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.
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.