Pre-Combat Upgrade

{July 9, 2007}   Death Penalty? What about Kill Penalty?

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’).


Well, there was UO’s system of the scary red name for a while. Kill someone without cause a few times and you become a PK’er. That means other players can hunt you with no penalty for killing you over and over again. IIRC, if you killed enough PKs you got a blue name for your efforts. Maybe not. It’s been a while.

Anyway, it all still boiled down to gang warfare at its finest. A modified system like this might be interesting to see, though. Especially in a modern game.

damianov says:

UO’s original system was interesting. The main problem was the system for determining who should have a “red name”. If you stood in a doorway, invisible, and thus blocked someone from running away from a monster that was killing them, was that an attack? “Training” a group of monsters into someone? What if it was unintentional? The old moral dilemma of “healing the murderer”?

Finding ways for the system to define/decide in an automated fashion who “deserved” a red name and who didn’t was the big headache, as I recall. A big enough problem that none of the big names has really tried to tackle it ever again, let’s put it that way. I do think it could be both fun and instructive to try it again on a smaller scale, tho.

I’d like to see a bunch of different approaches to the death/killing paradigm, frankly. It was touched on in Richard Bartle’s roundtable session at IMGDC… it’s one of the biggest assumptions in the genre. The current paradigm may well be the best for general purposes, but that does not mean other approaches may not be viable as well. It’d be nice to see some alternatives, IMO.

kanthalos says:

Lineage 2 used a system very similar to UO’s it sounds like where you could attack anyone, but you turned red and there was no penalty for others killing you in return. My brother played and not be, but I’m guessing there were instances and certain places where this was different, but this really helped to keep players in check, as random killings could lead to all out wars between clans. This works well for some people, but its not my cup of tea. I like that your whole group can get behind you, but I’d want more of a boundary between peace and allout war due to one random killing. Sorry for the tangent, but yeah, Lineage 2 has a “killing penalty.”

That doesn’t even seem like a killing penalty to me. As it sits on most games, if I engage in a fight (wanted or not) with another faction, I’m “flagged” to be able to be attacked by others of that same faction. Sure, this goes away eventually, but that’s basically the same thing as just ‘marking’ someone as attackable. I think we need an honor system much like WoW has but with penalties. Reward players for killing or participating in killing other players around the same level (or “skill level” for skill based games) as you, and penalize them for killing the rest. If you are able to kill someone without hardly any damage to yourself and within a very short period of time, take honor away. Make people NOT want to kill “lowbies”, but still leave it to their choice.

I think you should have an ‘assassin/bounty hunter’ type profession no matter what which would always be to hunt down players to kill, but you could up the importance of killing a player (or add them if not otherwise on the list) if they do a lot of pkilling of lowbies.

chrisgwilliams says:

City of Heroes used a combination of things. You were teleported back to the hospital, where you were rezzed. So no insta-respawning.

There was no need to return to the body, but you did incur XP debt. You could still earn new xp, but a portion of it went to your debt also. This, as a player, sucked big time. As a designer, I get it.

Now, the thing is, COH had a brutal grind for solo-play. It was entirely possible to get VERY deep in XP debt, to the point that your hero felt almost unplayable (from a futility standpoint.) There probably should have been a cap on how deep into debt you could go.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

et cetera
%d bloggers like this: