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Reader Comments (67)

Posted: Feb 27th 2010 12:29PM Critical Mass said

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Perhaps more interesting, would be to reflect on gameplay that take future time into concideration and not so much actions in present time. Then having fun playing the game (over time) could be enough (and a goal, from the perspective of the player wanting to play and not the developer expecting/urging people to play).

This notion of mine would imo probably have to do with various forms of immersion, where one as a player have things to look forward to. Perhaps I am thinking of long term penalties, that somehow make sense. Then a equation would look like this: risk/reward=making sense/fun.

For example, one could play as a thief, yet stay away from mortal danger if one were careful (and still enjoy the game), and perhaps there would be a moment where the risk/stakes were high and the thief character would have to choose to pursue this. Risk would in this respect as I see it, be a part of a greater complicated game-mechanics. Hm, this also comes close to an earlier notion of mine, where I accused people of misunderstanding 'roles' in games, where a thief would really only viewed as playable in so far as he were to be doing mainly thief-like-stuff in the game.

Would be more fun I think, to have a more elaborate world where 'roles' where taken up and acting against what would be understood as 'paradigms' in the game, and not simply a special role for the sake of playing this special role. E.g when a fighter is deemed to be good at damaging others, yet unfortunately being a flawed and limited expectation that probably surround a fighter character, being viewed as having a 'role' for the sake of showing a limited and specialized purpose (role) to a player for playing the game at all.

My notion of 'paradigms' would, compared to 'roles', stand against this, in forms of limitations, where for example being a damage dealing warrior would come up short in certain situations. Because of 'paradigms' in the world, and not because one specific 'role' is pitted against the other predetermined 'roles' that other people play.

Paradigms would then depend on semi-realistic circumstances, like weather, day/night, perhaps temperature, cover, special environment, combat game mechanics, movement-game-mechanics etc.

How about hiring a professional architect (the ones designing/drawing houses etc) to do help working out game mechanics, who probably doesn't shy away from challenges. A person who hates wow and thinks that Eve is too simplistic.

Posted: Feb 27th 2010 12:56PM spamero said

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I had no idea what death penalty really meant till I tried Eve... there is nothing comparable to the adrenaline rush you get while fighting. Your hands really shake after.

Running to your corpse is just a minor annoyance.

I don't say one way is better then the other, it all depends on the context.

Posted: Feb 27th 2010 1:06PM Ryukan said

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I say screw severe death penalties, heck screw death penalties overall. I want to play the game, not waste a bunch of time dealing with death penalties. Not having fun-oppressing death penalties does not make me play any less focused or seriously. I don't need nasty long duration debuffs or have all my stuff taken to make me not want to die in an MMO, death is penalty enough.

Posted: Feb 27th 2010 1:16PM wjowski said

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I always find myself amused by people describing EQ's death penalty as 'harsh'. When I first came into that game from UO before the Trammel split I was all like "Other players can't loot our corpse? Awesome!"

Posted: Feb 28th 2010 8:04AM SkuzBukit said

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In early EQ they could, that was if you gave them permission to drag your corpse...they removed looting consented corpses later on though.
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Posted: Feb 27th 2010 1:18PM (Unverified) said

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If developers are going to ever take death penalties seriously, they're first going to have to take combat seriously. In many MMOs, death is commonplace. Combat resurrections happen a lot while raiding or participating in PvP. Attaching a heavy penalty to death in such games would be very irritating for the players and deter them from playing.

If you want more realistic death penalties, you have to develop more realistic game mechanics. You can't severely punish people because they lagged for 2 seconds or got ganked by someone 50 levels over them. Even the most hardcore PvP'er will eventually quit out of frustration (or simply not wanting to deal with the death penalty anymore).

Posted: Feb 27th 2010 1:20PM (Unverified) said

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I often find myself in a position where I'm imposing death penalties on myself. I'm a big fan of perma-death metagaming, and I've run more than my share of "hardcore mode" alts in MMOs and even traditional single-player games, like Mass Effect 2, for example. I'll create and run a character through as many missions as I can until I die, and use that as a benchmark to challenge myself on subsequent runs.

I also enjoy "Ironman" challenges. Combining Ironman and Permadeath is the ultimate metagaming experience, imho.

Posted: Feb 27th 2010 2:16PM (Unverified) said

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I for one do not like the "loss of gear" death penalties some games have. They do give you some amount of danger to going out with items that you fought so hard for, but they also make you think twice about fighting hard for them in the first place.

I also am not a huge fan of the corpse run. I have played WoW long enough to have to do it over and over again. Blizzard has seen that the corpse run is not fun and is not a valid "penalty" to impose on players and has put more and more graveyards, making the runs less and less of an annoyance.

