A Farewell to Attributes

In the CSM9 Winter Summit Minutes, (read the Minutes here), in the session with Team Size Matters on Day 1, the matter of character attributes was discussed:

Removal of attributes was also mentioned, but the idea is still in quite an early stage. It’s something [CCP Games’ devs] want to do as it’s on the level as learning skills, so that people don’t have to get locked into training skills in a non-optimal order for use, in order to train at the optimal speed. There is still some discussion around what would possibly be done with learning implants (keep them, flat bonus, something else). There are also questions as to what the rate would be with the changes. Ali [Aras] brought up some feedback that some veteran players like the space it gives you to optimize your character, but overall supports removing attributes. There was also the point of learning implants [as a] disincentive [to] PVP, especially in null and WH.

New players in EVE Online are often confused by character attributes, and what they mean. I know this because one of the most popular guides that I wrote on my personal blog (click here to read guide) is about remapping attributes effectively. More than a year old, this guide continues to get hundreds of views every week. It’s clear that attributes are one of the little features in EVE Online that are not well understood.

Attributes: an Overview

For those who are new to the game, and are wondering what the fuss is about, every character has five attributes, as follows:
  •         Intelligence – the speed at which you process information.
  •         Memory – how well you remember information.
  •         Charisma – the degree to which you influence others.
  •         Perception – your ability to understand the situation around you.
  •         Willpower – the amount of stamina you have to reach a goal.
To see your attribute scores, click on your Character sheet button on the NeoCom, then click on Attributes. Neville-character-sheet Practically, your character’s attributes affect no other game mechanic other than determining the speed at which a character can train skills. Each skill is associated with one primary and one secondary attribute. The formula for the speed of skill training (in skill points per minute) is: (SkillPointsNeeded – CurrentSkillPoints) / (PrimaryAttribute + (SecondaryAttribute / 2)) In short, your assigned score for a skill’s primary attribute will affect training time twice as much as your score for a secondary attribute. Therefore, in order to maximize the rate at which characters learn certain sets of skills, players must adjust their attributes from time to time. CCP Games allows this to happen with a process called neural remapping, but the number of remaps you can do is very limited – generally, twice in your first year of play, and only once a year thereafter. As a result, remaps should not be done without careful consideration—and this is why my blog guide remains popular.

Why Remove Attributes?

The CSM’s discussion on the removal of character attributes is part of a general trend towards simplification of game mechanics in EVE Online that are needlessly complex, or that add little to the game playing experience. For example, the industry revamp in the Crius release made use of industry much easier—and CCP made this even simpler by later removing the concept of Teams, a little used feature that did not add a lot of value. As referenced by the CSM in the 2010 Incursion release, CCP eliminated “learning skills” from the game (read the Wiki on this here). These skills had allowed players to increase attribute scores, and thereby reduce training time, but they also required players to delay training in more practical (and more fun) skills in the game, and therefore were seen mostly as a painful “rite of passage” that no one enjoyed. There were few complaints from the player community when learning skills were removed from the game. Today, players may boost their character attributes only by installing various grades of Attribute Enhancer (“learning”) implants, one for each attribute. However, as pointed out by the CSM, learning implants, especially the maximum +5 attribute increasing versions, can be expensive—generally more than 100 million ISK each—and this creates a disincentive for players who use them to participate in dangerous activities. No one wants to lose a half-billion ISK of value from their implants, should they get podded. Also mentioned in the CSM meeting minutes was the fact that attributes require players to learn certain batches of skills in a particular sequence, if they wish to minimize the time to learn those skills. This is because each skill is associated with two attributes. This puts players in the position of forgoing the training of skills that have more immediate application, in order to optimize training time over the long term, thereby limiting their current gameplay choices—similar to the problem with learning skills. Finally, there is the matter of neural remaps, which if done poorly, can result in significant delays in developing certain sets of skills, and thereby reduce the degree of choice among different types of game-play. Based on the questions I receive from players who read my advisory guide, the frequency of making bad choices in a neural remap is unfortunately all too common. Making good decisions about a neural remap—determining the optimum time and point levels—generally requires using a third-party application such as EVEMon, to calculate the variables correctly. Since the supply of remaps is very limited for each character—just one a year—the implications of less-than-optimal choices are potentially severe.

