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Arguments Against Permanent Death

Posted by Stradden_bak Friday August 7 2009 at 10:19AM
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It seems like the concept of permanent death is one that has been debated and turned over for years, with no real resolution. From what I can tell, there is a core group of people who are looking for a game that provides players the opportunity to permanently lose their characters in a game. I can see the upside to this particular feature, but honestly, of all of the features I’ve looked at in this blog, perma death is the one that presents the most obvious cons.

Like I said, I can see the benefit of perma death in an MMO. This particular feature would provide a unique gameplay experience where players are actually cautious rather than all about rushing in to every encounter. Then, when combat did break out, I would imagine that it would be an unequalled adrenaline rush for those involved. In short, for at least a short time, I can see a perma death game being entertaining.

On the other hand, and it’s an enormous hand… think Unicron’s hand from the old Transformers movie, there are a number of cons with the idea of perma death. Let’s, for the sake of brevity, look past the multitude of potential Customer Service issues and complaints that would be generated from issues like lag, greifing, hacks, cheats and the like. Let’s instead take a look at some of the other problems that permanent character death could cause.

First, there’s the fact that the roots of the main MMO genres don’t actually support it. Let’s see: There’s the Fantasy genre, where character resurrection is a recognized convention. Then there’s sci-fi where death is actually more or less considered to be a temporary condition at best (seriously, how many times did we have to watch Harry Kim die in Star Trek Voyager). Surely though the emerging popularity of the superhero / comic book genre in MMOs will provide a good launching pad for perma death… except for the fact that it’s the only genre that treats death with less respect than sci-fi does. Let’s face it. At least where these genres are concerned, audiences simply don’t want characters to stay dead. They develop attachments for the characters and don’t want to see them gone forever. Killed off? Sure, it makes great drama. Forever? No way.

Then there’s the idea of attachment. The whole idea of MMOs is that players develop an attachment to their characters. This makes the idea of permanent death inconceivable as it would be difficult for players to risk characters they are attached to in the day to day activities of MMO content and it would be almost as difficult to actually obtain that attachment in the first place as the character in question would have to survive long enough.

Don’t like those reasons? How about the fact that having to constantly re-roll characters and start from the beginning would actually create a stronger feeling of grind than currently exists in these games. How likely then is it that I would want to continue paying $15 a month in order to repeat the same content over and over again only to have to start all over again after making a single mistake.

Does everyone out there remember the handheld game Simon? For those who don’t, it’s a memory game based on repetition where you had to repeat a sequence of colors that got progressively longer every time you got it right. For those who do remember that torturous gadget, how many times did you have to fail and start again before you wanted to pitch the thing at a wall? That, my friends, is what the reality of perma death could look like.

I’m not saying that with enough thought and a careful design that perma death couldn’t be an interesting feature. I am, however, saying that for these reasons and other, it will never be a prominent MMO feature.

brostyn writes:

IMO, the best way to implement perma-death is a special ruleset server. There is no way there is a crowd large enough to support this type of game. However, I'm sure a popular enough game could field the amount of people to make a server thrive.

Fri Aug 07 2009 10:27AM Report
todayisblue writes:

How about a feature that allows you to earn your character back once it dies? that would protect against lag or some random moment from being completely unforgiving. Or, how about perma death only under certain circumstances? Like when I used to play baldur's gate and one of my characters got turned to stone and then that asshole dwarf hit him with a hammer. The stone shattered and the character was gone for good, but under normal circumstances i could have revived him. I always thought that was cool. Perhaps that is how perma death could be implemented into an MMO . . . just a thought. 

Fri Aug 07 2009 10:34AM Report
Sovrath writes:

I would have to agree. I've brought up the whole repeating content stuff before.

Perma Death is like Role Play. You don't "need" a server in order to do it. However, having a ruleset server for perma death (and role play for that matter) does help facilitate that tyep of game play.

One way they could do it is that a portion of your stuff goes to your heir. Your heir would not actually be lvl 1 but might start, say, depending on the original character's level, 10 levels below your character. This way you can avoid having to do the same content over and over again. I think there are some perma death guilds in DDO.

Fri Aug 07 2009 12:08PM Report
ZkilfinG writes:

I think it works quite well the way EvE Online does it. There are two kinds of "deaths" in a way. First your ship dies, if it's insured you get at least some of the value back. Then it's your pod, you can still escape with your pod after getting your ship blown up. But if you fail you better have a clone to fall back on or back to square one with skill training (basically making you perma dead). Clones works like insurances, you buy one with "room" for enough skill points and then you're set. You don't have to go and make constant copys of yourself when you play. Just make sure your clone got room for enough skill points. And of course if you get podded and have to rely on your clone that you get a new one before doing anything at all.

Basically it just makes the cost in isk (gold) higher for dying, but there's always the possibility to lose something (or everything) if you haven't taken proper precautions.

Fri Aug 07 2009 12:18PM Report
Nomad40 writes:

This is working under the assumption that the game engine would be the same used in MMOs currently.

Go in a different direct. There is currently enough content in most MMO's through race/class differences that you can play multiple characters through the low level and have different starting experiences. Taking that a step further if you make the higher level content a bit more varied, or use a different engine that innovated the experience, the use of perma death would not be such a bad thing.

If you found a middle ground it would likely work even better. Permadeath might be bad on the face of it but so is the current lemming respawning reality we have in MMOs. People rarely if ever think about their actions with a few raid exceptions.

If we can't make permadeath work can we at least get rid of the easy respawn so there are a few more consequences in the game then running back to where you were?

Fri Aug 07 2009 12:31PM Report
barasawa writes:

I've seen a game where permadeath exists, and is announced to everyone when someone permadies. However, it's only the PKers that are vulnerable to it. So if you start going around ganking other players, it's not long before you get ganked and stay that way, forever.

