Online games have a particular problem dealing with player death. There has to be some risk, some consequence for losing a fight. But harsh penalties have a way of making for unhappy customers, so the trend over time is to make the penalty smaller and smaller. Dying in World of Warcraft has almost no consequence at all, and WoW players mostly just laugh when they get killed.

Eve Online takes a very interesting alternate approach. If your spaceship is destroyed in a battle, you lose the ship. It's gone, blown up, as is most of your cargo and ship fittings. (A bit is left behind for a pirate to scavenge.) It's pretty punitive, although it's not so bad for newer players as the cheaper ships can be insured. But for a seasoned player in a HAC with faction modules the cost of losing their ship is quite significant.

The result? Ship to ship battles mean something. When you lose your ship, it smarts. And it's quite a pleasure to kill a pirate and loot his fancy engines and guns. The significance of death means the game is more intense.

Eve also has a very clever game dynamic that makes dying even more exciting: your pod. When your ship is blown up you, personally, don't die. You eject in an escape pod. And your pod is in the battlefield, a very vulnerable and juicy target. If you're fast you can usually get your pod out before you're blown up, but it's intensely stressful. Because now you're dying a second death, a more real one because it's you, not just your spaceship. Clever idea.

Sadly, I've stopped playing Eve Online. Because as brilliant as the game is, it's not fun for me. The politics, economics, player created content are all fantastic. But the core game mechanics of spaceships shooting each other just isn't very good. Takes too long to find a fair fight and the fight is over too quickly. But I'll miss the joy of winning a fleet battle and destroying our enemy's materiel and the adrenaline fear of being attacked by a pirate and just barely escaping with my ship on fire.

  2007-01-31 17:46 Z