A recent devblog announcing the removal of learning skills has once again polarized the Eve community. While a majority of players hail the removal as a step forward for Eve (and for new players in particular), a significant minority disagree with the change. This post is for those critics. Let me try to explain why the change is beneficial.
So, why remove learning? I could respond by arguing that it makes the system unnecessarily complex or that it consumes two months of training time during which players cannot do anything new. But I will not, because the wrong question is being asked. A better question than “Why remove learning?” is “Why keep learning?” Do the learning skills provide any positives?
Proponents of learning skills argue that there is a choice, that new players do not have to train learning skills. But that is a patently false claim, as everyone does train learning. Does anyone tell players not to train those skills? Why is it that all the supporters of preserving learning skills have them trained? The reality is that fundamentally there is no choice. Sooner or later, you will train them. And the sooner, ideally while the 100% training bonus is active, the better. If the learning skill supporters sincerely believed that training learning was not necessary, they would not have trained it.
So there is no choice. What do the learning skills do then? Like any other part of Eve, they add complexity. Is that beneficial? Yes and no. Eve is intricate, and (in)famous for that. If you want to do PvE, you need to master ship fittings, cap stability, NPC triggers, agent standings, loyalty points, loot drops, salvage, and efficiency. If you want to do trade and industry, you need to master market manipulation, regional market differences, mineral pricing, production efficiency, location, and timing. If you want to do PvP, you need to master fittings, ship types, ship capabilities, maneuvering, tackling, tracking, ship radii, missile operation, cap management, fleet operation, and leadership.
Those are just a few of the paths you can take in Eve. All are complex, daunting for both fledgling players and seasoned veterans. Yet despite all their differences, they have one thing in common: choice. You choose to PvE. You choose to trade. You choose to manufacture. You choose to PvP. That is what makes Eve a sandbox.
But wait. The paths have another thing in common: the necessity of learning skills. Whichever path you take, you still must train learning. Let that idea sink in for a moment.
When you have no choice but to train them, why are they present? Should all new players be forced to train skills like “Becoming a Capsuleer” and “Pod Operation” upon starting a character? Obviously not. Yet how are those any different from learning skills? You have no choice in training them and they simply raise the learning curve. And when everyone but week-old players trying to figure out what Eve is all about (and even in their trial period they are being instructed to train learning skills) has them, what is the benefit?
It should be apparent by now that learning skills add nothing but artificial intricacy to Eve while forcing players to spend two months of their subscription in training them. But even the arguments presented may not convince some, as some critics of the removal of those skills seem to revel in the pain those cause. One person even stated, “I am more mad that the system goes from gradually-reaching-max rate to EVERYONE-at-max. There should be a little pain.” For those people, perhaps the desire to retain learning skills is due to schadenfreude. Or perhaps it is due to the “Back in my day…” superiority syndrome. Or perhaps a mix of both. Whatever it is, they must realize that Eve still requires time investment. Players still need to sweat for a month over Cruiser V before they can hop in a T2 cruiser. Players still need to train leadership to give bonuses to their fleet. That has not changed. What has changed is that unnecessary complexity has been removed, enabling players to concentrate on working toward their desired spot in the sandbox of Eve.