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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Death

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I remember going to coin-op arcades after school. You put your quarter in and, in most games, you got a certain number of "lives." Three seemed to be a common number. Well, let me tell you, those lives were precious. You might feel a little wild and carefree when you had all three lives but when you were down to your last life you were fighting the inevitable freight train of death with all the skill at your command.

Things have changed and the concept of death in gaming has changed as well. Take a game like Nintendogs. There is no death in Nintedogs (until someone unlocks the super-secret Hot Cappucino mod which unleashes vicious dog fights) and the game is still popular. To take an example from the other extreme, we have the roguelike games such as Nethack. In these dungeon crawls a single death means game over, and believe me death is hard to avoid. Yet these games have a rabid fan base.

But onto the MMORPG arena. At the heart of most MMORPG's is combat and with combat comes death. So how do you handle the concept of death? Well, there is a wide spectrum you can choose from. At one end, you could let a player who dies immediately recover with the only penalty being a one second pause. At the other, you could have any death be the permanent death of that character. I believe there was an Everquest server called "The Fallen" that used the permanent death ruleset at one time. Maybe someone can set me straight on that.

Most MMORPG's fall somewhere in the middle of those extremes, creating a death penalty that hurts the player but not to the point of frustration. It really comes down to an individual preference and MMORPG's have to be accessible to a large portion of people. In most new MMORPG's the death penalty seems a bit tamer. You rarely see a new game come out in which you can lose your items due to death.

Let's take Everquest II. There are actually three separate parts of the death penalty. One is monetary: gear repair. Two is progress related: xp debt. Three is time/annoyance: recovering your shard.

I've never found the death penalty in EQII to be too severe. Sure I've felt the sting at times. At times I've wanted to go to sleep but we had to fight back through a long dungeon to recover our shards. When I don't have my shard I feel weak. Also, after some rough times, I've logged on and looked at the xp debt with dread.

But, I want death to mean something or the game would be a much different one. And there are methods for softening the penalty. If you take a break for a day or two, your xp debt will not only go down, your vitality will go up, making it easier to work that debt down. And many shards can be retrieved now by right-clicking on a zone door. Quick side note: there are places in the game where shards are inaccessible (i.e. falling into a chasm in PF) - this seems to me like a waste of GM and player time which should be addressed.

Okay, back on topic. I've played WoW and found the death penalty to be pretty weak, weaker than EQII. If I had my way, the death penalty in EQII would even be a little stronger. I suppose I personally prefer penalties which are more on the money/xp side than the annoyance side. I'd rather pay a penalty in gold than go on an extended corpse run.

Let me address the group xp debt issue for a minute. I thought this idea was absolutely brilliant. It just feels right. When you're fighting as a group everyone's actions are key to victory and survival. The reward is shared in the form of loot and the risk should be shared as well. Sure, at times you're going to pay for the mistakes of a poor player but that's part of what makes the game fun, in my opinion. It encourages good groups and good play.

But all this is only my opinion, which is truly meaningless in this respect because I have no idea what the majority of the player base actually feels. I don't expect SOE to make a game for my personal benefit. They should make a game that the majority of people enjoy playing.

And now SOE is
softening and changing the death penalty.

There are two parts to this change. One, xp debt is capped at fifty percent of a level. I find it hard to get that worked up about this. Are there really that many players walking around with more than fifty percent of xp debt? Sure, it happens on occasion, but it's not a common thing. I'd rather not see this change be made but I also don't think it is a major one.

Second is an end to group xp debt. As I just said, I love the concept of group xp debt. There is one time and one time only when group xp debt annoys me and that is when a player you invited to group gets killed on the way there. But that could easily be addressed by utilizing a smaller radius for group xp debt so that it only counts when you are in the general vicinity.

There are some who say this change will punish tanks the most, because they are the ones at the forefront of the fight and taking the damage. I'm not sold on this argument until I see some statistics on who dies the most in a normal six person group.

So, yeah, I think changing group xp debt is a bad idea because I felt it was a great concept that worked very well and even helped build the sense of community that Scott was referring to in the post I linked to yesterday. So why is SOE making this change? I read on the forums once (I think) that the number one reason people give when they cancel their accounts is group xp debt. Unfortunately, I couldn't find this post so if anyone can verify it I would greatly appreciate it.

