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Mephs

Just let them play!!

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A couple of other recent threads and my own wandering mind have led me to think about the way games handle the player 'losing' the game. It occurred to me that perhaps rather than all these complex death/punishment systems that we love to inflict upon the player, perhaps we should just let them play? I suppose really this goes without saying, but it's hit home a little more with me now I've thought about it. I think the player needs some kind of setback to keep the feeling of challenge, if there is nothing to fear, then there is nothing pressing the player to perform well. Perhaps though this should be reversed, in that rather than punishing a player for not playing well enough, we should maybe just reward the player more for doing well and simply hold back on the reward if they are not playing to a high enough standard. In practise (in an MMORPG for arguments sake) this could mean that rather than implementing perma-death or some negative implication of death, we instead allow them to instantly be resurrected at their home town (or something along those lines). This way they can get instantly back to just playing the game. The challenge would be missing somewhat because you don't then fear death, but you could get the challenge back by giving them some kind of extra reward, perhaps the longer they stay alive before dying, the quicker they earn experience or somehting like that. I think essentially this doesn't change much of the actual system, except the way it is perceived by the player. I consider the players perception to be very important though, so I think this kind of system could work much better than a harsh punishment that essentially stops the playing and creates a time-sink or annoyance. What does everyone else think about this, do you think negative rewards perhaps offer a better challenge or have some other redeeming factor, or would you rather keep things as positive as possible and just be allowed to play the game?

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You know I think you are right about the thing that you should just let the player enjoy the game. However I think that the problem is how to give the feeling of challenge an acomplishment to the player.. so those complicated death systems are choosen to fix the problem.

I think that the real problem is that there don't exists MMORPGs where it doesn't matters if you die and stuff. The level based systems comtribute to this.. also remember that MMORPGs it's in is infancy, so I hope someone makes an MMORPG where they just 'let the players play'.

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IMO, slowing experience gain after a death isn't much different than speeding it during a long life.

To generalize: "Dying = Bad" is not really much different than "Not(Dying) = Good".

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I disagree. Death should be a punishment, and a stiff one (but I'm the prototypical hardcore gamer).

My favorite MUD used to set it up so that if you died, you immediately lost one level (that is, a monster death). Player deaths did not lower your level, but halved the accrued experience you gained to the next level. To offset this, you gained a 20% bonus to the EXP you gained for every level you gained since you died. Since the game had 30,000 levels, this system worked well--but I'd play it in nearly any MMORPG.

I'm weird that way, though.

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are we talking online?

Anyway, i enjoyed very much what GTA3 does (and hey, might be part of the reason why its so damn fun):

if you die, you only get hauled to a hospital and lose a token amount of cash, which is negligible.
What is your loss? what is that keeps you from laughing at death? well, you die and you can't keep doing all the spiffy things you were doing.

So in a MMOG setting, i'd make the player lay in all his dead stiffness, and let him have a button to get auto-hauled to the hospital. He can stay and witness all the stuff his friends do, and even chat, but not participate anymore. Heck, i'd let him be carried around. And for kicks he could be manually hauled to the hospital... and maybe this would be cheaper or let him keep his belongings or whatever.
generally in the game death = inmobilizing injury

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I very much agree. If we're talking games in general, I hate nothing more than a huge punishment, or even having to restart the game, after death. My biggest complaint, actually, isn't about death, but the way saving is handled - Mario Pinball Land as an example - if the game shuts off without saving, you must entirely restart!

Similarly, if you get sent to a save point after death, it ruins things. Suddenly you're not in the game anymore. It kills the sense of actually being in the game.

Finally, I'm not sure what the exact fix is. Generally, the perfect fix is something that injures what you want the most. In the pinball game, you lose your score. In a game like Diablo, you lose your items (what you try so hard to earn and find). So, depending on what the player wants most, they should be effected there.

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Quote:
Original post by Mephs
In practise (in an MMORPG for arguments sake) this could mean that rather than implementing perma-death or some negative implication of death, we instead allow them to instantly be resurrected at their home town (or something along those lines). This way they can get instantly back to just playing the game. The challenge would be missing somewhat because you don't then fear death, but you could get the challenge back by giving them some kind of extra reward, perhaps the longer they stay alive before dying, the quicker they earn experience or somehting like that.

I think essentially this doesn't change much of the actual system, except the way it is perceived by the player. I consider the players perception to be very important though, so I think this kind of system could work much better than a harsh punishment that essentially stops the playing and creates a time-sink or annoyance.


Seeing how I play and watching others play, "Gaining experience for staying alive" is the same as "Losing experience for dying". There is little difference between "I get hurt for being bad" and "I get candy for being good" because the latter is seen as "I don't get candy for being bad".

I've only really played on MMORPG, Asheron's Call. When you died, you immediately appeared at your life stone (think of it as your home town, because that's what it tended to be), you dropped something on your corpse (there were ways to make that essentially painless), and you were slightly weaker (-5% to skills until you gained a small amount of experience). Your suggestion would be to, perhaps, replace the -5% for dying with a +5% for staying alive. To the player, (and the mechanics) there's no real difference. Either way I lose 5% for dying (or, equivalently, get 5% for staying alive).

Quote:

What does everyone else think about this, do you think negative rewards perhaps offer a better challenge or have some other redeeming factor, or would you rather keep things as positive as possible and just be allowed to play the game?


