Friday, April 13, 2012

Risk Versus . . . Respawn? A Retrospective Look At Death Penalties (Or A Lack There Of) In Modern Gaming: Part 3

So far we've established a few very important points:

1 - Games with a harsh, mandatory death penalty can thrive.

2 - Video games are produced in order to make a profit, and therefore aimed at the majority of potential players.

3 - The crowd desiring a more 'hard core' mode of gaming, aimed at more risk with greater rewards is strong in numbers, but still a minority in the gaming population.

4 - The majority of gamers prefer a nearly non-existent risk/maximum reward system that favors casual gamers investing small, but consistent amounts of time.

With that out of the way, I offer my solution, and in doing so ask for two things: The first is that readers of this take a minute or two of their day and post some of their reactions/thoughts on my solution in the comments section below. The second is more of a plea for forgiveness - I need to use a common example, and it's hard to find a game more commonly familiar amongst the gaming community than World of Warcaft (WOW). Love it or hate it, just about everyone's played it.

Currently in WOW, when you die, you're sent to a graveyard as a ghost. Your equipment takes damage, and you're forced to walk back to your corpse (or the instance it was located in) in order to respawn and continue playing. If your equipment takes too much damage, it can't be used (it takes multiple deaths in a row for this to happen). Repairing your equipment is easy, go to a vendor, click repair all, and you're charged an arbitrary and meaningless amount of gold (the in game currency of WOW) in exchange.

I use the word meaningless because, personally, in the three years I played WOW, I never once worried about repairing my equipment in a monetary sense. It was just something you had to do, and it really never cost me much - even after multiple raid deaths at level 85. Gold is somewhat meaningless in WOW, anyway, because there isn't much to do with it aside from repair equipment and buy crafting materials to save time while mindlessly grinding trade skills. You come across PLENTY of gold on a daily basis, therefore eliminating the death penalty in the game all together - save the very small amount of time it takes to walk back to your corpse when you die.

WOW is a staple example of a game with almost no death penalty for attempting, and failing, to achieve. Respawn, try again.

What if that were to change? Suppose there's a new tab added to the character menu, call it 'difficulty', for lack of a better term.

On the difficulty tab, there is a paragraph, and a checkbox. It reads as follows:

Checking this box enabled a more-severe death penalty then the standard game provides. 24 Hours after you enable this option, it will take effect, and should you die, you will be penalized 15 % of your acquired experience this level OR 15% of the experience it would take to achieve the next level, whichever is greater. This is in addition to the normal death penalties which include equipment damage and subsequent respawn timers for multiple deaths.

In exchange for enabling this option, you will receive the following benefits:

Gold Looted +15%
Experience Gained +5%
Chance for a rare item or better to drop +20%
Whatever else you can think of using WOW as a baseline. These are examples.

NOTE: You may only toggle this option once per week. This option has absolutely no effect on deaths which occur in PVP areas or pvp-only encounters.

Summary: (using example numbers instead of the real numbers from WOW)
*Assume 50 is the max level, and there is no experience buffer to acquire once you hit that level.

Example 1:

A level 50 Character dies, he reverts back to level 49, with 15% of the experience needed to achieve level 50 remaining. Think of him as level 49.85 - get it?

Example 2:

A level 30.10 character (or a character that is level 30 and 10% of the way to level 31) dies. He reverts back to level 29, with 5% experience remaining to level 30, said differently; he becomes level 29.95.

There is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY TO RECOOP THE EXP LOSS, UNLESS you are resurrected by another player within ten minutes of your death. If you release prior to that period, resurrection is impossible. You either spend 10 minutes shouting for someone to come help, or you respawn and take the penalty. What if your entire group dies? Your entire group takes the 15% penalty (if enabled, see below for group rewards).

These are just examples, but see where this is going? The numbers need tweaking, but the premise should be evident. Better rewards for more risk.

Raiders are probably crying at this idea. But imagine having to only raid 1-2x a week to get useful drops, instead of 3-4x and hoping to get lucky. Why would raiders cry? Well, raiding guilds like to brag about how long, or short, it takes them to figure out a boss fight - dying dozens of times along the way.

Imaging a raiding guild that wipes 5-6x on a boss in one night. Those level 85's are now level 84's, and probably have a good amount of equipment they can't currently use because they don't meet the level 85 item requirement. (Lower all item requirements to level 84 instead of 85 to alleviate this and create a buffer for these situations).

Now, you might be thinking this could be abused - what if the raid looter had hardcore mode on - but nobody else does? Too bad, no bonus. It's all or nothing for shared loot - either the entire raid subscribes to the harsher penalties or nobody reaps the rewards. Watch how that culls the raiding ranks and forces people to either play and work together to achieve faster, or play casually.

Finally, a note on world PVP deaths and this getting 'abused' because I'm sure some idiot will come up with an argument. Here's how I'd code it if Blizzard gave me the job: If you and I fight, and there is ZERO NPC interference - no penalty is applied. If we fight and a bear comes and whacks me for 1 hp, I take the penalty. World PVP is dead anyway - disable this in shared world pvp zones as mentioned above, done.

That prevents people from trying to kill hard creatures, and then having their friends come over and PVP kill them for no death penalty and trying to trick the system. In short - if an NPC does anything to you, its a PVE death, and you suffer the consequences.

I think I'm done here. Your turn. Next week, I say the hell with the common examples, and I talk about how I'd design a death/risk/reward system from scratch if I ever got the chance.


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