Death Penalties

One thing every game has to deal with somewhere in its design is the penalty for losing. Some games have opted to have none, but in my opinion this leads to the “lemming effect” where player has absolutely no fear of losing and will repeatedly slam into a brick wall until the wall gives in. Other games have chosen to allow methods for the reduction of penalties, like clones, insurance, returning to your body, praying at your death site, etc… the list goes on forever.

Long ago, EverQuest had a very stiff penalty, depending on your level at the time, you would lose experience equal to ten to twenty percent of your level. On some levels, that was hard to earn back. To that end, players avoided death, and dying made them angry. Later, Sony reduced the death penalty enough that the last few groups I was in before I quit didn’t really seem to care about death at all. And of course, experience loss deaths mean very little when you are level capped and have a good buffer.

Other games, like City of Heroes, maintained the exp loss death, but also allowed you to continue forward progress, and you could never lose a level. You earn “debt”, and while you had it fifty percent of your experience went to pay it off and the other fifty percent went toward your next level. Sort of good, but it lead to people not minding defeat, which in a superhero game leads to a little more heroism (but a lot more stupidity). Of course, with CoH having a penalty actually helped because it forced you to level slowed, gain more influence (money), and be able to keep up to date on your power enhancements (store bought).

The one thing all of the games I’ve played have in common, and the thing I would like to see change, is they all have one kind of defeat. Just one. You die, you lose exp. You fall, you get debt. You are killed, you drop an item (Asheron’s Call). You lose, your equipment is damaged (World of Warcraft).

Why no variety?

What I’d love to see in games is multiple layers of defeat. Why must lose of hitpoints always equal death? Why must monsters you fight be relentless until they kill you? When a mugger attacks me in the city, why not have him beat me into unconsciousness, steal some money and then run away? If I enter hostile territory, why can’t they beat me down, then if they defeat the entire party, drag us to the edge of their land and leave us for dead? Why can’t I be disarmed, paralyzed, and laughed at?

I don’t see a reason for having so few options except that the more options you have, the more code it requires. Building a bigger box.

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