Chronicles of Elyria dev blog: Permadeath in MMORPGs

    
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Announced earlier this year, Chronicles of Elyria is a startup sandbox in a sea of such sandboxes, but some of its features are rare even within the MMORPG genre.

Massively OP has been hosting a series of exclusive dev diaries from the CoE team at Soulbound Studios over the last few weeks to further explore the game and solicit feedback and questions, and today we have the next installment. This third such blog, written by the devs themselves, is presented below and focuses on the p-word: permadeath. Soulbound argues that permadeath isn’t over; it’s actually the next step for the genre and even ties into alting and the game’s business model. Enjoy!

Permadeath: The next evolution in MMORPGs

The problem? Killing is automatic

In most MMOs today, killing is the de facto way to handle problems ranging from the magnificent to the mundane. Ancient evil taking over the world? Kill it. A band of highway robbers stealing precious items from travelers? Go slaughter them. The local blacksmith has been shaving gold ingots and keeping the extra gold for himself? Go rip out his entrails.
People are encouraged to use capital punishment for everything. This type of behavior inherently leads to a sense of lawlessness and encourages griefing and other anti-social behaviors. PvP becomes less about achieving objectives and more of an automatic reaction to seeing other characters in the wild. In a world where every quest involves killing someone and all characters neatly respawn without consequence, what other conclusion can players draw than killing (even repeatedly) is acceptable?

How Chronicles of Elyria is different

When we thought long and hard about what we wanted to achieve with this MMO – dramatic story telling, rich, evolving history, a balanced skill based system, etc. – it became clear to us that the only way to achieve that was if characters were constantly cycling. But don’t worry, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we can make the process of death, and birth an enjoyable and interesting part of the game.

In most games death is what happens when your health reaches zero. Generally once dead you are teleported to some nearby recall point and have the opportunity to live again, usually without consequences, so you can continue your quest. In Chronicles of Elyria, there are actually three different things which most games would classify as “dying.” Each of them comes with varying degrees of consequences for all players involved.

However, we know that permadeath is a controversial topic, so we’ve addressed the concerns with several rules.

#1: There’s a difference between death and DYING

During normal play you can get knocked out or receive a fatal wound in which your soul temporarily leaves your body. Neither of those are permadeath. But each time your soul leaves your body your soul’s connection to Elyria gets weaker, shortening your total life span. When you reach your maximum age, you will sleep the Final Sleep and be no more. That’s DYING, which requires a new character.

#2: Heirs set you up for your next character

While you will, after 10-16 months, see the end of one character, your Soul passes on to your heir, providing a boost to that character’s skills. Thus each character you play becomes stronger, faster, with accelerated skills for more advanced play.

#3: Soul costs will be comparable (or less) than other MMORPGs

Yes, you pay for each life you play. Yes, characters will die after approximately 1 year of play. No, you won’t be paying for the cost of a new game at that time. Chronicles of Elyria doesn’t use a subscription model, so you won’t be paying $9, $15, or more per month (and thus $100+/year) to play your hero. Instead, expect to pay similar to the cost of an expansion for a life.

#4: Crime (griefing) is punished in-game

In Chronicles of Elyria, crimes such as attacking other characters is punishable by time in prison. The more time someone spends in prison, the shorter their playable lifespan, the more their skills atrophy, and the less powerful they will ultimately become. So, we’ve kind of removed most the incentive around griefing. This makes play more fun and eliminates some of the concern around player killers.

Stay tuned for more dev blogs from the Chronicles of Elyria team over the next few weeks!

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Tamanous
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Tamanous

Designing a game with life expectancy is fine as the genre needs some new and interesting directions. Basing your payment model around it is a no no for me.

jonny_sage
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jonny_sage

Koolthulu challenge

PompousPeasant
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PompousPeasant

One question though:  If you come back as a new character but have all your old skills and trinkets then the only thing you lost is your old character’s appearance
?

PompousPeasant
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PompousPeasant

LOVE IT!  KEEP TO YOUR GUNS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

BKone
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BKone

Nope.

Modrain
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Modrain

Dying in PvE or as a PK and losing life time/money is one thing, dying in PvP as a victim and also losing life time/money is another one, and the later ruins the business model for me.
When a player dies in PvE, it’s usually of its own responsibility, since a PvE death is almost always something avoidable, whether it is solo or group play. Things are largely predictible, and you’re given the choice to engage in it or not. You can do PvE knowing you could die, because you can assume its consequences, since it’s all about what you choose to do in the end. 
The process is similar for a PK, you choose to do it, you’ll assume the consequences with no problem, and if you don’t, it’s easy to avoid it: no PK.

