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Idea for a hybrid version of Permadeath

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Hi all,

I'm researching ideas for an multiplayer rpg design, and I'm looking at penalties for when the player characters die.

I want a system which won't turn off players who have put in lots of effort to their character building, but I also want the stakes to be quite high, so I have come up with this system.

Players are given a "Sin" stat (or something similar).

PKing and other restless acts will add to your stat, but good deads lower the stat. When the player dies, their sin level is taken into account and the player enters a countdown. The higher the stat, the longer they spend waiting to respawn.

The players could even enter a hell, or a limbo stage of the game - where they are stranded until x amount of game time has elapsed.

Perhaps the sin stat could sink back down to zero after a long enough time passes without dying or sinning again - this way, innocent players who keep their noses clean, but defend themselves occasionally are spared unjust accumulations of sin?

I call it "Penitencedeath", a means of having a permadeath-esque element of risk, but without being quite as permanent.

The presence of a functional hell/limbo in a multiplayer rpg could also link in quite well to things like players cursing and hexing eachother. Player A placing a curse on Player B could result in a temporarily boosted sin stat... ...Demonic players who sell their souls for powers/perks/items must live with an elevated sin stat etc...

I think it could work pretty well, has anyone seen it tried before?

Let me know what you think.

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Sounds interesting. It reminds of one some of Richard Bartle's* ideas for MMORPGs. The idea of "morality" (defined in-game as anti-social behavior like PKing and excessive troublemaking) causing a little permanent stat degrading, only undone by doing 'pilgrimage' quests from temples to 'redeem' yourself and increase your morality rating.

The only thing I'd comment on specifically against your idea, is it has nothing to do with Permadeath (as no one permanently dies).

*[size=2]Mentioning him as someone who researches alot of MMORPG ideas and writes alot about them, not because I particularily agree with all of his ideas.

Personally, I'm a fan of creating ways for players to actually roleplay something like bandits or thieves, with networked assassin organizations and pickpocket organizations, smuggling networks, fences, and a black market network. This is completely hidden in the normal course of play from regular players, unless they know where to look and decide to build contacts with shady players.
Shady players with really negative morality ratings have bounties on their heads, are open PVP targets (once the bounty gets placed) even on non-PVP servers, and guards in cities attack them on site, but only if those guards specifically recognize the player (super well known in that specific city, or well-known nation-wide).

So you actually group players roleplaying criminal roles, but you up the actual difficulty of the game dramatically to meet how far they take their in-game unlawfulness (pickpocketting is less than murder, for example). Then you have actual methods that make sense within the world (Good players as bounty hunters, NPC guards, some kind of 'justice' system), to protect the civilian players from the criminal players. Then further, add additional methods for players to protect themselves (guilds), and further add incentives to play 'justly' (block access to certain areas, and certain quests, and certain features to criminal players).
But also make it fun (black market, criminal organizations/cartels, etc...) but increasingly challenging (real challenge, not artificial challenge), for players to play criminally.

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Here's the problem with the idea:

Look at any MMO that allows unlimited player agency, like Eve. Eve has, essentially, turned into a griefing game. The majority of players choose to play the 'bad,' guys, destroying other people's ships and taking their stuff. The NPC 'law' of the game is all but useless. At least that's how it was when I played, but I quit over a year ago because of those exact reasons. Hopefully they have fixed some of that stuff since, but given Eve's reputation, I doubt it.

Games like Eve prove that most players will choose the "bad," route in such games, because that route offers the path of least resistance, as well as the most catharsis. As such, the majority of players that join a server or area that allows PKing, are usually there for the sole purpose of PKing. For them, such a system that you propose would feel like punishment simply for playing the game the way they want to play it. This would result in a lot of player rage, and possibly dropping sales in your game because the players would feel as if they were being singled out simply because they enjoy PKing.

I'm not saying that your idea doesn't work. In fact everything that Servant pointed out I mostly agree with. But my mentioned example is something to keep in mind. Your system would only work in a game where the benefits of being the good guy and the benefits of being the bad guy are equal. One way to do this would be very harsh "legal" NPCs. I.e. somebody 'murders' someone, and the NPC law system basically declares them a murderer, and any other player may kill them for a hefty bounty (same thing could be reworked to only allow bounty hunters or player members of the law enforcement to kill them without penalty). This would force players who wanted to play the 'bad' guys to essentially form their own criminal underground, and could result in a much more balanced use of your idea, provided you balanced the system correctly of course.

