Oct 16, 2015

Musings on Skill Trading

When CCP's dev blog coasting the idea of players being able to sell/buy skills came out yesterday, I had an instantly negative reaction. I found it difficult to express why. The rationale given in my EVE O reply that it would undermine the investment we feel in our characters and cause mindless character churning and a change in the connection we feel to our own and other characters feels logically weak even if--for me--it is emotionally on-target. Sugar Kyle's blog post yesterday and the subsequent comments express better than I myself can some of what's bothering me about it.

After thinking about the matter all evening and this morning, I realized that a big factor in my negative reaction is the fact that the second half of my CSM5 term (2010) was relentlessly focused on micro-transactions and their impending appearance in the planned Incarna release. We spent a 3-day emergency summit in October that year in frustratingly unresolved discussion with CCP on the matter and the frustrations continued through the end of our term. To say that that experience left a bad taste in my mouth for the New Eden Store is a understatement; I think I've looked at the store twice, spent the free Aurum that was given out on ship skins, and continue to have little interest in the overpriced goods there or the Aurum economy.

A grungy pale pink Astero skin is literally the ONLY thing that would ever entice me to buy Aurum.

But...looking at the proposed change after putting the CSM5 factor aside (which takes remarkable effort), my thought is that yes, it will probably encourage new players who buy SP to stick with the game longer for two reasons: they can do more sooner and will have a bigger financial investment in the game earlier than is currently practical. Both of those are key factors in subscription longevity. In the current marketplace, anything that encourages a player to stay longer is probably a good thing for EVE Online. We do, after all, want our beloved game to persist for another dozen years, right?

Will this change have a negative impact on the big stories of the game, the rise of personalities who become space famous, or the tendency of players to develop their main characters lovingly? Heck if I know. But you know what? It won't affect MY game or how connected I feel to my character. I play a social game focused on exploration and culture building with slight overtones of roleplaying.

So go ahead...let new players buy SPs all day long to shortcut their way to being able to undock in ships they don't know how to fly well. Let them explode and buy PLEX to sell for ISK to replace those ships. Let the plex cartels and the deep-pocketed alliances fund SP packets and SRP for their newbros to field more robust fleets. These things won't affect me in any negative manner. I can even see value in using SP packets as rewards for corp members, e.g., those who do do significant work to benefit their corp/alliance. (EDITED TO ADD: SP packets would no doubt be used by corps/alliances to entice new members join and become as common as SRP ... and yes, alt farming to support that would likely happen.) Meanwhile, CCP could see a welcome positive impact on their bottom line and that can only be a good thing for EVE Online and its sister products in light of looming competition for players' attention and wallets.

Meanwhile, I'm determined to maintain my preferred laissez-faire attitude about EVE Online. I am happy to take the game casually, adapting to the environment as it evolves, with blinkered rose-colored spectacles firmly in place. That allows me to remain positive about EVE Online and not succumb to bittervet syndrome again. It's a lot more enjoyable to feel upbeat and to interact with the devs and the community on that basis. The tedious whine of the "Eve is dying" crowd adds nothing useful to my game experience anyway and upon reflection, is most certainly overblown with regard to selling and buying SP that has already been trained on one character or another.

For an opposing viewpoint, check out luobote kong's initial blog post and a follow-up on the subject.


  1. Interesting. I reflected and came to the opposite conclusion. It's not a pitchfork issue certainly but it will be disruptive. I think Newbies will be priced out of the market as they won't have the financial muscle to compete with Corps and established players hoovering up the finite stock. But let's see who is right.

    1. I suspect it will come down to where in the sandbox one treads and how much RL cash one has at their disposal. It occurs to me that maybe the issue is not exactly a "right" or "wrong" thing, either. Furthermore, given my experience on CSM5, I will wager that among things that CCP has thought about montetizing this is not the worst of them by far. BTW, read your very good blog post and can see things from your perspective as well. <3 for the comment!

