Repeating the same mistake: Why EVE’s skill system is the way to go

If you have a skill based (as opposed to XP/level based) character development system, is there any reason NOT to use EVE’s real-time progression? How many of DarkFall’s “it’s a huge grind” problems would be resolved if you gained skills in real-time like in EVE, rather than through playing/macroing them up? Aventurine made some good changes by not allowing players to gain skill by firing magic or arrows into thin air, and by not allowing players to skill up using the unbreakable starter weapons, but if DF had launched with EVE’s skill system, those issues would not have been present to begin with.

One of the more common misconceptions about EVE is that new players will always be weaker than veterans, since they have no way to accelerate skill point gain and ‘catch up’. The other misconception is that you need to train 6-8 weeks before you can actually play, as people believe you need that amount of skill points to be effective. As players who stick around longer than the 14 day trial know, both of these assumptions are incorrect. Combat efficiency can only be improved so much before you cap out, and the final and longest to train skills don’t give you much gain (training a gunnery skill to level 5 could take you a month, but only give you the same 2% damage increase the previous four levels gave you). The 6-8 weeks myth is even further off, as even in PvP the roles that most consider the most fun are frigate tacklers and EWar ships, something a new player could train for in as little as a few days. As veterans will point out, true power in EVE comes from the knowledge the pilot has, not how many skill points he has accumulated. A new player could be given a 100m skill point pilot, while a vet takes a 14 day trial character, and the vet would beat the rookie both in combat and in the market.

Going back to DarkFall, how much better would the game be if instead of worrying which skills to macro overnight, or how far ahead your enemies are because they macro harder, you had to consider WHICH skills to train to fit your build, and what skills would be the most helpful for you and your guild. If you could only train one skill at a time, in real time, a player would have to make the decision on whether they want to focus first on melee, archery, magic, or crafting. If you go straight for high-level elemental magic, you don’t have the option to pull out a polearm and be as effective if someone gets within melee range, and you certainly can’t craft your own armor high-level armor. And for that player focused on magic, PvE becomes far harder to turn a profit (since you will likely spend more money on reagents then you get from monster loot), and they would rely heavily on their guild to fund them. In exchange, that guild knows they have a powerful weapon to bring with them into large-scale PvP. Risk vs reward, rather than the current “everyone make a tank/mage” system. Guild crafters would also be held in higher regard, since you could no longer funnel all your resources and just brute-strength skill someone up to 100 in a given craft. It would take time, and cost the crafter gains in combat skills, but in exchange highly skilled crafters would be more uncommon and could charge higher rates for their goods.

Just like in EVE’s system, becoming proficient at something would be a fairly quick investment. So getting a basic skill to 50 would only take a few days, but getting your melee mastery to 100 would require months of training. Add in a hardcap for total skill points, one that would be fairly high but not unlimited, and you would truly have a system of character development rather than just a race to see who can max everything out first by grinding/macroing. A master crafter, someone who has most/all of the crafting skills at a high level, would still have some points left in the cap to be decent in combat, while a character with maxed magic or melee would still have some points for basic crafting or gathering. Now previously ‘pointless’ skills like Sprint, Swimming, or Riding would be skills to consider within your training plan. Currently all those skills are easy to max out, and little thought is given to them. Within 1-2 months, everyone has 100 Sprint. Under a real-time system, you would have to consider WHEN to train Sprint up, as if you leave it too low for too long, your stamina hit would be a factor in combat, while getting the skill up above the average would mean a hit in other areas. The point is, the skill would become a decision the play makes, rather than just something that hits 100 eventually, and with little impact.

Aside from a more balanced and decision-based character development system, real-time training would have a huge impact on what players do in-game. The now-famous ‘blood wall’ in every city would be gone. Not only would it be pointless to leave your character logging in 24/7 on the wall, no one would need to swing away at it to skill up. Also gone would be all those characters running into walls, swimming into a rock, or shooting mana missiles at a friend in a hidden location. Now when you log in, it’s because you are going to PLAY, rather than skill up. Going out to PvP won’t cost you time away from the blood wall or macroing magic. Players will go out to harvest because they need/want the materials, and not because mining is a great way to raise strength. If you are facing a guild that is heavy on high-level magic, you can safely assume they are weak in melee, or don’t have their archery skills high. While currently the method of fighting back is to grind magic up yourself, under a real-time system players would instead adjust their tactics. You know they can’t spam AoE spells in tight areas, while your melee skills are prime in such locations.

It’s unlikely Aventurine would make such a radical shift to DarkFall now, but seeing how EVE’s system works, and how players have behaved as far back as Ultima Online, it’s hard to understand why they went with a ‘gain by doing’ system. It seems both Mortal Online and the next Final Fantasy MMO are also set to repeat this mistake, which is rather puzzling.

61 Responses to Repeating the same mistake: Why EVE’s skill system is the way to go

  1. Inktomi says:

    I agree with you, adopting the passive skill accumulation system would balance Darkfall’s playing field. I also like EVE’s system because it doesn’t require me to be logged in pressing W all day to advance.

    This gives players the freedom to shut off the pc and (insert non gaming activity here), while alleviates alot of room for exploitation. Case in point, the DF bloodwall and macroing.

    Good stuff, syncaine.

