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Community Spotlight: The Decline of the Death Penalty

Posted by MikeB Thursday October 22 2009 at 2:52PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on a thread started by user Yavln entitled “Death Penalty and its decline.” In the original post, Yavln dissects the effects of harsher MMOG death penalties on the gameplay experience, and examines why developers have chosen to back away from these harsher death penalties in games released in recent years.

Yavln begins by describing the death penalties found in the games of yore, “…back in the early days if you died you almost always lost something of value, exp, money in your pocket, items off your back, your mount or a combination of the above, the point was that death hurt, as a result any time anyone went into combat, they knew fine well what the cost was going to be if they lost, or won.”

Yavln also goes on to describe the emotional rollercoaster that the fear of such penalties would create in players as they played these games in pretty dramatic detail. I can’t say I’ve felt just those emotions, but I definitely feared for my life much more than I do in recent releases for sure! I recall all too well the 20 minute trek in my undies to retrieve my corpse early on in Star Wars Galaxies, and I can definitely say I was a lot more cautious about my life when death meant I could lose all my gear by being unable to retrieve my corpse. Now, compared to recent releases such as Champions Online, where death simply means a respawn and a minor bonus to experience and damage lost, there is no doubt in my mind I am way less cautious about dying. Heck, in beta, my friend and I zerged the Teleiois Tower instance, which is meant for a team of five, by ourselves. We just died, respawned, and tried again, over and over, until we finally succeeded. I recall commenting about how ridiculous it was then, and I still feel the same.

I know why the penalties have been lessened, and Yavln does as well, but he certainly doesn’t agree with the trend, explaining, “Bring the years forward to today, and the game scape has changed beyond all recognition, death penalty for most games is a think of the past, it's something developers have deemed as bad for business, but I think they have it all wrong, when they compare death to older games, and then hold up the player numbers with games like wow, what their failing to account for is the time period involved.

There are more people playing games today, than have ever played games in the past ten years combined, as a result of the massive influx of new gamers and new demographics developers are now scrambling to cut away things from games that they feel will deter all these new gamers.”

This is certainly true. The market has grown considerably and in order to make games more accessible death penalties as we’ve known them in years past, well, got the death penalty! MMOG’s have just become easier overall, and this is just part of a continuing trend for gaming in general. If you look on the consoles, there is quite a bit of hand holding going on. I cringed recently when watching a preview video of the new Super Mario Bros game for the Wii. The journalist explained that if a player dies enough times during a stage that the game will essentially play itself past the obstacle and the player can take over whenever he wishes. Why is this relevant to MMOGs? Well, there is bound to be some cross-over. The trends established in non-MMOG games shape the expectations for those potential new players that many developers are chasing to expand the genre.

Yavln also brings up EVE Online as an example of a contemporary MMOG that is still successful even while maintaining a pretty harsh death penalty, “EvE online is another amazing and mega sucessful game, with very heavy death penalty, or so it seems, anyone who has actually played the game for longer than 14 days will show you that not only do they still have sjips left but their making money, and at the same time not being shy with PvP, and it's a credit to CCP and their insurences and other systems that help reduce the blow of death.”

He then compares EVE to Jumpgate: Evolution, and speculates as to how the much diminished death penalty will affect gameplay, saying, “Now take games that or on the horizon, Jumpgate Evolution, can easily be looked at as a WoW version of EvE, but with its pruposed death penalty, and no cargo loss, haulers will be taking goods, or miners will be mining and then instead of fighting to protect their ore, thy will simply smile as an enemy comes into range and starts blasting them, what's a small repair bill when it saves you 5 minutes of flight time back to your station.”

Now if you’re one of those people reading this and shaking your head, saying, “To hell with death penalties! Corpse runs suck!” You’re going to love nate1980’s take on the issue, “I disagree about the whole death penalty thing. You're basically talking about death penalties from PvP, and things like that just encourage gank squads. I'd rather not be forced to group up with a bunch kids or jerks in a game. If you're going to claim losing gear is realistic or that it gives death a meaning, well then why don't you ask for death to be permanent. Now that's a death penalty I'd advocate for, because then people will start showing a little more respect and manners to people, and not hide behind anonymity so much. You see, full loot pvp doesn't phase those who've played a while, because they have reserves stored in their bank. It also doesn't phase those in a good guild, that can easily replace that gear.

If there isn't permanent death, then there might as well be no death penalty, because they just aren't fun any other way.”

You have to admit that nate1980 does make some good points. The harsher death penalties can be gotten around by resourceful players, heck even Yavln’s EVE example supports this point, and so it can be argued that the mechanic really only tends to penalize those who aren’t as resourceful. When you’re a developer chasing customers who have potentially never touched an MMOG before, that is indeed “bad for business” as Yavln put it.

