Of Death and Dying
After reading TenTonHammer’s Weekly Musing by David “Xerin” Piner, I got back to thinking about a topic that’s been on my mind for some time now… Death!
In your standard arcade games (Mario, Bomberman, etc) you had 3 lives. If you die you continue from the last checkpoint until you run out of lives, at which time the game is over. Sometimes, especially with the earlier RPG’s, you could save your game state and gear/items at a save point (Think Zelda, etc). You could continue from that point an infinite amount of times, but if you forgot to save at a certain point, everything from the previous savepoint was lost. When more advanced RPG’s and dungeoncrawlers evolved, new ways of dying and reviving had to be found. A fine example is Diablo I/II. If you died, you had to run back to your corpse, revive and then battle the hordes that were corpse-camping you. At higher difficulties dying also came with a penalty, namely an experience and/or gold loss. Ultima Online took this a step further and made your corpse lootable, meaning death to another player cost you your gear and everything you were carrying.
Diablo II also had another feature I quite liked, and the point to this article: Hardcore mode. In Hardcore mode, death was permanent. This changed the gameplay massively. For one it made you overlevel your chars in easier areas, trying to push as much gear on him as possible before venturing to the next area. It also made you avoid bosses till you were 100% sure you could handle them. And in the case of multiplayer games it made you paranoid as hell.
Now imagine if games like World of Warcraft, Age of Conan or LOTRO had permanent death. The implications would be staggering. In the case of WoW on a PVP server, StranglethornVale would cause more real-life heart attacks than KFC. Spending months on a character just to have him backstabbed by a rogue or pompyro’d by a mage would not go off too well. Raiding would come to a standstill… I mean who would go and pug Saurfang just to wipe and lose his hard-earned level-80?
Clearly the game mechanics as we see it in MMO’s of today would not suit this model. But what if there was such a game, a decently balanced game where leveling would be tough, nailbiting even, but not impossible. Where dying would mean that you screwed up and mispulled very very badly. Where most situations of near-death could be saveable – just. Where it took skill to stay alive and you could be proud of having a high-level character, even proud of having a high-level ghost; and losing your character didn’t make you want to throw bricks though your LCD but instead made you just want to start a new character and improve your previous best. Obviously there would be many hurdles to cross in a game like this, but if it happened, would you be one of the brave souls to play it?
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