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EVE Evolved: EVE's skill system demystified, part 1


Most MMOs, among them the popular favorites World of Warcraft and Everquest, employ a level-based character progression system where your player accumulates levels during play. Killing enemies and completing quests reward the player with experience points toward their next level. As the player's level increases, they gain access to better skills and equipment. Alternative systems of accumulating points in various skills have been used successfully in games like Ultima Online and Runescape. These systems still share the familiar idea of your character progressing in their abilities by practicing.

The result is that players who put in more effort reap more reward as their time and effort spent playing their character directly translates into increased power. These tried and tested systems are what players have come to expect from MMOs today. CCP's EVE Online uses a different training system that doesn't reward players with increased abilities for playing the game. Given the MMO genre's tendency toward level-based character progression, it's not surprising that EVE's unique skill system seems foreign and inaccessible to a lot of MMO gamers. In part 1 of this article, I demystify the seemingly complex EVE skill system.

Read on for a condensed breakdown of the system for the typical MMO gamer.

Real-time skill training:
Whether you love it or hate it, real-time skill-training is one of the major defining factors of EVE. Contrary to what most players expect from an MMO, EVE Online doesn't allow characters to progress in their abilities by practicing. Mining doesn't improve a player's ability to mine and killing enemies doesn't reward with any kind of experience points or levels.

Instead, you choose which skill to train and your character trains it in real-time until it's complete, even while you're offline. Depending on which skill it is, training can take anywhere from 10 minutes to several weeks no matter how much effort is expended in playing. The stark differences between EVE's complex skill system and the expected norm can make it seem daunting for a lot of new and potential players and could put some players off signing up.

The basics:
Skills in EVE are divided into a number of categories depending on what they're used for. The "Spaceship Command" section, for example, contains all of the skills required to the fly various spaceships in EVE, from tiny frigates to massive capital ships. Opening your character sheet will present you with your list of skills. From this list, you can select a skill to train and skill points will be slowly added to it until it completes training. Each skill in EVE is split into five levels that are trained in order from 1 to 5, with each level requiring significantly more skill points to complete than the last. Information on how to find out how many skill points a skill requires can be found in the official EVE knowledge base

Skills are used as requirements to use various items and equipment, to give bonuses to that equipment and as requirements for further advanced skills. For example, a small "150mm railgun" weapon for your ship requires the skills "Small hybrid turret" and "Gunnery" both to have been trained to at least level 1. Each level of the skill "Gunnery" gives the weapon an additional 2% increase to its rate of fire and each level of "Small Hybrid Turret" gives 5% additional damage.

Improved forms of equipment such as tech level 2 ships and equipment tend to have higher skill requirements, usually level 4 or 5 of a particular skill. For example, the tech level 2 version of the 150mm railgun requires the skill "Small hybrid specialisation" at level 1, which in turn requires "Small hybrid turret" skill at level 5 to train. This is a way of letting players learn to use basic equipment very quickly but also allow them to further specialise by spending a lot of time training to use specialized equipment.

Advancing skills:
At character creation, a new player chooses what type of character he wants, from an industrial whizz or combat pilot to scientist or trader. The pilot is gifted skills to suit his new profession. For example, a new industrial character comes with skills that help with mining ore, refining that ore and building equipment and ships with the resulting minerals. A combat pilot, on the other hand, will come with skills required to make good use of offensive equipment like guns and missiles. All new characters come with some common skills that everyone uses such as those required to fly the smallest class of ship, a frigate.

Dr Caymus hold the record for number of skillpoints at over 100 millionFrom this point onward, the direction that your skill training will take is entirely up to you. You can train your existing skills to a higher level and obtain new skills to train from the market. In the same way that some other MMOs have you learn skills from a trainer, new skills in EVE come from NPC-owned school stations. They come in the form of "skill books" or "skill packs" sold on the market that you can purchase and upload directly to your brain. The process of learning the skill consumes the skill pack and puts the skill into your character sheet.

The new skill will begin training immediately from level 0 to level 1. The skill will remain in your character sheet but won't be usable until trained to level 1. When purchasing new skills, make sure to check the information on them in-game to see if you have all of the required pre-requisite skills. For example, you can't learn Eidetic Memory at all unless you have Instant Recall trained to level 4.

Unlike most MMOs, your attributes in EVE don't affect gameplay directly. A player with a high perception attribute is no more likely to hit an enemy with their weapons than one with low perception. Instead, attributes affect only the rate at which skill points accumulate in a skill. This rate depends both on your character's attributes and what attributes that particular skill uses. For example, characters with a high perception attribute and low intelligence will gain skill points faster in Gunnery and Spaceship Command category skills than they will in Industry. Attributes are chosen on character creation and vary from race to race. They are a way for players to specialise their character by making them train skills in particular fields faster.

Each skill category such as "Drones" or "Science" has a primary and secondary attribute that determine which of your attributes it uses when training. The higher these attributes, the faster your character will accumulate skill points in a particular skill. Knowing the primary and secondary attributes for each skill category is handy but not really required. Instead, new players only need to know a few general rules on what type of attributes they should be looking for:Caldari Achura characters are said to have the best mix of attributes

  • Players wanting to play primarily industrial characters like miners and ship-builders will want high Memory and Intelligence attributes.

  • Players who think that science and research might be fun should aim for high Intelligence and Memory. Science skills often make a good addition to an industrialist's skill set, so it's fortunate that both use the same attributes.

  • Players who want to specialise in combat should choose high Perception and Willpower as these are used by skills required to fly ships and use weapons.

  • Every player should aim to make sure that their Perception and Intelligence attributes are not very low. All players tend to train a lot of ship skills which use Perception and Intelligence is the primary attribute used to train skills in the universally useful Electronics, Navigation, Engineering and Mechanic categories.

The race and attributes chosen at character creation have been likened to classes in other MMOs but the analogy isn't perfect. For example, while a Caldari Achura character starts with high Intelligence and trains industrial skills very quickly, they aren't prevented from cross-training in other fields that would train more slowly. Any pilot can train any type of skill but choosing appropriate attributes for your intended professions can make a significant difference over the course of your character's life. A few minutes of thought over your attributes now could save you months of skill training time in the long run.

In part 2 of this article, I will discuss how even a new player can decrease their skill training time make the most of EVE's skill system. I will also counter all of the common myths you've probably heard about the EVE skill system. If you've ever thought that new players can't compete with older ones or that older players will always be better than younger ones, be sure to read part 2 of this guide where I blow those myths out of the water.

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