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mittens

Design Roundtable 1: The Death of Death

80 posts in this topic

Death in games is generally such a pointless affair; a short trip to the Load Save Game screen, followed by a small bit of frustration at having to redo part of the game, and then you're back to where you were. Personally, I'm of the opinion that you should either have permadeath, or no death at all. Even if in practice it just means skipping that load screen and restarting the character at some checkpoint ("you wake up in hospital" kind of thing, e.g GTA)

In my experience of P&P RPGs, it's not all that uncommon for characters to die - usually, the DM does not force you to do the whole campaign from the start. Instead, you roll a new character and pick up from (roughly) where you left off.

I've never seen this implemented in a CRPG though. Often, the story line doesn't help - if you're The Chosen One, it seems a bit odd that you can die and some other random bod comes along and Saves The World for you. But it would be interesting to see how it worked - it's probably the only way to incorporate permadeath into a story based game without making your players hate you.
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Original post by thk123
I don't think that a game does need a way to fail. Instead, I think it needs a motivation to proceed. For many games, death is a convenient motivation. However, it is not the fear of failure that drives me on in, say Bioshock or Fable, it is the lure of what is round the next corner.


The motivation of wanting to proceed forward comes from the player's engagement in the game they are playing.
If the player is not engaged, the desire to look around the next corner drops.

A major component in increasing player engagement is how a game presents its challenges.
The most common of these challenges being 'death'.
I would say even though Bioshock and Fable reduced the death to a momentary pause, the game still would have felt much different had if the player took no damage at all.

If the player took no damage at all, the desire to proceed to the next area would be significantly reduced.
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The problem how I see it is that death [of the player character] is usually not an interesting gameplay event, mostly because it's usually is paired with a save system which makes it meaningless.

Take an example. Assume a game, any game really, with the added game mechanic that periodically forces you to press some specific button, failure to do so within some resonable time would lead to a reset of the game with the associated loss of progress. I think it's not far fetched to consider that particular game mechanic to be deterimental to pretty much any game. It's similar to functions such as eating or sleeping that get left out of other games because they add nothing valuable to game experience, and are instead implied to be performed automaticly behind the scenes.

This is analogous, although admittedly farfetchedly so, to the save mechanic of modern games. "Death" means that the player is forced to resume from the last saved game. So as in previous example, why should you get punished for not pressing the quicksave button every 10 minutes instead of saving being done automatically behind the scenes? And if it is done automatically, popping the player back to the last safe position upon "death", why bother to model it is as death at all since it's quite clearly not the permanent end it implies?

Then on the other hand, there are scenarios where death is a fundamental gameplay mechanic. Any multiplayer deathmatch game is a good example. There your death means the success of the opposing player[s], which is in itself interesting. It's not hard to come up with other scenarios either. Tetris for example, here the "death" mechanic is interesting because it marks an end of the game. The challenge, a meta-game in a sense, is to see wheter you are able to play better next time.

What the examples above have in common is of course that there death is permanent. If it would be possible to undo placing pieces in tetris or saving a multiplayer game, the enjoyment of the game would be destroyed.

Of course, while removing save-mechanics would give death meaning, it would not automaticly make death interesting. The death of the main character marks an "end" to the game, but unlike the intended end of story based game, it's not an interesting one. Any story-based game that included permanent death with restart as the only option would likely tank, rightfully so too.

In conclusion, unless death is meaningful and interesting, then I would rather see more games that implements failure using an actually interesting mechanic rather than resorting to the death-and-reset approach. That said, the presence of "death" in a common death-and-restore scenario isn't really deterimental to a game either, as long as there's a working autosave functionality anyway.

-Johannes
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The best way to force skill is to force the player to train and exhibit said skill. If they fail to progress in their in-game skill then either the player goes no further or even goes back further. Think of it as rigid kung-fu training. If the student does not show he has mastered a particular technique then he goes no further and practices until the master is satisfied. If the technique is sorely lacking or sloppy, then that student will go back to the basics and work his way back up.
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Death, as a mechanic, can be used as pretty much whatever the developer wants it to be. Some games, mostly RPGs, use it as a punishment, which forces the player to either reload a game or resume from a previous checkpoint. This is entirely valid. The question becomes, for these games at least, how can you successfully instill fear in your player if not by death. Note that death isn't literal reduction to 0 hit points. I could also be letting the princess die, running out of time to save your master, or any other goal which is essential and failed.

