The Death of the Death Penalty

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The Death of the Death Penalty

Is it time to retire the death penalty in games?

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Perhaps. Although with respect to it being a pride thing, it's good if a game keeps a death counter like Titan Quest. People liked to show off they finished the whole game or sections with zero deaths.

I think XP removals are one of the best death penalties. Just wastes some of your time without punishing you un-necessarily (Y)

I think they have to lighten up death penalties in games because they actually might be getting HARDER these days.

Some people like to rage that casuals are making games released these days easier, but I think that's only because death is less noticeable. Look at a game like mirror's edge or Call of Duty, if you pay attention, you might notice you die more times in games like that then in "Super Mario Brothers" or even demon souls. If they were to add a penalty to that, it would make the game near impossible to play.

I think people are claiming games are "easier" just because death isn't as noticeable now, just a simple save and load, etc. But imagine every time you die in a game like Prototype, or Call of Duty, that you had to restart the whole level over again? You probably would be throwing your controller at the TV at that point because you can't pass a certain level without checkpoints.

Anything more than the barest minimum of delay in returning to the action isn't fun and usually has a way of completely throwing me off. Even in games like Oblivion or Fallout 3 where death just means I reload to a point some seconds before when I hit quicksave manages to stunt my enthusiasm until I start progressing again. Anything more than that usually makes me exit the game and go do something else.

Also, the article says it was done by Greg Tito at top, but it has Shamus Young's name and image in the article, oddly.

Death penalty always sucked. It does not result it any fun, just frustration.

Greg Tito:
Experienced Points: The Death of the Death Penalty

Is it time to retire the death penalty in games?

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A death "penalty" in games really should only serve to ensure that death isn't a normal play strategy. There are times when people use a quick death to fast-travel from one place to another, or use corpse runs to inch through an area without actually fighting... but other than that? It's bad form to punish a player for playing the game, and it's an even worse idea to punish them for taking risks once in awhile.

Most of the death penalty proponents will almost always push for a "full-loot PvP" mechanic, claiming they want to feel the danger... but, of course, a quick look at the tactics they use shows they aren't the least bit interested in danger.

When someone pushes for a stiffer death penalty, I usually just invite them to self-impose the penalty of their choosing: drop some of your gold, take a 10-minute break, randomly delete one of your items, or something else like that. If they choose not to, the evidence is clear. They don't want to experience a stiffer penalty. They want others to experience a stiffer penalty.

Okay! I get to toute Guild Wars again!

In Guild Wars there IS a death penalty. Every time you die, you get a semi-permanant condition called Death Penalty. It shows itself in the corner of the screen(or whereever you put your conditions) as a red box with a number percentage. What that number is is the percentage of your max heath and energy that is taken away from you. Each time you die, you take 15% DP, so if you had 100 health, now you have 85. And it's cumulative to a cap of 60%. Short of missions, if you die and there is nothing to raise you, you and everyone else that's dead will pop back to the nearest resurrection shrine and you can go at it again, but with that death penalty. The incentive to avoid dying is simply this: 15% DP is easy to live with. You can kill monsters and work it off easily enough. at 60% DP, you're minus more than half of your health and energy. Warriors no longer have the energy to use their skills. Mages no longer have the health to survive a battle. It can't go any higher than 60, but depending on where you are it doesn't have to. Now you can keep plugging away and you may be able to finish what you were doing, but each time you die it gets harder.

I think punishment such as losing items and such in single player is less acceptable than in MMOs is because single player games can just throw you back to the checkpoints when the monsters or whatever you killed were still alive and have to try again, whereas MMOs don't have that luxery due to the other players in the same area. This would happen if checkpoints were put in MMOs.

Player one: Wow I had a tough time killing all those monsters. *another player respawns from death. due to checkpoints, the monsters that player one fought and is still injured from respawn as well.*

P1: son of a bi- *ripped apart by monsters*

Maybe MMO's could have a similar thing to checkpoint systems by throwing you back into the nearest safe zone upon death.

On the other hand, you can imagine a game where there was no death penalty at all. If you fall in battle, you pop right back up at full health with no interruption at all and keep playing. Since this would basically make you invulnerable, I don't think that would be fun either. There would be no reason to learn to play well, because it wouldn't be any different or more rewarding than playing ineptly.