I find it shocking and almost absurd that people would cancel EQII over the issue of group xp debt. But I can only give my point of view. I don't know how other players feel.

So, we'll see how things go. Maybe the majority of people will enjoy the game more, but I think I will enjoy it a little less. Of course, I insert my usual disclaimer here that these changes are only on test and may never go live.

16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

100% agree

Group XP Debt is a brilliant feature...

I just hope they will provide a way to let group operate with it if they want (like lottery, and soon 'help wanted' configuration).

I personally wouldn't want to group in a 'no group xp debt'.

IHMO it will reduce the quality time while playing in groups. It will reduce everyone responsibility toward the group..

Hate it :(

I already found that having one person have to pay for it's gear was non proper, as often it is the tank, or the wiz when things get too tough that gets down...

Now on pickup groups, I fear :
- Tank won't taunt as much for fear the healer is not up to the task
- Healer will restrain to keep up from aggro magneting
- DPS dealers will take more care not to aggro.. Too bad if it goes wrong, they can still run...

2:57 AM  
Anonymous Scott Adams said...

I totally agree with your post. But Sony has to stem the tide of loosing folks somehow.

Have you tried making a new character? Except for AB (my server) all others seem to be always running in light mode. We have had countless folks join our guild saying they transfered in from a dying server.

My local Wal-mart no longer carries ANY Everquest, EQlive or EQ2. WoW is in abundance.

Sony needs to get the impeteous back in for folks to see this as fun game.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Anskiere said...

Wow you pulled aggro on the blog spammers again.

I totally agree with keeping group xp debt.. there is no reason to take it out :(
Not like group xp debt was that big to start with, anyway..

9:03 AM  
Anonymous Fergle F. Fergleson said...

Hate to sound like a 'me too' post, but you can add my vote to the "complete agreement" column.

I can't necessarily say I *liked* group-xp (if just for the reasons you mention), but it was always so minor that it was hardly worth sweating over. And, as mentioned, it felt like we were tied together in more than just a quest for phat l00t.


In regards to death statistics: While hardly authoritative or scientific, I can speak in regards to my regular 4-man team (guard, templar (me), wizard and swash). If the guard' goes down, we've typically got about 5 seconds before complete party wipe. That's *usually* enough to get the combat-rez and the evac off. But when it's not, I'm usually the next to go, followed by the soft & chewy wizard and the swash' last.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Anskiere said...

I do remember having 100% debt once, that was fun :)
It just after the game was released, and I was around level 18. I had a -lot- of bad groups (like three days worth).
Thats the only time that has happened, and the closest I've ever gotten again was about 20%.. soo.. hmm :)

10:10 AM  
Blogger Fraxas said...

I personally don't need game incentives to avoid death. It's DEATH, people. Even if it's not as punishing in EQ2 as it is in real life, I still avoid it -- after all, death is failure, in the context of the game.

Did you need a reason beyond losing that little icon in the bottom left-hand corner to dodge bullets in a shootemup? When you play Doom 3, do you just barge ahead, not caring about your life and armour percentages?

10:10 AM  
Blogger Mr.X said...

I hope they allow shared group XP via toggle in group options, like the lotto method. Default it to "no shared debt". This way everybody should be happy.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Quylein said...

I agree that their way of making xp debt be shard in grp's worked.

Though I belive that they would get tons of complaint if they unlock groups to invite and disband at will.

Example would be say wiz_01 goes in a dungeon invise to check it out he get aggro and dies.. Disbands and the adds run to the group.. everyone else dies. Wiz_01 get's his debt and gives to the rest. While the other 5 in the group share their debt and it wasnt even their fault.

11:43 AM  
Anonymous Ell said...

"The Fallen" was an Everquest(Live) PvP server which was in beta test around December 2003.

It had several hardcore rules. Most notable being that you would be 'restored' to level 1 in case of death.

It was fun only for the first few deaths. I don't think it ever went live.

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Trin said...