Ideas:

Ridiculously large procedurally generated content. We're talking huge, here. Death would cause you to branch out in the story. Maybe your master is dead, but now you have a quest to avenge him. Or the wandering monk found your corpse three years later, and everyone thinks you are dead now, and your girlfriend has married another man. That type of thing.

Specific branches only unlock-able by death. Like, if you die, the baddies capture you and you have to escape in a little mini-arc. Kind of annoying, only happens once (the mini-arc skips the area you last died at, so you could hypothetically play the entire game by dying at every option)

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Original post by bakanoodle
I would say even though Bioshock and Fable reduced the death to a momentary pause, the game still would have felt much different had if the player took no damage at all. If the player took no damage at all, the desire to proceed to the next area would be significantly reduced.
This is a good point - go fish out your favourite CRPG or shooter, and play it with 'god mode' enabled. At least for me, playing as an invulnerable character yields very little enjoyment.

The challenge of seeing how long I can stay alive keeps me going - in effect, I am not playing against the game, instead I am playing against myself, to see if I can beat my previous attempt to reach the next checkpoint...
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I like death, except for the way it's actually done in most games.

The core of what I dislike about death as done in games is the step back. Being forced to redo what I just did, loosing experience, whatever -- it's annoying, it's frustrating, and it leads to repetitious situations where for every step forward you take it's two steps back. That's not fun.

Planetside had the closest thing to what I'd call "well done death". You didn't
lose experience, you'd didn't lose much other than your time -- half a minute to respawn, another minute to load up your gear and grab a vehicle, for example. You'd respawn at your forward base and continue on. Not great so far, just inconvenient.

The interesting part came about when you upped the stakes. You could try to flank the enemy and hit less defended outposts. However, without the support of the rest of the "Zerg" (as we called the main force that would constantly take the shortest path to the fight with the enemy), it was also the less supportable. I grouped with an outfit that specialized in this -- in our heyday flying platoons of infantry to drop and hold enemy bases until they flipped to our side.

Here's where the fun part of death came in. You'd often end up in situations where returning after respawning was downright impossible -- the enemy would reenforce en-mass and carpet bomb the hell out of their own base, destroying your AMSes (forward spawn positions) and trapping you inside, covering the base trying to work their way back in. If you respawned, at the extremes you could be facing a 10 minute flight back to the battlefront (at the extreme), and being forced to assault a base full of minefields and automated turrents -- not to mention the enemy. At times it was downright impossible to return to your defensive position. You often wouldn't get another chance at that base for quite some time if you lost, either -- the enemy outnumbered you to kick you out, and will continue to outnumber you there for awhile as they repair and rearm the base. Even when they've left, someone will be keeping an eye on it the next time to get the reenforcements there much faster.

So you'd have these alamos -- limited supplies, hunkered down around their command console desperately trying to hold on for the 15 minutes you needed to hold the base. Between exchanges of gunfire, you'd pass around dwindling supplies of ammo and healthpacks and trying to resurrect any of your dead comrades hanging around not hitting the respawn button.

No repetition -- just do or die.

And, in the grand scheme of things, you didn't loose anything you got to keep if you died and had to respawn. There'd be other bases to assault, others to kill, you lost no XP, equipment, or much else.

But at the same time, death was your doom. If you died anywhere but around the command console, you were out of that fight. If your valuable medics tried to come resurrect you, it could easily cost your team that battle if they too died -- so they usually wouldn't! If most of your team (or even just your medics) died just once, you lost that entire battle. And that gave meaning to holding out against superior numbers for those 15 minutes, meaning beyond just "pwning them noobs lol".




There's a mechanic I want to see tried sometime. I call it "semi-perma-death". Sure, allow players to resurrect each other if they can. But if you die downright proper and will need to respawn? Give them a nice jolly roger across their screen.



Don't let them back in game for, say, an hour. Maybe a day. Maybe a week if you're a real bastard (I know I am!). Make death something to be feared... without coercing the player into carebearing the entire way to level 99 if they ever hope to reach it. They'll get to do exciting risk taking things. Not because they're risking having to grind another million EXP, but because they're risking being dead to the world of the game. Gone. Downright proper.