I'm throwing these ideas very quickly, of course, so they are bound to have a multitude of holes, but I'm just shooting from the hip, so to speak. Another way to utilize your system would be to have it based upon a player's chosen morality. i.e. instead of a player having a particular morality forced upon him, he would choose a morality at the start of the game, and actions that violated it would increase your "sin," meter. This would allow the player's actions to have consequences without him feeling as if he is being punished. As in such a system, he would actually be rewarded for his playstyle, and only 'punished,' for things that deviated from it.

Another way to do it, is to cut out death altogether. When a player 'dies,' they would instead go to jail, or be captured by whichever faction killed them. They would stay imprisoned for the allotted amount of time, and then "respawn."

bottom line, interesting idea, but it would need a good deal of work on the underlying game mechanics to work without feeling like you're just punishing players who don't play the game, "Your way."

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I like your idea, although like many karma-related systems it does fall a bit on the preachy side. I have a few suggestions that may even it up:

1. After death the player has to complete a quest in the afterlife to be reincarnated. The quest differs depending upon what their goals are. For example, say you have good, evil and neutral alignments. Your alignment based upon your actions determines where you start in the afterlife world. There are 3 exits from the afterlife world, each corresponds to a spawn point in the real world: good town, neutral town and evil town. If you're really good you'll start near the good spawn point, and it will be quick to respawn in good town. If you're evil and want to respawn in the good town however, it will be quite a trek.
2. Same as above except the target corresponds to the "alignment" of your reincarnated self. Skills would be broken into good/neutral/evil too, for example lock-picking and assassination would be evil skills. Healing would be a good skill. Swordfighting and crafting would be neutral as people of any alignment may need them. If you reincarnate as "good", your evil skills will be "locked" or have a debuff until the next time you are killed.
3. Go the way SOTL suggested, create a simple framework for the community self-policing. Start with NPCs that do the job and PCs can replace them. PCs performing those roles have a buff or special weapons while performing the role, but can be voted out if corrupt.
4. Make spirituality a specific skill that can be practiced, or perhaps that is increased by other actions such as NOT constantly fighting. Spirituality lets you exit the spirit world faster. This means griefers either need to take time off griefing to increase their spirituality, or spend a lot of time waiting to respawn.

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I'm researching ideas for an multiplayer rpg design, and I'm looking at penalties for when the player characters die.[/quote]
Sending the player to another location (hell) upon death, doesn't really sound like a penalty. In my opinion PKing should be part of the game world, as well as permadeath. And instead of trying to prevent players behaving badly one should allow the players themselves to punish PKers as well as protect themselves from PKers. A system that allows bounty hunters and bodyguards would probably help here. Also, PKers attack players they thin they can defeat, so the less information about players your game gives to other players the better. If PKing becomes a risky activity (as it should be), then less people will do it.

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PKing and other restless acts will add to your stat, but good deads lower the stat. When the player dies, their sin level is taken into account and the player enters a countdown. The higher the stat, the longer they spend waiting to respawn.
...

I call it "Penitencedeath", a means of having a permadeath-esque element of risk, but without being quite as permanent.

To be honest, it sounds a little bit like being half pregnant.

I think that you need to distinguish between annoyance and fear.

When the only penalty is to wait longer, it gets just annoying. It is like grinding, watch a TV show while waiting for the counter to wear off. Permadeath is about the fear of loosing something valueable, you will only feel the full impact of permadeath after experienting the consequences.

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Sending the player to another location (hell) upon death, doesn't really sound like a penalty. In my opinion PKing should be part of the game world, as well as permadeath. And instead of trying to prevent players behaving badly one should allow the players themselves to punish PKers as well as protect themselves from PKers. A system that allows bounty hunters and bodyguards would probably help here. Also, PKers attack players they thin they can defeat, so the less information about players your game gives to other players the better. If PKing becomes a risky activity (as it should be), then less people will do it.


