This started as a reply to Damianov at Voyages in Eternity and was quickly turning into not only a lengthy reply, but a topic changer at the end so I decided to just blog my thoughts instead to the 1 1/2 people who actually read this blog ;).
I think people when talking about death penalties in general aren’t thinking on an abstract enough level to see the whole picture.
Just to get you thinking a little bit more, take this scenerio: I’m playing a game and two people of the opposite faction, both higher levels (we’ll presume a level-based game for ease of discussion) than yourself and they quickly dispatch of you with little notice. These two gankers decide it would be a ton of fun to camp your dead body. After several deaths, you just HAPPEN to get the upperhand and defeat the only one of the two attackers who can slow your escape. You down him, but since there isn’t a ‘death penalty’ of running for 2 minutes to get back to their ‘body’, he is back up within a few seconds, slowing your escape, leading to another death.
This is just ONE reason why it’s GOOD to have to make a run for your body like in WoW. It’s also a good example of a ‘feature’ that 99% of the players complain about. It sucks making that trip all the way back, but it’s a necessary evil to create better overall gameplay. Designers have to make incredibly difficult and complex decisions all the time, often which they know will lead to players not likely a certain aspect of the design. This is why nerfing is required in most games. No matter how much you test a game, until you get millions of players, especially avid players, beating the crap out of your game, you will not know how balanced your game truely is.
It’s hard to play devil’s advocate when you are the creator, but designers are forced into that role.
Having said that, I think we don’t have strong enough penalties for death, OR KILLING. Even the non-pvpers typically will duel once in awhile and bask in the glory of defeating someone else. It’s just a different beast in and of itself.
Why shouldn’t you loose experience when you die? In classic games such as Tomb Raider and others you had save points. If you died, you lost EVERYTHING you had gained since the last save point. Often times this was quite some time. People complained but they still played. I don’t think perma-death is a good solution at all to anything as an MMO designer because I want people to get attached to their characters. This is what builds community and keeps people playing the game, which is obviously important.
I also wonder why there aren’t really penalties for players killing other players? Hell, you can’t even kill anyone you want in Grand Theft Auto (cops, emergency workers, people in front of cops, etc.) There should be penalties for killing players, especially players who have little to not chance of even being able to defend themselves. Sure it’s fun to kill other players, I do it quite often (I only wear the lipstick and combat paint on Thursdays). I also have been guilty of killing players that were so low I could kill them with a single blow. The question then becomes, is it fun? It’s fun in most cases to the person who killed the other person, but usually, if not always, the opposite for the killee. The whole point is to make the game as fun as possible for EVERYONE, not just one side of the party.
It’s not that I think we shouldn’t be allowed to gank lowbies, it’s just that there should be SOME sort of concesquence that would make me have to think it’s worth it to do so. On the same token, I don’t think it should be so restrictive that no one would do it either. It would be a very complex beast indeed. If the lowbie attacked the high level first, then there should be no penalty, and so on. I think the problem with combat isn’t that people like different things, it’s that it hasn’t fully been integrated in a way that works for everyone yet (key word ‘yet’).