  2. pitrelli says:

    Good post and one I agree with, I’ve actually been thinking about Darkfall a fair bit. It came around whilst reading the usual posts about new MMO’s not offering anything different in relation to Combat, crafting and the like (I agree with this).

    It was then that Darkfall sprung to mind. Its an MMO who dared to try something a bit different but has been heavily criticised and called broken, many of these people who belittle Darkfall are the very same who moan about wanting a more involved combat experience…. and they wonder why games stick with tried and tested?!

    Anyway your post sums up how to improve this kind of combat/skill progression so it will be interesting to see others thoughts on this. Im hoping you have posted this on the DF forums as it could be worth wafting it under the devs nose…you never know

    • syncaine says:

      Yea, I see this ALL the time as well, and it’s a little hard to take those blogs seriously. I understand if its from someone new to the MMO genre, but its sad when someone who has been around for a while continues to cry about the same old EQ clones and wanting something different, and on the next day goes on and on about how great Aion is going to be.

  3. motstandet says:

    As veterans will point out, true power in EVE comes from the knowledge the pilot has, not how many skill points he has accumulated. A new player could be given a 100m skill point pilot, while a vet takes a 14 day trial character, and the vet would beat the rookie both in combat and in the market.

    Why have an explicit skill system at all then? If progression is implicit in player-skill, why make players train for days before they can begin to sit in a cruiser and implicitly learn how to pilot it?

    • syncaine says:

      For one, the MMO space is a business, and that business involves keeping players around for 6+ months paying $15 a month. The FPS genre does not charge a monthly fee, so they have no motivation to keep you interested once they have your upfront $50-60, which is why in part that design does not involve a slow buildup from pistol to nuke.

      Second, players of the MMO genre enjoy character development (whether time controlled or not), so removing that aspect would be a huge negative for your customer base (hence why GW is a borderline MMO, and why games like Fury failed). The number of people wishing to have everything up front is far smaller than the number who enjoy the buildup, not to mention that those who ‘think’ they want it all up front most likely don’t. How many people buy a maxed out character only to find out they don’t really connect to that character, and don’t have nearly as much fun as they thought they would.

      • motstandet says:

        Explicit character skill is not the only form of advancement in an MMORPG. There are social networking advances as players engage the community more. There are economic advances as characters build in-game wealth. There are dungeon gating and “keying”. Quest lines and story arcs are forms of progression. All of these are still possible with no explicit character skill system.

        If you want to talk about business implications, then I will relate an anecdote to you: I did not sub after my 21-day trial to EVE because I was not willing to prove to CCP that I had $30 in subscription money. Those two months were required to get me access to barely passable modules on a Merlin so that I can begin to learn how to PvP. Without the training, I stood no chance at all in a game 6 years old. Customer lost.

    • Snafzg says:

      /agree with Syncaine completely here. Skill-training in EVE was the most fun meta-game I’ve ever experienced in an MMO. For me, it was cooler than crafting, playing the economy, searching for achievements, or any of that other stuff.

      • --Zan-- says:

        @Motstandet — When the average advanced RPG player decides to pay money for an MMO, it is NOT so he can kill a lot of mobs, get a bunch of shinny gear that’ll suck by next patch, open a dungeon to kill things for more shinny crap, or any of the other things you said were forms of “advancement”.. Those things are forms of “accomplishment” they are not forms of “advancement”… Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy creating a dungeon full of red-named mobs’ bodies on the floor as much as the next person, but that’s an accomplishment, the only way I’ve “advanced” is through the xp I’ve gained (which ends up being the primary goal, instead of creating a fantasy character’s life story)
        The type of player the EVE devs want to attract are not the mindless “lets go kill some pixels for loot!!11!11″ kids.. Our game is here to attract people who want to challenge themselves mentally (and a bit in the “twitch” department too :)
        I believe it’s a bit sad that the average MMO player today sees “character advancement” as getting more shinnies and getting rare loot (granted these things are great, but they should NOT be your basis by which to gauge your character’s advancement)
        The purpose of an RPG is to create another person and play his/her life in a fantasy environment…. The “gotta grind out as many levels as possible so I can get that Epic Shinny Black-and-Red-Sparkly Fire-Spewing Longsword of Ice!!!!111!!!!1″ is a trademark attitude of a lot of really fun games, but it is NOT the mindset that players of REAL RPGs have… (at least not all the time, we all like a little hack-and-slash-loot-whoring now and again)
        A masterpiece RPG requires dedication, investment of time (an all-night dungeon grind is not what I’m talking about :), long-term planning, great challenges, freedom, and MUST allow the player to feel as if he is living another life… EVE does ALL of this remarkably well, and this fact is true, in LARGE part, beause of the skill-training system they have implemented (EXCLUDING the Learning skills.. we’ve already admitted that was a mistake :)
        And as for the monthly fee… That is EASILY gotten around. I’ve only been playing EVE for a couple of months, and I already make enough isk (in-game money) to buy my game-time.. So no more monthly subscription fees for me! And this is easy to do with minimal effort (believe me, I plyaed EQ, EQ2, and WoW for a LONG time and can say that the effort and work I’ve done to earn my playtime in EVE is NOTHING compared to the amount of work I did in the other MMOs)
        There are items in EVE called PLEX (Pilots Licence Extensions) which can be purchased out-of-game for money and then sold in-game for isk… CCP did this so that real-world money is NOT required to remain in the game (and to help players come up with that last 300mil for the new ship you’re saving up for)… My point here is that 300 million isk is NOT a whole lot of money after you’ve been playing for a short time (as I said, after my 3rd month I haven’t paid cash and I work 50 hours a week, so I don’t play all day long… and since my first 3 weeks were free, I’ve really only paid for about 2 months of game time)
        And your comment about not being able to PvP without spending a ton of time in the game is WAY off.. My first solo kill was on day 4 in my Kestrel, with CRAP fittings (ship equipment)… EVE is one of the FEW games in which player skill is MUCH more important than character age…
        So STUDY the net for some information on ship fittings, how to pilot frigates, agent locations and qualities (if you wanna run missions), etc.. Then start playing the best role playing sandbox game on the market! Give it some time, put forth the effort which ANYTHING worthwhile requires, and I promise you will find a remarkable RPG world in which to spend your free time!