Fri Aug 07 2009 12:42PM Report
hogscraper writes:

 I would never even consider playing a game like that. Its bad enough  playing  a game with near immediate respawn rates and having people completely chicken out of certain situations, where there was no need to do so, and the result is an entire wipe for the party.  How could any MMO player want this? Bet that desire would stop the first time a couple friends join a group wait for a crucial moment and take off running.  Or why stop there? would this game be so watered down as to guarantee that a group could never pull more mobs than it could handle? How many times have you MMO players had a team mate accidently pull too many mobs? Well sure you would care enough not to, but how could you possiblely stop griefers?

Fri Aug 07 2009 12:48PM Report
Tyrian writes:

 I would generally agree that permanent death in an MMO is a bad idea.


That said,  a type of this could be added if done right.  Perhaps you are unable to use the dead character  for an extended period of time.  (say.. 1, 3, or 5 days real time).  Perhaps you (on one of the many alts we usually all have) must perform a quest (possibly a group or guild quest) to raise the character  from the dead. 


I doubt you will ever see permanent death in an MMO, but I wouldn't rule out extended death. 

Fri Aug 07 2009 1:03PM Report
Derrial writes:

A game would have to be specifically designed around the concept of Perma Death, and I think this is why we never see it.  The fun in every MMO I know of is in developing a character over time.  That design philosophy would have to be reworked to make starting over with a new character more fun since players would spend a lot of time repeating it.  And something would have to be done about potential lag deaths and probably ganking.  I think the idea is more trouble than it's worth.

Fri Aug 07 2009 1:04PM Report
Quale writes:

Arguing against permadeath is easy.

Even players who normally think outside the box has problems with this one. However, permadeath is, despite all this, a no brainer.

Alien as it might be seen against the current backdrop of cheesy gamedesign, a universal principle trumps all: Without death there is no life.

Without loss there is no gain, without darkness there is no light, without evil there is no good etc; These are the contrasts we depend upon to recognize reality. They are at the very core of our existence and everything we understand. It doesn't matter if it's a game reality, breaking these principles eventually turns everything to crap.

Simply put: If characters don't die in mmo's, which in my opinion in essence is an immersive game concept, there is something wrong with the mmo's, not the dying.

The design dicussions really shouldn't be about wether characters die or not, but how hard it should be to kill them and how long they should live.

Fri Aug 07 2009 1:05PM Report
Harabeck writes:

What if you implemented a generational system? When your character perma-died, your next character wasn't some other random dude, but a descendent of your previous one, linked by a family name. Depending on certain accomplishments made by a character during its lifetime, you could pass down a certain amount of skills to your offspring, and maybe even some items as an inheritence. It's a softer form of perma-death than just starting over, and would make for some great revenge roleplay.

Fri Aug 07 2009 1:12PM Report
Inktomi writes:

 They had Hardcore Elite mode in Hellgate london. I lost more toons that way than you could shake a stick at. Bad move, unlucky crit and hours of playtime going down teh tubes.

No thanks, I would never do it again. Maybe I am not 'Ardcore enough but still...

Fri Aug 07 2009 1:17PM Report
Isaak writes:

I followed an MMO for years that sounded very promising and had some nice graphics. The idea was to create a more realistic world and sandbox game style. In the end, the game totally flopped. The players had no idea where to go and what to do.

The truth is, we play games because we want to have fun. Leveling is fun because we get new skills and games have us level, the faster, the better (for "fun" sake).  However, once we've played that game for a while we would be better if XYZ happened.  But if it had been that way when you started, it would have been harder to get to the fun.  Companies have to take into account so many things as mentioned by others: griefers, lag, etc. SO they come up with a game like "vanilla wow" which appeals in some way to a ton of people (11 million). But then it doesn't have the best of any one niche. Its not a FPS, its not the best PVP, its not the most engaging story, its not the best crafting system, its not the most realistic game play.  Those are the trade offs.

Permanent death in the face of those trade offs just won't happen. I like the idea to an extent...but if it takes me days/weeks/months to get back to the fun, then I won't keep playing. I play for entertainment. Some ideas are great.  I love the idea of inheriting my dead uncles armor (was my previous character that died).  Blizz makes Bind on Use for EVERYTHING. They've just barely started a bind on account, which is really cool. The problem with making stuff not bind is twinking. If i could give my other characters every cool thing I had, then by the time i've started my 10th alt (yeah, i was a major addict for a while) they would have mega weapons and armor. In PVE, that doesn't matter. But in PVP that would suck. For every thing you don't like, there IS a reason why the devs did it that way. Every peice of the game took hours to think up, hours to develop and hours to support. They've carefully thought about why my grandmaster armorsmith cannot repair your armor. They have their reasons. Why do caribou in northrend randomly drop blue quality items? Who knows.  I think it has something to do with cost vs reward. Grinding is more appealing if killing giant spiders drops cash... but if I could pick up every peice of armor and weapon dropped by every foe, then it would be too easy to get armor and weapons. See the logic?

In the end there are so many factors that one would have to carefully weigh in order to make any semblance of the idea of Perm Death to work that it is very intimidating for developers. The risk of the entire idea being hated by your audience is huge and most people openly state they don't like it.  So, if I want to make my cost of development back, then I better appeal to the larger crowd.

Fri Aug 07 2009 2:01PM Report
Wizardry writes:

Perma death can work,if people look beyond the stereotype.Permadeath does NOT have to mean instant death at any point in the game,it can merely be a concept where by you die of old age.So this would nort mean you could die over and over and never get anywhere in the game.

Where the concept could be huge is it could eliminate the time=reward factor.So if yo uspend millions of hours playing ,your player will age quickly and die off,so time well spent would over rule quantitiy of time spent.

Fri Aug 07 2009 2:03PM Report
theAsna writes:

Somnehow the concept of perma-death seems like a phantom to me, 

In PnP there exist rules for aging and permadeath. But as your group of adventurers gets more and more powerful, there are more and more ways to cheat death.

