Losing a Corpse in MMORPGs

Losing a Corpse in MMORPGs

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Corpse runs are an MMO tradition. The impact of death, however, and those corpse runs can be an extremely sensitive subject. 


The Pantheon twitter asks the following:

If your character died in an extremely difficult area, would you bother to try and get your corpse back or just leave it to rot and take the exp hit/loot loss? 

I think we can all agree that no one would leave an EverQuest body full of loot to rot. It's simple untenable. However, the topic raises a few mechanical discussion points.

EXP Loss on Death

I'm a believer in experience loss when you die. This entices careful, thoughtful gameplay while discouraging recklessness and exploitative play.

I have often left a corpse to rot at the bottom of a dungeon when the game still gave me back my hard-earned loot. Sometimes that 10-20% experience isn't worth the time or the risk of losing more exp.

Expendable Loot

When loot isn't the defining characteristic of your avatar, then losing a corpse is suddenly a lot more tactical. Irreplaceable loot requires systems for corpse recovery. If the game had a loot system like UO, then sometimes you go out knowing that a death might mean losing a sword or some leather armor. The decision then requires thought, and I like that.

If the gear I'd retrieve is not worth more than additional EXP or time lost, then I will happily let the expendable gear rot. It's still not fun to lose my gear, but knowing I can simply buy more from a thriving game economy is often the better road to take.

Hard and Difficult Areas, and Irretrievable Corpses Being a Thing

Let's take a moment to reflect on what a rare set of circumstances we're talking about here. Areas so dangerous and so difficult that you can't retrieve a body are rare enough in 2019. How many games design a dangerous, unforgiving world anymore? Not many at all. 

For those of us who can appreciate the implications of a tough world -- such as group dependencies, social constructs, slower gameplay, etc. -- I think we can also agree that permanent and game-ending punishments do not need to be present to still create the atmosphere we want. There are some penalties that cross the line and go beyond tipping the scales beyond a balance between risk and reward.

  • I hate XP loss on death. Surprisingly I’m more comfortable with UOs death system, in which you are given a chance to recover your corpse if you are lucky or quick. It was always exciting to figure out how to get past monsters or, quickly running grabbing some bandages and armor then kite the monster around while you pick up your weapons and gear piece by piece. XP loss is just so static and boring. I know that it will be a straight up cost me dollar. Both in having to play again something I have done for no gain and for the extension of the subscription. In UO it felt like a choice, leave it or go for it. EQ felt like a chore. Cities of Heroes was mind-numbingly awful. One of the best things about an MMO is the sense of exploration and discovery. Honestly out of all of the death areas I find WoW to be the best for its style of gameplay. Time spent not engaged is lowest. The cost is light, but where death counts (raids and dungeon bosses) it still maters.

  • I remember playing a Monk on EQ I did so many corpse runs for people some would tip me others wouldn’t but people were always very grateful. And I didn’t mind helping them.

    So yeah Having your stuff on your corpse is fine by me but give it a really really really long time or not at all so you can always pick it up.

  • I think WoW’s method is pretty good as well. it wastes some time, but not experience or gear… the difficulty comes with how far away the graveyard is from where you died… the option to rez but to get rez sickness is also a good one. i kind of wish you were immune for a few seconds when you first rez though, just gives you at least a fighting chance if you’re getting camped.

  • In old school runescape (my main game now, but dabbling in FF14 again for 1 month to finish the stormblood story) you don’t lose experience but you drop all your items but 3-4 items, and they can be looted by other players. I prefer this system.

    • Speaking on this if you die in the middle of no where there is a good chance you can get back to get your stuff.

  • Without penalties and consequences, and with guaranteed rewards and progress a game becomes emotionless,. Look at the pretty graphics, kill, kill, kill, listen to great sound, kill, kill, kill, end of game. Bleh. Last online game I played was Black Desert, a friend and I lasted two days running around and going through quests like water. I never died, ever. We quit after two days, even with beautiful graphics, giant lands, amazing sounds, there was no challenge, no penalties, heck no difficulty, just running here and there and back again over and over. It was a totally empty experience. EQ1 was indeed the last of the school of hard knocks major games, Camelot watered down the penalties, WOW even more, until dying is nothing more than an inconvenience to ‘getting on with the game’. To me dying is a major part of a game, or should be, just like in real life. I spent more time on the quest getting Ghoulbane for my paladin in EQ than playing Black Desert. One sword. A group took me to the quest room in Guk, much fun, danger, fighting, medding, hours just getting there, and after cleaning the room out left me there to kill spawns. Alone, all those killer frogs a few feet away, total certain death if I ran, or didn’t space the spawn killing out correctly, meaning my corpse and all my hard earned armor etc. was going to be there for a long, long time if I died. I was just high enough to last a few hours before it dropped. Some of the most terrifying hours of my gaming life, sweating hands, praying nothing would go amiss, absolutely insane fear. When I finally got the sword drop from the shin lord it was also one of the most satisfying thrills ever. No game, aside from 1999, will give you that emotional roller coaster ride now. I’ve given up all hope of anything approaching what we had in EQ. Though they could have maybe cut the experience loss in half, I did cry more than once due to that. 🙂