I AM a huge fan of the XP death penalty, even to the degree of deleveling. In FFXI, you simply did not want to die. A single death meant you had to find a way to grind XP. Exploration, boss fights, and even mundane tasks had a risk to them that was palpable, not something that can be said for a monetary penalty as in WoW.

I am also a fan of a persistent debuff penalty upon resurrection. FFXI had a 5minute debuff that reduced health and other statistics that got worse upon multiple deaths (harder to zerg). I believe AoC had a similar debuff that got stronger the amount of times you died during a period. Aion's similar debuff only occurs if rezzed by a player or an obelisk and can be removed by spending money.

I am not a fan of the money trade off. Do not charge me gil, kinah, gold, etc simply because I died.

In the end, a death penalty should make you wary of any risky activity but not stop you from attempting it.

Posted: Feb 27th 2010 2:56PM Randomessa said

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I am with Seth and Tac on death penalties. Every time I play a game, I ante up my available time, which is precious to me. Every time I die in an encounter, I lose the time I invested and, most likely, that was all the time I had to play for the evening. My punishment is that I have to stop for the day having achieved nothing despite the time I put in, and then have to put off progress until my next free time slot. This is hardly trivial to me.

I do not need the game, or other players, to determine how valuable my time is, or how cautious I ought to be, or how much I need to "fear" death. For one, I *do* fear death and I do not zerg encounters, and for two, it's not your business if even if I do, especially as a solo/duo player - why be so concerned with how other people play?

I have no problem with games that do this, for those who play games like others play extreme sports - some people like that kind of adrenaline and risk, and that's fine, we can't all like the same thing. I have a huge problem with people come into every single game forum and demand that the game become more risky because otherwise "it's not fun". Speak for yourselves; I'm having tons of fun over here in risk-free land and my money is as green as yours.

Posted: Feb 27th 2010 3:08PM (Unverified) said

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I always thought that death should be more realistic. When you die. Your dead.
It doesn't make any sense to be screaming at someone, "Over my temporarily dead body!"

Posted: Feb 28th 2010 1:16AM Lionhearted said

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The problem is that not many people would play that game, even for a niche. Not even EVE goes that far.

That isn't to say it couldn't work, but the game would have to be built in a very different way -- maybe a game where you aren't so tied to individual, personal avatars, or one where (rational) players were practically impossible to kill, and where random computer/network problems couldn't cause you to die (as they often do!).
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Posted: Feb 27th 2010 3:31PM (Unverified) said

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Not to beat a dead horse but...

Runes of Magic. Best death I've seen in a game yet- All the aspects of it too.

Posted: Feb 27th 2010 3:31PM (Unverified) said

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I didn't like corpse looting in Ultima and don't like it now. I think it only encourages the lazy to camp young characters and repeatedly loot them. it was horrible in the beginning of Ultima online, and probalby will be the main reason I won't bother with Darkfall.

There is enough abuse in games with people trying to extend their own warped idea of fun on folks that would just as soon not participate in that - they have the game they want to pursue, not avoid childish gankers.

yep, don''t much like that.

Posted: Feb 27th 2010 6:55PM Necromas said

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I like the way WoW handles it, it's just too much of a killjoy to have to worry so much about dying that you can't take any stupid/fun risks.

Posted: Feb 27th 2010 4:22PM Its Utakata stupid said

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I don't like dying period. Death penalties only adds insult to injury, IMO.

However, I still think they should be there. Reason, there should be something debuff placed on immortal tunes that just got chopped in half, squashed or blown to peices. In real life, surviving a serious injury may take months if not years to recover if it hasn't crippled us. And with death, there is simply no return. But in a game where we can be resurrected to full health, our chracters don't suffer from long term recovery....there has to be something there to reflect that alternate world when our health bar disappears.

WoW and CoX likley has the best two mechanics IMO. Because they recognize our need for an immortality compensation without taking it too seriously, because it's just a game after all. And it also recognizes that death of the character, is not always the player's fault.

Posted: Feb 27th 2010 5:03PM (Unverified) said

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Almost all of the comments are ME!-centered. Interesting.

There is no "best". To a large extent it depends on the target player base. I've exagerated the tendencies of different groups a bit for emphasis.

Teenagers (oarticularly males) typically tend to prefer higher risk levels, and have more time. Often more process than goal oriented. Failure just means learn and try again, and a substantial death penalty increases the thrill. A lot of grind (especially in Asian games which are very heavily youth oriented) is acceptable. Complex game mechanics work well, as do bragging rights with ladders and titles and exotic armor and mounts. I suspect that some (many?) in this group tend to move from hot new title to hot new title. Flashy babe marketing, high churn rate, high marketing costs.

