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Reader Comments (28)

Posted: May 15th 2008 10:02AM (Unverified) said

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That's why I wasn't suggesting reinstating ridiculous penalties. I suspect there are other ways to give the feeling or illusion of risk which lends itself to adventure that aren't harsh death penalties. It doesn't need to be devastating -- you just need some sting for failure that makes things interesting.

I don't consider you a carebear or a noob because you value your time and enjoy playing what's out there. WoW is great, LoTRO is great -- I play and enjoy both. Similarly, I appreciate the accessibility of modern gaming. My fiancee would never play EverQuest, but she's played WoW with me on occasion.

However, I also don't think that what I'm longing for is a "cliqueish desire to be in gaming before it went mainstream." It would be easy enough to recreate that: I could just go play on a MUD or pick up EverQuest again. What I'm really lamenting is that all of the good, big-budget games are going the same direction when it comes to risk. They're getting rid of it. Players losing time or gear is bad -- the flipside is that rewards are small and incremental. The thing about being able to lose your gear or a bunch of xp is that you should also be able to regain it all with a lucky break (or a new set anyway). That could take away the bite without making the adventure feel trivial.

Another possibility is increasing the distance you have to run if you die. If dying sends you and your gear back across several zones, you're going to avoid dying a lot more than if you just re-spawn 30 feet away. It's kind of like in console gaming when they make you restart the level each time you die instead of letting you start off from where you died -- one way is much easier, and one way is much more satisfying when you finally win.
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Posted: May 15th 2008 9:52AM koehler83 said

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Yeah.. Fear is definitely a necessity. It completely undermines the 'Adventure' if death is meaningless.

FFXI is maligned because you can lose not only your experience, but your level if you die. Fact is, every FFXI player knows that the risk is what makes it worth it. It makes you fight harder to survive and gives healers a sense of purpose.

Posted: May 15th 2008 9:52AM (Unverified) said

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I have to admit, FEAR is missing from a lot of MMOs, but I don't think it has to be.

I'm currently playing on Cairne which is a new(ish) PVE server for WoW but I had come over from Mannoroth, which is PVP. I found playing on Mannoroth to be more exciting and that was for the fear of getting blindsided and killed while trying to quest.

I can't help but miss that feeling. It kept me paying attention and on edge. Now on the PVE server I just mow through quests and stuff with little challenge (other than duoing instances which does get exciting).

I also miss the opportunity to blindside someone and send them to the graveyard. BGs just aren't the same :(

Fear and risk can definitely manifest in ways other than item or level loss.

Yeah the loss of a couple of minutes time isn't all that horrid, but its more about the pride of getting defeated. I don't explode if I get killed but I fight tooth and nail to make sure I don't roll over. Even escaping can be fun.

By the way, I killed a level 65 Warrior while I was a 53rd level Hunter - nerf me :) That was pretty exciting because I figured I was outmatched with the guy being 12 levels higher. I guess he thought so too and was surprised it wasn't a cake walk :)

These games can be challenging and risky if you're willing to take the risks. Too often people fall into their comfort zones of doing instances with full groups, characters that are too high a level for them or with a ringer to crush everything. Easy mode isn't fun, but just because you can play a game on easy mode doesn't mean you have to.

Posted: May 15th 2008 9:52AM (Unverified) said

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I completely agree. Prior to ever becoming envolved with WoW I use to play Runescape. Yes the graphics stunk, and from what i recall there weren't too many group events, but the fear of death was definately there. If you went too far north (the wilderness..? I can't recall the name) you were attackable by ANYONE. And that could mean people 40 levels higher. The fact was yes you could avoid those areas, but it was a sense of exploration, and the fact there really was some neat stuff up there.

So you took your chances and made your way up north, only to find yourself being stalked by some player with amazing gear and a thirst for blood. Well, that was fear. If you were killed, you lost what was it - everything save for your three most valuable possessions? (Sorry been waaaay too long). As well, you spawned back at the starting point of the game. It really could get you down, or anger you.

Although death was seemingly rare if you were careful, when you were so unlucky as to come face-to-face with an unbeatable foe, the fear was there. Sometimes I quit the game for a few days after a death just to get over the fact I had to pretty much "start again".

Well enough rambling, I probably should have just summerized that, oh well :P

But I completely agree with you, fear makes the game interesting. I have been playing WoW for about 2 years now and I am completely bored of it. I continue to make new characters in the hope I can rekindle my interest until something new comes along.

Looking to Conan now, the graphics look good and with interesting classes and locations, maybe it will be more along the lines of what I had hoped for in an MMO.

I think truly, if games were to introduce perhaps minor penalties for death - say, have the graveyard near a town, and leave some areas desolate of any "man-made" structures. That would give us that sense of freedom and exploration, and if you die, you have much further to run, so it would ignite that desire for survival in players. As well, say you died so and so far out, maybe you would lose say one item, and have to do a quest or trial in order to get it back. (I'm thinking like losing your mount, and having to kill some crazy beast so you can get the reins back?) Just an idea, but I really could use a good dose of fear in my MMOs. They're just not up to par with what I was wanting. High expectations? Well maybe, but the fear of dying in some desolate jungle far outweighs the fear of a hefty repairbill after hours of wiping on some raid boss with a guild master yelling his head off.