At least for a minute ;-).

-- Michael B. E. Rickert
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"Without defeat, you can not appreciate victory."
- Gone in sixty seconds.

I think there is a relation, in some games, between the penalty of death and the reward of cheating it.

For instance in a game like Pac-man. You want to win from the ghost, because you know, when they get you, you are death. The enjoyment of these games, comes partly from the high cost of dying.

There are some 'stealth' shooters like this. In which you have to achive a whole level without saving. Because the pressure is higher, you try harder not to die. Thus increasing the enjoyment for some players (like me).

Some games, like Fallout, are not just about winning from the enemy, but also about exploration. Here the relation is not as apperent and death should not be treated by penalizing the player greatly.

I think MMO games are a nice example. The first time I die in a MMO, I really worry about the cost. You will try to avoid it. Because it is something to be avoided, it brings enjoyment to the game, by increasing pressure on the gamer.
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What is it players don't like about death. the root of the annoyance and displeasure? Is it lost progress? Is it being faced with load times? Or is it the idea that you "lost"?

I figure most of the time its not really losing, but the sudden stop to game play or even the back step. How do we make it such that the player feels a punishment for unskilled playing without disrupting the game?

I think the best model for this is that when you fail, you are presented with an alternative situation that will bring you back to where you were before death when the challenge is completed. The player isn't faced with a lose of progress or a break in gameplay, but is delayed.
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Original post by MaulingMonkey
They'll get to do exciting risk taking things. Not because they're risking having to grind another million EXP, but because they're risking being dead to the world of the game. Gone. Downright proper.

At least for a minute ;-).

-- Michael B. E. Rickert


Or, they'll not do anything even slightly risky out of fear of being blocked out of a game they paid for. I can see your point, and I think it can work, but if I was paying for something, even a one off fee, I don't want to be locked out of it for a day, or an hour for that matter. As a result, I would probably play so conservatively I would stop having fun.

In a different sense, I really like your idea. For example, stick it in to a shooter. You can go down, and each time you go down, you can be healed by a team mate. But, if you properly die, then that is it, your out till the end of the game. Thinking about it, that's what Gears of War does. In that game (multiplayer anyway), I think it works well. You are constantly on the edge of your seat because you don't want to have to sit out till the end of the round, but (ignoring insta-death weapons that are just stupid, the terrible lag and countless other problems that are down to Gears itself rather than the gameplay mechanic) you won't get frustrated when you die, because you will probably be healed.

I guess this also builds in to the whole risk/reward thing you were talking about, if you try and sneak behind the enemy, there will be no one on your team to revive you.

-Thomas Kiley
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Original post by MaulingMonkey
Don't let them back in game for, say, an hour. Maybe a day. Maybe a week if you're a real bastard (I know I am!). Make death something to be feared...


That would annoy me even more than having to do a whole chunk of the game all over again. Discovering a game had a death system like that would be an instant uninstall scenario for me.
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I think the real problem with it is the immersion that it breaks you off. If I die that's when I go to get a drink or something.

The easiest way to counter the immersion break is by figuring out how to explain why you just called something dying and you aren't permanently dead. Some games call it a knock out, but then they send you back to the beginning any how and breaks there... but if you take the route of what City of Heroes (explained when you hit 0hp there is an auto-teleport safety device that brings you to the nearest hospital for healing) does or what DC Universe online (you are knocked out and have to wait an amount of time before reviving where you are)is going to have you take a step closer to keeping a player immersed in the game.

Apply something like this to spy games, where you have the knockout/death be more realistic and what you end up with is a sorta lives system where you get knocked out and brought to a prison for questioning as a spy would, but if you don't succeed after a number of attempts you get killed permanently. Combine that with save points and you have an excellent system to keep a person immersed in the world, provide that challenge, but allow players to have that natural break from the game with the save points.
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The only way to avoid death is, believe it or not, avoiding permanently killing the player. You can auto-reload from the latest safe place like the latest PoP does, recreate a new character like fable or (gasp) make a game where you cannot die.

