The Crime of Punishment

Shamus Young

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The Crime of Punishment

The Old Republic doesn't need to have a punishing death system in order to offer challenge.

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SpcyhknBC

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Nice to see this article back. I really enjoyed it, especially being one of those gamers who don't have the twitch reflexes that some of my friends have so fine tuned. Personally, I haven't played a MMO since Ultima Online and that game had a very similar death system. You had to walk your ghost to a healer, they resurrected you, and then you had to run back to your body to collect anything you wanted or that may be left depending on how far away you were. I hope Bioware follows a similar model, it's also kind of in the universe already. We see Jedi come back as ghosts many times over, but we'll see how this is implemented.

Also, if you're willing, when will Stolen Pixels be making a return?
 
Apr 28, 2008
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Agreed. It pisses me off that people see "challenge" as having to beat the same area over and over again.

Thats not challenge, thats boring busywork thats a pain in the ass to do. I can already beat it, why do I have to do it over and over again?

Shamus said:
(Welcome to my world. Do you know hard it is being a fan of good, coherent storytelling these days?)
Hey now, there are some companies(or company) doing that. And they're doing it with no DRM! Its like it was made for you. That game is The Witche-

Oh... right.
 

Koios

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I agree with you about the importance of the story. I was pissed when I played through Darkest of Days, a rather average game where the real fun is in the final level, only to find out that the story revolves around [SPOILER-ISH] a group trying to force the ancestors of scientists into fatal encounters, as opposed to just killing the scientist responsible for the whole mess before he does anything. [END SPOILERS]. It took all meaning away from the game...
 

JakobBloch

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Hmmm I think the image should not so much be the hurdle being so far away people won't go to it, as the hurdle covered in barb wire.
 

Baldr

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I remember my first death in Ultima Online: In those days, new characters were pretty much immune to death for 20 hours to learn the mechanics of the game. My 20 hours expired right after I was logged out. You have to be at an inn or a camp for an immediate log out or you stay in the world for about a minute.

So the next time I logged in and boom I was a ghost, I was attacked in that minute after I logged out and my noob timer expired. I had no body because of world decay, so all my items were gone.

That is a horrible system.

I don't like any system that if you die, you lose items. I know it may not be logical, but it is an online game. There are so many things beyond your control that may have caused you to die. Lag, phone calls, emergencies, power outages... just to name a few things that have caused me to die.

Should you be penalized for die, of course. Debuffs, monetary loss, and/or running to a corpse/graveyard/Healer are perfectly acceptable. Don't make them trivial, like World of Warcraft, make them steep, but not gamestopping steep.
 
Feb 13, 2008
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Hmmmm

Punishing games being no fun?



But yeah, I do understand that punishment can kill off returns, and that it doesn't have to be challenging, but look at Bio-Shock.

Challenging? Oh hell yeah. To a point.
Punishment? ...there is any?

Frustration level: Enough for me not to want to play it anymore.

See, the reason some of us want to beat something is that we WANT to sweat blood and tears over something. We WANT to kick in the door with 1 health, circle-strafe a Tank while fighting off the fliers and finally wrestle the Princess away from the bad-guy.

But that's not gonna happen anymore, is it?

See, when you lose punishment, you lose challenge as well. Both are things that will push potential revenue away.

DCUO is frighteningly easy to get thru the challenge (1-30), and punishment is non-severe, so within a week you have people on the end game.

Eve, Everquest have sick hard challenges, sick hard punishments and... still hold out against the Behemoth WoW.

WoW lets you sprint past the early levels now, and then stick into the HUGE, IMMENSE CHALLENGES, with pithy punishments.

That's a time-sink. And it draws revenues like a honey-trap.

I know that's why BioWare went for that model. It doesn't mean I have to like it, because in the end, it just makes games more safe, comfortable, and un-immersible. (That's the word I'll use 'til I find what the real one is.)

See, if death doesn't really mean much, you can use deaths. Hell, in City of Heroes we'd often use up a Death at level 50 just to get back to base; because it couldn't really harm us.

But if there's a punishment there, Death MEANS something. Death MEANS you fucked up. That's a player-learning experience along with red flashing lights for danger.

I'm not talking about having Challenge AND Punishment, because EVE puts me off due to that, and you're right - Challenge is Hard (Look how many people accuse Civ or Meat Boy of cheating), but that means we should be looking to death to punish us.

BUT...make those deaths avoidable.

In City of Heroes, if I fire a fireball into +1 ranged critters, I'm dead unless my healer is on the ball.
In DCUO, I still have a chance to get away, no matter how badly I'm in the shit.

On that point, DCUO wins.

So, it's not Nintendo Hard that we're after, just that we don't leap into a room, die, and then spy from the corpse over exactly what to do next time we go in.

Immersion in MMOs (Especially Star Wars) should be paramount. Deaths should mean something, or that little immersion bubble is replaced by statistics.
 

Azaraxzealot

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Shamus Young said:
An interesting discussion is to find out what challenge hunters are really looking for in a game. Is more punishment really what they want, or are they looking for a game that actually demands a higher level of skill. Or are they looking for a deeper game?
i think what "they" are looking for is a way to keep all the n00bs out. they want to keep EVERYONE who is not at their skill level from enjoying games as much as possible because they want the gaming world all to themselves. these elitists are too busy with their heads up their own asses in the "good old days" of Battletoads and The Silver Surfer game on the NES that they fail to see that, back in those days games had naught but an excuse for a story just to get the game rolling.

hell, even Crackdown 2 has a deeper and more involving story than Super Mario Land!

but all they see is their beloved gaming world being polluted by "Casual" gamers and wii owners and all they want to do is shoot them all and go back to being underground and unnoticed by the mainstream.
 

Mengtzu

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When I'm looking for challenge, I prefer there to be as little punishment as possible. When I fail at something, hopefully I've learned from that failure, and I want to apply that learning right away. So when a boss absolutely wrecks me but I'm returned to just before the fight to try again, I'm happy.

This is distinct from the sort of game where you make tense risk/reward calculations, but individual encounters in that sort of game really can't be as hard as a non-punishing game allows. If taking on Arthas-H permanently wrecked all your gear, you wouldn't do it. In some ways a lack of punishment frees the developer up to be really brutal.
 

Jumwa

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Azaraxzealot said:
i think what "they" are looking for is a way to keep all the n00bs out. they want to keep EVERYONE who is not at their skill level from enjoying games as much as possible because they want the gaming world all to themselves.
I hate to be inflammatory, but that does seem to be the case with the majourity of people I encounter who proclaim "make it harder!" in MMOs.

Shamus said it all very well, as usual. Punishment does not make a game harder, it makes it harder to enjoy. Great for those who are fine with that, but I'll leave my punishments to the BDSM chamber.
 

MetallicaRulez0

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Speaking as an elitist douche myself, I can confirm that we elitist skill-fiends do not want punishment for failure, we want more skill-driven gameplay. Things that don't overly punish you for failing, but that are hard to succeed at in the first place. I play a lot of WoW. I die a lot in progression raids in WoW. If I had to deal with experience, monetary or item loss when I died, I simply wouldn't do those things. It isn't fun to lose progress because of mistakes.

Punishment for failure is fine, as long as it isn't severe. You should be encouraged to try new things, not trained to avoid risk at all costs.
 

elvor0

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Good article, I love a good challenge in a game, but it should be the thing you're attempting to do that is actually challenging, not just making you stand around for 10 minutes waiting for res sickness or losing levels so you have to waste time getting back up to level 27 from 26, something you've already done once, just to attempt the content again. Death should be a penalty and a deterrant, but it shouldnt cause you to stand around asininely repeating shit, or just standing around for the sake of it. Make the encounter harder, not the punishment.
 
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Jumwa said:
Azaraxzealot said:
i think what "they" are looking for is a way to keep all the n00bs out. they want to keep EVERYONE who is not at their skill level from enjoying games as much as possible because they want the gaming world all to themselves.
I hate to be inflammatory, but that does seem to be the case with the majourity of people I encounter who proclaim "make it harder!" in MMOs.

Shamus said it all very well, as usual. Punishment does not make a game harder, it makes it harder to enjoy. Great for those who are fine with that, but I'll leave my punishments to the BDSM chamber.
yup totally agree.

i have a a few friends who are this way, they look at a game and if it doesn't have the "go all be all" attempt of destroying you for your mistakes, then they refuse to play the games.

challenge =/= harsher punishments upon death, that's stupid, and a waste of time.
 