    2. Ishtanchuk FazmaraiOct 17, 2015, 4:12:00 AM

      In the long term, CCP is just trading future subscriptions for a fast money shot now. Since most noobs will end up in highsec PvE and will quit once that gets stale, and since now they can buy their way up to a Raven faster if they have the RL pocket to, CCP is effectively cannibalizing long term subscriptions for short term income. Not a recipe for, huh, /long term/ survival.

      Also that comes with the added ofense that those faster-Raveners will not be offered anything highsec to stay. They will be burned in 12 or 18 months rarther than 24, disrupting further the social networking of highsec... but probably nothing matters much to CCP, other than seeing how their efforts to please the 30% of cool guys are disengaging the 62% who pays the bills.

    3. That's pure speculation and one could argue the opposite is true as well, e.g., a player who grows tired of high sec PVE may stick around even longer if they can inject skill points to try another play style by insta-skilling for it (for example, exploration or piracy). While player skill requires experience to develop, the training needed to use certain ships and modules at least lets a player get out there and start learning how to best use them.

      The attitude and mindset of gamers--especially younger ones--has changed a lot in 12 years since EVE appeared thanks to the myriad of options competing for their attention and money lately, in particular emerging technologies. EVE needs to evolve in ways that will get and keep those folks interested. What makes EVE unique--the sandbox and individual opportunity to accomplish the remarkable, not the skill points grind--is what will do that, especially as CCP has been literally pouring sand into the sandbox lately.

      I've been playing for 8 years and I don't feel disengaged by this change. In fact, as CEO of a corp of 700+ people many of whom are newbros, I can see a lot of potential for this change to help those folks get on the fun wagon sooner and thus have a reason to stay in the game longer.

    4. Ishtanchuk FazmaraiOct 17, 2015, 9:33:00 AM

      "I can see a lot of potential for this change to help those folks get on the fun wagon sooner"

      Really? And why not make fun what they are doing now, rather than tell them to pay AUR/ISK for the "fun content" on the other side of a skillpoint fence?

    5. Because everyone defines fun differently; some like the challenge of slowboating through their character's developmental stages and others would rather just be able to fly a Stratios or something sooner to optimumly do the kind of content they enjoy. I have less and less of a problem with that as time goes on.

  2. I’ve heard Eve described as a cleverly disguised spreadsheet tutorial. I’ve heard Eve described as a psychopathy training ground. I’ve experienced Eve these last six years not only as harmless hobby/enjoyable pastime but also unexpected vehicle of self-exploration. I wonder what curveball CCP will throw at us next. I wonder what I’ll learn swinging at that pitch. I so adore this place.

  3. I thought I'd chime in with my casual newbie point of view.

    What always bugged me about character bazaar was the fact that I could not change its name or appearance, and had to deal with the previous owner's legacy: corp history, old grudges, killboards. It just doesn't feel right to me: while EVE seems to offer many ways to express yourself and nuance your gameplay, this particular part remains untweakable. I also can't reason about being able to buy in-game currency for real life cash, but not being able to change your account's name, and so on.

    As a fresh pilot with not many skill points I deem the proposed system as an important, if not crucial part of so much discussed NPE, because the system actually encourages trial and error approach and adds depth to it. It allows you to take 20 not only T1 frigs and die in them, but 20 destroyers, or even dreads if you fancy, straight from the start. It doesn't remove the information overload, and it doesn't automatically grant people safe passage through Tama. It taxes a new player in cash/ISK for dumping and redistributing his SP, but the whole selling point for me is that it allows that redistribution in the first place, and thus facilitates the initiative for tinkering around with many features the game has to offer.

    The boost aspect is important too. The path of discovering core skills and support skills is interesting and should be left as it is, as to me, but some days I look at my still untrained Archaeology V and think that I'd rather dump those 15 days into something more interesting, like T3Ds, that would allow me to experience new gameplays, rather than sitting and waiting for simply having T2 analyzer fitted, but feeling no difference otherwise and gaining no experience with other hulls and situations whatsoever.

