Early yesterday morning, a new devblog by EVE Online developer CCP Greyscale brought us an exciting first look at something awesome arriving in the upcoming Incursion expansion's December release. Speaking on behalf of development team Yggdrasill at CCP's top secret Iceland hideout, Greyscale explained CCP's plans to completely abolish learning skills in EVE. Learning skills increase a player's attributes, which decrease the time it takes to train skills. Since they take some time to train, however, dedicating time to them will only pay off after several months of subsequent skill training. As a result, new players are often advised to put off training for that ship they want or those useful industrial skills, as focusing on learning skills early on will pay off in the long run. This can stunt a player's progression in his early days, making for a very boring early play experience that can be distinctly off-putting.
As part of the company's Christmas gift to all EVE players, the skillpoints we have invested in learning skills will be reimbursed so that we can add them to any skill we want. To compensate for the decrease in attributes and give new players a bit of a boost, all players will have 12 points added to every attribute. This is exciting news, as the removal of learning skills has always been strongly supported by the EVE community. We caught up with CCP Greyscale to ask a few important questions about what this change means for players.
Skip past the cut for our interview with CCP Greyscale on the EVE Christmas gift and what the learning skill changes mean for players new and old.
Massively: New players are often advised to focus on learning skills first, as they will pay off months down the line. On the other hand, it may ruin a player's early game experience and cause him to quit before that point. Is this move expected to make EVE more accessible to new players?
CCP Grayscale: It's certainly expected to make EVE a little less daunting and a little more enjoyable for new players. It's a pretty small part of the puzzle in terms of our ongoing efforts to make the early game more comprehensible and intuitive, but it's been regarded internally as a particularly egregious stumbling block for quite some time, and we're glad to be finally dealing with it in a sensible manner.
The increased base attributes will let new players train faster than they currently can with the 100% training bonus. Do you think this will help players get into competitive positions in PvP earlier?
It should allow players to get into competitive positions in all kinds of playstyles sooner – and yes, it should be a definite boost to anyone wanting to dabble in PvP sooner rather than later in their EVE experience. It's not going to teach them how to fight effectively, of course – that's a skill they still need to learn through experience – but it'll definitely allow new players to reach an effective baseline skill set more quickly.
With the new attribute increase and no need to train learning skills, does CCP foresee more players getting the skills to fly a ship before being able to afford it? How might this affect the early game of new players?
Of course it very much depends on the individual choices each player makes, but I wouldn't be surprised to find that, for many players, the extra 10-20 million ISK saved by not splashing out on advanced learning skills causes this situation to balance itself out quite nicely.
Implants used to be multiplied by the Learning skill. As such, the removal of that skill decreases the effectiveness of implants slightly at speeding up skill training. Does CCP see this as a problem? Will it help close the gap a little between richer players who can afford expensive implants and poorer ones who can't?
I think the practical significance of this particular change is fairly low. It might have a marginal downward effect on the prices of implants, but that's the beauty of a player-run market – it should pretty much balance itself. And yes, if you look at the math, it is going to slightly reduce the training speed advantage you can buy if you have a lot of ISK, but again in practical terms we're not expecting it to have a significant effect.
Players have been asking for the removal of learning skills for a long time. How much of a hand did the CSM have in convincing CCP that this was the right move, and why has CCP decided to do it now?
The CSM's lobbying for this change has certainly added weight to the arguments in favor of doing it sooner rather than later, and they've proved to be a very effective sounding board and predictor of community sentiment during the short development cycle on this feature.
Removing learning skills is something that we've wanted to do for quite some time; the team responsible for NPE enhancements in Apocrypha almost managed to pull this off back in 2009, but ran out of time. It's been on and off the agenda at various times since then, but with the addition of the skillpoint-reimbursement feature (ninja'd in to compensate for the unexpected 24-hour downtime earlier this year), we realized that we had most of the code we needed to pull this off successfully. Then it was just a matter of finding time to do it, and last month, CCP Zulu (our Senior Producer) spotted an opening that would let us deliver before Christmas, so we just went for it.
For those unfamiliar with the process, how exactly will we assign the skillpoints we're getting reimbursed? Can they be added to any skill?
Yes – just right-click any skill in your character sheet and select "apply skill points", and you'll be allowed to add any number of skillpoints you like to that skill. It's a fairly straightforward process, and there's additional documentation if anyone needs it.
Any hints on what the other half of our Christmas present from CCP might be?
I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise, but I would caution that it's not going to be as earth-shattering as removing learning skills. There's only so much awesome we can compress into one small patch before it becomes a radiation hazard.
Thank you for taking the time to interview with us!
No problem, thanks for the coverage!