression system and the concept that, especially as a new player, you’re better off waiting for skills to accumulate offline than actually playing online. Hence the joke ‘EVE Offline‘. I can appreciate his annoyance because there is definitely an element of truth in it all and it often does seem a little silly to be paying a monthly subscription for a game that has fixed time fundamentals. Unlike a game like WoW in which someone could play it hardcore for 8 hours solid a day (that’s still considered ‘hardcore’ these days, right?) and hit the maximum level in a very short period of time, in EVE, no matter how much you play, it will still take you just as long to max out your skills.

However, after saying all that, I have to admit that I really like the skill system in EVE and, maybe this is the showing my casual nature, applaud CCP’s design of it.The problem is really just the money factor and once we stop thinking about the cash behind the product and just focus on the game it’s actually a very good system. Unlike most MMORPGs on the market, EVE’s skill system is designed to make progression a consistent and reliable consequence rather than a motivation for playing. It takes the idea of being led by the nose through levels and gated content and turns it upside down on it’s head. Playing the game doesn’t become a necessity to progress, it becomes a choice for having fun.

EVE is also all about freedom and it’s actually one of the hardest things to deal with when you first play the game. There are no immediate and obvious goals (aside from figuring out how the UI works before your eyes melt) and that can be very intimidating to anyone who hasn’t played a sandbox game before. We, the players, have to make our own goals and can’t rely on big pointy neon signs and level indicators to tell us what to do next. I adore that sort of freedom and the interactions that result but, of course, I appreciate it’s not to everyone’s tastes (but then the people who don’t like it are also probably the same grown adults who read Harry Potter books).

The freedom of EVE Online is it’s greatest asset and it’s greatest adventure and the skill system fits in perfectly with it’s design ethos as a whole. The game is about what you do, not how you do it, and the skill progression method compliments it perfectly. Plus it beats the hell out of mindlessly grinding just to level up.

-Gordon

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30 Comments

  1. Longasc says:

    It is really good that you can do what you want.

    But they had to do it this way. Levelling through killing mobs would totally destroy EVE’s sandbox approach to allow players to do whatever they want to progress.

    The drawback is that you can play as much as you want, you won’t level faster either.
    And, nasty trick, it makes sure people consider staying subbed just to train till they come back and have time/mood to play again.

    • Gordon says:

      Yeah, it does have the drawbacks you mentioned. I suppose it just depends on what type of player it appeals to. To me, it’s excellent because I don’t need to compete with time: I have just as much opportunity as someone who has more time on their hands than me.

  2. Tesh says:

    It’s still monetizing time. Me no likey.

  3. Klepsacovic says:

    WoW -> EVE is a hard transition to make, at least in my experience. In WoW, you play more and you get there faster. Wherever you’re trying to go. You can accelerate almost any process, so you only wait as much as you choose to or as much as RL limits your game time. It accommodates impatience. EVE doesn’t let you accelerate the ‘leveling’ process. That can be frustrating, even for a player who doesn’t rush to level caps.

  4. Docholiday says:

    I’m actually looking at Eve as a potential second game for this exact reason – my progress would be independent of time in game. I’m not 100% sure I could handle this as my main game but as a second it is highly intriguing.

    Now if some other good game would come out with a life-time option that makes sense to do, I’d be set ;)

    • Gordon says:

      I have EVE as my “second game” and it works really well because you don’t need to invest too much time into it. Plus it’s a lot of fun to just dick about with things like EVE Mon when you’re offline.

  5. Nils says:

    What I do not understand is why they have a skill system at all. If they want to give me freedom they should give it to me now, not exspect me to pay for half a year, and, worse, log in every few days during that time.

    Honestly, either you want me to don’t min/max my chararter or you do. EvE somehow wants me to do it, but at a speed I cannot influence. That’s just bad design in my opinion.

    And I’d love to love Eve .. I just don’t love to have to play it half a year offline first.

    • pockie says:

      I know you’re probably just exaggerating for effect, but saying you need to train skills for half a year first is just ridiculous. I’ve been playing it for about an hour and a half every night for a month, and been having a blast.

      I suspect your inability to play the game effectively without aforementioned 6 month training period is more to do with you than EVE’s design? You can be effective in any career path without even reaching the 900,000 skill point cap which still has bonus training time, and plenty of people have such alts.

      • Bootleg says:

        I wouldn’t say he’s exaggerating. When I first began playing Eve years ago, I didn’t feel remotely effective at anything until about the 6 month mark. Starting over, I’d be able to become effective (at something) much sooner than the 6 month mark… But I’d still expect it to take around 3 months.

        “You can be effective in any career path without even reaching the 900,000 skill point cap…”

        What is a 900,000 skill point cap?

        Effectiveness, I suppose, is subject to your interpretation. If your experience is based on 1.5 hours a night for a month. That would account for your views. Simply put, as a veteran, with years of experience, you can’t be effective in nearly any career path with 900k or fewer skill points. Don’t confuse being able to do something with being able to do something well (or effectively.)

        That all said, effectiveness and having fun are to different things. You certainly don’t have to be effective to have a blast.

        • Gordon says:

          I’m still an EVE noob but I know CCP are always trying to balance ship combat to try and make sure even the basic frigates are effective and important in a fight. From what I’ve read, even someone who’s new to the game can still contribute to PvP warfare. It’s a nice move by CCP to try and stop the idea that you need to play for 6 months offline before you can play effectively.

    • Gordon says:

      The skill system creates a lot of strategy and decisions though. You have to decide what you want to achieve first and what you want to concentrate on.