Shamus Young

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Now imagine the game without the checkpoints, so that if you die you have to start the entire chapter over from the very beginning. The combat and gameplay mechanics are otherwise identical, it just sets you back more when you fail. If you think about it, this doesn't make the game any more difficult to beat. It takes the same level of skill to reach the end of the game.
Um


In the example you're offering, having no checkpoints would force you to pay more attention and generally be on your toes - it'd take a bit of practice to go through a level without dying. So it's definitely not the same level of skill. In a way, if there were no checkpoints you'd be better at the game - because it would force you to. Unless the game's super easy anyway, but Force Unleashed had some dick move moments.

Punishment DOES add challenge to a game, it's just not the same thing as challenge. But they're intertwined.
 

Wolfram23

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I just have to say that while I do agree to a very large extent, there are most definitely exceptions.

I played WoW since release. This means I was doing 5 man blackrock runs. Lower Blackrock Spire, specifically, could be very brutal. It's a huge dungeon, it's bigger than a lot of the newer RAID dungeons I played. I remember quite well trying to make my way through it. It took a lot of time and usually you wouldn't even kill all the bosses.

And you'd die a lot.

And you know what? Almost always people stayed until they absolutely had to go. The game was just like that back then. Scholomance? Stratholme? These were HARD for 5 people who are just trying to get some blues but mostly the groups stuck it out unless it really wasn't happening. This was before those group stones oustide of dungeons. Before heroics. Before everyone has full epics. Blues were the epics. Epics were... really epic!

But otherwise I do agree, make an MMO too punishing and people won't really care to play it. And the more casual, the greater the mass appeal and the more money you make so I mean it all makes sense, of course.
 

Robyrt

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poiumty said:
Now imagine the game without the checkpoints, so that if you die you have to start the entire chapter over from the very beginning. The combat and gameplay mechanics are otherwise identical, it just sets you back more when you fail. If you think about it, this doesn't make the game any more difficult to beat. It takes the same level of skill to reach the end of the game.
Um


In the example you're offering, having no checkpoints would force you to pay more attention and generally be on your toes - it'd take a bit of practice to go through a level without dying. So it's definitely not the same level of skill. In a way, if there were no checkpoints you'd be better at the game - because it would force you to. Unless the game's super easy anyway, but Force Unleashed had some dick move moments.

Punishment DOES add challenge to a game, it's just not the same thing as challenge. But they're intertwined.
In fact, Demon's Souls uses this system. When you die, you have to start the chapter over, and repeated deaths are punished even more heavily. Would the game have been better with checkpoints? Possibly, but the overall difficulty is so high (like in Mario games) that forcing the player to redo large stretches of content will noticeably raise their skill level, so the time isn't wasted.

For a game like Prince of Persia where the difficulty level is very low, forcing the player to backtrack is just wasting her time.
 

Mysnomer

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The_root_of_all_evil said:
I know that's why BioWare went for that model. It doesn't mean I have to like it, because in the end, it just makes games more safe, comfortable, and un-immersible. (That's the word I'll use 'til I find what the real one is.)
Disinterring for a verb, non-immersion when a noun is needed.
 

mythgraven

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MetallicaRulez0 said:
Speaking as an elitist douche myself, I can confirm that we elitist skill-fiends do not want punishment for failure, we want more skill-driven gameplay. Things that don't overly punish you for failing, but that are hard to succeed at in the first place. I play a lot of WoW. I die a lot in progression raids in WoW. If I had to deal with experience, monetary or item loss when I died, I simply wouldn't do those things. It isn't fun to lose progress because of mistakes.

Punishment for failure is fine, as long as it isn't severe. You should be encouraged to try new things, not trained to avoid risk at all costs.

I disagree. Not with you, or your ethos, persay, but with your statement that you want "skill driven gameplay".


Most MMO- Elitist Douches do not want skill driven gameplay. They want people in the top tiers of available gear, (over what the instance requires, if possible) they want people who have previously overcome the instance multiple times, and they want flawless, uninterrupted progress.

Which is basically like playing that old electronic "Simon" game. When the light lights, you push the proper button.

Thats not skill. Thats repetition. That is boring.

"Skill" based gameplay would revolve around a few very scary points, in the modern MMO experience.

1. It would require not overgearing yourself for the challenge. It would be your skills, not your NUMBERS that were beating the boss.

2. It would (or should) require new strategies, and much more theorycrafting. It would NOT, and should NOT require studying of the strategies that the MMO Developer drip fed to you, or the Dev's subsidized guild.
Oh. And min/maxing? Shouldnt be a requirement for skill based play.

3. Skill based gameplay also requires that when someone errs, or the group fails, that hissyfits, blame-lobbing, ragequitting, forum flaming, and all the other generally accepted recourses for something as terrible as a failure, be stamped out entirely. After all. How can you build skills, without making mistakes along the way? Innocense to Experience, baby. Its not a smooth path.


So, long story short, I believe that the elitist douchers make claims to wanting "skill", because it swells up epeens more than saying that you want quick rewards and minimal personal fuss.

Cause thatd just make you sound like an asshat.


Whiskey Echo!!
Mythgraven
 

Mysnomer

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poiumty said:
Now imagine the game without the checkpoints, so that if you die you have to start the entire chapter over from the very beginning. The combat and gameplay mechanics are otherwise identical, it just sets you back more when you fail. If you think about it, this doesn't make the game any more difficult to beat. It takes the same level of skill to reach the end of the game.
Um


In the example you're offering, having no checkpoints would force you to pay more attention and generally be on your toes - it'd take a bit of practice to go through a level without dying. So it's definitely not the same level of skill. In a way, if there were no checkpoints you'd be better at the game - because it would force you to. Unless the game's super easy anyway, but Force Unleashed had some dick move moments.

Punishment DOES add challenge to a game, it's just not the same thing as challenge. But they're intertwined.
But what's required to get past the level is not actual skill at this point, it's patience and memorization. In an arcade game where the goal is to set a high score through mastery by repetition, this model works fine, but in a skill based game such as a tactical RPGs or puzzle solvers, it fails.

It doesn't make you better at the mechanics of the game, it makes you better at the metagame, by informing you of what will happen and in what sequence. The same skill is still required to overcome each challenge, whether it be a room full of enemies or a platforming puzzle.

Robyrt said:
In fact, Demon's Souls uses this system. When you die, you have to start the chapter over, and repeated deaths are punished even more heavily. Would the game have been better with checkpoints? Possibly, but the overall difficulty is so high (like in Mario games) that forcing the player to redo large stretches of content will noticeably raise their skill level, so the time isn't wasted.
No. The punishment of restarting the game does not make you more skilled. The repeated fighting of enemies improves your skill, but this can be done by having more enemies and slowly ramping up the challenge rather than backbreaking punishments. Also, preparation goes a long way. When you know what's in the next room and where it's hiding, you have already put weight on the balance in your favor, and you now need less skill than someone going in blind to beat the enemies. (I'm not saying it reduces skill, but it certainly isn't as "pure" an experience as some make it out to be.)
 

Doctor Professor

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The confusion between challenge and punishment is pervasive, and it causes a lot of problems throughout the industry. I've written about it here: Test Skills, Not Patience: Challenge, Punishment, and Learning [http://www.pixelpoppers.com/2009/11/test-skills-not-patience-challenge.html]. In this thread, Mengtzu brought up the connection to learning - that's huge, and I talk about it in the essay: punishment actively inhibits learning.

The essay also happens to quote Shamus a couple of times. :)

Azaraxzealot brought up the elitism side of things - I wrote about that too: Status and Signals: Why Hardcore Gamers Are Afraid Of Easy Mode [http://www.pixelpoppers.com/2010/01/status-and-signals-why-hardcore-gamers.html]. On some level I can understand a community wanting to keep out the "riff-raff", but it's dangerous to try to keep something niche - if the fandom doesn't have an influx of new people, it can die out.
 

Fearzone

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(Welcome to my world. Do you know how hard it is to be a fan of unique, interesting gameplay these days?)

I love MMOs but I'm in the group wishing the would be a little harder, that they wouldn't just be the menial grind, and that bad play and bad players would be punished just a little more than they are, and also that I would have more motive to stay alive and play well, and not be careless. But then I read your second to last paragraph about grouping, and blaming others when the party fails, especially if there were a serious death penalty (I mean even armor repair bills could raise ire in our guild; I was good with the auction house so those expenses were always trivial to me, but it was surprising how many level cap players never used it except to buy things). Anyway, just wanted to say, you're right again.