New Eden without Attributes

If CCP ultimately does do away with character attributes, how would game mechanics change?
  • All skill choices are equal—in an attribute-free EVE Online, all skills would become equally accessible. There would be neither need to plan for maximum training rates, nor optimizing training sequences. There would be no artificial “right” choices, other than what kinds of activities a player wants to pursue in the game. Elimination of attributes would provide more freedom in selecting different skills to train.
  • Standard training rates and implant bonuses—without attributes, it is likely that CCP would set a universal rate for skill points accumulated. This would likely be a flat rate, perhaps modifiable by flat (and low) percentage bonuses from up to five learning implants. Different skills would require more skill points to learn than others, just as we have now, and higher-level skills would take longer to achieve, but everyone would learn them at the same rate.
  • The decline of training apps?—skill-training planning applications, such as EVEHQ or EVEMon, will become less useful in an attribute-free EVE Online. The need to train certain prerequisites to unlock access to ships, modules and other abilities would remain, but players can use the in-game ISIS ship-browsing utility to determine which skills to train, and in what sequence. Adding the ability to stack up skills in the training queue, even if the prerequisite skills have not yet been trained, would further reduce player dependence to play “what if” with different training paths in third-party applications.
  • Goodbye, remaps—with the removal of attributes, there would no longer be any need for neural remaps, the risk of doing them poorly would simply go away. I will have to write another guide soon, if I want to keep my blog traffic at the previous level of popularity.
Altogether, the elimination of attributes would simplify EVE Online’s skill training and character development mechanics, and make it easier for new players to train the areas of the game in which they have an immediate interest. Simplicity, improved accessibility, more choices in gameplay, and greater ease of use make it highly likely that CCP will delete attributes sooner rather than later. While some “bittervets” like me, who had to master a more complex system, may complain that youngsters in New Eden have it all too easy compared to what we had to endure, we have to agree that attributes do little but make EVE Online more complicated—and they aren’t really very much fun. Like the “learning” skills, attributes won’t be missed very much once they are gone.  
Tags: attributes, development, features, Neville

About the author

Neville Smit

Neville Smit, a former director of education for EVE University, is now a non-violent space hippie in the Signal Cartel, living in wormhole space and making a meager living as an explorer. He has been trying to learn how to play EVE Online since 2009. You can read more about his misadventures in New Eden at NevilleSmit.com or on Twitter @NevilleSmit.

  • Gully

    I think that remaps are excellent gameplay design, because they allow you to make meaningful choices (average training time for every skill versus higher training time if you want to specialize).

    They also encourage specialized alts, which is fine from a player’s point of view and excellent (moar $$$) from CCP’s point of view.

    Attribute implants are unnecesarry imho, but eliminating attributes (and remaps) is a bad idea.

    Make 4-month or 6-month remaps (instead of 12-month) and you solve the ‘newbie mistake’ problem.

    • daniel

      or sell remaps for plex/aur.

    • Aleqs

      The meaningful choice in this case is loading up EveMon, adding the skills you want, then clicking “optimize attributes.”

      The compelling gameplay comes when I load up a different game and play that while I wait four months for my core skills to finish.

    • Aleqs

      And just to hammer home the point: a new player doesn’t have the support skills a vet has. He has to set aside either several months before he has the necessary core skills to fly effectively, or be saddled with a sub-optimal remap in order to get both. Your “excellent game design” actively hurts new players because they’re forced to progress slower than veterans who already have established support skills. By extension this causes new player subs to lapse, and I think you can see where I’m going with this.

      Additionally, specialized alts are damaging to the game because they’re not actually people. You know, the person behind the keyboard, the social aspect of the whole Massively Multiplayer genre? So if you have one person paying for 10 accounts, but only playing one or two at a time, is he really contributing to the game in the same way 10 individuals would? My magic 8 ball is telling me that the signs point to no.

      • Gully

        Nah. Intelligence/Perception is good for almost everything. Then memory for drones, willpower for T2 ships, charisma for market or links. That’s about it. And you very rarely need to train all that stuff on a single character at the same time.

        And what’s wrong with alts? A single person having, say, a PVP alt and a market/industry alt enjoys the game more and contributes to the game more than a person doing just one or the other.

