EVE: Learning skills in a F2P world

A few years ago CCP removed the Learning skills from EVE Online. To quickly recap, the Learning skills took about three months to train, and their only benefit was a boost to training other skills faster.

They were, overall, a design mistake, in large part because players are famous for min/maxing, even to the extent of taking the fun OUT of a game that is intended to be played for fun. In theory the Learning skills would be something you training when you don’t have more pressing skills to finish. In reality, the common advice was to sit your pilot in a station for the first 3 months and just train those first before you started playing. If you are a new player asking for advice, being told to do nothing for 3 months isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for the game.

Again, they were a design mistake, and CCP was right to take them out while refunding the skill points.

Would CCP have done that if EVE was a F2P MMO?

One of the criticisms of the sub model is that developers will put things such as raid lockout timers to keep you subbed for longer. Now, I find that criticisms a bit silly, because what ultimately makes someone unsub is the simple question of whether you are having fun or not with the game, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who enjoyed a game overall but then unsubbed because of some lockout timer. (Timers help pace the players to content, yes, but IMO that’s more to help players not burn themselves out.)

As EVE is a sub MMO, isn’t CCP hurting themselves here by removing a nice 3 month sub buffer? The short-term view would say yes. The long-term says no. The game is a better game without Learning skills, and as CCP is in the business of running a successful game for years, not weeks/months, long-term making EVE the best possible game is what’s best for business. When you have a solid product, you don’t need cheap tricks to leach another month or a few bucks off someone before they catch on to the garbage you are peddling.

But of course the big elephant in the room here is that under F2P, ‘lockout timers’ are not only in place, but are a prominent feature in the business model; be it locked chests that require a cash shop key, slower XP gains designed to push you towards an XP booster from the shop, long pointless travel unless you buy a portal license; the list goes on. In most F2P MMOs, the “learning skills’ would be an item you purchase in the shop, and just like in EVE, that purchase would do nothing for your actual enjoyment of the game; you would simply feel like it was something you needed to do. We players can be dumb like that, and more than a few suits (and basically everyone at EA) are not above exploiting it.

So again, if EVE was a F2P MMO, would CCP have removed the Learning skills (an example of bad design), or would they have instead introduced that new item to their cash shop to allow you the pleasure of paying to remove the design mistake, and allowed freeloaders to suffer that 3-month “do nothing” phase?

If EVE was run by SOE, Turbine, or EA, I think we all know the answer to that question.

13 Responses to EVE: Learning skills in a F2P world

  1. Jenks says:

    And once everyone had paid for learning V, they’d introduce a learning VI.

    Dat f2p ‘content.’

    • SynCaine says:

      Excellent point, especially because the non-CCP here would add VI without considering the impact it would have on training speed balance; because lulz new item selling = good is all that matters until your game shuts down and you blame it on the weak economy.

    • Anti-Stupidity League says:

      Yes, because every f2p game so far has had learning skills as they’re a great game mechanic and a good way to make some money.

      Here’s how it goes:

      1. Introduce an idiotic idea such as learning skills to your game.
      2. Remove the idiotic idea over 5 years after the launch, because it’s still an idiotic idea.
      3. Because your game is a subscription-based game and not a f2p game because f2p games don’t have learning skills, all your worshippers praise you on how wise you are because you got rid of the idiotic idea that you had in your game in the first place.

      That subscription-game “content”.

      • Rammstein says:

        I have an idea for an experiment/contest/social service. Put ASL and Dinsdale Pirahna in a room together, ASL will endlessly spout off straw men fallacies about subbie worshippers, and DP will spew forth infinite conspiracy theories about nullsec cartels. The winner is the one who dies of boredom first, the loser survives to troll on. (unless it turns out they’re actually the same person, in which case the winners are obvious).

        • Anti-Stupidity League says:

          Oh, I thought you guys wanted to discuss about the merits of the original topic, but it seems that I have just accidentally disturbed your self-congratulatory circlejerk. Sorry about that, please forget my valid criticism and do go on.