While that last one rules out kill-or-be-killed games it actually works in puzzle games and platform-games. However in the platformer, if you managed to fall down and would have to replay the last 20 minutes it would be as frustrating as being killed. This could be combated by a transporter(autosave in-game) or by simply not allowing the player to loose more than say 5 minutes by smart leveldesign such as one-way platforms.

Another solution is to actually include death in the gameplay and to treat it as part of the experience. I'm toying with the game-idea of escaping/surviving in a zombie-infested town. Create a character like in the sims, meet up with other (dynamically generated) NPCs and have them join your group. When your character dies you assume control of your best fried or loose the game.
The basic idea behind it is that in a zombie-movie even if all the characters died you would still have had a great time.

Gustav (happy now? :) )
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You know, another game handled death interestingly is Legacy of Kain: Sou Reaper. Raziel when he died he moved over to the spectral realm and after sucking in enough souls could revive... that was a cool game play feature.
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Original post by Sandman
Death in games is generally such a pointless affair; a short trip to the Load Save Game screen, followed by a small bit of frustration at having to redo part of the game, and then you're back to where you were.

What is particularly interesting about this point, and identified in OrangyTang's player-story, is the failure of death as a game mechanic to actually force a player to adjust their play style. It is interesting because death as a mechanic is applied broadly across all methods of failure. A player who charges in recklessly receives the same response from the game as a player who runs out of ammo at a bad time.

Which begs the question: Are some of the issues resulting from death as a mechanic a failure of a mechanic, or a fault of the broad application of it?

Should we be applying separate mechanics based on the conditions of failure?
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Original post by nuvem
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Original post by Sandman
Death in games is generally such a pointless affair; a short trip to the Load Save Game screen, followed by a small bit of frustration at having to redo part of the game, and then you're back to where you were.

What is particularly interesting about this point, and identified in OrangyTang's player-story, is the failure of death as a game mechanic to actually force a player to adjust their play style. It is interesting because death as a mechanic is applied broadly across all methods of failure. A player who charges in recklessly receives the same response from the game as a player who runs out of ammo at a bad time.

Which begs the question: Are some of the issues resulting from death as a mechanic a failure of a mechanic, or a fault of the broad application of it?

Should we be applying separate mechanics based on the conditions of failure?


An interesting idea, but do you not think by singling out strategies and reward/punishing them differently would be counter-productive. If I want to throw all caution to the wind, why should I punished for playing in that particular play style? You would end of forcing players to play the system, tricking it in to always giving a leaner penalty for failure. Also, it would be virtually impossible to make a perfect system, so there would always be times when this just made the game more frustrating when you felt that the death was just unlucky, but you got punished on the basis of you being reckless.

Thomas Kiley
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Original post by thk123
Quote:
Original post by MaulingMonkey
They'll get to do exciting risk taking things. Not because they're risking having to grind another million EXP, but because they're risking being dead to the world of the game. Gone. Downright proper.

At least for a minute ;-).

-- Michael B. E. Rickert


Or, they'll not do anything even slightly risky out of fear of being blocked out of a game they paid for.


Even if they're about to log out for lunch for an hour / to sleep until the next day / to go on vacation for the week?

Quote:
Original post by Sandman
Quote:
Original post by MaulingMonkey
Don't let them back in game for, say, an hour. Maybe a day. Maybe a week if you're a real bastard (I know I am!). Make death something to be feared...


That would annoy me even more than having to do a whole chunk of the game all over again. Discovering a game had a death system like that would be an instant uninstall scenario for me.


What if it were applied at a per-character level? It seems like a better alternative than permadeath proper -- if you die on account of, say, lag, it's not the end of your character. I can see some people preferring to take the XP hit, though.
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Original post by MaulingMonkey
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Original post by thk123
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Original post by MaulingMonkey
They'll get to do exciting risk taking things. Not because they're risking having to grind another million EXP, but because they're risking being dead to the world of the game. Gone. Downright proper.

At least for a minute ;-).

-- Michael B. E. Rickert


Or, they'll not do anything even slightly risky out of fear of being blocked out of a game they paid for.


Even if they're about to log out for lunch for an hour / to sleep until the next day / to go on vacation for the week?



