The Sting Of Death

I died in EVE Online for the first time last night and I felt something I haven’t felt in a MMORPG for many years: the sting of death. I wasn’t pounding my fist on the desk or screaming at the top of my lungs but it hurt, oh boy, did it hurt. I was shocked, pissed, and completely regretting the moment when I decided to charge full speed into a swarm of tough rats (NPC pirates). Alas, after a few moments, I recovered and felt OK about it all and then, a little while later, I thought to myself “hey, this death mechanic is actually pretty good…”.

For those of you aren’t familiar with EVE Online, when you die you lose your ship and all the equipment on it. Your cargo remains in your ship’s wreck to be collected later (hopefully by yourself) and you eject into an escape pod to use to get your ass to the nearest space station and equip another ship. Sometimes other players will maliciously destroy your escape pod too (known as podding), in which case you end up back at a cloning facility. Of course, there are ways to alleviate the sting of death by making sure your ship is insured and your clone is up to date. As I discovered, good insurance is very important as, for about 1/4 the price of your ship, you can get almost your full investment back when it’s destroyed. The weapons and items you’ve attached to your ship, however, are lost into the aether.

My net loss (after my insurance payout), due to my death, was about 1.4 million ISK. To give you an indication of timescales, I could probably earn that much in about an hour or two. I was flying a Cormorant destroyer, fully insured fortunately, so it wasn’t hard to replace, however I’d had just bought a new tractor beam that very day which cost me a cool 1 mill ISK and now it was destroyed. Ouch indeed.

So you may be wondering why I actually quite like this death mechanic. Now I’m not a masochist or anything like that but I feel that a fear of death is healthy and the only way to induce a healthy fear is through a nasty sting. Being scared to die makes me sweat when I’m in tough battles and think twice about what I want to do and how I want to do it. It adds consequences to the game world and provides a balance to our actions. Without the sting of death, the point of it is meaningless and there becomes no need to challenge ourselves as players.

Death in EVE also has the very cunning side effect of controlling the virtual economy and the trade market. Money is very important in EVE, moreso than many other MMORPGs I’ve played, and to give value to currency you need to make sure that the market never becomes saturated. Most MMOs do this through souldbound mechanics whilst EVE does it through item and propety destruction, ensuring there is a continual and constant demand for ships, weapons and equipment. Clever, very clever.

Anyone that knows me will tell you that I’m a casual MMO player but I make the distinction of being casual in time, not in challenge. I don’t have any problems with the death mechanics in EVE, in fact, I applaud it. It brings depth to the game world, gives consequences to our actions and, above all else, it teaches us some very valuable lessons.

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22 Comments

  1. Longasc says:

    You still did not tell us how you died.

    Did a lowly Gurista or Pithi rat shoot you? :)

  2. Gremrod says:

    Welcome to EVE! Isn’t it the best mmo game? The reason I love the game is written by you in this blog. The death mechanic. It is the grease that smooths the gears that keeps EVE moving forward!

    Last of the games with Risk vs. Reward! You die you pay for your mistake.

    Even being podding can hurt those that have implants.

    Also if you burned straight for those pirates. That was your first mistake…. Read about transversal in eve. Straight line in eve with some ships means certain death.

  3. Veksar says:

    Good post. I really wish more MMOs would use real death penaltys. It makes the game feel so much more alive. Tt’s great to have that sense of fear toward death! It makes everything you do just that much more exciting!

  4. Jesse says:

    Don’t forget to salvage your own ship. hehehe

  5. Good thing they were just rats as opposed to real pirates who might’ve podded you! :)

    When I first started I joined an academy (which has long since disbanded) and they taught me a lot about everything. Are you in a great corp yet?

  6. I really like the Eve death mechanic too. I wrote up some thoughts on it a couple of years ago that still seem relevant today. It’s good that death means something.

    Dying stings a lot more when it’s a PvP death. Knowing some horrible person on the other side of the Internet killed you is bad. Knowing you’ve got 5 seconds to warp your pod out before you die the True Death is terrifying.

    BTW, do you have friends in-game? Eve is a lot more fun in groups. I’m not playing much, but drop me an email if you want an in game bu ddy.

