[MUD-Dev] Permadeath or Not?

Travis Nixon tnixon at avalanchesoftware.com
Mon Dec 11 17:27:09 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000

----- Original Message -----
From: "John Buehler" <johnbue at msn.com>
To: <mud-dev at kanga.nu>
Sent: Saturday, December 09, 2000 3:11 AM
Subject: RE: [MUD-Dev] Permadeath or Not?

> Then we get to the problem of bringing a character back in some
> deficient way: the 'meaningful penalty' that is touted as the value
> of this approach.  If I have just accumulated some accomplishment, I
> probably did it for a reason.  The accomplishment could be faction,
> money, items, skills, or even a geographic location in the world.
> When the player has that accomplishment taken from them, the
> decision is either to go after that accomplishment again or to
> abandon it.  Players are notorious for never abandoning a goal, and
> they'll go after that accomplishment.  In a game like EverQuest or
> Asheron's Call, the answer is to briefly powergame to get that
> accomplishment back.  The player has already experienced the gain
> and all the fun of having done it once, so the second time around
> it's not that much fun.  As a result, the players singlemindedly
> burn through the game to get back to where they were.

Just want to argue a bit about players 'never abandoning a goal', with
a little story about my own Everquest experience:

I have a dark elf character that I created the day the game came out,
and have been playing since then.  My goal was to be a member of the
Vale Patrol, which is an NPC group of halflings dedicated to
protecting the veil.  The reasons for wanting to do this are fairly
complicated but basically it boils down to the fact that when I
started playing, the Halfling NPCs in the Dark Elf starting area
(Nektulos Forest) were more friendly than the PC elves there.

Anyway, trying to make a long story short.  Becoming a member of the
Vale Patrol involves doing faction work.  And for a dark elf, it
involves a LOT of faction work.  I mean really, really a LOT of
faction work.  I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't any other dark
elf members of the Vale Patrol.  Let me just point out that there are
no benefits to actually being a member of the patrol.  You get a ring
that has a single charge of a healing spell that loses its worth at
about level 4 or so.

So, I get my Squad Ring, the halflings all love me.  A few months and
a few levels later, I go back to Rivervale, and the halflings all hate
me again.  Apparently there was some bug that reset your faction.
Having spent only god knows how many hours killing orcs and goblins, I
plead with the GMs to reset my faction.  They say there's nothing they
can do.

So, after much lamentation, I started over.  "Wait," you say, "you're
proving my point."  And actually, I do agree with you, to a point.
But on with the story.  I did the squad ring quest again, and you're
right, it was not nearly as much fun, and that was a very boring point
of my EQ life.  But I was Myrrn Valefriend (a rather odd last name for
a dark elf) by that time, and I was a member of the Vale Patrol,
damnit, so I had to get it back, and I did, after many more hours
spent killing orcs and goblins and other things.

Time passes again.  Mucho time.  About a week ago, maybe two, I went
to Rivervale, and lo and behold, my faction had been reset again.
Halflings hate me again.  I screamed, I shouted, I very nearly cried,
because this is a character I have put a lot of thought and a lot of
time into, and Myrnn just isn't Myrrn unless he's on the Vale Patrol.
I talk to a GM, he says he can increase it part of the way (which
would only take me about a quarter of the way back to where I was),
and supposedly did so, but nothing changed.  Maybe I'll ask the GM
again, maybe I won't.  Doesn't matter, because I won't do it all over
again, and I'm so pissed about it that I very nearly cancelled my
account on the spot.

So, the lesson here?  If you take the goal away too many times, the
players will give up.

> This is why I suggest game ejection due to death.  From a marketing
> standpoint, this would seem to be suicide.  No more addictive
> powergaming pursuit of the character's original standing and the
> desire to get ahead of that point.  Instead, the player is forced to
> face the fact that the character is unavailable to them for some
> period of time and that they need to go off and do something else.
> Maybe another character, maybe some other pursuit entirely away from
> the game (and the computer).  But for the rest of the day, they
> can't get to the character that died.  Want a deterrent that'll keep
> players away from lethal pursuits?  Don't let them play their
> favorite character for a day or two.  The time-tested 'Time Out'
> approach.

One quick comment here about "Want a deterrent that'll keep players
away from lethal pursuits?"

No, actually, I don't think we need those.  Because those 'lethal
pursuits' are, for a lot of players, the most fun.

Sorta crossing threads here, and still speaking about Everquest,
because that's what I've been playing lately, but there was a comment
in another thread from Brad McQuaid about camping, and how they're
disappointed that people won't 'do' dungeons.  But the fact of the
matter is, people won't 'do' dungeons because in most cases, it's too
dangerous, or the reward is nowhere near the risk.  And as time goes
on, it just becomes more and more dangerous, because as they're tuning
places so that they're a challenge for campers, they're completely
blowing the dungeon crawlers out of the water.  It's not just about
items.  It's about not dying.  To 'do' the typical dungeon in
everquest requires a very well organized group of the appropriate
classes.  Those types of groups really just aren't all that common, in
my experience.

But I will say that when you can get one of those groups together, the
way the EQ team wants you to play dungeons is such an absolute blast
that I haven't cancelled my account yet, even after being thrown out
of the Vale.  There's a dungeon some friends and I have been
frequenting lately (Kaesora) that is so much fun it's hard to believe
it's EQ.  But you know what?  Without a very well tuned group full of
members who know how to play their classes well, it's suicide.  And
that's why nobody 'does' dungeons.  I would personally say that
there's already too much of a deterrent keeping players away from
lethal pursuits.  No need to add more, at least not for EQ.

> Another aspect of the ejection mechanism is that there are no
> reprieves, no exceptions.  Death in EverQuest has become a managed
> commodity at higher levels.  You travel with a high level cleric in
> your group and death is little more than waiting for the group to
> finish up what they're killing and to click 'Yes' when you're asked
> to be resurrected.  It's an inconvenience.  I've gotten so used to
> it that I cringe when running secondary characters that actually
> have to run back to loot the corpses that inevitably find their way
> to the ground.  It's an annoyance.

Ahh, so I see you subscribe to the Aradune/Abashi/Absor/Basic Verant
philosophy that clerics are always available when you need them.

Or maybe you're just luckier than I, or have more cleric friends. :)

> Perhaps obviously, in a game world using the ejection mechanism,
> death cannot be as frequent an outcome of combat as is found in many
> current games.  It's a system that I'd like to try.  I think it
> would force game designers to make their games interesting to play -
> as opposed to relying on addictive elements of design - in order to
> retain players.

In my opinion, any increase of any sort in the typical penalty for
death absolutely requires that death becomes less frequent.  So I
guess here we're in agreement.  hehehe

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