May 2013

EVE Skills III: The Myth of “Catching Up”

As discussed in the previous part, the dirty secret of the EVE skills is that it really is a level-based system. The even dirtier secret is that it's almost the exact opposite of how most level-based systems works, and this is what trips up most casual observers. It's very easy to look at it and see the parallels: SP look kind of like XP; character builds look a bit like classes; skills look a lot like level-specific abilities; levels look a lot like… well, levels. As such, it's also very easy to make the assumption that more SP provides an inherent mechanical advantage, and that, since SP is accumulated over time with no power-grinding mechanic available, that this advantage is pretty much unassailable. An older player will have more SP, and that translate into more “power”, right?

EVE Skills II: The Level System

The Level Cap

The dirty secret of the EVE skill system comes down to this: it really is a level-based system. It's just not the levels you see in D&D-derived games, which is what most computer games with RPG elements are. In those games, you have a class or profession or archetype, and you pour experience points into it to gain higher and higher levels, which in turn give you access to new powers, new abilities, more bonuses et cetera. Some of them let you multi-class so you can spend those XP on proficiencies that you wouldn't otherwise have, and some of them (especially computer-based ones) have level caps that demonstrate the limit of designer inventiveness tells you it's time to try a different path. EVE is the ultimate multi-class design.

In EVE, every skill is effectively such a class structure, but with very limited sets of abilities and bonuses to unlock, and with a ridiculously low level cap. All you can get is lvl V. As discussed in the previous part of this series, taking a skill that far can actually often be counter-productive since you're looking at increasingly marginal improvements for exponentially longer training times. In this part, we're going to look at the bigger picture of this cost-vs-reward relationship and see what that level cap actually entails and how much you (supposedly) miss out on by not going for it.

EVE Skills Part I: Ranks and Points

War EVE… EVE never changes. At least not the forums where — now, as always — there is a constant trickle of threads bemoaning the unfair and newbie-crushing state of the EVE skill system. Specific problems are classics such as the unbeatable advantage of having more SP; the inability for new players to catch up with old ones; and that gear (unlocked by higher SP) wins over player skill. This series of posts will take a trip through the mechanics and effects of the EVE skill system to study how this all fits together and whether or not there's any truth to the rumours of the predetermined assured loss of the newbie.

Warning: maths and tables ahead!