Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

Just Mostly Dead…

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.

1 Comment

  1. It’s a balancing act. Most current games with death penalties so light or non-existent that I’ll do anything, not care about failure, and don’t feel particularly accomplished when I succeed because I didn’t risk anything at all. I don’t want super harsh permadeath, but I was pretty happy with EverQuest’s level of experience loss. It wasn’t harsh enough to keep me from taking risks, but it was harsh enough that I wouldn’t repeatedly risk failure on something I clearly wasn’t winning.

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