The Death of the Death Penalty

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I'm starting to think the entire Escapist writers are "baddies". They are always whining how nerfing the game for their benefit is always a good thing. Maybe they just all suck at MMOs and need to stick with something that has zero loss. Just think about the shitstorm of tears you'd guys cry over losing in EVE, where there's a real death penalty.

You know what guy? Most of us could give two shits about the rest of the industry. We like the game we play the way it is and get angry when everything is nerfed down so brain-dead morons can be rewarded for failure. All in the name of getting a few more subscriptions from more entitlement babies.

Recently played Adventure mode of Dwarf Fortress and got huge amount of fun. Game is featuring permanent death (unless you cheating with savegames) so you might spend several days of your RL on journey and then get killed by a single stab into your head. It might sounds horrible at first and you do rage when you get very unlucky as you fifth char in a row just died again. But because all of this, every victory that you score is extremely rewarding mentally. Basically as you progress you get to the point where you never been before, you face enemies that you didn't fight before, you really start to think, to look for weak spots, do decision "Do I get envolved or retreat?".
This kind of things you don't do in most of the nowadays MMO and single player games and it's a bit sad as I feel we are loosing something very important. We flattered difficulty, so games can be more accessable, but at the same time we flattered experince that we get from gaming. Journey full of emotions turned into time-filling activity with guaranty to get at least some fun.

Calibretto:
The harsher the death penalty the better
I think its time for game developers to seperate the wheat from the chaff.
If it gets any less harsher we will all be the equivalent of the space ship crew in WALL E fat bloated slugs that swish around on giant armchairs except THAT WILL BE YOUR BRAIN.
Its time to accept spartan law that some people are better then others and they shouldn't be punished for the weakest link.

so what's the chaff then? People who don't enjoy harsh death penalties? Are people who don't want them 'wussies'? There are still games out there that are harsh, so I don't really get the point - you aren't being punished because not everyone likes harsh deaths. There are still games for you.

Mind you, there are 'whiners' out there, but they aren't even close of the majority. They are just the most vocal people, but don't let that fool you.

Negatempest:
Oh and I also hate the "superiority" complex "hardcore" gamers seem to believe they have when they play a "difficult" game. Could that haloduty fan beat the game on hardest difficulty? Sure that would be impressive. I would like them to do the same on Tetris with the highest speed. Than I would like them to beat an RPG using the default weapon and armor given in the beginnig of the game. If they could do that....than yeah they would be hardcore, but have a lot of time too....

Yes a very stereotypical view of people who play on hardest settings.. straight away they have " alot of time on their hand"
Well some people just play the game on hardest on the first playthrough because simply any other difficulty is the equivalant of typing a DOOM cheat " God Mode"..
And I reckon the default weapons and armor could be done ... if you were a mage! :D
Anyways my argument is pretty much it REALLY doesn't need to be any more DUMBED DOWN or less Penalty then games generally have now. Anything less of a death penalty in games then currently is being displayed and not even an " expert mode " will do much to give a challenge... :(

Girlysprite:

Calibretto:
The harsher the death penalty the better
I think its time for game developers to seperate the wheat from the chaff.
If it gets any less harsher we will all be the equivalent of the space ship crew in WALL E fat bloated slugs that swish around on giant armchairs except THAT WILL BE YOUR BRAIN.
Its time to accept spartan law that some people are better then others and they shouldn't be punished for the weakest link.

so what's the chaff then? People who don't enjoy harsh death penalties? Are people who don't want them 'wussies'? There are still games out there that are harsh, so I don't really get the point - you aren't being punished because not everyone likes harsh deaths. There are still games for you.

Mind you, there are 'whiners' out there, but they aren't even close of the majority. They are just the most vocal people, but don't let that fool you.

I havnt really played much MMO's until I decided I will play one so that I can play something with my GF. And WoW is..... I meen its so easy nothing challenges you sure you die a few times but hey... even she comments omg this is soooo easy ( we both came from starcraft before) anyways any more easier then it is currently and it would be like you dont even need to be at the computer to play it.
I understand im only like level 50 and later PVP becomes really integral ( we dont get to play much as we both work etc) but its really slow and easy.
I know there are games for me, but i wanted to try something else.... I meen i like WOW, i like the art i like the settings but the easy factor ruins it for me, and I wish it DIDNT!

Edit: the last thing we played to together was diablo 2 Hardcore mode so I guess our perceptions can be abit warped after that..

Optimystic:
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.