        Finally, I don’t understand your point on Support Skills and new players. When I started (18 months ago) I was more excited about having +5% speed on my frigs than about training a battlecruiser. Only vets and impatient newbros see support skills as a hassle, they’re actually a quick train and very rewarding when you’re learning the ropes of the game mechanics.

        • Aleqs

          I’ll cede the point about alts — I was thinking more about carrier alts, Ewar and Boosting alts, alternate combat characters, etc.

          Here’s a loaded question: What would you rather have?
          Gunnery V in 4 days and CPU Management V in 7,
          Both in 4 days.
          both in 6 days. (roughly what you get with a Per/Int remap)

          Pretty obvious choice, right?

          It is extraordinarily greedy for you to say that this adds anything to the game, when CCP could remove it tomorrow and within a week people will be saying they’re glad it’s gone.

          Remember that people complained about clone grades and the unlimited skill queue, too, but the second they got a taste of that delicious modern game design they shut right up.

  • lalo

    as Gully pointed out, just short the remap period, otherwise this is wow online 2016. this mechanic gives eve character, and people are told in every corp to start using implants and that it helps a lot in long run. you do not incentivize people into long run by removing mechanics like these.

    • Aleqs

      When you’re brand new, fresh out of character creation, the first thing you want to do as a new player is get into as many cool new spaceships as possible. You’ve got your shitty little newbie frigate and everything takes twenty minutes to train into at most.

      That’s your incentive. It comes from seeing a cool new ship and saying, “I want to fly that.”
      Why do you think people get so excited whenever a new ship is released?

      • Gully

        Maybe, but if you actually try to understand the game you quickly realize that your shitty little newbie frigate with a couple of friends can take down a super cool battleship.

        Unless, of course, you also plan on changing game mechanics to ‘bigger is better’, so instead of a damn well balanced PVP game you get a silly ‘get into battleships ASAP and never use any other subcap’ game.

        • Aleqs

          Put the strawman away, you’re abusing it too much.

          I understand the game well enough to know that even a Cormorant is exciting when you’re a few hours old. The only people who argue against removing attributes are the same “dumbing down” crowd who bitch about everything, and the 4+ year old bittervets who’ve forgotten all the newbie traps a fresh player has to deal with.

  • nickname

    I agree don’t remove them, I know it goes against the grain, but people learn by their mistakes and there is nothing stopping us start another trial until we feel comfortable enough in an unfamiliar enviroment…. don’t dumb it down CCPlease

    • Aleqs

      Are you trying to say that if a new player screws up their attribute remaps they should ditch their character and start another one? Because if so, fucking lol

  • Jack

    They are still dumbing the game down in small steps so the people can accommodate and accept the changes. I wonder what will be next.

  • papa jones

    Chuck them. They are a poor game design which came from games back in the 90’s (attributes in everquest, daoc, etc). Difference here is that the attributes affect your characters training in total. It either speeds up time, or wastes time. It provides zero gameplay incentive except to give someone a headache trying to figure out optimal remaps.

    You chuck them, fear goes down, gameplay goes up, people stop worrying about training something else because they ain’t mapped to it.

    Good to see it go.

  • AFK

    CCP seems in a desperate attempt to dumb down the game to get people to stay subbed, but all of these things were part of the game while it grew steadily. It is stagnating now because of lack of content, not small irrelevant things like this. People who joined after the B-R news story (the highest spike, even higher than This is Eve trailer) have waited for over a year now and still haven’t seen, or been involved, with anything near it. All they see are perpetual meaningless ishtar skirmishes. How many of those subs are still around?

    • Aleqs

      You’re missing the point. Eve has something ridiculous like a 80% drop-out rate within the first week. New players aren’t looking for new content, the entire game is new content to them!

      Besides that, adding new content isn’t the thing that keeps new players interested, it’s simplifying the interface and streamlining the New Player Experience. This very blog points out how many hundreds of people come here looking for Remap and Attribute advice, and the anecdotal stories of people having screwed themselves into suboptimal training abound (myself included. Ask me about training Hull Upgrades V as a month-old player on a Per/Int remap).

  • Kamar Raimo

    If attributes were to go, then the LP costs of certain implants would also have to be reduced. A high grade Snake or Slave set for the same price would be rather ridiculous if a part of its effect isn’t there anymore.