What do you think of the death penalty issue? Let us know in the comments below!

Ruyn writes:

Penalties add value to your actions.

Thu Oct 22 2009 3:01PM Report
WoodyCMH writes:

The lack of a meaningful death penalty steals away so much from what can make a game enjoyable.  I would certainly like to see a trend back towards death penalties that have some real impact. 

By not having death penalties, you take away one of the things that initially made online games different from your old stand-alone game where you could save, go nuts, die, and restore.  Suddenly, there was this online thing where that wasn't possible, you couldn't save and restore.  Your decisions and actions had meaningful consequences.  With the demise of the death penalty, those decisions and actions have really lost alot, as you can just simply try it, die, and go do it again with no a sense, it's almost like an online version of the sold save and restore.  So much is lost.

Thu Oct 22 2009 3:52PM Report
Codenak writes:

Lack of a death penalty, or a very light one, destroys the value of doing anything in a game, you will never have the same sense of achievement for a given task in a game with a light penalty as you would get in a heavy penalty game. It also opens up lots of avenues for a**hattery.

Thu Oct 22 2009 4:02PM Report
Roscoman writes:

Decline of death penalty is a direct result of more people paying monthly subscriptions, and big developers catering to the masses.  Not as many people will pay 15 dollars a month, if they log and and are killed and looted.  So it comes down to money, and more people will play a game with very little risk for dying.

Thu Oct 22 2009 4:15PM Report
nate1980 writes:

Hey, I was quoted! It was wierd reading what I said in a spotlight, hehe. My point was that the death penalties your so called "hard-core" players advocate for is not really that effective or hardcore. People have ways of minimizing the death penalty, making the only real death penalty the loss of your character. Look at single-player games, where you get so many lives and once those lives are expended, you have to start all over. Those games had the original death penalty, which was permanent death, yet those games also made expert gamers out of us.

Thu Oct 22 2009 4:25PM Report
Xondar123 writes:

nate1980 is right. Calling him a dumbass is just rude.

Thu Oct 22 2009 5:46PM Report
Edhelion writes:

" will never have the same sense of achievement for a given task in a game..."

I play online games to have fun with my friends, not to provide myself with some sense of achievement. If I want to feel a sense of achievement I will learn a foreign language, or learn to play the piano.

Losing levels or gear that you have worked for just because your framerate tanked or you have a real instance of actual server lag and your game wouldn't respond; really only punishes the unlucky and the people who might love the game, but can't really justify or afford to upgrade their system for the sake of a game.

Opinions and all that, blah blah blah.

Thu Oct 22 2009 5:54PM Report
someforumguy writes:

I grew bored with the death penalties that take a lot of time to get rid of (corpse runs, long debuffs etc).

Untill now, I liked Guild Wars Death penalty best. Simple hp/energy debuff. Everytime you die, it stacks up to -60%. Only way to reset it, is to leave map, which usually means you need to start over your quest/mission.

It actually punishes you enough to make challenges even more challenging, but is no hassle to get rid of if you are finished with what you are doing.

But I guess this system only works with instanced areas.

Thu Oct 22 2009 6:18PM Report
orillianvard writes:

I'm with nate1980 on this one. Current death penalties are pointless. Even in a number of the Free to play MMOs that I've seen that have harsher death penalties, you can buy CASH shop items to reduce the penalties or even remove the penalty all together. it's become a mechanic on many levels to get the publisher more money. Not a mechanic that really makes any sense for players, full PC death or no death is my way of looking at it as well.

everything else in between just makes things odd.


Thu Oct 22 2009 6:22PM Report
macburl writes:

 great article! i play the game Tibia and in that game when you die you not only loose a chunk of XP (even to the point of decresing a level) but you lose your inventory, and a random piece of gear from your equipment slots. di i say random? yes, random. sometimes you lose your weapon, or your platelegs, or your amulet or WHATEVER! i realy think this gives the game a great flavor, and it makes you feel as if there was a penalty to dieing and a reason not to 0_o

thats my two cents 

Thu Oct 22 2009 6:58PM Report
raszon writes:

SWG's original system was nice, regular players had to deal with item decay and stats debuffs only certain players could remove which forced community between casual and hardcore players.

The alpha-class penalties for jedi where great as well, huge chunk of xp loss for death(with possibilities of delving into the nagtive millions) with the threat of perma-death for too many deaths in set amount of time.

