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Paying to not play

I probably heard it somewhere else before, but one of the most interesting things about EVE Online is that this is a game that as much about not playing as it is playing.

I speak, of course, of the character advancement system that advances the character at the same rate regardless of whether I'm playing or not. Cue up a skill, and the only thing I need to do is remember to log in when that skill's timer is about up to switch to another skill. The only advancement-related reason to play past the character screen is to earn some ISK.

To an extent, this is a good thing. I played EVE Online so hard on Friday and Saturday that I needed a break from the game. My brother, too, reports that he woke up one morning with a startling lack of desire to play. EVE Online's advancement system gives me the freedom to go play another game for awhile and then come back with some new and interesting skills learned to play with. It seems like a genius advancement mechanic.

However, taking a long look forward, it seems no advancement mechanic is perfect. Basically, there's an irreconcilable difference between allowing new players to be competitive while having longstanding players be rewarded. A new player starts with 800,000 skill points (in the old days it was next to nothing) while established players may have tens of millions of skill points. Skill points in EVE are representative of the overall skills trained.

Such a massive difference indicates that I've a long, long way to go to be competitive with an established player. Consequently, it seems like the best thing for me to do is start on those "Learning" category skills, which are dedicated to increasing advancement speed, and max them all out. We're talking months of time spent simply skilling up Learning.

Looks like I'll be piloting a Cruiser for a long, long time. Unfortunately, there's simply not enough gameplay with my skills outside the Learning category to last that long. In other words, no matter how good of a player I am, I'll end up being bored with the skills I have long before I actually learn new ones.

So we've ended up where I begun: EVE Online is a game I subscribed to, yet will spend a lot of time not playing at all. In typical MMORPG fashion, the developers have put a massive time sink between me and the fun. However, in the specific case of EVE Online, there's not a damn thing I can do about it: you can't play harder or smarter to get those skills faster, all you can do is wait. At most, playing allows me to grind ISK, perhaps to to buy some attribute-boosting implants, for whatever good that brings (and assuming I don't lose them to a bored, 20-million-skill-point pirate).

Good thing I've a GameTap subscription. Fresh off my EVE Online binge, I instead spent my Sunday doing the last chapter of Sam & Max Season 2. At the end of the day, I finished Altered Beast (a terribly balanced but artistically interesting classic) and gave Hot Dog King a try.

You know, there's something oddly compelling about Hot Dog King... and I'm not talking about the comely polygons. Once you get past the misogynistic message ("to be competitive in the fast food business you should hire pretty girls and make them wear revealing bikinis as they mind the cash register, mop the floor, and prepare food") and crappy arcade mini-games (we now interrupt your restaurant sim for a terrible rendition of space invaders) there seems to be something resembling a surprisingly high-quality 3D simulated presentation of fast food chain management. I get the feel that the people who made this game liked making games, and am going to mess around with that a bit more when I get a chance.

Comments

I'm not entirely sure you got the right end of the stick ;). What I found about Eve after a few weeks of playing is that what matters is having fun, and the only way to really have fun (since we're talking about a samdbox game) is to choose your own path.

You will never ever match any player with millions of skill points except that you missed the one limiting factor ;). No player can bring all those skill points into play at once. Consider a Frigate. You jump into a Kestrel, load up on Standard Launcher IIs, some Tech 2 missiles, a small shield extender, and several ECM modules. A 3 year player gets in another Kestrel.

You think the 3 year old player has been training Frigates for 3 years? No - they've been training other stuff you can't put in a frigate ;). So you definitely have a chance at beating them simply because being in a Missile Kestrel limits how many of that players 10+ million skill points are even applicable to using a Kestrel+Missiles.

I haven't seen any mention, but you should seriously consider joining a Corporation (just avoid the ones that mix up z with s ;)) since that adds a new level of fun.
This is a good point, and something that crossed my mind. However, from my perspective as an extreme new player, there's a great deal to learn across several categories even in this basic Kestrel example: weapons, ECM, maneuvering skills, ect.

Each strange skill category is an edge, and in a deep game, I wouldn't have it any other way. The only limit is the amount of module slots and CPU/Power in the appropriate ship class.

Of course, if we're talking "combative" competitiveness (the actual type of "competitiveness" I left somewhat undefined), a Frigate will get popped by any established players because they'll just be in bigger and badder ships. Assuming I manage to escape weapons range, Interceptors or drones could tackle me easily.

We're basically in agreement that a Corporation is where I need to go However, there's a question of which Corporation could use someone with any particular skills? That's another kind of "competitiveness" entirely.
Raelyf said…
The thing with EVE is - you have to play to have fun. As soon as you feel like your playtime has become a grind, go try doing something else. It really doesn't matter how new you are, there's a place for you in everything.

Your not completely uncompetitive. EVE's skill system means it takes alot longer to take a skill from lvl 4 to lvl 5, than to take one from lvl 0 to lvl 4. This means that, even when a player has a big SP advantage over you - he may not have a big difference in terms of hard numbers.

For learning skills, train the basic to lvl 4 and the advanced to lvl 3, and get a good set of +3 or +4 implants. This is key, but beyond that probably isn't worth it at least for awhile.

Just enjoy the game while you play, and go play something else when you get bored. That's what makes EVE different. You don't NEED to be playing to advance.

When it comes to PvP, being new doesn't mean you won't be effective. Specialize. Every gang needs a good tackler - someone in a frig sized ship who can hold down a target. It's not a real glory position, but it's gotta be filled and it doesn't take a great deal of SP. Or you could get an electronics warfare ship, and sit outside providing support and jamming enemies. There's a place for everyone, no matter how new, you've just got to find it.

If you want, get ahold of me in game (Raelyf) and we can talk. You'd be welcome in my corp, though were mostly a social corp as it stands right now. If nothing else, you can join our public channel and get to meet some people and have a place to ask questions. Fly Safe.

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