    Last but not least, the aspect and joy of just impulsively purchasing that long-training-time skill right after you drank a whole bottle of nice wine should not be left out. If that means the additional influx of cash to CCP, so be it — maybe it'll boost the next batch of needed or crazy changes that the whole community will start fires about again, and the cycle will repeat itself, and the game will continue to live. It's what everyone wants more or less in the end, isn't it?

    1. Great comment and very well stated arguments for this change! Thanks for replying!

  4. I am all for allowing new guys to accumulate skillpoints faster and in turn access to more game more quickly, however this is a poor way to go about it. Not all new guys will be able to afford RL cash to do it this way and it will become quite expensive due to powerblocks and rich older players using the service as well. So instead of the current old / young player divide and perceived barrier of entry to parts of the game, there will be a new rich / poor new guy guy divide where the one's who cannot afford to just pull out the debit card for skillpoints will be even more inclined to think they'll never catch up and perhaps quit the game. Why not just speed up access to skills for all players across the board by removing learning implants, adding their attributes, adjusting skilltraining time modifiers for long core skills and so on... give it to everyone ... not just the rich kids

    1. We don't know what the price tag is so its hard to say not everyone can afford it. In general I think eve is a fairly cheap hobby for an adult. For $15 you can get 1.2 billion isk. Since I am an adult I am happy that EVE continues to cater to people like me. If they want to cater to children or the severely poor the cost might be an issue.

      In any event I think you can convert isk to aurum through plex so this shouldn't be an issue.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Comment attempt #2. As I commented on Twitter yesterday.
    I generally like this Idea, however my concern is with the Diminishing returns mechanic. For the most Vetran players a 10% return on investment is a horible kick in the teeth and a waste of investment of the PLEX used to move 500k SP and convert it to 50k SP.
    I'm not suggesting that there should be a 1 for 1 exchange for all, but the % of return should be much higher.

    1. Yes I don't understand their logic on that aspect at all. They seem to think it is prestigious to pay the same in order to get less.

    2. If it's really meant to assist new players, then the best bet is probably to establish a cutoff SP amount for using purchased SP packets and thus be quite clear on the matter.

  7. I am sort of mixed on this one.

    1) I am glad if CCP can make money on this. It really doesn't hurt me and I want them to succeed.

    2) I have a friend that just started playing and I do think he is held back quite a bit by skill points. Especially in pvp.

    3) I would like to respec some of my own characters.


    1) Characters become less attached to the actual people and more fungible.

    2) I really dislike that they make it worse for loyal customers and give diminishing returns as you have more skill points. They say they don't want to decrease the prestige of older players. But since you generally only train one character on your account at a time your prestige has little to do with skillpoints.

    3) Why don't they just allow people to change the name when they buy a character? They point this out as the problem that lead them to this but then why not just fix the problem?

  8. I have always respected your views and public opinions about CCP Games business practices.

    However, it is clear that the Company wants to profit from eve players skill training time, with the sale of trans neural skill packets through the purchase of aurum and associated Plex.

    Why can't we Capsuleers reprocess corpses into very small amounts of un-allocated skill points, since we are talking about brain tissue grafts.
    source: http://crossingzebras.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Brain.jpg

    To the victor the spoils right, and there is no clearer victory then Death :)

    Regards, a Freelancer

    1. The corpse reprocessing idea is a fantastic one, I agree!

  9. Meanwhile, Kirith argues to remove the skilling system altogether: http://www.ninveah.com/2015/10/death-to-skill-system.html

  10. I'm still not sure how I feel about this, but for a new player joining Signal Cartel, this could shave a lot of time off getting into a cloaky tech 2 exploration ship. It would take 3 of these skill points packages to get your racial frigate to V and Covert Ops IV (1,173,020 SP). Since you have to buy 3 anyway, this is what a new pilot could have after buying 3.