It's worth noting that near launch, xp debt (both group and solo) was a lot higher than it is now. In that time a few group wipes could easily get you up to 50%. Now though, a night of group wipes is not terribly significant. I think the highest I've been since whenever that change went through was around 20% after a particularly lousy night (in both cases, assuming you do retrieve all shards of course).
To get above 50%, the way debt currently works, I think you would have to persistently attempt an area you aren't ready for.

As for the note about unretrievable shards(chasms and whatnot), some of those can actually be retrieved from the bells; I believe I saw a post about that once, but haven't had use for it since.

In my regular group, if we are taking on something new that is beyond what we should be doing, it is the tank that goes down first if anyone. Otherwise it is usually a mistake on someone's part, often the mage ;), but sometimes the healer (me, fury).

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm rather wishywashy about the whole thing, but my biggest concern as far as death goes is actually monitary. One death costs me around 5g right now - which might not seem huge, but when taking on a new dungeon, contestable, or raid zone like Spirits of the Lost (where I've had the bad luck to burn 2 full sets of gear), we're into the region of platinum.

/Feithen

1:06 PM  
Anonymous Kyote Weregard said...

ell was pretty much right about his comments on the "fallen" server, except for the part of never going live.. I dont remember if they kept that name or what but that server ruleset..if not the server itself..did go live for a very, very short time as a live event.. I cant remember why or the circumstances around it.. just that they used the ruleset to introduce a new server and kept score of who was the highest level player .. meaning... who survived the longest before it was taken down again.. it was absolutely horrible... even for those that like pvp.. because it didnt take long for the cheaters and gankers to ruin it.. especially bad were the people who formed groups just to ensure that one of their members leveled and never died.. not really cheating but not really in the spirit of the original idea of who could be the highest in a week..
I could be wrong about some of the details.. I've played or did regulary play EQ since release and there have been many many changes.. I dont remember all the events and server rulesets they messed around with..
for all those who griped about the GM's and the live events messing up their playtime while Verant ran things, I guess they sure miss those days now. I was friends with two guides and started in the program myself before it went dead.. too many changes now days and so impersonal.. guess thats what most of us liked about Mythic when we started playing it.. shame TOA pretty much killed what is still one of the most well thought out and inovative and friendly games out there..
I like EQ2 more than EQ1 since im older now (40) and dont have all the time to devote that I used to have, but there is still a limit to how much dumbing down you can/should do... For years Sony refuses to listent to anyone and now they listen to too many players and overdo the changes..
they should keep in mind that just because a certain issue is in the forums dosent mean its important to the majority of the community.. only about 14-15% of the player base ever regulary goes to the forums and only about 1-3% of that post regulary.. so I would be leary of making changed based on the community forum posts.. you are only hearing the squeaky wheels. I believe they would be better served by surveying the players as they enter the game with pop-up surveys like Mythic does to ensure you hear from everyone , even the casual player.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Pirate Alice said...

I had 98% debt at one point. I was with a group and one of the members wasn't waiting for the tank to get all the aggro on him and as I tried to heal I'd get all the aggro on me. Happens a lot for us poor little healers when you get in a group with someone who can't play right.
I think the group debt is fine, I don't think they should take it away. You're a group you need to work together to keep each other from dying. In a real world situation you WOULD work together to keep each other from dying. and the XP debt when a death occurs is kinda like you're mourning the loss of your friend.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think a harsh death penalty is required or fun.

I have pride...and dying at all irks me. I don't need my nose rubbed in poop like a bad dog to be mad about dying.

I don't think punishing players with xp debts, xp loss, or item loss adds to the challenge factor of games - it only adds unpleasantries and detracts from fun.

There is only one thing that is truly precious - and that is time. It's something you can't ever buy or replace. I don't enjoy gameplay that wastes my valuable time. Losing hours worth of progress as a means of punishing death in a game is a severe waste of the only truly precious asset you have.

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the removal of the group debt. Have you ever been in that group with the wizard who did thier big nuke on the incomming and gets swatted in 1 shot before the tank has time to get aggro? Ever have that happen over and over and over?

With group debt your final recourse is to not let them group with you. Without group debt they will learn eventually. Many other examples but keeping it short.

5:04 PM  
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2:40 AM  

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