*cough* Bioshock *cough*

I think it really depends on the game, and a lot of it depends on the narrative restrictions of the world. For instance, I have no idea how Bioware's going to handle death in their Star Wars MMO. If your ship blows up while you're in it, that's kind of hard to survive. Escape pod to the nearest world and loss of your ship? And planetary death, maybe picked up by an ambulance and sent to a hospital? In WoW it's all well and good to be a ghost and get resurrected, but the narrative of Star Wars places certain restrictions.

Personally, I think it's good to give players choices, given the chance. Hardcore modes (ala Diablo II) where death is permanent is nice to have for that bit of realism, but largely unappealing to the general public. For a standard, most online games are okay with a delay to returning to action. Body looting, while hilarious as a looter, sucks if you're being looted.

For single player games, I've never had a problem with restarting from my last save (assuming I can save whenever I want). A slight XP penalty is occasionally acceptable assuming I'm being compensated appropriately for running that risk (Nightmare/Hell modes on, once again, Diablo II).

Edit: Now that I think about it, Bioware will probably have a "death" system similar to Dragon Age (temporary unconsciousness and healable injuries) for the Star Wars MMO.

I don't think that every game needs a penalty for death necessarily. If they don't they just need to provide incentive to play better, such as unlocking bonuses and other cool things.

Case in point: Kirby's Epic Yarn.

Jumwa:

Also, the article says it was done by Greg Tito at top, but it has Shamus Young's name and image in the article, oddly.

ever notice you never see Shamus and Greg in the same place at the same time? *DUN DUN DUN!!*

Azuaron:

On the other hand, you can imagine a game where there was no death penalty at all. If you fall in battle, you pop right back up at full health with no interruption at all and keep playing. Since this would basically make you invulnerable, I don't think that would be fun either. There would be no reason to learn to play well, because it wouldn't be any different or more rewarding than playing ineptly.

*cough* Bioshock *cough*

*cough* Fable 3 *cough*

I love that game, but damn is there ever no penalty for death...

You raise good points (as usual) good article.

In my opinion, the difference between the two is that most videogames are just games, whereas some MMOs aspire to be simulations of virtual worlds. Because of the latter aspiration, some MMOs treat death with versimilitude, rather than fun, in mind.

In a videogame by definition the game world ceases to exist when you are killed. It's a purely solipsistic experience. Therefore it makes sense to have the state of non-existence be as minimal as possible, i.e. to get you right back into the game.

In a virtual world, the game world does not cease to exist when you are killed. Since some MMOs in fact aim to give the impression that the game is an ongoing reality and that your death has meaning within the context of that world, the death penalties are much "less fun". That's because it's death for the sake of versimilitude, not fun. UO had you become a ghost when you died not because being a ghost was 'fun' but because that's what they thought should happen to a dead person in their world.

Over time, the focus on simulation or versimilitude in MMOs has decreased as they have transitioned away from being virtual worlds and towards being purely theme parks aiming at "fun", i.e. WoW. This has been a very successful formula (compare WoW's success to Shadowbane/Eve/etc.) but I don't think it means that early game designers thought that their death systems were more fun. They simply had other design priorities, like realism, ecology, etc. (The same could be said of UO's open PvP mechanic, its ecologically-based monster spawning system, and so on).

Well then, I assume you're not looking forward to the Witcher two's death penalty for their hardest mode? The one that deletes your saves when you die?

Anyways, good article. I can't really comment on death penalties in MMOs as I don't play those types of games. I do think that when done badly, either being too long or too short, then it can break the flow of a game and make the entire experience a little worse. I'm looking at Bioshock myself, which had no penalty for dying other then going to the nearest vitachamber. That made boss fights almost completely pointless and gave no fear of death.

Azuaron:

On the other hand, you can imagine a game where there was no death penalty at all. If you fall in battle, you pop right back up at full health with no interruption at all and keep playing. Since this would basically make you invulnerable, I don't think that would be fun either. There would be no reason to learn to play well, because it wouldn't be any different or more rewarding than playing ineptly.

*cough* Bioshock *cough*

Yeah... I never used that feature of Bioshock. If I died I reused my last save, much more fun in my opinion.

Greg Tito:
Experienced Points: The Death of the Death Penalty

Is it time to retire the death penalty in games?

