Prior to the release of a new patch, I can usually be found on Singularity, the EVE Online test server, tinkering around with the upcoming changes. It gives me a chance to get a good look at what's coming, understand how it might affect the game, and occasionally catch any undocumented changes before the patch notes are released. We all know about the changes to Factional Warfare and Rigs that are due in the 1.5 "mini-expansion", but there's always going to be bug fixes and other changes slipping in under the radar, such as the brand new pod model that's recently made an appearance on the test server. And here it is:
This isn't the first time the pod has been remodeled, though, with the current capsule appearing roughly two years ago, as part of the Trinity expansion. This happy little chap right here:
The organic shape and the green coloring of this newer model clearly mark it out as Jovian, which seems appropriate given that the pod technology the empires possess was given to them by EVE's fifth major faction more than a century ago. (Personally, I think I prefer the Trinity version; I like that it doesn't look like the product of any particular race.)
A new ship model wouldn't normally be that big a deal amongst the dozens of available spacecraft, but the pod is different. This is what every player sees when they leave their ship, whether it's by choice, or due to their vessel exploding, and until we can get our hands on the Walking In Stations feature and start strutting our stuff on the station walkways, this is the closest we'll get to seeing our avatars in the game environment. That small capsule contains your current clone; lose that and you'll wake up back in a cloning station, minus any implants you had fitted. And you will lose it.
Death comes to us all in New Eden; no matter how safe you think you are; if you choose to leave the protection of a station you risk destruction. Losing your ship leaves only a wreck behind, which contains whatever modules survived the explosion, and unless you have some way of looting the wreck before other players can get to it you'll lose almost everything you brought to the fight. This can be a shock to the system, and a difficult thing for new players to adjust to, especially those coming from MMOs with minor death penalties. How it handles death is what makes EVE stand out from the majority of its peers.
EVE is a virtual world, with thousands of other players interacting with each other on any given day, and being part of that world also means dealing with the not so nice sides of it. The ability to destroy another player's time and money was always going to attract the more sadistic players, and this has earned EVE a reputation as something of a haven for those of the griefing persuasion; the kind of players that attack others just for the fun of it. But this is just the darker side of a vital part of EVE.
The player versus player aspect of the game, whether it's combat or competing for resources/profits, is what I find so compelling about EVE. No other game has given me the rush that I get when I'm fighting other players in EVE, and this is largely due to the harsh death penalties. When you can instantly respawn, along with all of your gear (and maybe reduced stats for a few minutes), there's no real fear of death, or element of risk. The possibility of losing millions of isk is what encourages players to become better pilots; you learn to keep an eye on local and the directional scanner, understand what you can fight, and what you should run away from. You either get good, or lose even more ships; and it's this deadly environment has given rise phrase "fly what you can afford".
Death not only powers the PVP combat side of the game, but also EVE's economy. Rather than the typical MMO crafting professions that are usually only a small facet of the game, the industrial side of EVE produces just about everything that keeps the game moving, from the vessels and weaponry we fight with, to the Player Owned Stations used to claim territory out in 0.0 space. This symbiotic relationship between those that create and those that destroy is the beating heart of EVE. Yes, the death penalties may seen relatively severe, but it's what makes EVE, EVE.
It's brutal. It's unfair. But it makes victory so much sweeter.