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Paragus Rants

Rants, reviews, and interviews from an MMO veteran and guild leader.

Author: Paragus1

Rant: Death Penalties

Posted by Paragus1 Friday June 8 2007 at 12:41AM
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Rant: Death Penalties

I remember back in my EQ1 days being in a raid that wiped out in the Plane of Growth, back when that area was cutting edge.  Soon after my death, I found myself sitting naked on a dock in Kunark, which was 2 continents away from the front door to the Plane of Growth.  As I stared at my exp bar which had moved considerably in a negative direction, I began to winder if I would ever get back to my body to see my worldly possessions ever again.  I had school the next day, and it was getting late, but the thought of going to sleep with all my equipment scattered across the outer planes was upsetting.   I sat and hoped that my guild would be bale to break back in and we could get our gear back and stop.  It never happened.

I went to the bank and got out the only 2 items I had in there the bard would ever need, a flute and a drum.  I ran naked across 2 continents, got back into PoG, and ended up having to kite half of the zones monsters around in a big circle while my raid got their gear back.  If you played EQ1 in its glory days, chances are you have nights like this.

This is probably the harshest PvE death in MMO to my knowledge and from my own gaming experiences.  Exp Loss (with possibility for level loss), and a full corpse recovery to get your gear back.

If you were to list all the death penalties in the major successful MMOs, you would see a trend of them getting softer.

EQ1 = EXP loss, Level Loss, Item Loss (everything), Corpse Recovery

AC1 = Vitae (stat reduction) of 5% per death, Item loss (not all), corpse recovery (any items lost). No possibility for being revived!

FFXI =  10% EXP Loss, Level Loss, No Corpse recovery, No Item Drop, chance for a "Raise".

DAOC = Exp Loss without chance of Level Loss, Optional Corpse Recovery for minor exp

AO = Exp moved to a debt which is worked off, NO Level down, No Corpse Recovery, No item drop, No possibility of being revived.

EQ2 / WoW = Minor Exp Loss, 10% durability hit

Now please do not misunderstand me, I am in no way a fan of the EQ1 degree of sting from dying.  That brought on serious amounts of stress with your entire characters inventory at steak in a game that was heavily gear based.  On the flip side though, we have WoW / EQ2, which has to be the biggest joke of a death penalty (in any MMORPG that I have played). 

What went wrong?

It always cracked me up as a guild leader and a raid leader to hear the whines of newcomers to the genre in WoW crying about wiping in raids.  These young ones don't know what how death should really sting.   Oh no!   I might have to run 10 seconds back to the instance!!! Noooo!   And don't give me that nonsense about repair bills, money in that game was useless for anything but repair bills once you got raid gear and a mount.  Much like the grandparents of today would roll over in their grave on how pussified this generation has become, so does the veteran MMO'er.  Eq2 was no better as much as I love the game.  Death is the worst thing that can happen to you in an MMO, so why not motivate people to avoid it all costs?

The weak death effect was another major factor to why the PvP was a complete joke.  Now I'm not one of those guy who thinks you need looting for PvP to make you not want to die, but there has to be a middle ground between that and a 5 second run back to the fight.   You have dead people coming back so fast it just becomes a senseless spamfest with no room for strategy or thinking.

Who did it right?

As much as I hate to admit it, I was always kind of fond of FFXI when it came to having it hurt just enough to really make you not want to die.   I'm not saying it was perfect, but it stung just enough for me.  Some of the missions and dungeons were so elaborate that death would mean a complete failure of the mission, a nice cut off the exp, the end of the group, and even the potential of the infamous level down.  

Nothing is more embarrassing then doing something incredibly stupid, then being massacred in front of a large group of players, and having the big "LEVEL DOWN!!!!" come flying up over your head for the entire world to see.   It screams out... "Hey I'm a jackass, and my balls just got kicked!  Look at me!"  

It really was the perfect system of Darwinism.  Survival of the fittest.  Stupid people who fail to learn their class will be stung by death to the point where the will shall be shattered, and all will know not to group with you thus making your advancement dwindle to  crawl or stop completely.   As a result, as you progress through the game, you find that the higher level you go, the skill of the players is amazingly noticeably higher.

You can compare this to WoW and see that a god damn chimp or a 3 year old is running around in UBRS as your healer, or afk in the back of your raid winning loot.   When you see someone who is max level in a game like FFXI you have a real respect for the person who has made it that far.  In WoW we see the opposite, where max level is the norm, and anyone who isn't max level must be in a coma to not have reached the level cap.  

Now I know there are a lot of you out there who are going to say "I don't like a hard death penalty because its not fun!".  Its not supposed to be fun!   Going to jail in real life isn't supposed to be fun either unless you like dropping soap, but it is a deterrent for stupid behavior. 

The same goes for death in an MMO.  When death has real consequences, you will see a much better community, and a much higher sense of prestige and accomplishment.  I felt more satisfaction with doing the level 30 FFXI "Khazam Key" quest by myself then I did the day my guild destroyed Nefarion back when he was the hardest guy in the game in WoW.  The challenge makes the reward that much sweeter.

