Salem Dev: MMOs Without Permadeath Aren't Proper Games

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Welp, interesting idea, but I personally think he sounds like an elitist asshole, which kinda sours me on the whole plan.

Refining the idea a bit, it might work like in Day Z. My understanding is that when you kill enough of your fellow survivors you become a bandit and everyone becomes hostile to you. They can even detect this with a simple mechanic. Put something similar in and it would make it easier to avoid pricks. I still don't really see it as that great an idea.

That's just moronic. Firstly, a lack of permadeath and the presence of save points do not make a game "easy", case-in-point, Dark Souls.

But also, there's nothing inherently awesome about difficulty. Yeah, you get a big man-boner when you can win and no-one else can, but that's just feeding your ego, it says nothing really about the quality of the game. So what if lots of people can win your game? That's like saying, "Bah, books aren't written in Beowulf era English these days, there's no challenge, anyone can read them!"

Has that dev ever played an MMO with PvP? Ever get ganked by a group of players that do it just because they think its funny? The idea of permanent death in an MMO is a really really bad idea! ganking is a popular pastime for many players and its bad enough having to spawn and then need to gather a large group to get past the gankers just so you can get to where your quest is at. The idea just doesnt sound very fun to me when you will need to start over from the very begining in an MMO. Last man standing in an FPS would be reasonable.

Seriously though MMO is like going to a store called Assholes R Us for PvP and permanent death would just make the game itself permanently dead inside of a month.

They have their first game up (Haven and Hearth) and they've already seen all of the issues you're talking about.

There are roving gangs of trolls. There are also large communities of friendly players. The game has been carefully arranged so that the interplay between barbarian and settler is evenly balanced. Either side can't really dominate the other without effort, so it's not all one-sided all the time.

I think they know what they're doing. (the combat system is complex and ridiculous, though)


Sword Art Online is an anime in which the players of a fully-interactive MMO have been locked into the game and can't escape until it's won. And if anyone tries to get them out OR...if anyone dies in the game...their headsets will fry their brains. That's the plot and I was mock-interviewing the main character as a joke. It's not a game if you die for real, or if the character can be destroyed forever.

Desert Punk:
Ok Mr. Johannessen is a retard.

The reason those old games made you start over at the beginning when you ran out of your three lives?

As he said, it was because they were ported arcade games, arcade games asked you to dump more money in to keep going if you used up your lives. It wasnt some good game design choice, it was a cash grab.

Beat me to mentioning that.

Though I get what Bjorn is trying for; an atmosphere of tension, fear, and genuine concern for your character's safety at the risk of losing it all, what sounds good on paper doesn't always translate well to the game it'self. As described, it'll be a repeat of the meat grinder that Ultima Online was, only worse.

"Herp derp, a game that does/doesn't have ______ isn't a real game." ___
I started gaming during the NES era too and I found that having to restart the entire game from square one every time I got a game over was a pain in the ass so I was more than grateful for the advent of the save feature. Yeah I agree that games that have no real "You Lost" state really don't have any teeth, but come on being able to save your game doesn't really defang it that much.

His actual statement isn't dickish, like the headline would make me think.

Fair enough. The risk of failure is measured individually. I don't need a "Game Over" screen, but I don't actively oppose them, either. However, in a game like an MMO, I think I'd rather have a persistent character.

And I don't like PVP.

Some games benefit from Permadeath and make them a lot more fun (Diablo 3), but MMOs with PvP aren't one of them. I love PvPing, I don't even mind getting ganked much since it make for fun hide-and-seek game. But open-world PvP with Permadeath? Ouch, that's definitely not for me. Seen my share of douchebags in MMOs, I know how this is gonna end.

Bat Vader:
Permanent death doesn't sound very fun to me and neither does PVP. Usually if an MMO makes PVP the central focus and that everyone is flagged for PVP that is an MMO I will never play because I hate PVP. I don't want to be forced to fight against other players.

Permanent deaths sounds OK in a game like Crusader Kings II where if your character dies you take over as the heir. In general though I most likely would not play a game or difficult level that made death permanent unless there was a secret ending of some sort.

Couldn't have said all that better myself.

