I sat on my parents couch over the weekend, just mad and stunned at myself. Meanwhile the room around me howled with laughter, my father chuckling like I hadn't seen in quite a while. The whole time, though, my 7-year old nephew was hooked on what was happening on the laptop screen in front of him - EVE Online playing out to this wide-eyed kid excited to see a new game.
See, I was loging into EVE while at my parents house over the weekend just to get my daily rewards. However, my 7-year old nephew was sitting on the couch next to me and was immediately excited to potentially watch a game. My 17-year old nephew was also intrigued, having checked out EVE Online himself recently but at a loss for what to really do.
So I logged in, but just 30 minutes and 16 jumps later I was limping back to Jita from the Trigalvian Invasion content, defeated.
EVE Online has a constant refrain: Never fly something you can't afford to lose. Loss is intrinsic to the EVE Online experience, something the Icelandic developer is keen to reinject in the space-faring MMO as more and more with recent updates such as the controversial Forsaken Fortress feature. I was cocky though. I ended up undocking from my port in Jita with my favorite - and most expensive - ship: my Machariel.
My nephew was awed by the large battleship, completely excited to see it in action. I could have very easily just gone to a nearby system and taken out some easy to kill rats and he would have been stoked. But it had been a while since I really took part in some of the Triglavian Invasion content. And I had soloed EDENCOM Forward Sites using my Machariel before.
16 jumps later I found myself probing Actee, a system that at the time was under seige by the invading forces. Finding a nearby site to engage I took a deep breath and warped into the site. My father, channeling his inner Nostradamus, predicted that I would get destroyed and regret this entire venture. I shrugged it off. Afterall, I had soloed these about six or seven times before in this same Machariel. What could go wrong?
After taking out two or three rats myself, I found myself low on armor, my hull next to be burned down. I also experienced something I hadn't before in an EDENCOM site while soloing it - it launched shield reparing Logistics Drones. I targeted the drones and sent mine to take them out, but it was too late. Already fighitng against five or six strong NPCs, I aligned to the stargate ready to warp out before it was too late.
But it already was.
My drones took care of the Logis, but they had repaired enough of the enemy NPCs shields that I couldn't burn them down and the rest of the hull while also trying to get away. I was seconds away from escaping when all of a sudden I found myself in my Astero, my Machariel exploding a short distance behind me.
My nephew exclaimed in wonder at the spectacle. My brother and father howled with laughter. I sat, stunned at my inability to escape on time. Also - I had broken a basic tennet of EVE Online. I definitely could not replace my Machariel.
As fitted the cost totaled over 1 billion ISK. I had just spent most of my meagre ISK on fitting an Abaddon in order to take part in fleets with the Kybernauts when using that doctrine. I had just over 70 million ISK to my name - a paltry amount compared to many.
My nephew was stoked for me to find a new fight though. It really hadn't sunk in to him that I was basically devastated at my own hubris. Yet, it wasn't a loss that made me want to rage quit or even stop playing right away. I set up mining operations when I got home that night to start earning ISK in order to replace the loss.
Loss having meaning in EVE Online actually makes each interaction feel more meaningful compared to many other MMORPGs I play. I can't remember the last time I did anything in World of Warcraft or The Lord of the Rings Online that made me feel as though I had lost something pretty major but that loss feeling like a natural course of gameplay. In fact, I can't remember a time I felt real loss in one of those games other than feeling my time was being wasted with a grind or a PUG group that couldn't run through a raid fast enough.
Yet EVE Online injects the feeling of loss and overcoming risk as one of the major elements of its gameplay loop - one that rewards, and at times humbles, its capsuleers. Former CSM member, EVE YouTuber and occassional MMORPG contributor Jin'taan summed it up perfectly in a reply to my short set of tweets from Saturday.
This set of tweets is a perfect short story that describes everything I love about EVE.Pride begets tragedy!— Jin'taan (@JintaanEVE) July 12, 2020
As I approached the last few jumps before getting back to Jita, we stumbled upon a PvP battle happening at the Stargate in Perimeter. I sat, cloaked in my Astero away from the action, but close enough that we could observe it, and let my nephew watch as capsuleers duked it out. I ruminated about my previous choices in EVE leading up to this point.
It reminded me that losing my Machariel wasn't the end for me. Rather, it was simply a new beginning.
Do you have a story about loss in an MMORPG, EVE or otherwise? Do you think games should have mechanics that make us keenly feel loss as just a part of the loop, or should games be more forgiving across the board?