Also, people mistakenly say WoW is easy. That's not true. A lot of WoW is easy, but it's content spans a wide range of difficulty levels, if you go looking for the harder stuff. At least original WoW was that way, and early Burning Crusade. Blizzard did not sit down and say: "are we going to make this for casual or hardcore players?" but rather designed a game that would appeal to a broad range of abilities. The easy content is the first foot it puts forward, but not the last.
 

ThreeKneeNick

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Zapping people in a reward-based environment is of course bad for getting money out of them, but don't apply this to the entire genre, please. You speak about it as it were absolute and consistent throughout online games, when you have games specifically designed around harsh death, where death is not merely a setback but a gameplay trigger (get ganked in Mortal Online, lose your stuff... sounds bad, but you get the opportunity to revenge yourself, invite your clan mates to the fun, declare war ... you get the point).

Im not saying that either way is the preferred one to me, it all depends on the game really, but things needn't be the same everywhere just because more people can be tricked into thinking they enjoy an environment where there is no punishment.
 

omicron1

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Let me propose something about "status" in an MMO.

There are some who want material status. They want to feel like they've "Made it," like they're special, and they want to do so by having something physical that sets them apart from other people. Kinda like billionaires who buy diamond-coated doorknobs, only in this case it's fancy armor and weapons. For example: World of Warcraft endgame content.

Then there are some who want prowess. They want to be able to train, learn, and gain an intrinsic mastery over the game that sets them apart from others. This is equivalent to a martial arts black belt. For example: EvE Online.

Both concepts can be "metagamed," through activities such as gold farming/ingame purchases for physical wealth; or through cross-game skill.

These two status types are not available to equivalent degrees across the board, and tend to be somewhat directly opposed. The skilled player doesn't want to be beaten by someone who just bought his way into power or rolled well on the loot drops; the rich player doesn't want to be beaten by some upstart with lower-level armor and a dinky sword. It is, I believe, nearly impossible to truly balance the two approaches.

Of these two, the skilled player might be most for harsh penalties; they do not impact him in the same way that they impact the wealthy player.

Neither of these approaches is particularly friendly to the outsider, the casual gamer - he will be beaten by the skilled and outclassed by the wealthy, with little recourse in either direction. The only way to give him parity is by removing the skilled and the wealthy's advantages, and then you lose both of them.

...

I remember a game called MAngband - a multiplayer roguelike. It had some very, very stiff penalties - permadeath, item loss, etc. - as well as calling for very skill-focused gameplay. But it also had status symbols - in particular player housing. Anyone with even a small residence on the outskirts of town had something of a unique status symbol, and the most wealthy players could buy mansions with moats and exterior walls. So the wealth-based approach is at least somewhat appreciated by both kinds of gamers.
 

Azaraxzealot

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Jumwa said:
Azaraxzealot said:
i think what "they" are looking for is a way to keep all the n00bs out. they want to keep EVERYONE who is not at their skill level from enjoying games as much as possible because they want the gaming world all to themselves.
I hate to be inflammatory, but that does seem to be the case with the majourity of people I encounter who proclaim "make it harder!" in MMOs.

Shamus said it all very well, as usual. Punishment does not make a game harder, it makes it harder to enjoy. Great for those who are fine with that, but I'll leave my punishments to the BDSM chamber.
that wasn't inflammatory, that was pretty much what i was trying to say. or were you saying that it may be inflammatory to agree with me?
 

Jumwa

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Azaraxzealot said:
that wasn't inflammatory, that was pretty much what i was trying to say. or were you saying that it may be inflammatory to agree with me?
I just didn't want to come off as insulting anyone who prefers more difficulty. I am sure there are some out there who don't wish greater difficulty for the reason we've stated, but all I seem to see are people seething with loathing for "newbs" and "idiots" who just aren't as good at the game as they are, for whatever reason(s).

It's pretty much impossible for me to engage in a discussion about the issue of difficulty in WoW, for instance, without someone making a searing comment about how if someone can't handle it they don't deserve to get anything from the game, or to play, or ____.
 

Azaraxzealot

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Jumwa said:
Azaraxzealot said:
that wasn't inflammatory, that was pretty much what i was trying to say. or were you saying that it may be inflammatory to agree with me?
I just didn't want to come off as insulting anyone who prefers more difficulty. I am sure there are some out there who don't wish greater difficulty for the reason we've stated, but all I seem to see are people seething with loathing for "newbs" and "idiots" who just aren't as good at the game as they are, for whatever reason(s).

It's pretty much impossible for me to engage in a discussion about the issue of difficulty in WoW, for instance, without someone making a searing comment about how if someone can't handle it they don't deserve to get anything from the game, or to play, or ____.
totally agree with you there. that's all i can ever see as well.
 

Shamus Young

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But what's required to get past the level is not actual skill at this point, it's patience and memorization. In an arcade game where the goal is to set a high score through mastery by repetition, this model works fine, but in a skill based game such as a tactical RPGs or puzzle solvers, it fails.
Then how do you define skill? Because patience and memorization are integral major components of it, to me.

And i was just talking about the example offered with Force Unleashed, and similar games.
 

chaosfact

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I, for one, am in favor of heavy punishment for failure.

Raising the skill requirement to pass a challenge forces the player to improve if he's going to win. But punishing more heavily motivates him to improve, lest he be punished. By analogy:

Raising the high-jump bar forces the athlete to jump higher. If he doesn't improve, he'll never succeed. Leaving it at its present height, but setting it on fire, motivates the athlete to jump higher. If he doesn't improve, he may or may not succeed - but the price to be paid for failure is unacceptable.

Personally, I prefer the second route. NetHack is my favorite game because I always feel motivated to succeed, not forced. I certainly CAN ascend by blundering around hoping for lucky breaks, and have done so (Digging for Victory, anyone?). But since one careless act can cost me my whole character, I feel motivated to improve my tactics and learn more about the game.
 

Brainst0rm

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Welcome to my world. Do you know hard it is being a fan of good, coherent storytelling these days?
Oh LORDIE yes, I know it's hard.

Anyway, excellent article. Gets right to the point. 'Punishing' games are typically a result of lazy or misguided design. I think that the scarcity of checkpoints in Metroid Prime 2 is a point of contention? So, yes, while the Metroid Prime's are all challenging, when they became punishing, it's a bad thing. I wish more developers would learn that. Making a game frustrating doesn't make it better - it makes it frustrating.
 

lomylithruldor

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chaosfact said:
I, for one, am in favor of heavy punishment for failure.

Raising the skill requirement to pass a challenge forces the player to improve if he's going to win. But punishing more heavily motivates him to improve, lest he be punished. By analogy:

Raising the high-jump bar forces the athlete to jump higher. If he doesn't improve, he'll never succeed. Leaving it at its present height, but setting it on fire, motivates the athlete to jump higher. If he doesn't improve, he may or may not succeed - but the price to be paid for failure is unacceptable.

Personally, I prefer the second route. NetHack is my favorite game because I always feel motivated to succeed, not forced. I certainly CAN ascend by blundering around hoping for lucky breaks, and have done so (Digging for Victory, anyone?). But since one careless act can cost me my whole character, I feel motivated to improve my tactics and learn more about the game.
Harsh punishment in a MMO (like losing gear or level) is more like breaking the athlete's leg if he doesn't jump high enough. He'll have to waste time recovering from his failure instead of improving his skills. You learn by failures, not by the fear of failures. If the punishment is too harsh, people will try to cheat or won't do it instead of trying harder.
 

chaosfact

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lomylithruldor said:
If the punishment is too harsh, people will try to cheat or won't do it instead of trying harder.
How is "people will cheat" an argument against anything? Cheaters are a problem, so ban them and the problem is solved.

I'm not trying to say every game needs to be enormously harsh with death penalties. Of course not - that would limit the market only to the super-hardcores. But it's a mistake to say "punishment is categorically inferior to difficulty as a means of inducing improvement". It has a place, just like Animal Crossing-style failure-free games have a place. Neither is going to be mainstream.
 

Firehound

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I believe in a MMO where death is more then your character falling down, then the game gently picks them up and whispers about how "it'll be okay" and "Your all right" like the player is a baby who has just tripped trying to walk and started crying.