With all do respect, but did you experienced situations when morale of people around leader has droped cause leader just died (real morale)? What about people routing cause they know if they die they need to re-roll char? How powerfull resurection spell become when it's not just avoid 2minutes respawn time but avoid re-roll of char? Will you consider starting a random fight with an oponent whos skills are unknown to you? Did you see a clan wipe-out cause they failed a single fight and all need to re-roll? Maybe people leaving guild cause they don't want to lose their char in battle that dosn't look possible to win. Can somebody called a hero if he tries to protect other guild members in need, putting his 2 month old char as price?
I don't see this in current MMOs. There is no feel of achivement or danger, nor accomplishment, soon or later everybody gets everything, sort of idialistic socialism in gaming ))

Viik:

I don't see this in current MMOs. There is no feel of achivement or danger, nor accomplishment, soon or later everybody gets everything, sort of idialistic socialism in gaming ))

What probably most disturbing is the people that want the handouts in game are diehard conservatives in the real world. Socialism is ok as long as they are benefiting from it, but as soon as it benefits someone else they are up in arms against it.

Haven't read the article yet, but I do agree that "death penalty" in gaming really needs to go away. I've always thought this, actually. I remember back when I first encountered a game that punished you for dying; Diablo 2 I think it was. The dialogue went something like this when I heard my friend griping about losing exp when he died to someone else doing something stupid:

Me: Why do you lose exp when you die?
Him: It's supposed to be a punishment for dying.
Me: Isn't dying a punishment in and of itself?

He didn't really have an answer for that, and honestly that's still how I feel. Too many games seem to feel obligated to punish you in some way when you die but really it's just over-kill. Take Counter Strike, for example. Now, granted that a lot (A LOT) of servers circumvent this now-a-days, but let's talk default mechanics. You win the round, you get (for example) $4000 to spend on the next round. You lose the round, you get maybe $1500. Makes sense on the surface, it's incentive to win the round. You get more money, you buy a better gun, you have a better chance to win the next round. But wait, let's back this up a little; isn't "not losing" the incentive to win a round? I don't know many people who load-up their favorite FPS title looking forward to catching a bullet with his teeth. Why should I be punished with a smaller reward for losing when said reward will only make it harder to win the next round? And the one after that? When you go into a multiplayer game, not losing should be the only incentive you need to win the round. It'd be like if you were playing Street Fighter with a friend, and only the guy who won the last round would start with full health, the other guy would get half health.

My thoughts are the same in MMOs or single-player games as well. I died, that my punishment. I didn't want to die, thus, dying is my penalty for not doing something right. After-all, even if the game doesn't punish me, there's the over-lying punishment of time wasted. I spent 30 minutes trying to do something, failed, and now I'm never getting that time back. I have to spend another 30 minutes trying it again. With MMOs that's only thrice-fold. I couldn't count the number of times I've seen someone get over-dramatic about dying while playing WoW because he didn't want to deal with the repair bills. It's a minor inconvenience, but it's still something looming over your head when you're already frustrated at failing at a hard encounter. Now you're annoyed, not only because you can't get the boss down, but now you have this sizable amount of gold that you need to flush down the toilet in order to keep your gear repaired. Then you add-on that you've been beating your head against this boss for the past 2 hours and still haven't seen any results from it.

Mind you, I'm not gonna rush to the WoW forums and start-up a post saying that repair bills need to go away. They're a part of the game, so they're a part of the game. However, I'd probably be the last person to start complaining if Blizzard decided to remove them from the game. In my opinion, dying is a penalty in and of itself. Plenty of gamers are hard enough on themselves when they fail at something without the game doing something to rub it in even more. There obviously needs to be some penalty when you die, like a platforming game sending you back to the start of a level when you die, but really that's all it needs. Even the tried-and-true Lives System is unneeded. You die, back to the start of the level. If that's too lenient of a penalty, then the designer failed at making the game itself decently challenging.

CONSEQUENCE, NOT PUNISHMENT
I think the point has been missed. Death is a consequence, not a "punishment". It's not even a consequence for failure, per se (dropping a quest, for example, is failure, but you don't get killed for it).

DEATH IN A THEME PARK
But as it stands right now, I stopped playing WoW and Star Wars Galaxies because there are in fact no real obstacles to ultimate victory in either, death or otherwise. By design, YOU CANNOT LOSE at WoW or SWG. While that sounds happy and fun on the face of it, it made me realize that I was not playing a game, so much as I was experiencing a multi-user theme park.

This was never made more clear than when Sony gutted SWG's city-building system, because players were actually working to control enemy territory via fortifications and occupation. Given that the whole point of SWG is purportedly to simulate a galactic civil war, this should have surprised no one. But because these player cities were succeeding at opposing enemy players, Sony stepped in to "ensure player access to game content". The Civil War was effectively defanged, made more of a slight nuisance than any significant threat to anyone.

This means that while you cannot lose, you also cannot WIN. Your actions do not and cannot have a lasting effect on the world, because if they did, other players would not be able to experience the same content you did.

This is not to say that making a theme-park MMO is wrong or bad. They're still, obviously, very entertaining...in largely the same way any other theme park is. Disney's not going to go bankrupt anytime soon, nor will Blizzard.

