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MMO: Permanent Death

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Hi everyone,

I would just like to hear your opinion on the topic of permanent death in MMOs. I have heard of some single player games featuring permanent death, but I wonder how well players will receive a permanent death feature in MMO games.
My opinion on the matter, is that while it is a risky venture, I would definitely attract the attention of hardcore gamers and will definitely change player relations and interactions since the actions of one player to another can have lasting consequences.
I look forward to hearing your opinions, thanks and God bless :)

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Hi everyone,

I would just like to hear your opinion on the topic of permanent death in MMOs. I have heard of some single player games featuring permanent death, but I wonder how well players will receive a permanent death feature in MMO games.
My opinion on the matter, is that while it is a risky venture, I would definitely attract the attention of hardcore gamers and will definitely change player relations and interactions since the actions of one player to another can have lasting consequences.
I look forward to hearing your opinions, thanks and God bless :)


If death is permanent then death also has to be fairly frequent which means a MMO like WoW simply won't work with perma death, you want rapid progression and low player attachment to the character, the real progression has to be done on the account rather than the highly mortal characters.

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Don't forget to try typing permadeath into the forum search, as this is a discussion that has been discussed several times over the past several years.

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If death is permanent then death also has to be fairly frequent which means a MMO like WoW simply won't work with perma death, you want rapid progression and low player attachment to the character, the real progression has to be done on the account rather than the highly mortal characters.


Did you mean to say infrequent? Maybe I don't have my facts right there, but in my opinion, permadeath only adds value (rather than removing value) if it can happen, but really happens very rarely.

One thing that upsets me personally with almost every game nowadays is that you die all the time and it means nothing. You die, you respawn, you play on. Some games make you pay a little bit of gold for repairs, some games will give you bubbles over your head for some minutes. These games could as well just display a "win button" that plays a movie while you go and get a drink.
Other games will negatively balance game stats for a few minutes so you die again to the next puny opponent in an even more annoying manner (LOTRO works that way, and it's in my opinion the reason why -- despite having the largest, most well-known merchandise on the planet -- the game was never truly successful).

All in all, what does it mean? Nothing. It is just annoying.

In contrast to that, if death is permanent, it certainly has a meaning -- it means you lose everything you've worked for. Which, if it happens, is terribly annoying. However, it is also a challenge and makes the game a lot less boring. But, it necessarily means that death should not happen every few minutes.

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I have heard of some single player games featuring permanent death
Why not play these first? It's strange to develop a game and never play a similar one or one that used the same mechanics. Google "roguelikes".

Short answer: if you have permadeath the game time has to be very short and the death should be frequent and hard to avoid. It is not compatible with MMOs (except some very unique designs like die2nite).

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Hi everyone,

I would just like to hear your opinion on the topic of permanent death in MMOs. I have heard of some single player games featuring permanent death, but I wonder how well players will receive a permanent death feature in MMO games.
My opinion on the matter, is that while it is a risky venture, I would definitely attract the attention of hardcore gamers and will definitely change player relations and interactions since the actions of one player to another can have lasting consequences.
I look forward to hearing your opinions, thanks and God bless :)

The roguelike equivalent of a MMO is a MUD, some of these MUDs have permadeath installed. The issue with permadeath is, that it is only attractive to a quite small group of gamers. This is the reason, that you will almost never see perma-death integrated in modern AAA game design (some singleplayer games feature a perma-death option, i.e. torchlight, but this is just a little add-on to the core-game design). MMORPGs , even every modern AAA game, cost such huge amounts of money, that not one single publisher will take the risk to satisfy a small group of potential customers. Make a big AAA game and you need to streamline it to being almost a casual game (this effect will grow on).

An other effect could be harsh social communities. When you play a game with others and you loose some time because someone killed you or because of the failure of a friend, everything will be ok eventually. But once you invest money or lot of time, failure of friends or being killed by others will take the gamer to an other social level...

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This upcoming MMO Salem is going to have perma-death. From what I've read is that when a player dies they are able to create a new character that inherits all the previous characters belongings save for their skills and attributes. If they made it so that skills/levels aren't too difficult to attain and raise and at least 10-20% of their last recorded stats/attributes/skills are transferred over to the new character then I'm down with that.

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One of the big hang-ups with MMO permadeath is that the player is the base unit of the game, not the character. Social organization and cooperation are the core or a lot of MMO gaming, so if I go on vacation, and come back to find that all my mates have died and been resurrected a dozen times and I'm the odd man out because I'm still specced for the team we ran two weeks ago, then I'll feel like my investment has lost its value.