        • Raelyf says:

          As I posted below, this is actually how it went:

          1. Introduce a mechanic that works well for a young MMO on day one.
          2. Many years after launch, see that this mechanic no longer adds to gameplay and instead acts as a barrier to it. Real virtual worlds actually change; this should not be unexpected.
          3. Remove barrier.
          4. Continue to be enormously successful as an MMO despite being made by an independent developer on a shoe string budget.
          5. Maintain one of the largest player bases in the genre; continue an unprecedented show of growth after 11 years.
          6. Add more content to keep the players having fun and engaged.

          This is opposed to the f2p version below:

          1. Introduce a mechanic that acts as a barrier to gameplay on day one.
          2. Charge players to remove it.
          3. Add another barrier.
          4. Charge players to remove them.
          5. Sell sparkling ponies and novelty hats.
          6. If you’re still growing, jump to step 3.
          7. Sell everything players will possibly buy, regardless of the impact on the game long term.
          6. Shut down. Launch a clone. Repeat.

  2. Azuriel says:

    This strikes me as a somewhat silly post, given how I could buy a 100m skill point pilot tomorrow for real money.

    I’m not a fan of the “nuisance payment model” either, as Green Armadillo phrased it, but when a company offers the in-game ability to pay money to bypass the “pacing,” well… glass houses and all. The difference between players offering the items versus an item shop is largely semantic, IMO.

    • SynCaine says:

      What you view as semantic I view as black and white.

    • sid6.7 says:

      Bypassing ‘the pacing’ as you call it is the worst form of F2P. The “pace” is set by the developer and it’s in their best interest to incentivize players to bypass that pacing. Do you really want to be the lab rat in an F2P experiment to maximize profits?

      In other models, the pacing serves the purpose of taking the player on the journey through the content. It’s a form of gate and one that you can only pay with time played.

      While developers can and do experiment with your willingness to pay with “time” — the motivation is for the sake of enjoyment of the game and not profit.

      That’s not semantics.

    • Rammstein says:

      “The difference between players offering the items versus an item shop is largely semantic, IMO.”

      Hey look, it’s the 10 millionth time this point has been raised. I’ll offer the exact same rebuttal that was given the other 10 million times: Letting players offer the items legally undercuts the inevitable RMT that occurs against the rules. From the players point of view, the cost of legal RMT is more than illegal, but without the risk. From the developers point of view, this legal RMT redirects the profit that would go to the illegal RMT operations, back to them. This has very little to do with the scenario where the developers intentionally change the game to make it less fun, then let you skip the less fun part by paying RL money. I.e., you’re wrong, it’s not semantic, it’s completely different.

      What you should have mentioned instead was how many of the alt accounts in EVE are created as a way of using real money to train faster, as that more directly correlates to the situation in F2P. Then I would point out that most people, once they create those alt accounts, do play them simultaneously with their main accounts by running multiple clients; and now we’re back to another discussion that’s already happened 10 million times.

  3. Raelyf says:

    I don’t think learning skills were a bad design choice. At their inception, they really did serve to force players to make tough choices between short term and long term gains. When EVE was young this really was an interesting choice.

    The problem is that EVE is no longer young. EVE’s gameplay has changed drastically with the maturity of the EVE universe, and I think people often overlook what that does/can do to design.

    Frankly, I think EVE’s whole skill system has largely outlived it’s usefulness and needs a rework. It now stands as an enormous barrier to entry (both in practice and, most prominently, in the minds of new and potential new players) rather than the set of interesting choices it used to be.

    Really, it’s only use now is that it’s really the only thing keeping players from being able to roll up a dozen useful alts for a month and toss them. Still, even this is changing as 20 million skillpoint ‘perfect for a purpose’ alts are literally everywhere, and can be bought quite cheaply.

  4. Ephie says:

    Counterpoint: Destroyer/Battlecruiser split in Odyssey, Anyone who didn’t get the Vs grandfathered in is now looking at 3-4 additional months of training (and subscription).

    • SynCaine says:

      But now each of those skills opens up new ships, which matches the skill training for frigs/cruisers/BS.

      More training time for newer players is a side-effect of standardizing the system, rather then the motive behind it. Under F2P, those reasons would be reversed, if the standardizing would be a factor at all.

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