However it opens it up to griefers. A griefer could use an environmental feature (or a group of griefers could attack) with essentially throwaway characters that suffer permadeath.

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I think that you need to distinguish between annoyance and fear.

When the only penalty is to wait longer, it gets just annoying. It is like grinding, watch a TV show while waiting for the counter to wear off. Permadeath is about the fear of loosing something valueable, you will only feel the full impact of permadeath after experienting the consequences.


Good point. That's why my approach requires gameplay rather than a countdown where the player doesn't get to do anything.

On a different tack, there was a horror game... Amnesia?... where "death" means blacking out and being moved to a random location and all the monsters etc have moved. The "death" penalty was the fear of the unknown. Apparently it motivated quite well. So there are other approaches that motivate.

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Ok, here's a revision.

Penitencedeath remains as I suggested, but with a few additional features.

Sinners are assigned a bounty and capturing these players awards you their bounty, killing them does not increase your sin gauge. Killed sinners are sent to a hell stage, which could be made up of several rooms populated by fellow sinners, but nothing so interesting as to promote kamikaze tourism. An extra touch might be include a high-level spell which allows other players to visit the hell stage, to taunt prisoners, or as part of a quest.

Rewarding the capture of sinners would simulate the risky nature of a wayward playstyle and would also reward good players.

Perhaps to balance things, good deads could, after depleting the sin gauge, start building on an "innocence" stat. High innocence could increase your fortune, so your 30% chance of safely leaping a gap increases to 40% ect...

This also gives rise to a cool demographic of players, i.e. bounty hunters and vigilantes.


However it opens it up to griefers. A griefer could use an environmental feature (or a group of griefers could attack) with essentially throwaway characters that suffer permadeath.


Griefers doing this take care of themselves. If they kill one person, they are no big nuisance - if they kill several, they gain a high bounty, get hunted and spend a longer time in penitencedeath. Not to mention the fact that the only way to have a "throwaway" character would be to not invest time leveling it, this means that they would be using a puny low level character to orchestrate their griefing. This makes them less likely to get far on a killing spree, and much easier to dispatch by higher level players and bounty hunters.

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However it opens it up to griefers. A griefer could use an environmental feature (or a group of griefers could attack) with essentially throwaway characters that suffer permadeath.

It's the same regardless of permadeath.

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Sinners are assigned a bounty and capturing these players awards you their bounty, killing them does not increase your sin gauge. Killed sinners are sent to a hell stage, which could be made up of several rooms populated by fellow sinners, but nothing so interesting as to promote kamikaze tourism. An extra touch might be include a high-level spell which allows other players to visit the hell stage, to taunt prisoners, or as part of a quest.

My question is: what will people do in this hell stage? If you have permadeath in the game as well, you basically make this punishment stage useless, as players will simply create new characters and delete their old ones. I can suggest a different kind of punishment stage: running errands for others as a way to atone for your sins.

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My question is: what will people do in this hell stage? If you have permadeath in the game as well, you basically make this punishment stage useless, as players will simply create new characters and delete their old ones. I can suggest a different kind of punishment stage: running errands for others as a way to atone for your sins.


You seem to have the wrong end of the stick, my system would not involve any permadeath, just a variation of it. Death still involves being rendered inactive, but not quite permanently - just long enough that it becomes a deterrant concept.

As for the hell stage, I already intend for it to consist of a collection of menial tasks, like becoming your custodian's whipping boy in order to achieve freedom.

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Players are given a "Sin" stat (or something similar).

PKing and other restless acts will add to your stat, but good deads lower the stat. When the player dies, their sin level is taken into account and the player enters a countdown. The higher the stat, the longer they spend waiting to respawn.

The players could even enter a hell, or a limbo stage of the game - where they are stranded until x amount of game time has elapsed.

Perhaps the sin stat could sink back down to zero after a long enough time passes without dying or sinning again - this way, innocent players who keep their noses clean, but defend themselves occasionally are spared unjust accumulations of sin?



As for the hell stage, I already intend for it to consist of a collection of menial tasks, like becoming your custodian's whipping boy in order to achieve freedom.