In retrospective I think permadeath was included for several reasons. On the lower levels it increases difficulty and enforces players to be careful and not always seek a fight if it can be avoided (this is something that is not enforced by MMOs). On the other hand it is used as a tool to "retire" seasoned and powerful characters (anyways a player will get bored with time if constantly stronger and stronger opponents are hurled at him and you can't invent always new and unique storylines to keep players entertained).

Fri Aug 07 2009 2:31PM Report
zomagod writes:

what if a dead char could be used somehow in an alt to increase stats? like when the char dies, you receive a token that is redeemable for specified benefits depending on how powerful the dead char was or what it specialized in. just an idea


Fri Aug 07 2009 3:21PM Report
mansie writes:

I think Dialob2 hardcore mode pretty much solved perma deaths. You _really_ did not want to die. But getting back up was pretty swift, content was varied with bossfights continually to keep it fun, and enough classes to try something new from time to time. Not enough new content to keep you glued for more than a few months tho I guess.

Fri Aug 07 2009 4:46PM Report
Maggnet writes:

In my opinion a game with permanent death can only be attractive to a broad audience when at least the following basics are given:

- a player can quickly create a new character after death

- the time to reach the power of the old char shouldn't be to long

- there have to be a lot of different ways to accomplish the second point (for instance not always the same chain of quests etc.)

- the player has to benefit somehow from the death

- and the player has to benifit even more from staying alive as long as possible

- every character should eventually die

- death has to be a natural part of the game that doesn't break the flow of playing. It shouldn't be an end, but rather the chance for new opportunities. If you imagine the gameplay as a path the path shouldn't end in case of death, it should branche.



Fri Aug 07 2009 5:29PM Report
Jowen writes:

I can see perma death as a valid mechanic in a game IF the whole game is designed is such a way that the possibility of dying is very low.

Othervise I might as well invest my time in real life stuff where death will come sooner than later anyhow.

Fri Aug 07 2009 7:09PM Report
tupodawg999 writes:

A lot of interesting comments here.

I don't think it would make commercial sense for a mainstream game to go down this route but it could design it's death system so that players could set individual options, maybe even for individual characters. Say the game was set up in such a way that you could distinguish three levels of character death (e.g by distance from repsawn point) and players had a set of tick boxes so they could assign different death penaltiers to each level e.g no penalty, minor, severe, PD. That could provide what a minority of players want without interfering with the game too much.

I could imagine a lot of players might having multiple choices i.e one character they have on no penalty on all three levels, one character they have on PD but 3rd level only, and a third character where they had PD set on all deaths.

It gets more interesting if you imagine a game built around PD. One option could just be some kind of ultra-harsh, see how long you can stay alive, type game with a leader board of who could survive longest but there's also the "inheritance" type idea where some aspect of what your character did in their life gets passed down.

I particularly like the idea of, if there's character aging anyway, that there's various quests or actions that would give some major advantage to your next char i.e some kind of heroic death.

Something a bit like the Beowulf idea - all that matters is the name you pass down.

Fri Aug 07 2009 7:58PM Report
Zoltronlaser writes:

I didn't bother reading the entire article because I can sum up permadeath in one little phrase:

It's all fun and games until somebody dies.

Honestly, some hardcore players think they want permadeath...until they put 127 days played time into a character and then it dies. And then they commit suicide in real life because of it.

There is no debate. Permadeath sucks. It's why people cry at funerals.

Fri Aug 07 2009 8:44PM Report
LedoDreadlow writes:

How about the option to have your character reserrected by gathering a certain scroll or a class that can resserrect you. Or maybe paying gold with another character to some special in game NPC that resserrects old characters. Then, the idea of perma death could be implemented. The option for resserrection would be a difficult or expensive task, adding to the perma death fear. I don't know. I would like it just for kicks.

Fri Aug 07 2009 8:47PM Report
LedoDreadlow writes:

Sorry, just thought of something else. I played a game that had a main chracter and sub characters. When the sub chracters died, it was permanent, unless you pay lots of gold to resserrect. Anyways, the sub characters death would release a sprit that could add special ability points to the main characte, if so chosen to go that route...just another idea. Oh yeah, in response to the comment above by tupodawg999: You can't have an option like that, because those that have no penalty wouldn't care about other players in a PVP setting. This could cause people to be mean to low level or unequipped characters. So the implementation would have to be a special server where it would affect ALL players.

Fri Aug 07 2009 8:56PM Report
tupodawg999 writes:

"Oh yeah, in response to the comment above by tupodawg999: You can't have an option like that, because those that have no penalty wouldn't care about other players in a PVP setting."

I was only thinking of that system for PvE games. PvP would be a whole different matter.

Fri Aug 07 2009 9:43PM Report
Senadina writes:

Do you really need to argue this point? I don't see too many people clamoring for permadeath. What I see is people wanting a greater death penalty to promote caution and strategy. That is not the same as permadeath. There are many, many ways to deter people from doing stupid things by making death a headache besides killing a character forever.

Fri Aug 07 2009 10:06PM Report
Shealladh writes:

Well I disagree with permadeath being a con. I actually think that MMO's out there now are the CON.


The problem is their inherent deisgn flaws and they way people are just ganking people, grinding the same boring respawn after respawn. Just as you said, how many times can I watch Harry Kim die, well isn't that the problem of MMO's?


All we need to see is the evolvement of MMO's to move towards living worlds instead of the same static crap they are now. The only way perma death will work is when all players get over their Hero Soapboxes.


What I'd be interested in knowing how you see the difference between Harry Kim episodes and MMO episodes?


Worlds evolve and it's about time MMO's did too along with the people who are satisfied with grinding the same shit. All the MMO's out there shit me to tears because their is no reason to grind my time in them. If I want that I may as well go back to work, at least I get paid for it and gives me a reason to bitch and moan until you're sick of hearing me say so. At the end of the day, who cares, when enough of us whine someone will listen and come along and find a way to have a PermaDeath that works and we the players are willing to enjoy ourselves once again.