I'd like a game where death was something a player could recover from, but didn't want to have happen to you over and over. Eve was too far, but AC as far as I've heard was just perfect.

Games that are too unforgiving are annoying. Games that forgive too much are easily forgotten about.

Also: THere hasn't been a game that allows PVPers to do more then kick someones shins to death, then gain some special PVP currency that allows everyone to know that you kicked a lot of shins when you use stuff you bought from it. Can't there be some actual drops from killing someone? I mean, I don't know about you, but If I were a wizard who just electrocuted a fighter who nearly killed me, I would see to looting him afterwards- if only to afford the healing to remove the damage he caused.
 

Shamus Young

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Honestly, I would like a game that really throws as much shit as it possibly can at you, but doesn't punish you too hard for personal mistakes.

Like the whole "squad based" crap that we recently stopped doing: If we took a shooter, realistic'd the living shit out of it so you really do have to be mindful of yourself because all it takes is one lucky bullet to knock you out of the fight, but gave you the ability to switch to someone else on your squad when you get incapacitated and either dragged off the front lines or are simply killed and left. It's be interesting, because you can then put players on the ground under an UNGODLY FUCKING BULLET STORM, but not have a single screw-up boot them back to the checkpoint to do it all again.

And yes, I do desperately want a game that will essentially have an entire army unloading heavy machine-gun fire on you with cinematic(ish) feel, and be able to actually advance through it even as you and your men are cut to ribbons
 

squid5580

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Deshara said:
Honestly, I would like a game that really throws as much shit as it possibly can at you, but doesn't punish you too hard for personal mistakes.
That is when a game should punish you. If I chuck a grenade and get hit by it because I ran and stood on top of it I should be punished. If I cast sleep on a bunch of skeletons and then find their bony hands giving me a rectal exam yeah my bad I deserve whatever I got coming.

But if I am playing Silver Surfer for the NES and I die because well the whole screen is filled with bullets and other traps then yeah make the punishment not so bad. Because that is not a personal mistake. That is just a simple lack of memorization.
 

Rayansaki

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There is still one more kind of punishment that can be implemented that works better in MMOs... Rewarding players better if they go through the content more smoothly, giving extra goodies if the party reaches the end of the instance without anyone dieing or without a party wipe, or with a very short time run through. This rewards skill without directly punishing failure.

Wow had this in some instances. I haven't played for a while, but I remember a dungeon in caverns of time, set in Stratholme allowing players to fight an extra boss for a Dragon mount if they reached it within a set time.
 

Centrophy

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poiumty said:
But what's required to get past the level is not actual skill at this point, it's patience and memorization. In an arcade game where the goal is to set a high score through mastery by repetition, this model works fine, but in a skill based game such as a tactical RPGs or puzzle solvers, it fails.
Then how do you define skill? Because patience and memorization are integral major components of it, to me.

And i was just talking about the example offered with Force Unleashed, and similar games.
Ah, this seems more like a political debate. Take for example in school systems. You have mandatory tests on subjects, so much so that the schools now focus on getting their students to pass the tests rather than learn the material. It happened in Florida, oh about ten years ago when they introduced the FCAT or even before that and the SAT courses. I remember that the majority of the curriculum focused on studying to pass that test. Were the students really learning or were they just memorizing what would be on the test? If those lessons were put to the test in the real world would they pass? I happen to believe they wouldn't.

It's the same as learning when mob a jumps out of monster closet b and learning to dodge at this time. Over time with enough repetition, the player may play that level flawlessly. Put the player in a new level with the same mechanics. I can guarantee that they will take damage or die depending on the game. Demon's Souls is a good example of this.
 

lluewhyn

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Belladonnah said:
There is still one more kind of punishment that can be implemented that works better in MMOs... Rewarding players better if they go through the content more smoothly, giving extra goodies if the party reaches the end of the instance without anyone dieing or without a party wipe, or with a very short time run through. This rewards skill without directly punishing failure.

Wow had this in some instances. I haven't played for a while, but I remember a dungeon in caverns of time, set in Stratholme allowing players to fight an extra boss for a Dragon mount if they reached it within a set time.
LOTRO has the "Challenge" modes(often referred to as Hard Mode)where you get extra rewards for completing an instance in a specific way. Interestingly, sometimes it's a reward for playing strategically better(Forges of Khazad Dum, Fil Gashan, Halls of Crafting), but more often it's a reward for taking on *additional* difficulty. This kind of difficulty varies, but usually involves killing the boss while not killing certain other creatures, such as letting the Adds beat on you while you're trying to take the boss down instead of cleaning them up first. Either way, it's rewarding you for being better players.
 

lomylithruldor

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chaosfact said:
lomylithruldor said:
If the punishment is too harsh, people will try to cheat or won't do it instead of trying harder.
How is "people will cheat" an argument against anything? Cheaters are a problem, so ban them and the problem is solved.

I'm not trying to say every game needs to be enormously harsh with death penalties. Of course not - that would limit the market only to the super-hardcores. But it's a mistake to say "punishment is categorically inferior to difficulty as a means of inducing improvement". It has a place, just like Animal Crossing-style failure-free games have a place. Neither is going to be mainstream.
Sorry, I should have said more people will try to cheat. If you have more to lose by doing it legally than cheating (ex: permanent death; it's like starting a new account), more people will try to cheat, so you'll need more GMs to regulate than and stop people from paying for your game. Not really a good way to make money.

WoW in cataclysm is a good example. There's a good challenge in heroic dungeons but the death penalty isn't too harsh. You'll die, but you can always try again. When the game is way too easy like in WotLK, people unsub. If the punishment was harsher, like losing gear when you die, people won't do heroics, so they won't be able to raid, they'll complain that there's not enough stuff to do and unsub.

I think punishment is inferior to difficulty to motivate people to improve. It's better to teach with a carrot instead of a stick. There should be a stick, but it doesn't have to be a baseball bat to be effective.
 

Ghengis John

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chaosfact said:
Frustration can be a tool to motivate players to improve.
Frustration is an emotion I for one do not enjoy. I agreed with the article. There is a difference between challenge and frustration. When you get to frustration you're officially not having fun. That's something most game companies are keen on avoiding.
 

DTWolfwood

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Oct 20, 2009
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Keep your gay ass harsh death penalties away from my MMO! D:<

Monetary punishment is the only thing i'll except! y because u make those over time, if you are careful you will have lots, if you are reckless you will have none. But death wiping progress and experience points is just draconian!

not to mention it teaches you about real world risk and reward with money! (granted you don't go dying to lose money XD)
 

Baresark

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I understand that an easy game sucks. But a frustrating game sucks more.

I have read lots of comments about people disliking a non challenging game. But, really, with rare exceptions, there aren't that many "challenging" games out there. I like how Shamus offered up Demon's souls, that game was super challenging, and it had a pretty severe death penalty (not necessarily a good point). But, that game was completely skill based. You had to KNOW how to play your character and how to move and how to used the environment to your advantage, this kind of challenge made the game fun. That is why I played that game for well over 100 hours. And that is why the game was still worth it, even though the death penalty was overly severe. It's the other elements that made up for it's shortcomings.

A few other points:

-Even if the death penalty is not severe, NO ONE wants to die in a game. It stops progress in a game. So, having a severe death penalty is not a positive point in the game. It's mostly good enough that you died and lost some time. The penalty becomes annoying after that, and will not increase your overall skill in a game.
-These games are created and published by FOR PROFIT companies. To assume that they are going to want to produce games for a SMALL niche in the videogame community is just ludicrous. The most successful companies cater to the most common denominator. Look at CoD:BlOps success, and the game is mediocre at best.

chaosfact said:
lomylithruldor said:
If the punishment is too harsh, people will try to cheat or won't do it instead of trying harder.
How is "people will cheat" an argument against anything? Cheaters are a problem, so ban them and the problem is solved.
That literally opens up a whole other argument. It's not a positive point in the industry to ban people for using the software they purchased. This literally creates more problems for the entire industry than it solves. Then the measures taken to stop cheaters starts effecting the legitimate game players. I have been accused of buying/selling gold by Blizzard, then another time of trying to sell my account. I almost quit the game for good after that. I didn't say to myself, "It's ok this is happening because it's better for everyone". My thoughts immediately went with, I am never gonna invest money into this game again.


chaosfact said:
I, for one, am in favor of heavy punishment for failure.

