Written by Lucas Spellmeyer
As the impact of the latest major conflict in New Eden ripples out into the wider gaming community many new players will inevitably be inspired to get involved in the great space opera that is EVE Online. The last time interstellar war reached these awesome heights was the Bloodbath of B-R5RB in early 2014. I remember it clearly; it was at that very moment that I finally made up my indecisive mind and took the plunge into an MMO I had kept on my periphery for some time. While of course I was overwhelmed by the notorious learning curve and lost in the somewhat directionless void, it was something else, something far more damaging that ended my brief career. A misconception that had at that time already existed for many years and still exists today, the idea that due to how skill points are gained in EVE Online you will never catch up to the hardy release day veterans and hence never be able to truly compete. The feeling that you have missed the ship and there is no way to make up the ground, the galaxy will forever be ruled by the elite few with the dedication and perception to ride the wave to its heights two decades later. I realise now how wrong I was, but more importantly just how truly damaging this misconception is to EVE Online’s continued player growth and retention.
Of course, there are things like cerebral implants to increase your core attributes and in turn allow your new pilot to learn vital skills more quickly, but the veterans have those too. In fact, not only do they have them, but they have the best set of implants which themselves take a full 2 weeks of training to even use, not to mention their prohibitive cost to a new player.
It is understandable many new players come to this conclusion when looking at the mechanics of the game. This problematic misconception has been talked about many times before in forums and on social media but I hope I can do my part to help resolve any confusion surrounding it. The skill point system is the closest thing EVE Online has to a typical MMO “level”. Upon finishing the tutorial, you are told to place skills in your skill queue and these will progress at a steady rate even while you are not online.
A default Omega (subscription) character gains roughly 30 skill points per minute (1800 per hour) while an Alpha (free to play) character gains half that amount. All skills can be leveled from 1-5 and the higher the skill you train, the longer it takes.
Example: A simple skill like Navigation (influencing the velocity of your ship) requires 250 skill points to level from 0 to 1 but 210,745 skill points from level 4 to 5.
All skills in EVE also have a training time multiplier which determines the length of time it takes for training to be completed.
Example: Skills with a training time multiplier of x1 like Navigation take roughly 4 (actual real world) days to complete while x3 skill takes 12 days and so on. These skills are fundamental to your participation and enjoyment of the game, they allow you to fly better ships, fly them faster, tank more damage and much more. Hence it does not take one long to come to the misguided conclusion that if you must train these skills at the same pace as everybody else, including the veterans of the early 2000s and you are just now starting your career then how could you ever reach their level?
To the unfamiliar and uneducated this misconception makes perfect sense; it made enough sense to me that when combined with my utter confusion and frustration with the game itself I gave up entirely after a mere number of days. When I finally returned years later, I had preemptively decided that I did not care about the gap between the veterans and myself, I was determined to make my way in the universe regardless of the underdog status I mistakenly painted on my back.
This is not an uncommon story when speaking with people who have tried to get into EVE several times and failed to pass the first hurdle. Having finally done so myself I want to provide the insight I have gained from sticking it out regardless of overwhelming doubt.
In short, I have referred to this idea as a misconception because that is exactly what it is, it is wholly incorrect and I want to make it clear why. That veteran player may have 50x the amount of skill points you have after a month of playing but when put on a level playing field, you are equal. To understand this one must first understand how EVE’s mechanics work. Different ships provide the standard roles of the MMO genre such as DPS and healer, among others more unique to EVE (tackler, covert-ops scout etc.). Your character is not confined to one class, you are free to use your skill queue to train into whatever ship (and therefore role) you so desire over time. Each of these roles have skills associated with them which each in turn have a level cap of 5, there are no skills that go beyond this hard cap.