So what does any of this have to do with character death? Simple: in a game where no one can actually win or lose, and the entertainment value is constrained only to experiencing content, you don't want to prevent your customers from being able to enjoy that experience. Permadeath can and will do that, and therefore it is not appropriate for theme-park-styled games, whether MMO or otherwise.

DEATH IN DYNAMIC GAMING
Conversely, we understand and accept death, even permadeath, in games where we do not have to re-experience the same content we did before just to get back to the point where we died previously. It is that uphill slog that we dread, re-doing all the same quests and farming and so forth which is unpalatable, making the game into what amounts to a chore.

Dynamic games don't have this problem, because every run through is dramatically different even when the starting point is identical. You are not repeating your experience, except minimally, so the game remains interesting. While you may initially look back with sorrow on what you lost along with your last character, this is quickly replaced by looking forward to what you're doing with the new one.

Of course, the problem here is that the more dynamic the game, the more abstract it's going to be, because every single player in the game can make the same sorts of changes you can to its world. Detailed plots would be experienced by a handful of players, and then by no one else, because the changes effected would have to be written into the game.

So for a game like WoW, which relies on providing a rich and well-written (for the most part) first-person experience, dynamic gaming is off the table and so are player deaths.

But this doesn't mean that other games, particularly those with a more abstract bent, cannot or should not incorporate player death, even to the point of permadeath. It's simply going to be a case-by-case concern.

The single-player game Too Human was widely criticized for its lengthy death animation. It was twenty seconds long, which is far shorter than even the relatively gentle penalties of World of Warcraft.

Except the death penalty in WoW is interactive - you get to run back to your corpse or res on the spot, which gives you something to do rather than watch a repetitive borefest that you can't skip. No, the WoW penalty is much, much more gentle than Too Human, even without the factors based on pacing.

The major difference is that it doesn't interrupt the flow - you get the "release" button instantly and if you do you get to build up back to where you were instead of being effectively crowd controlled. Learn your game design, Shamus.

And what about when you can't get back to your corpse (or it's being camped), and you need to res at the graveyard? That's a 10 minute borefest that you can't skip.

Guild Wars had a nice system. Cumulative DP encouraged you to not zergrush challenges, but still allowed the player to be resurrected instantly and with very little penalty for a single mistake or wipe. The choice to go back to the outpost and start whatever you were doing over, with absolutely no long term penalty, was always there. It worked, because it fit with the other systems in GW1 (free map travel, free respecs so you could go back to an outpost and change your build to suit the challenge, instanced content so everything would be reset if you went back to town). It's certainly not a system that could just be plopped down into any persistent world MMO and work well.

Which brings us to GW2. In the parlance of Shamus's article, GW2 will have no punitive death penalty at all. If you die, you can either be ressed by any player, or instantly warp back to any waypoint you've discovered for the same fee it would cost you to travel there if you were alive (the fee is only there to prevent people from death-traveling for free). No long term penalties, nothing preventing you from getting back into the action except for the walk back to the content; it's like WoW's system, except with more widespread graveyards (and you can choose which one to spawn at), no corpserunning, no death penalty, and resurrection costs a few coppers. Tension may, in itself, be fun for some people, but it's not a prerequisite for fun, either.

I had opined that there was no death penalty in Bioshock. People would die, re-spawn, run kamikaze at their enemies with a wrench and possessed absolutely no fear of death. That's not the way I played through the game, I figured it broke the narrative if the character died. After all, why is he some kind of immortal demigod when everyone else manages to make the Grim-Reaper's to-do list? I really really felt that after playing that game, or more appropriately hearing how OTHER people had played the game that modern games were just becoming way to lenient with us and that there needed to be some serious penalties to put the fear of death back into gamers. Of course I was pretty careful and thusly I never died.

And then I played Demon's Souls. I quickly realized that I was wrong and that massive penalties for death are obnoxious, aggravating and do nothing but create the feeling of tedium and aggravation for you, the player. Yes, I know, I've earned this for messing with that ominous foe, not possessing ESP for that trap or not knowing what would happen if i tried to get to what looked like a ledge but turned out to be a death-fall of about 3 feet after leaping 50 feet down at other locations where I was SUPPOSED to be able to. So I'm climbing this tower for the 30th time without the ability to pause my game, well it's not fun. Especially when the deaths are cheap and the only way to avoid them is essentially to have been there before. There has to be a happy compromise.

If there's not then I'll take hand holding over throwing you into a pit to die any day. As rewarding as it is to finally figure things out in an unforgiving game, I have other things to do.

tehroc:

Viik:

I don't see this in current MMOs. There is no feel of achivement or danger, nor accomplishment, soon or later everybody gets everything, sort of idialistic socialism in gaming ))

What probably most disturbing is the people that want the handouts in game are diehard conservatives in the real world. Socialism is ok as long as they are benefiting from it, but as soon as it benefits someone else they are up in arms against it.

