Learning Skills, Using Skills

It is not that I am unhappy with the way that the skill system works in EVE Online.  In fact the system tends to favor people like me who have a bit of patience  Still, I find something vaguely unsatisfying about character skills being obtained and honed via such a detached, off-line, time driven process.

Of course, I have a long history with the DIKU MUD family of skill improvement, where your skills get better only by use. The concept has standing in MMOs as well, appearing in Ultima Online and EverQuest through to World of Warcraft and Darkfall, with plenty of other stops along the way.

So I started thinking about how the concept of skill usage leading to improvements might be tackled in EVE.  Not that it necessarily should, but more of a thought exercise.

My first thought was simple: Allow skill usage to add skill points to known skills.  Every x times I fire a medium hybrid turret at a live, active, hostile target I would get y skill points added to the skill “medium hybrid turret.”  You’ll note that I did not fill in numbers there.  The whole thing would have to be tuned so that it might, say, give you a boost towards getting to level 2 or 3 of a skill, but not allow you to, say, get level 5 of a skill just by spending the weekend ratting or running missions.

I am also of the mind that, for combat skills at least, shooting at a live person ought to count for more than blowing away an NPC.  Another thing that would have to be tinkered with to prevent exploits though.

My second thought was to get away from the current skills and to come up with a set of non-trainable, over-arcing skills that would improves when given skills were used and which would, as they accumulated, give a small but tangible benefit over time.  This would reward skill usage without messing with the current skill system.

Again, this is all based on being trained for years that skill use equals skill improvement.

So what do you think.  Should skill usage lead to skill improvement?

22 thoughts on “Learning Skills, Using Skills

  1. Snafzg

    I totally get where you’re coming from with the “detached, off-line” comment, but I actually find the skill system that much more engaging because of it. I don’t think the system is perfect and wouldn’t want to see it in every MMO, but for some reason I enjoy the concept of putting thought into my next choice. I think it also fits well with EVE’s sci-fi/technological theme.

    There’s a penalty for not making the right decisions, but at the same time, that penalty is only a bit of lost time, which given the off-line nature of it, isn’t too nasty. I kind of like that.

    I do enjoy your proposed system, but as we’ve seen in Darkfall, it’s ripe for exploitation unless you heavily police it and think everything through properly.

    A more free-form, open skill-based system is totally my cup of tea. I like that you can heavily focus yourself in EVE across several mains or spend a buttload of time on one main and make him extremely flexible. Options ftw!

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  2. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    There are, certainly, a few glaring issues with adding some sort of skill use/skill improve mechanism.

    One is, as you point out, the exploit issue. We don’t want the EVE equivalent of a guy running against a wall all night for skill improves.

    Another, which I expect to be taken to task for, is would such a mechanism actually improve the game? A tough call there. I suspect the right mechanism would, but what that would be….

    As I said, I do really like the skill planning and training system in EVE. There is just something that flutters in the back of my brain about skill use/skill learning every so often.

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  3. Joe

    I like the skill training system in EVE from a player standpoint (i.e., I can actually have a life and still accomplish things in game), but I also feel it’s a bit unrealistic.

    In EVE, you can sit in a station and train Battleships V, and the first time you set foot in a battleship you’re pure awesome. In reality, book learnin’ only gets you so far – true expertise is gained through a combination of study and experience. This is why you can’t read a bunch of plumbing books and then start out day 1 as a master plumber. You have to be an apprentice first, to gain on-the-job experience.

    So yeah, I’m with you. I wish there was some way in EVE to represent skill gained through experience without sacrificing the time-based training. If you make it too enticing though, you take away the casual nature of the game and encourage people to grind skills up (ratting, dueling, etc) in order to be effective.

    The problem is, I don’t see a way to introduce improvement-through-use without taking away from one of the best parts of the game: hands-off, time-based training.

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  4. Rieger

    I think you might be looking at it slightly the wrong way Wilhem. EVE has two distict skill systems. One is the normal skill training that you think of, put a skill on, wait for X days, rinse/repeat.

    EVE also has a repetition based skill system, but it is located between the chair and the keyboard. You personally get better at doing things in EVE by repeating them. You get quicker at probing wormholes, you get quicker at understanding the market window, you immediately know the bonuses and penalties of that Crusader that just warped into your belt in low sec. It even applies to things outside the game. By the act of typing out information for us on this blog, your understanding of the production/sales of light missiles has improved. By reading that paper on POS deployment/defence has you better prepared for having your Empire corp war dec’d.