Raising the skill requirement to pass a challenge forces the player to improve if he's going to win. But punishing more heavily motivates him to improve, lest he be punished. By analogy:

Raising the high-jump bar forces the athlete to jump higher. If he doesn't improve, he'll never succeed. Leaving it at its present height, but setting it on fire, motivates the athlete to jump higher. If he doesn't improve, he may or may not succeed - but the price to be paid for failure is unacceptable.

Personally, I prefer the second route. NetHack is my favorite game because I always feel motivated to succeed, not forced. I certainly CAN ascend by blundering around hoping for lucky breaks, and have done so (Digging for Victory, anyone?). But since one careless act can cost me my whole character, I feel motivated to improve my tactics and learn more about the game.
Death and the inability to pass an area IS showing someone they need to improve their tactics. You don't need to be set back to know you didn't pass, it just makes it far more annoying to keep playing. Thy person may be able to go right back and try again, but that is like someone throwing themselves against a brick wall again and again. The argument should not go, "we should put spikes on the wall to get him to stop". The right argument is, "we should show him where the door is if he wants to come in so much".

Challenging is making an opponent hard to beat. It's not, making an opponent hard to beat and kicking the player in face for failing to beat an already hard opponent. If your not motivated to learn about the game your playing, you should simply not be playing it.
 

Baresark

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Belladonnah said:
There is still one more kind of punishment that can be implemented that works better in MMOs... Rewarding players better if they go through the content more smoothly, giving extra goodies if the party reaches the end of the instance without anyone dieing or without a party wipe, or with a very short time run through. This rewards skill without directly punishing failure.

Wow had this in some instances. I haven't played for a while, but I remember a dungeon in caverns of time, set in Stratholme allowing players to fight an extra boss for a Dragon mount if they reached it within a set time.
They literally use this mechanic in DCUO and the achievements. They offer up achievements and legend points for not using healing items, and/or not dying fighting the boss of the instance. I find that I play extra hard with these potential rewards at stake.
 

rayen020

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Extra credits said it best. If you want an execution challenge go play simon. dying = starting over
 

infohippie

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I do think death in an MMO should mean more than it does in, say, WoW. I've been playing Eve Online for years, and I really like how death is handled in that. I especially like how any surviving modules from your ship can be taken from the wreck by anyone who gets to it. This means most players will be using generic equipment which can be purchased easily and how you use your gear is more important than how big it's bonuses are.
It also makes additional playstyles valid, such as trying to make a living as a pirate preying on other players. This in turn can lead to deeper emergent gameplay, where other players might band together to clear pirates out of a region to make it safer for a while or they might take a different & longer route, leading to different encounters and scenery.

I'd like to see more games treat your gear as throwaway, so it's more player skill and group planning that will matter in a fight, not simply how long you've spent grinding. I would also like to see death in an MMO mean you haven't lost everything, but you've definitely lost something. It gets adrenaline pumping in a tough fight, and forces you to plan your actions a little more. A harsher death penalty than you'll find in most MMOs can lead to a deeper and more complex game, provided (and this is important) the other mechanics in the game support it, such as the ability to loot other players, the reduced need for high-end equipment, and the ability to interact with your fellow players in more complex ways.
 

Therumancer

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Well, I think a lot of the problem is that the lack of any real loss on the party of players when they die contributes to the game becoming top heavy. You tend to see the entire player base getting to the top of the game and "racing" for increasing qualities of loot.

I also think it leads to really bad design, to be honest, I think the bosses in a lot of MMORPGs are increasingly stupid. The penelty free deaths lead to obtuse fight mechanics as the developers don't bother to consider what's reasonable or even fun, since they know that people can just respawn and go again, making ten or twelve boss attempts in an hour in a lot of cases if things don't go their way.

To be entirely honest, I fail to see how a lot of these bosses could be defeated without tons of deaths... even if you know what your doing from having read about the fight mechanics online (which are leaked from Beta Testers who were told what to do, so they could test the fight mechanics).

A more meaningful death mechanic would slow down the time it took for the game to become top heavy, and probably help to balance out the ever-increasing game economy. The risk-reward factor given the time investment in death recovery also means that there is going to be increasing value placed on lower-end items, and the best equipment is also going to be rare, rather than pretty much every player who cares being able to more or less zerg their way to fight mastery and get all their "best in slot" items.

The penelty free death system exists in part to coddle casual players. I think a lot of it is born from the whole "I have a life, I can't play that much" attitude along with the attitude (even among designers) that anyone who pays a subscription is entitled to all of the game content. I'm one of those people who thinks that there should be substantial rewards to putting the time into an MMORPG, people can make whatever cracks about "not having a life" aside, but the point is if that's what someone chooses to do with their time as a hobbyist they should be entitled to the pay offs. The easy deaths pretty much mean that your casual players are going to get all the same stuff as the dedicated ones, they are just going to get there slower.

As I've said before, my opinion here might change at some point, however where I am right now makes me think that games like "World Of Warcraft" where pretty much the entire population base are endgame raiders and feel entitled to this (leading to a lot of complaints about the slight difficulty spike in heroic dungeons and raids since Liche King) is not a good thing.

What's more I think one of the thing that is killing a lot of developing MMORPGs is that even the casuals are familiar with the genere now, and have some idea of what they are doing. When you see games developed with an "everyone who wants to can do it" attitude similar to WoW, you wind up with even the casuals blazing through the content within a month or two tops (people who are very casual and might only play a few hours a week are still maxxing out their levels in a couple of months in many cases).

Increased difficulty, depth, and learning curve combined with a more meaningful (if not crippling) death penelty would do the industry good right now. "Difficulty" does not mean "Forced grouping" though as that just means teams of people will proceed just as quickly, and to be fair MMORPGs have to be as much single player games as multiplayer ones today because there just aren't that many single player RPGs out there (as I've read in the past, an MMO takes a similar amount of effort and development as a single player RPG, but has a potentially higher profit yield. While single player CRPGs exist, they are an increasingly rare beast, and when you see ones like "Dragon Age" it's a big deal now. A lot was said on the subject when they killed the idea of making any more single player Ultima games in favor of putting all the effort into UO many years ago).

To put it bluntly, what we need is MMOs to follow in the example of things like "Demon's Souls", not in the play style exactly, so much as the general attitude on progression.
 

theexhippy

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How harsh the death penalty is should be a player selectable option.

I'm fine with minor death punishments in a game. In an MMO (especially) I think that for the most part it's vital that dying doesn't smack you back too hard. I'm sure we've all (well most of us) been in a group that's wiped. Cue large amounts of players blaming each other, rage quits and the healer or tank getting kicked from the group. Can you imagine how vicious it would be if death meant more than just having to run back to your body?

However...

Harsher death penalties do make a game more challenging, just not in the same way as upping the difficulty. If death is minor then you're more willing to take risks, if death is a huge ball ache then you are much more careful. Look at Dead Space 2. There is a difficulty setting which does the traditional "make the monsters harder to kill" as well as Hard Core mode. In Hard Core you don't get check points, if you die you have to go back to your last save, and to make it extra annoying you only have 3 save slots. I have completed the game on the hardest setting and I'm not a particularly good player. I died an absolute shed load, and did some sections 5 or 6 times before I got through them, but succeed I did (eventually...). This is possible due to unlimited saves and checkpoints. When they aren't there I got about an hour and a half in before I died and that was game over. It takes someone MUCH more skilled than me to beat it in Hard Core despite the fact that the enemies are of equal difficulty.

Also...

Harsher death penalties change the way you play. Again using DS2 as an example: When I was playing with unlimited saves I would often be running around with red health trying to save my medpacks so I could flog them. In Hard Core mode? Hell no, I used them as soon as I got them so I was constantly on blue health and could survive being hit more than once. Because dying meant my game was finished I was much more careful about how I played.

There are points in favour of both mild and harsh death penalties so why not have both? Diablo 2 had it as an option (Hard Core meant when you character died it was tough buns) as does Dead Space 2. You could even apply it to an MMO, we already have Role Playing servers in WoW where you can't call your character anything silly so why not have Hard Core servers where if you die bad things happen?

Death penalty harshness as an option. That way those of us who just want to play the game and enjoy it on a more casual level can and those of us who need the threat of true loss to really get into an experience can have the sense danger they need.

Think gambling: Is it more fun to play with limited real money or unlimited fake?
 

Woodsey

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I think you've hit the nail on the head.