You know, I think you right, maybe that was a bad reference to RL but when I gave it a second thought, I've realized that MMO can have both, perma death and "easy" death at the same time. Good exmaple is old SW Galaxies (before that Sony crazy rehauling was made), everybody plays "easy" death and only one that have connection to Force have perma death (3 lives to be correct). So basically players decide for themselves, do they want to play hardcore or not.

A perma-death situation can create a whole new type of fun. I used to only play Diablo 2 on hardcore mode. For those who didn't play this, it basically meant that when you died that was it. It became an inevitable battle for survival. Looking at that you have died screen for a level 88 Necromancer was never fun but it just urged me on to make a better, stronger character next time.

Two points - there are a fair number of people who like real-life challenges where the penalty for death is... well, death. Obviously not everyone finds severe "death penalties" to be a turn off. I might call them adrenaline junkies, but I wouldn't call them masochists.

Second, I'd say that minimal death penalties encourages game design laziness. I agree that heavy death penalties for most recent games would suck, but that's because the game designers do not make survival throughout the game possible. In order to make life & death meaningful in a game, it must be plausible for someone to make it through the first time without dying. And that hasn't been true for any game I've played in the last 15 years.

Having a heavy death penalty *not* suck means that the designer must *carefully* evaluate the difficulty of the opponents to provide a challenge that will neither be a walk-over nor an near-impossible challenge. Given the different circumstances (player skill, previously gathered weapons, etc.) that requires a balancing act that is *hard* to do. Likewise, you need to provide means for players to ascertain how difficult an opponent is, so that they can make real decisions about whether to attack or not. You also need to provide a means for backing out of encounters that go badly - and all of these need to be done in the context of the story.

All of these things are *hard*. So it's a lot easier to punt them, decide that players will get killed a lot and make the death penalty as mild as possible while still providing at least an iota of excitement.

TomWest:
Two points - there are a fair number of people who like real-life challenges where the penalty for death is... well, death. Obviously not everyone finds severe "death penalties" to be a turn off. I might call them adrenaline junkies, but I wouldn't call them masochists.

Second, I'd say that minimal death penalties encourages game design laziness. I agree that heavy death penalties for most recent games would suck, but that's because the game designers do not make survival throughout the game possible. In order to make life & death meaningful in a game, it must be plausible for someone to make it through the first time without dying. And that hasn't been true for any game I've played in the last 15 years.

Having a heavy death penalty *not* suck means that the designer must *carefully* evaluate the difficulty of the opponents to provide a challenge that will neither be a walk-over nor an near-impossible challenge. Given the different circumstances (player skill, previously gathered weapons, etc.) that requires a balancing act that is *hard* to do. Likewise, you need to provide means for players to ascertain how difficult an opponent is, so that they can make real decisions about whether to attack or not. You also need to provide a means for backing out of encounters that go badly - and all of these need to be done in the context of the story.

All of these things are *hard*. So it's a lot easier to punt them, decide that players will get killed a lot and make the death penalty as mild as possible while still providing at least an iota of excitement.

The simple solution would be the Diablo 2 framework... Having a "normal mode" and a "hardcore mode" that way EVERYONE could be happy! ( even though i believe "hardcore mode" should be for every game invented bahahaha ;) )

Iron Lightning:

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.

How, exactly, is it "fun" to lose hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of equipment, especially when that's often a result of being hammered into the ground by force majeure, rather than losing on merit.

People enjoy betting, and possibly losing, thousands of dollars on sporting events because, while there's a sense of danger in that you might lose your bet, there are things you can do to increase the odds of your winning. You can study the teams, study decisions they've made, and eventually stand a chance of coming out ahead.

Open PvP in an MMO is the equivalent of betting money on an unspecified event, with odds that are not provided to you and your bet being randomly placed on one of the outcomes.

*EDIT*

Oh, and anyone advocating harsher death penalties has never spent an entire week trying to recover a corpse in Everquest.

I would like to direct your attention to issue 100 of the Escapist magazine. In particular the article titled 'The slow death of the Game Over". In it their is a quote from Wired magazines clive Thompson that I feel pertains to this forum. [link]http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_100/556-The-Slow-Death-of-the-Game-Over

"It [game overs w/i video games] forces you to put some skin in games". I got the impression that it means that the game must make whatever conflict that can potentially eject the player out of the game have some meaning and significance.

Imagine if the Devil May Cry series did not utilize traditional game overs, what meaning would all of Dante's flashy moves and killer combos have. Imagine what most MMO's would be like if you simply got up after dying during a raid. Sure game overs can cause frustration within games, but without them the game carries less weight behind the actions it asks of the players.

Does every game that comes out now a days need a death penalty, NO. However that doesn't mean that all games don't need them.