Well I guess there's no decent MMO to play today, going back to work and I'll pop back tomorrow to winge once more :p

Sat Aug 08 2009 12:11AM Report
Quale writes:

I'd like to urge people who likes to participate in this particular discussion to sit down and think for a couple minutes.

Practically every argument against permadeath is based on an application of permadeath to MMO's as we know them today.

This will obviously not do.

MMO's are per definition broken. They should be ready to move out of their state of infancy by now, but all we get are clones and elements that belong in other genres to save us from the hollowness that is the D&D legacy.

Is it really too much to ask that something so important to dramaturgy, so essential to the human condition, should not get treated with a little more reverence in our search for MMO evolution?

We're largely being told that something essential to our understanding of existence, will never work in a million years cuz a cruddy miniature table-top game design from the friggin 70'ies shows us that it has no place here.

It makes absolutely no sense at all.

"Realists" You had your say and you're really not helping. Visionaries step up please.

Sat Aug 08 2009 1:45AM Report
Maggnet writes:

Shealladh wrote:

"All we need to see is the evolvement of MMO's to move toward living worlds instead of the same static crap they are now."

It is easy said, but exactly at this point there arise new problems: 

Sat Aug 08 2009 3:25AM Report
Mischief writes:

This makes the idea of permanent death INCONCEIVABLE.... You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Sat Aug 08 2009 6:54AM Report
Nomad40 writes:

I guess the easiest way I can make a case for Permadeath being at the table of MMO is to go back to my first gaming love D&D.
We would play through campaigns carefully. We did not go blindly charging in (unless we designed the character that way ala berserker) because we did not want to die. Still it was a group activity and the ruleset made it harder to die because even if you went down hard if one of the group survived the DM could fudge your bleeding out to let you be at deaths door and let someone rescue you with a bind wound, healing potion or spell later you were on the road to recovery.
Now in most MMO's you are running solo. Yes you group up. Yes you don't have to run solo. However the reason most of us spend a good amount of time either soloing or doing pick up groups is that you do not have the luxury of having your friends available every time you get a free minute to play. This is what took a lot of us out of the PnP world, lack of time to play.
SO how do you make Permadeath work in the current game world? Well the truth is it doesn’t work well. You can take the DF path were you go down to near death and can either be death blowed or healed but it still does not go far enough.
The issue of permadeath and grouping go hand in hand. You have trouble when you try to force people to group, they always want a solo option. So the use of permadeath becomes a very real option for these people. In short, heroes who go off by themselves with no back up quickly become dead heroes.
How do we change this? By getting rid of the current system. Take a sandbox. Set the rules of the world be it sci fi, fantasy or other. Set up the skills and abilities of the world. Let players start with a blank template and make their own character classes by natural development. Make items cool to have but largely unnecessary. For example- A level 10 fighter in D&D is a bad ass. Give him a +4 sword and he can do damage to creatures that would only be partially hurt when he hit them before. Another words the items should enhance the character not make them uber in relation to another of the same level/power.
Once you do those two things you have gotten rid of gear and experience grinding. Instead give players advancement points based on achievements. With a sandbox you can allow for player and GM generated content. And here is where it gets interesting. There is a mountain of content out in the world. Old modules, stories, player made content. It fairly chokes the internet. Writing and developing content is not hard. It is implementing it that is a real pain. So take a page from some of the old successful games that allowed player content. Make the sandbox user friendly. Allow it to have a staff of GM that take care of technical issues, a group of Story Masters that take care of setting up the NPC’s in motion and then leave it to the players to go out and do the stories.
Take away static spawns and make it more organic. In old PnP if you cleared out an old keep in the mountains of orcs and came back a few years later to claim it for yourself another, more powerful or just more numerous creature might have moved in. They may have brought new treasure with them. Perhaps bandits took it over and started raiding the local trade routes. With a few story masters working out, per server, the overall story arc you continue to have content out there and allow players to push content through their actions.
On one server the players do nothing to stop the bandits who manage to extend their reach across a vast area. In another a player guild takes them out. You could incorporate crafting to build houses as well as allowing groups and guilds the ability to make or claim strongholds.
It takes the games in a different direction. Into more of a community that is directing its own story. As a former GM I can tell you that some of the most amazing stories come from putting items out there for players to interact with and them surprising you with what they do. This in turn takes the story in a new direction and allows you to enjoy the journey together.

Granted this seems a bit aggressive from a programming standpoint and there are quite a few nay sayers who think most players would be too confused to do this however I think many would welcome this. Just as EVE took a whole group of players on a different kind of MMO journey I think there is an opportunity to make a better MMO than what we have out there right now.


Sat Aug 08 2009 8:37AM Report
fallup11 writes:

Theres 2 ways u can implement this. 1) Have it when u die u cant play ur toon for a certain period of time that was u get some consequences for being careless. 2) Awsome idea for a f2p lets say u die u have to buy or purchase a scroll or a potion etc. to bring ur char back to life. Its f2p and they make money only way is that so they dont make it so easy to die or be pked every minute like some f2p it would have to be new genre of an mmorpg which would bring ALOT of hardcore gamers

Sat Aug 08 2009 3:03PM Report
Apostata writes:

Stradded writes that Permadeath is not supported by the "roots of MMO genres", and that resurrection was considered convention in Pen & Paper Fantasy. This is absolutely false. In general, death was omnipresent in 70-80's fantasy RPG's. Resurrections on the other hand, if the game rules even included it, was extremely rare, in principle only attributable to very high level characters, which were a lot harder to attain in actual roleplaying than in today's MMO's. In fact, the guys I played with as a teenager thought the idea of resurrection in D&D so silly it never even got used.

