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.