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Death Loop

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What do you guys feel about linear games with instant death. For example: in Bullet Witch, you progress through the level only to be instantly killed by a sniper. Reverting to the last way point and must repeat the same mundane situation again with a possibility of dying at the exact same point again. Two main factors are "time between way points" and "death probability". The higher the death loop the frustrating it becomes, I have completely stopped playing many games because the "death loop" was just too high. I dont want to coin the phrase, its probablly is already called something.

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Two main factors are "time between way points" and "death probability".

I would also add level loading time. If its 2-5 seconds - its alot more bearable than if its 30-60 seconds.

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Instant death is one of the most frustrating things that anyone can put in a game. I can't stand platformers anymore because I will be jumping through a very long level pwning everything I come across... and then BOOM, I get clumsy for one second and fall off a ledge dying instantly. Now I have to start the 20 minute level all over again... X(

The thing that gets to the player is not the death, it's having to replay the entire level. Even with so called "check points" the game becomes extremley boring, and you quickly loose interest occasionally chucking something against the wall.

I think the solution here is undoubtably the "cheap save" button, otherwise known as quick-save. It saves the players progress at any point in the game. That way, if he think's there's a jump he can't make, or a place he might die in, he can quickly save and be on his way. If he dies, he only has to play the last few seconds before he died. And that is not bad at all.

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It goes back to game design and what the player wants. I suspect that my ratio of victory to death in Super Mario Bros. world 8-1 is something like 1:8. I routinely warp myself up there and lose every single freaking life in that one dumb level. When that happens, I start it over. It takes a long time and I swear a lot. I love Super Mario Bros.

Ther's no load time, there, so that might be a factor, but I think a lot of it is just the coincidence of the experience with my desire and expectation. I like having memorized every bad guy's spawn point and knowing where the holes are before I see them. I like having to repeat a level so many times that there are no surprises left in it, and I can think of that whole experience, that long, narrow ribbon of a universe, as a thing in the world with which I am interacting.

I'm not looking for depth or long-term payoffs or spooky AI. In modern games, I expect that. If you've got fifty square miles of detailed cityscape, I can't be bothered to learn every nook and cranny. Ironically, the more vast and open-ended the world becomes, the more focused and cinematic I want the gameplay to be. I want to find a path from point A to point B and I want to make that trip. I don't want to kill all the bad guys or be worried about a sniper three blocks over.

It's funny, in a game like SMB, where I'm only shown a tiny rectangle of the level at a time, I'm content to have total awareness of what's outside that window, and I don't mind covering the same ground again and again. In a game like FarCry, where sprawling landscapes and distant events are the norm, I don't give two shits about anything that's more than a few dozen yards from my character, and if there's a guy with a rocket launcher in a tower a half-mile away, I feel put-upon to have to contend with him.

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In my eyes a game should never be "unfair". If I die then I want to know that I played not that good and made something wrong.

If you just need luck to pass the sniper then I would count this as a bad design. If it is just a type of puzzle then it can be ok. (Pass the red dot moving predefined around)

You have to see what went wrong to make it better next time, not just
If( random(100) < 90) {"You died!, Please reload.";}

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I think the whole insta death thing is now coming into question because of the current state of difficulty in most games. Going back and playing older games, the difficulty curve is immense. Mega man spike instadeath, Contra, Pacman, etc. With gaming trends floating more and more towards easier, casual friendly games, you loose a lot of the frustration you get from insta death, but also a lot of the gratification and sense of accomplishment. God of war is a good game, but do you feel like you've done the impossible when you've beaten it? Could your baby sister done some of the things you were doing? Theres room in the market for both types and all the kinds in between but I think there will always be a place for the hard line games that are as unforgiving as they are rewarding.

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I think it vastly depends on the game. In a standard first or third person shooter, it's generally inexcusable. But would you consider it insta-death if in an RPG you walked over a trap that killed you because you didn't have a high enough "trap detect" power? That's happened to me a few times in Dark Messiah recently, and it's goddamn annoying, but then again, I don't blame the game for it.

If I opened a door in an FPS and a guy was already firing at my face, that'd be different though.

But then again, look at Operation Flashpoint, in that case realism is the aim so yeah, that stuff happens (and actually, I gave up playing because of it) but I still don't begrudge the game for sticking so closely to its own rules and policies, it just wasn't for me.

Max Payne, usually there are four or five guys at least in every room ready to shoot, but you dive through the door, or round every corner, or whatever, trying to pick them off in one slow-mo action sequence. (And then reload to try and do it again but looking even cooler.)

But those are the rules of those games.

So yes, players are intelligent enough to know what's expected of them, but its when you cheat them by suddenly doing something different that they'll feel hard done by.

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I think the whole insta death thing is now coming into question because of the current state of difficulty in most games. Going back and playing older games, the difficulty curve is immense. Mega man spike instadeath, Contra, Pacman, etc. With gaming trends floating more and more towards easier, casual friendly games, you loose a lot of the frustration you get from insta death, but also a lot of the gratification and sense of accomplishment. God of war is a good game, but do you feel like you've done the impossible when you've beaten it? Could your baby sister done some of the things you were doing? Theres room in the market for both types and all the kinds in between but I think there will always be a place for the hard line games that are as unforgiving as they are rewarding.


I have nothing against more difficult games, but there should always be a possible way to prevent the death.

A game can be very hard, but fun to play if. Like an FPS game where you are not able to jump into a room with 5 enemies and kill one after the other without getting hurt. You have to play more careful, or aim threw a window or something like that.

But in my eyes it is a really(!) bad design if you have to be lucky to solve something. If there is a room with a sniper insta-killing you 9 of 10 times and you just have to try again, try again...

If you solve a hard part in a game you should know it was because you played better then the last time. And not because of a random generator that was 'friendly' at the 10th try.

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Original post by Ajian
I think the whole insta death thing is now coming into question because of the current state of difficulty in most games. Going back and playing older games, the difficulty curve is immense. Mega man spike instadeath, Contra, Pacman, etc. With gaming trends floating more and more towards easier, casual friendly games, you loose a lot of the frustration you get from insta death, but also a lot of the gratification and sense of accomplishment. God of war is a good game, but do you feel like you've done the impossible when you've beaten it? Could your baby sister done some of the things you were doing? Theres room in the market for both types and all the kinds in between but I think there will always be a place for the hard line games that are as unforgiving as they are rewarding.


I agree that games now tend to be easier on the player than before. And it is most likely due to a more casual friendly attitude among developers. But most games also have difficulty settings. Take god of war as you mentioned. Playing that on the hard settings will definetly pose a challange to the most hardcore of players. Insta-death is just annoying and leaves you frustated. There are better ways to entertain hardcore gamers. I believe it's important that the player feels he is making progress all the time.

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for me personally, when i'm playing game instant death does suck. But what if your a sniper and you want that head-shot? I think you should at least give players a minor buffer, so the first shot from the sniper would take down shields but the next one could be insta-kill.

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