        Fly safe.. Or better yet, fly reckless so that I have more targets :)

  4. Beau says:

    I’m always curious as to why EVE fans can, on one hand, actually describe the game as “hard” or “hard-core” while on the other hand be OK with gaining skills by clicking on a button.

    Granted, I don’t mind the system, and grats to CCP for putting a system in that keeps players subbing more than anything as well as owning 3 and 4 accounts (they can level a guy without playing him) but this is just another example of how EVE is far from a “hard” game.

    It’s a good game, of course, just not hard.

    And like Mot said, why even HAVE the skills according to your argument? Just give everyone a max-point character and let ‘em go.

    Beau

    • syncaine says:

      So because the actual method to getting more SP is trivial, somehow that makes EVE as a whole easier? I mean are you trying to troll here, or are you honestly bringing this up?

      If you max out your marketing skills, does that mean you become a master at making ISK on the market? If you max out your combat skills, does that make you a master at PvP, or even able to complete level 4-5 missions? If you max out your mining skills, does that mean you mine in the most efficient way possible, maximizing returns?

      As for those who only sub to gain SP, what’s the issue? So some idiot is going to fund future game dev in a game I play by handing CCP $15 each month and not actually playing the game, what’s the problem? Whenever they finally do log in, they won’t be any different than a first day noob in terms of actual skill or knowledge, and since that trumps SP totals in EVE, who cares?

    • Diametrix says:

      Beau,

      Based on your reply, I must assume that you define a ‘hard’ game as one that demands hours of grinding and button pushing in order to advance a character to a higher level.

      The concept of gaining skill in real time without such activity is not what makes EVE hard or easy. It just makes it not stupid and frustrating.

      What makes EVE ‘hard’ is the sheer complexity of the game. There are SO MANY skills, activities, concepts and systems to learn. There are so many things to do. And since it is almost a pure sandbox, there is little handholding via game design and quest progression to move a player along.

      That’s what makes it ‘hard’. Also the fact that CCP adopts a very moral neutral standpoint to how players interact with one another. You can scam, cheat, steal, murder all you want. Just don’t do it for real life money. (unless CCP sells it to you)

    • Inktomi says:

      Right, but if I spent 7 hours standing in a field tapping keys and whacking something with a sword, versus spending 7 hours to train for my next T2 gun, what is the difference. Oh and making the money to buy them doesn’t take any skill either?

      Oh, you value tapping keys over actual time spent to judge skills?

      I guess that tapping keys in a certain procession of patterns to achieve a certain response is skill.

      That’s funny, every time I shoot at a pirate.. I tap…keys…to shoot…him…

      • Mr. Furious says:

        The difference in Eve is those 7 hours are spent pursuing what goals you want in the game. Like pirating trade routes with friends, or smuggling weapons through a blockade from a hostile alliance, or… heaven forbid… actually going outside and getting some sun – instead of mindlessly clicking on the latest mob to spawn while your brain goes to sleep.

    • Gaining the ability may be as easy at letting time pass.
      But learning how to use that ability correctly is not.

      I get the feeling from your post that you’ve never actually played Eve for any significant amount of time.

      I’m not saying those that describe Eve as ‘hard’ are correct but Eve has more stuff to do than any MMO I’ve ever played or heard about (except maybe ATITD)

    • orion scimatarii says:

      @Beau, my good lad the game known as EVEonline
      isnt hard…
      its hard to learn what to do with yourself and HOW you want to achieve your goals, and your personal in-game dreams.
      by the way yes the above mentioned is my ingame name, if you need any help at-all ingame ladies and germs please give me a holler and i’ll give you good fittings(disigns) and a bit of ISK to get you going (must be under a month old)

      much love guys n gals fly safe :)

  5. I’m not convinced this is the fix, to be honest. That is, players would just let their character skill grind for weeks/months/years(!?) until they had the skills they deemed necessary for PvP.

    Since there is no advantage to learning skills that are “equal but different”, once you have your polearm skill maxed, who is going to start training greataxe? You’ll end up with the same battlemage-tank-archer, it will just take longer.

    I like the idea of a mage being weak in melee, but it is just not gonna happen without a skill cap of some sort. (I noticed you threw that in there :P)

    I like the speculation about “auxiliary” skills that are taken for granted currently (sprint, rest, etc.) — this is where I see the EVE system working. Each skill is useful and non-redundant.

    @pitrelli
    Btw, this has already been debated ad nauseum on the DF forums.