*EDIT* My post only adresses the use of game over screens or other examples of "Temporary" deaths within videogames.

Interesting, not sure how many messages you read Shamus, but I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on in-game economies in online games, given your thoughts here.

At least with MMORPGs the problem with having little or no penelty for death is that people continue to get bigger, and bigger, and increasingly more powerful, with nobody ever backsliding. You wind up with a situation where everyone inevitably winds up being a giant, and you have tons of stuff that enters the game and pretty much stays there. The result is a massive degree of inflation with prices for items and services, even those that are part of the game, swelling to ridiculous levels. This incidently tends to create an enviroment that is inherantly unfriendly to new players coming into established servers, and truthfully without an influx of new blood coming in I think it seriously hurts the game. It's one of the reasons why you see all those low level zones deserted and so many servers, because most people who are just starting the game do not want to come into an established server, or in many cases leave for a new one as soon as the oppertunity presents itself.

I'm not going to go into a giant speil on the specifics of all the problems created here, you apparently play these games yourself, but I think coddling players tends to do a lot of damage to the game enviroment, and it's damage that even casuals tend to have problems with. Heck, among other things it's this problem that helps fuels the existance of gold sellers. If need be I can tie all of this together a bit more tightly if I'm not explaining myself quite right.

At any rate, I myself am not a "super 1337" player, and kind of hated the free-PVP/player corpse looting system of Ultima Online. However understand that early on that game was designed to work on a resource bank system with only a finite amount of resources availible in the game at any given time. It was the free looting of players and the inevitable sale of items that were not needed or couldn't be stored (remember for a while the game didn't have a functional bank, and then for a while it was quite limited) pretty much kept the resources in motion. Complaints lead them to drop this kind of thing, but I can't help but wonder if they found some way to keep a similar system in effect. An enviroment where you don't wind up with 99% of the game population at the top level (or in possession of a top level alt) with an ever increasing pile of resources definatly has it's benefits.

I'll also say that I think having noticible death penelties, more so than just rezzing and perhaps paying item repairs, helps to encourage better game design. Right now you see games like WoW (and those inspired by it) creating these kind of ridiculous boss fights that are typically broken in some way for months after release, where people will die scores of times in a night trying to kill them. There is no incentive to provide reasonable, balanced, encounters, since death doesn't mean much the company can just churn out some fancy looking graphic that deals death like a machine gun until people master obtuse positioning and movements or the RNG decides it feels generous (at least to begin with, most bosses become a loot pinata when you gear up a bit after the point where you first meet them). It's sort of like running a PnP D&D game where you run 5th level characters up against Tiamat, except you let them keep doing it until they eventually roll enough sequential natural 20s. Entertaining to some extent, but it's kind of a lazy approach to things. Make the deaths more meaningful and the players are going to demand a higher standard of quality from the company, and for these encounters to be a bit more than an exercise in persistant zerging until they get all their ducks in a row. Of course by the same token, relatively easy game design probably has a lot to do with why there is a tendency towards light death penelties.

Truthfully, I think a middle ground needs to be established between super-harsh deaths an "death means nothing" for the genere to really evolve. I think things have really gotten themselves stuck in a rut.

When it comes to single player games, I think it's more or less a non-factor since you can generally choose to just go back to your last saved game at any given time, at least with RPGs. With action games, I think the "credits" system was a fair compromise, because if you just let someone continue constantly it takes a lot of the risk out of the game.

I understand the issue of frustration, but at the same time it's that frustration that leads to the euphoric sense of accomplishment when you finally manage to win. If you make it a simple matter of persistance, then it means a lot less, and I think since it means anyone can do it (for an accomplishment to be an accomplishment, it has to be something that many people are going to give up on before completing) it cheapens games as a whole and leads to less respect of gaming as a medium or hobby.

My opinion on things like this has waffled over the years, and perhaps at some point I will lean back more towards the current way things are, and view easy, penelty free games as having been the right thing. I'm well aware of why the saying "The grass is always greener on the other side of the pasture" exists, however it holds true here at the moment where I admit I'm growing a bit dis-satisfied with the state of things, especially in MMOs. I don't think there should be perma-death, but at the same time it's really beginning to hit me harder than it used to how silly it is that millions of people are wiping constantly on these bosses in WoW and yet somehow try and act like it means something when there was no real risk of failure. I also started a new Goblin character and looked at the auction house prices compared to when I first started playing and the economic situation hit me, if I wasn't able to twink, the game would be virtually unplayable. My first characters had poor luck with character-relevent item drops and relied heavily on an affordable auction house. To me it's seeming horribly broken.

Death in video games is very interesting topic. I've played some old NES games on emulators, and have said to myself "dear god, how did I play with out a quick save" Some of them are still ruthless and frustrating even with a quick save button. I remember tearing my hair out playing HL1 on hard mode even though I could save at ever step and turn. So a lack of a death penalty is hardly a sign of a lack of challenge. Look at Super Meat Boy, uhgg.