Thu Oct 22 2009 7:38PM Report
orionite writes:

It really depends on the kind of game you are playing. If it takes 40 people and 3 weeks to get the Uber-sword, then losing it because of a fatal accident would seriously p me o. But there are other ways. How about, when you enter a duel, you have to put up an ante (i.e. pick an item that will be given to the opponent if (s)he wins).

Alternatively, why not create Nate's game in which dying (and losing everything) is actually permanent. One char per account, with reputation carrying over to new chars after death. That will make your heart pound in battle and maybe stop those pesky gankers from hiding behind their alts as soon as the cavalry shows up.

Thu Oct 22 2009 8:42PM Report
DarkRiver88 writes:

I agree with Yavln, that one factor that helps make games challenging and needs to be kept around.  For me it comes down to this: no challenge, no point

Thu Oct 22 2009 9:28PM Report
DarkRiver88 writes:

I agree with Yavln, that one factor that helps make games challenging and needs to be kept around.  For me it comes down to this: no challenge, no point

Thu Oct 22 2009 9:28PM Report
luciusETRUR writes:

To the guy who said that he plays games for fun and if he wants an achievement he'll play the piano. How is playing piano any different than gaming? What does playing piano do to our society or any society. Nothing. Just as games add entertainment and entertainment only, so do pianos. Foreign language, that's a skill worth having... but piano? Are you serious?

Thu Oct 22 2009 10:02PM Report
Palebane writes:

All busses or no busses?

I'll go with all busses.

Maybe when you die, you should be banned from playing the game for a month. Or how about ever again? That would be pretty extreme.

I like the idea of permadeath in theory. Not sure how it would work in practice though. I could see it in a gangster type game where you put hits out on people and stuff; where your actions determine whether you get your head blown off, but for fantasy dungeon crawls? While I would like it, I'm sure a majority of gamers would cry at the idea.

Thu Oct 22 2009 10:29PM Report
FarOutFish writes:

Death penelity or not, when my character dies I feel bad. It means I screwed  something up and that's my fault. By identifying with my characters I feel thier pain, especialy when they die. I guess this is the result of years of actual role playing in PnP D&D. No one role playes any more, that's thier loss. Become one with your character, think and feel what they would be feeling, then when they die it means something to you. FEEL THIER PAIN

Thu Oct 22 2009 11:18PM Report
Stuckov writes:

FFXI for the win :)

Thu Oct 22 2009 11:19PM Report
Velsha writes:

Great Article.

Personally, I am for Death them? No, not when I die. But with them you do get a sense of achievement. What I really don't like is when the game developers change the game over time to lessen or completely remove the penalties. In one game I play death really used to hurt. Now, its a tactic to get places. "Go there and die then you will respawn over here."

I played EQ for a lot of years. One of the best heart pounding moments I had was when a friend was on a corpse run. He and his group died a few times trying to get to his corpse. I was in the area so I asked if I could help...I went in solo, down into the depths of Sebilis as a sneaky rogue. The frogs around me could see invis so I had to tip-toe past them while they weren't looking. I got down through the locked door and found the corpse of my friend just beyond the undead frogs. I brought the corpse back to where he was waiting and went on my way.

It took probably twenty minutes to get the corpse and I had a blast doing it. That was back in the day when you left your corpse too long it would decay and there was no hope of getting your stuff back without some kind of divine intervention.

EQ now has very little penalty. If you die, you summon your corpse to the guild lobby where there is always a cleric waiting.

Anyway, I am for a death penalty. But, to the developers, if your game has a penalty don't change it just to appease the whiny masses. They learned to deal with it in the beginning they'll continue to deal with it years later.

Just my two coppers worth...

By the way Codenak, love the term "Asshattery" = )

Thu Oct 22 2009 11:55PM Report
mmomeister writes:

I have never played a game with a death penalty, and quite frankly I don't want to I play WoW mostly, so let's say I farm a bunch of mats for a raid, and then I decide to hop in a battleground. Let's say there is no penalty in battlegrounds, because you die constantly. But once you are in the open world there is. So I do my battleground, and am still flagged for PvP. My raid is about to start, but I forgot to get one thing, so I need to go back out  into the open world and get it. I am still flagged for PvP, so someone comes out and ganks me while I am trying to get the 1 item I need for my raid, and I lose all the hours worth of work I did preparing for my raid, and then I end up not being able to pull my weight because I don't have all the potions I need or whatever, and we fail that night because of it. How the hell is that fun?

