In this edition of Point/Counter-Point we will try a different format where each author responds to each other’s points immediately afterwards. This time around, Dantelion Shinoni and Raktak Takrak will be discussing skill points (SP) and how much they do or do not matter in Faction Warfare. With the recent introduction of Skill Extractors, there is no better time to debate where exactly SP stands in the EVE community. There will be no doubt some newer pilots opening their wallets to purchase some vital SP, but what this will lead to in New Eden remains to be seen. In any event, we had a lot of fun debating about it!
Since FW is primarily a combat-based activity, we will not be focusing on the merits of SP for things like industry or exploration but just pure pew-pew.
Dantelion: First off, by far the best point for SP not mattering is how accessible Faction Warfare can be. Even as a Day 1 pilot, one can field a frigate with enough DPS and EHP to be able to contribute in a fight. Many corporations have newbies fits that are very easy to train into, a matter of a couple hours. My own corporation having spent a lot of time making Day 1 fits that are viable enough to make a difference in a fight and yet cheap enough to be easy on a new player’s wallet. This is possible mostly thanks to meta modules having the same requirements as Tier 1 modules, and some of them having efficiency that is very close to their Tech II counterparts.
If your fleet or corporation can provide for you, or if you have started making money out of the warzone, you can easily afford dozens of those low SP fits. Plus with the recent buff CCP gave to starting SP, giving away essential skills such as Thermodynamics, makes it even easier to play the game in Faction Warfare as a low SP character.
Raktak: While it is true that you can get into FW-viable ships quickly, your choices of activities in FW are still very limited. For instance, just to be able to break a Medium rat’s tank you will need more than few hours of SP under your belt. This limits you to Small/Novice plexes or defensive plexing. Furthermore, the cumulative advantage that a pilot has with many different skills trained translates to a massive statistical advantage. Sure, it can be said that a terrible pilot with 100 million SP can still lose to a toon with 10 million SP, but the difference in things like DPS and tank cannot be ignored.
There are many corps that specialize in getting newbies undocked and into battle on day one and I think this is fantastic. But, let’s face it, losing is not really fun and whelping yourself time and again into better players has a limited shelf-life. I agree that you shouldn’t let a lack of SP prevent you from trying PVP but I think the viable options for PVP with a low SP are truly very limited. Put newbros in a large fleet in E-War or a small gang as rank-and-file DPS where they won’t immediately get primaried. In that case, I think just learning the ropes will be entertaining enough for a time. Other than that, your options are limited. Soloing with under 10 million SP unless you’re already an expert kiter or a wizard at picking your fights is going to end in a very red looking killboard.
Dantelion: Although for characters with low SP it will be difficult to have access to the same level of firepower as characters with higher amount of SP, still there is a way for them to have an impact and be more than a meatshield. By flying Support hulls such as the Griffin or the Maulus, a low SP character can have a powerful impact on a fight and contribute way more than his amount of SP should allow him to. In a way, a player can always make himself desirable, whatever the amount of time he spent in the game.
The low SP pilot certainly won’t become the next l33t solo pvp superstar right away, but he can instead be a valued fleet member for now.
Also, Suitonia, owner of the Eve Is Easy YouTube channel, has showed that there is always possibility that he actually might! His vids showing a week old character winning solo fights is pretty enlightening. But Suitonia himself is a highly knowledgeable pilot and one of the actual l33t solo pvp superstar, part of me think it would be easier to just get the SP than attain that level of knowledge.
In a way all this shows that in the end, what is important as a low SP character is that you have a clear incentive to fleet up with other players. Other players can compensate for what you lack in SP. I really like this aspect of EVE, as in many MMOs now starting up and being low level is often a solitary affair. Nobody will ever want to play with you when they could instead do content that is more appropriate for their ‘level’, in those games the equivalent of SP can make you totally irrelevant.
In EVE, most players will be welcomed in fleets, whether old or new. This is especially true in Faction Warfare space. And as Brave showed in null-sec, with enough numbers the noobiests can still shake things around. This makes the game very different to many of its counterparts in gaming, despite the amount of things you have to master, from the get-go you still have a way to distinguish and make yourself useful to others.
Raktak: You make a really great point about how EVE allows veterans and newbies to fight side-by-side. That is something that is fairly unique in MMOs and I never really thought about that until now. Nevertheless, I think it is greatly simplifying the situation that newbros can just fly the E-War contingent to the fleet and be a major contributing factor. I think a lot of pilots throwing their newbros into Griffins and hoping for the best are setting them up for failure and frustration a lot of the time.