Co-Leader of Inquisition

Daedren writes: Ah the good old Death Penalty debate. I liked your article. As an old school gamer myself, I do miss the systems of UO (which you should have included) and Everquest. You hit it on the head when you said WoW is a "pussified" system. However, when your goal as a company is to sell as many copies at the cost of a superior product, you do make sacrifices. It's hard to find a good balance. A full exp loss/all item lootable system (like UO) nowadays would be impossible, sadly. And at the other end, WoW gives a too easy experience, where the only thing you lose is time (if that) and slight monetary penalties. Anyway I liked your article, I'll be doing one in the future for the Fallout system. Fri Jun 08 2007 8:49AM Report
Paragus1 writes: Thanks. I never played UO so I am not overly familiar with its death system. I have played with a lot of people though who swear by the PvP in that game as being stiff. I think encounters are much more exciting when there is a genuine fear of death. I look forward to reading about Fallout. I loved the character trait in thew old games where everyone around you dies in the most horrific ways possible :) Fri Jun 08 2007 9:06AM Report
Panossian writes: Another quality rant Paragus. Personally as a working adult with a career I have less and less time to invest in MMO's but even still, the penalty for dying these days is just a joke like you said. Its taking away from the gaming experience and has turned the quality of player out there to shit. With all the tricks and techniques on staying alive in games now (potions,items,detaunts, insta cast CC,heals,etc...) I would not even mind going back to the olden days of loot and xp loss. Fri Jun 08 2007 9:56AM Report
Paragus1 writes: Good point Panossian. WoW even took it a step further with the advent of Soulstones. Not only are the consequences of death minimal, but the amount of wipe recovery even makes it less important especially in a raid situation where upwards of 8 people in a balanced raid have ways to self-revive after death. Fri Jun 08 2007 10:19AM Report
quaiky writes: Eq2 had harder death penalties at start the experience debt was a lot higher (i knew players that had full levels of red xp after some bad groups). Also there was the loss of soulshards you left a shard in the world while it was still out there all your stats were lower and if you recovered it you got some xp back. if you could not get back to the spot cause it was deep in a dungeon or on any other hard to reach spot it was autorecovered after 3 days. They also had shared debt (if one groupmemebr died all members of group got parts of the debt). This was a new idea that didn't work as good as it looked on paper, especially pickup groups turned out to be big debt traps cause of some players doing stupid things... But all those penalties got lowered more and more over time cause players kept complaining that death penalties are too hard. I guess if devs listen to players on death penalties you can only end with a meaningless death system like in EQ2 and WoW, it seems thats what the majority of the players wants. And even now there are some players out there that think that repair costs which is the only penalty left are too high. I personally would go with a xp debt/xp loss system that has a higher penalty than it has now in eq2 (you should need some time to get that xp back). i don't think you can bring out a game now that will bring you in situations where you can loose all of your items, corpse runs are only ok if there would be a way to summon your corpse without that too, i personally would use a npc for that that charges a high enough amount of money for that to make it worth to try to recover the corpse yourself (to avoid too big troubles you could even let the cost decline a bit over time so that it would be cheaper to summon corpse if he was out there for a day...). Loosing levels is another thing that i think is impossible to put into a game now cause it might scare too many players away. but it might work for a game to have some hardcore special ruleset servers that includes that. Mon Jun 11 2007 3:45AM Report
Paragus1 writes: I definitely remember hearing about the EQ2 death penalty before the game peaked my interest. I remember reading various message boards of infuriated players going crazy over the shared exp debt. I like a death that stings, but I find it pure lunacy that someone that that penalizing a player for another players stupidity was a good idea. Mon Jun 11 2007 4:05PM Report
Remianen writes: I think this is one of those areas where success has placed its mark on the genre. The moment these games became "commercially viable" in a mainstream sense (EQ1 is usually credited with that), it seems companies lined up to make "the next EQ". AC1 didn't challenge EQ (despite being a superior game in many ways) and neither did DAoC. AO's launch was so disastrous that it was a miracle they even stayed alive. My point is, somewhere, someone has research that states that mainstream, mass market audiences don't like possibly losing it all (like you could on a botched Fear break or if the PoGs got loose in Growth) by no fault of their own. I remember wiping in the South Wing of HS because the cleric ninja-afk'd and Cantata of Soothing wasn't enough to keep the SK alive against the Crypt Feaster (or whatever the sperm that dropped Blood Point was named), after a harrowing battle previous to its spawning. Situations like that abound and make it so people don't want to group with "strangers" because of the possibility one of them will be a moron and cause them to lose X hours/days worth of xp. Excellent rant and I'd love to see a game come out with a stiff death penalty like EQ1 with perhaps some mitigating factor (corpse summoners, for example). I don't want folks to be pussies (like they were in EQ1. "OS Crypt? Uhh, no thanks. That's hard. And what if we die?") which, last time I played EQ1, the guild lobby summoners make people almost fearless. Though I supposed cleric epics practically growing on trees contributes to that as well. It's a balance that I think is going to be extremely hard to hit on the first try. Mon Jun 11 2007 10:57PM Report
vajuras writes: yeah good points thanks for telling me to come here. Good post Wed Jun 13 2007 3:36PM Report
vajuras writes:

just reread this again heh was hoping you updated it. But anyway I just remembered in EQ2 when your teammate died man you got hit hard with debt too lol. At launch, EQ2 was kinda rough but then it got toned down to what it is today for broader appeal.

Sat Aug 11 2007 4:27PM Report writes:
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