I think there is one significant difference between loss on death and reward for life. Life is seen as the "natural" state, how things should be. If you get a reward for staying alive, you're going to have that reward in mind while you're alive, which is slightly distracting to the task at hand (presumably the reward isn't the task at hand but helps with the task at hand). If you have loss on death, you only have that distraction on death, which is the ultimate of distractions anyway.

Basically, you're making life more complex so that death can be easier.

If you really don't like the feeling death gives a game, make a game that doesn't include it. Make a sports game, or a puzzle game. Or, if you want something more multiplayer, how about a trading game, where you're all a bunch of merchants trying to gain economic control? Sure, your ships could fight it out, but you could write off the death as either "the player gives orders from HQ and never leaves" or "the player escapes on a skiff (or escape pod for the more SciFi)". Then the loss is merely economic, which is the gameplay itself.

Or, if you really like shooting things, make it more like "tag" than "death match". Maybe you want to be "it". You shoot the person who's "it", you become "it". If you're "it" or shoot someone who isn't "it", perhaps you stun them, slow them, or prevent them from firing for a short time. Capture the flag could also work. Heck, many childhood games could work (there really weren't many where you died ;) ).

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Ah, good old permadeath, the bringer of flamewars. Well, not only that, but all sort of similar systems incorporated in games to "punish" the player/character/whatever. But permadeath is my personal favourite. Now, don't take this posting too seriously, as it is an opinion. Whatever your opinion on permadeath is, that's all fine and good, but there might be a point of view you haven't considered.

It seems there is a undying, vile hatred for permadeath. Permadeath is seen as the root of all evil and as a game concept it should be abolished for all eternity, as it is a plague weakening the playability aspect and user friendliness.

I couldn't disagree more. Permadeath is not a sickness, but I consider this hatred a symptom of another, much more horrifying ailment: the ultimate end-game (which I'll explain below, but let me rave here a bit more, please). This nightmarish entity rises its ugly head in far too many games, and thus I understand why this anti-permadeath attitude is so prevalent.

You say, let them play. But being able to play doesn't mean you should be allowed to break the rules. Permanent death is just a rule of the game, just like any other, such as not being allowed to walk through solid things such as walls. Yet I don't see the forums flooded with threads with subjects wailing "Why, O why are there permasolid walls in games?". Tetris has permadeath and no one complains about that. After all, tetris would have little point if it didn't have permadeath.

And besides, what's the value of the reward if there is no risk? If I can get the Ultimate Legendary Sword of Mass Mayhem by dying a thousand deaths, I don't really see a point of actually doing some hard work in order to get it.

I say, let them play. I do agree with you, provisionally, as games are meant for entertainment. Games, however, need rules. Permadeath can be seen as a rule just as any other. Many people think it is a good rule. The problem is, however, that so many games are based on some sort of ultimate end-game, the meaning of which differs with each game. The beginning of the game might be fun at first (the first couple of games), but then it becomes a chore. All you want is to "improve" which can mean a lot of things depending on the game. Eventually, after playing long enough, you reach "the ultimate end-game" in which you finally start to have fun.

I say, games should be utter fun from the beginning. Period. There should be no reason to be frustrated having to start from the beginning. The storyline should have enough variations to allow replayability (well, assuming you have a storyline in the first place). And what's the point of having the player's characters starting as something weaker than the pettiest of amoebae? You should be able to start as something close to an average character, with the option to start as the weakling for the additional challenge.

So sure, let them play, let them have fun, but not at the expense of vital game rules. I'm against this perma-end-game-favouring.

However, as the game designer, you are allowed to leave the permadeath-rule out. Games can be good without permadeath too — for instance, Diablo 2 is a good game, in my opinion, yet it has no (enforced) permadeath. It does, however, punish the player fr... no, wait, it punishes the player's character for dying (the player's punishment is extra).

CataclysmicKnight mentioned the concept of saving the game. I consider it extremely related to the concept of permadeath (for obvious reasons), but instead of boring you all by repeating things I've already said, let me give you a couple of links instead.

RPG Save Limits
save spots=carrots?

There you go. Have fun. (Of course, there are about a bazillion threads on these subjects to begin with, but in these two I have replied personally. [wink])

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I don't think death processes like permadeath have anything to do with "letting the player just play."

The MMOG I'm constantly working on a design for - Zombie Nation - has permadeath. When your zombie is killed, that's it - you can't get him back. It has to be permadeath, because the other players eat you once they've killed you.

But when you *do* die, I'm trying to design the interface such that it's three clicks or less to generate a new zombie and start again. You *are* losing out - you score by staying alive as long as possible, so to start a new zombie is to reset your score to zero - but it's quick enough that you can go "ah, damnit..." and just start over.

Many games have this. If you let the board fill up to the top in Tetris, it's "permadeath," and usually one or two key presses to start a new game with a new score. It actually enhances the addictiveness of the game - the player thinks, "I can do better than that!" and can quickly have another try.

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Quote:
Original post by Madster
are we talking online?

Anyway, i enjoyed very much what GTA3 does (and hey, might be part of the reason why its so damn fun):


I think a GTA style approach could work very well in a MMORPG type environment. It would pretty much solve the whole PK debate - being killed by another player is just a bit of nuisance rather than something to get all worked up about. It might also attract players who aren't interested in just powerlevelling all the time - the game is more forgiving of being adventurous and doing fun things.

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