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in mmo setting, how harsh should death penalty be?

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Every MMO developer has to seriously consider the issue of death penalty. How harsh should it be? There are 2 extremes: 1) almost-no-penalty. When a character dies, he doesn't lose any of his equipment, nobody can pick up his stuff. There may be some money penalty, but it's rather insignificant. 2) short of perma-death, a killed character loses all his stuff, everything that was on him, perhaps also lose experience points or whatever. The issue of death penalty in MMO games becomes important when the gameplay focuses on gathering of rare items. If players have a lot to lose when they die, then they are less likely to get involved in PvP. With threat of losing lots of valuable stuff to another player, the issue of PvP would become touchy. At the same time, those who really enjoy PvP wouldn't bother trying to gather all the "cool" rare items, cause they would expect to die once in a while, so they would just fight with basic items. All those PvPers with basic items would often kill non-PvPers who try to collect rare items, making those players very frustrated. In the end, trying to collect rare items becomes a stupid idea, not to mention many people getting pissed off when they die. On the other hand, if death penalty is very minor, such as losing some cash but keeping all items, there are other problems. Small death penalty will result in people becoming very careless about PvP and killing another character wouldn't be a big deal. It would feel like a player can't make any impact on anyone, which is bad for persistent games. There may be some other problems associated with this, I can't think of any. What do you people think? how harsh should death penalty be?

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Rather than penalty/no penalty, I think this revolves around fixed penalty/varying penalty.

See, when you lose all your stuff upon death, the frustration that comes from it increases with the amount and rarity of items you carried with you. It is this varying penalty that makes it seem useless to look for rare things or spend work increasing the power of the character: you lose what you already have, so you'd better not having anything.

On the other hand, you could implement a fixed penalty from death. Being fixed, there would usually be no way for the player to always be able to pay the "death fee" (unless you look for something generic, such as gold), and you would also want to make the penalty independent on what the player has. So why not base it on what will happen? Have the player pay with something he doesn't have yet (seeing his remaining in the game as a loan). The player would then have to pay for this loan using game mechanics: walk his ghost to a ressurection site and coming back for his body... there are also more exotic ways of payment of this loan: for instance, replacing "killing" in your game by "cursing": a cursed player cannot perform certain actions (casting spells, picking up objects) until the curse is dispelled.

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Allow limited player corpse looting.

I'd recommend making the player lose half his inventory, randomly picked from among the equipped and carried items. So people really avoid dying or trying to fast-level alone once they lost an item they actually saved two or three days till they could afford it.

Optionally, make them drop it all (server/realm option, it might scare some players off), but provide a really useful stash where people can put their unused spare weapons.

In particular, player looting would definitely improve PvP competitiveness and rivalries (of course, implement a means of actually forcing players to risk their lives. maybe make the entire wilderness and every dungeon PvP).


Also, when a player is slain by a mob, don't leave the stuff lying around. Give it to the mob, boosting its stats, if possible! Or bring it into circulation. So maybe one day, a player will find his precious, hand-crafted and personalized sword he lost months ago somewhere on a bazaar.

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[warning: the following is a highly biased opinion, which may contain some semblance of reality to it.]

As long as you have non-consentual PvP, it doesn't really matter.

Frankly, I've never seen a PvP system that wasn't setup in a terrible manner. The rich get richer, the weak are scared to leave town. Sure, sometimes the 'weak' are those who've finally reached level 30, or got to the 2nd town; but the only thing a death penalty changes is how many times the good player has to grief the lower player before the lower player quits.

Once you disallow PvP the death penalty can do what it's meant to do: keep players in the areas they're supposed to be in.

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Well it highly depends on your target audience...

Personally, I would prefer a game where the higher your level is, the more you lose. Like if you are level 100 you might lose 10% of level 100 experience meaning you become level 90, but if you are level 50 you just lose 5% of level 50 experience when you die. You might downgrade levels, but you don't downgrade the percent of exp you lose when you die, it can just get higher. However, if you got to level 100, and you die 5 times, you get level 50, because the experience you lose is 10% of level 100, not of level 50, so the amount of experience you lose can be bigger than the amount you actually have. If you ever die and get a negative experience, that's perma death to you. Character deleted. The first 10 or so levels shouldn't increase your amount of experience lost tought, and you should start with a value of 0%.

Also, I wouldn't just stop there. What about, players can loot other player bodies? However looting would take time and the body would disappear after little time, so you cannot do it when you have a bunch of enemies around unless you don't care about dying yourself.

While your body is lying on the floor, you can 'walk' around as a ghost, that can only be seen by people who can revive you.. meaning there are a couple of persons with spells or scroll to revive. You have to wait sometime till your body disappears so you can revive naturally.

If you are killed by a player, things change a little. The experience you lose is multiplied by (loser's Level ^ 2 ) / (winner's Level) if the loser's level is higher than the winner's. If the loser's level is smaller than the winner's, it's
(loser's Level) / (winner's Level ^ 2). Also, the time the corpse spends usually would give you enough time to loot everything or most, but the time here would decrease so that you only have time to loot 1 item.

But that is what *I* would like.

[Edited by - Coz on November 27, 2004 11:55:22 PM]

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It depends on what you want: To make a good game (IMO) or to make a game that sells. IF you want a large audience, the game has to be easy while seeming difficult, so you'd want to go with #1 and make the amount of money large (of course losing 10^6 gold is nothing when you can make it back in 10 minutes, but it looks like a big number so people will feel like they've really acomplished something when they earn it back).

If you want to make a good game (imo), you'd want to figure out some way to make death hurt WITHOUT just saying 'you get to start over' (be it permadeath or losing everything, it doesn't work because of things like lag etc that effect who dies and who doesn't). A good way to do this is to assign some kind of experience penalty that slowly gets 'paid off', as was done in city of heroes but reinforced by other penalties (maybe -x% damage and such like that) so death REALLY sucks.
Then you need to make sure players can play the game without dying if they're careful. Nobody wants to kill rabits for 10 years until they reach level 50 and can start on the kobolds.

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