One big topic of discussion when it comes to any MMO game is its “death penalty”. Mostly this is because people want to know, up front, what’s going to happen when they are too stupid to live, but the other side of this is that most MMOs are specifically designed to kill you.
Its the one thing I find lacking in online games as oppose to the pen and paper games I enjoy with my friends. Yeah, Brian is actually out to kill us too, but he’s generally nicer about it so that at least in part its our own damn fault. But in online games, there are so many encounters that get designed to be killers, to the point where playing a game is more of an exercise in triage than an adventure. You can hear it in the uber guilds as they lay out their tactics in which they are actually calculating losses. “When the first tank goes down…” Not IF the tank goes down, WHEN.
To a degree, this is acceptable, when you are leading an army against a god, you should have some fatalities, but this attitude leaks over into groups as well, and sometimes you can even see that it leaks into the developers as they design expansions. Of course, the developers may just be reacting to player tactics.
But, is introducing permanent death and encouraging player fear of death the answer?
Well, yes. But not alone. The best thing about real life is that not everything kills you, even muggers. Sometimes you just get hurt, incapacitated and left alone. This should happen more in games. Why is everything not only out to get me, but wants to kill me and lick my bones clean? Why can’t some of them be happy with knocking me unconsious, stealing my money and leaving me pantsless in the woods?
I think designers really need to get more creative with defeat. Death shouldn’t be the only answer.