Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Defias were scary enough to me

"Give us harsher death penalties!"

No, this view doesn't originate from me. I think you knew that. I'm just referring one of those ideas that pops up in the blogosphere every now and then.

This time it's Wolfshead who has picked it up in an - as always - interesting and eloquent post about the lack of real risks to the player in modern MMOs. Once again I can't unconditionally make a /sign on what he says. But on the other hand, I guess that's just as good, because if I could there wouldn't be much of a discussion.

The dumbed down game
I must admit that I'm a little bit surprised to see this coming from Wolfshead of all bloggers. After all he has earlier described himself as some sort of spokesman for the casual gamer, and he has always talked passionately about the need for virtual worlds and not just theme parks. Guild houses and that kind of fluffy, cute and far from risky things. Now he sounds more like an elitist minded veteran jerk, complaining about how the casuals and noobs have ruined it all, longing back to vanilla WoW when only the REAL players had access to the raid instances and you had to work HARD to EARN your EPICS.

He says straight out that the MMOs (read WoW I suppose) have been dumbed down:

"MMOs are dying a death of a thousand cuts as the unintended consequence of meddling game designers eager to “improve” their MMOs by dumbing-down their mechanics has eviscerated the end user experience that made MMOs so unique. The sense of challenge, danger and mystery has been replaced by a feeling of entitlement, security and predictability."
He accuses the MMOs of today for giving the players praise and status they don't deserve, granting them too easy character progression, showering them with loot and de-emphasizing player ability and skill.

Gosh. I don't think Wolfshead would like to have me in his raid. I can vividly imagine how he'd call me out when I failed at a defile. "LTP, noob! You don't deserve to be here!"

As a symptom of this "convenience-driven" gameplay, Wolfshead talks about the "trivialization" of the death penalty.
"Because of this, death has been rendered meaninglessness in most MMOs. Players lose any respect they had for dying and death itself. Failure has a token cost of a few coins. Players lose any respect they had for dying and death itself. Failure has a token cost of a few coins."
Wolfshead argues why an element of real risk - and the fear that comes with it - should be brought back into the games, not just because it fosters better, more skilled players, but also because it's more fun.
"The ability to risk is what separates the men from the boys. The potential to lose everything is what makes high stakes games worth playing."
Rose-colored lenses of nostalgia
As so often with Wolfshead, his post has sparked a very good discussion in the comment section. I find myself most of all agreeing with Scott from Pumping Irony, who says:

"There can be plenty of risk but the bottom line is not all of us who used to have all day every day to play these games can do so anymore. We’ve grown up just like the developers have grown up. The new kids might actually be kids with the time we used to have but the companies still want us playing because we’re the ones making the money. I don’t want to have to run a corpse around to get my stuff. It’s just boring and yes, it is absolutely inconvenient. I don’t need to “win” every battle but I don’t feel a need to be further punished for “losing” one either. "
Wolfshead argues:
"Don’t people want to feel excitement, danger, the thrill of living on the edge at least virtually? That’s what I used to feel when I first played MMOs. Seeing my first Ancient Cyclops, camping for my Ghoulbane. Seeing Sand Giants for the first time. The awe and wonder are gone."
Scott counters bluntly that Wolfshead simply is looking back through the rose-colored lenses of nostalgia:

“Seeing” your first Ancient Cyclops? “Seeing” your first Sand Giants? Of course the “awe and wonder” are gone. They were gone the second and third time you saw Ancient Cyclops and Sand Giants, as well. There’s no “risk” in “seeing” things; there *might* be “risk” associated with getting to where these things are, however, and that has not changed even in today’s MMO’s

Like anything else when it comes to nostalgia, “you can never go home again,” or "nothing compares to the first love,” or any other number of quaint catch-phrases to sum up the fact that a substitute will never recapture those raw emotions we felt on the First Time

Again, someone could make your Perfect MMO with all the risk, challenge, whatever else you think you want now and it would all pale because you’ve been there, done that. That’s just life man."
Enough of quoting, I hope I've tickled you enough to read the post for yourself and make an opinion about it.

Larísa's view
I'll also add a few thoughts of my own. As I've hinted, I believe the death penalty in WoW, consisting of a repair bill and a loss of time, spent on corpse running, is big enough as it is.

