Thursday, February 28, 2019

Skills On Demand - New Eden Discovers Kindle

After the conclusion of the CSM Summit last week, CSM wasted no time pushing out information on the upcoming changes to EVE Online. Yesterday, the company published a dev blog announcing a new change in the skill learning system, "Skills on Demand". I've pulled out the hightlights and listed them below:
  • Training itself will remain the same, with skillpoints accrued over time that are fed into a specific skill to improve specialization in a given field.
  • The largest part of this change is the fact that all core skills will now be purchasable directly from the character sheet for ISK.
  • Rare skills that are not seeded on the market and are only available through the completion of in game content will not be available, but the skill sheet will provide a market link for them.
  • Skills that are sold via the character sheet will also have a percentage mark-up in ISK.
  • If you don’t want to use skills on demand, then you can continue to pick up skills just the same as you have done for the last sixteen years!
  • All skills that are purchased via the character sheet will be automatically unlocked. There’ll be no delivery of a skill as an item, they’ll just be injected directly into your character sheet to simplify the training process.
  • We’ll be taking a pass on the prices of skills to make sure that their cost is consistent, fair and sensible for today’s market.

After reading the dev blog, I wasn't sure exactly how to feel about the feature. Did CCP just introduce more complexity to the game? Instead of one way of obtaining skills (buying off the market), now players will have two. So I decided to list out the pros and cons of the new feature.


Convenience for new players - Trying to figure out where to buy a particular skill book can be tough. Some books are only found in certain regions of space. For instance, I've had to make quick trips into the Amarr Empire to get certain skills. Even then, I had to use a third-party site like the Fuzzwork Market Data page to find a copy. How many new players will know to do that? Putting the skills in the UI will help alleviate some frustration.

Convenience for players in null sec and wormhole space - While CCP may tout the advantages for new players, Malcanis' Law applies:
"Whenever a mechanics change is proposed on behalf of ‘new players’, that change is always to the overwhelming advantage of richer, older players."
The big winners are the people at the end of very long supply chains: null sec and wormholers. Except for certain skills, like the ones to fly Triglavian ships and the Distribution, Mining, and Security Connections skills, players in the lawless areas of space will have all their skills right at hand. A very nice benefit that means avoiding extremely long trips if one forgets to purchase a skill.

Reduction in logistics requirements - New Eden's logisticians, the people others rely on to keep their organizations running, are often overlooked and taken for granted. Unless, of course, they fail to keep something simple in stock, like skill books. I don't know how big of a pain keeping the books in stock truly is, but especially for new player organizations, eliminating the requirement to fly in skill books is one less task off a very busy plate.

Making skill books a bigger ISK sink - Something I think will get overlooked is the repricing of all the skill books. I can see the prices going much higher, especially the older skills, to match up with today's market. Add onto that a higher price for buying from the UI instead of a station, and pretty soon a whole bunch of ISK is leaving the game. Considering one ISK faucet was clogged up with the introduction of citadels acting as market hubs and fees staying in player wallets instead of leaving the game, and the expansion of another ISK faucet is welcome.

Lower chances of buying unneeded skill books - Ever buy a skill book and then discover you had another copy lying around, not injected because you were training up a pre-requisite skill? I hate when I do that.

Doesn't break the lore - Sometimes I see a change and think how it screws up the game world. The big example I have is the removing of standards as a requirement for everything from launching an Upwell structure to installing jump clones. A lot of people hate standings, but I think standings with the NPC factions and corporations brings something to the game.

I don't see the same conflict with "Skills on Demand". If the fluid router network can handle transporting a capsuleer's mind to a new body, why not just one skill? The lore even explains why picking up a skill from the UI is more expensive than picking up the book from a station.


Reduces regional flavor - This first one is just a flavor complaint that players had already come up with a workaround in game. I like little things in the game that make the empires different from each other. The artwork is nice, but little, meaningful things spice up life. Like the asteroid belts containing different minerals. Yes, even the Amarr and their cursed ability to mine kernite in high sec. Another one of those differences is skills. Some skills are confined to one or two empires. With the ability to just purchase skills from the UI and inject them immediately, who cares? Most players will pay a little more to avoid a 20-40 jump trip.

Damaging a style of game play - Whenever a basic feature of a game changes, some players win and some lose. Hopefully, a lot more players win than lose. In this case, the losers are the players who identified the market need to purchase skill books from regions with the skill books and sell them in places without. The quintessential buy low, sell high situation players look for to make ISK.

In the overall design of EVE, the use of skill books to add regional flavor between the NPC empires led to the secondary, perhaps unforeseen secondary effect of a skill book market that was filled by players. CCP is going to try to preserve the secondary effect by removing the root cause with some price manipulation. I'm not sure how well that will work.

Will contribute to alt proliferation - Long before Game of Thrones became a hit series on HBO, EVE Online was known my many players as the Game of Alts. Anytime something is made easier, EVE players will jump at the chance to take advantage, at least initially. If creating and growing alt characters doesn't require hauling around skill books, I can see more alt accounts created in out of the way places. Or more accurately, alt accounts created and then jumped directly to an out-of-the-way place. When I referenced Malcanis' Law earlier, this is the aspect of "Skills on Demand" that really benefits the veteran player.


I still have some concerns about the new "Skills on Demand" system. I like the current skill book mechanic, and the new system could see the removal of most skill books from the game, depending on the buy-in of players to the feature. That, however, is a slippery slope argument that would occur years in the future.

Another concern is what is considered a "core skill"? Is it every skill that is not dropped or obtained from a loyalty points store. Perhaps I root for low sec too much, but are their skills that are primarily only found in low sec stations? Sometimes when I need a skill book, it feels that way. Perhaps CCP could leave some skill books only available in low sec, and still at a regional level, to maintain the niche market CCP had created back in 2003 with their efforts to add a little lore flavor to the game. Or perhaps only skill books accessible by alpha characters could show up in the UI. This is one detail I think is still up in the air.

At the end of the day, though, I can think of more reasons to make the change than oppose it. That the reasons for the change are stronger than those opposed to change makes the reasoning easier. While I might wind up griping about some details in the future, I think the basic concept is pretty sound.

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