Myths debunked #1 - New players can't compete with old ones:
A common thought among new new EVE players and people thinking of signing up is that new players can't compete with old ones. In a world where open PvP reigns supreme, it does sound reasonable to assume that a new player in his lowly frigate has no chance of competing against a three year old veteran player in his tech 2 fitted battleship. This common mistake is usually caused by people misunderstanding how EVE's PvP works. In other MMOs, a lot of emphasis is put on the individual player's gear and abilities. You wouldn't invite a level 20 character along on your level 70 raid in World of Warcraft because they'd be useless. This doesn't really translate into EVE at all.
Read on to see this myth get busted along with another common misunderstanding people have with EVE's skill system.
EVE PvP is as much a team game of tactics and strategy as anything else and simple fights with one pilot fighting another are extremely rare. In any group PvP excursion, one of the most critical roles is the tackler, the guy that intercepts the enemy and stops them from escaping. Without tacklers keeping the enemy ships from fleeing, a fleet is very unlikely to make any significant kills as their targets will always escape. This role is perfectly suited to new players as it requires only a frigate and about a week's training to use the required equipment. A few weeks of further training can see a pilot flying his first cruiser and filling other roles such as an electronic warfare specialist or damage-dealer. With no limit to gang sizes, another pilot in a gang is always handy regardless of how new he is.
Myths debunked #2 - Older players will always be better:
The common thought with MMOs is that bigger is better. In World of Warcraft or Everquest 2, a level 50 character is inherently better than a level 20 character. He has higher stats, has access to better abilities and equipment and will pretty much always win if the two fight. A lot of players make the mistake of applying this idea to EVE Online and assuming that a character like myself with over fifty million skill points will always be just plain better than their character no matter what. If everyone's skills are always increasing and a new player can't catch up to an older one, the older one will always have more skill points.
The point that this argument falls down on is that it assumes that more skill points translates directly into increased power. The EVE skill system features a system of diminishing returns where it takes almost five times longer to train a skill from level 4 to 5 than it did to train it from level 0 to 4. Since each skill level gives the same bonus, a new player can gain 80% of the benefit of a skill by training it to level 4. In this way, a new player can gain most of the ability that an older player has in a particular skill using only a fifth of the skill points that the older player has used.
In addition, the EVE skill system is quite wide but shallow - it has a large number of skills but you can only specialise so far in a particular field. While I may have 50 million skill points, I use under 10 million of those while flying a Megathron battleship because the rest are in fields that don't apply to the ship or its equipment. This means that a new player specialising in flying Megathrons could match my ability with much less training time. Even if I have all the relevant skills for flying a Megathron trained to level 4 or 5, a new player could literally catch up to me within six months.
Learning to learn:
Now that you know it's possible to catch up to and compete with older players, you'll want to know how to get the most out of your training time. The key is to specialise and there are many tools available to help you plan your character's training. You'll also want to decrease the time it takes to train skills and the only way to do that is to increase your character's attributes. Although your attributes are set at character creation, there are a number of ways to increase them in-game. A permanent way to increase your attributes is through the Learning category of skills.
As they will decrease future skill training times significantly, it's best to train the learning skills quite early in your EVE life. Many players will tell you to train your learning skills fully before training any other skills but my suggestion is to only train your learning skills while you have no more important short skills to train. While training your learning skills fully at the start of your EVE life will produce optimum results in the long-run, keep in mind that EVE is a game and it's not worth sacrificing your fun for a few extra skill points
The basic learning skill is just called "Learning" and provides a straight 2% increase to all of your attributes per level. Getting this to level 5 eventually for a 10% attribute increase is a good goal. There are also five basic attribute skills that each increase a particular attribute by a full point per level and five advanced attribute skills that increase it by a further point per level. Information on these skills can be found in the EVE wiki. Your aim should be to eventually get all of the basic skills to level 5 and the advanced versions to level 4. Training the advanced versions to level 5 would take an unreasonable length of time.
A less permanent way to increase your attributes is to use attribute-enhancing implants. These are computer chips that you can buy from the market and install into your brain and although they don't degrade or need replacing, they aren't considered permanent as you lose them if you die. If your ship is destroyed, you'll be ejected in your escape pod and if that is destroyed, your new clone will be activated. Your new clone has no implants and the ones that were previously in your brain are lost. These implants require the skill Cybernetics and the more advanced the implant, the higher level of this skill it requires.
There are implants to enhance each of the five attributes by as little as 1 point and as much as 5. The higher grade the implant is, the higher the bonus it gives and the more expensive it will be. A new player won't be able to afford the roughly four hundred million it would cost to buy a full set of +5 implants but will have no problem affording a set of +1 implants at less than a million isk for the full set. With the price of implants dropping significantly in the past year, no pilot really has an excuse for not having at least a set of +1 implants in his head.
If you've ever been put off on signing up to EVE Online because of the skill system, now is a great time to sign up a 14-day free trial and get stuck right in. If you thought you'd never catch up to the older players or that the skill system in EVE was far too complex to understand, I hope this article has been enlightening. For further reading on the EVE Skill system, head over to the EVE Wiki or check out the official EVE Online skills forum.