mmorpg – death penalties

Ever muse about mmorpg design even when you really know it’s pointless to do so?

The death penalty in mmorpgs. Even the apparently wimpy one in world of warcraft – it’s always a fixed penalty. No matter whether you go ten levels without dying, or die ten times in ten minutes, it’s the same. And there’s no tension involved in it at all – if you die, here’s a penalty.

It’s hard to describe – but I think basically the question rises ‘well, what can I do about all the money I lost?’

Do better next time? ‘Next time’ would be a whole new character. Once your characters died/lost X gold, there’s no way to make up for that mistake. Yeah, you’ll earn more gold, but you could always have been able to be X amount of gold ahead than you are, but now aren’t. There’s no game to it – there’s no way of making up for that error and genuinely getting that gold back and being where you were before. And where there’s no game…well, there’s no game.

I had an idea and I realise now it doesn’t fully address that. What it was is fairly simple – each time you collect gold or whatever, a fixed percentage of it gets stored away. Over time, more and more of it gets stored. If you die, you lose all of this!!! Of course at the start, it was zero, but even after you slay your first monster, you now have something to lose.

The big thing is, when you get to a certain amount, ding! You get to keep all of it! And the amount you can lose is reset to zero…until you slay a monster, etc….

This, you can game. You can nurse your way through to a ding. But how traditional mmorpgs are, you can’t nurse your way through – you will eventually die to something and then your always X amount of gold behind. This idea strictly doesn’t solve that – you can die and always be X amount of gold behind. But it does provide something to game, rather than nothing at all except to eventually take the death on the chin again and again.

Finally, some of you might say ‘not dying is the game!’. No, it doesn’t matter how good you are at not dying – you will eventually die and you can’t ‘not die’ so much that you make up for any previous deaths gold loss (unless you can manage it that you never ever die, in which case I grant your point). I’ll put it this way – you are granted the means to lose(dying/gold loss), but you are granted no means to win. There’s no way to make up for losses from death. Imagine a computer game that only ever recorded your losses and never records your wins. Can you imagine the losses slowly but surely stacking up and…well, no wins recorded to balance that out?

I guess you don’t normally see that when you look at your gold amount. But if the death penalty of X gold is supposed to matter, then yes, all your losses do matter and are recorded while at the same time you cannot win to balance that out.

Also I have sleep debt at the moment…so I’m just cutting to the chase.

One thought on “mmorpg – death penalties

  1. Oh, this came to mind and might make it clearer – say you had this set up; if you avoid dying for X amount of time, you get a ‘life’, which allows you to die without gold penalty. You can earn up to three lives.

    Now imagine playing under that system, then it gets removed. And all you can do is lose, lose, lose. That’s what your playing now.

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