Permadeath is "a" gameplay element among many. Not "the" definitive gameplay element (which doesn't exist).

Still, I like the idea of permadeath in MMOs, it appeals to the roleplayer in me. Then again, it must be implemented correctly. I remember a game being announced a long time ago where you would be able to play the child of your character should your first character die. I completely lost track of that one, though, and even forgot its title...

Ok I will do as I always do (although this I truly support) and offer the dissenting voice of reason.

First off there is much validity to this idea about Perma Death. Why do we play video games? It is because we want to experience something different from the mundane world we exist in. Some of us want challenge, some of us want to be entertained by narrative, Some of us want to socialize with friends in a unique world. However the key is that gaming is a form of escapism. Escapism is achieved through immersion. You might not Enjoy watching all your work go up in smoke over unforeseen circumstance, but there is absolutely NOTHING that exists in gaming that creates more immersion and investment in gaming than true consequences.

We KNOW this is true. Just look at how many people who are adverse to the idea, and are so from personal first hand experience. They KNOW it sucks to watch your toon die due to impossible odds thanks to being ganged up on, Spawn camped, cheaters, etc. The experiences they felt generated true and powerful emotional response in the form of anger. But you must think, do you think they every had anywhere near of a strong emotional response from some easy gaming experience?

However that is part of the point.

I will tell you a little story about Everquest to help put this in perspective.

Right at a decade and a half after the events in spoiler I find myself invariably feeling unsatisfied from most gaming experiences (even newer MMO, or FPS PVP) because they simply do not and really cannot illicit such responses, and longing for a game that might reproduce even a shadow of that pure emotion. If it were not so moving I would not have spent so long typing it all out. That sense of unknown, dread, fear. The fight for survival, that feeling of being willing and actually doing anything to protect yourself and what is yours. To have a game transcend simply inputting commands to control a digital existence to essentially living through that experience.

There is no greater form of immersion in a gaming experience than one that is able to completely consume, captivate you and draws you in so deeply it registers on true emotional and physiological response. Be that being brought to tears by emotionally moving scenes, Overwhelming pride from being recognized by your peers for something that no one else yet had been accomplished, to being so devastated by a loss that you simply cannot even bring yourself to continue for fear of your own physical well being. As I said before in spoiler, tapping into raw emotion and primal natures.

If there is no unknown, there is nothing to fear. If anyone can do everything, nothing is an accomplishment. If there are no consequences, there is nothing to lose.

So in this respect, there is a perfectly sound logic that I can understand about this assertion. If gaming is simply a matter of "win through repetition"/"trial and error" with unlimited tries there is no fear to risk anything. Without risk invariably rewards are no where near as rewarding. I know this is a very major reason why I am addicted to the Souls franchise. While it does have its own issues with "win through repetition" it is so far the only thing that comes even remotely close to presenting that type of game experience that while I thought awful at the time I now find myself longing for anything to reproduce even a fraction of it, at least the better aspects of it.

I tend to gravitate to rogue-likes, and I only find pvp compelling in a game like EVE where you have to put something on the line to get a fight. So fine, I will try your hat simulator when it releases, Mr. Johannessen. Salem was NEVER going to be a smash hit with the masses. Still, this guy has some testicular fortitude to go ahead with it.

Bat Vader:
Permanent death doesn't sound very fun to me and neither does PVP. Usually if an MMO makes PVP the central focus and that everyone is flagged for PVP that is an MMO I will never play because I hate PVP. I don't want to be forced to fight against other players.

Permanent deaths sounds OK in a game like Crusader Kings II where if your character dies you take over as the heir. In general though I most likely would not play a game or difficult level that made death permanent unless there was a secret ending of some sort.

I've not played Crusader Kings II, put that doesn't sound like permanent death, unless you're taking over back at the very start.

Fantastic story

That was a fantastic story.

I see everything twice!

double post



I understand that that's what you find fun. I get it. I respect it. And to anyone who has fun playing that way, more power to you.

However, I'm starting to go just a little bit more crazy every time I hear someone say "A game that does/does not do X isn't a real game."

Amen to that.