    • syncaine says:

      If you had maxed polearm, the only reason to train greataxe would be to change your type of 2h, no other benefit. The bigger point was if you train polearm, you are not training archery, magic, or crafting. And even without a cap, if the system worked like EVE, it would take months just to max out in one area (say fire magic), so someone being a battlemage-tank-archer would only happen after YEARS of training, which at that point would be VERY rare. Plus since you can’t swing a polearm while casting a spell and shooting an arrow, it’s not a huge combat advantage, just a character with more options (Like EVE)

    • Diametrix says:

      Beleg mentioned that this topic may have been debated thouroughly on the DF forums.

      I will just point out that any topic discussed on the DF forums is, in general, not well considered. Those forums are a cesspool of immaturity and rife with as much territorial pissings as the average urban street corner is spray painted with taglines & graffiti.

      We can do better than the DF forums.

      • @Diametrix

        /agreed. It was in reference to the idea that AV might not be aware of the community sentiment to implement an EVE-like skill system.

        @Syncaine

        I hear what you are saying, but I still feel the same way — same result, different time course. Especially since players eventually get complacent — even the most hardcore grinder will eventually stop to play (or quit) the game. On the other hand, if everyone can eventually max out their skills with (little to) no effort other than clicking “Go!” and keeping their sub, then eventually everyone will have maxed skills. As it is now, only players with a seemingly endless endurance for grindpain will make it. Is this good? No — there ought to be a cap. But it is better than auto-grind with no cap.

        (By the way, for me, the end of grind was 75+ greatswords and 50+ fire. Not exactly super skills, but enough for me to feel competitive. Grind = over.)

      • syncaine says:

        Are you playing on NA-1 Beleg? If so with who?

        And I agree that once my basic skills hit a comfortable level, the ‘grind’ part will indeed be more or less over. I’m trying to see if I can get away with high archery and greatsword, while for magic only going with high lesser magic.

      • No, I’m not playing NA-1 (yet). I am in the middle of a house reno/busy time at work, but I have plans to come back to DF on 8/20.

        I’ll probably end up hooking up with some old friends from EU1. Depends on the political landscape in a week.

  6. Tom Hoffman says:

    I’m a big fan of EVE’s skill system and can’t imagine sticking with a MMO that didn’t use it. The only problem with moving it to other games is that while it makes sense in the EVE world of human/cybernetic pilots jacked into giant space ships — that is, that it takes time for your wetware to download and assimilate a high level of software for, say, piloting a battleship as if it was a part of your body — it would break the immersion of a fantasy MMO.

    • syncaine says:

      Because a blood wall is immersive in DF? “Quick, help me get tougher, cut me until I’m near death, and repeat that 24/7″.

      I mean I get your point, but if we can have lore explain why you can take 10 fireballs to the face and keep going, we can have lore explaining why you slowly get better at whatever you focus on. Just say “as time goes on, you naturally train in the direction you choose, slowly becoming a master at X”. Done, immersion saved.

    • Draglem says:

      Simple: To continue your passive training when not online you have to log your character out in a training camp or some other defined area, a’ la WOW’s rested XP. So you get the additional immersion that your character is still around (exists) when you are not, not to say you do not exist when not online…. Of course with this you could have a thriving resort players could walk around and see PC’s mindlessly grinding skills in a resort like atmosphere and were it like WOW, check out what they were wearing when they logged, maybe even additional statistics such as time offline, messages and what have you.

      You could grind the stats yourself in the same area, but no advantage to macro-ing if everyone can do it and I believe that is the whole point, nullify the macro advantage. AmIdoinitrite?

  7. evizaer says:

    A suggestion to improve on the basic premise of passive skill gain, so that it may work better in more traditional MMORPG environments (i.e. fantasy, earthbound, and relatively close in other aspects of design to WoW, LotRO):

    Passive skill gain doesn’t need to be independent of gameplay. There could be a passive system where what you do as a character effects time required to gain a skill. There could be a practical AND a theoretical requirement. The practical requirement can be met by playing the game, but in order to skill up, you need to spend the time on the theoretical requirement. The theoretical training takes a certain amount of time depending on your character’s mental abilities and cannot be sped up. This way players can feel like they’re effecting their character advancement as they play (and they have a good reason to play) while you still have the throttling advantages of an EVE-like system.

    Also, there should be training halls in the game world that you need to log-out in so that while your character is “resting”, he can train his abilities. There need to be halls for each different tier of each branch of skills that can be trained. Once you reach a new tier in a skill, you have to find a new hall that can help you advance further. This would also give players a reason to brave treacherous journeys into unknown territory to find the grandmaster-quality training hall that is hidden at the peak of the highest mountain, shrouded in mists.

    With such a training system, you can introduce skills that allow players to become teachers that can train guildmates in lower tiers–but slower than would happen if they were to spend time in a training hall.

    • syncaine says:

      To add on to this, you could require a quest or some other ‘action’ to further progress a skill. So using DarkFall, in order to start training for say polearm mastery, you not only need 100 polearm, but you also have to kill X players or mobs. Or make it interesting and base it on something more complex, like a quest with a mix of PvP reqs (kill each race) and PvE stuff (travel to a location for an item, kill a tough mob in a few dungeons scattered around the world, ect).

      But yea, something that require the play to do something in-game, without requiring “swing your polearm 100,000 times at anything”.