Take progression raiding. When I'm engaged into beating a difficult encounter, the world outside of it ceases to exist. I'm involved, present, committed and motivated to do my very best as it is. I, like any other raider HATE to fail and to lose, especially if it's "my fault", and I take every single try very seriously, trying my best to control my emotions of disappointment and frustration when we miss out. When we finally, after all those endless corpse runs succeed, I tell you I'm triumphantly happy about it. It doesn't take permanent loss of gear or xp to get me there. I'm excited anyway.

But even if you look in the other extreme end of the game, there's definitely room for fear in WoW as it is now.

I'll take take an example from my first experiences in WoW, in the beginning of 2007, when I rolled a paladin, my first gaming toon ever. Wolfshed, I assure you that I went through a ton of trouble and that I was scared and frustrated enough.

The Defias band members kept running after and killing me over and over again, while I helplessly tried to understand how to control the camera, the mouse and what the concept of questing meant. And I actually was pretty close to giving up and quitting the game when I believed my character had become infected with an incurable disease. (The yellow/red man in the vanilla UI, meaning you need to repair, which I couldn't figure out.) I hoped it would wear away, but it didn't. My character just kept dying if someone as much as looked on her and I wondered if I'd ever learn to play this game. Finally I decided to desert her, rolling a new toon, a certain mage, which still is alive and kicking. I was still pretty scared of the mean trolls in Don Morough, but at least I learned how to repair.

Admittedly the mobs in the starter zones are yellow these days and won't aggro unless attacked, so probably new players have no reason to be as afraid as I was. A good change if you ask me. But soon enough they'll reach Duskwood, where the wolves and spiders still are hungry and aggressive and the corpse runs are endless. They have every reason in the world to be cautious.

I can still remember the excitement as I brave but clueless ran through it, dying quite a few times on the way, not really knowing what I was doing or where I was going, only that it was scary as hell. If I had lost XP and not just gotten eaten by the wolves, would that have made it more fun? Not very likely.

The second time around
I don't think the problem is that the games have become slightly less annoying and harsh, and that this has destroyed the experience. I think the issue is that every player eventually will change as they've learned and seen the basic concepts of MMOs. You can try to evoke thrills with increasing amounts of stimuli, but I only think it helps you to a certain point.

You can't ever repete the very first love experience you get with an MMO.

I'm currently having a brief and curious look at LOTRO. It's very charming in many ways (I'll write a report on my impressions soon, I promise!). But it's not the same thrill as it was to enter WoW.

This is not because the lack of risks as I'm delivering pies and eggs in delightful little quests within the Shire. It's because it's the second time around.

And no death penalty in the world can change this.


Gronthe said...

I still respect death. Every time a raid wipes I feel it, and not just in my coin pocket, but in my headphones with everyone moaning and groaning.

I can't stand it when people talk permadeath and stuff like that. Right, like I'm paying $50 bucks for the box, $15 a month, and once i die that's it, game over? Whatever! WoW has it just fine, fear of death does not equate to the "only kind of fun" there is.

PvP is exciting, raiding can be exciting, soloing a world elite when you're lower level then it is exciting. There's a lot to get my juices flowing and it's not necessarily fear of death.

Shintar said...

I wouldn't want the death penalty to be harsher than it is, but sometimes a think that having a bit more death going around outside of raids would be a good thing. On my tanking characters in particular I can just run through the world with no fear whatsoever, because no matter how much I aggro on the way it won't be able to kill me.

At the same time I get all the angrier when I accidentally get killed by something while herbing on my priest, because I'm not supposed to die, damn it, not ever! And then I realise that it's pretty messed up that I've even come to the point where I'm thinking that.

The death penalty as WoW has it seems fine to me, but I agree that Azeroth as a whole seems to have become a lot less dangerous than it used to be. I wouldn't mind if they made the average mob a bit tougher again so it can actually feel like an obstacle again.

2nd Nin said...

Death penalties are stupid in an MMO game.

Ok, you will get players who want to play on European Extreme or nightmare modes but the average player doesn't. A death penalty is already incurred in terms of time and cost adding a further penalty to it does what exactly?

Imagine a world where a death causes you to be dead for an hour (or real time, or worse logged in time). How many of you would honestly have kept playing after your first meeting with the Defias in the orchards of Stormwind abbey? You go from slaying wolves as though they were mere pups, to accidentally pulling 1 too many mobs (which can be 2) and end up dead... subscription lost.