However, being killed in PvP is not something you can avoid unless you don’t play at all, because you can’t predict how other players will play, when they might attack you, when you should be ready, etc. You rarely choose to engage in non-consensual PvP, it’s something you undergo. And with these PvP deaths lowering the life time, you’re building a correlation between the money spent and something you undergo, a player’s status of PvP victim.

The more you’re killed? The more you pay. Sure, the cost for a life is low compared to what can be paid in other MMOs, and for a single death, it’s probably negligible. That’s not the problem here, the problem is the mental representation of how the money is spent. When dying in PvP, you’re not spending your money for playing and having fun, you’re spending it because someone killed you. You’re paying a tax because someone did better than you at something you might not have wanted to do in the first place, like some weird kind of player-to-player racket.
I’m well aware that killing requires a specific process, and that it is is a rare thing to happen – in theory – but it does not remove the fact that it can happen, which in terms of image feels terrible to me.

I really appreciate that you’re trying something new, but I think you’re missing a point here. How you spend money can be as important as how much you spend, it’s part of the whole purchase appreciation process.

Dobablo
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Dobablo

I am starting to really like the sound of this game, but I do have a few concerns.
1) I’d hate to lose half a year of life because I’m getting repeatedly killed by a corpse-camping griefer. Something to limit the total soul damage than can be caused by one PKer.
2) If you’ve decided your character is getting on a bit and it is time to be reincarnated then it seems as though there is nothing to stop you going on a killing spree as you make your way off this mortal coil.

Craywulf
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Craywulf

I am liking everything, except the payment model. Perhaps if the cost was like $60 for 3 lives with expiration date of 16 months. I think what is scaring everyone is the fact that it’s priced per life. The risk seems too drastic. I understand the purpose, but players here are not convinced they are going be able to afford to play.

John Bagnoli
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John Bagnoli

JeromyWalsh John Bagnoli My problem is that the risk you are taking is actual money. What you’ve come up with is just a new pay to win scheme. Let me explain. Someone with more disposable income will be more likely to take the risk because by your own admission you could severely limit someone’s play time by constant death. You are asking for $15 to $40 per life (maybe you don’t intend the price to be this high but then I would assume you’ve not been looking at the cost for a game expansion lately) which could be significantly higher than your $100+ per year estimate. Depending on the mechanics of course and since it is early perhaps all those details are still in flux.

Not to mention, since each time you die your soul/heir whatever gets a boost up in stats, that person now has a leg up. And something even more valuable. Experience. Not XP numbers but knowledge of what is happening out in the game world. Which they have “earned” through paying you money. And unless you are randomly changing things frequently, this information will be valuable which again comes at a real world charge.

Now I know you are in a bit of a bind. You cannot say how much a death reduces your game time or impose a minimum. Because people will make the cold calculation that the most they have to lose is a few weeks or whatever it may be. Griefers and others looking to game the system will figure out the worst case scenario and perhaps determine it is worth the cost to wreak havoc. Then your entire system comes tumbling down.

Maybe no one on the team has ever studied human nature or played a MMO in the past 20 years, you have to be completely naive to think this isn’t a potential scenario. What you’ve done is create a perverse incentive, “In order to rise above the unwashed hoi polloi, I pay money”. Then again, maybe this is the business model, mimicking something like Clash of Clans were real money reduces risk.

And on a more philosophical point, what is heroic about opening my wallet and seeing if I have enough money to take the risk?

Wandris
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Wandris

DahkohtLewin JeromyWalsh RicharddeLeonIII $15 per month for one game with a guarantee loss of access after you stop paying vs a fixed amount for unlimited access for the remainder of the games lifespan. 
Subscription only games are inferior. Spending $100 for the base game and a few DLC packs means you could spend 10 years playing the game. A sub game you could spend $300 over several years and as soon as the amount stops being worth it you will have to pay even if you only want to play a few days a month.
F2P/B2P is getting what you paid for and a non optional subscription only gets you temporary access contingent on continuous monthly payments.
Subscriptions can be good if you focus on only one or two games at a time or can afford to subscribe to all the games you want to play but the best is a hybrid model which give more options not less. 

This new idea could work. The more you play, the more you die, the more you pay.