Fri Oct 23 2009 1:01AM Report
mmomeister writes:

I have never played a game with a death penalty, and quite frankly I don't want to I play WoW mostly, so let's say I farm a bunch of mats for a raid, and then I decide to hop in a battleground. Let's say there is no penalty in battlegrounds, because you die constantly. But once you are in the open world there is. So I do my battleground, and am still flagged for PvP. My raid is about to start, but I forgot to get one thing, so I need to go back out  into the open world and get it. I am still flagged for PvP, so someone comes out and ganks me while I am trying to get the 1 item I need for my raid, and I lose all the hours worth of work I did preparing for my raid, and then I end up not being able to pull my weight because I don't have all the potions I need or whatever, and we fail that night because of it. How the hell is that fun?

Fri Oct 23 2009 1:01AM Report
mmomeister writes:

I have never played a game with a death penalty, and quite frankly I don't want to I play WoW mostly, so let's say I farm a bunch of mats for a raid, and then I decide to hop in a battleground. Let's say there is no penalty in battlegrounds, because you die constantly. But once you are in the open world there is. So I do my battleground, and am still flagged for PvP. My raid is about to start, but I forgot to get one thing, so I need to go back out  into the open world and get it. I am still flagged for PvP, so someone comes out and ganks me while I am trying to get the 1 item I need for my raid, and I lose all the hours worth of work I did preparing for my raid, and then I end up not being able to pull my weight because I don't have all the potions I need or whatever, and we fail that night because of it. How the hell is that fun?

Fri Oct 23 2009 1:01AM Report
mmomeister writes:

I have never played a game with a death penalty, and quite frankly I don't want to I play WoW mostly, so let's say I farm a bunch of mats for a raid, and then I decide to hop in a battleground. Let's say there is no penalty in battlegrounds, because you die constantly. But once you are in the open world there is. So I do my battleground, and am still flagged for PvP. My raid is about to start, but I forgot to get one thing, so I need to go back out  into the open world and get it. I am still flagged for PvP, so someone comes out and ganks me while I am trying to get the 1 item I need for my raid, and I lose all the hours worth of work I did preparing for my raid, and then I end up not being able to pull my weight because I don't have all the potions I need or whatever, and we fail that night because of it. How the hell is that fun?

Fri Oct 23 2009 1:01AM Report
Chrysos writes:

In a single player game I have no problem with the game helping you through a bit if you can't get by it yourself.  If I buy a single player game I want to be able to be able to play the whole game and nothing is more fustrating than not being able to see most of the content because you can't get past boss 3 blocking door Y.  For this to work however it would need to be a relatively intelligent system that can asses your ability and gear the game towards it, also something that people can switch off so they can play at super-hard just because they want that challenge and the rewarding feeling they get from beating it. 

That doesn't however translate to an MMO because you're not alone and your individual requirements affect other people in the game.  Like Sartre said:  L'enfer c'est les autres. 

One of the problems however is that most games now want to appeal to as large an audience as possible and in doing so come up with the lowest common denominator that rarely pleases anybody. 

Fri Oct 23 2009 2:37AM Report
Scot writes:

The answer to death penalties is dissociation of reward and penalty from PvE reward and penalty. If the things you gain in PvE can be lost in PvP there are issues. But if the things that are lost in PvP can only be gained in PvP the problems are far less.

Lets say you lose part of a PvP bonus if you are killed, well you can only earn it in PvP so its not as big an issue. This bonus might reduce the cost of potions that can only be used in PvP for example.

Fri Oct 23 2009 2:46AM Report
Nostromo21 writes:

D2 already had permadeath in hardcore mode & it rocked big boats!

It just needed a developer willing to listen to their fanbase & do something about the PKers/gankers, most of who were cheating scum. It needed a developer who's sole agenda wasn't to destory their own game & push players onto their next big thing....with a monthly sub fee! God help D3 if the same marketing monkeys are still there at Blizztard!

Otherwise, simple solution: make the death penalty more & more severe as a character goes up in level. That levels the playing field nicely & provides a disincentive for high levels to gank lower levels who might just have a surprise in store for them, whereas allowing newbies some lattitude to die repeatedly while they learn the game.

Make a mainstream mmo that allows the players to set & enforce laws, ala ATITD or UO before it.  Make laws & decent behaviour count for something, rather than rewarding reaheaded stepchildren sociopaths for being asshats & urinating on others'' fun. And not with BS PKKs or other lame mechanisms which just force us, the PvEer s to play their pathetic game. Give us real power to make majority choices about how we want our gameworld to work & how to punish the miscreants. Game over.