It's like saying that a book isn't a real book unless it has a minimum of 400 pages, or is written in the past tense alone or something equally fucking stupid.

Besides, a game labeling itself as a "crafting MMO" and some of the main points being "craft, farming, and building." sound more like a Zynga game... Can you imagine that, Farmville with PvP permadeath?

Now as followup and simply for post cohesion, I get where this comes from. It is the desires I mentioned above. Granted the phrasing is a little overly standoffish, but if you look at what is being said instead of its douchebaggery riddled context it is actually something many gamers at least somewhat consider important to them. Its the same thing that drives many to play the souls series.

Now I can see the importance of PVP, I can see where permadeath would and can work in an MMO. However it would need to be balanced carefully or else it would ruin too many peoples experience to the point most would find it unplayable.

I do not think its plausible to have entire world PVP AND permadeath, because that would basically cause that kind of ruin. However you can have both in a game and still be viable. For example limiting permadeath. Making it so as permadeath cannot occur from open world PVP and otherwise would only occur from NPC death, most likely specifically named mobs directly linked to quest events that make you very aware before you start of permadeath. That would allow you to retain the basic entire world PVP risk, without the negative effects of human nature.

Now based on my prior posts suggestion, that hurts the immerse effect by eliminating the consequence of permadeath. So to counter balance it you would need "Risk" zones that players are either able to avoid and/or are made VERY aware they are entering and what added risk it entails. Insanely lucrative areas that are open to permadeath from PCs. Perhaps to ensure that also remains fairly balanced you would treat such a zone as an instance and mimic the Souls franchise's "invading" structure that controls how many players would be faced with, what level, how often, even relative gear "value" to help ensure you dont get ganked by some overpowered twink thats 5 levels lower than you.

In that sort of format I think not only could this be done, it could be absolutely awesome. Just imagine an MMO where you have farmed out all the levels you can and need to move to a different land for XP yielding NPCs, but in order to do so you must cross a Risk zone that is a procedurally generated maze zone that will summon non linked groups of no more than 3 "invaders" at a time that are each 10 levels lower than you. Individually they are barely a challenge but if all three find you at the same time you "should" be able to survive but even that is uncertain and up to both yours and their respective skill. Should you survive the instance watches your health and progress in the maze to ensure you are fully capable of taking on another challenge before spawning more invaders and giving you an ample opportunity to log out without losing progress should you need to break. You keep working your way through until you find your way out encountering more and more waves, or slightly more powerful one on ones. But the key thing is that despite it being a pvp permadeath situation, where it is something that you actually need for progression the game will always side on giving you as much advantage as possible within parameters. However non progression required risk zones, Ones designed as optional, but highly profitable will NOT give you such advantage.

In such a way you accomplish general "consequence free" world wide pvp, you still have more frequent quest based permadeath from NPCs. You give the players the ability to control how much they engage in this permadeath while still making it so the player simply avoids all permadeath possibility all together.

I know based on my personal experience, and the desire to recapture the type of gaming experience from the above spoiler, that would be just about the fairest and most likely way to accomplish it IMHO. And it still falls squarely with the devs vision and still manages to remain fair enough that it will not erode its player base before its able to build one.

LOL captcha: Patience, child. WTF.. The last post took like 3 hours, how much more patience do I need?

Utter BS.

Death can have a substantial effect without being the end of the game, and furthermore, games with permadeath are discouraging experimentation and limiting their own practical difficulty and length. In games that are not procedurally generated/have no possibility of one run being different from another, permadeath results in doing the same crap multiple times just to get to a point where you can learn. It's bad enough the metagame becoming narrow from just people wanting to always win without the added influence of permadeath.

As for PvP, it doesn't have to be the central focus of a game. What he basically says is that games whose singleplayer might not be that great can still satisfy with a good multiplayer. This is true, but you know which games don't need good PvP? Ones with good singleplayer.

I'm not in favour of too-frequent save points or death having no effect, but permadeath is not for every game, and limits creativity.

I wonder how long into the release it will be before they change their mind because they don't have many players.

It's an interesting idea, but it's not the kind of feature that is going to draw in the crowds. Not in the kind of game where you are expected to put in hundreds of hours. If anybody loses a character after putting in that much effort, for what they see as a bullshit reason, they are most likely not going to play again.