    Just like in twitch FPSs like Counter Strike, people who have been playing longer become better players. In EVE it isn’t about twitch reactions, but the same idea still applies.

    So you have been getting better at EVE all along Wilhelm, just not in a measurable way that shows up in the game, and I personally wouldn’t have it any other way.

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  5. Rieger

    @Joe – Sorry, I was typing my response while you posted yours. Just because your character has a skill in something, it doesn’t automatically make them amazing in the game. I will take bets on the “Hard core pvper” in a BS battle over the “I just trained Caldari BS V in a station and have never flown one” any day of the week. Their in game skill may be the same, but the understanding of tracking/falloff/tanks are simply not at the same level. The Mystery Repetition Skill again. :)

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  6. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Rieger – I knew somebody was going to bring that up. That is, in my opinion, a different thing altogether. I am talking about things that apply to your character.

    If I get better at EVE, that applies to any character I play in the game, not just a specific character. What you are referring to is legitimate and applies to most everything in life, but it is not what I was getting at.

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  7. Rieger

    @Wilhelm – True, but I think the complexity of EVE lends itself to that type of idea. There is so much to do and learn in EVE that just because I have the skills to probe for ships at safe spots, doesn’t mean I have the slightest idea of how exactly to go about it. And even if I do have the basic ideas down, someone who has been doing it more often will generally be faster and better at it than me, even if our skills are exactly the same.

    Personally I love the skill training system in EVE. No grinding, no mindless repetition. Why is it you feel that it needs this kind of additional system?

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  8. p@tsh@t

    On your second point about over arcing meta skills or achievements– I think that you’re on to something. I too would like to see some net positive synergy as a result of having trained several different skills.

    My initial thought was that the certificate system might be modified to provide additional progression when synergistic skill groups are completed. If I skill up missile launchers, long range targeting, etc., etc. It would be nice to get some additional bonus from having achieved a certain level of expertise in related skills.

    How to do that via some usage metric would be really hard I think.

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  9. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Rieger – I thought I explained the “why” in my post. I’m not stomping my feet and saying the game needs this. This is more speculation on how something like this might be implemented.

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  10. Gaff

    This game changing rant is typical of the WoW tourist crowd. I see through your veiled attempts at civility. You even got your cronie to use the word synergy.

    I want skill improves for everytime my drones do something.

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  11. Melf_Himself

    I think that practically any system that did NOT directly correlate skill gain with number of real world hours subscribed to the game would work.

    eg UO/Darkfall – get/train individual skills by using them
    eg WoW – get/train individual skills by killing stuff to level
    eg mysterious game X where you get/train individual skills as a reward for progressing through the story plot
    eg mysterious game Y where you get/train individual skills based purely on number of hours spent not AFK in the game.

    These examples all have pros and cons relative to each other, but I think they’re all better than EVE’s system :/

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  12. Melf_Himself

    Actually, I changed my mind. Almost any example you can think of can be turned into a barely veiled way to force you to subscribe to the game for a long time in order to obtain the skills you want. It all depends on how soul-less the makers of the game want to be.

    If it was possible to train all skills to max in EVE over the period of, say, 2 months, I wouldn’t have an issue (as the rate of dollar sucking compared to my rate of happy-joy-skill acquisition would then perhaps be acceptable).

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  13. Tobold

    My second thought was to get away from the current skills and to come up with a set of non-trainable, over-arcing skills that would improves when given skills were used and which would, as they accumulated, give a small but tangible benefit over time. This would reward skill usage without messing with the current skill system.

    Wouldn’t that be pretty much identical to a level system? You use your skills, gain experience, level up, and your skills increase with level.

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  14. Gribblethemunchkin

    I like EVEs skill system as is.

    One thing that always annoyed me in Wow was the skill gind. Its the same in most MMOs. Certainly it may be more realistic (as you say, those that practice get better) but its also dull.

    EVEs system makes sense in game (as the hypnotic mental conditioning it is supposed to represent) and its also fun as you can still “play” EVE even while logged off. It also encourages planning and forward thinking. Very EVE related concepts.

    I always saw skill training as the thing happening in the background while your actual actions in game resulted in cash, the other measure of a players might.

