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Community Spotlight: The Effects of Permadeath on Community

Posted by MikeB Thursday November 4 2010 at 4:42PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “Do you think permadeath would bring people together or tear apart MMO society and grouping?” by Emergence.

Permadeath is something we’ve discussed in previous Community Spotlights, however, Emergence’s thread puts an interesting twist on the topic. Forget whether permadeath is a sound idea or not, instead, Emergence asks us to focus on the effects of permadeath on a game’s community. Will players group more or less in an MMO featuring permadeath?

“Subject: Permadeath in any MMO, current MMO or imagined.

Argument 1: Permadeath would cause players to group together more often, binding together to protect each other. Players would respect one another so they could find groups to tackle content, insuring their character's lives.

Argument 2: Permadeath would cause players to group less, tearing them apart in fear of death. Players would fear death because of another player's bad choices. Players would be paranoid about other's skills and abilities, newbies would be forced to solo, and mistakes would be unforgivable (friendships broken, guilds destroyed).

Devil's Advocate: What if progression was fast or content did not scale with group #? Dungeon A's mobs are the same with 1 person as it is with 5, so 5 is ALWAYS less dangerous. Or would it be ALWAYS?”

MimiEZ feels that the community in a permadeath MMO would definitely suffer:

“I think it would overall tear up the community. Just looking at myself, I wouldn't want to play with anyone except my real life friends, and I wouldn't want to group with them that much even, if there was permadeath. The community would be very seperated, people only grouping with the same 1-5 people, people only crafting things for those people, making it just better to be a regular online game instead of an mmo.

In a game with permadeath, survival would be the main point of the game, and you can't build the same type of trust or sense of survival in a game that you can in real life. In real life you would never go toward danger, but just looking at horror game lovers, you may be cautious, but you still go into the darkness.”

Sleepyfish feels the presence of permadeath would foster a better community:

“Permadeath in a game where PVP mattered would create a society of cautious, polite and helpful people honestly. Take UO the Baja server which was full pvp, one of the most harsh servers in UO, had one of the most helpful communities in Ultima Online.

But by definition PVP would be serious business and hard to do. PVE would truly be a risk especially against large 50 foot creatures.

I would respect any player pvp or pve that played for years and didnt die.

I imagine dying in games like this would be very very hard. Not one shot deaths like in other mmorpgs.”

NetSage thinks that grouping would be both positively and adversely affected:

“First of tldr.  But, I would say both in all honesty.

Starting out it would be chaos as those who chose to kill early would have the advantage for a long amount of time.  However I think they would be the minority shortly allowing the rest to band together and with numbers to at least even the playing field.  While the community would probably start to flourish within the established areas venturing to far would probably get you killed by the rouges.  Or, if it's more even there would be constant wars and I'm not sure how it would work out.”

I’m of the mind that such a system would probably balance itself out. If everyone just ended up killing each other, no one would get anywhere. Assuming that people were able to not kill each other long enough to progress through the game, I think lines would be drawn in the sand and people would still venture out together. Reputation would matter, and other players would band together to protect the overall population, which would probably serve as somewhat of a deterrent. I can’t say I’d personally risk my neck to find out though!

So, what's your opinion  on the effects of permadeath on a MMO community? Would playesr group less? More? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Please keep in mind that this is NOT a discussion on whether or not permadeath is even viable. Assume a particular MMO already has permadeath, how would it affect the community?

Ryowulf writes:

It would overall be bad for the community, because cheating would be rampant. Even people who might not cheat normally would be hard pressed to resist the temptation when the life of their character hanged in the balance.

You'd have gangs of 1st levels running around, killing off the higher levels for revenge or spite, etc.

Thu Nov 04 2010 8:25PM Report
bumfman writes: Everquest did this years ago, they made a special server for 2 weeks or so. The contest was for a special ingame name and the winner was the highest lvl on that server. Many people played and it was interresting in the short term. The goal was to become the highest lvl, I think the goal of what ever permadeath MMO would make or break its community. Fri Nov 05 2010 7:25AM Report
gobla writes:

It would really depend on the MMO I'd say. In the current MMO view of a max level being around a 1000 times more powerfull, if not more, and being able to one-shot dozens of lvl 1s at the same time it would tear the community apart.

A community it build on being able to achieve more together then alone. That's where it starts, the trust and such that comes afterwards builds from achieving things together and gaining the knowledge that if you play together you win. In such a game however playing together would merely increase the risks of being found and killled, with even if you were with 10 lvl 20s that single lvl 50 would still kick all your asses and not break a sweat. So you'd be best off lvling up the entire game on your own in the worst possible spot where nobody would care to look. Then maybe at max lvl you could think about grouping. But by then everyone would be so distrustfull of each other that it wouldn't be possible.

In an MMO however where a max level is at best 1,5 times as powerfull as a lvl 1 I could see it working. In addition to that the way to max lvl would have to be short and a lvl 1 should have all the needed skills to function.

In such a game working together would work. As 2 lvl 1s would be able to beat a max lvl. As it would be possible to sacrifice one group member for the rest as he wouldn't be completely useless afterwards. In such a game I think you'd find a community much like EvE.

Fri Nov 05 2010 10:54AM Report
thirdechelon writes:

Perma-Death would work if you could make death a minor inconvience. You would need A- Disposable Characters or B-Pay to Play/Create Characters

If you logged into the server and were known to others as your account name and your avatar was disposable kind of like your Ship in Eve Online, thats the only way.

You cant have a system where you can loose days, weeks and months of progress in a single death, thats just stupid. Forget that idea.

Fri Nov 05 2010 12:42PM Report
joeyboots writes:

Permadeath could work or not work depending on the game it is inserted into. Permadeath only works in sandbox/skill based mmos imho. A lvl based mmo would be ruined by perma death mostly because of the average player that lvl based mmos attract would not be able to handle such a hardcore feature. Games like Eve Online or Face Of Mankind do not attract most mainstream players, but for good reasons. Not to say they are not good games, as I play both of them, but the majority of people who play them are a lot different than the people who get into Wow or Lotro etc. etc. Permadeath is a legitimate feature for an mmo. Devs just have to decide what sort of audience they are trying to appeal to before implementing such a feature.

Fri Nov 05 2010 1:32PM Report
Wickedjelly writes:

I said it in the inital topic and I'll say it again here.  The effect it would have for me personally is I would not be a part of the community because the permadeath concept within the scope of an mmorpg simply isn't fun to me.

Why this is deemed as not a valid answer simply astounds me.  It is the effect that the "cause: permadeath" would have on me playing the game.  I would not be a part of the community at all.

Fri Nov 05 2010 1:33PM Report writes:
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