Sometimes, the most innocuous of changes, brought about with good intentions, can do the most damage. It hasn’t been very long since skill injection was introduced to Eve Online. Yet, in that short time, someone has already done the previously impossible; taken a 3 day old character and set every skill in the game to level 5. The Evenews24 article on it is here.
It took ISKIronbank just one hour to inject every skill in Eve into his character and then max them out. He did this on a live stream. Much rage has been generated by the whole skill injection thing, and even more by ISKIronbank’s spending of the equivalent of 25,000 USD to do this. Many of the detractors of skill injection argue passionately that CCP has sold out, and that Eve is now pay to win.
With this argument I cannot agree. A lot of battle outcome in Eve is decided by experience, patience, cunning and planning; none of which can be purchased. Yes, fleet doctrine just took a huge leap forward, with alliances now able to hand over not just ships, but all the pre-paid skills needed to fly one as well. But, they cannot hand over the experience needed to fly that ship well, just ask The Emporium.
However, the “It’s pay to win!” crowd are missing the main point completely, in my humble opinion. Let me take you for a trip down memory lane, and explain why I think the skill injection system is such a disaster for Eve Online.
I remember the day I finally got my first battle-cruiser trained up. This was way before CCP made the battle-cruiser death on a stick, of course. I bought myself a Myrmidon, and carefully fitted it up with what I could use on it. Mostly meta 4 stuff, as I had more ISK than skills in those days. Then three of us took our shiny new BCs into null-sec. We intended to go down fighting, and, much to our surprise, brought them home again. This was mainly due to our complete ignorance of null-sec, and the fact it was just after downtime. Still, I remember my hands shaking, and the sweat running down my brow as we jumped through each gate.
The reason for the significance of the potential loss of that ship was down to the fact that it represented a huge investment of saved up ISK. This was ISK earned in level 3 missions; the best way to earn ISK I knew of at the time.
So, that’s the first point. If a new player can simply inject up a perfect Ishtar pilot and join a null-sec renter corp, ISK is not a problem. In no time at all, a couple of weeks at the most, he’s rolling in ISK. That is just one way to bankroll a character on easy mode. The renter corps will love it, too, as it ups the ISK income from taxes. A mining fleet is no worries to knock together, either. Or an incursion running character. All it takes is money.
So, with a little cash outlay, our three-day old player is financing whatever else he wants to do in-game with no problems at all.
I also remember my first battleship; a Dominix. In null-sec now, I foolishly wandered off a few jumps from home, and ran straight into a Vagabond (the best ganking ship at the time). Man, that was panic time, alright. Luckily I was rescued by a corp-mate, who ran off the Vagabond before he could get me down. Again, the fear was real, because I had just bought that ship, and was only able to do rally points at the time, and very slowly at that.
Our cashed up three-day old will never know such problems. Hell, unless he feels the itch, he’ll probably never fly a battleship, unless he does fleet stuff, or level 4 missions.
The main problem, as I see it, is not the pay to win scenario. It’s the loss of any real sense of progress for these people. Yes, ISKIronbank spent a ludicrous amount of real-life cash (except he didn’t, he just has so much ISK he can’t convert it to real-life money), but how much real-life cash does a simple Ishtar ratter cost?
It’s the build up to something that creates its significance. My ability with a drum-kit means far more to me than any other ability I have. Why? Because it represents 26 years of dedicated practice and play time. The immediate sense of comfort I get when I sit down behind a kit is born of long familiarity, and the memories of the long hours spent practicing lay behind every single move I make. The respect I get from fellow players gives me great happiness, and I feel that even more when I remember how long it took to get myself to this point.
The significance of Eve play time is no different. All the years of waiting for those skills to finish, the moment when you press the button to announce to corp you now have a high tier skill to 5, and the congratulations that flow in when you do; that’s a great feeling.
Except it’s all gone, now.
“Just got Battleship 5, gentlemen.”
“Oh yeah, you train it or buy it, mate?”
“I trained it, actually.”
“It only costs ten bucks, you know.”
Am I the only one who feels deflated by that little scene?
Nearly all the rage of the older players is toward how they’ve been robbed, how they’ve wasted their time. But that isn’t true, is it? Let’s be honest, we had the enjoyment of all those years of achievement. We’ve played Eve Online the original version. Seven years, for me. I have no regrets, just good memories and a great time. So let’s not argue that CCP have robbed us of anything.
It’s those who start Eve now who are being robbed. They’ll never know what it feels like; none of them.They’ll just cash up those ISK grinding skills, and have at it. From that point on, Eve is on easy mode.
Some may argue that the character bazaar allowed exactly the same thing, but is that really so? If it is, then why the massive market rush for injectors? I cannot for the life of me discern how the character bazaar can be compared to this much simpler, much more focused, method of leveling up for cash.
Eve used to be very different, very different indeed. Slowly, but surely, that difference is being eroded. With the erosion of its uniqueness, Eve has shed the appeal it used to have to its current player base. Eve is now directed toward a different demographic; a different player. The old Eve player base had something the new one does not offer, though; and that is loyalty.
CCP may come to regret the spurning of that loyalty.