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Transcendent's Tomb

Submitted weekly. The tomb contains reviews, references, alternative concepts and polling to torture the truth from the minions of MMORPGs.

Author: Hhussk

MMO Death: Freedom of Stupidity

Posted by Hhussk Thursday June 3 2010 at 9:49AM
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One aspect of MMORPG play that governs the industry is their view of how death should be handled. In other words, when you die, do you stay dead. Or do you come back?

The truth of the matter is that the decline of MMO gaming is not simply one of economics. No, it's encompassing a range of features that has grindingly lowered the expectations of the player. For example, when a game claims to a sandbox, like Darkfall, but ends up with all their characters having the same skills, you lose interest because there is no diversity.

Likewise, not dying, or not fearing your death, causes you to do stupid things without worry about repercussion. Basically, it's freedom of stupidity.


The Death Market Concept

You'll notice in most MMOs, death is simply as follows: You die, you get resurrected ("rezzed", as it is known in many games). In some games, you can die and get resurrected in the same battle. In others, you whisk your ghost to a graveyard (World of Warcraft, for example).

Sound dumb? It is.

Knowing how to use the death mechanics, you could take on a much more powerful monster, cut him to half his hit points before you die, then rez yourself and fight down his other half. A carefully laid out strategy now allows you to use your death to an advantage.

And so we come to the crux of the problem: why are death mechanics so prevalent?

Well, for one, MMO companies fear you'll quit. It's true, there are large segments of our playing society that want to be able to come back to life. They just lost their favorite character...what's the point of playing any longer? But on top of that, there's another reason, and that basically is: because these are the mechanics that have been established long ago.

And so we are stuck in some form of cultural game phenomena, where death isn't remotely like death should be, and furthermore, it's hardly a challenge to overcome.


Ideas About Death

What can we do about it? What's a good system of death mechanics?

It's actually easy, and surprisingly odd that no one (or few) follow this mantra. When you die, you should stay dead, perhaps even be buried. Perhaps for a long time. In all honestly, being unable to play the game definately deters you from using death as an advantage (yet it still doesn't stop you from doing stupid things).

Yes, a priest could attempt to resurrect you, but let's look at how religion is supposed to work. Was your character religious? A fervent follower of the god/goddess this Priest worships? Does your character have "favor" with a divine entity?

You see how this can entail or encourage a brand new aspect of the game? Now you may actually have to bow to the will of the gods. In some games, you might actually want to attend religious services, or go seek the blessing of a Priest.


After Effects

What do you think some of the results of implementing a more discourging death mechanic would be?

1. Would people be more careful about picking their fights? Probably, because dependent on how healing is implemented, they'll be more concerned about survival. Indirectly, this contributes to group mentality, but doesn't force the issue.

2. Would PVP be deadlier, more risky, and more rewarding? Absolutely, and on top of that, player-killers now have to worry about being ambushed by angry retaliation. This indirectly creates a sandbox implementation towards law and justice.

3. Would an aspect of RP be more indirectly effective in the game? More than likely, because although players would go to church, or pray, or seek blessings, for game purposes it would have same impact of a priest giving a sermon, holding a ceremony, etc. Plus, now we have more occassions for players to confront each other before going to blows.

4. Would there be fewer griefers in game? I believe so. At first, you might think that this means all out chaos. Not true; I've witnessed a game where death is rigorous. The players are careful about angering each other. Every now and then a griefer comes through; once the population is aware, they band together and hunt the bugger down.



In conclusion, the point of a more rigorous death mechanic is simple: give the players a greater challenge. You can strike a necessary fear into the heart of a subscriber without ruining gameplay; it's the same feeling you get when you're brand new and don't know what can happen.

But in the same instance, it also protects you from player-killers and lawlessness...because now, instead of there being no real repercussions from death, you have a venue, in game, to remove them from your sight.

So, in lieu of all the reasons provided, take one final consideration about the MMORPG and the mechanics of death you have been experiencing over the years. Ask yourself this important question: What really makes the adventure worth talking about?

Was it the instantanous, no threat, repetitive hack/slash/heal/revive? Or was it the fact that your risked your life? 

Ludipe writes:

Solutions i agreed:

-Guild Wars, each time you die you have 15% less mana and health points, if you die two or three times you will be a dummy.

-DDO, if you die and you are "rezzed" you have not much mana and health, also the skill points you used before won´t come back, if you exit the dungeon to recover you loose a lot of exp.

-Haven & Hearth / Diablo-games hardcore mode (Original but frustrating sometimes), permadeath.

Thu Jun 03 2010 4:06PM Report
daltanious writes:

This are stupid claims (mostly) and there is nothing more stupid in game then perma death. It takes away fun, even if add some thril. But playing with death (as in real life) there is only small number of stupid people that are thrilled by (real life) death. Even speaking about "Rambos" or PvP-ers. :-) They can feel like Rambos, but they are not. They are players behind keyboard in soft chair. This is fact. Real Rambos do not play games. :-))

Fri Jun 04 2010 2:09PM Report
daltanious writes:

I forgot to add ... even if not perma death I as a player (and I think we are not in majority) do not want more severe penalty. In playing game just for fun. Thrilling is to kill some hard mob ... but I do not want anything more from death that I already got: corpse running, slight decrease in perfomance, ....


However I would like to see some credible stats from research what players really want. Now we are just guessing form personal perspective. More real data is needed.

Fri Jun 04 2010 2:31PM Report
daltanious writes:

... damn .... we ARE in majority ... not "we are not" .... :-))) Anyway I would like to see data gathered from a lot of players about their preference.

Fri Jun 04 2010 2:34PM Report
thanto writes:

Question: what do players do in a game where death destroys all progress? 


People in real life do not risk their lives except when absolutely necessary, and it rarely is, so people rarely do it.  In games, it is never necessary to risk one's life.  For that reason, I would expedct that players would do it even less than IRL.  Players would rarely PVP or PVE due to the risk associated.  So what would they do instead?  What other draw is there to this game?  PVP and PVE is really all modern MMOs have.  I have yet to see any game do crafting right, and even if they did, such an MMO would have heavily de-emphasized combat, so why bother working on armor that no one is going to buy, because no one is going to PVx?


Also, your handling of griefers in this argument is bunk.  Griefers don't care about personal progress.  They care about destroying other players' fun.  This is easy to do when you can kill other players permanently.  Killing the griefer, though, will not stop the griefer.  Unless death results in a permanent IP ban, the griefer will just create a new character or account, come back, and start griefing again.  Permanent death cannot deter a griefer.  Indeed, permanent death is a griefer's dream.


Also, it really won't deter determined PKers.  If the system is at all reasonable for advancement, anyone who wants to PVP will eventually be good at it.  Better than anyone who does not PVP.  So, a dedicated PVPer could easily go around wiping people out, and he would be difficult to stop by other players, because he would be better at combat than them.

Fri Jun 04 2010 8:33PM Report writes:
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