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BadSpock's Logical Conclusions.

My random thoughts about MMORPGs. A bit of critique, suggestion, debate, and insanity. Enjoy.

Author: BadSpock

Death and YOU! How would you like to meet your end?

Posted by BadSpock Wednesday July 8 2009 at 10:34AM
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The way I see it -

There are really two schools of thought on the subject of Death Penalties in MMORPGs.

The first - Negative Reinforcement:

You punish people for doing things bad. Death penalties, XP loss, all kinds of the more "old school" type of systems MMOs used to quite frequently have.

The second school of thought - Positive Reinforcement:

You reward people for doing things good. Rewards for staying alive, bonuses for doing something really well or without making mistakes or dying, etc.


Interestingly enough, World of Warcraft is adding an element of Positive Reinforcement to their latest Raid in 3.2 The highest difficulty raid instance will have a "Tribute Run" where the game will keep track of how many times you wipe on the bosses leading up the end boss.

If you wipe a lot, the rewards you earn for killing the end boss, the tribute, will be less. If you never wipe on the first bosses, when you kill the end boss you gain much better loot from the tribute run.

It's rewarding the good versus punishing the bad.

Both really accomplish the same objective, make players care about dying and try to avoid it.

Other games like Chronicles of Spellborn have a Positive Reinforcement system. You don't lose anything when you die, but instead you gain bonuses the longer you stay alive.

Psychologically, the vast majority of humans respond to Positive Reinforcement much better then they do the negative side.

It's all about finding different ways to motivate people. One just does so in a fashion that doesn't punish you or make you feel as bad, but the rewards at the end for accomplishing something are just as sweet...

... if it's done right.

fansede writes:

 Nice to hear this. A simple method to promote good gaming. So only if the entire party wipes you get less tribute? Could you conceivably have one player in the party in a safe area in the zone at act as an anchor ?

I think as an oerall concept this is a good direction

Wed Jul 08 2009 12:45PM Report
BadSpock writes:

I'm sure they've thought of that and have system in place to prevent exploitation.

No in the end it's about the idea that the price of failure is not that you lose something, but instead that you don't gain anything unless you succeed.

Seems obvious but psychologically it's interpreted very differently.

Wed Jul 08 2009 12:49PM Report
Acidon writes:

A great read.  Some really good thoughts on the penalties of death in MMOs. Personally, I have to say that I prefer the older negative reinforcement.

My first experience of this was in EverQuest.  You *really* did not want to die.  After death you would pop at your bind point with nothing.  You would be forced to retrieve your corpse.  Sure there was the possibility of having your corpse summoned, if you could convince a Necro or even Shadowknight to do this for you.  But in most cases, you were on your own.

Now of course, it's much easier to get your corpse in EQ.  That entire experience was just part of the gameplay, and you did just about anything to avoid dying.

I am not against positive reinforcement mind you, I just didn't mind the old way of doing things.  I really do think it's a great idea to reward players for *not* dying.  That's a great idea that rewards people who put in an effort to avoid death.

Just my opinion of course.  Thanks for the read.


Wed Jul 08 2009 1:56PM Report
t0nyd writes:

" Other games like Chronicles of Spellborn have a Positive Reinforcement system "

  I do not see this system as being any different. The longer you live, you gain bonuses that benefit you in combat. At low levels, your not going to die. Your going to gain a pretty significant bonus before your first death, which will then be lost. Now you must struggle to get that bonus back.

 I guess it all comes down to how the devs have balanced the game. If the devs have taken this bonus into account when balancing things, then I wouldnt consider this positive reinforcement.

 Also, you need to keep PvP in mind. If the game is a PvP oriented game and these bonuses for not dieing are significant, then death has a huge impact on your performance. So after dieing once to someone, your not going to be able to go back alone and stand a chance VS this opponent due to a loss of this bonus. Also, this system would cater to stealthers, gankers, and those of us who do not take any risks in combat. Also, the classes built with the best survival tools have the best tools to keep this bonus and use it effectively with out as much risk of loss as others.

  Personally, I do not like death penalties, besides a temporary debuff. I like the idea of promoting PvP and I believe that death penalties do the opposite.

  As far as positive rewards for not dieing, I thought experience gain OR skill increase was your reward? I wouldnt mind throwing in titles for getting so far in the game with out dieing. I wouldnt mind an experience boost gained for going so long with out dieing. I just do not like anything that changes the performance of your character, unless its a short term effect.

Wed Jul 08 2009 2:51PM Report
Hyanmen writes:

Certainly sounds interesting. I've personally always preferred heavy penalties when you die, so that you really try all you can to avoid it. I'd give this kind of system a try though, in theory it doesn't sound that bad.

Thu Jul 09 2009 4:20AM Report
BadSpock writes:

Great responses everyone thank you.

I do kind of miss the sense of adventure and peril I'd get in UO having to do a corpse run in a dangerous dungeon or something, but it wasn't ever THAT big of a deal to lose everything because gear was so easily replaced. The only real penalty was the inconvenience since the cost was minimal.

t0nyd I agree that anything too overpowering is the same as a death penalty in practice. If the game is balanced around being YOU+1 if you die and just become YOU then everyone else who is still YOU+1 has the distinct advantage.

But if the game is balanced around YOU and the bonuses for YOU+1 are good but not TOO good and not too long term, like you have to remain in combat or the bonus starts to fade? 

Definitely would give a sense of urgency to keeping the buffs going, and make death sting just enough, yet stil encourage you to keep fighting.


Thu Jul 09 2009 9:01AM Report
Hyanmen writes:

Yeah, like a chain that breaks if you die. The better you do, the bigger the chain gets (and the buff), but when you log out or stop fighting or die, the chain breaks.

The whole game would have to support this kind of chain system though me thinks, or the devs will have to figure out something else for the times when there will be no possibility to 'chain'?

Thu Jul 09 2009 12:46PM Report
BadSpock writes:

Some games have tried something similar Hyanmen, but they fell through on execution.

Warhammer Online tried something similar with their Morale system, but instead of making it passive bonuses for doing well while fighting that decayed when you weren't fighting, they made a resource to spend on using abilities.

Dumb choice, IMO

Thu Jul 09 2009 1:50PM Report writes:
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