It seems Jester has opened up a real can of worms with his post about eliminating the core skills in EVE Online, thus allowing new players to get into the game faster. Corelin over on Mad Haberdashers already has had two posts in reference to what Jester said. To weigh in on what Jester says, I believe the idea has merit. However, I don't think it's a stand on it's own sort of change. It needs to be part of an overall strategy. More on that after I discuss Corelin's idea.
The idea that Corelin proposed is to award new players (all players?) skill points (SP) related to the skill they are using as they play the game. This would rev them up faster, so to speak. This is the dominant view of how players acquire skills within most games. It is something I could easily find myself getting behind. He also mentioned giving someone with multiple characters on an account the option to use skill points from one character on the others. I don't find myself opposed to that idea either. I just don't see how it'd be implemented.
Now on to my own idea concerning skill points and how a player can obtain them. I think CCP should monetize extra SP. Now, before you go ranting at me about anything pay to win (P2W) or some such, just read this through. What if CCP sold SP for PLEX? You could apply a PLEX to your account to obtain the equivalent of 1000 SP for one U.S. cent. That's 100,000 SP per dollar. Since a PLEX costs $15, that would amount to 1,500,000 SP. If we incorporate Jester's idea that all players start with core skills, that 1.5 million SP could give a new player a leg up into a nice ship, but not so much as to vault the player into a Titan right from the start. Unless, that is, the player decided to buy 100 PLEX. If that's deemed to be a problem, CCP could handle the scenario just like they handle neural remaps: restrict the number of times it could be done in a year - or not. I'm mostly in the 'or not' camp myself. I don't think it'd be an issue. Just because you have the SP doesn't mean you know how to use them. CCP could also program a diminishing return on the number of skill points obtained through a PLEX where a player like me with over 100 million SP would get practically nothing in return for a PLEX. Or, more in line with how I feel, CCP could opt to allow full SP trade-in at any experience level. That sure would make getting past some of those 45 and 60 day training queues less of a drudge. I think I'm definitely more in favor of the latter.
To those still fuming over the thought this will be P2W, or whatever your issue with having had to do it the hard way, this will not be a P2W scenario. As I said, having the SP doesn't mean you know how to use them. Besides, anyone who wants can right now go out to the official Character Bazaar and buy themselves a suitably pre-trained character. No one seems to have an issue with that happening. Unfortunately the bazaar puts no money in CCP's pocket by my understanding, unless the buyer uses PLEX to obtain the ISK with which to buy the character. That's a big if. Allowing SP for PLEX would give CCP a more certain revenue stream. It'd be a nifty monetization leveraging game mechanisms that already exist. It would also remove all the bureaucratic hassle that comes with running the bazaar. The bazaar would become moot and could be abolished.
Now, let's put it all together. Combine Jester's idea of automatic core competencies with Corelin's idea of SP through play and my idea of SP for PLEX. Do you know what you get? You get free to play (F2P) EVE Online. That's right! People could play EVE Online for nothing, but they would only get SP beyond the basic skills by playing the game. If they wanted to obtain SP faster, they would have to buy a PLEX. That makes a 100 million SP character worth $1500 to CCP. It took me over 5 years at $131.40 a year to get there. That's less than half the cost of buying SP under the SP for PLEX model, but that's the benefit of doing the subscription plan. You get real time training and EVE Online for half price! Of course, you could still PLEX for SP if you really wanted to. ;-)
"But Mabrick, people would just log in and stay logged in to accumulate SP and pay nothing," you say. That's not going to happen. CCP already has an anti-BOT program and Team Security is doing great things. I'm sure they are up to the challenge of figuring out who is actually playing and who is cheating. Furthermore, I am not worried about those few who would abuse the F2P system. They are a fact of life and can be dealt with. For each of them there may be five others playing EVE Online legitimately using the F2P system. Talk about an order of magnitude difference in log in numbers. Could you imagine seeing over 150,000 people logged into Tranquility? Gods I'd love to see that day. I think this F2P system as described could get there.
The real problem is going to be with the code. We hear about how difficult some of the legacy code in EVE Online is for the devs to change. Perhaps the training system is the most deeply buried code in the entire program, and there's no way this could ever happen. In that case, more drastic measures might be needed. The character training code might have to be completely rewritten... in the EVE Launcher. Just comment out all the legacy code in the client. That may make bot detection more difficult, but perhaps they could program a secure way for the client and launcher to share "in play" information. But hey, I never said this would be easy to do. Coming up with hair brained ideas is the east part.
Here's the tl;dr for all this. You have two types of player, those who pay a monthly subscription progressing mostly as we do now, and those who don't. Of those who don't, people play for absolutely no money, but progress more slowly as their SP only accumulates when they play. To progress faster they have to buy PLEX to convert into 1.5 million SP a pop. People only have to pay when they can afford to pay, but when they do pay, it's roughly twice as expensive per SP as subscribing. I'd also advocate CCP allow players to change from the subscription to the F2P model, but only after they're current subscription runs out. But to stop any abuse of this, make players buy the subscription in at least quarterly increments. Allowing conversion would eliminate any financial burden on a player who suddenly had a loss of income and could no longer make the subscription fee. You know what's most cool about that? They won't have to stop playing! And more casual players who can afford it and don't want to spend as much time playing as Neville Smit does can still subscribe and progress as we do today. What do you think about them apples?