Now, what I feel is missing is a way to make death a mechanic in the game. What if death in the MMO just put you in a spirit world, and death was a way to transverse between the game states. Or what if death played into some type of karma system. Resurrecting too much leans you towards a certain moral compass type. Or certain deities would return you with different buffs/stat sets based on who you chose to bring you back, but in return you had to take up a quest. Blah blah, I feel there is a design space there that could be worked with.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is an example of what happens when you remove the death penalty entirely. I have not hated a game I purchased as much as that game for a long long time. Possibly because it looked so gorgeous but failed in the design in every way.

Hmmm...
I think death penalty is perfect for solo games but should be worse for multiplayer games...
And there's why :
Solo Games :
A solo game is before all A STORY. You can't make (for example) a permadeath in a story... You can't take the book or the DVD of a person and burn it because of something, so it's pretty logic that you can't do the same with a interactive story.

Multiplayer game :
Here it's different, if you don't punish the player for dying there will be no real pleasure surviving because he won't (or his team) feel that dying is something bad.
Let's take some examples shall we ?
MMORPG :

WoW : First of all WoW. Blizzard took the casual way out to make more people play the games and it works great, but dying is a 2 minutes run to your corps or sometime you just rez yourself. Dying doesn't feel like dying it's feel like "I need to regen". You can dye a hundred times only your armor will be damaged and at a certain point in a game you make so much gold that it doesn't matter. Maybe if you could loot other player outside of PVP arena...
Eve-Online : This game took the hardcore way out. For those who don't know it, EVE is a scifi space ship game (an hardcore one). To dye your ship has to be destroyed and then your pod too (little ship where your character is).This means that dying costs you : your ship and everything on/in it (if killed by another player), it costs you the time to get back the money for the equipment of your ship and to get the money of your ship if it wasn't ensured.
There you have the satisfaction to kill in PVP because you know that the player potentially lost a lot of money and even experience if the player did not have any "backup clone". And surviving makes you happy.

FPS :
COD/BF :
There is a need of penalty in certain mod of those games, because even if you dye you will spawn 20m away throw a grenade where you dye and takes your point back...
CS :
In the very old Counter-Strike, dying was something to avoid before all for several reasons :
Giving money to the other team and losing money (you have to buy weapons...).
Having 1 men down in your team and so having a spot on the map not protected.
And potentially giving a better weapon to the enemy.

DoTA Like :
LoL :
League of Legend free to play dota like and casual game have taken from dota the penalty of death that made the game more slow but more deadly. Easier to learn because of this but makes the game unbalance, I think.
In the dota like games, every hero has a purpose and some has the purpose to be so "fed" (gaining a lot a of money and buying the best items to carry the team to victory) that they can be almost indestructible. But don't you think it should be hard to reach the level ?
Here you can dye has much has you want and STILL (if you play correctly, not even well) be indestructible.
HoN :
Following the line of DoTA Heroes of Newerth think that death penalty is a + in a game. Why ? There's why :
When a hero dye, he loses money, give money and XP to the hero(s) who killed him, and have to wait a lot of time before spawning depending on the level.
You also can deny your creeps (meaning that you can finish/kill your own creeps so the other team get less xp/money)
Why is that good ? Because in this games, you have to play in team and you CAN'T go alone and dye 10 times otherwise the other team will win thanks to you.

I think the death of someone in a multiplayer game should be visible or people should feel it. Because otherwise you could rush as much as you want and dye without having the feeling to dye and it would make a game unbalance at a certain point...
Death should encourage teamplay and should not makes the player want to rush alone...

Shamus Young:
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.

This has happened. "Prince of Persia" [2008]. Really any PoP game, but it was moreso with the 2008 one. I personally LOVED it. The downside to "dying" in combat was that the enemy you were fighting healed. Depending how close to the end of the game you were, they could heal just a little, or a LOT! Dying in platforming put you at the last stable platform you were on (redoing most of the hard stuff). Elika was wonderful to me. And that one scene when I didn't have her at my side made me 100% EXTRA Cautious! Without her magic, I knew death was assured at the slightest of mistakes. The psychological effect she provided prior was amazing, having it just yoinked away.

rXp:
Hmmm...

Eve-Online : This game took the hardcore way out. For those who don't know it, EVE is a scifi space ship game (an hardcore one). To dye your ship has to be destroyed and then your pod too (little ship where your character is).This means that dying costs you : your ship and everything on/in it (if killed by another player), it costs you the time to get back the money for the equipment of your ship and to get the money of your ship if it wasn't ensured.
There you have the satisfaction to kill in PVP because you know that the player potentially lost a lot of money and even experience if the player did not have any "backup clone". And surviving makes you happy.