He sounds like an arrogant prick.

I don't know Salem, perhaps it is a game that works well with a permadeath system. There is certainly room for games like that. And I'm sure there's a niche audience who likes it.

But to say that save points in general are the bane of all games everywhere is bullshit. Would a game like Dishonored really be improved if you'd have to start the game from scratch if you were killed in mission 7? Would an FPS be more fun if you were kicked back to the first level so often that you'll have memorized every enemy spawn to the microsecond by the time you're halfway through the game?

If devs want to include a permadeath option, go ahead if your game's mechanics can support it. Or make a game like Salem, where you clearly advertise that this is only for players who like permadeath. But don't go complaining that only games with permadeath are real games and that savepoints make a game suck.

Personally, I haven't played many games with permadeath. I played a bit of FTL. And there's games like Mount & Blade that don't have your character die, but do make you irrevocably lose a lot of potential progress if you lose (you get captured and lose your army and some equipment). The tension of knowing your decisions matter can be fun. But it means having to be focused at all times during the game. You can't do anything silly or fun. And you can just have a stroke of bad luck and lose hours of progress. And in an MMO, the threat of griefers is always there. So yeah, I'll play a permadeath-ish game once in a while, but I'm very happy that most of my games have safe points.

The Oxford Dictonary defines 'game', in the context of video games as "an activity that one engages in for amusement". It's not very amusing to me if I have to take it almost as seriously as my real life, because no fuck-ups are allowed.

This actually sounds pretty fun, until we inevitably get that one guy that kills players for the ducks of it.

My guess is three minutes before a witch hunt starts.

The nice thing about Salem, is that there is actual crime, punishment, player tracking and witch hunt mechanic in the game.

Basically if your do a crime in the game, other player can have free shot at your character (they can force your character to spawn and "stand trial"), so basically criminal and witch are basically forced to try hide their activity.

The game is also made in a way that you need to spend time on unlocking criminal activity skill.

Gee this would be such a problem. I mean, it's not like you could have guards protecting people from gankers, or some other policing system right? A criminality system, it's just not possible.

We should dismiss this great idea instead of seeing that it can work, obviously.

Yes, because who doesn't like spending 50+ hours of their time getting to the endgame only to hit the wrong key at the worst possible moment and watch all those hours go down the drain?

Now, me, I love permadeath. I'm creating a design doc for a co-op RPG with it. However, that doesn't mean I want it used in every fucking genre. Perma-death is a niche idea and to try to force it onto genres that aren't built to support the concept - like MMOs - is doomed to failure.

Just like Magicka isn't a proper game without permadeath.
It'd be such a short game if it had permadeath...

This is stupid. Permadeath is fun in some games, but if you think every game should have it you're an idiot. Imagine Skyrim with permadeath. You spend 100 hours improving and levelling up your character, only to make a simple mistake and die. Have fun doing all of those quests all over again.

It only really works in roguelikes or similar games, where the experience is different every time so it isn't boring and the game itself is quite short, so finishing it isn't too difficult.

As much as I enjoy certain roguelike features, having them in every game would be incredibly stupid.

Permadeath would keep me away from the game but... I do agree, depending on the genre, it make sense to have it as a rule...

Having also grown up with NES games and the like, I do agree games are easier now. However, while NES games did make you replay the entire game upon death, most of them could be beaten in an hour. The problem here is MMO's are a massive timesink. Having everything you dumped time into just be gone sucks. It's one thing to have 30 minutes of progress lost, and another to have 200 hours or progress lost.

I'm fine not going back to the EQ style days where you lost a weeks worth of EXP when you died.

Most roguelikes, if you're good, can be beaten under the 5 hour mark; usually you'll die within 1 hour and you can count that as a play session. And, more importantly, roguelikes and dungeon crawlers are nearly all randomized.

I don't mind getting killed in hardcore mode 6 hours into Torchlight 2 because the combat is fun and next time will be different. Will salem offer this? I don't know.