  • Turk

    You forgot one thing. Without attributes there is no need to even have a skill queue. Skill points would passively accrue and you would spend them to acquire skills. This would be just like we do with the bonus skill points CCP has given out from time to time.

    • Aleqs

      DUST Mercs have the same system. It’s better.

  • theseconddavid

    The attribute design is confusing to anyone from another MMO, since they have no affect on your performance, just on training time. The skill disciplines should be divided into five main categories. Slots 1-5 should be used for implants that increase training speed on those five categories. They also should be stacking, but with penalty. If someone wants to stack 5 gunnery training implants, let them. That allows for meaningful training choices. Get rid of remaps altogether.

  • jake

    “Mistakes” and “Difficulty” in EVE should always be in the form of player-player interaction. The “game” should not punish you, other players should. People who complain that removing stuff like attributes (or, back in the day, those who complained about removing learning skills!) clearly do not understand that the risk and difficulty in EVE comes from other players, not game mechanics. Removing attiubtes is another good step toward removing needless complexity that gets in the way of undocking.

  • Saint Michael’s Soul

    This is a step too far. This is a fun mechanic…sure I’m sad, but I enjoy the planning aspect of the game.

    • Aleqs

      Plan ship fittings. Plan industry. Plan mining ops or fleet comps or POS set-ups or PI or literally any other of the dozens of things you can plan in this game. Eve will not suddenly become a worse game because you can train CPU Management V and Minmatar Frigate V back to back in less than two weeks.

  • Wisdom

    So fucking stupid. Stop trying to kill our fucking game. We play it for its complexity Leave it the fuck alone. if they cant figure out how to use attributes they shouldnt play any fucking game to begin with.

  • Capsuleerjedi

    By removing this feature eve dies a bit more in the eye of the eve player. I believe alot of us kept our subscription for more than 10 years now because we can do things like this. Please stop killing eve please stop trying to accommodate stupid. And keep smart and complex gaming alive.

  • Tipa Riot

    There might be ways to fix the current skill mechanic, like clone jumps in station without cooldown, shorter remap cycles, etc. But this only alleviates the symptoms of a broken mechanic. Attributes and learning implants have to go; their impact today is only related to your wallet, and ability to suffer, but attributes don’t create any meaningful gameplay inside the sandbox.

  • Kamar Raimo

    I really don’t understand what the fuss is all about in the comments here and on reddit. I really only bothered with remapping when I had crazy long skills to train where it actually had an effect like let’s say jump drive calibration V or carrier V. On all the short entry level skills it really doesn’t make that much difference.

  • ExploreYourWorld

    People are going to hate me for posting this, especially because it’s a necro post but also because of what I am going to suggest. CCP needs to face it. Anyone new sees what it takes to train up a good pilot and they see it’s easily a 2-3 year investment to max out on skills, and they’re turned off to joining such an old game with so many established toons. New people have to face the reality of possibly buying a character for hundreds of dollars if they’re the typical MMO min/maxer. Most people that play MMO’s are. They need to just do this, face it: PLEX for skill points. 1 PLEX = 1 mo/skill points. They can make it a currency you have to buy with $ and not ISK, but that’s what they need to do. You are heading to a FTP model to survive otherwise, and that’s what it will become anyways. Don’t make it so you can cap everything on one character, but a package for say, a capital ship pilot with level 5 mastery you could buy at PLEX value or lower, I would do that.

  • ExploreYourWorld

    Addendum to the below post: It’s a funny mechanic about MMOs. That same time sink that you have to devote to and make your character worthwhile, the one mechanic that keeps so many vets around, being able to be on top, is the same mechanic that keeps new subs out — WHEN they can’t overcome it by hard work. I LOVE Eve’s skill training, but it’s impossible to just work hard and catch up. That’s a problem, especially when (as someone posted somewhere that I read) it takes like 38 years to train everything.

  • eve Pilot

    finally CCP decided removal of spaceships from the game. Idea is still in early stage but CCP always thought multiple spaceships too confusing for new players. With new changes , only one type spaceship can be flown. So people don’t have to think about which ship they will fly. With only one type spaceship , game will be less complex and more new player friendly.