Tuesday, August 05, 2008

EVE Online: The Problem of Renewal

About a week ago Syncaine made a blog post countering the often heard complaint that Newbies can never catch up with older players in EVE: "Stop Bitching about Skill Points Newbtards"

I might lack Syncaine's colourful turn of phrase but I can empathise with a lot of what he says. EVE's skill based system is more generous to new players than level level based regimes such as used in World of Warcraft. I myself have just spent a very enjoyable week playing a brand new out of the box 800k skill point character. I didn't invest any time in training because no training was required for what I wanted to do.

BUT ...

Syncaine's post got me thinking and on reflection I think that there really is a problem here. EVE is a game that has proven itself to have longevity. It has held on to older players and it is still attracting new players 5 years after launch. Couple that to the single server model and you have a problem of top heaviness in the game.

If the game is continue to prosper and grow I believe it needs to have renewal. It needs fresh faced young players joining today who aspire to becoming the biggest and baddest X, Y, Z or W in the game. At the moment those would be tycoons and tyrants face a glass ceiling. The ever deepening skill point debt is one component of that glass ceiling. The ever accumulating wealth of long established players is another perhaps eve more significant component.

In the real world renewal is achieved through the death or retirement of those at the top. EVE characters don't die and they don't retire. Players do get bored and move on but there are still plenty of old timers around to put a glass ceiling on top of the ambitions of any fresh faced young noob.

Enforced player retirement or death is not a palatable option but I really do think that this issue needs to be addressed if EVE hopes to keep growing for another five years. I think that an ambitious new player joining the game should have a shot at reaching the very top within a finite period of time no matter how late they are coming to the game.

How to achieve this? Well the skill point system could probably be easily tweaked. Perhaps offer accelerated learning for newer players. Perhaps throttle any developments at the high end of the skill point queue. Perhaps introduce new technology innovations (tech 3 ?) which act as alternatives to existing equipment and skills. Just don't make existing skills a pre-requisite to use the new stuff as was done for tech 2.

I don't really know what can be done about the wealth gap. Inflation / Wealth Tax / Item Depreciation? None of these options would be popular.

Aside: I haven't mentioned the fact that it is possible, even today for a new player to "buy" a ready made character and even buy "ISK" on the rmt market. That is not an acceptable solution to the renewal problem. I think it needs to be possible for new player to develop their own characters up to the every highest levels through playing the game.


Anonymous said...

The problem here is you are viewing EVE in the same light as WoW or other more traditional MMOs.

Even if new players can never catch the oldest players, they can JOIN those players in a Corp and benefit. You really can't do much in 0.0 solo, so it's all about what Corp/Alliance you are in, and that has little to do with SP total.

In terms of high sec, getting to a near 'perfect' miner is rather quick, and being able to run lvl 4 missions does not take too long. Production is doable, depending on what you want to do.

So yes, catching up is tough, but not as important as more solo-focused games.

mbp said...

Syncaine EVE is different than WOW. I think EVE has a much better shot of still being around in 10 years time than WOW does but I really think EVE needs to address the problem of renewal if it is to do so. I'm a not an ambitious player myself and I couldn't care less about catching up with anyone but I know that institutions that that don't renew themselves stagnate. Renewal mean that new must supplant old. There has to be ways for younger fresher players to dislodge the old guard.