Meh that is nothing new. Eve kinda does the same. If you don't clone and have reserve ships and you die.. well, you start from scratch.
So jeah, once you reached a certain point, you can create more or less expensive savepoints by yourself but the EvE-World is pretty harsh and unforgiving.

He's right to a certain point. If you can just die as many times as you like without any punishiment, it leads to what happened in WoW at the start. People dragged outdoor bosses to a graveyard and zerg'd them down.
I'm happy such games exists, because not every MMO has to be your handholding-massmarket-WoW clone where everybody is a winner and consequences are 0.

Diversity is a good thing.

Most people don't have enough time to play a game with Perma-death. Most people have jobs, school, families and all sorts of other responsibilities to be taking care of and don't have time to play the same game hundreds of times with different characters to get to level 70 or whatever.
I could endorse a perma-death mode, but I wouldn't buy a game based entirely around perma-death.

Well, to be fair we already have a semi-MMO around with perma-death: Day-Z. I sincerely hope Salem takes a long, hard look at why Day-Z works, and eg. WoW with perma-death would be a horrible, horrible idea.

I DEFINITELY want perma death in my 100+ hour long single player rpgs. WHO NEEDS ENDINGS?!

path of exile did permanent death quite attractive with their hardcore league and hardcore race events.


Free2play with permadeath.

So which model are you going to use, pay2win, or vanity items only?

Because one of those models gains you the ire of any serious gamers you're trying to attract with your 'hardcore' mentality. The other gains you a nice big fat financial failure of a game, as people are unlikely to spend much on vanity items in a game where permadeath is the status quo.

Also if its heavily PvP based, us Australians can probably skip it. 300+ms on a good day, and only takes one lag spike...

While I respect anyone's right to consider games with permadeath and no saves fun, and even encourage others to play games that don't have such on an honour-system (like One Life To Live guilds in MMO's long before this one) or under whatever other self-imposed rules they wish, the gall of suggesting that he's the only one who knows the 'right' way to play games betrays a man who deserves no such respect; that kind of self-centric world view, the holding the very notion that all people experience everything the same way, betrays level of empathy and maturity most 4-year-olds I know would surpass.

I truly do get the appeal, all you have to do is watch any Let's Play of a pokemon Nuzlocke challenge to see why, but I would never find that fun, I would never find that entertaining or amusing. I don't find that kind of suspense and fear and loss fun, and I'm sure as hell not going to be told I shouldn't be allowed to play games just because my sensibilities are different.

Unfortunately this seems to be part of a larger trend; not specifically the permadeath bit, but developers these days seem obsessed with controlling the player actions, almost like they're desperate to make movies instead of games, but weren't lucky enough to squirm into that industry so they instead infest this one. To paraphrase Yahtzee, when you take a child to a sandbox you do not spend three hours discussing proper shovel etiquette! I will never understand how a developer can honestly think they know more about how I have fun than I do, much less the obscene levels they go to to achieve that goal, between DRM and steps to stifle modding communities and lacking console-codes and other tools and such, in singleplayer games.

No matter how much you insist on calling it a license, it's my toy and unless its a multiplayer game I'll play with it however I damn well want.

I agree completely on his point of needing a more severe fail state than most games and how a lot of games are more interactive entertainment than actual games now.

MMORPG's are the worst for this i think, nowadays all the main ones treat death as a merely inconvenient, But back in Everquest for example when you died you lost a bunch of XP and respawned at your bind point , which in itself was often a long way from your corpse, and all the money equipment and items you were carrying remained on you your corpse where you died and you had to run naked to get it back. it brought a very cool and enjoyable fear to dungeoning and raiding.

Its one of those cases where players will ask for the removal of a mechanic because its painful but it makes the game worse when you take it away , sure it sicked to die but risk makes rewards worth winning.

If the game was compelling in spite of the permadeath and pvp aspects I'm sure a lot more people would put up with (or even enjoy) those elements. What I encountered in the beta (or maybe it was alpha) of this game was pretty much pure tedium. (And this is coming from a guy who enjoys Wurm Online.) There was no way I was going to put up with a boring game AND permadeath/pvp.

Um world of Warcraft IS still the MMO King and It doesn't have permaDeath

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