A game directed towards those whose car insurance rates have fallen to adult levels will be oriented towards those who "steal" five (guilty) hours a week from family life. No all-nighters, not with a Power Point presentation to give next morning. The game has to allow something "useful" to be completed in a few hours. Rather than a sense of striving or accomplishment, which RL is providing now, MMO's are played for a change of pace, a chance to get away from the rat race for a bit, to socialize a bit with the (low drama) guild. Exploration gets more emphasis. Where does a heavy death penalty (or PVP) fit here? What does risk/reward in a game mean when your real reward comes from seeing your kid play a bush in the school play? (And remember her line?) I think this group stays with a game longer (in RL terms), has more conflicting demands on disposable income and is not a good target for "free" to play games.

Another group becoming increasingly important in MMO's is the retirees. More time, slower reflexes, a more ummm.... detached view. Again, heavy death penalties will not be attractive, but perhaps a higher puzzle content might be. (?) Probably a more relaxed style of gameplay yet, and PVP is pretty well out completely. I'd guess these are long term players.

Can a game cater to more than one demographic slice? WoW is the obvious example; hard core players can tear through the early levels, and get to raiding. The harsher penalty there is the group wipe, a wasted evening, and getting yelled at by your raid leader if you mess up. And (I'm told) noticeable armor repair bills. Those inclined to take things less seriously can enjoy the subtle humor of some of the quests. Major quests are conveniently broken into smaller steps, and there's almost always something new tucked away just over any hill. EVE is very successful, in its own way, partly because it offers non-PVP ways to play, although they are a bit limited eventually.

So eventually, it's a business decision. Who are the customers, and how can the developers broaden the game's appeal with constrained resources and without turning the game into a shapeless porridge? How do you co-ordinate the marketing direction with the game style? Critically, is the tutorial appropriate? Not easy answers, and several games of recent memory illustrate the perils of a misstep here. A lot of complaints about games can be seen as a failure for the game to know what it is, to design for that group, and to attract the appropriate player base.

Posted: Feb 27th 2010 5:43PM Stormwaltz said

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Astute post.
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Posted: Feb 27th 2010 5:02PM Stormwaltz said

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Unless your game is designed around strategic PvP (EVE, Darkfall), there's no reason an MMORPG *needs* a death penalty.

There, I said it.

The hardcore want death penalties in PvE because they're hardcore, justifying it to themselves as risk vs. reward. (Though if it were *really* about risk vs. reward, why aren't they all deleting their characters when they're first defeated, or playing full-loot PvP games?) However, death penalties are a barrier to casual players. Who - like it or not -- far outnumber the hardcore.

In most games, the design purpose of a death penalty is just to slow down the player's advancement and keep them playing longer. That's the dirty secret behind corpse runs, enforced downtime through performance debuffs, XP gain penalties, or the need to make money to pay for equipment repairs. It's not about risk vs. reward, and it never has been. It's about inconveniencing the player to keep them playing longer.

I think we can find better ways to keep people playing than penalizing them for defeat. We don't need death penalties -- we need gripping gameplay that keep people coming back.

Posted: Feb 27th 2010 6:14PM Gigglefart said

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Say You and I and 4 friends are planning on going down the street and picking on the Bully at the end of the block. We know there are gonna be consequences if we do not work together to take him down. We know there is a real chance of getting hurt.

I know that seems funny and I hear the naysayers already, "thats just ridiculous", and yea I know it is.

Now the point is. In Games like EVE, FFXI, EQ and others with harsh death penalties there is more interaction between players, a SOCIAL gaming experience. If I want to solo something I can load up Dragon Age Origins or Mass Effect and have a solo RPG experience. I play MMO's for the social aspect and the Tactical aspects that come into play when planning a Large raid or working together in a party.

I can only speak from experience in FFXI but in that game when I was playing the ONLY way to lvl (nothing from you BST's now) was to Group. Don't even THINK about killing a Named Mob solo unless it was WAY below your lvl.

To effectively lvl you HAD to know your job. You had to know how to interact in a party.

So YES I am all in favor of Death Penalty. Was it a pain and a source of anger to DeLvL in FFXI. Yup. But I learned that BLK Mage just does not go slapping Even matches or Chain Nuke in a party if I did not want to be sitting with my group waiting for my Rez sickness to wear off. Also ad to that that I probably would not get invited back in the good parties in the future.

Posted: Feb 27th 2010 6:50PM Luk said

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"Now the point is. In Games like EVE, FFXI, EQ and others with harsh death penalties there is more interaction between players, a SOCIAL gaming experience. "
If that is true then how come COX, the game with the mildest death penalty (exp debt) is the most socially friendly game, ever? I see less interaction in games because of the easy solo gameplay than because of lack of death penalty. Maybe COX is an exception, but any game that has harsh death penalties, ala EvE, Darkfall, etc.., finding a group or joining a guild is almost as hard as passing a job interview. Higher risks encourage paranoia and generally very closed socially for the casual players.
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