The primary problem with the concept of Permadeath in MMOs has always been in a vast disparity between the emotional connection that different kinds of players have towards their characters. For hardcore roleplayers, their characters are a work of art and passion, personas built over hours, days or months of collaborative playtime with their peers. For the type of cold-blooded murderer who likes to bathe in the pixellated blood of noobs, though, their avatars aren’t very important. They are a tools, a means to an end, a hammer in the toolbox used to bash in the hopes and dreams of the innocent. PK them? OK, we’ll just make another.
Can this equation be changed? Perhaps The Castle Doctrine is in theory trying, by introducing a new server called ‘perma-permadeath’, a game mode where, once you die, your account is actually frozen out of the game. Even, the article notes, if you are killed by traps you lay out yourself.
For what its worth, I’m not hopeful. Death penalties directly correlate to the amount of risk that players are willing to take. The general noobification of death penalties in MMOs is directly related to that – the response to overly punitive death penalties is for players to stop taking any sort of chances and risks and instead play the safest, most conservative gameplay in the game they can find. And while they do this, they will usually complain about being bored.