Two days ago, CCP announced that they would be proceeding with implementing skill trading with the February 9 patch. Through this process, players can purchase a skill extractor for aurum (or, more likely, off the market, because very few people actually deal in aurum), which they can use to suck sp out of their characters and sell on the market. This is an entirely new feature that has not previously existed.
Cue the paranoia, screaming fits, doom crows crying “Eve is dying”, and threats of unsubbing from every quarter.
The truth is that skill trading offers a lot of opportunities, particularly for younger players.
It’s important to keep in mind that every skillpoint that enters an injector came from a character training it normally. That sp represents the result of a certain interval of subscription time being transferred to another character. But when that sp is transferred to another character, it’s not a perfect transfer. If a character with more than 5 million sp injected it, some sp is lost – at least 20% and as much as 70%. For those characters – the majority – every time an injector is used, sp leaves the game forever. The importance of that can’t be overstated. In a game that suffers from an abundance of sp and mature characters with nothing left to train, skill trading is a means of mitigating that sp creep.
The character bazaar already offers an opportunity to leapfrog ahead in time in exchange for isk. But typically, when you buy a character, it comes with a lot of “junk” you don’t want – wasted skills, issues with standings, or a corp history a mile long. Characters tend to collect a lot of dirt over time, and you have to pay for that along with the skills. Skill trading is a little cleaner and leaner.
But that lean option comes with a trade-off. We don’t know how much aurum the extractors will cost, but I suspect the cost of enough skill extractors to withdraw 50 million sp will cost significantly more than the 2 PLEX CCP gains from a character transfer. Players are almost certainly going to pay for the luxury of customizable sp. Moreover, they have to overpay – to bump a character from 5 million to 17 million sp would require you to buy 30 injectors, not 24 (after accounting for the penalty). And any sp injected before you reach 5 million sp is a sunk cost that can never be recovered.
What about the sellers? Some people complain about skill extractors providing a means for players to plex their account for free – just train up skills, pull them out, and sell the injectors for money to plex your account. But is that so problematic? Players can already plex their account by grinding ratting. Now, they can plex by sacrificing their ability to train any characters on that account. Whereas they would otherwise train and sell the character, now they can tread water and sell a fragment of that same value each month. Moreover, I doubt the price will line up exactly; selling your sp will almost certainly net you less isk than the cost of a plex. I doubt CCP would implement skill training if it didn’t benefit their business plan.
I highly doubt we’ll see established characters using injectors to advance further. The penalty will be far too high – 40% for 50 mil-80 mil sp characters – for regular use. The simple fact is that young characters are most likely to use these injectors. Some of that means alts. Personally, I intend on pulling some useless sp from Talvorian and Valeria (industry, production, mining, and planetary interaction, to be specific) and buy the rest to train up a new Tengu ratter. But that’ll take me up to about 18 mil sp at most. I’ll never use an injector for Talvorian, who would only receive 150k sp for it.
New players are going to be the real beneficiaries of this addition as they try to leapfrog ahead of their “natural” sp accumulation to get into more kinds of ships more quickly. On the one hand, I love the idea of eliminating the obvious intel of a character’s age in assessing his skill level. The idea that a 7-month-old character can surprise a veteran by using 70 million sp he injected appeals to me greatly. Assumptions kill, and I’m a big advocate of judging a player by how they act, not their age.
But on the other hand, too many players equate high skillpoints with successful PvP, when pilot experience and situational knowledge is always a far, far more important factor. Buying a veteran character doesn’t make you a good PvPer – only hours and hours of practice accomplish that.
And that’s exactly why skill trading isn’t a “pay2win” tactic. Even a pilot with 200 million sp doesn’t stand a chance against two highly capable pilots. Numbers – even simple local superiority – is a powerful counter to any individual character’s sp counts. High sp doesn’t bring you victory, only the variety of situations in which you can engage. More doctrines, more classes, more roles… but not necessarily more victories. For that, you need experience.
So I don’t see this addition as the sign of a desolute CCP, the end of the game, or the complete monetization of ability. It’s still highly subject to the market supply and demand, and I doubt players will be able to fund a whole month’s gametime solely through the sp they earned during the previous one.
Februayr 9th can’t come soon enough for me!