Read Full Article

No, death penalties make games more fun. Case in point: EVE Online the game with the best pvp combat that I've ever experienced. In EVE Online when you die you lose your ship, your ship's inventory, and even some skills if you don't have an up-to-date clone. That's like if in, say, WoW every time you died the only things you'd have left would be your money and whatever is in your bank. This makes the combat amazingly pulse-pounding. The threat of real loss gives a thrill in combat that makes the experience all the more worthwhile. It's a bit like the feeling of bungee jumping.

There's another game, Vindictus, which has a different take on death penalties. In Vindictus every character has the option to resurrect themselves... for about 0.30 USD in real world money. Soloing in Vindictus thereby becomes extremely fun. $0.30 is not much but just the fact that you might lose something real gives every threatening boss fight real dramatic weight.

In every other narrative medium death is very often permanent. When a character dies in a book or film and later returns perfectly fine the book or film is met with a lot of hate (see: Highlander: Endgame) Without death resulting in real loss it's impossible for fights to have significant emotional impact.

WoW has a death penalty to add value to resurrection-capable classes. It provides incentive for the Warrior to team up with his Priest or Shaman buddy because they can keep him away from the penalty and help him bypass it much more quickly. In return, his superior damage-dealing and damage-soaking skills can be employed to their benefit.

It also adds value to the consumables trade. When you know that a health potion is often going to be the only thing standing between you and a long corpse-walk, you're going to pack some with you as you quest. Similarly, when your panic button is the only thing that's going to save you from that same penalty, you're going to invest in glyphs that lower its cooldown or otherwise make it more effective.

In short Shamus, the penalty can be harsher in multiplayer games because there are other players to help you bear that burden, and it encourages you all to work together. There is an unspoken camaraderie of "we've all been there" when it comes to rez sickness or long corpse walks.

While I see where you're coming from, comparing WoW to Too Human is overlooking this basic fact. So, I disagree.

Funnily enough, in both Fable II and III, at the cost of a small amount of xp, not only did you get bck up and immediately fight at full health, but you actually knocked enemies back, occasionally knocking them over, when you did so. So dying put you in a better tactical position than living did.

Shamus Young:
On the other hand, you can imagine a game where there was no death penalty at all. If you fall in battle, you pop right back up at full health with no interruption at all and keep playing.

Isn't that how Fable works? :D

Green Ninja:

Shamus Young:
On the other hand, you can imagine a game where there was no death penalty at all. If you fall in battle, you pop right back up at full health with no interruption at all and keep playing.

Isn't that how Fable works? :D

Or Prince of Persia '08 (and I'm surprised he didn't mention it)

Witty Name Here:
I think they have to lighten up death penalties in games because they actually might be getting HARDER these days.

Some people like to rage that casuals are making games released these days easier, but I think that's only because death is less noticeable. Look at a game like mirror's edge or Call of Duty, if you pay attention, you might notice you die more times in games like that then in "Super Mario Brothers" or even demon souls. If they were to add a penalty to that, it would make the game near impossible to play.

I think people are claiming games are "easier" just because death isn't as noticeable now, just a simple save and load, etc. But imagine every time you die in a game like Prototype, or Call of Duty, that you had to restart the whole level over again? You probably would be throwing your controller at the TV at that point because you can't pass a certain level without checkpoints.

Heh. You make an interesting point. Although using Super Mario Brothers as a counter-point is a bit misguided.

There are places in most games in the series where it's very likely you WILL die repeatedly in the same exact spot, or close to it.

Super Mario Galaxy even has a level in it that if you pull it off should take less than 2 minutes, but is so mind-breakingly difficult to do that I think my personal best for completing it is losing 25 lives.

And the first time I did it, it cost me 50, if not 75 attempts to do it.

Be careful what you proclaim to be easy. XD.

I like LOTRO's
You die in the early levels, you can't get a bonus title. So sad. /sarcasm
But, as you progress in the game and die in later ares, you get variations of dread. These lower you health, mana, and even attack (depending on the area you died in) for various amounts of time (5m-1h). Dieing in the shire is better than dieing in Angmar. That's regardless of whether or not you are revived, so there is always a penalty, but you can still function in a raid. There are also items and spells that reduce/stop the penalty. It worked well.

Iron Lightning:

le snip

There's another game, Vindictus, which has a different take on death penalties. In Vindictus every character has the option to resurrect themselves... for about 0.30 USD in real world money. Soloing in Vindictus thereby becomes extremely fun. $0.30 is not much but just the fact that you might lose something real gives every threatening boss fight real dramatic weight.