I'm glad someone was thinking about Eve. :) I play Eve right now. Let me tell you, Eve can be the hardest of hardcore. Hardcore mode is built into the Clone rules. For anyone reading along, lemme go into more detail what rXp touched on.

You're a pilot in Eve. A special one (all players are). You buy ships, and these ships are essentually your character. Different ships do different things, fly faster, take more damage, cloak, etc etc etc. You buy and outfit (weapons, armor, specials) with hard earned cash. So that's how you field your character. If it helps you, the casual non-familiar-with-eve player think about it, imagine buying a racial character in WoW, and buying that characters equipment off of the (player) market, and then running out into the wild. All the while, a tiny person in their head controls them.

Now, if that ship explodes out there in space, either by player, NPC pirate, police (CONCORD), or space radiation, that ship is GONE!! All that isk spent is now space-scrap. All equipment stacks are subject to a 50% check to see if they survive (loot). In the meantime, your pilot ejects in a pod. Its where your pilot lives at all times- it's soft, squishy, and and their hard outer shell just cracked. NPCs don't respond to the pod, but a pod cannot loot, only manuver around space.

That right there is where MOST games would call it hardcore enough. Here's where Eve's true brutality lies.

Any ship worth their salt is in the mega millions. You can lose your ship, and suddenly have to start playing with cheap ships again cause you're to poor to field a new one (there's a whole discussion on that, but I'll skip it). That in itself can set you back a month as you work your way back up. But worse still is being exposed in your pod in the meantime. See, that pod contains your character. Your characters brain. And all the skills your character has been training.

In Eve, you can clone youself, and keep those clones stored away if your body is ever turned into Space Jam. The quality of knowledge those clones can retain varies based on the quality of clone. You "gain XP" through training timed skills. Something could take 30 minutes to train, up to a month! They train even when you're not playing too (bonus for me). But if your clones brain is lame, and your characters POD gets turned to SNOT thanks to some other player, space radiation, or whatever, you LOSE skills! That means you lose time.

If you're lame, and haven't kept your clone up to date, and it gets turned to paste, your screams WILL be heard through space.

There's a whole slew of things to protect a cautious player, but someone that knows fuckall can really get boned. Or if you slack and forget to update your clone, that lvl5 skill that took 21 days to train up will go away. ;_;

Yes it's I think the fun way to go for Games :)
But don't forget that ship can be ensure (and must be), you can own planets or moon.
The games is way bigger than a few space battle. But yes the death penalty plays a big role in this great game :)

Needs to be more mentions of EVE-ONLINEs PVP really
it's quite harsh, and can be really debilitating if you're caught at the wrong end of it
lose a clone then get killed again with no clone? say bye bye to skills etc!
lose a ship that you're only just able to afford? back to the most basic of ships you go!
I've seen so many people say they are going to quit the game if they are about to lose their ship it's not funny!
they hardly ever do tho, that adrenaline rush you get from having something to lose (and a real sense to loss) just doesn't happen in other games.

Calibretto:

Negatempest:
Oh and I also hate the "superiority" complex "hardcore" gamers seem to believe they have when they play a "difficult" game. Could that haloduty fan beat the game on hardest difficulty? Sure that would be impressive. I would like them to do the same on Tetris with the highest speed. Than I would like them to beat an RPG using the default weapon and armor given in the beginnig of the game. If they could do that....than yeah they would be hardcore, but have a lot of time too....

Yes a very stereotypical view of people who play on hardest settings.. straight away they have " alot of time on their hand"
Well some people just play the game on hardest on the first playthrough because simply any other difficulty is the equivalant of typing a DOOM cheat " God Mode"..
And I reckon the default weapons and armor could be done ... if you were a mage! :D
Anyways my argument is pretty much it REALLY doesn't need to be any more DUMBED DOWN or less Penalty then games generally have now. Anything less of a death penalty in games then currently is being displayed and not even an " expert mode " will do much to give a challenge... :(

Games havn't been dumbed down in terms of gameplay difficulty. They have been dumbed down in terms of the save/load function as someone said before. A game player could always debate whether or not we should go back to the password function of yesteryear or even bring back the LIVES function. FPS? We die cheap deaths all the time and again save/load function saves us because we don't have to worry about conserving lives. Action/Adventure games like Uncharted have the same issue.

Can't use MMO's as an example for dumbed down gameplay because they are designed as time sinks. In one form or another whether the difficulty of the dungeon, the loot drop %, or how long the dungeon is, it's all about time sink.

OT(got a little de-railed) Punishing death is just plain stupid in so many levels. We already suffer enough from lost time and effort. If we didn't save we are already guaranteed to lose equipment that was difficult to find. Could some games bring in punishment to deaths? Sure, but don't force your enjoyment on other people who don't want it. I say "hardcore" deaths should be an option, rarely the design.

