Friday, July 6, 2007

Skill Training in EVE Online +

As I've said elsewhere, I happen to like the EVE Online system of skill training precisely because it utterly and completely eliminates the value of mindless grinding for XP as a means of character improvement. I object to grinding XP from an immersiveness POV -- it degrades my gameplay when I'm surrounded by bots (whether controlled by scripts or operated by actual human beings doing the same trivial thing over and over again). So EVE's approach came as a breath of fresh air to me.

Unfortunately, EVE's offline skill training mechanism has a price of its own. The problem is that separating skill increases from what a character actually does in the game winds up hurting roleplaying for those who like that kind of thing. Unlike how skills are improved in TES: Oblivion, for example, what a character does in EVE has no direct effect on that character's ability level. You-the-player may get better at something you do with your character, but your character's in-game actions don't directly improve his/her skills.

(There is an indirect effect in that doing stuff for ISK, such as mining or killing rats, allows you to purchase skills to train. But ISK gained by doing a particular action can be spent on any skill -- there's no direct linkage of a skill to the action performed.)

So I'm also thinking a compromise needs to be found. What characters do should determine their skill levels, but not to the point of encouraging players to write macros to automate XP collection.


Originally Posted by Or'ab Ibo:
What if when you grind it would slowly increase the rate at which you learned the skill your currently training. thus allowing grinding to let you skill up faster or decrease the time it takes. once you stop though it slowly goes back down. But it'll still train at its normal rate while you're offline!
I like this idea... with a twist.

Keep the offline training, and keep the idea that being online speeds up the rate at which skills are learned (or the rate at which XP is collected if you're doing Yet Another "character level" game instead of a skill-based game). But instead of the curve sloping upward -- that is, giving faster XP accumulation the more you grind -- invert it so that the curve slopes downward. The more you do the same thing, the less of an XP bonus you get for doing it online.

This way, what the character does will improve a skill, so that unlike EVE there's a gameplay connection between character actions and character abilities. But by decreasing an action's XP reward until the online accumulation rate approaches the offline rate, you make mindless grinding for hours less valuable. People may still grind for other reasons (e.g., loot collection, faction farming); but at least there'd be less encouragement to behave like an automaton.

Another benefit of this approach would be to allow players to train in multiple skills simultaneously, which EVE doesn't permit. Once your online XP earning rate for Skill X has fallen to near the offline rate because you've been performing Action X for a while, you can take a break and do Action Y for a bit to increase the rate at which you improve in Skill Y.

Finally, rather than resetting the timer for increased XP learning rate to a player's logging out of the game, I'd suggest a strict real-time clock. Some amount of time should pass before you can maximize your in-game XP accumulation rate for a particular skill again. And I'd set it at something significant like 10 hours -- any less and this approach won't be as effective; players will just sit around inside the game (sucking up your bandwidth) until the clock resets and they can start farming enhanced XP again.