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  15. Saylah

    Yikes – EVE is such a complicated game to play as it stands. If the skill training wasn’t the passive system in place now, the average player would progress more slowly. I think many players who stay subscribed while skill training would in fact, unsubscribe if the passive option wasn’t available.

    IMO EVE is about finding your niche and mastering the real skills needed to be successful in that role. That’s a combination of strategic choices, tactical selections, research and execution of your plan. My lord that is more than enough work err gaming in and of itself. I don’t think I’d want non-passive skill training. Use providing some level of training or bonus would also set veterans up as insurmountable objects for new players. Their in-game experience is already the real bonus. Stacking the deck with experience that equated to better “skills” would be detrimental to keeping new blood in the game.

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  16. bluelinebasher

    The non-grind leveling is what keeps Eve Online going for me. I quit WAR (again) when scenarios weren’t popping and I was forced to either sit and wait for one to pop or try their dreadful PVE. No thanks. In fact instead of a hardcore pvp/rvr server I think MMOs that have a grind should offer one auto Max-Level server alternative for those that don’t have ridiculous amounts of time to devote. And come on, admit it — you love saying “I know Battlecruiser V” out loud just like “I know jujitsu!” from the Matrix when skill training is complete just as much as I do. I don’t feel left behind when I don’t play, even though I am in both ISK and personal experience. All the training does is enable you to use a ship/module (or use it better), what you do with it comes with personal experience anyway. In this regard, Eve is great — and it has now given us the attribute respec once a year, which was the only gripe I had since when I made my toon I had no idea what to put the points into (I don’t even think you get to allocate attribute points any more during creation). But now you can even plan around that.

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  17. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Saylah – Are you suggesting that the current skill system (which I said I did not want to replace) isn’t complicated?

    @BLB – That’s because you’re old and married and gone casual… just like so many of the rest of us.

    @Tobold – You could certainly rig it as a level system if you wanted, but I would not say it was inherently so. Levels imply a distinct universal measurable difference in capability. You have that now, in a very complex way, in EVE. But suppose after, say, you shot a billion rounds of medium hybrid turret ammo you got a free additional 2% boost to ship agility. Would that be any more of a level up in the universe of EVE where the skills and skill levels of any two given individuals are almost always different in any case?

    Hrmm, maybe such a boost could only apply to your current clone? Then if you go podded you’d lose it and have to grind it back up again! Okay, now I am really looking for ways to piss people off.

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  18. Saylah

    Not that it’s not complicated, I think it’s complicated enough as it is without adding some real-time element to skill improvement. I don’t think my brain could sustain more thought or skill planning in EVE. :-) I wouldn’t want anything layered on top of it.

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  19. Melf_Himself

    Ahh but Saylah, what if the rate of skill improvement was much faster than you’re used to in other MMO’s (and especially faster than currently in EVE). What if it only took a couple of months to max everything out?

    The grind is all in how slow the developers decide to make the levelling.

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  20. Saylah

    Hmm doesn’t that take some of the anticipation out of a game like EVE. If every character could max every skill in two months? Sure, that would be convenient but not sure about the ripple effect in a game such as this. I think we’d see lots of alts and disposable characters with so little training required to max them out. That would have good and bad effects.

    Would we see people attempting the self-reliant total package production like you have in a game like EQ2. I do my own everything – cooking, portions, gear, etc? There’s a lot of group reliance in EVE because you can’t do everything yourself or at least not unless you’re okay with it taking forever to acheive. Dunno. I think it’s a double-edge sort in this particular game.

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  21. Happy Wlad

    When Everquest first came out, I used to make it a point to jump off of the Rivervale Wall just to train up my safe fall…

    Anyway, I like EVE’s skill system because a smart new player can specialize and still play with the vets, just not at everything.

    Wlad

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  22. Trader Mags

    I’m with Reiger on this one. I understand that you are making a differentiation between character skills and player skills, but I’d argue that the lack of mindless repetition puts the focus exactly where it belongs, on learning how to efficiently exploit a skill.

    For example, it was simple to train a covert ops ship so that I could discreetly poke around Sleeper installations, but there was nothing in that skill attainment which kept my shiny new Cheetah from being incinerated in about 2 nano-seconds when I decloaked to warp. Acquiring skills through the “punch-to-the-face” method is frustrating at times, but it does keep things interesting.

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