I'm afraid I don't really see that as a valid argument. Are you saying players should build their game strategy around when they plan to take breaks from the game. Even assuming that that is OK, doesn't that take away all the good parts from the mechanic. Surely it looses all threat if your saying that players will only die when they intend to take a break anyway?

Thomas Kiley

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Original post by nuvem
What is particularly interesting about this point, and identified in OrangyTang's player-story, is the failure of death as a game mechanic to actually force a player to adjust their play style. It is interesting because death as a mechanic is applied broadly across all methods of failure. A player who charges in recklessly receives the same response from the game as a player who runs out of ammo at a bad time.

Which begs the question: Are some of the issues resulting from death as a mechanic a failure of a mechanic, or a fault of the broad application of it?

Should we be applying separate mechanics based on the conditions of failure?


An interesting idea, but do you not think by singling out strategies and reward/punishing them differently would be counter-productive. If I want to throw all caution to the wind, why should I punished for playing in that particular play style? You would end of forcing players to play the system, tricking it in to always giving a leaner penalty for failure. Also, it would be virtually impossible to make a perfect system, so there would always be times when this just made the game more frustrating when you felt that the death was just unlucky, but you got punished on the basis of you being reckless.


I didn't mean to specifically focus on play style alone, it was merely an example of one of many failures that are met with a single mechanic. One could also consider non-combat failures such as missing a jump.

Note also, that if you throw caution to the wind in a game where such behaviour was not desired, as in OrangyTang's example of the Quake player in Bioshock, you are often punished anyway.

That said, you make a good point: if the player can game the system, they will most certainly take the least punishing failure.
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Once again, awesome topic, mittens.

One thing that strikes me about this discussion is why death has to be considered failure. Why is death not the right end to your particular experience in the game? I think we design with the mentality that death is something bad that the hero shouldn't experience. Yet in many stories death is the right and even fitting end to the hero's tale.

What would happen if we took note of and tallied the player's actions and then gave them an account of their impact on the world? What if dying at different points in the game achieved different results than never dying at all? Would it still be a failure?

Consider an HP Lovecraftian survival horror environment, for instance, or a noir detective setting where the hero must die. Every ending, even the "good ones" result in death. Given such a setting the player would experience a range of deaths/endings, some more satisfying than others. Forms of death might be forms of exploration of outcomes.

Or consider a Halo 1 clone with a persistent world where if the player dies he continues on as another Spartan. At stake are the dwindling lives of all the marines to be rescued as well as all life itself (the destruction of the Halo). Death might mean the difference between key characters and larger numbers of marines being saved, but it does not automatically follow that death should be failure. What if, instead, the player can opt to suicide in order to save Captain Keyes at the expense of Sarge, and by doing so create a different story outcome than if they were to have survived? Provided there is some sense of constancy, the player's actions could generate narrative outcomes that range from a Pyrrhic victory of saving only themselves (the real Halo 1 ending) to getting everybody off alive no matter how many cyborg parts littered the ground.

Now I realize that this concept does some violence to the notion of linear storytelling. But as long as the designer doesn't demand rigid control and allows some interpretation, I think there are creative ways around that problem. Cutscenes that use the game engine rather than prerendered movies, for instance, would allow greater flexibility in depicting the changed world that the player's death would have brought about.

I also think this idea can be treated separately from how easy it is to actually die. It is perfectly possible to remove deadfalls, minefields or other insta-kill items from a level. But it's not necessary. Rather it would be more important to ask, "How would this challenge allow the player to die a meaningful death?"

-Wavinator (aka Aaron Miller)
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Hi, I again think that the original question could be better framed and introduced. Part of the reason is that "death" is a colorful word. It is so colorful that it distract one's thought away from the fundamental question.

Ignore the word "death" for the moment, and consider these implementations:


Method 1) Withholding Content until good performance is detected

Method 2) Terminating Activity when a bad decision is made

Method 3) Providing Evaluation to completed performance.


The question was which style is more productive in making a player learn a gaming skill. It was implied in the original post that the objective of a designer need not be to encourage a player to improve their skill. It was implied that such an objective is optional. But suppose a design objective is to let the player effectively learn a gaming skilling, which method would you use?

The learning method depends on the nature of the skill or lesson that the designer wants to teach.