Let’s take the logistics cruiser for an example. This is your classic MMO healer with a Sci-Fi spin, you provide shields and armor to other player’s ships as they take damage in an effort to keep them from exploding. As a new player if you decide this is the role you wish to fill, you can dedicate your training to this and over the course of a few months you can maximize your effectiveness with this particular class of vessel. Starting out you could even choose to fly a logistics frigate to cut your teeth before moving onto larger vessels. The general piloting skills and experience gained by flying your preferred role are even more important than the raw statistical boosts to your chosen ship. This means the first time your capsule merges with a massive Force Auxiliary capital logistics ship you will have already gained the critical experience and knowledge necessary to fly it effectively.
By training the required skills that provide bonuses to the desired ship all the way to level five you have now hit the level cap and are as effective as possible. More importantly, you are as effective as any veteran flying the same ship. It should be mentioned that there is a plethora of support skills that affect many if not all ships, but the bottom line is that when you know what you want to do and put your cybernetically enhanced mind to it, you can be just as effective in fleets or solo as the veteran player.
The only difference between you and veterans now is variety. They may be able to fly a Titan or a Dreadnought class ship but when they hop down into their logistics cruiser, you are equal. They pay the same price, they have the same statistical bonuses and they activate their modules just like the underdog. Give it time (maybe a lot of time) and you too will have access to the wide array of ships which fill common and niche roles from the advanced electronic warfare class frigates to the recently revised supercarrier class vessels. If you are interested in more detailed information on how to optimise the path to your chosen role check out EVE University’s fantastic newly released Pyramid Skill Plan (WIP).
I believe that if you are going to present a problem, you should also do your best to present a solution. I am not a game developer and can only speak from my personal experience as to what might have helped me come to these realisations earlier and helped to ease my early days in New Eden. Over the years CCP have created many fantastic tutorial style videos, this one in particular does a fantastic job of explaining exactly how a new pilot can be just as effective as a veteran. In my opinion it would be extremely beneficial for new players to have these videos and others like it such as the Flight Academy series accessible via an in-game system (ideally The Agency window) rather than having to be found independently outside of the game.
Coming to better understand this misconception has allowed me to foster a healthier outlook and attitude towards my goals and progress. I now know with confidence that in time my skill points will steadily accumulate and I am able to focus instead on what I can directly control such as my personal development and piloting skills. In time the versatility of your skill point allocation into a broad range of different ships and roles will increase and in turn mold you into an ever more valuable asset for your own or your alliance’s endeavours.
Understanding that strength does not come from owning the biggest nor most expensive ship but from knowledge and the ability to identify which ship is best for the job at hand, that is the true path to success and prosperity in New Eden. With this knowledge you can specialise and expand your skillset as you take on the elite at their own game. Gaining that knowledge on your own can be a long and draining journey, but with the right people and organisation the journey itself is fun and rewarding. Within EVE University you will find a community both willing and dedicated to learning and teaching as well as a plethora of resources and an organisational structure filled with staff devoted to make your journey as enjoyable and meaningful as possible. There are endless paths you can take and we are here to help you on your journey. I hope I have been able to provide you the information you require to start your career in EVE Online with the confidence and the understanding that just because you are a new pilot that does not inherently make you the underdog. We at EVE University will help you get the proper start you need to understand the sandbox of New Eden in all its complexity and to close the dreaded skill gap in the most efficient way possible.
I had similar sort of worries about this, not taking the plunge into EVE for a long time. All long-running MMOs have this problem but EVE deals with it the best, I think. You explained very well why ‘catching up’ is uniquely non-critical in EVE, I would also add that EVE’s method for helping newbies close the gap anyway is also superior to others’.
Skill injectors let you convert your money-making time in-game into more SP bought from veterans via the market. Meaning newbies can actually catch up to veterans (with a lot of hard work) without devaluing the veterans’ time. This stands in contrast to the solutions of other long-running games like RS3 (XP inflation) or WoW (full level-cap skips) etc.
The irl money route (PLEX > ISK > SP) is always controversial but this again is much better than others (WoW, FF XIV buyable level-skips; RS3 XP lootboxes) and in EVE having more character levels is not an ‘I-win’ button anyway!