One of life’s constants.January 7, 2010 at 9:17 am | Posted in General | 7 Comments
Tags: disappointment, eve online, game design, podded like a chump
I got podded in Eve Online.
It was pure hubris. I was running part of a nice mission chain, got a bit too complacent with some respawning ‘rats, and with only half an eye on the game I got my poor frigate’s armour chewed through in no time, and was floating home in Mork’s favourite ride.
It was the first time I’d been podded since I came back to Eve Online, and it was surprisingly affecting.
It was knowing that I’d have to replace both fittings and ship, as well as the fact that the mission I was on had a specific item, so I’d have to cancel the mission and retake it to continue. Floating home in a badly lit egg is also really, really slow. I swore a bit. And when I say “a bit”, you might want to put “a lot” there.
So there was financial cost, time cost, and status cost.
It was more than just respawning at a graveyard, and then going on a corpse run, or hitting the repair button when weapons and armour start falling apart.
And that got me to thinking. Eve Online’s death penalties are quite harsh for modern MMO gaming; the time it takes for a new player to put together all the ship fittings can be quite long, and the financial cost can be offset heavily with insurance, but as Eve’s method of PvP warfare is based on an economic footing, those costs will grind you down.
But are death penalties in other games worth it?
Old fart moment; There was nothing worse in Everquest than to level up, and then promptly die. Not only did you res completely nekkid, forcing you to run the gauntlet of every mob in the zone before getting to loot your own corpse (which wasn’t a waypoint, as there was no map) for your own equipment, but you lost xp. So you could quite easily de-level. And being nekkid just meant it was easier to get dedded again.
Of course, harsh though it was (especially with it being a levelling grind, as opposed to the easy levelling we have today) it made you care about dying.
Since then, death penalties seem to have lessened and lessened until it is just a time based penalty (running back to where you were questing) and a token financial cost (repair of gear).
And in PvP, you don’t even get those costs. With most of the PvP I see nowadays being based in specific areas, there’s a minimal journey back to the action, and no gear degradation.
This, as much as anything else, makes a game easier. Not having to keep three sets of spare gear in your bank for corpse runs (because sometimes the first two corpse runs got you ganked by the denizens of the zone), not having to worry about dropping a level because of the corpse runs, and not having to spend an hour combing the zone for your corpse really makes a game a lot more casual.
It’s got to the point where committing suicide is part of early-level fast travelling back to a quest hub. Now if that’s not proof of death no longer having a penalty, then nothing is.
But then again, should there be a penalty for death? After all, there’s no point arguing for heavier or lighter penalties if they’re not wanted at all.
I’m all for meaningful death penalties, but the emphasis is on the “meaningful”.
PvP means so much more in Eve Online because it has a direct influence on the world. The economic penalties are more than just a hit against a wallet; they are a direct and valid means of waging war. Wars in Eve are lost by those who run out of cash first. No cash, no ship, no war. It’s a fantastic way of determining who has won.
Could that work in other games? Well, World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online would feel less like games of Tig between monsters, and more like wars if they actually had an opportunity to have winners and losers. If dying meant more than just getting less points, then maybe PvP would be more of an experience?
Warhammer Online had a fantastic concept; keep dying, and the other side get to loot your big city. It’s just a shame that it never quite took off in the way it was supposed to.