  7. JC says:

    Transversal is *extremely* important, both when flying a gunship and when flying against gunships. Burning straight toward a gunship is bad (though getting others to burn straight toward *your* gunship is very good ;) ) so you want to aim off about 45 degrees to the side and kinda spiral in as best you can with EVE’s movement mechanics.

    Even in my missile spewers I always orbit the warp-in beacon or acceleration gate or *something* just to get a little bit of motion going. It can make them miss you more often or reduce the damage done when they hit, plus it reduces damage done by missiles too, so…. always be moving, and sideways is usually best.

    Something that may help is to add the transversal velocity column to your overview. Then you can see how hard a time they’re having hitting you (and you them, for that matter).

    Did you REALLY say you put blasters on a Cormorant? Rails, man! 125’s if possible, with Thorium ammo. Gives you excellent range while not cutting your dps too badly.

  8. Dblade says:

    I disagree. It sounds like FFXI when I played, when i jumped into a fight soloing as my beastmaster, and died multiple times in a night for whatever reason (tough fight, ambushed by a link, charm being cranky) I’d say I lost about the same impact in time, maybe an hours worth of soloing.

    That didn’t make the game more exciting, that just made me a lot more conservative. If I started risking things on each solo fight, I had to think is it worth it to even bother? Will I break even, gain exp, or lose it and waste my time?

    It makes you a smart player, or it makes you smart enough to realize your limitations. It doesnt make it all that much fun, or at least to me. EVE only works because you have to PvP or the game sucks, from what I hear, and the only purpose of ISK is to burn it away getting blown up.

  9. Beej says:

    That does sound like a fantastic death mechanic. I always liked that I could lose stuff that I took out of my house in Ultima Online and EQ, but death literally means nothing in WoW. I can do stupid stuff and toss a little gold at it, and it’s okay. I was fine with that when the game was new, but I think I’d like it better if I knew that when I killed someone it mattered a little instead of them respawning ~30 seconds later.

  10. Longasc says:

    http://eve.grismar.net/rats/ -> as you know, EVE has two primary kinds of defense: Shields and Armor. There are 4 damage types: EM, Thermal, Kinetic and Explosive.

    Check Grismar’s page to see if your mobs have strong shields, but weak armor or vice versa. Then pick missiles with the proper damage type or use weapons that do the most damage to them.

    This is also important for PvP. Shields in general are very vulnerable to EM damage, whereas Armor is very vulnerable to explosive damage.

    There is also something called tracking speed of guns and the mentioned traversal (not transversal, guys) velocity. A small frigate can circle a battleship for example at high speed, just outside “webifier” range and fire at it with impunity, as the large guns cannot track and hit it due to high traversal velocity.

    Also take the pain to find out the REAL range of your guns. Outranging the mobs and flying away from them is ideal e.g.. They will follow you, and be sitting ducks/targets. Blast them to pieces.

    Check THIS file, it was taken from the official EVE page, I wonder why they no longer host it, It explains tracking, signature radius and falloff-range stuff:

    http://www.hostile.dk/files/eve/eve-tracking101.swf

  11. Longasc says:

    Sorry, it is transversal velocity. Makes more sense. :)

  12. [...] it. I also experience very little kinship with people I group with and wasn’t until I died for the first time in EVE Online that I realised something: fearing death is a good thing. It’s an emotion and helps spark off [...]

  13. Twan says:

    What does 1 million ISK go for on these gold selling websites?

  14. Kuinnon says:

    I’ve been playing for about a week now, just lost my brand new Maulus with all my best eq last night when I stupidly flew right into a pincer attack by a dozen pirates. First time fighting pirates above the lowly initiate/nomad level and vastly underestimated them! Came back and picked them off with my Tristan though so revenge was nice :)

    This is the first game that has interested me enough to pay monthly.

  15. [...] The Sting Of Dead I died for the first time in EVE Online and it inspired this article about using consequences to invoke emotions in our MMORPGs. It wasn’t until I wrote this that I truly started to understand and appreciate the design behind EVE and all of the clever ways that it subtlety affects us. [...]

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