Maybe you could simply remove the social aspect. There's a weird social experiment MMO, called The Endless Forest where players are anonymous non-human animals populating a server with an interface that is limited to basic emotes and actions. You can give your little guy a sigil, some unique symbol that will allow others to keep track of individuals in a group, but it isn't a symbol that appears in any alphabet, and there's no way (last time I checked) of making any kind of a "buddy list" or keeping in touch with acquaintances. No guilds, no punk lists, no e-peen, the only thing that matters is what you're doing at that very moment. That game is a tranquil environment, where there's very little to accomplish, but the act of meeting people, interacting with people and then leaving them and forgetting them entirely is perhaps the social equivalent of a roguelike.

I just played a couple rounds of Starcraft II, and the matchmaking there resonates as well. I get chucked into a match against some random dude based on opaque criteria, we duke it out, I do a good job making SCVs but forget to keep up with viking production, I lose air superiority and his tanks faceroll me. End match. My stats are modified minutely in a way I can't really discern, and then I sign up for a new match. New opponent, new map, new chance. I harass with a probe, I expand, I mess up my micro and lose my immortals, then I just go balls-out on stalkers and colossus and win. End match.

No how about a game where you get to make a character, engage in a cooperative/adversarial contest and then resolve the session in one of three ways: You die, you retire or you "stable" the character for future use? It may or may not be set in a persistent world, but getting saddled with a random team based on matchmaking heuristics and then being called upon to play without any kind of direct communication (no voice, no chat line, at most maybe contextual utterances like you see in co-op Portal 2) would allow a player to immerse himself in the game and then emerge from it without a strong sense of loss if/when their character is destroyed or abandoned. You might add visible accolades and designations, like the insignias in Call of Duty, or you might black out all indications of who you are playing with and against. More or less complex challenges, different gear or options, all kinds of stuff could be "unlocked" on a per session basis, so a handful of experienced players might find themselves in a hopeless situation, on a decompressing spaceship full of angry aliens, and the episode resolves when one guy tells the others to get bent, shoots his buddy in the back and takes the only escape capsule to safety. Sweet.

A robust, versatile engine would be called for, and I think it would be totally acceptable for the vast majority of sessions to end in anticlimactic death for all parties. There's a Pen & Paper RPG called All Flesh Must Be Eaten (which I've never played), where it seems that every game must inevitably end with the death of all player characters, and the fun is in authoring your own last stand. Maybe you get devoured in the first four minutes, cringing in a corner, and then go watch a movie and drink a beer while your buddies wrap up the round. Maybe you go down under a pile of undead, pulling the pin on your last grenade while your buddies escape into the sewer to fight a little longer. Maybe you get a call from your mom and shoot your brains out so you can go eat dinner. Maybe you're the last man standing, with an empty pistol and a bent machete, pushing that Sisyphean rock until the DM tells you that it's 4am and your character had an aneurysm from hyper-elevated badassitude and it's time to go home. Any way you look at it, you need to be able to shape the game and the game world to meet and defeat the players.

The bottom line is, an anonymous matchmaking session-based MMO roguelike would work if the player could sit down, fire it up, have a rewarding experience and then walk away. Being able to share a persistent experience with people can be undercut by player mortality. But by eliminating the persistence of the characters, permadeath can be convenient and fun. I swap Skyrim stories with co-workers, and we enjoy the shared experiences despite the total lack of multiplayer in that game. Same with Dwarf Fortress--I'll talk to a buddy for hours about the time his complex clockwork drawbridge system malfunctioned when a cat fell onto a pressure plate and squashed all his archers. Make a game that provides an endless parade of fun, engaging vignettes, and you'll please players again and again.

I'd recommend an aftergame lobby, where the dead can meet to talk about what happened, exchange insights and maybe even peek in on what's happening since they died. Just be careful not to introduce metagaming opportunities that will corrupt the formula.

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[quote name='SimonForsman' timestamp='1324279755' post='4895213']
If death is permanent then death also has to be fairly frequent which means a MMO like WoW simply won't work with perma death, you want rapid progression and low player attachment to the character, the real progression has to be done on the account rather than the highly mortal characters.


Did you mean to say infrequent? Maybe I don't have my facts right there, but in my opinion, permadeath only adds value (rather than removing value) if it can happen, but really happens very rarely.
[/quote]

No, i mean frequent, the less common death is the more invested your players will become in their characters which is a bad thing for a perma-death game, You simply cannot kill a character that a player has spent a few hundred hours on since it will greatly upset the player and most likely cause them to stop playing (For an MMO you need players to keep playing), especially if the death was caused by something out of his control (latency issues, disconnects, etc), Look at games like nethack (Where permadeath is a core feature), Most players go through hundreds of characters before beating the game or never beat it at all despite going through hundreds of characters, death is expected, for an MMO i would only use permadeath is a pvp focused game where the faction you fight for becomes more important than your character.

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