Let’s discuss everyone’s favorite topic: MMO Death Penalties and Mechanics. I have my personal and passionate opinion. I know that deep down I want the penalty to be bad enough that death is horrifying. Death should be a penalty — yes, a PENALTY. I’m not talking a slap on the wrist or a chance to show off the world in greyscale. Now, let’s talk about what kind of penalty.
I watched the EverQuest Next Round Table video this morning. Omeed Dariani and Michael Mann discuss SOE’s very, very vague idea of how the death penalty mechanics should be approached without actually saying anything specific. Don’t be fooled, though. They might have said more than you think. Let’s look very closely at their comments.
- Death is risk vs. reward, enforcing rules, and caution
- Death should not weaken you
- People shouldn’t get frustrated
- EQ Next needs a viable solo option
- Grouping should be encouraged
- People can help you out if you die
Read on for my philosophies and ideas in response to what the EQ Next dev team has said thus far.
Risk vs. Reward | Caution | Rules of the World
The risk should match the reward. If the reward of success is a ton of experience, amazing items, and glory, but death simply means running 30 feet from a graveyard to get your body, then the risk and reward are not balanced. Death in most modern MMOs is viewed as nothing more than a slap on the wrist or a “try again!” mechanic. Whatever the penalty, it has to feel like the entire game supports the idea.
Avoiding the Negative Feedback Cycle – AKA Death shouldn’t weaken you
I agree. I think in a sandbox game it’s easy to avoid weakening people upon death. EXP loss isn’t an issue when there isn’t EXP to gain, so toss out ‘levels’ and you don’t have to worry there. Losing gear sucks, so let’s toss that one out. Distance penalties are okay, but your world must be massive and require people to bind far away. In EverQuest 1 if I was a human bound in Freeport, exping in Crushbone, the penalty of getting back to Crushbone was far worse than the experience penalty.
This might be tough to code, but what about penalizing the reward side? If I fight a monster that might given me 100 experience, if he kills me and I go back to kill him I only get 75 experience.
Utilizing the world might be the best option. Restrict where people can bind. Make the world feel large, and the character itself will never be impacted.
People shouldn’t get frustrated
The word ‘frustrated’ is horrifying for a marketer. The second a customer is ‘frustrated’ red lights start flashing and people rush around like they’re in a submarine filling with water. Take a deep breath. A little frustration can be good for the player. There needs to be that “UGH! I Died!” feeling because without there won’t be that “EEK I don’t want to die!” mindset. Whatever the penalty, people should want to rule out even trying a fight if the probability of death is too high.
EQ Next needs a viable solo option
Get out’a here.
Grouping should be encouraged
Grouping in a death penalty discussion is interesting. In the original EverQuest before I joined any group I always considered whether or not the people present would pose a threat to my survival. In many cases, I would see who I’m grouping with and suddenly have to “AFK” for a bit so that I could politely excuse myself from the impending fiasco.
EQ Next is being pushed as this super-social grouping game. Maybe reduce penalties in groups? Going back to the distance penalty, grouping with people increases the probability of being resurrected, receiving a teleport, having someone bind you closer, etc. Whatever the case, I completely agree that grouping should reduce my fear of death, not increase it.
People can help you out if you die
This is one of the best points because it implies there can be a penalty to overcome with the help of others. In the old EverQuest people could resurrect your body to restore experience. Others could drag your corpse from the depths of a dungeon to the front. You could receive a teleport from a kind Druid. These social aspects were crucial and an integral part of the social game.