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Monday, July 8, 2013

BB47: Don't Get Hung Up on the Details

"In order to properly understand the big picture, everyone should fear becoming mentally clouded and obsessed with one small section of truth." - Xun Zi 

So this month's Blog Banter will gravitate around knowledge, specifically EVE knowledge. Some examples of topics to cover: Is EVE too complex for one person to know everything? Is it, in fact, too complex for one person to know everything about one topic? How do you maintain any knowledge or skills related to EVE over time with breaks and expansions? Does CCP do a sufficient job documenting the features of the game, and if not, what could they do better? How does one determine where the gaps in their knowledge even are?

When I started playing Eve Online in March of 2008, I didn't know anything about the game mechanics - nothing, nada,  nichts, ничего. However, I did know a few things about playing games in general. I'd also learned a few hard earned lessons in life. I took those and just dove in.

I think most people learn Eve Online like that. They jump in ignorant of the mechanics, look around, and do the thing they understand best or which appeals to them most. I'd bet the previous works better than the later. Myself, I never tried to learn everything at once. Nor do I expect to learn everything there is. And I suspect I'm not even close to knowing everything there is to know. But I play the game and have fun nonetheless.

I believe this also illustrates how most people learn things in life. There are no manuals to life. We get pointers from our relatives and suggestions from our friends, but we all pretty much learn as we go. In that regard, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Eve Online learning curve. Any appearance of a cliff simply comes from being too close to the rock. The game mechanics set aside, there really is no cliff.

We've become so accustomed to games with limited rules easily mastered we've unknowingly come to believe that's how games must be played - by mastering the mechanics. But that isn't the case at all. It's an assumption of condition based on previous experience, but it is an assumption nonetheless. It's also incorrect. Gameplay doesn't have to be hampered like that.

We've come to believe all games are like games of chance, where there must be a winner and a loser and the odds always favor the house. But our daily existence is not so black and white. There are a thousand shades of grey and each moment is a lesson. In the end, none of us are masters at this game. But all of us win as long as we continue to play.

In that regard, I don't see the Eve Online learning curve as a cliff. How much you know about the mechanics of the game is largely irrelevant to enjoying it. Like life itself, enjoyment is about accepting change and having a willingness to adapt. The true learning curve in this game is not how to fit a ship, it's knowing jet can mining is an open invitation to gankers. Knowing it's akin to walking down a dark alley at night is the real lesson, not knowing how it was anchored.

And there are other common sense lessons that apply to the game just as much as they apply to daily existence, "T.A.N.S.T.A.A.F.L." for instance. If you see a can anchored in space with the word "free" in it's name and ignore it, you've learned Eve Online. Knowing you have to be within 2500 meters to open the can isn't the real lesson.

And this applies to PvP as well. How about the old adage, "Don't bring a knife to a gunfight?" Bringing a mediocre fit Brutix to a Guardian supported fleet is far preferable to a perfectly fit Drake, no matter how many perfectly fit Drakes you bring.

I think those lessons are the ones that most need learned and they are not lessons CCP can impart. In that, CCP has discovered something unique to the gaming industry. By developing a complex world, populated with complex people, all interacting according to a nebulous set of rules, they have emulated the thousand shades of real life so well we must learn from one another more than we must learn from the user's guide. I think I need no more proof of this than Eve Online's heralded meta-game. What Goonswarm did to BoB was no lesson in game mechanics. And that's created a game from which most of us won't (or can't) walk away.

Those I have seen walk away from Eve Online are those who seem to think mastering the manual will "win" the game. When it doesn't, they declare the game broken and jet, rather than try something they feel they might not do well in. If I was as opposed to PvP as many reading this might assume, I'd have probably jetted myself by now. I certainly am no master of the PvP mechanics.

But to me learning, and winning, Eve Online is about accepting change as inevitable, and coping with it when it arrives. I win when I don't succomb to the, "there's nothing left to do" syndrome. There's always something left to do. Tired of being a carebear? Become a pirate! Tired of being a pirate? Head for null. Tired of endless CTA's and 100 percent time dilation? Move to Anoikis. When you need a break from Anoikis, become a carebear again because I guarantee by the time you get back to it things will have changed.

Each step of the way, you will have to be flexible in your play style. You'll need to embrace the difference to enjoy it - forget about exercising perfect mechanics. Don't get hung up on the details. The real game is so much more than a user's manual. Do this and you win. The only losers in Eve Online are the players who stop playing.

Fly Careful

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