EVE Evolved: Is EVE Online's death penalty really that harsh?

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EVE Evolved: Is EVE Online's death penalty really that harsh?

Everyone knows that the death penalty in EVE Online is harsh but is it really as bad as we make it out to be? Is losing a ship really a devastating blow or does the emotional factor of losing something we've put care and attention into make us exaggerate the loss? Since EVE's gameplay is focused entirely on piloting ships rather than walking around with your character, we can get very attached to our ships and feel a great sense of loss at their destruction. It can be hard to keep in mind that our ships in EVE are just tools, which can make their loss feel a lot harsher than it should be. Is this the fault of the player for getting attached to their ship or of the game design for not encouraging us to form attachments with our characters instead?

In this brief article, I discuss some of the golden rules of EVE used to minimise the death penalty and ask whether our perceptions of EVE Online's death penalty are really that accurate.

Over the years, players have come up with some universally accepted golden rules for EVE Online. These are a few tried and tested rules that make life a lot easier for players, particularly new players that are used to first person fantasy MMOs.

Rule #1 - You are not your ship:
One of these rules that is drilled into the head of every new player is that you are not your ship but rather the pilot inside the ship. In MMOs, we tend to form attachments to our characters and their abilities but in EVE you never really see your character and your abilities are imparted to you by the ship you fly. It seems natural then that we form attachments to the ships we use rather than the character piloting them. For this reason, it's important to keep reminding yourself that your ships are just a disposable tool and nothing about them is really irreplaceable.

Rule #2 - Never fly what you can't afford to lose:
The number one golden rule in EVE is to never fly anything you can't afford to lose. This just seems like common sense to long-time players but it's actually the opposite of the standard MMO convention. In MMOs where you don't lose your gear when you die, players are encouraged to buy the best equipment they can afford. In EVE, this is like putting all your eggs in one basket while people are trying to blow up the basket.

Rule #3 - Keep your clone up to date:
In the event that your ship and escape pod are blown up, you'll be revived at your clone. Clones come in a number of qualities, each insuring a certain number of skillpoints so they aren't lost when you die. We've all heard the horror stories of players forgetting to update their clone and losing all their skillpoints but the reality is actually a lot more tame. The maximum amount of skillpoints you can lose will be 5% of the uncovered skillpoints from one skill and never more than half of that skill. So if you have a million skillpoints more than your clone covers you for, death will only cause you to lose a maximum of 50,000 skillpoints. To put that into perspective, that's only a few days training time and is entirely avoided by keeping your clone up to date. Even in the worst case scenario then, your character is still well protected when they die.

Walking in stations:
With the introduction of Walking in Stations, which is roughly slated for late next year, the massive divide between EVE and first person MMOs is set to close. Soon you'll be able to get out of your pod and walk about the game. Will we then start to make attachments with our characters rather than the ships they fly? Will losing a ship stop being such a big deal when we are more emotionally invested in our characters than our ships? Judging by the latest presentations from EVE fanfest 2008, that very well might be the case.
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at massively.com. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you want to message him, send an e-mail to brendan.drain AT weblogsinc DOT com.
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