Your idea puts me in mind of an off the cuff idea I had not so long ago:

What we need is a Troll Village. The person flagged for innapropriate behaviour, gold selling etc is banished to troll village where he/she must carry out a set of very mundane tasks (including interaction requiring active player input such as a math sum - to stop botting) for a set period of time. Such time increasing geometrically each time you are sent there. Completion of the tasks requiring interaction by the player ensures that the player stays to serve out their "time-out". As well an account lock that forces the player to only be sent to Troll Village until their time is done. The sentence persay should be served in actual real time of game play i.e. if you get an half hour ban - you need to complete that half hour in troll village and not logged off in another game whilst awaiting it out. A minimum set of tasks to be completed (without being over burdensome) in each time unit ensures that time is validated as having been served. Admittedly a wacky idea but it would be interesting to see if it sorted anti-social behaviour out.


While not directly related in terms of context - both systems seem designed to address anti-social behaviours by timeout aspects. I for one would be interested to see how it works if you implement it - good luck

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You seem to have the wrong end of the stick, my system would not involve any permadeath, just a variation of it. Death still involves being rendered inactive, but not quite permanently - just long enough that it becomes a deterrant concept.

It's not really a variation of permadeath at all. It's a variation of regular death in games.

Permadeath = You die, it's game over. Completely. Your character gets deleted.
Regular death = You die, and something happens to slap you on the wrist lightly.
Your death = You die, and something happens to slap you on the wrist lightly.

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I like the idea of exile for players who behave antisocially, but my idea (although similar) differs in intention.

The goal for me was to simply add a controlled element of risk to leading a roguish lifestyle in-game. As it happens, I think that the presence of antisocial players enriches a multiplayer game in some ways. (Note that my penitencedeath mechanic doesn't directly punish sin/felony/whatever... instead it heightens the consequences of failing).

In real life, dying is a serious thing, and as a result of this, dangerous circumstances and scenarios are viewed differently to in video games. Daring deeds like fighting monsters would be respected as brave in reality, but in a game, the ability to instantly respawn negates this.

I don't want a game where everyone behaves themselves obsessively, that would be boring. I do, however, want players to understand that picking a bar fight might with a bigger player might end with their character getting wiped out for a while (not permanently) - so that they can get properly invested in their characters' well being, and in turn excited at the outcome of things like a battle.


Permadeath = You die, it's game over. Completely. Your character gets deleted.
Regular death = You die, and something happens to slap you on the wrist lightly.
Your death = You die, and something happens to slap you on the wrist lightly.


If you abstract it to the points of "something happens to slap you on the wrist lightly", then yes, this is true - but that's looking at it from a sort of lowest common denominator perspective. The difference between your regular death slapping you on the wrist and my death slapping you on the wrist is, in practice, fairly significant.

I would also contend that having your gameplay hindered for a duration which correlates with your misbehaviour is not all that light a punishment.

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If you abstract it to the points of "something happens to slap you on the wrist lightly", then yes, this is true - but that's looking at it from a sort of lowest common denominator perspective. The difference between your regular death slapping you on the wrist and my death slapping you on the wrist is, in practice, fairly significant.

I would also contend that having your gameplay hindered for a duration which correlates with your misbehaviour is not all that light a punishment.

But compared to your entire character deleted, whether it be 10 hours of gameplay or 10 months, makes it very minor.
Plus, you're not hindering gameplay, you're just moving the gameplay to another location. Or else you're pausing the gameplay, during which time I'll do something else.

It's much closer to regular death in games than to permadeath.
Since permadeath only has two parts to it: 1) You die, 2) It's permanent
Regular death has these parts: 1) You die, 2) It's not permanent, 3) You suffer some kind of setback
Your death: 1) You die, 2) It's not permanent, 3) You suffer some kind of setback

The 'intensity' of the setback doesn't make your death any closer to permadeath. It's a different concept. smile.png

Many games also have intense setbacks of various kinds: Losing all your items temporarily, one or more of your items permanently getting deleted, getting deleveled permanently, getting de-buffed temporarily, losing half your wealth (I found this common in older single-player RPGs).