P.S. Yes, getting a "rush" from punishing deaths or lose is Masochism. There is nothing wrong with it though, no matter what people say. It is what you enjoy and it's not really hurting anyone. I'm a sadist myself but that is another story for another topic.

ShadowKatt:
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.

Agreed (Yay Guild Wars!), but even ArenaNet thinks this may be too much...
OT: I'll just leave this here.

No no no, Shamus you're wrong here IMO. The death penalty give you investment in the life of your character, you really care if you die and thus you play that bit more realistically, and so, naturally this gives a significant sense of immersion.
To take just one game as an example, counter strike, you die then you're dead for the round... just consider the immense life span of the game and its continuing popularity, would it be such a successful game if you re-spawned instantly? would it hell.

Shamus Young:
He always spell checks his romantic encounters.

I always thought that Mr. Young was married.
OT: I do agree, even in Fabl II where the penalty was minimal, I still went out of my way to avoid it. Similarly, in Mercenaries 2, it was a pain in hitching a ride back to the mission and even helicopters were disturbingly slow.

One of my favorite "death" mechanics is found in Sid Meier's Pirates. You don't actually die in the game, but instead whenever you are defeated your character is wounded and imprisoned (or marooned on a desert island), where you get stuck waiting around for months of in game time. Then you get released and start over with a crappy ship and small crew. What makes it interesting, however, is that your character has a finite lifespan in the game. You start out at age 18 and as you get older your character gets slower and slower and the different aspects of the game get harder and harder. So getting captured/marooned once will not have a serious effect on you immediately, but it is game time that you will never get back, which might cut into what you are able to accomplish with that character. If you're in jail for 6 months, that's 6 months you can't sail around, earning plunder and chasing your enemies.

I'm not sure how something like that would work in an MMO, since the appeal seems to be completely the opposite. Of course, when talking about MMOs you have to be specific about what you're talking about--do you want to find an answer that will be more fun and fulfilling for the player, or do you want to find an answer that is more addictive and will induce the player to play more? Because they're not the same thing.

I was at a gaming convention last year where Sid Meier himself was a speaker, and he gave a very interesting lecture about psychology and games. I'm not sure if people realize just how much study and effort go into designing these games, but virtually every aspect is carefully crafted to keep the player playing the game for as long as possible. The reload points are placed at just the right places(in a well designed game), and the "penalties" are figured so that they are just enough of a setback that it takes you time to get back to where you were, but not so much that you get frustrated and quit.

It's kind of like somebody playing hard to get--a certain amount of meanness and disinterest will make a person seem WAY more attractive than if they just gave in right away. If they are too mean or completely disinterested, it is a turn off and you'll give up. But just enough will paradoxically make you much more interested and much more willing to do things to prove yourself. I think that MMO game design is a lot like that.

Viik:

Optimystic:
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.

With all do respect, but did you experienced situations when morale of people around leader has droped cause leader just died (real morale)? What about people routing cause they know if they die they need to re-roll char? How powerfull resurection spell become when it's not just avoid 2minutes respawn time but avoid re-roll of char? Will you consider starting a random fight with an oponent whos skills are unknown to you? Did you see a clan wipe-out cause they failed a single fight and all need to re-roll? Maybe people leaving guild cause they don't want to lose their char in battle that dosn't look possible to win. Can somebody called a hero if he tries to protect other guild members in need, putting his 2 month old char as price?
I don't see this in current MMOs. There is no feel of achivement or danger, nor accomplishment, soon or later everybody gets everything, sort of idialistic socialism in gaming ))

Why the hell would I pay every month to play a game where I couldn't get all the things I wanted?

There are games for players that like the environment you're describing, like EVE Online. Plenty of backs to stab there, and shipments of playtime to steal etc. WoW is not that place.

Halo 3 co-op definitely needed a harsher penalty. Whenever we were low on ammo, we'd retreat somewhere safe and kill each other to get more ammo (you respawned with stock weapons w/ ammo).

Coles_Law:
Halo 3 co-op definitely needed a harsher penalty. Whenever we were low on ammo, we'd retreat somewhere safe and kill each other to get more ammo (you respawned with stock weapons w/ ammo).

Seriously ? (I am a hardcore PC gamer so I only played the first Halo)
You seriously kill each other and the game DOESN'T display "Game Over" ? That's insane ! (and stupid)

Continuity:
No no no, Shamus you're wrong here IMO. The death penalty give you investment in the life of your character, you really care if you die and thus you play that bit more realistically, and so, naturally this gives a significant sense of immersion.
To take just one game as an example, counter strike, you die then you're dead for the round... just consider the immense life span of the game and its continuing popularity, would it be such a successful game if you re-spawned instantly? would it hell.

Agreed and like I said before this is part of the gameplay. And this is why I played so many years on it. Killing a person and knowing he won't respawn is way satisfying that killing someone and never have the felling to have accomplished anything because you don't see any changes in the game.

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