Method 1: Withholding Content

This method has a property where the game forces the player to learn something before moving on to the next concept. This is the type of implementation one would use in a tutorial, where the game goes through each elementary aspect of the game. The game makes sure that the player is properly introduced before releasing the player to engage in the wild world. This works in a game world where a player that has not learned the basic skills will fail miserably in the game world.

This is the method I would use in a game like Bunnies World as described in the other thread. To succeed in that game world, the player must learn how to feed themselves before they get to do anything else, since all other activities would require that basic skill. Next, I make sure that the learns how to survivie predator attacks. That is the second fundamental survival skill. Without it, the player's gaming experience will be miserable.

When the game is analyzed like this, "Death" in the sense in the original post is equivalent to "Failure to Level Up" in Bunnies World. They are the equivalent ways to withhold content.

The logical requirement of this system is that the player must accept that understand the fundamentals is necessary to play the game. In the actual implementation the player would be introduced to some key points about the game world so that they know what it is that they are suppose to learn.


Method 2: Terminating Activity

This method is a type of feedback that in some sense defines the skill but defining what is not. For example, in a survival game, the skill is the skill to survive. This necessarily implies that there is some notion of death that is undesirable. If the bunny become invulnerable to all attacks, there will be no notion that the bunny is in a world about survival. "Death" in this sense is part of the feedback system required to define the skill.

This method is similar to 1, except that there is no withholding of contents so when this method is used alone, and the player did something "wrong", the player may not have a good understanding of what the mistake was. In some games it might be obvious, in some games it might not be. In the case of Method 1, the player can narrow down the reasons because the player has some knowledge that part of its action were right.

Games that have Terminaing Activity in general do not necessarily share the design objective to train the player to become a good player. The game could be designed to simply reward the players that figure out the skills.



Method 3: Evaluating Performance

This is another type of feedback that primarily tells what the player has done right. When a game is sufficiently open-ended, this could be hard to do. The game may not be able to tell the player what he did that was right, it might only be able to tell that the result is good.

In Bunnies World the performance indexes are number of babies raised and the number of predator attacks evaded. A player could compare his own evasion stats and that of others:

Your Stats:

Fox: 15 Hit, 20 Miss
Hawk: 7 Hit, 0 Miss
Snake: 6 Hit, 0 Miss

Stranger Bunny's Stats:

Fox: 30 Hits, 80 Miss
Hawk: 20 Hit, 20 Miss
Snake: 20 Hit, 2 Miss

When a player finds a difference the player could wonder what it is that makes the other player do better. In the example above, it seems that the stranger had figured out how to dodge hawks, but is still learning how to dodge snake attacks.

A more general example of Method 3 occurs in racing games. In normal racing game, crashing doesn't remove the player from the race. The performance evaluation is the time it takes the player to finish the race. But without comparison, the players does not necessarily know whether his performance is good or bad. A racing game with a Method 3 system would tune the AI cars such that the player is possible to win first-place. So that the rank could be a comparison. But until the player compares the actual time with others.


Motivation to Learn

The following specifically describe what it is that keeps the player playing the game with respect to each method. Motives such as being able to earn money from the game, or being able to brag about an achievement in a social context are shared among them and are not highlighted.

Method 1: Withholding Content

o New Content

The player wants to do better because he wants to play with the new content that will become available if his skill level is approved. The game itself could exist in a form where understanding the fundamentals is required to understand the conflict of the higher contents to enjoy them. Once the player had demonstrated competence the player should be allowed to move on. The effect of this motivation runs out at the end when there is no more new content withheld. The exception is when the player could create content using skills. The form of new created content could be a social experience of an event.

If only a fraction of the population could attain the higher contents, the status of having them could be a social motivation.


Method 2: Terminating Activity

o Completion of a Task

The player simply wants to complete it. The player simply wants to win. This is the mentally for players that would skip cutscenes after beating the boss. To them, the "content" that is the reward is irrelevant. They just enjoy beating the challenges.