In every other narrative medium death is very often permanent. When a character dies in a book or film and later returns perfectly fine the book or film is met with a lot of hate (see: Highlander: Endgame) Without death resulting in real loss it's impossible for fights to have significant emotional impact.

Gandalf. Didn't see the LOTR books/movies met with a lot of hate over that. Even Harry Potter in book 7

.
And charging to come back? That's just stupid and cheap. Please tell me you can come back without paying, as that is just a TERRIBLE idea. Charging for failure + an online fee does not look like fun for me. I get "I might lose something" being fun, but charging for making a mistake is NOT A GOOD IDEA. We'll have activison charging a nickel for every online death on CoD if you want to keep playing.

triple post to get second to show. Damn elves always causing a forum death penalty...
Sorry.

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: The Death of the Death Penalty

Is it time to retire the death penalty in games?

Read Full Article

I'm suddenly wondering your opinion on Demon's Souls...

Wakefield:

Azuaron:

On the other hand, you can imagine a game where there was no death penalty at all. If you fall in battle, you pop right back up at full health with no interruption at all and keep playing. Since this would basically make you invulnerable, I don't think that would be fun either. There would be no reason to learn to play well, because it wouldn't be any different or more rewarding than playing ineptly.

*cough* Bioshock *cough*

*cough* Fable 3 *cough*

I love that game, but damn is there ever no penalty for death...

You raise good points (as usual) good article.

I wouldn't know. Never died in it. Only used a handful of potions too. But Fable 2 was pretty terrible, a scar, really? Oh no. I'm not normally oe to complain about games being too easy but jesus, Fable became a joke like.

Shamus Young:
Is it time to retire the death penalty in games?

How about we reverse it? Don't add a death penalty, but give an incentive not to die! You've probably played some of those flash games divided in levels where every death is counted against your score. This is not a death 'penalty' in the sense that you're using it, since it doesn't impede your progess in any way: You immediately start over from the beginning of the stage. Example: K.O.L.M. In this case, your death is utterly meaningless in terms of gameplay, but you will still have that death counter glaring at you every step of the way, reminding you of just how much of a failure you are at this game.

Would it be a good idea to add a reward for a low death count in games, such as unlockables in a mission with zero death count? I would think positive feedback is a better reinforcing mechanism than punishment, even though death is intuitively punishing.

LTK_70:

Shamus Young:
Is it time to retire the death penalty in games?

How about we reverse it? Don't add a death penalty, but give an incentive not to die! You've probably played some of those flash games divided in levels where every death is counted against your score. This is not a death 'penalty' in the sense that you're using it, since it doesn't impede your progess in any way: You immediately start over from the beginning of the stage. Example: K.O.L.M. In this case, your death is utterly meaningless in terms of gameplay, but you will still have that death counter glaring at you every step of the way, reminding you of just how much of a failure you are at this game.

Would it be a good idea to add a reward for a low death count in games, such as unlockables in a mission with zero death count? I would think positive feedback is a better reinforcing mechanism than punishment, even though death is intuitively punishing.

No, those are infinitely worse - for the simple reason that screwing up even once makes you feel like your entire playthrough should be canned no matter how far you managed to get.

At best you will force completionist players into compulsively saving-and-reloading to avoid tarnishing their record - the very behavior you're trying to get away from. At worst, they won't be ABLE to save and reload, and instead be trapped at the mercy of checkpoints, at which point they will play frisbee with your game disk and play something that won't immortalize their failures in carbonite.

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: The Death of the Death Penalty

Is it time to retire the death penalty in games?

Read Full Article

Interesting article.

Death penalties in games are widely varied, and I think you've covered the basics quite nicely.

I'd like to give one example of a game that has a pretty extreme example of punitive death penalty. Shaiya is an F2P MMORPG that has varying difficulty levels. Each difficulty level slows your growth while unlocking new levels and more powerful skills. On the highest difficulty level, appropriately called "Ultimate", death is 100% permanent. You die, your character is deleted. That's it. Done. Re-roll. It's an interesting system that entices you to put your hundreds of hours of work at risk for a chance at incredibly rare items and powerful skills.