Attachment to character versus the inevitability of death is just a matter of attitude (as in real life, I might add). The advice here is to get over it and not be a safe playing coward cry baby. Two words seem entirely forgotten here, namely "courage" and "fate"!

"Constant re-rolling and starting all over from the beginning" is probably the dumbest argument provided against Permadeath. Oh sure, in today's brainlessly linear MMO's no doubt, but Permadeath isn't applicable there. Permadeath demands and is solely to be used in grand, glorious, open space, sandbox type of games. There is no constant "re run" in such a world.

Lastly, how cute isn't it that Staddard feels a need to batter and beat on a (superior) game concept, that because of the world's overwhelming majority of subhumans, have not made into a single MMORPG! What's nagging him, really.

Sun Aug 09 2009 3:50AM Report
Quale writes:

I think you forgot to bury the blog. ^^

This is the first blog I ever buried.

The motivation is questionable. The analysis are sloppy. The perspective is ignorant and the conclusions are narrowminded.

Frankly, I expected more from someone who is presumptively on the inside of MMORPGs.

The article has got to be left hand work because I refuse to believe that this is the extension of the capacity of the author.

I know from personal experience that permadeath always stirs things up, and admittedly, it's one of my babies. But honestly, hits can't be the sole reason for posting something can it? I'd like to see the author seek some redemption by posting a follow-up that adds some nuance to the topic. (And leave personal prestige at the door)

Sun Aug 09 2009 5:32AM Report
TheStarheart writes:

I thought the article was going to be on arguments against permanent death irl. Sorely disappointed xD.

Sun Aug 09 2009 11:49AM Report
wlvnspectre writes:

uuuugh...where to start...

please don't take this as a personal attack, but your post makes more assumptions than a swarm has bees. 

"First, there’s the fact that the roots of the main MMO genres don’t actually support it. Let’s see: There’s the Fantasy genre, where character resurrection is a recognized convention."

I don't know what the heck you played, but no DM or RPG would allow resurections run amok, and most games have rules limiting that sort of thing,  No such rules have been introduced into most MMOs.

"Surely though the emerging popularity of the superhero / comic book genre in MMOs will provide a good launching pad for perma death… except for the fact that it’s the only genre that treats death with less respect than sci-fi does."

Yeah, and it is one of the most hated things in Comics today, becuase most of it is forced by beancounters trying to drive sales in the short term, and nuetering the few occasions where it is good.  But there is permadeth in comics just not the big name ones, just the good ones.

The thing is you have to build your game and its world to permadeath, just like the games today had to build themselves and their mechanics around no-death.

And remember people there are states inbetween Perma and no death!


Sun Aug 09 2009 2:14PM Report
Axehilt writes:

While the blog is a bit haphazard in presentation, it hits upon the most crucial failing of Perma-Death: severing emotional attachment.

MMORPG characters are pets.  You develop a certain attachment to them over the many hundreds of hours you spend with the character.

Permadeath kills your pet.  That's a significant negative trait.  And the positive traits of a perma-death system don't overcome that negative trait.

And that's basically the only argument you need against perma-death systems.  MMORPGs are popular in part because players become attached to their characters, and perma-death destroys that without adding anything concrete.

The other "rationalizations" in the blog are weak.

Particularly the part defending comic book (and other genre) resurrection as somehow not being dubious writing.  Would've been better to point out the pre-existing solutions that improve the presentation of failure (like calling it "being defeated" instead of "death," in LOTRO.)

To me, the entire permadeath argument is summed up by the fact that the disadvantages are harsher than the advantages.  Disadvantages being that the game kills your "pet."  Advantages being the adrenaline rush associated with knowing death is final.

Sun Aug 09 2009 4:23PM Report
Interesting writes:

Permanent Death can work.

When a character dies:

*It can be rescued, and ressed/healed by someone else, regardless of player choices, mechanics based on a time counter.

*A fate mechanism would be added, divine interventions would ensue to those who deserved it.

*It can enter a state of torpor/deep sleep for a period of time

the period of time would vary, it can last untill the end of the fight, if the player side wins or many days/months where such character would be locked.

*The character can regenerate itself, full regeneration, how fast it happens and the extent of the regeneration depends on character abilities/build. Obviously Im not talking about "human" characters, whatever the character are, they ressemble humans, but whatever the lore uses, its just a means to justify such game mechanics.

*After the hit points reach zero, and the character lies inconscient on the ground even with severed limbs, it can regenerate itself up from its "spirit" or "will to live". Lets say, the upper body and head explodes, spirit burts its "life" and character regenerates.. If such "aparently dead" character is ignored it can regenerates, if kept attacked by players, other options follows, and some of those are risky to the character who keep attacking! (dead character tranforms or transcend and becomes a very big problem, but if such doesnt happen the character is dead giving yet other options becoming an spirit and or having its remains/flesh retrieved into another character for "bonuses", physical possession will be lootable, if not transferable, some items duplicates itself and carry on to spiritual form where they get stronger as well. Npc character wont keep attacking the character after dead. Such option wont be available to all players and not at all times. It requires a certain type of trait/skills, and time to be recharged so it can be used again.

*Upon death character goes frenzy/berserk, "transforms" and is able to run away or defeat its foes. For that, the character lifes to fight another day, but such event permanently marks the character. Its something unique for each character, depends on certain character traits or player choices, doesnt happen to everyone. The experience changes the character permanently.

*Upon death character "transcends" into something superior. It might become a monster or something. Lose a lot of stuff, but excentially becomes stronger. Becomes hunted and fear by other players. Its a player choice at any time. You kill your character for power.

*Once dead, the character flesh might be retrieved and used in another character. Physical possessions might be retrieved if friendly players wish to do so.