      • Draglem says:

        I remember SWG had a similar element where you needed so many mastery points earned from training others in skills you knew before you could reach the final elevation of Master which, among other things, earned you a Master title for all to see (and free advertising space to train others).

        Of course, this was Pre-NGE.

    • Draglem says:

      Remember that time I spoke before I read everything? Me neither.

  8. Centuri says:

    I haven’t been following development or beta news but Alganon http://www.alganon.com once boasted of a “study system” for part of their character advancement.

    “Our Study system allows for players to grow their Characters over real time, rewarding the player for being a Subscriber, not just playing the game. This allows casual players who have had their character studying for a year to have bonuses above and beyond what a power leveler can achieve by racing to max level. The system also allows players to “build out” their characters focus and enhancing key areas of playability”

    Keep in mind that any promises or features listed on a pre-launch pre-open beta game should be taken with a grain of salt.

  9. willee says:

    ughh…i hate, hate, hate (and lest i forget to mention…hate) the whole concept of passive skill gain.

    To me one of the great things about mmorpgs is that you get out of your character what you put into it. He is powerfull because he earned it in game, not because you’ve owned the game for a long time but only logged on 2 hours over the last year. (i have no idea if Eve works this way)

    For some people i know it doesn’t bother them…for me i just have an old school mentality i guess that you earn what you get in mmorpgs. This is also why i hate hate hate the whole rmt concept. Really don’t understand the allure of a character gaining skills or a sword or anything if it isn’t earned in game.

    And this is coming from someone who gets next to no play-time anymore. i’m as far from a hard core player as you can possibly get. I’d rather be weak in a mmorpg and at least admire other people’s hard-earned ultra-characters than be able to purchase those super items or passively gain skills to get there myself. Because if i can do that, those achievements become meaningless.

    The issue with Darkfall is the macroing/cheating. If they fixed that, then it’d be fine. And it is definitely fixable. People that play a lot would probably kick my ass sure, and i’d be perfectly fine with that. The passive skill gain just doesn’t make sense to me. There has to be a better way (ie, no macroing/cheating allowed and you get out of your character what you put into it).

  10. RevMrBlack says:

    Personally, I like the EVE skill system in its diversity, but my big problem is that given enough time, one can be a master at almost everything. I don’t like that there isn’t some overall cap on skill points, or restrictions to how deep you can go into certain skill areas.

    I liked the system of SWG (pre-CU/NGE) as it made people pick something they wanted to be a master at. You couldn’t be a master crafter/pistoleer/tera kasi artist. You had to choose. People then had specific roles to play in groups/guilds. And what was nicer, was that you could unlearn skills to try something different.

    In EVE you can train to do so many different things, just not at the same time. My RL friend had a character who was a master at mining/research/manufacturing and was able to fly fully T2 fit battleships. My character is near the same.

    When someone can do almost everything, the only reason they’d need others (outside of PvP), is for those times when more than 1 person is required at the same time. It also makes it harder for newer players to be needed in corps, especially if older players can do what the newbies can, AND something else.

    EVE’s RL training system is good for the not having to grind to skill up, but also bad in that you have no direct control over how fast you advance. Some way for the player to speed things up, even if it’s minor would be a lot better, IMO.

    • Cheshiremythos says:

      You cannot do everything at once. You can’t mine and protect yourself with your T2 battleship skills at the same time. You can manufacture and research at the same time and then go do something else sure, but if you don’t have concrete access to slots you might get pushed out if you spend too much time outside a station. New players are useful if you find out what they want to do.

      Reason I say this is, if you find out what they want to do then you can both help with player skill learning and cover them in areas they aren’t good at. If they want to be a miner protect them in your T2 battleship. If they want to be an indie hand a free slot and tell them about BPOs. Or sell them the minerals you mine. Research is like the only one that doesn’t really need any outside help at all (except invention). Even with PvE missions you can bring them along or when they get up to being able to do level 5s bring them along.

      The older player can do everything and they should fill in the areas a new player can’t yet. A mentor to an apprentice.

      I do agree though that the Eve system should have some sort of non-real time backing to it. I say that mainly from knowing the frustration of using Evemon and having no more learning skills that are “efficient” to train to lower the time on my skill plan. I am eager to take a peek at Mortal Online to both see their Deva system and mixed skill learning system.

  11. evizaer says:

    Immortal characters playing the roles of mortals in the game world–this is the reason we need even have this discussion. Being immortal immediately throws off a myriad of natural risk-reward balances that we are intimately familiar with from our own lives. We see these imbalances manifest in character advancement design flaws that leave us scratching our heads and looking forward to something better. We’ll keep scratching our heads and arguing between clearly weak or flawed systems as long as we keep our immortal character assumption.

    Some form of perma-death seems to be the solution to this problem. Of course, perma-death is a can of worms, but it hasn’t been tried (and made an important part of the game) in a polished MMO. A game featuring perma-death would be a niche game, certainly, but I’m surprised that such a feature hasn’t been tried in an attempt to right a lot of the wrongs in character advancement.

  12. Matt says:

    I see this discussion as indicative of a fundamental problem with MMORPGs. There is a conflict between the MMO aspect and the RPG aspect of these games. The problem is only multiplied when you add in the strange notion that one should be able to derive thousands of hours of gameplay from a single game.