Method 3: Evaluating Performance

o Beating one's self

Without comparisons, the player must be self-motivated to challenge themself. Otherwise, this Method implemented alone has no effect on unlocking better ending, new item, etc. The only difference between beating the game poorly or in excellence is in the non-consequential stats.

o Social Status

This motivation is share by all three, but when the game has evaluations, sometimes it makes it easier for player to compare among themselves. For instance, if a racing game has no sense of trial time, then for two players to tell who is better, they would have to race each other. In a game with Evaluations they could just compare the stats. So this method assists in establishing social status, when the players agree that the stats holds value. The other two forms might only give a boolean when used in comparisons. This form gives a more graduated value.
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I feel there are two issues here:

1. Death as a mechanic

2. Death as a concept

Both of these have very interesting ideas on how to approach them.

'Death as a mechanic' explores the risk/reward scenario, and how exactly a player should be punished for failing an objective.
I think we all agree that there must be some sort of risk in a game, regardless if that is restarting a level, respawning at a base, or simply having to climb up to make make a jump again.

'Death as a concept' is a little more interesting because it requires quite a different gameplay experience then most of us are used to. It's an interesting idea to explore the concept of death and base a game around it.
What really happens when our character dies?

Take the game "Karoshi Suicide Salaryman" for example. The whole point of the game is to kill yourself. The actual game design is nothing new, (figure out the puzzle, proceed to next room.) however the context it is put in makes it new and exciting.
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Quote:
Original post by thk123
Quote:
Original post by MaulingMonkey
Quote:
Original post by thk123
Quote:
Original post by MaulingMonkey
They'll get to do exciting risk taking things. Not because they're risking having to grind another million EXP, but because they're risking being dead to the world of the game. Gone. Downright proper.

At least for a minute ;-).

-- Michael B. E. Rickert


Or, they'll not do anything even slightly risky out of fear of being blocked out of a game they paid for.


Even if they're about to log out for lunch for an hour / to sleep until the next day / to go on vacation for the week?



I'm afraid I don't really see that as a valid argument. Are you saying players should build their game strategy around when they plan to take breaks from the game. Even assuming that that is OK, doesn't that take away all the good parts from the mechanic. Surely it looses all threat if your saying that players will only die when they intend to take a break anyway?

Thomas Kiley


Well, we're postulating a player that's risk-adverse enough that they're already (trying to) remove all threat -- and that threat will remain until they draw near to whenever they decide to take their break.

And, yeah, the risk will be less at the end. But is that a problem? I'd see it as more of a reward: for someone like me who would be taking risks in the middle of the game, if I've managed to survive this long, and before I log off I can take an even bigger gambit than I normally would risk without penalty. The carebear in turn is rewarded by a similar chance, although their rewards up to this point would presumably be less -- nothing ventured nothing gained, after all.

If the gambit fails, I've still "lost", I'm still "dead", that doesn't change. But if the gambit succeeds, the fact that your progress wasn't being held as hostage doesn't detract from the glory of the win.
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What if it were applied at a per-character level? It seems like a better alternative than permadeath proper -- if you die on account of, say, lag, it's not the end of your character. I can see some people preferring to take the XP hit, though.


That's better; at least I have the choice as to whether I should play something else instead, rather than being forced to.

However, I still don't really like it. It's basically giving me a choice between leaving the game, starting from the beginning with an alternative character just to pass the time until I can play my main character again, or if it's single player or otherwise handled client side, changing my system clock to avoid the 'punishment' altogether. None of those options strike me as desirable.

How about rewarding the player for NOT dying/failing? Achievements and similar mechanics work well here, and appeal to the right demographic; casual players won't care if they don't get the "Completed on Super Impossible Difficulty Without Dying" Achievement, but the more hardcore demographic who want that challenge and sense of danger can strive for it.
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If a player dies, it can be assumed that they were overwhelmed by an enemy or enemies and lacked the skill to overcome them. So how about punishing by diminishing their skill as opposed to restarting a whole level? For example, if a player was in the middle of a spellcasting and got jumped by a group of enemies and therefore was defeated, then that spell decrease in some way. It could decrease in power or range or just take longer to cast. In this way you are forcing the player to learn from his mistake and develop a different strategy or even use techniques that the player has been ignoring.

The player is then forced to be a thinking, strategizing immortal as opposed to a brute force immortal. The player is more aware of his arsenal and his enemies. The reward will be knowing that enemies can be "expertly" defeated. The punishment will be the "death" of his skills not himself.
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