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's artificial-difficulty curves, where checkpoints are placed after several difficult encounters instead of after each, or enemies are just over-loaded with abilities for the hell of it.
 

CitySquirrel

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Centrophy said:
It's the same as learning when mob a jumps out of monster closet b and learning to dodge at this time. Over time with enough repetition, the player may play that level flawlessly. Put the player in a new level with the same mechanics. I can guarantee that they will take damage or die depending on the game. Demon's Souls is a good example of this.
I really like how you put this. It is like how mastering Super Mario Brothers will not make you a master at Super Mario Brothers 3. Even within the game, mastering one level won't make you better for the next. You might pick up a few techniques and a sense of timing but, for the most part, you still have to learn each level in of itself.


One thing I wonder about is PVP, though. I was talking to a friend about the merits of a PVP server versus a PVE server. He argued that the problem with WoW's PVP servers is that because the death penalties are so light, and dieing isn't a big deal, people don't really stop to help each other. He says that is there were a harsher penalty to death then people would have more incentive to prevent others from dieing. I countered with an argument about the famous PVP issues in UO. Would a harsher death penalty make people more likely to work together?
 

Dastardly

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Shamus Young said:
Experienced Points: The Crime of Punishment

The Old Republic doesn't need to have a punishing death system in order to offer challenge.

Read Full Article
It's an old mistake--confusing the feeling of challenge with the method of challenge. Here's how the thinking goes:

"When I find a game that is challenging, it occasionally--or often--causes me to feel frustrated when I don't get it right. Therefore, games that cause the player to feel frustrated are challenging games."

There's a major disconnect in there. While it is true that a particularly hard level will leave you feeling frustrated when you fail, your frustration is just your emotional response--which can come from a number of sources. Not everything that causes that same emotional response is necessarily an example of "challenge." Designers and developers have to look into the "why" of the emotional response. They have to trace the frustration back to its source and make sure it's for good reasons.

Why do we get frustrated during challenging games? By and large, it's the sense of, "Dammit! I almost had it that time!" There's a line your skill has to cross before you succeed, and the frustration comes from falling just short of that line. The important thing here is your frustration is a reaction to what you are doing, not to what happens afterward. The challenge has nothing to do with punishment. The same task is just as challenging if you have one attempt or unlimited attempts. All punishment does is affect the likelihood you'll even attempt the challenge.

While frustration often results from challenge, frustration is not a requirement for challenge.
 

FaceFaceFace

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poiumty said:
But what's required to get past the level is not actual skill at this point, it's patience and memorization. In an arcade game where the goal is to set a high score through mastery by repetition, this model works fine, but in a skill based game such as a tactical RPGs or puzzle solvers, it fails.
Then how do you define skill? Because patience and memorization are integral major components of it, to me.

And i was just talking about the example offered with Force Unleashed, and similar games.
Memorizing exactly what's going to happen in a game is skill? Memorizing what to do in certain situations is certainly a part of skill, i.e. use fire on enemies made of wood, but memorizing a bunch of rooms because they don't change every time you die almost seems like cheating. You're basically getting a preview of what you need to do. If I barely scrape past a section and then get a checkpoint I think, wow, that was close and exciting. If I barely scrape past a section and then replay it several more times because I keep dying later, my memory of that section becomes a monotonous muscle-memorized layout of exactly what to do to avoid damage and better prepare for later sections. You still need actual skill at the game, but when I think of skill I think of the ability to perform well in any situation, for instance having such a command of platforming skill that you can make all the weird jumps they throw at you, as opposed to being skilled at doing an identical thing infinite times, for instance being an expert at landing one particular jump.
 

carpathic

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"I understand that challenge-based players are frustrated by their position as a niche group. (Welcome to my world. Do you know hard it is being a fan of good, coherent storytelling these days?) "

I believe at this point, you sir, are entitled to a "Bazinga"..

just sayin'
 

Stevepinto3

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THANK YOU.

I'm tired of people constantly equating penalties with challenge. For an example of where this doesn't work, Mass Effect 1. When you died you went back to your last save, and there weren't many auto-saves where you would have otherwise liked them (like on entering an enemy base). On numerous occasions I would be killed while exploring some random planet and I would end up back when I first landed there. This meant any resources or collectibles I had found I had to go back and get again, and if you played Mass Effect you know how awful the Mako handles.

Otherwise the game was pretty simple, not much difficulty for most fights except the occasional cheap one-shots by Colossi. But dying was an exercise in frustration.
 

Bretty

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I think a game with Death as a punishment is basically moving the game into another element, a whole new genre. A game where risks are only taken with people you can depend on. Where your reputation on the locale will really effect how and what you are able to do in game.

I really want punishments for dieing. If anything to just to make an achievement exactly that.

Do you know the number of people that would have frostmourn if there was a penalty. The release of new higher content would slow and we would be left with more middle content left to develop story and activities instead of just 'NEW HIGHER TIER RAIDS'.

Frankly, I look forward to that FFA game that pushes the boundries on what a more 'real' game could be.
 

WanderingFool

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mythgraven said:
MetallicaRulez0 said:
Speaking as an elitist douche myself, I can confirm that we elitist skill-fiends do not want punishment for failure, we want more skill-driven gameplay. Things that don't overly punish you for failing, but that are hard to succeed at in the first place. I play a lot of WoW. I die a lot in progression raids in WoW. If I had to deal with experience, monetary or item loss when I died, I simply wouldn't do those things. It isn't fun to lose progress because of mistakes.

Punishment for failure is fine, as long as it isn't severe. You should be encouraged to try new things, not trained to avoid risk at all costs.

I disagree. Not with you, or your ethos, persay, but with your statement that you want "skill driven gameplay".


Most MMO- Elitist Douches do not want skill driven gameplay. They want people in the top tiers of available gear, (over what the instance requires, if possible) they want people who have previously overcome the instance multiple times, and they want flawless, uninterrupted progress.

Which is basically like playing that old electronic "Simon" game. When the light lights, you push the proper button.

Thats not skill. Thats repetition. That is boring.

"Skill" based gameplay would revolve around a few very scary points, in the modern MMO experience.

1. It would require not overgearing yourself for the challenge. It would be your skills, not your NUMBERS that were beating the boss.

2. It would (or should) require new strategies, and much more theorycrafting. It would NOT, and should NOT require studying of the strategies that the MMO Developer drip fed to you, or the Dev's subsidized guild.
Oh. And min/maxing? Shouldnt be a requirement for skill based play.

3. Skill based gameplay also requires that when someone errs, or the group fails, that hissyfits, blame-lobbing, ragequitting, forum flaming, and all the other generally accepted recourses for something as terrible as a failure, be stamped out entirely. After all. How can you build skills, without making mistakes along the way? Innocense to Experience, baby. Its not a smooth path.


So, long story short, I believe that the elitist douchers make claims to wanting "skill", because it swells up epeens more than saying that you want quick rewards and minimal personal fuss.

Cause thatd just make you sound like an asshat.


Whiskey Echo!!
Mythgraven
... would saying "I love you" be too much?

But anyways, like his first point, WOW isnt truely skill, its numbers and repetition.

*Edit*

I just had a feeling of Deja vu, and freaked out a little bit... anyways...

This idea came to me a while ago, and reading through some of the comments, I thught of it again. Insurance.

You buy yourself a car for $3000, and you buy insurance for that car, so if it gets totaled, you get $3000 back. You buy the insurance, thats it. Now a few months later, your car gets totaled. No problem, you get a check, and you can buy a new car... but of course you now have to pay more for you incsurance this time around, as you are high risk.

If a developer was to make a game where if you die, your body can be looted, and you could loose all your items and gear, I doubt many people would play for too long, or atleast, treat that Breastplate of not Dying-ness as a collecters item, instead of a piece of armor to use, for fear of loosing it.

Now, if that same developer added an insurance feature, where you could have gear and items that you use be "insured", so if you die and someone does loot your body, you're not completely SOL. I would also add to manners of payment:
1) Cash- all the gear you had insured that was taken has a value, and you get that exact value, so if you loose all your equiped gear, you get money that can be used to either buy new gear, or prepare for re-venturing to get new gear.
2) Gear replacement- This would be more expensive, but worth it to some. Instead of getting a payment for your gear, you get the same stuff that was taken from you (lore wise, lets say there is a high chance the guy that killed you took the gear and sold it, and the insurance company baught it back). This would obviously cost more than a simple cash payment, but if the item in question was rare and near impossible to find, it would be the most likely choice for anybody wanting to play it safe.