*Players who were killed get an option to seek revenge as a spiritual being. (You get to go after those players who made you harm, specific game mechanics follows to force the player who took such option to effectivelly seek its revenge and the ways to achieve so are provided) Its not a certain thing. The players who killed your character can survive, once, twice, many times and eventually perish, or kill you again (specific game mechanics for that follow as well).

*Character dies, player starts to control the spirit of the character, whole new game follows. Last character possessions might be lost, some emotional binding possessions remains (those are acquired with time and effort). Every attribute and ability gets translated to new stats depending on the living character. This will be the most common result of permanent death, since it provides the long term lasting effect of the last character's player's time and effort spent on the game.

In this state, there is a whole new game with the same scope and size of the one while the character was alive. Players can remain on this forever and never miss the live world. While on this world they can get killed as well and they can get reborn as a new character, everything is lost, but they "rise the ranks" of "evolution".

Depending on what the character did while alive (his time spent, quests, power, etc) he can evolve in to a higher rank. Once reborn under this higher rank the character starting stats and overall potential and power are higher. They are excentially superior to characters of the lower rank and they will tend to evolve faster. Its not something crazy, but considerably easier and gratifying. To evolve is not an automatic effect of each death, but its an achievement earned with time and effort.

Players can evolve many times. At this point godly character will rise. Evolution itself comes with a price. As a character can evolve, it can de-evolve. It depends on player actions. If a character abuse its power on new players once it evolved and was reborn a lot of times,next time it dies it will de-evolve. Its a punishing game mechanic to ensue that power has its counter balance.

Once dead, in the spirit form, character can explore the other worlds, like limbo, penumbra, underworld, outerworld, other dimensions, and even heaven, hell and different metaphysic places from a wide range of religions etc... the lore itself and the names of those worlds can be totally new or brought from the existing lore.

The concept itself embraces Spiritism in its core, where "death is not final", it embraces some anime mechanics, such as "Claymore" and "Berserk" and mixes it up antecipating sociological behaviour patherns of players power in mmorpgs nowadays.

It solves the achievers problems, by adding the death in the mix, making it a step for even greater and meaningfull rewards. Players time and effort are not wasted.

Multiple options are offered. The game mechanics would all tie very well with the lore of the game. It would be coherently realistic, opposed to pure realism, wich is enough for any roleplay story in any genre.

I could expand on the ideas and concepts, but as I always say, its not worthy more than this minimal creative exercise to past my time.

Sun Aug 09 2009 5:01PM Report
Interesting writes:

*The player can directly decide to make his next character inherit A GREAT DEAL OF YOUR last character.

Its a personal quest.

It can fail.

Your other character must exist already.


If it succeed, the first character dies, the living character inherits its personal belongings and its body/flesh.

The body/flesh is very powerfull and can be used in a multitude of ways. It can be sold on the black market. It can be stolen. It can be "incorporated" in the new character for "bonuses".

The nature and scope of such bonuses would vary, but they are not obtainable elsewhere. They are very rewarding.

Your last character will live within your new character, forever.  Great storytelling possibilities, memories, flashbacks.

The new character gets more apt/prone to certain skills/abilities/stats depending on the older character strenghts.

You can show that off to other people, or not. It can be discovered.

If it fails, you can keep playing with your last character, but multiple results follows.

To try again the quest, there will be a time limit.

Depending on the result of the quest none, one or both character can die.  In reality none of them will die, since both would become spirits, or, ascend or transform, etc...

The player controls the new character in a quest to kill the old character. The old character becomes an NPC untill the end of the quest. A fight not necessarily needs to happen for the quest to suceed.

Sun Aug 09 2009 5:16PM Report
Axehilt writes:

Some of these ideas sound fun, but aren't realistic.

As a percentage of overall playtime, you're not dead much.

So it's bad if lots of manhours are spent creating complicated death mechanics.

Sun Aug 09 2009 6:57PM Report
Gunderson105 writes:

Instead of Perma-death, I'd rather see tier rewards for not dying.

For example, if you get to level 10 without dying, you have a stronger healing skill then normal.

If you get to level 30 without dying, you get an epic item



Sun Aug 09 2009 7:46PM Report
Quale writes:

A quick comment to Axehilt:

Are you sure the players of LuLZnoRRis, mrTeaBag, and sepiroth95 are emotionally attached to their characters? Seems to me that emotional detachment is a key phrase for communities these days.

Is it possible that the outrage to the possibility of losing their characters lies somewhere else entirely?

Mon Aug 10 2009 1:02AM Report
Axehilt writes:

I should've summed it up as Time Investment.  Which includes both the concept of emotional attachment to your character, and the even simpler concept of spending time making your character better.  Perma-death throws that time investment into the trash.

Developers strive to be as efficient at delivering fun to the player as possible, so when they examine the pros/cons of perma-death they see these very significant cons with few pros to balance out the situation.

Does this mean perma-death is always a mistake?  No, but you have to mitigate the cons.

For example EVE's death system is basically a standard "repair bill" system, with the caveat that failure to pay your repair bill results in permanent death.

Another example is if permanent progression doesn't reside directly on the unit who died.  Like if you play as characters from a city you control.  The capabilities of the characters are determined by constructing/upgrading buildings in the city, so even though each character dies permanently you lose little or no progression (in fact you can construct statues in your city of your more famous characters to give combat bonuses to future characters of the same type.)

Mon Aug 10 2009 2:29AM Report
sfraden writes:

Not impressed by the blog entry.  This is a simple matter of griefing.  The few that want perma-death in a game are outspoken, make a lot of noise and seem to be much more than they are.  This is a normal bit of forums/blogs/etc.   When a mere handful of folks seem to be larger than they truly are.

Perma-death is nothing mroe than an epeen stroking bit of griefing.  The griefer merely wants to be able to weild the ultimate power; life over death.  If you think the rants about dying to a griefer are bad without perma-death, wonder what it will be like when some little tard can truly ruin your entire day, and destroy months of hard work by some exploit.  Nay, this should have never been a topic in the first place; no company would even consider this.