    Racial Frigate V
    Electronics Upgrades V (required for Covert Ops)
    Covert Ops IV
    Astrometrics IV
    Astrometric Acquisition III
    Astrometric Pinpointing III
    Astrometric Rangefinding III
    Archaeology III
    Hacking III

    Basically, if you do a remap and use +2 learning implants (because you only start out with the skills to fit +2 implants), you save over 32 days in training time than can be spent training something else.

    I will say that a new player would need to spend real life cash, because he or she would not have the in-game resources. So I imagine that CCP will set an Aurum price that would require a $10 purchase to get 3 injectors (educated guess based on black market activity & the cost of xp boosters in other games) plus the purchase of a PLEX ($19.99 value) to get to fly and fit a tech 2 covert ops ship plus whatever implants one wants to put in their heads.

    Just something for people to think about.

    1. Just as a passing thought I considered putting a month's training to an alt slot for the new Discovery ORE Frigate. Because I will not be doing it for the reward, but for the thrill of risk. But if this gets a green light, then I have the option jumping that month. Two if's and a bucket of maybe's.

  11. When on the CSM you had to think of the game as a whole. Now that you are a private citizen of New Eden . . .you don't. So it becomes easier to ignore the things you do not like 'as long as it is not in my yard'.

    I am still worrying about things far outside of what and how I play. My problem is that my arguments are a morass of slippery slopes and questions. And I am still wading through the damn threadnaught. The end zone keeps moving


    1. You no doubt have more info and insight into the matter because of NDA'd CSM discussions with CCP that the rest of us cannot factor into our opinions on this particular change. Even so, I'm still coming down more solidly on the pro side the longer I think about it and the more opinions I see about the issue.

  12. Do you mean the eve-o threadnaught?

    It's interesting how that thing is exploding. I must just hate herd mentality but the more I read the vacuous posts that offer no reasons but just claim "this will kill eve" - the more I like the proposal.

    If we seperate out the herd reaction fallout it is to see how this will hurt eve as a whole - if people where obective.

    I think the guy who said it this change goes through all my time in eve will have been wasted. Pretty much sums up the thread.


  13. Wow, interesting change. Although I do not really know how to feel about this personally, if it helps bring new players in and stir things up in the game then it is going to be good. I have been playing for ten years now and there is always an upside/downside to changes. I say go with the flow, find and ride that upside.

    I think that the market for this is going to be awesome :)


    1. Quin, it is good to see you're still around :)

  14. I dont see the big negative side a lot of players are seeing but that could be due to me being relatively new.

    But as someone who recently tried to convince a friend to play the game and me giving them an epxloration starting package as a little welcome gift, i cringed hard when i realized they'd pretty much have to skill half a day to actually equip everything on it and to basically train another full month to get into the T2 side of exploration. (This problem has been adressed with the 8x multiplyer to starting skillpoints). But oh what would i have given if could have included a 500k SP bucket as well into that carepackage (leaving price speculation on the side). It would have jumpstarted the experience of my friend by so much. in a mere minutes they would have been ready to fly what i gave them and i could've mentored them more quickly instead of having to admit to them that basically they should at least wait another 3 hours before the playing really can start.

    On another hand my previous experience was in a gal/cal fw corp and from the ceo of that corp you frequently heard stuff like : "Oh i've got all racial Battleships V now. Not that it will be of any use for me but i have nothing else to invest my Queuetime into." For veterans liek this especially those in a highly specialized role (like fw corp ceo flying effectively nothing above destroyer size ever) this could basically eliminate the need for a PvE or industry alt since they could fund their FW acitvities by simply making a profit of selling the SP they dont need anymore.

    Lets also not pretend that anyone will ever be 'really' forced to use these. No one forced veterans to sell off their SP and no one forces you to inject those either (if they do reconsider if that is really the place you want to be).

    Just my two cents on the matter and i am throughly sorry for any grave errors in this stream of conciousness. In my defence it is 6:30am and i have not slept yet 8D

    Resra Tenjin