What I view as the beauty to this system, is that there is that challeng of loosing all the gear, but it can be negated for a specific cost. Thus players who want a challenge could go without insuring their gear, while those who dont feel like loosing all their stuff can opt for the insurance.
 

rembrandtqeinstein

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Guild wars handled PVE death fairly well, you incurred a relatively minor stacking death penalty that made the rest of the mission harder to complete. Too many deaths and your character was too ineffective to continue and you had to start over.

There was a disincentive for death but a single screw up didn't break the flow, just made you work a bit harder which is the way things should be.

That said one of the major accomplishments of my childhood was actually beating super mario brothers, ninja gaiden, mega man 1 and all of the other super hard nintendo games.
 

Shamus Young

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Shamus, I can't believe you can't have anything else to say except talking about MMOs and Minecraft. This used to be the best blog (or any feature) on the Escapist.

Die, MMOs, die.
 

Kaisharga

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The perspective I'm seeing touted from the supposed point of view of the "challenge hounds" is not quite correct, and it borders on straw-man syndrome. I want to talk about the way that challenge has meaning, and why video game deaths and punishments matter, using the principle in another context: driving.

I drive the speed limit. Somehow that's a big confession. I go out of my way to drive the speed it says on the signs, whatever traffic is doing independent of me. As long as I can get into the lanes I need (sometimes this takes considerable planning ahead) for my exits, and cover my butt legally...I drive the limit.

Almost nobody else does. Ever. Barring a traffic jam, where people don't speed because they simply can't, I am the only one on the road--especially the only one in a car, rather than a big rig--who is driving the speed limit.

And what do I get for it? Other people get there faster, don't have to worry about people smashing into their rear bumpers at a speed differential of 30 mph, change lanes easily, and only very, very rarely have to deal with speeding tickets. Best case comparison, I come out about $75 on top once every three years. I am better than all these other drivers, I actually do what I signed my name to saying I would do. Nobody else lives up to their word, and they get away with their indiscretions scot-free. That really and truly pisses me off, that people who are being indiscriminate about such matters are given roughly equivalent experiences to my own, people who put almost no effort into their driving are actually having a better time of it.

That's what's going on, I think, with the issue of challenge. When people do things that are awesome or skillful or difficult, they want props. Super Meat Boy's bandages are extra challenges that give you progressive unlocks--a benefit for having done something extra-difficult. Achievements and Trophies are similar--even if they don't give a mechanical benefit, they at least are proof that you did something extra.

WoW players, to take a fairly generic (ha!) MMORPG example, want that kind of feedback. Everyone thinks about this from the point of view of the dying, but also involved in the discussion are those who didn't die. When the death penalty is lightened, you reduce the reason to be good at the game. Skill stops mattering so much, planning stops mattering so much. And in that environment, why care? Why try?

That, I think, is the issue. That is why people want harsher death penalties. They want their skill to matter, they want their survival to actually mean something. They want props for being sweet. They want a reason, a purpose to mastery. And they can't figure out a way for it to matter besides advocating harsher punishment on those who don't have the skill.

(Edited to avoid awful digression.)
 

sunpop

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I'm tired of being mistaking hard for memorization. If a game has traps you have no idea are there like "I wanna be that guy" and the only way to beat it is by memorizing where everything is it isn't hard. It's simply a game of memory hard is when you have to time a dodge to avoid a bosses attack.
 

Seneschal

Blessed are the righteous
Jun 27, 2009
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Well, the Nintendo Hard trend died with the arcades, but MMOs are the closest thing to arcades we have today. If they don't waste your time, you may (gasp!) reach the endgame too quickly!

Oh wait, NNNOOOO, that's a tvtropes link, run awa-...
 

Xenominim

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I recall reading an article last year about a reviewer trying out a supposed 'hardcore' MMO which had very strict death penalties (no I can't recall the name) with open PvP and upon death you can be looted. At the same time the game went for a more realistic approach in combat by making stats more skill-based, with gear having smaller bonuses than most MMOs. The result was the vast majority of the playerbase fighting naked with generic swords so they wouldn't lose their loot if they got jumped, which would only be used during particular encounters when they'd be safely grouped up. Obviously, not the best system there is.

One idea games haven't tried I think though is shame. Imagine every time you die, another bodypart of your char turns into a clown for a few hours of gametime. Die again in that time, another bodypart is added and the timer resets. Become a full clown? Then your clown starts turning into a mime. No stats affected, nothing about your ability to fight, you just look like an idiot. Other players could have the choice for a death filter so they can either mock those who keep dying, or keep the game's immersion so they don't see a bunch of clowns running around. But your own char? You always see that damned clown until you learn better.
 

RvLeshrac

This is a Forum Title.
Oct 2, 2008
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Firehound said:
Also: THere hasn't been a game that allows PVPers to do more then kick someones shins to death, then gain some special PVP currency that allows everyone to know that you kicked a lot of shins when you use stuff you bought from it. Can't there be some actual drops from killing someone? I mean, I don't know about you, but If I were a wizard who just electrocuted a fighter who nearly killed me, I would see to looting him afterwards- if only to afford the healing to remove the damage he caused.
Really? There have attacking player if you lose at <a href=http://www.darkageofcamelot.com>PvP?


sunpop said:
I'm tired of being mistaking hard for memorization. If a game has traps you have no idea are there like "I wanna be that guy" and the only way to beat it is by memorizing where everything is it isn't hard. It's simply a game of memory hard is when you have to time a dodge to avoid a bosses attack.
So memorization isn't hard, but memorizing boss patterns is hard?

What?

Read your posts back to yourselves, and you'll see these inconsistencies.
 

IronCladNinja

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Guild Wars had a pretty good system for death. You die, you get Death Penalty, which cuts your heath and mana by 15% each time you die up to 60%, it is removed by experience from finishing quests or killing stuff, visiting a town or with items. It added pressure not to die, but if the party wipes in a dungeon, its no big deal, until that 60% mark.
 

mikespoff

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The distinction between challenge and punishment is, I think, an under-appreciated one. Thanks for drawing attention to it.
 

Firehound

is a trap!
Nov 22, 2010
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RvLeshrac said:
Firehound said:
Also: THere hasn't been a game that allows PVPers to do more then kick someones shins to death, then gain some special PVP currency that allows everyone to know that you kicked a lot of shins when you use stuff you bought from it. Can't there be some actual drops from killing someone? I mean, I don't know about you, but If I were a wizard who just electrocuted a fighter who nearly killed me, I would see to looting him afterwards- if only to afford the healing to remove the damage he caused.
Really? There have attacking player if you lose at <a href=http://www.darkageofcamelot.com>PvP?


sunpop said:
I'm tired of being mistaking hard for memorization. If a game has traps you have no idea are there like "I wanna be that guy" and the only way to beat it is by memorizing where everything is it isn't hard. It's simply a game of memory hard is when you have to time a dodge to avoid a bosses attack.
So memorization isn't hard, but memorizing boss patterns is hard?

What?

Read your posts back to yourselves, and you'll see these inconsistencies.
I meant recently, at least none I have heard of. And I think eve counts as a second job, not a MMO.
 

mikespoff

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IronCladNinja said:
Guild Wars had a pretty good system for death. You die, you get Death Penalty, which cuts your heath and mana by 15% each time you die up to 60%, it is removed by experience from finishing quests or killing stuff, visiting a town or with items. It added pressure not to die, but if the party wipes in a dungeon, its no big deal, until that 60% mark.
Yeah, I really enjoyed the GuildWars approach to MMO, including the death penalty during missions. You don't lose XP (which REALLY sucks as a penalty) or gold, but it does become more and more challenging to continue if you keep dying. It's a good balance and I'd like to see it implemented more often.
 

mikespoff

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lluewhyn said:
Belladonnah said:
There is still one more kind of punishment that can be implemented that works better in MMOs... Rewarding players better if they go through the content more smoothly, giving extra goodies if the party reaches the end of the instance without anyone dieing or without a party wipe, or with a very short time run through. This rewards skill without directly punishing failure.

