Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Death Penalties

Recently there has been some commentary about death penalties. There are some people who feel that the current penalties are too low.

My question is:

Why is it so important to punish failure?

I mean, you shouldn't reward failure, but I don't really see the need to punish failure either.

No one really wants to fail. And failure is often obvious. Your character is dead on the ground and you have a corpse run. You can't really miss the fact that you failed.

Do high death penalties really make players better, or do they just make players more cautious? It's arguable that one of flaws of lower tier raid guilds is that they don't fail enough. They'll wipe 5 times and then call it, or move on to something easier. While a high end guild might wipe 200+ times when learning a really hard fight. I don't think that an even greater death penalty would help these guilds, and it might actively hurt them.

What you do want to keep in check is the ability to fail with partial success, so that several failures add up to a success. The ability to zerg something needs to be carefully watched. But that can be done without harsh death penalties. Quest timers, group respawns, instances that prevent you from zoning in while a fight is in progress, requirements that you do X without dying, etc.

Of course, you do have to be careful with this. If quest progress was wiped on death, and you had a quest to kill 100 boars, it would really, really suck if you died on the 99th boar.

Of course, some people insist that punishing failure in raid groups is the appropriate way to go, like docking DKP for making mistakes. But is the punishment the key driver of improvement, or is it the fact that the mistake was specifically identified and called out, giving the player the feedback necessary to improve?

I don't think that actively punishing failure works when the player wants to succeed. So I don't think that death penalties need to be harsher, and if anything, they could stand to be easier.


  1. I think death penalty is ok as it is, what the game lacks is death threat. Monsters in the world should be dangerous. There is no point in becoming a deathly fighter if the world has no threat.

    Back in vanilla, the world was much more dangerous. You couldn't skip to high level zones as normal mobs ripped you to shreds in seconds.

    And even at the appropriate level the mobs were dangerous.

    - Tyr's Hand.
    - The patrol in the eastern plaguelands was a guaranteed death.
    - The abomination in Duskwood.
    - The starter zone wasn't filled with yellow mobs, but red ones.
    - Un'goro raptors.

    You learned really fast that
    - staying on the road is the fastest route and not running through the wood.
    - going afk is a bad idea unless you're in an inn.

    And the game forced you to leave the road from time to time because there was a hostile camp on the road. Which increased the feeling of threat.

  2. Death penalties can be counter balanced by a rez that either mitigates the penalty or removes the penalty entirely. Kind of like the difference between running to your corpse or accepting the GY rez.

    Everquest used this mechanic. If you died and ran back to your corpse without a rez there was a penalty. Rezzes came in two flavors. The lower level one reduced the penalty to a lower percentage. The higher level rez was a 100percent rez. Meaning no penalty. There were restrictions on that type though.

    In EQ death penalties were a pain, but they did make you more careful. It wasn't the only thing that made you careful. There were no GYs either and no spirit runs. When you reappeared at your bind point (bind is same as hearth in WoW, but could be more places) you had to run back to your corpse naked.

  3. I'm of the less death penalties school. I have played other games that took xp from you when you died, like Diablo 2. If I was really close to leveling, I was really hesitant to take any chances. It got kinda boring to be honest.

    I also remember grouping with people in City of Heroes, that would flat out not run missions, unless they were a couple of levels below them. For fear of losing xp.

    In Wow, I wish they would res you outside an instance, instead of the corpse runs. They are just time sinks. Nobody really wants to die/fail.

  4. Braevhearth - Kelthuzad9:34 AM, July 08, 2010

    Personally, I think it needs to be set up more like Runescape (horrible game overall, AMAZING pvp system). There *needs* to be a big will not to die, that is what drives a person in real life not to die - a HUGE penalty (duh, you're dead IRL).

    In Runescape, If you died, you lost everything in your bag except your 3 most valuable items, as well as all your gold. This forced players to store valuable things in their banks (where it should be. Bank = safehouse), and only travel into pvp enabled areas with great caution. The double-edged side of this would be your killer gets everything you dropped when you died. This would GREATLY increase the nominal value of world-pvp, due to possible amazing loot.

    I think this reflects a logical balance with real life. If you got looted and beat up on the road to another city, they're not just going to sit there beating you up, over and over. They'll kill you and take your stuff and go on their way.

  5. I played Everquest back when you had to have a buffer of xp after hitting the max level so that you don't lose your level if you die a lot on a raid. Corpse runs made the game much more stressful and less fun.

    What we're talking about here is not a 'penalty' or 'punishment' but rather consequences. In order to make accomplishments more salient, there needs to be consequences for failure. I think WoW's mechanisms are currently sufficient. I wouldn't change a thing.

  6. Crime and Punishment, quite a topic.

    The Prisoner's Dilemma always turns out badly until reputation and punishment is introduced. That doesn't apply to death penalties however, it's about a social interaction.

    I'd argue simply having to redo the content is a sufficient penalty. When you wipe on wave 4 or 9 in HoR, what's the downer? Having to fly for 30secs, or pay a few gold? Pfeh, it's having to tank those bloody streams of adds again.

    I'd remove repairs entirely, reduce the cash drops from raids but keep short corpseruns. It's an enforced little breather. I'd substitute a 10s rez timer for solo corpseruns. That's just enough for mobs to reset and the red mist to clear.

    Something that needs to be brought into the discussion are buffs. Buffing can take a long time, would it be terrible to replace long buffs with a dispellable through-death aura?

    I might include some little bonuses. Say 2 EoF for a first kill, 1 bonus EoF for a no-wipe kill. Bonuses always feel better than penalties. Maybe another for no deaths. You'd have to wiggle existing droprates, but that's easy.

  7. Sorry to post twice.

    Meant to say, Kring has a great point. I'm practically invincible in heirlooms and quest greens. The fact mobs are so spread out now (to nerf aoe soloers?) makes it really hard to accidentally pull too many.

    I'd appreciate some epic zones, maybe with a daily hub. Monsters that get buffed every tier and have abilities you actually have to react to. BRD had plenty of faults, but I adored the feeling of stepping into another world - a hostile, dangerous, living world, with its own denizens going about their business instead of waiting to be killed. It has a pub, and law courts and a barracks. You had to chew off a piece at a time because the place was just too big for five people, even heroes.

    Totally offtopic but damn I loved BRD. The day to day of WoW is so gamist now, I didn't think I would miss the simulationist components so much.

  8. I'm an avid player of FFXI. In FFXI when you die the following penalties happen:

    1) You lose 10% of the experience needed for that level.
    2) You need someone to use a "Raise" spell on you that takes a lot of mana, and has a recast time of about 90 seconds. There are different grades of "Raise" spell, the best of which actually discounts the XP loss penalty from #1 by a whopping 75%.
    3) You have "death sickness" which cuts your HP down to about 20% for 5 minutes.

    The death penalty affects the gameplay the following ways:

    1) An inordinate amount of time and money is spent planning and preparing for the fights.
    2) Its very hard to get people to help out who don't need the fight.
    3) You're lucky if people are willing to try the fight even once more again if you fail the first time.

    Even with all that... sometimes I prefer the FFXI death penalty to the WoW death penalty. Your death in a fight becomes more heroic, especially if you're saving someone else from death. You don't lose money when you die. You learn to try again, but much more intelligently.

    With WoW its whether or not a repair-bot is there, or whether or not respawns happen, or whether or not someone "all of a sudden" needs to drive their grandma to the hospital.

    Then again, with FFXI I've definitely had those days where that one bad unnecessary death just because I wanted to explore a little farther than I should pretty much caused me to just not play for the rest of the day.