Fri Oct 23 2009 3:07AM Report
hogscraper writes:

 Death penalties may have made the games a little more exciting for players that could handle the losses, but for  a new player that has no resources and no ability to replace his lost gear? That's the kind of thing that makes people walk away from a game. Perfect example is trying to explore. If there is a decent penalty for dying you guarantee that no new players will ever explore. Why would I ever step foot out of the small areas I knew to be safe if the posibility existed that I might lose some essential piece of gear that I couldn't afford to replace? I remember playing dark age of camelot when it first came out and not being able to afford to gear up my tank. Wearing gear that was garbage using a weapon that was garbage was bad enough but if I then lost that green sword? I would have quit the game. Death penalties exist primarily as a way for the company to get you to play more and to extend the amount of time you have to sub to get to the end game content. The excitement of running for your life is only fun if it doesn't cripple you to the point of not being able to play. 

Fri Oct 23 2009 3:50AM Report
maxtlion writes:

"If failure has no penalty, then success is no victory."

Don't know who said it, but it's dead-on here. The lighter the death penalty (and most are a joke nowadays), the less value people put on their in-game 'life'. The majority of games now cater to the player who wants to fill up his equipment slots with epics, beat everyone in sight and shout into the trade channel "OMG I'M THE GREATEST!!!". With the typical whiney attitude that many players display now when things don't go their way, it's financially safer for developers to produce games where people know they can succeed, even if only through repeated attempts and wipes.

Fri Oct 23 2009 4:26AM Report
Wizardry writes:

I will spill the beans on why Death penalty,is not so great but can and should be.

The reason it is not so well liked is because of the games themselves.If all you do is kill 5000 mobs to gain a level,then die once and lose 500 kills worth of xp,then  it's quite bland and boring,and i can see why people would hate it.

There needs to be some real nice give and take reward system for a death penalty to thrive.I don't think it should be as simplistic as lose % xp or whatever the games have been doing.



Fri Oct 23 2009 6:12AM Report
Torchwood writes:

People tend to like death penalties, not for themselves, but for others.

If you want your death to have meaning, delete something from your gear when you die.

Its a game, for fun.  Why should it be painful?  Why should there be "meaning"?

Rp a penalty.  Remember RP?  Its further gone then death in these games.

Fri Oct 23 2009 7:28AM Report
nate1980 writes:

There are some novel ideas coming up in this discussion, so good for you all. A couple notable ones is the death penalty that increases as you level and a death penalty that stays within whatever you're doing, such as a PvP death penalty and a PvE death penalty.

I've found most death penalties to be adequate, but I'm not the type who uses death as teleportation and gets fustrated when I die even without a death penalty. Add onto that fustration the run back to the corpse, or the 5 min wait for the debuff to wear off, and I'm pissed.

So perhaps there's different types of people out there who value their character in various degrees, so the more they value their character, the less of a death penalty they need to feel loss after dying? Perhaps the people wanting machoistic death penalties are adrenalin junkies that can only experience the pain if they actually lose something? There's different types of people in the world, so it only stands to reason that there needs to be different types of death penalties.

I'd love to see the game that has varying death penalties that is selectable at character creation and is a permanent choice for that character. Sort of like selecting Easy, Normal, and Hard Mode.

The Chronicle had a novel idea of having Main and Secondary characters. Main characters could die permanently, but were also more powerful than secondary characters. Secondary characters didn't have a death penalty, but they'd never be as good as a Main character, since they don't risk as much.

Fri Oct 23 2009 8:30AM Report
LiquidWolf writes:

Anyone play Demon's Souls for the PS3?

That is a death penalty I appreciate. The "corpse run" back to collect your souls is both an encouragement and a slap on the wrist.

Fri Oct 23 2009 9:21AM Report
Benedikt writes:

i have to say that i like the fact that death penalties are declining. It allows me to do something i wouldnt able to do otherwise: to try. To try some new strategy, to try to solo a mob i am not supposed to solo, to try something really crazy when i feel like it. for me, it is really much more satisfying, if i with the full use of my abilities kill mob on solo (even tho i did first 2, 3 ... times died trying) then if we just kill him because we had big group. but i would never even consider it if the death penalties were severe.

Fri Oct 23 2009 10:31AM Report
Vegetta writes:

Sometimes I kind of miss UO Corpse Runs. having to make your way back to your body to get your stuff before it goes poof was kind of exciting. (especially if you didn't have a light source )


Fri Oct 23 2009 11:44AM Report
Isaak writes:

Sijmister. You're missing the point. If there is a mechanic where dying could cause you to lose items in you inventory or such, then tell one of your 25 members of your raid and have them go with you.

In a GAME you might walk past someone of the opposite faction and give them the bird...and you know they cannot attack you. But IRL, if you had to walk through a dark alley in a dangerous part of town, you'd call for backup.