  13. Furrot says:

    Matt I think you and evizaer hit the nail on the head. The fundemental problem with MMORPGs is that they generally fail to explain the role of immortal characters in the world and that MMO means unlimited play.

    EVE finds a good explanation for this since players take on the role of what is basically a cylon hybrid from Battlestar Galatica. If you have a resonable mechanic for resurection as well as insentive to constantly learn and grow from your loses it makes the MMO concept of unlimited growth possible.

    I think games that encourage players to lose have more to free ten those that want to protect the player from mistakes. One of my favorite games of all time is dwarf fortress and while it’s a brutal and unforgiving game I find I learn so much through each loss that each subsequent playthrough is even more enjoyable. The advancment in the game is somewhat of a grind in adventure mode but like EVE the knowledge and experience you gain makes a huge difference in how long you can expect to live. Some of the greatest moments I have had in the game involve losing even when I expected to fail, like when my warrior who can cleave goblins in half like butter has his throat smashed by a single punch from a bronze collusus I had no business fighting. It’s important to make the game itself keep drawing the player in, not the advancement of a single character. If you can’t risk everything then how can your reward ever matter.

  14. […] lastly, Syncaine returns to an old argument of his, that EVE Online’s mechanics would work really well in a fantasy MMO setting, this time applying it to the world of Darkfall. I agree! So why doesn’t someone TRY […]

  15. […] More like GRINDfall!1!!one No, this post is not about the skill grind in DarkFall (that was yesterday), but rather the final step in the Wisdom title quest chain. I had previously mentioned how I […]

  16. Julian says:

    *incendiary comment of the day*

    One step closer to Progress Quest.

  17. Eh. We already have passive skill gain in Darkfall, we just call it macroing. I had to sacrifice my melee skills because I choose to macro magic instead of polearms. It’s not much different from being an Eve player choosing to train one skill over another.

    People complain about people macroing in their cities 24/7 but it’s not that bad on NA-1. Without all the duped/exploited gold, people actually are out in the world fighting over spawns in order to fund their character progression. Training elemental magics is not cheap. Crafting enough arrows for sharpshooter requires a lot of iron ore to be collected.

    For the record, I’m also against a skill cap. If people were forced to pick Archery or Magic or Melee then this game would just turn into rock paper scissors. Archers would be mages, mages would be melee and melee would be archers or something like that. I like that everyone is a hybrid and has to know how to react to situations and know when to use which tools in order to succeed.

    • Also for the record I don’t use a bloodwall. I macro non-damaging spells on a afk target, but if I am using resources (weapons/regs) to train combat skills I do it on mobs so I can farm regs/gold at the same time. Two birds with one stone. The people on the blood wall are shooting themselves in the foot IMO.

      • syncaine says:

        The only major advantage of the bloodwall over PvE is rigor and other defense skill gain. Even when I fight caster mobs, my spell resist skills don’t go up nearly as fast as when I was on the wall getting hit by spells all the time.

        But more to your point, if we already have the basic EVE system, just through G15 keyboards or macro programs, why not just make it official and save some server space by removing blood walls and wall runners?

      • I can’t reply to your reply, but there is a difference between the EVE system, and macroing in darkfall. There is more effort to macroing than the EVE solution. Macroing in darkfall requires you to be in-game and just because you can do it AFK doesn’t mean it isn’t a ‘riskless’ activity. Tons of people have lost signifcant amounts of resources to raiders who came while you’re macroing. Part of the fun of darkfall is defending your city to keep your macroers safe. I didn’t play EVE but from what I can tell, you logged in, selected a path to skill up and logged out.

        Also, macroing efficiently isn’t as easy as navigating a few menus in EVE. There are better (read macroable) ways to train rigor and defense skills than sitting AFK on a blood wall. In fact I’d argue that sitting AFK on a blood wall is a sign of failure for a clan. Those people sitting AFK aren’t guaranteed to be getting hit by anyone, and plenty of the time they aren’t They’re just sitting there doing nothing.

      • syncaine says:

        Lets be honest though, ‘better’ macroing usually means better exploiting of geometry or outright cheating. So instead of just being afk on the wall 24/7, the ‘better’ macroers use more complex programs or G15 scripts to set up multiple players to alternate swinging/casting at each other, usually in a very hard to reach spot. You remove 99% of the risk if you know a way to reach a location others can’t (or can’t without significant effort), and while that’s a nice side bonus of owning a city, is that really the value we want to place on them?

        And just like in EVE, a player with high weapon skill does not automatically win a fight in DF like they do in WoW. You actually have to know how to play the character to be effective (which is one major issue with high elem magic, it removes a large part of the skill, since aiming a huge AoE is much easier than hitting someone with an arrow from a distance)

  18. There are three reasons for owning a city.

    1) City resource nodes
    2) PvP comes to you, and when it does you have some nice advantages over the attacker
    3) Safe place to macro, IF you have the character stats, player skills, teamwork, coordination and communication to back up #2.

    Also there’s no exploit involved with setting up a macro with a partner to alternate parrying and attacking. It just requires a little more thought and up front effort, and is 10x better than sitting afk on a blood wall.

    Plus unlike EVE, it actually forces you to be in game. You have to either be at keys to defend yourself, or rely on your guildmates who are at keys to defend you. Raiding an enemies city to disrupt their blood wall and macroers is a valid long term strategy.