Wow had this in some instances. I haven't played for a while, but I remember a dungeon in caverns of time, set in Stratholme allowing players to fight an extra boss for a Dragon mount if they reached it within a set time.
LOTRO has the "Challenge" modes(often referred to as Hard Mode)where you get extra rewards for completing an instance in a specific way. Interestingly, sometimes it's a reward for playing strategically better(Forges of Khazad Dum, Fil Gashan, Halls of Crafting), but more often it's a reward for taking on *additional* difficulty. This kind of difficulty varies, but usually involves killing the boss while not killing certain other creatures, such as letting the Adds beat on you while you're trying to take the boss down instead of cleaning them up first. Either way, it's rewarding you for being better players.
Yeah, GuildWars had different levels of reward for the missions: you could just finish it, which completed the story arc and let you continue, or you could try for the silver of gold ranking by doing it faster or whatever, and these gave you extra gold and/or xp. Their were also bonus objectives - entirely optional, but give you bonus XP and gold. This helps in an MMO setting because it still gives experienced players something to aim for if they're helping their friends through a mission that they've already done.
 

PrinceofPersia

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(Welcome to my world. Do you know hard it is being a fan of good, coherent storytelling these days?)
I feel your pain sir, it hurts like hell. Yeah as someone who played through the Nintendo age I can say with a bit of certainty that a Nintendo hard games suck the enjoyment out of the game like nothing else. The last thing I want to happen after I finish putting down a controller is me being angrier and more frustrated then when I picked it up.
 

Twilight_guy

Sight, Sound, and Mind
Nov 24, 2008
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Ah yes the challenge of balancing the level of skill and difficulty and the necessity of death's role in a game. An interesting topic and the subject of much flame and troll. Nobody is ever going to be happy so its always matter of finding the sweet spot where you have the fewest people whining. I hope Biowear finds it, even if they have to tweak the game a little over time.
 

Shjade

Chaos in Jeans
Feb 2, 2010
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Robyrt said:
poiumty said:
Now imagine the game without the checkpoints, so that if you die you have to start the entire chapter over from the very beginning. The combat and gameplay mechanics are otherwise identical, it just sets you back more when you fail. If you think about it, this doesn't make the game any more difficult to beat. It takes the same level of skill to reach the end of the game.
Um


In the example you're offering, having no checkpoints would force you to pay more attention and generally be on your toes - it'd take a bit of practice to go through a level without dying. So it's definitely not the same level of skill. In a way, if there were no checkpoints you'd be better at the game - because it would force you to. Unless the game's super easy anyway, but Force Unleashed had some dick move moments.

Punishment DOES add challenge to a game, it's just not the same thing as challenge. But they're intertwined.
In fact, Demon's Souls uses this system. When you die, you have to start the chapter over, and repeated deaths are punished even more heavily. Would the game have been better with checkpoints? Possibly, but the overall difficulty is so high (like in Mario games) that forcing the player to redo large stretches of content will noticeably raise their skill level, so the time isn't wasted.

For a game like Prince of Persia where the difficulty level is very low, forcing the player to backtrack is just wasting her time.
If you keep dying in Section 3 of a 5-section level, restarting at Section 1 is not going to improve your skills any more than restarting at Section 3 each time you die. Ultimately you're going to keep dying at Section 3 until you master that particular encounter (as the aforementioned memorization poster pointed out happens), but in the version with checkpoints you can make attempts at the encounter that's actually giving you trouble more quickly, as opposed to being forced to repeat the previous two sections that don't challenge you over and over again. It doesn't add challenge, it adds time.

Think of another example: you know those boss fights in some games with long cutscenes before you fight them, cutscenes that start over every time you have to re-try the fight? In some games you can skip those cutscenes; in some games you have to watch the whole bloody thing every freaking time. Which version is more challenging? ...neither, the bosses are the same. One just adds the extra punishment of wasting five minutes every time you have to re-try the fight. Doesn't make it any more challenging, just makes the game itself more annoying.
 

Kanatatsu

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This entire article is based on the premise that every MMO must include lots of grouping to plow through raid-type instances (and thus a real death penalty might frustrate the grouping).

That's not true. MMOs don't need to be that way.
 

Alphalpha

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I agree that challenge should be balanced with punishment. Super Meatboy, for example, is a very challenging game, but gets away with it because it has a reasonable punishment: try again from the start of the level (instantly). If you had to start at the beginning of the world you would have to play perfectly for minutes (a long time in this game) to gain one attempt at the section you are struggling with, while if you started merely a second or two from your death you could just luck your way through entire levels.

The punishment should be designed to keep the main challenge of the game at the forefront. The challenging levels are the whole purpose of Super Meatboy, and the only reason I play it. This is why it succeeds so brilliantly: each level is a distinct challenge and the punishment sets you back just enough to retry (and continue to enjoy) your current challenge without making you redo previous challenges or aiding you with this one.

An example of poorly executed punishment is in UFC 2010, specifically the career mode. The main challenges are obviously the fights; namely, winning them. One would think the spars and training camps, which you do to increase your skills and learn new techniques, respectively, would be structured so as to either allow you to practice using these skills and techniques, or to encourage behaviour that would allow you to surmount the main challenges(i.e. win fights). Instead, sparring splits all actions into positive or negative and each worth 1 point for you or your opponent, respectively. This means that if you hit him with a jab, that's 1 point; if you hit him with a haymaker and knock him out in one shot, that's 1 point; if you hit him with a haymaker and he blocks but you still do severe damage to him and he falls over dazed, that's 1 point for him. The systems for learning techniques vary but are all equally idiotic, with the result that strategies that win fights earn you nothing in training and strategies that pay off in training get you KTFO in fights (using the techniques you're training in also generally earn you nothing). In this case, the punishment isn't bad because it's too harsh or too lenient, but simply because it's stupid and unrelated to the core game.


As for punishment in MMORPGs I have no idea as I just don't get most of them. I play RPGs for the story, for the sense of accomplishment, for authorship of the world, for the immersion, and yes, for the challenge. MMORPGs seem to throw all of this away except for accomplishment:

There's no real story, as intricate, narrative-driven quests are replaced by thousands of generic monster-hunting exercises.

Accomplishment is both almost solely relegated to your level and material possessions and cheapened by being achieved in a world where the heroes outnumber the civilians.

What authorship can be had in a world that accepts no change but that which the developers create?

As for immersion, playing an MMORPG seems like getting a bunch of LARPers together, but instead of RPing, you have a heated game of badminton instead. Now, I'm not against the occasional badminton game, but I'm sure as hell not going to dress up like a wizard to do it.

While RPGs are not generally very challenging games, and tend more towards strategy than skill if they are, the lack of the above redeeming qualities in MMORPGs make the lack of challenge much more objectionable.

It just seems that for what they are, MMORPGs don't have to be RPGs at all; they share almost no similarities with one, and I find their superficial imitation disturbing, like a bear with a man's face.
 

neograpeshot

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lithium.jelly said:
I do think death in an MMO should mean more than it does in, say, WoW. I've been playing Eve Online for years, and I really like how death is handled in that. I especially like how any surviving modules from your ship can be taken from the wreck by anyone who gets to it. This means most players will be using generic equipment which can be purchased easily and how you use your gear is more important than how big it's bonuses are.
It also makes additional playstyles valid, such as trying to make a living as a pirate preying on other players. This in turn can lead to deeper emergent gameplay, where other players might band together to clear pirates out of a region to make it safer for a while or they might take a different & longer route, leading to different encounters and scenery.

I'd like to see more games treat your gear as throwaway, so it's more player skill and group planning that will matter in a fight, not simply how long you've spent grinding. I would also like to see death in an MMO mean you haven't lost everything, but you've definitely lost something. It gets adrenaline pumping in a tough fight, and forces you to plan your actions a little more. A harsher death penalty than you'll find in most MMOs can lead to a deeper and more complex game, provided (and this is important) the other mechanics in the game support it, such as the ability to loot other players, the reduced need for high-end equipment, and the ability to interact with your fellow players in more complex ways.
This.
I haven't played in a few years, but Eve handled PVP and death almost perfectly. Fighting actually meant something in that game; you could lose a lot when you fought, but at the same time you could gain quite a bit too. You could build an actual reputation, since people remember who caused them significant damage (or saved them from it). And there's nothing like the adrenalin of the first few fights you get into with a shiny ship that you spent a long time working for and you'd really rather not lose.

Stricter (though not game-ending) death penalties make a better game. It teaches players to be cautious and inventive, encourages greater player interaction (since mmo's by definition should not be single-player games), and are hundreds of times more satisfying to succeed at.