Mon Aug 10 2009 8:12AM Report
Interesting writes:

Embrace griefing into the game mechanics.


If you cant avoid it. Embrace it.

Same thing with gold farmers and RMT.

Start making game mechanics that not only aknowledge that griefing is going to happen, but also allow it and design the game around it, with all the counter balances necessary.

Many games did it already.


Its just that people are too deep into Everquest School of MMORPGs, instead of UO School of design decisions.


Once you start relating the different design decisions and game mechanics you will see that they only work if addapted to work together.


People who say some feature or design decision doesnt work, like perma-death, are hitting their heads in the wall stupidly because they try to implement it alongside other game mechanics that simply wont fit.

You need to think out of the box. Rethink a whole new philosophy school of mmorpgs design decisions, features and game mechanics.

Lots of things evolved, specially technology, and communities of players, but the whole philosophy behind how to make a game didnt followed.

They notice a problem, they remove it from the game, they remove players freedom, they use cheap solutions, and the games get even more simpler, shallower, and blander every time. They fail to entice people for longer than one month. They are not making games for people to live in and actually have a role and... you know... roleplay.  They are making a collection of minigames that people can easilly beat in 30 minutes everytime.

But a huge part of the community have a different mentality, they seek a game to live in, do whatever they want, create their own goals, follow different paths, etc.  There is demand for this and in the future we will see developers trying to fill it, its so huge it doesnt deserve to be called a niche. Its more like a "real mmorpg" demmand. Not just "games online with lots of people, nice graphics and character progression".


Mon Aug 10 2009 1:38PM Report
Quale writes:

"There is demand for this and in the future we will see developers trying to fill it, its so huge it doesnt deserve to be called a niche. Its more like a "real mmorpg" demmand. Not just "games online with lots of people, nice graphics and character progression"

Amen brother.

Not only am I far from convinced that permadeath would suck, I am almost sure it would rock. By the same token, I can almost guarantee that we will see it. That is takes some major design rethinking is a given and of little interest to me in this specific context.

The blog wants to handle permadeath as an idea and shoot it down on principle, but it doesn't handle it as an idea but as an addition to the current state of the genre, which btw obviously is in trouble from an artistical point of view. In principle, permdeath is not only interesting, but probably even quite necessary.

There is one thing people would do well in remembering: If you ask someone what they want, chances are the answer they give you will ruin their game. Especially if they are young and unwise.

Players play games, they don't design them. The designer is someone who's job is a little more complex and takes a little more independent responsability than "listening to the playerbase".

Mon Aug 10 2009 2:54PM Report
luccfilho writes:

THE BEST WAY to implement the perma death is FOR SURE to place a HEAVEN OR HELL realm, just like many titles did and MAINLY Dragon Ball Z used it.

It surely would make anyone want to STAY ALIVE or EARN the right to revive or to SOCIALIZE with other chars to RESSURECT YOU! Or even WANT to do GOOD or BAD deeds to DIE.

Dana: Why not?

Mon Aug 10 2009 2:56PM Report
Lord_Ixigan writes:

Not to burst anyone's bubble or anything, buuuut isn't something like this just pouring gasoline on a fire that went out last night?

I'm just being honest. I haven't seen anybody seriously talk about the merits of permadeath in about a year.

Mon Aug 10 2009 2:56PM Report
Lord_Ixigan writes:

Not to burst anyone's bubble or anything, buuuut isn't something like this just pouring gasoline on a fire that went out last night?

I'm just being honest. I haven't seen anybody seriously talk about the merits of permadeath in about a year.

Mon Aug 10 2009 2:56PM Report
crueltyinc writes:

PD is a simple enough concept once you get off of a few common addictions of MMO developers.

  1. Toss out this quest system that everybody seems to be addicted to, ya know, the one where you have the same quest for every person, where quests stick to a given storyline. Don't scrap the storyline by any means, but make the storyline itself fluid, dependent on anything from the state of a war mechanism or local resource dependency. We aren't playing the NES anymore, if we want something as dynamic as quests spawned from local events we can have them. Quit creating quests by attaching flags to what a character has and hasn't done and start judging NPC needs and interactions. A few generic algorithms later and voila.
  2. Grief is the main effect of PD. In order to counterbalance this we have the need for vengeance. For example, if I died to Vlaadamir the Vampire Apprentice, he would take his pick of my items and run off to wherever it is he needed to go. Later creatures would then no doubt run off with the rest of my gear, Rats would run off with my food, a passing Goblin might take interest in some of the smaller equipment, etc. My next character would be able to level up and attempt to defeat Mr. Vlaad if I so wished. There would also be chances to craft items or gain abilities that would protect some of my prettier gems or even my life. I know programmers and anybody who has to worry about memory are going to glare at me, but the intense memory need that this is going to create can be offset by making Vlaad eventually die off. And not just Vlaad, but every creature would have a life span. When THEY die, then the items go with them. I know, there's still going to be a jump here, but at least it's doable.
  3. As for hacks and glitches and blah blah blah they come with the territory and we've come up with counterbalances already. If somebody dies due to causes outside of regular game play, they deserve their character back. Keep a backup of a player's most recently deceased character just in case. You can even (slightly) storyline it and make it so that they wake up in the nearest tavern after having been stone drunk as if it had never really happened. Yeah it'll piss them off, but the glitch shouldn't have been there in the first place, they should be.
  4. As for attachment to one's character, they'll be a hell of a lot more attached to one that has survived the possibility of actually dying. They won't run face-first into a wall of Demons without knowing that they will actually succeed. They won't jump off of the top of a building to see if there's fall damage (I have no idea what you're talking about). It would be a completely different game play style all together.

The first person to do it gets a cookie. A +9 Cookie of Power. With sprinkles on top. -9 Sprinkles of Weakness. Ok, forget the cookie.