  19. wufiavelli says:

    Thanks I total agree the passive system is the way to go. The only other option i can think of is daily cap like siege perilous, and that annoys a lot of players.

    Darkfall also though suffers from a bad level cap system (if one exist at all). Eve online is able to cap skills by the use of ships. Darkfall does not have ships so either needs a cap or find a means of cap via inventory slots.

    As much as power gamers hate it, the passive system is the best way to go.

    Another interesting option for the active system would be the use of social gathering and grind together. Kind of make it an IRC grind house where people can chat and have fun as their skill gains.

  20. […] using it more.Syncaine has started an interesting discussion on his blog about the pros and cons of passive versus active skill gain in MMOs. While the original article favours one over the other, the comments really show both sides […]

  21. […] using it more.Syncaine has started an interesting discussion on his blog about the pros and cons of passive versus active skill gain in MMOs. While the original article favours one over the other, the comments really show both sides […]

  22. floweringmind says:

    You are out of your mind. Eve has the worst character development system ever!

    Yeah I want to spend my life waiting around for a stupid skill to level over a month just so I can fly a certain type of ship. As a player there is no control except for choosing the skills to level. Passive skill level is a total worthless grindfest.

    At least with AC and Darkfall you have are in control of when and how you level your skills.

    You must work for some MMO because the only reason to choose a passive skill system is to be able to keep users coming back and charging them money. Oh that is another thing I hate about EVE, $20 a month.

  23. Dblade says:

    Syncaine, I think a potential problem might be related to your older post, about being able to create a gimp character. With an EVE style system, you’d have to make no real gimp skills to avoid newbies training in an area only to find at midgame it isn’t worthwhile for advanced play and then needing to spend real-life time retraining. On a level based system you can roll an alt, but time-based systems have to limit that, otherwise you can just make multiple characters to passively skill up until a certain level of competency.

    • syncaine says:

      You can’t really ‘gimp’ yourself in EVE though. I mean if I want to go combat, and for whatever reason I train 3 months of market skills, I’ve ‘lost’ those three months in relation to improving combat, but as soon as you realize that, you can switch to the right skills and still train them up. Plus if at some point you do want to get into marketing, you are 3 months ahead.

      A true gimp character is a 6 STR fighter in DDO, or a character from Asherons Call who put all his points into Jump. In both situations, the only way to fix the mistake is to reroll.

      • Dblade says:

        But sometimes classes or skills can be gimp due to dev nerfs or redesigns, or maybe because players discover new tactics. Or in some games, the character’s role changes-your cleric is only wanted for healing, because their holy spells scale down in terms of damage and it is impossible to know this.

        Some gimps happen either due to new players or poor devs, and I’m not sure how well a skill system can work with that if its purely timebased.

  24. eganwo says:

    I think that the major factor in all of this is time spent. The problem with eve is that it might not take a lot of time logged in to appear powerful, like an over-inflation of your level. With games like runescape (and I hate to mention it), the player’s combat level was displayed and it was only combat skills that raised it, which displayed that they at least had experience with the combat. I played WoW for five years and the most rewarding part is seeing what you’ve accomplished. I enjoyed the leveling process and was able to feel a sense of accomplishment. While I wasn’t the best in PvP, that aspect of the game I never practiced much even though I might have had the gear for it. I think that the active leveling systems just have a more tangible sense of reward and accomplishment even if they aren’t as accessible

  25. BowDeadly says:

    Keep an eye on Alganon. The scholarly studies sounds quite a bit like the EVE system.

  26. I’ll second the old SWG system. It was the best one I’ve seen out there. You had to earn xp of the type you needed, then you bought boxes. Intro box was expensive. It was cheaper each box up to master. Then you branched out to an advanced prof, and it reversed. A master swordsman spent more boxes, but got high power. A hybrid swords/pike/teras kesai had more options, more types of attacks, and more base stats. It was a lovely metagame. Plus, you had enough boxes to master two full categories, almost. I was a master swordsman, near master doctor.

    And then it was removed because it was too complicated. *sigh*

  27. PassingS says:

    This sounds slightly stupid when writing it, but why does it have to either/or? I think the suggestion must’ve been commented on over at Massivly, but I’ll just paraphrase.

    Use EVE’s system as the backbone – completely time based. Syndicate has already pointed out the benefits of the system, however I personally think the potential for allowing active progression to change CERTAIN skills training times would be helpful. For example, using DF as the backdrop, you could choose to level you polearm skill (for sake of argument if a skill has a points system from 1 – 100, I’d like to be able to set the “level” desired manually.) It might take 20 days to reach max without touching the character. However if you play the character during that time using a polearm, the skill time goes down in relation to each point they gain whilst using the skill.

    The reason I made note to mention certain skills is that some skill should not be able to be effected this way. Learning your first “rank” of Flying a ship for example. If the learning would enable a new use, it’s done only via the passive method, but if it is simply increasing the effectiveness of the skill, then it should rightfully be affected by your characters actions in game.

    If you wanted to “justify” the passive aquisition in lore for fantasy games, it wouldn’t be that hard. Passive learning is like reading a book on a subject – you gain technical knoweldge, but not praxis knowledge, so although your skill is higher, you will rightly have more trouble using the skill because you have not physically had to use it in certain circumstances. Like most of EVE, this doesn’t need to be represented in game.