  6. pockie says:

    I was going to post a comment on Tobold’s article, but you’ve pretty much said everything I was going to and then some :)

    I agree totally that the hardest part is realising that there are no goals set by the game, you have to decide what to do on your own. That was the reason why I couldn’t get into it when I first tried EVE in Aug 09, I was still too fresh off the WoW system.

    Playing EVE Offline may be more “efficient” but what’s the point? You don’t get a prize for logging in after a month and being able to fly a battleship. If the player is not enjoying the experience in EVE so much that they’d rather not play it, they shouldn’t even be subscribed since there’s nothing for them to do with all their skillpoints after they get it. It’s also “more efficient” to wait until level 80 with full epics before doing Deadmines…

    I definitely love the skill system as someone who has pretty restricted game time, but I think most people are too stuck on the instant gratification grinding system to be able to appreciate it.

  7. boatorious says:

    EVE Online has the coolest progression in all of MMO-dom, and that is getting bigger and badder spaceships.

    I think progression should always be linked to play, which is why I prefer a play-based progression to a time-based one. I really like setting a goal in an MMO, working towards that goal, and then achieving that goal. That feels good. Getting something because I happened to subscribe for the last two years? Meh.

    In a way it’s a silly conversation to have, since in EVE you *are* working for your skills, because you’re probably working to get money to buy the skill books (or whatever) you need. It’s just that after you work to get them, the game throttles how quickly you can use them. It would be like if WoW allowed you to endlessly quest, grind, and pvp for XP, but then only let you ’spend’ it at a rate of five levels a week. Which game is the sandbox game again?

    • Bootleg says:

      “I really like setting a goal in an MMO, working towards that goal, and then achieving that goal. That feels good.”

      Oddly enough, that right there is the heart and soul of Eve Online. No game does that better than Eve Online (at least not one I’m aware of.)

      If skills in Eve were equivalent to levels in WoW, then I totally agree that getting to level 80 in WoW is way more gratifying than getting a skill (or set of skills) maxed in Eve. Getting to level 10 in WoW is way more gratifying than maxing a skill in Eve.

      Fortunately Eve’s focus is only on gaining levels or getting better loot if that’s what you choose it to be. Eve’s much larger than those 2 things, the same can’t be said for WoW.

    • Gordon says:

      That’s a very interesting perspective and hard to argue against. I suppose to me, the EVE skill system is perfect because it doesn’t reward those who can afford to play longer than me.

  8. Mojeaux says:

    EvE is a good game, however there are two things I don’t like about it.

    1 – Available missions – too few. I find myself repeating a lot of them.

    2 – Combat – too slow. I like my space combat more along the lines of “X-wing vs. Tiefighter”

  9. pockie says:

    @Bootleg
    I guess skill cap isn’t quite the right phrasing, I meant the initial 900k double speed skill point training.

    I still don’t agree that you can’t be effective. For example, I don’t need a battleship to be effective in level 1 missions, which are basically all you can do at the start. My destroyer killed every frigate in 1 salvo, having 6 months more training time isn’t really going to improve on this :) Now I’m running level 3s with a battlecruiser. Could I do them better with more skill points? Sure, but it’s not like I’m unable to complete the missions now so what exactly do I NEED to train 6 months for? Effective = getting the job done.

    Also, my trading alt has a grand total of 100k skill points trained, with a fair amount of those wasted on non-trading skills because I wanted to do the tutorial missions on him. He now has made close to 1 billion ISK in less than a month since he was created. I think I consider that fairly effective…

    If you’ve been playing for years and consider anything less than tech 2 modules as rubbish then sure you need skills. But for a new player, it’s not like it’s impossible to play the game without training for half a month. You have to start small as a new player, which is exactly what the skill system allows you to do.

    @boatorious

    I consider grinding instant gratification, because you can see incremental progress as you grind. You can log in, grind a few mobs and see your exp bar move, which gives an immediate sense of accomplishment. You can’t do that in EVE with respect to the skill points, which is probably a turn off for certain types of people.

    • Bootleg says:

      Ah, ok. I suspected that was what you were talking about but I thought it went to 1.6mil.

      To quote myself. “Don’t confuse being able to do something with being able to do something well (or effectively.)”

      You define being able to simply complete some sort of a task as being effective. In your definition, effectiveness is relative to where you set the bar in relation to the task. My brand new pilot is totally effective at mining. I can equip a level 1 mining laser and if I spend enough time mining the rock, I’ll eventually mine it out. Mining with a level 1 laser basically all you can do at the start.

      Eve is a player vs player game, you are in direct (even if you don’t know it) competition with other players at all times. Therefore ones effectiveness is relative to others. If you are not as good or better than most other players at a particular task, then you are not effective.

      Don’t misunderstand me, my definition of effectiveness does not imply usefulness or ability to contribute. I view all pilots, even brand new pilots, as being potential positive contributors. And I make no argument that new player cannot play Eve or have a good time. Quite the opposite in fact, I had the most fun in Eve as a brand new pilot.

  10. Nils says:

    I consider grinding instant gratification, because you can see incremental progress as you grind. You can log in, grind a few mobs and see your exp bar move, which gives an immediate sense of accomplishment. You can’t do that in EVE with respect to the skill points, which is probably a turn off for certain types of people.

    It’s not about seeing the progress. It’s about being able to influence it. I don’t need no instant gratification. I played VGAPlanets for several years.

  11. GVNR says:

    I have fond memories of one summer while working in a hotel AFK mining roids hehe. I liked the idea of training in real time and scheduling what I would train next while offline. The whole thing came to abrupt end when I lost most of my fleet in one fail swoop failing victim to the corporation M0o. *shakes fist*

  12. [...] by anything you do in game, make them feel like they have to play EVE-Offline for 6 months first. Gordon also wrote a great article about this and how he doesn’t feel that there’s a problem [...]

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