The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule of EVE is never fly what you can’t afford to lose. A corollary of that rule is that eventually, you will lose your ship. It’s the hardest lesson for new players to come to grips with. Other games foster a sense of item permanence: you work hard for the best item you can get, and then it’s yours forever.

In EVE, you can work hard for weeks or months to acquire a ship you have your heart set on, raising the necessary isk and training the necessary skills. Then comes the big day. You hop into your dream ship, undock, ready for its maiden voyage. And it can get blown up literally in the first few minutes.

If you haven’t followed the Golden Rule, you can bankrupt yourself with one bad decision. Unfortunately, this is a situation that marks the end of many players’ first attempt at EVE. The loss is too bitter, and they quit in frustration.

Other players are quick to tell newbros about the Golden Rule, but I’m not sure anyone really learns it until they fly something they shouldn’t. Typically, this is early days for a player; they don’t have much, and it’s taken them a while to accumulate it. So, it’s easy to sink your entire, hard-won net worth into one ship, whether because of the cost of the hull, fit, cargo or its associated collateral. Furthermore, it’s tempting to do so. It takes isk to make isk, and new players often try to leverage what little they have to improve their financial situation.

I first had that experience back in 2008 on my very first character. In my first couple of weeks, I thought I’d found a way to jumpstart my wallet with a trade route moving trade goods between low-sec and high-sec. With each trip, I was doubling my isk; I thought I had it figured out. Which leads us to the other pernicious aspect of the Golden Rule as it relates to new players. They don’t understand the risks they’re taking, so the corollary of the Golden Rule kicks in much earlier. I, of course, eventually got blown up on the gate as I transitioned into low-sec and lost everything I had.

However, the Golden Rule isn’t limited to just new players. As you accumulate isk and skills, your options open up greatly. As you move into more advanced gameplay, the temptation returns to fly the best ship you can, to give you that extra edge in whatever goal you’re pursuing.

In my opinion, the best way to approach the Golden Rule is to accept that, as soon as you get inside your ship, it has already been destroyed. It is inevitable, it is coming. Accept that, and there’s no need to be angry or bitter about ship loss, because you’ve already come to terms with it and addressed its financial impact.

Your fundamental goal is to mitigate your risk in order to maximize your return on investment. There are at least three approaches to accomplish this goal: 1) fly the cheapest ship/fit possible that still accomplishes its fundamental purpose; 2) invest in a ship/fit that maximizes survivability; 3) modify your behavior and decision process to reduce your risk profile.

The first approach mitigates your risk by limiting how much isk you’re putting into play. The loss of a cheap ship/fit has a negligible impact on your assets. Furthermore, it’s much easier for a cheap fit to earn more than it’s worth before its fated day arrives.

The second approach addresses the risk mitigation/ROI balance by investing in a more expensive platform with the expectation that investment will allow your ship to survive dangerous situations with a greater success rate. This allows for more effective isk generation and/or a greater earnings lifetime. However, that investment should not equal more than 50% of an expense that can be absorbed without damaging your isk generation infrastructure with respect to liquid capital. You need to be able to write off the expense of the loss plus the cost of its replacement. That is your ceiling for investing in an expensive fit. Beyond that, you’re getting into dangerous territory relative to the Golden Rule.

The third approach is something you should always put into practice. It means don’t make dumb decisions, like flying an industrial into Tama or flying a wildly inappropriate fit. It means not cutting corners. For example, if you’re flying through dangerous space, take steps to counter the worst possible outcome rather than hoping for the best. The former means more patience and extra work. The latter is quicker and easier, but you’re abrogating your responsibility to manage your risk profile.

Respect the Golden Rule and adapt to this essential paradigm of EVE, and you’ll never be broken by a ship loss again.

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