Penalties add a certain level of caution/anxiety/adrenaline. My wife hates PVP because she hates dying.  No matter how much I tell her that PVP death is painless, she still won't do it. "Too stressful" she says. But then, WOW is the first video game shes played since Mario.  For her, a painful death penalty might convince her not to play at all. Developers know this.

But then, some players love pvp and/or want a stiffer penalty. Developers also know this. So they try to give options. Join a PVP server where you are flagged in certain zones, ALL the time.

The debate has great points on each side. Just like real life. Should we ban guns? If no one had guns, then no one could kill with them.  But, if no one had guns, criminals would know that honest citizens wouldn't have them...but maybe they do. After all, they're a criminal.

In game, the equivelant of a criminal are griefers, gankers, asshats, etc etc. They don't care about what you are doing, or that it doesn't gain them anything 'in game' because, they just enjoy your suffering. In the real world, or at least in the USA, threats of violence or harm can be charged and are an arrestable offense.

If you have a penalty, then griefers will take advantage. If you don't have a penalty, then hard core people will complain (perhaps the greifers will complain the loudest?)

There are all kinds of games for all kinds of people. The difficult part is making this work for all levels of players in ONE game, like MMO's try to do.

I could see it be optional for individuals and perhaps changeable on a cool down.

no penalties for death = 50% XP and lower quality drops.

mild penalties for death = 100% XP and normal drops

significant death penalties = 150 - 200% XP, more faction, more gold, etc

PermaDeath option = earn 300% XP, faction, etc and if you die, one newly generated characters inherits some or all? (faction, gold, items- etc).

This way, you can choose...the drawback comes with a reward. The carebare level comes with a small, but worthy drawback.

Not that my examples are well thought out, but you can see how this solution could have value.

Fri Oct 23 2009 12:56PM Report
Edhelion writes:

"How is playing piano any different than gaming? What does playing piano do to our society or any society. Nothing. Just as games add entertainment and entertainment only, so do pianos."

I said piano as an ad hoc example, it could be any musical instrument, the playing of which is an art and the ability to do so is an achievement. If you don't think that music hasn't enhanced or been a part of societies throughout history, then you might want to take another look. What value you place on it is really the key difference of opinion I think, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there.

Fri Oct 23 2009 1:39PM Report
OnyxBMW writes:

Honestly, I can't stand death penalties.  My experience mostly dates back to AC1, which had a death penalty of a 5% loss to health/mana/stamina per death up to 40%, only mitigatable from killing stuff, and from an ever-increasing loss of your money and your most valuable item, which also took more than one as you level.

Nothing ruined the fun more, however, than dying in PVP, and having to remember where your corpse was to attempt to recover your lost items.  It was incredibly frustrating, and sparked a lot of anxiety in me (which I admit is probably in part from my being a child at the time).  I still enjoyed the game, but dying was one of the hugest turn-offs from the game.  A loss of time is all you need, really, to still have death kept meaningful, as long as you don't outright decimate the experience, such as losing 10% of your level's required xp, or even de-leveling.  Such things ruin any accomplishments you've done, especially when it's not just player skill that gets you killed, but a bad connection, a bad computer, hell even a bad spec or group loadout.

It punishes people trying new things, and encourages over-caution instead of promoting being brazen at times, which is just as fun as any death penalty can ever be for those who even like it.

That's not to say people won't be reckless when a death penalty requires the sacrifice of your first-born son, far from it, but you will see people start to become cautious to the point of zealotry.

I also imagine in a game like WoW, where instances are king, you'd get even more elitist than back in the days of 40 man raids, where you will only run with people you know since you can't trust that new healer to keep everyone alive, and you don't want to lose half your gear in an instance because they couldn't do their job to your expectations, or even the instances.

Though death penalties should never be outright mitigated, even a game like CO is still fun, since you're supposed to be the hero.  You're supposed to charge in with reckless abandon to accomplish whatever goal it is you wish to do, and a harsh death penalty would only hurt the game.

Whereas in a highly competetive game, people may expect harsh death penalties.

My point at the end is, the game has to be designed around the system, and it cannot be arbitrarily placed in.  And, more importantly, most MMO's currently being made, the so-called WoW clones, wouldn't do well to have a death penalty, really.

Fri Oct 23 2009 5:43PM Report
Burtzum writes:

"How is playing piano any different than gaming?"

