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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