Tobold's Blog
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Offline skill training

I stumbled upon a blog entry by mbp on The Tyranny of Skill Training, where he complains that he has to log into EVE at certain times to start the next skill training. In EVE you train skills in real time, whether you are online or not. If a skill training ends while you are offline, you are effectively losing training time until you log on and start the next; there is no queueing. Football Manager Live, the game I'm currently playing, has a similar system. But when you are not learning a skill, at least you are gathering the time as a bonus. So if you haven't learned a skill for 1 hour, and you start learning the next skill, you get 1 hour of double speed progress in the skill training. Good improvement!

Football Manager Live also has a skill planner, where you can say what final skill you want to reach, and the planner proposes the fastest way to get there, including all possible learning bonus skills and prerequisites. That *looks* like a queue, but still isn't one, you still have to learn skills manually. I guess that the reason that neither EVE nor FML have queues is that they don't want players to open an account and only log in once per month until they have a fully skilled character. That is a good idea. But the result is that you feel you need to log on at specific times, to start your next training, and sometimes that time is rather inconvenient.

So I was wondering why these games couldn't simply include a short queue, that is you are learning one skill and can already queue one next skill after that, not more. In that case you don't have to log on exactly when the first skill learning is finished. You could log on at any time afterwards, as long as the second skill is still in training, and queue up the next skill without loss of time. You still can't program skill training for long periods, but at least you don't feel as if you should log on at 3 am or lose valuable training time.
Unless levelling skills as fast as possible is your only aim, then I don't see a problem with the mechanic.
You could say the same in WoW with crafting cool-downs, or even daily quests: If I don't log on everyday, I'm losing hundreds of gold by not doing dailies!
I don't know about Football Manager, but in EVE you can stop training a skill, and start training another skill while keeping your progress in the first skill.
So, to make sure you're always training (or as much as possible), you can take a long skill while working/sleeping, stop it when you're back online, train leftovers, and than start the long skill again.
A program like EveMon is really helpfull for this, as you can plan your skills months ahead (still have to log in here too tho)
In EVE online do you continue to train those skills while actually playing the game?

In a game like WOW it would be good if a certain set of skills could be learned offline. Those with limited game time could then leave their character in the ‘training area’ and queue up a few training activities when they log out. While playing the game these skills cannot be trained unless you actually enter the ‘training area’ and skill up manually (which would be much faster than the offline training).

This might be a nice way to offset some of the advantages of people who have a lot of game time vs. those who can only log in for a few hours a week. The casual player having potentially superior ‘master craftsman’ skills as his character has spent the majority of his time training.

Essentially I agree with you - there's no great reason to not have a limited queue.

But getting up at 3 am to change a skill in EVE is due solely to poor planning. Outside of maybe the first 72 hours after a character is created, there are plenty of long and short skills to select from. Remember you don't lose skill training if you switch to another skill before the one you're working on is completed. So if your skill was going to be done at 3 am, just changed to a different skill before you go to bed, then finish that one off at your leisure.

That's a classic rookie mistake in EVE - thinking you have to just train one skill at a time. More experienced players typically have multiple skills partially trained, and as a result of proper planning with a tool like EveMon (should be built in, but that's another story), skills complete at a time that is convenient.
The problem with even a short queue is that someone could easily queue up BS 5, and have Large Rails 5 set to go next, which is over two months of training time. Cancel account, come back after not paying for 2 months, continue.

People already do it with just the 1 month skills, I doubt CCP would want people taking 2+ months off.
Having to log on at certain times is a sign of poor planning, especially when EvEMon's schedule warnings can be used to highlight potential trouble spots in the skill training plan. By default, it warns if a skill would be completed during the daily scheduled downtime.

That said, the CSM did make CCP aware of the problem during their visit to Iceland.
Yep. IIRC, CCP has said in the past that they were interested in queues & were trying to figure out the balance. I also recall hearing, but have no confirmation, that they saw such a high incidence of scheduling-long-skills-then-cancelling-accounts in the Chinese shard that they stopped skill training while accounts are suspended in that version of the game.
I understand the frustration, but don't agree that there should be a queue at all.

Skill training in EVE would then require virtually no effort. What's the point, then?

I rather like the periodic attention it requires. You can't just setup a character and leave it alone for 3 years, then know a ton of skills.
I wondered where the spike in my blog readership was coming from - now I have found the culprit: The Tobold effect.

As some previous commenters have mentioned the issue of skill training mainly annoys newer players who have a limited choice of fairly short skills to choose from. Once a player is more established they can juggle long and short skills to fit the training schedule around real life better.

It is perhaps in keeping with the "throw them in the deep end philosophy" of EVE that many experienced players seem content with the system the way it is. Personally though I vote for real life convenience over hallowed gaming principles any time. I want a skill queue.
I've tried EVE a few times, each time I stopped after having to mess around with timing skills. Sure there are skills that take 12 hours to train while I sleep, but they aren't the skills that I need to keep fly the next ship, or (worst of all) equip my new quest loot in the next hour or so. Each of the low-end level 1 skills take maybe an hour or so, but its at the worst possible time in the game experience to mess around with skill training setup, as then people don't necessarily know about EveMon. Sure its fantastic, but newbies don't have it.
Hang on, your skills in EVE train even when you're not *subscribed*? Maybe that's the real problem...
They should just build a time cap into the skill queue. That way players can arrange something like 10 hours worth of training ahead of time. If they are learning longer skills then they'll only be able to queue one or two at a time.

I'm not an EVE Online player so I don't know the durations of most skills. The 10 hour number can be replaced with anything. The idea is just to allow players to queue up short skills in succession without having to constantly log back in.
As an EVE player, I'm a bit on both sides of the debate. On the one hand, I would love a queue to knock out all the skills with annoying timespans, namely the 6-10 hour and 15-19 hour skills.

Why are these the annoying ones, you may ask? Well, anything less than 10 hours and more than 4-5 isn't something I can train easily on a weekday. They're not bad on weekends, but still a hassle as they require a log in during the day. 15-19 hour skills for much the same reason. I can't set them before logging and get them when I get up in the AM before downtime. They're also not quite long enough to finish up after I get home from work if I set them up before logging off at night.

So, because of those types of things, I'd love to have a skill queue with a 24 hour or 2-3 skill maximum. All in all, I can see it being hard to do, but according to the CSMs, CCP is keen on implementing it, with limits.
This is an issue in games like Travian or the one I play Imperial Ages.

To maximise your village growth, you need to be constantly upgrading your resource fields (presuming you have the cash). When your offline the resources keep trickling in, assuming you have space to store them. If the build time is 15 minutes or an hour, then logging on only once a day is a distinct disadvantage.

A building que of 2-3 items is often implemented as part of a VIP package in free browser games.

Similarly using armies to attack and raid undefended villages for resources can be done very frequently, but only if you are online to do it.

So while in theory you only need to play 15 minutes a day. To compete you need to be online multiple times through out the day (rather than one continuous session like most MMOs) or have several people "sitting" for you at different time-zones.
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