I can't believe what I just read.  Playing piano is practically learning a language.  It promotes learning several skills (such as reading and writing music and learning music theory in addition to the more physical skill of actually pressing the keys competently.)  It utilizes both logical and analytical functions as well as intuitive and emotional functions of your brain simultaneously.  A notation on a music staff communicates an interval/number as well as an emotion and sound to your mind/"inner ear".  One can communicate feelings through music that can be understood across language barriers.  Playing piano is a life-long study that can enable you to produce something of value to the world.  Someone dedicating their life to playing piano is a worthy investment.  I can not say the same for playing computer games. 

I suppose painting is merely mindless entertainment as well?

Sat Oct 24 2009 1:53AM Report
tommh writes:

 I've always been torn when it comes to Death Penalties. On the one hand playing games with essentially no penalty, the constant die until you where down your opponents makes the game trivial. How can you have truly interesting decisions without consequence?

On the other hand harsh death penalties can also ruin a game. Especially when it isn't (or a you think it isn't) your fault. Certainly this is the case when its due to lag or getting jumped by much more powerful players.

Each DP has to be carefully crafted with it's specific game in mind. The main axis roughly in order of severity are:

1) how much past time a character loses (xp loss or a rare quest item)

2)  How much future time a player loses (i.e. corpse runs or replacing a destroyed ship)

3) How many non-expendable resources a character losses (specific items)

4) How much expendable resources a player loses (money,  craft items, ammo etc)

5) How much future gameplay is penalized (damage mods etc.)

There's no one right mix, instead it needs to fit the game. 



Mon Oct 26 2009 12:21PM Report
aelieth writes:

I invite you to take a look at DragonRealms. Total death was a possibility on the game and dying was a HUGE ordeal. Anytime a character died there was a chance of permanent death if they did not take necessary precautions.

From what I remember a character had to earn "favors" from a chosen diety. These favors and how many of them require to bring you back buck naked and inches from death at a nearby altar of that diety was based on several factors, including how many times you had died before. If you were high level with many deaths and you kicked the bucket with no favors out in the middle of no-where, you were totally and absolutely screwed.

Even if you had enough favors you still ran the chance of losing ALL  your gear. You would need a Paladin to "seal" you and make sure your gear was basically protected before you "departed." A character had a set amount of time based on their stats as to how long their spirit would remain tethered there. If they could not get someone to help them in that time then there would be a forced depart (usually around an hour or more).

There was PvP in the game as well. It has greatly changed since I was there, but it was still there. There were events that could kill off your character in massive raids on towns if you were not safe. All your awesome items could just be wiped out if you were not careful. Yet, the game continues to this day.

I would like to see a system like that in a game sometime. One where death truly awaits you if you make really stupid choices like jumping off the edge of a mountain. I jump off mountains in AoC simply to return quests after I am done, it's so mundane and doesn't matter to me. DragonRealms though, I watched my back and made sure to make friends with the healers and the holy people and only pushed my luck when I really truly felt like a challenge.

Tue Oct 27 2009 9:16PM Report
Soultice writes:

Hmm.. Death penalty or no death penalty.  I prefer a death penalty  that is a result of the choices I made or make for my actions.  I do play for fun and part of that is a reasonable expectation that if I am not paying attention of just run into an instance without thinking I am toast.

Some players wrote about players not grouping with other players based on death penalties and how bad that is.  Honestly we still do that today.  Why is that bad?  There is not elitist attitude to expect a player to learn the class they are playing and to try their best not to get a group killed by doing stupid crap.  WOW is a great example of some players just acting stupid and wiping groups of players as there is no real penalty.

Guess what when we had harsh death penalties we still tried new strats, different ways of doing things, and yes you paid for it dearly in some of the old games,   I can remember those awful corpse runs trying to get your corpse in the Plane of Fear.  We learned that you had to be careful and use some form of strategy when playing.

I think a Dev could be very sucessful with a game with a death penalty as long as it is not modeled after the current loot gaming models.  The problem with the current models is you hit the instances be it a group or a raid and get special sets of stuff and literally farm them for months.  No I do not want to lose anything using that model.  However a model where players crafted loot could solve alot of the problems.  The biggest problem would be making items available to players so they could get geared back up without losing everything they earned.

I prefer to play a game where I can progress my character and expect a reasonable outcome for stupid mistakes.  I can count on my hand how many times it was a client or server problem.

I could make this same argument about mods in a game and the way a guild will make you run mods that tell you whats the boss is going to do next, how much damage a person is doing, and their threat.  I do prefer to play the game with my brain not mods.   

Wed Oct 28 2009 11:10AM Report
DracosBwing writes:

My thought on death penalties is that there should be some kind of balance in them. In a lot of games back in the day (I'm an old school player from way back) when you died, the penalties were indeed harsh; in at least one game I recall, when you died you lost all your gear and EXP, and were forced to start over. Even a single death put you to lvl 1 with no money and no equipment, and there was no 'running back'... once it was lost, it was lost.