Posted: May 15th 2008 1:32PM (Unverified) said

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Excellent, another homerun.

The ass-puckering tension of hugging the wall through Kithicor at NIGHT is definitely missing from modern MMOs.

Even the cliched "Leeroy Jenkins" incident, pretty much known universally as the worst way you could F-up in WoW, would have only caused a couple gold in repairs and a release-and-runback that took less time than the original buildup. I would never avoid any fight/area/situation in WoW out of fear, only laziness.

For better or worse, stiff death penalties, along with non-quest XP grinding, spending any time actually traveling on foot for more than 5 minutes, and any kind of "face to face" trade interactions, is gone forever.

Posted: May 18th 2008 12:35AM (Unverified) said

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It's all true. About the only way to instill fear in MMORPG's is to have serious consequences upon death, or add more random elements to battles (flanking enemies or something, I don't know).

The "don't die because you might lose a good piece of gear that you have to retrieve from your corpse" seemed to work exceptionally well in Asheron's Call, and in Everquest as well it sounds like (I only played AC). Players put so much pride in their gear, the risk of losing it is about the best way to scare them.

I remember losing my best chest piece and going on ONE HECK of journey to retrieve it from my corpse after dying. I died in the middle of nowhere and back tracking through the forest trying to recall the slightest of details to find my way, and then actually finding it was absolutely amazing.

But, of course. These days, thanks to advanced graphics, it seems building a game costs so much money to make that the developers say "screw awesomeness, let's make money" and make every game appeal to all the people out there who simply want to treat the game like a giant chatroom. They don't want to put any real effort into the game (because they classify "effort" as work, and they don't play games to "work", they play for "fun") and thus they want everything spoonfed to them. See LOTRO as an example. Holy crap, talk about EZ mode x 2. The lore fans and half wits have completely out-voiced everybody else. There just isn't anything to fear at all in that game. It's like walking through candyland.

Posted: May 18th 2008 10:56AM fzzzt said

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I agree completely. It's like I'm reading my own posts on various forums. I also agree with nearly all of the comments. I'm glad I stumbled upon this site; it seems like good company.

One of my fondest MMO memories is when I first started playing EQ, after going out and buying it with some friends when Kunark was released. They created Humans/Barbs, I created a Dark Elf (I didn't know better). Subsequently I ran from Neriak to Qeynos, by myself, at level 1. This was before killing anything or really even figuring out how to play the game, learning as I went so I could play with my friends. Little did I know, when I arrived, that the city wanted to kill me. Knowing that if I died I had a long, long run ahead of me, I was "living in fear" for quite a while. Eventually I was able to walk around Qeynos (and later still, Felwithe), which I was a bit proud of.

I disagree a bit with Lee in that I think a harsh death penalty is not the only way to instill fear, but merely the only way that has been thought of so far. I mean you don't need a death penalty to create risk, but that's the mechanic that all games use. I can't think of another way right now though...from my D&D days, fighting a Rust Monster was scary because it could destroy your equipment. Maybe something like that would work.

I think another important part in the adventuring experience is lack of knowledge about the environment. Newer games (and even EQ now) have detailed maps, minimaps, compasses with markers and all sorts of cues that eliminate the need, and very nearly the ability, to explore. In EQ you had none of that, so it often felt like you were lost, which added to the risk and fear. I wouldn't mind a map that appeared as you explored, similar to WoW, that your character records in-game.

I think a good death mechanic is "res sickness", but it isn't harsh enough to make a difference. It should last for hours (in-game time), should start out harshly (half stats, slow run speed, uncontrollable desire for brains) and slowly degrade over time. I don't think XP loss with death is a good mechanic. Honestly I think, if I lived in a world where dying didn't "kill" me, I would actually gain experience from dying. In AD&D, IIRC, death means you "permanently" lose one point of Constitution. If you drop to 0 con, you're dead. Reroll. You can restore your lost points but it's usually expensive and/or difficult. This is another viable mechanic, I think. It gives a sting that is risky on two levels, and gets worse.

No matter what death penalty is used, I think it's important (for me) that it fits the lore somehow; it makes it easier to believe and accept. Shadowbane worked their death in slightly, with the tree of life, but all other games I've played just "poof" you back with no explanation, which makes it seem more artificial and silly and unfair. What if, when you died, you went to the Land of the Dead and had to fight your way back to life, gaining experience along the way? Just thinking out loud...

Posted: May 20th 2008 2:17PM thranx said

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Amen. Risk is missing in modern MMOs. I had hoped that the fear of death would return with Vanguard, but the game itself seemed to fall apart towards the final stages of beta. Much of the "core gamer" attitude of the game was lost and it moved closer and closer to ezmode.

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