The Daily Grind: How could death be more meaningful in MMOs without being annoying?

Personally, I don’t think MMO developers should ever become complacent about game systems and copying them from other titles because that’s the way they’ve always been done. It’s healthy to reexamine why games do what they do and to be looking for better ways to do them.

So in that spirit, death systems. In most MMOs these days, the standard death penalty is a mild corpse run, a repair fee, or both. It’s not even something that I think about unless it sets me back in my advancement through a tricky area.

But is there a better and more meaningful way that character death could be handled in MMOs without being annoying? One interesting idea I had a while ago was that of a daily permadeath system: Every game day, each of your characters could only die once, and you’d have to wait until the next day to access them again. Yet players could continue in that game session by accessing other alts, encouraging a more diverse play between characters.

If you had to brainstorm up more meaningful death systems, what would you create?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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106 Comments on "The Daily Grind: How could death be more meaningful in MMOs without being annoying?"

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Space Captain Zor

If you want people to play your game, don’t make death penalizing and un-fun. Make it a learning experience while, as others have said, simultaneously making NOT dying a more rewarding experience within the confines of the game systems.

As Yoda said, “The greatest teacher, failure is.”

Develop a system of recovering from death that teaches the player WHY they died as opposed to the lazy choice of simply taking something from the player for having failed–ake time, currency, XP etc.

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Sally Bowls

I see the issue is the chilling effect consequences cause. It is why “risk-free” is such a common and compelling marketing pitch. And why “why don’t you try X, you may like it and be good at it” is not a compelling pitch in a permadeath game.

The bigger the penalties, the more constrained the playstyle.

An extremely common issue is RL interruptions: say you are expecting a call or a visit or you have a sick/fretful child/partner/pet. You can hop into a WoW-like, play some and if you are interrupted you can leave with little penalty. In the same situation, an EVE player with a $2000-to-replace ship needs to be far richer or far more sociopathic to play EVE.

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Dug From The Earth

Simple… the fewer times you die, the more rewarding the objective is.

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tiltowait

“more meaningful in MMOs without being annoying?

It cannot, those are opposites.

styopa
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styopa

Thank you, was coming to post exactly this.

You cannot have meaningful success without some pain to failure.
Failure cannot be meaningful without pain.

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Jonny Sage

Make games more fun in the first place, so that youre willing to risk a penalty. Themepark grinding is not fun. If I died fighting boars and had to wait 24 hours to play, I would quit. On the other hand, wormhole exploration with a group of corp friends in EVE is worth the risk.

This works in real life. People dont risk their life to fly on a plane from A to B. But they would to jump out of it.

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Schmidt.Capela

At that point, why not drop the fun game that imposes a penalty and switch to another fun game that doesn’t impose the penalty?

BTW, jumping from a plane in real life, the way common people pay to do it, isn’t any more risky than, say, crossing the street. There’s a huge number of safety procedures and checks, and the equipment itself is not only very safe but also redundant.

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Ken Hall

There have been some really interesting ideas here. In my mind, to make it matter at all, there has to be a real sense of loss (risk), so the trick is balancing that risk with the fun and making sure it doesn’t dominate.

This is something we’re currently working on for our strategy/combat mmorpg Destiny’s Sword.

It’s very important to us that we portray a sense of the true cost of conflict.
In our system, characters can be injured and killed (albeit rarely), and they can also suffer various mental health issues like PTSD, depression, anxiety, addiction, etc.

What makes injuries and/or death more bearable is the fact that we focus on social progression, rather than power progression (much like Brown Jenkin mentioned earlier).

This means that while the sense of loss of a dynamic personality on your team is acute (you get very attached to your individual characters as you guide their development), the punitive impact on your capability is greatly reduced. In fact, having a character die helps you bond with your fellow players, who can help you cover the gap until you can train a replacement.

We also try to make character death an ‘event’, by having the player do things like: send a letter home, pack their characters’ footlocker and then host a ‘funeral’ – a social event that other players can attend in order to gain social currency.

This gives a sense of closure to the loss and hopefully make these types of occurrences into shared experiences, that players can talk and reminisce about alongside their heroic moments of success as well.

I don’t think there’s an easy answer, but we hope we’re on a decent track to balance an appreciation of the consequences of combat with the fun of playing a game.

kjempff
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kjempff

That question is itself symptomatic of fail player mentality. I want everything and I want it no, at no cost and no consequence … -> and because I didn’t earn anything I am not happy with anything.
Being annoying is not a negative, it is the positive that makes it all have meaning.. from feeling of accomplishment to rewarding player skill to creating a challenge. You can’t taste the sweet if you never get to experience the sour.
Meaningful death only has meaning if it is a consequence.

Tizmah
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Tizmah

Don’t think it says that we want to remove consequences. It asks how to make them more meaningful.

Why is there always someone who acts like they are harder than anyone else? I swear if these type of people were in charge we’d still be building buildings like the Egyptians brick by brick instead of power equipment because it’s “harder”. Oh you drive a car to work? Hah! I walk 50 miles through the rain and snow!

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Cosmic Cleric

That question is itself symptomatic of fail player mentality. I want everything and I want it no, at no cost and no consequence

Or, maybe it’s just a recreational activity, one where the player wants fun.

Or should I hit my real hand with a hammer every time my hand gets shot in-game?

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Cosmic Cleric

One interesting idea I had a while ago was that of a daily permadeath system: Every game day, each of your characters could only die once, and you’d have to wait until the next day to access them again. Yet players could continue in that game session by accessing other alts, encouraging a more diverse play between characters.

Would suck too much to keep paying for, if you were playing a MMO like SWG, or if you really just enjoyed and had your mind set on playing a single class/main in another MMOs.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

.

A Life Less Orc-inary.gif
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Utakata

Here lies the partially digested body of Pwnd the Orc. Whose untimely demise ended up in a belly of scorpid while dancing in his skivvies during a not so bright troll of the Durotar chat. May he rest in peace… o.O

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A Dad Supreme

The orc giving the eulogy lol.

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Cosmic Cleric

The orc giving the eulogy

For some reason I keep thinking it should have been a goblin, and not an orc.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

She has such a pretty face though

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Rayko

I completely understand the viewpoint of people that don’t want any type of loss besides the normal time loss and repair fees that most MMOs use these days BUT, by far, the most memorable events in my almost twenty years of playing MMOs (holy crap) have been when significant penalties for dying have been in place.

First time I saw an Olthoi in Asheron’s Call I fell into a pit with three of them and my hands literally trembled as a scrambled to get away; thinking I was going to die and never get my corpse back. Going to the Obsidian Plane and seeing my patron come running back over the hill with about 30 level 120+ mobs chasing him Indiana Jones style as he screamed “RUN!” was exhilarating. Waiting with my Monarch and all his vassals in Cragstone for the invasion of shadows when the Shadow towers appeared. None of these would be nearly as etched into my brain if the fear of significant loss had not been there.

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Schmidt.Capela

Different people react to the possibility of loss in games differently. I, for example, don’t get a thrill, but only annoyance and frustration.