You're just changing the intensity - but not near as much as permadeath.
"How can I make death carry real weight to the player? How can I make it actually be something feared and carry real cost?"
"How about permadeath?"
"Well, uh, um, no, not that much cost. Just sort-of pretend cost that they can recover from through more gameplay or through the passage of time. Just fake cost."

You want to make it actually impactful and costly, but not enough that they stop playing your game, so you shy away from the only real cost: Permanently taking away of something that the player has achieved, with zero chance of getting it back (except through regaining it the way they originally got it, thus having to redo what was already done).

The only real scale of legitimate intensity of loss through death, is how much is permanently taken away from you. Anything else is an annoying inconvenience, or even an enjoyable diversion, but not a loss or suffering. It carries annoyance, not weight.

Your suggestion, while fine, adds gameplay, but not loss.
What's more impactful: Being teleported to some 'hell' level and having to spend time to get out, or having your favorite item permanently destroyed.

Some ideas to have real cost (as opposed to fake punishment):
1) Automaticly mark their currently active quests as 'Failed'.
2) Take away some or all of their wealth.
3) Take away their social ranking.
4) Take away some of their stat points.
5) Delete one or more of their items randomly on death.
6) Delete one of the user's skills.
7) Delete the character.

Teleporting me to a dungeon with a different texture on the walls is nothing. For some players, it's annoying, for others it's fun, for nobody at all is it costly.
The only 'cost' you are incurring is time, and irritation. Irritation isn't loss. Death in real life is feared because of loss, not because of irritation or time costs.

Your idea is fine as far as ideas go, but it can't really truly honestly be compared to permadeath in any way. It can't even be called 'costlydeath'. It's 'temporary-annoyance-death' at best. wink.png
And hey, if that's what you want in your game, and that's how your game works, that's fine! I'm not arguing for or against costs when players die - it depends on the game. I'm only arguing that this idea isn't related to permadeath, as it isn't permanent, and carries nowhere near the same cost.
As the designer for your game, don't delude yourself into thinking you are doing something that you're actually not. Don't let yourself rationalize or argue to yourself that your idea carries cost to players, because you wont be able to argue or rationalize with the players themselves that they should feel punished by it when they experience it.

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I think no one mentioned the Haven & Hearth system, an indie MMORPG that i think no longer gets updated, in that game, you have permadeath, but, instead of starting all
over again, you get a belief system between traditional and learning or something like that, getting the belief to traditional would lower your exp gain, but when you die, you'd keep a higher percentage of your stats.

If it was at the learning side, you'd get faster exp, but be really vulnerable to losing tons of exp at death.

Also, there is a skill called "Ranger" that let's you see "scents" of criminal actions, and if you wanted and the crime was bad enough you could teleport the player to his "heart" (a special item stored in the player's house or base) even if he was disconnected, to punish him for his crimes, the game is also a sandbox and completely community driven, there are special citys to trade and certain empires (you can construct buildings and entire citys/fortifications).

Some special griefers made almost impenetrable fortifications where no one could get in (only them via his heart) so that he could commit crimes at will.

EDIT: the game is permadeath, because your character gets deleted and you can't get it back, you can inherit part of the stats.

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There is one fundamental problem with high punishment for death. It turns players into cowards. It simply always pays of to play safe and cover all your bases and never pick up a fight with something that is more than half of your size. It's unheroic. It's unfun.

In roguelikes they countered it by the "clock", you have to take deadly risks in these because you are under pressure of time (you can easily starve, corruption generates fast (Adom), resources are not regenerating). But in RPGs you don't have such pressure and unlimited supply of rats and low level goblins. In RPGs permadeath simply promotes grinding and actually make excessive grinding the only reasonable playstyle.

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There is one fundamental problem with high punishment for death. It turns players into cowards[/quote]
No it doesn't. It just makes it obvious who the cowards are.

It's unheroic. It's unfun.[/quote]
You're mistaken. It's not the fighting that makes someone a hero. It's the possibility of loosing everything in a fight but fighting anyway. In other words, permadeath is the exact thing that allows players to be heroes, because it separates real heroes from the wannabes.

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In RPGs permadeath simply promotes grinding and actually make excessive grinding the only reasonable playstyle.[/quote]


Only if the game is a strict PvE.

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