    > A little aside – I personally think this is the main reason that EVE receives so much negative views. The game is very complicated, and to effectively play, you will need to reply on both out of game sources as well as in-game ones. Most typical MMO’s ala WoW, give you everything in game, and the only time you will need to use out of game basically equates to a spoiler – looking up a wiki. Whilst EVE is very hard to get into, it might be made easier with better pointing out of guides in game, rather then leaving the player stranded (again, this is assuming no corporation.) <

    As for "controlling" min-maxers, build in a slight hardcode – you cannot ever completely gain a skill via one means or the other. By this I mean that even by playing all the time and macroing, you could only ever cut the skill time by 50%, basically that you would need to have the book learning as well as the practice, or the skill can never be complete.

    All the numbers are probably far too low in this post, but you get the point. Thanks for the thought provoking post Syndicate, and thanks to all of those who have been commenting for the lively debate, hopefully this post is not just background noise.

    PassingS

  28. Guy says:

    Dude, I think you are giving EVE too much credit. I’ve only played the game for 30 days and if you gave me a powerful ship with lots of skills, I’ll demolish any veteran or pro on a 14 day trial. You don’t even need 1/3rd brain power to figure out which missiles to use and which weapons to pick for a frigate or faster ships. Just pop some drones and the right type of short/long range and employ shields and that slowing thing and bam, frigate dead. Frigate needs to shoot a crapload of stuff at you and they’d probably run out of things to shoot you with and all they would have done is tickle you.

    Seriously, your post is a bit…. What’s the word I’m looking for… too much.

    You NEED skills in EVE. Maybe not all of them but the RIGHT skills and knowing how to use them will allow you to kill those who are susceptible to you skill level.

    Again, no frigate will kill me if I had an awesome shit and lots of the right skills. You can try all you want. I’d even bet you 1000 dollars that you won’t even make me break a sweat with a frig on a 14 day trial. Don’t get me wrong, I know frigs with the right skills kick butt, but you don’t have time for that on a 14day trial.

    • --Zan-- says:

      EVE is an MMO… So yes, that frig on a trial account CAN be responsible for your ship popping (a pirate corp I used to be in actually used it’s new members for this purpose)
      A frig with a Warp Scrambler, some E-War (Electronic Warfare) modules, and some speed modules is all it takes to lock down and, effectively, castrate high skill requirement, extremely expensive, “late-game” ships… Then the frig pilot’s friends warp in and take the “powerful” ship to structure and ransom it (or just pop it :)
      So NO, character skills do NOT win EVE… Friends (and of course player knowledge) win EVE… EVE is an MMORPG …… M — Massively M — MULTIPLAYER …..
      These are the key parts of the game description… A trial account character CAN (and HAS, on many occasions) play a major (“vital” would be a better word) role in bringing down a veteran player flying an extremely powerful ship.. Happens every day in EVE..
      So before making ignorant (not insulting you, ignorance is caused by lack of knowledge, and is therefore not an insult) comments, do some research (which, in this case, would involve playing the game in question long enough to experience the TRUE game [move to null-sec (player controlled space), join a player corporation (guild) which will join a player alliance (group of corps) which will fight a war with the owners of a null-sec system, win the war, control the system yourselves, then defend it when the original owners come to take it back] and THEN you’ll be qualified to post negative comments about EVE (ever notice the people who’ve played the full game don’t post these kinds of topics?? There’s a reason :) [[NOTE: there have been veteran players bitch about EVE, but 9 times out of 10 it’s been because their alliance was crushed and they emo-rage-quit or because they were carebears which never wanted to leave high-sec, and therefore never experienced all the game has to offer]]

  29. Rob says:

    Ok i didnt read everything, and i know that this was mentioned but, the 1 thing eve does have wrong with it, is a no sp limit. A sp limit would mean that new players today would be exactly on the same playing field in the future, (maybe 2 years) as i know the whole idea of eve is an extended skill plan. but the other advantage of a SP limit is that it will highlight the stratergy involved in ur skill build. just my 2 cents worth, and no point in flaming me if u dont like it because i most likly wont be back to check.

  30. 520sunnybaby says:

    I almost agree with you about the skill system.

  31. Noble Noob says:

    Nice button push … lol

    To those who have not played Eve…. you can’t just passive learn all the skills.

    You have to buy them first which means you will be in game making isk.

    And it would take at least 11 1/2 years with max training boosts to max them out, so the hard cap is time itself.

    How many players do you know who have kept a game active for 11 years? Or even 5 years.

    It is a very small minority of chars that are over 100 mill SP. After 5 years of almost non stop play I am only at 67 mill SP. And I am in no way OP, if I want to win in pvp I still need friends.

    Secondly, I do not log into Eve to advance my char, I log in to “play the game”.

    If I want to build something in Eve it will be by making a change in the Eve universe, not by making a super char. In other words to make a name for myself I have to go play the game. The skill training allows me to focus on that, and not grind to improve my char so that I can then do something spectacular.

    If I want to play I log in, if I don’t at least I get some benefit while logged out. So pretty much the people who log into Eve are there to play.

    I am not sure that the passive system would work in a fantasy game but several of the combined concepts mentioned look like a great idea.

    I will not say that Eve’s skill system is the only answer, but for long term playing it is the best I have found.

    Unfortunately, I have yet to find a game developer who is willing to change a successful game in such a basic way for the chance that it would be better. Economics win!

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