I’ve always found there to be something wrong with a lack of consequences for any given action. In the real world there are plenty of repercussions for bad decisions and failure. If you gamble and lose, you lose money and possibly go into debt or face other personal problems. You wouldn’t likely run in the middle of a gang shootout or busy intersection without good cause. In traditional video games, dying usually means reverting to the last saved location, but in multiplayer online games, there are varying and often insignificant consequences. Game developers have a tough job of balancing the feeling of risk with keeping the game fun.
There was a poker application on myspace that I played for a little while. There was “chips” that you could bet and collect but had no real dollar value attached. Most players played in a similar fashion to how a realistic game would go. You don’t bet big unless you have a good hand or really think you can bluff your way through. Ocassionally though, a player would join a table that would simply max bet every hand. Complete disregard for the normal consequences of betting all your money. Unless they were challenged and lost quickly, it would pretty much ruin any table. Other players would fold, leave, or sometimes call the bet and be taken out completely in one fell swoop. Of course, there is a chance someone feels ballsy and goes all-in, but not every hand or that commonly. The realism and fun of the game was hurt because losing the chips meant nothing, a player could log back in or re-install the app and be good to go yet again. In other types of multiplayer games, specifically WoW, the lack of penalties for dying or losing sometimes can hinder the behavior and strategy of some of the players.
In a raiding environment, having a raid wipe means nothing more than a couple gold repair bill. Even on a progression night with several wipes my guild can often pull a profit in gold with the coin that drops from the trash – not to mention vendor grays or epics. It is a fairly common occurence for us to give a basic explanation of an encounter to new players and pull unprepared because sometimes it’s quicker to let people see a fight and die to it than explain every ability in-depth. A group of adventurers wouldn’t likely run face first into a giant dragon without making sure everyone knew as much as possible or without a solid plan. Sometimes I feel like a stronger consequence might add a little more risk and suspense to new or difficult encounters. When I first started WoW, I was terrified when my gear was low on durability because I assumed that broken gear meant gear lost. Until I found out otherwise (died too many times), I would often carry an extra weapon with me to switch if my main one got too damaged. The extra risk was a little more exciting and figuring out ways to beat it was fun.
Oh PVP. The best example of the problem with no fear of death. A player could die a hundred times in an Arathi Basin and it would mean absolutely nothing, except that they are really, really bad. There are a couple of reinforcement based battle grounds like Alterac Valley that punish a team for too many deaths, but usually the objectives are what wins the match, not running out of players because the enemy killed you too many times. I know I’ve been guilty occasionally, particularly on my frost DK, of running into large group and smashing buttons to do as much damage as possible and maybe kill one or two people, knowing full well I’m going to die as well. Most individuals and societies wouldn’t accept suicide bombers as a strategy, but in a WoW BG, why not? Most of the time being dead means nothing more than a few seconds of not helping out, something the people who aren’t caring about winning or a good strategy don’t mind anyway. I’ve always felt that winning needs to be rewarded and loses needs to have a repercussion aside from the just the loss.
Enough QQ! What Should Be Done?
As I said at the beginning of this post, developers have a tough job balancing risk and fun. Past games (Everquest I believe), actually had an experience penalty that could cause a character to lose a level if they died. Do I want something that serious? Maybe. For PVP, I’d love to see a small return of the durability loss for a death via another player. This probably shouldn’t be nearly as high as a PVE death, because a 100g repair bill from a bad AV loss would get old really fast. A 1% durability loss (vs 10%? from PVE) would help. I feel that it would also encourage players to use PVP gear with resilience. In combat the goal shouldn’t be just to kill the opponent but also to survive. For PVE, I think broken gear should stay broken. This wouldn’t really change that wipes against a raid boss only cost gold, but it would at least make players a little nervous about dying repeatedly without paying attention. I’m sure Blizzard has reasons for the way their death system works, but maybe there are some tweaks that could be made to make staying alive a little more important.
What do you think?