F-I-D-O:

And charging to come back? That's just stupid and cheap. Please tell me you can come back without paying, as that is just a TERRIBLE idea. Charging for failure + an online fee does not look like fun for me.

You can come back, but someone has to revive you. There isn't an online fee for Vindictus. Check your facts first, please. :3

Shamus,

I think I fall into what you call the "hardest of the hardcore masochists" group, though I don't consider myself remotely masochistic.

I like games with a DID (dead is dead) or "hardcore" mode (e.g. Diablo II and Solomon's Keep) because they're much more exciting and, in my opinion, more immersive. Maybe I'm just an adrenaline junky, but the rush of nearly losing a DID character far surpasses anything that I experience in games where death=reload. DID also creates situations in which one must think and act quickly, which I enjoy (okay, strictly speaking those same situations do arise without DID, but when I know I can just reload at a cost of two minutes I tend to take the lazy option). Last but not least DID forces the occasional retreat, which adds some depth to the gameplay.

For me, the enjoyment and immersion of DID is especially high in RPGs with randomised loot and/or character development, because in those games each character ends up being unique and so their death truly is a death, not just a time penalty.

I understand DID isn't for everyone, but that doesn't mean you have to label those of us who like it as masochists!! ;-)

Now, if Blizzard wanted to inflict XP debt on people who roleplay badly-spelled romantic encounters in open chat, I would cheerfully support it.

Hear hear!

(Reportedly. I didn't play online games back then because I was on dial-up, broke, and I hated other people. Two of those problems have since been cured.)

Games played pretty well on dial up connections, even first person shooters with 16 people as long as the lines were mostly clean, and on player to player connections, or at least as one player being the host. Always surprises me the level of problems with online connections nowadays.

A broader question here is frustration in gaming. While nobody says frustration is fun, and everybody would choose not to be frustrated over being frustrated, is it perfect game design then to have no frustration in your game? Obviously not, and it is frustration I think that builds an emotional connection with games--where you can love it despite the grief it causes.

I have to admit, it was WoW that taught me to go straight to the Internet as soon as I encounter the least difficulty in a game. Before WoW I would try to solve any stumbling block, and the Internet would only be the last, desperate, humiliating option. After WoW, if I spend a couple minutes struggling with anything, Google is as automatic as my pupil constricting to light.

On topic, the death penalty in WoW is pretty mild, but the game has plenty of frustrations particularly around gearing up, at least the older versions of the game did. I pretty much lost interest around that time they were making it more accessible. While games should be more accessible to new players, which WoW does an admirable and lucrative job of being, it should not be so accessible for seasoned pros. A game has to have a little edge.

There is probably a right frustration limit out there somewhere. Demons Souls proves that it can be pretty high and a game can still be successful. Remove it totally though, and things get bland real fast.

Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: The Death of the Death Penalty

Is it time to retire the death penalty in games?

Read Full Article

A good chunk of the problem with Too Human was the fact that the animation was boring and unskippable. I know it seems counterintuitive, but people don't complain as much when you have to replay the last five minutes. The "time out" is a relatively unfamiliar concept in single player gaming. It's not that the penalty is harsh, but that it's alien and kind of dumb compared to its peers.

F-I-D-O:
Even Harry Potter in book 7

.

Harry Potter is a polarizing series. If you got to the end, you were likely in love with it enough to ignore the fact that the last book is one giant asspull. I'm sorry to offend Harry Potter fans, but it really is. I read the series, I anticipated the new books, and when I read the last book, I proceeded to chuck it against a wall. It's not that I'm a "hater," I just expected an actual conclusion. One in keeping with the franchise thus far, etc.

Gandalf? Gandalf is an iconic character whose death and rebirth is pretty well crafted. Even if I'm not a Tolkien fan. There are a lot of classic, iconic fictional characters who get away with it. There are a lot of contemporary asspulls which don't. The reason is a pretty good one: They're generally done poorly.

Most single player games, the penalty for death is going back to the last save. You can't really do that in MMOs. The other, main, most important penalty, for both MMOs and single player games, is that you get kicked out of a specific fight, so next time you do it, you have to do it over, and better, rather than just keep eating away at it through lives. I can't think of many games that lack that (Bioshock is one of those. If a big daddy was near a vita-chamber you could happily beat it senseless, ressing every time it killed you). Whether or not the fight gets reset is the main distinction between invulnerability and no-penalty death.

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