Mon Aug 10 2009 3:03PM Report
crueltyinc writes:

"Not to burst anyone's bubble or anything, buuuut isn't something like this just pouring gasoline on a fire that went out last night?

I'm just being honest. I haven't seen anybody seriously talk about the merits of permadeath in about a year."

Um... so?

Mon Aug 10 2009 3:05PM Report
daeandor writes:

permadeath could be fun.  If it were a levelless system and death had some meaning in the game.  Without meaning in game, it's a useless feature wanted by gankers and the hard core / old school tabletop gamers who used to throw their character sheet in the trash if it died in a dungeon.  Never going to happen main stream outside of what we saw in SWG.

Tue Aug 11 2009 1:16AM Report
kisteel writes:

Back in the MUD days, many of them had a permanent death feature.  You basically started with a set amount constitution points.  For every 10 deaths or so, it would take away a point.  Eventually you ran out of points and had a permanent death.  It took a lot of deaths to get there, but it was always in the back of your mind.  Now granted, this was when people put a few weeks into their characters and not a few months or years.  I agree though that permadeath will never be back because the today's MMOs are going for mass appeal and I have a hard time seeing permadeath fitting in with that.  It's the same reason that we'll never see corpse looting again either... which was very fun.

Tue Aug 11 2009 2:28PM Report
Maelkor writes:

My real question is this: Why would someone who is interested in a game with Perma Death care what someone who doesnt like perma death think about it? Any reason you can list to be against perma death is in the end meaningless to those who want it in the first place. It would be kind of like someone who only wants pvp to write an article/blog on all the reasons pve sucks and why no pve game should ever be made.

Any perma death game worth its salt would not have a level grind in the first place. It would be about other things and would likely be a skill based system where even someone who has managed to keep their character alive for a year can still be killed by someone who has a character only a week or two old. The older character would simply have more tricks up their sleeve. The game would also likely revolve around a true RvRvRv....type scenario and more of a sandbox feel ala Eve.

Tue Aug 11 2009 6:17PM Report
neorandom writes:

 the best way to implement permanent death into gaming is to kill the gamer when the character dies.  think about it, theres no way youll get any complaints out of the people once its done, and it would help slow down the ever increasing problems of overpopulation of the globe!

Fri Aug 14 2009 2:42AM Report
Elitekill4 writes:


LOL. Except that it's violating the Law. :P

Sun Aug 23 2009 10:37AM Report
jcpillars writes:

If you implement perma-death, you better make it a lot harder to die. And a lot easier to get saved. It has to be as hard to die as real life.

Seriously, without actually killing yourself on purpose, it's not really that easy to die in modern society. I think Perma-death would be a cool idea in radical MMORPGs that gauge achievement on something other than levels and gear.

Sun Aug 23 2009 12:14PM Report
DreamQueen writes:

Forget about Law, more to the point it would be a horrible ethical system, Lolz.

People do spend more time worrying about "Police and the Law" punishing them, instead of feeling their own conscience...

I think that anyone who played on perma death would all quit given the slightest bit of lag (freezing) of the game, or that the game would need to be limited (like Global Agenda) in order to insure that no one died to lag...


However, it could be a cool system, with a game designed around it or most preferably a server, otherwise most people would probably never pay/support said game if there wasn't a "Normal" server...


There are so many cool ideas here though! In my case, I'd want my character to look exactly the same (multiple clones), have all of the same reputation/skills/items, and have the same exact name...

MMO'S are not beatable, and already should provide enough content, along with GM Events (Live Events), thus they really shouldn't include perma death unless they make it on only one server...

Developers would implement this incorrectly, and then players will complain of boring grinds back to their previous char, which would only result in a failed game.... Most likely, there will never be enough branching paths, and content would be horribly repeated... Any loss of time sucks, and even though devs of games would love to keep you playing longer, the players who lose that time would get tired of repeating themselves every time that they die with the grinding faction etc... Most people would quit a game after the free month, given how many different ways developers could incorrectly implement it...

I have no faith in developers, and forsee several failed MMO's for this, *giggles*.

They can't even make good games as it is people! They come out with how many MMO's yearly? Yet, there are always ways that they can improve on so many different areas, that this is just one more thing they'd have to devote time to, and they really can't focus on that without neglecting bugs/glitchs and extra content for the game... This perma-death, would end up replacing extra content, and the game would end up being a boring, linear , grindfest...

It just seems like it is way to costly in time, and that not enough people could possibly want it... There are countless games all vying for your attention.  In the MMORPG sphere genre alone, you can have several games going every month (for hundreds of $$ monthly if you wanted).  So, given how many games you might be playing at the same time, how could you possibly want to devote more time to regrinding the same progress that your character had originally? What about alts? Having to die, and restart, you'd have no desire to have any alts, and the perma-death would end up being nerfed down as more and more players complain about it... Eventually, they'd end up patching it out if they were losing all of their playerbase! 

Of course, it would also be a lot of hours and work for just a single server to follow the perma-death ruleset, and that's to much work for developers who can't even provide GM Events or Live Content as it is or fix bugs/glitches, so wouldn't it be nice if they could just allow players to design the code for them (for free), and just send it to them for their new perma-death server?? 

Now, people making games be better for free, that would be awesome, money matters far to much in this world!! 

Certainly, it would be an interesting idea on "certain games", but there are only so many hours in a day ><.



Mon Nov 09 2009 1:20AM Report
AutemOx writes:

Perma-death wouldnt even be that hard to add in to a special rule-set server, IMO.  Seriously.  Just make death lead to character disablement.  The end.  Not too hard to do, but no MMORPGs have the balls to do it.

I understand that companies might be worried that players will quit the game when they lose their characters, but not every player gets attached to their characters.  Obviously a person interested in perma-death is not your run of the mill player, right? 

Fri Nov 13 2009 2:13AM Report writes:
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