Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Levels vs Skills

Over the weekend, I decided to create a new character in Wildstar.  Not because I needed another crafter to complement my first character or act as a mule.  No, because my first character, and Exile engineer, just didn't feel right.  I'd hit level 15 and about to do the quests in Thayd when I realized I didn't want to be a tank and the Exile story was getting pretty stale.  So I created a Dominion medic and began the game again from level 1.  Last night I hit level 5 and the story, for now, is much better.

Rerolling a new character because I don't like my original class isn't something new for me.  In EverQuest 2, I originally created a paladin before switching my main to a ranger.  Guild Wars 2 saw me create a thief before rerolling as a ranger.  Alright, I like ranged DPS.  What can I say?

Rerolling isn't so bad when the original characters are below level 20.  But in Star Wars: The Old Republic, I wound up rerolling after my smuggler reached level 37 because the story turned so bad.  That, more than any bugs or lag, killed the game for me. 

Of course, EVE Online doesn't have levels.  In EVE, a character is defined by its skills, not its class. So if I want to do something else, like fly Gallente ships instead of Minmatar, I don't have to create a Gallente character; I just start learning the skills to fly Gallente ships.  The same holds true for crafting.  My industrial character can theoretically make anything once she learns the skills, although some things are better, and more easily, made with friends.  No armorer or weaponsmith crafting classes in EVE.  And I only have an industrial character because EVE allows me to train characters on multiple accounts at the same time, even when I'm not logged into the game on any of the accounts.  But that's a discussion for another post.

The skill-based system does have some benefits over the level-based one found in most MMOs.  For instance, because learning new skills on an existing character or new character is basically the same, players will create fewer characters.  Fewer characters created not only means fewer characters for the game to track, but less names used.  Anyone remember the uproar when Wildstar's name reservation system didn't work quite right?  Names are important to many players and the fewer good names on characters who never play the game, the better.

But for me, the biggest benefit is that some of the core skills I learned, like Engineering, Navigation, and Mechanics, are good for anything I wish to do.  Even Accounting comes in handy for players changing from a trading style of play to PvP.  Paying less in taxes when selling items is always a good thing.  So if I want to change the type of ship I fly, or even my style of play, I don't have to start from scratch, which I have to do in a level-based system.

Don't misunderstand, a skill-based system doesn't automatically mean a game is so good I'll play for 5 years like I have EVE.  While I enjoyed my time in The Secret World, another skill-based game, I never reached Egypt.  And the fact that I'm playing Wildstar shows that level-based systems won't deter me from playing a game if the game looks interesting.  But I do wish that I had more skill-based games to look at and possibly play.


  1. For some reason I just remembered what it was like to watch the transition from 1st gen RPGs (level based - D&D) to 2nd gen (skills based - Shadowrun) and 3rd gen (points- Champions).

    I wonder if there is any value to making this comparison.

  2. The main problem with Eve's skill system is newer players can never catch up with old players on skill points.

    Yes I've heard and understand all the arguments about alts and after a while being able to catch up in some areas but it's still impossible for the new player to ever catch up completely on everything.

    Unless of course he purchases an older character from another player.

    On the other hand keeping that skill queue going so you don't fall even further behind is one of the addictive factors that keeps people paying subs and logging in (even if only briefly).

    1. Except you can catch up. 5 is the highest lvl skill and only so many skills effect a ship and weapons system. Once you have so much sp in an area.u are maxed out. So someone might be able to fly more ships but they can only get so good. Basically lets say it takes 20mil sp to max out a crusier. Just because I have 120mil sp I wont have any advantage over someone with 20mil in the same ship. Basically he killed me cuz he has more sp is a lame excuse after you have the sp to fly a ship properly.

    2. Even with 150 million skill points, skill wise I can't beat a 6-12 month character flying head to head in a vindicator because I don't have the skill points to flesh out the ship properly.

      Eve is about specialization, you choose a path and max your skills in that direction. Once you are bored or the meta changes you set yourself a new goal and over time you get more options / play styles to play with.

      However as Fire Bush pointed out you can't use all your skill points so when you are in a T1 cruiser fighting another T1 cruiser, both players maxed out skills there is no advantage. If anything I'd put my money on the 6-12 month char winning, probably because he has spent the last 3 months purely PvP in that ship.