Daily Archives: May 18, 2009

A Not So Fabulous Turn of Events

Reynaldo Fabulous has been pressing ahead with his training, tying up all of the learning skills in his plan by Saturday.  He trained up the first and second tier learning skills up to level 4 for everything by Charisma.  It was time to start the trek to Gallente Industrial V.

The only prerequisite left Gallente Frigate III, then five Gallente Industrial skills in a row, with the last being about 14 days.

Of course the first three went by quickly.  I queued up the fourth, which ran over a day, as soon as I could.

Finally, I went to queue up the level five skill and ran into a problem.

Previously there had been a loophole in the training bonus given to new characters.

You get double training speed up to 1.6 million skill points, after which you are, in theory, caught up to the people who rolled characters in the past that came with around 800K or skillpoints.  But any skill you started before you hit the 1.6 million point would continue to train at double speed.  So, if you were aware of this, you could wait until you got close to the end point of your double speed training and start up a really long skill and continue to benefit long after your bonus should have ended.

A bonus bonus.

In hindsight, you would think that CCP would have seen this one coming, knowing the EVE Online player base as they do.  And even without that, I have to think there was a test case somewhere that would have shown what happened when somebody tried to queue a skill that went beyond the limit.  It is called boundary checking and people in QA ignore it at their peril.  Somehow though they missed it, or didn’t think it was important, and ended up having to fix it after the fact.

Now, the logical, independent of code complications, fix to me would be to just apply a 2x multiplier to any skillpoints trained up to and including the 1.6 millionth, and after that they run at a normal rate.

Of course, long experience has taught me that the logical fix can often be quite difficult.  Sometime you end up with the expedient fix instead.  That appears to be what we got.

Last night when I went to queue up Gallente Industrial V, I got this error:

No Gallente Industrial V today
The rather blunt force fix to the exploit seems to be simply to not allow you to start training a skill that will take you beyond the 1.6 million skillpoint barrier with the bonus, unless agree to throw away any remaining bonus.

Gallente Industrial V is an 800K skillpoint skill.  If I start training it now I will essentially be throwing away almost 500K of double speed trainin.  That is about one third of what you get, since you start with around 80K skillpoints.  So I don’t want to do that!

Now I am going to be delayed in being able to fly the Iteron V.

And I also have to spend some time with EVEMon figuring out the optimum set of skills to train to ensure I waste the least amount of my remaining 500K double speed skill points.

Certainly this is not the worst situation ever foisted onto an MMO player base, but this double skillpoint routine is part of the NEW USER EXPERIENCE.  This is yet another parameter with which somebody new to EVE Online is going to have contend.

And the “slap in the face” aspect of this whole fix, and there always has to be a “slap in the face” now doesn’t there, is that people who queued up long skills before the patch introduce this change did not get interrupted.  No, really!  One of the people in our little corp queued up a long skill on a new character that was close to the limit right before the patch.  After the patch he was still trucking along at double speed.

Now, if I had been the product manager… or producer in the game world I guess… and someboday had come to me and said that they were going to fix this exploit by adding more complexity  for new players while allowing everybody who was in the process of using the exploit to carry on and get the benefit, I might have pushed for a different solution.

One decision model that we have used at various companies at which I have worked laid things out into four categories, listed here in descending desirability:

  1. Right Action, Right Reasons
  2. Right Action, Wrong Reasons
  3. Wrong Action, Right Reasons
  4. Wrong Action, Wrong Reasons

An organization that hits on the first item, they do the right thing, and they do it for the right reasons, is doing well.  We all want to be doing that as often as possible.  However, most places I have worked that have done well end up doing the second quite a bit.  That is getting lucky.

CCP’s solution to this issue seems, to me, to be in the third category.  The problem needed to be fixed, right reason, but the actual solution is… sub-optimal in my opinion.  It puts a burden on a group of people least able to cope with it, the new players in EVE.

Again, certainly not the worst thing ever.  Players will get past it.  I doubt anybody would quit based on this fix alone.  But it is annoying, and sometimes it is the preponderance of little things rubbing the wrong way that makes people walk away from a game.

Anyway, I have to go figure out my plan for those 500K skillpoints.  I think I can get to 1,595,259 skill points and contribute to my next goal (a Hulk, of course) without training any skills I do not need.