The concept of losing something for being reckless is a good one, but there needs to be a limitation or it becomes overwhelming, as the entire point of most games is to put yourself at risk. You're going to want to press yourself to do more difficult things, and usually you HAVE to, so making the penalties less harsh is a good idea.

There is a problem though when death is something you can literally shrug off and just continue playing. If you lose nothing to death, then death becomes meaningless... just a short run back to what you were doing. If something has a difficulty, it needs to be difficult; a person shouldn't be able  to beat an area just by tossing themselves at it again and again ignoring the deaths they pile up.

PvP death, on the other hand, should be LESS harsh, as quite frankly there are a lot of evil minded people out there who only seem to want to kill other people. 'Pwning noobs' is a catchphrase for these people, and all they do is geared towards that moment when they can start killing other players. It's due to the type of people who enjoy this so much that I avoid PvP, and due to the often insane imbalance that these people enjoy as well... A person who is lvl 50 should NOT be attacking lvl 12 players and calling it PvP. That's just being a pest or annoying.

In EVE, the balance seems to be towards seniority. The longer you've been playing the more freedom to do what you want you get. This, on the surface, makes sense. But there are two aspects of this that fail when it comes to penalties. First, to an established player, dying is routine; they make enough to completely replace everything as soon as it happens and have bigger fleets of ships than Jay Leno has cars. to them, it's reequip, then hunt down the person who killed them. The loss of even hundreds of millions of ISK (Interstellar Kredits). is nothing.

To a new player, hundreds of millions of ISK is just a dream though... one they were probably trying to reach before they got killed. Older players, even in these new players alliances, will tell a new player who just lost a ship, then was killed in their escape pod, losing all  their enhancements to just suck it up and keep playing like it's nothing... which to them it is. But having gone through that myself, I can honestly say the sheer pressure you feel.. the anger, the sense of loss, the helplessness, since you can't DO anything about it (EVE gives you a month to kill the people who kill you first; when I died, it was to a small fleet of Battleships. I was in a Cruiser.)... It's ridiculous to put someone through that in the early stages of the game, while enabling a more established person to be able to shrug off the same thing. I would almost call that a sort of declining death penalty, where you 'lose' less as you get further along into the game, and if anything, it should remain a constant. If dying is supposed to be painful in the game, it should be KEPT painful at all levels, so the older players will take it more seriously, and perhaps not think to kill low level players immediately.

To sum up, death penalties are important, but not to the point of making them debilitating or forcing you to piggyback on some other well off player or guild in order to handle it each time you die. They should definitely remain in place, and looking at some of the recent games, be increased  a bit, as well as leveled out for all levels of play, not made to only hurt those who are new to the game.

Sun Nov 01 2009 8:46AM Report
DracosBwing writes:

Also, after reading through a few more comments, I have to say this.

If at any point I found a game that gave me ONE life, yet wasn't balanced toward the challenges being manageable and the PvP being non-fatal... I would find another game.

What would be the point of playing if once you died, you had to start over? The only way I could even begin to think of such a thing would be if someone developed a system that could override the internets habit of lagging, servers habits of disconnecting people, and had no glitches, bugs or other gameplay aspects that could kill you without your doing anything wrong. The concept of playing a game for, say, a year then dying and having to start over from lvl 1because a wire went down someplace, or trying to fight someone for fun and then having to restart? Really?

Sun Nov 01 2009 8:57AM Report
OR-Nurse writes:

What I always hated was when I died through no fault of my own. Like when higher lvl characters used to "kite" higher lvl monsters into newby areas just so they could laugh while we died =(

Sun Nov 01 2009 9:26PM Report
DreamQueen writes:

Speaking of kiting... players used to buff orcs with haste just so they could kill lower levels for fun, who tried to take a mob that they should have been able to kill at their level!

Mon Nov 09 2009 12:10AM Report
DreamQueen writes:

Also, don't forget when people gave modrods to newbies on EQ1, who then clicked it and prompty died, because they didn't realize that it transferred health to mana, and that at their low level they didn't yet have enough health to take the hit! 

Mon Nov 09 2009 12:12AM Report
battleaxe writes:

Went back to EQ1 when they had one of their free weekends.  Lots of fond memories of "back in the day".  However, it didn't take long to remember why I had left.  Random, rare mobs with random, rare drops was probably the most annoying thing ever invented.  The idiot that came up with the idea should be permanently on display being drawn and quartered in the town square of every MMORPG.

Fri Nov 13 2009 9:34AM Report writes:
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