Its been a long time since I watched the movie Ghost, but a rerun made me think about death penalties in games.
What if the death state had a similar element of risk? Suppose your avatar dies in an unfortunate event. Ok, do you respawn fully geared and some debuff like most games today? Rinse and repeat?
As many discussed already, this makes death an incoveinence at best. How many of us zerged a target to finally accomplish your mission. You didn't zerg it because it was fun. It was a means to an end and it gets old quickly.
Many games used a spirit concept when you die. WoW being the most glaring example. However, it was a means to an end. Get to your corpse.
What if your afterlife meant more? Would be more interesting if there was entities of the afterlife that wants your spirit? If you were of naughty persuasion you have to evade demons from hell from grabbing your spirit and drag it down to oblivion. If you were a good guy - the pull of everlasting bliss would be calling you from above - leaving your unfinished business behind.
Imagine your toon doesn't get to his body in time. You are a foul person, and the denziens of hell grab you and you are hurled into "gamers hell". You are carried via a mosh pit of vile demons to some Taskmaster Demon. He assigns you tedious tasks to buy your freedom. (Or enter in a Cash shop to buy your freedom lol). you cannot resurrect by yourself (others can rez you of course).
The thought process here is a sense of urgency. Evade captors!
Now on the good side of things, you may want to go to heaven, but the game will then let your corpse be lootable by others. After all, you don't need all that stuff in heaven, yes? So what you are evading is the game ending for the player. If the player succumbs to the call of God, the game offers the player a second chance (either via cash shop) or if someone does a Deity Sacrifice/ prayer/ ritual. This should be something no one wants to do routinely because it should take up time, money and teamwork.
OR you can to the idea of Legend of the Seeker TV series and get assigned a task you must complete daily or die again (The Keeper's deal - kill one person a day).
Ok, the aged question how do you deal with internet connection loss? If the game can detect inactivity or a loss of activity in a given fight, maybe a GM can be privy to these things too. So , GM could be petitioned and decide if the player can be rezzed where he/she was last known to be located.
make death interesting!