First off, flying a Griffin in a fleet can be extremely difficult depending on the circumstances. You are primary in virtually every situation, you have absolutely no tank, and you often are asked to jam out something other than the primary. That last bit is important. Newer pilots have enough trouble locking and engaging primaries called by the FC (and some older pilots probably do too *COUGH*). E-War generally doesn’t focus on primaries. You don’t need to jam what you’re in the process of killing in a fleet. Flying E-War in a proper fleet is a complex thing and if your fleet depends on landing jams on 3 of the 6 logi the enemy has fielded, you’re putting a whole lot of pressure on your new pilots to perform.
Couple that with the fact that normally the FC is barking orders at the rank and file DPS, I think that there’s an unspoken rule that the E-War squad needs to figure their own stuff out as the rest of the fleet plies their damage. Take the situation where you have Augorors cap chained and you need to spread jams to maximize the effectiveness of your Griffins. First off, as a newbro I need to understand what a cap chain is. Then I need to be smart enough to pre-lock the logi and then I need to listen, amongst all the other chatter on comms, for my E-War buddies calling out jams so I can move my jams to a different guy. This is a lot harder than it sounds and for someone just learning the ropes, it’s a pipe dream to think they’re pulling this off. Bear in mind you need to stay OUT of the DPS envelop of the enemy fleet but within optimal (ideally) of their logi. Often times if this is possible but you’re fighting on a razor’s edge.
Speaking of range, now let’s add in the fact that you have to immediately pull range (or warp out and then back into the battle at range) and watch your grid like a hawk or a lone inty will tackle and kill you. So basically in a Griffin or Maulus you have a massive bullseye on your back, you have no tank, you need to kite and position yourself intelligently at all times, stay aligned if Intys burn in and, by the way, if you follow the FC’s primaries you’re going to get yelled at…
Don’t get wrong, I LOVE flying E-War precisely because it can be so challenging. I just disagree that the Maulus/Griffin tact is a strong argument against needing SP in fleets.
Raktak: Like it or not, players are going to stack every possible advantage they can in their favor when the situation calls for it. Newer players lack the SP to effectively use such advantages like Implants and Booster drugs which represent a massive increasing in combat abilities. Training to Cybernetics V to allow the use of Omega implants on specialized implant sets is a long train for a new player. Paying for, let alone training, the skills to use and mitigate the risks of drugs is not something that is really feasible for a new player when reviewing the list of so many other skills that are higher priority. I’m not suggesting that Implants or Boosters are an unfair advantage. If you want to play a fair game peruse Steam for some other title to get your spaceship jollies. But they represent yet another massive way to stack the deck against low-SP players and another point as to why to expect to be consistently successful in FW you need to be patient and accumulate SP.
Dantelion: I won’t deny that low-SP closes you out of a lot of options, some of those options playing a big role in the performance of your ship and the way you make ISK. Boosters, Implants, and Links are by far the biggest offenders when it comes to making life hard for those who have not invested in them yet, whether it is ISK or SP-wise.
Most low-SP characters are too poor to afford Boosters, especially one for each fight. Yet, the difference between one using a booster and one who doesn’t is around 20% or more of whatever is going to turn the fight around, armor rep, tracking, whatever, we can agree on that it is a massive advantage.
Implants suffer from a kind of psychological barrier in the mind of most newbies, at that level you are not sure of your capacity to get that pod out of the grid in time, so most won’t feel like buying what is likely to be one more thing to worry about among the countless they already have to, especially if you feel like you are going to lose them several times in the long run. Yet, they play a big role in making everything else about your character work better, whether it is ship bonuses, your own skills, boosters, or links.
And talking about Links. I think everyone that had to deal with them has an idea of how massive of an advantage they are. That extra 1km/s you needed on that kiter? Bring a link and you are in, hope you had billions to buy that link alt or those extra months to train one!
Links combined with Boosters and Implants make for some pretty ridiculous numbers. I would say most of us who don’t have consistent access to Links (yes those people exist) are eagerly waiting for on-grid links, at least you will have the guarantee that you won’t have to deal with that ridiculousness in a Novice, which will help a LOT of pilots around New Eden.
Anyway, all of that to say that the playing field can be brutal if you do not try to at least have some access to those tools. The train for Biology is definitely worth it, and making the jump and plugging some implants is a big step in learning to deal with the risk/reward nature of EVE. Taking the time to gather the resources and skills to be able to afford all those is certainly a good thing.
But that time should also be invested in losing as many ships as you can, screw the killboard! Just watching your ship spin is a terrible way to wait for those skills to train up, yes you will be exploded by the many people with those links and implants, but you will also have plenty of opportunities to fight with people on a more equal footing. And at the same time you will accumulate real skill, the kind that will allow you to make those coming skills matter when you finish training them.