Same thing applies later on, people would be ridiculously careful with their characters if they had a real death penalty. Imagine dying in a raid and requiring to wait an hour to res? Destroys raiding as a thing to do and becomes something you approach with utmost care, you don't take along your friend who is a noob because they might wipe you. Social inclusion is gone, you play with people who are skilled enough to never die or you suffer with those that can't.

When death is the point of the setting it is fine, when it is something that is realistically a side issue (whoops I pulled too much) then it is silly to impose the same kinds of penalties. I have played European Extreme (get spotted once in MGS and the game ends), and the Permadeath versions of Diablo... it isn't the same game as the original, it is about not dying, about making sane and sensible choices and taking it slow, a single Leroy would likely cause /quits.

Talarian said...

I had never heard of Wolfshead until recently, and the couple of his posts that have resonated through the blogosphere recently honestly paints him as a very jaded veteran who has seen it all. I agree that there is no way to put the genie back in the bottle and experience that first bout of awe when you first walked into an MMO.

The entire concept of gaming genres suffers from this, MMOs are not unique here. FPSs, once you've mastered one, they all look pretty similar. JRPGs, RTSs, and so on. We get the occasional "oh, neat" mechanic, but never that sense of wonder as we got when we first played Tetris, or Mario, or Sonic, or Final Fantasy. Heck, even WoW didn't give me the same sense of awesome as the first time I saw Everquest for that brief period of time I played it. If you want that oh wow moment back, you need to go experience *new* things, not derivations of things you've experienced in the past. You're looking in the wrong place.

The death penalty question is interesting, if only because MMOs, and many other games, have a black and white definition of losing. You're dead, or the other side is dead. I wonder if there's not room in between for defeat?

Some quests could have different outcomes if you lose the fight, or some mobs just wanting to drive you off instead of killing you (you go unconcious and wake up elsewhere, or you've been captured by the Defias for ransom!). Why everyone and everything ends in death when there are so many more interesting possible outcomes in between is something I don't see many people asking, and perhaps could be the next big "Oh, neat!" moment in MMOs. We already see this idea in a few RPGs, so why not in WoW?

Brian 'Psychochild' Green said...

I think there are a few issues being muddled together here.

1. Risk is what Wolfshead's article is arguably about. He's arguing that most modern MMOs lack as much challenge because there's less consequences for your actions. Dying is the canonical example: it used to be that dying put your whole character at risk. The original MUD had it so that if you died, the character was deleted. In EQ1 you could lose all your stuff. In most current MMOs (including WoW), you run back (or, better, wait for the healer to run back) and spend a bit more of your nigh endless gold supply that night.

2. Difficulty is what you seem to think Wolfshead was arguing for, making people work harder for their epics. Difficulty is different than risk. Difficulty must means it is harder to succeed, whereas risk means that failure carries a steeper cost.

3. Newness is what you're talking about at the end of your post. Experiencing something for the first time is mind-blowing. The first time I was on a text game, playing in the United States and chatting with someone in England, it was amazing. Getting online and seeing other characters in graphics. A lot of people would like to recapture that feeling, but it's almost impossible to do so.

Of course, these three issues blend together in interesting ways. The most common accusation leveled against someone who thinks an older way might be better is that they have rose-colored glasses, and that they're looking to re-capture the feel of newness they once experienced. I'll admit, there's some truth to this, as I've definitely seen that people seem to shape their expectations based on their first online game. People who played text games first have very different expectations than someone who started with WoW. Not that one has the "right" set of expectations and the other the "wrong" set, but they are different.

The design issue that we attempt to address is the listlessness that people feel about these games after a while. The progression to make things easier seems like a good thing, but it can actually cause a lot of negative issues. I wrote a blog post a while ago talking about how risk enhances fun. As I point out, one problem is that normal survival tendencies are that you try to maximize reward while minimizing risk. Unfortunately, that's not always very fun. Consider your day job vs. being a bounty hunter. Your day job pays the bills but isn't as much fun as being a bounty hunter, probably. (Unless your day job is as a bounty hunter.) But, you would probably still choose your boring day job over bounty hunting because bounty hunting is dangerous (that is, risky, which makes it the more fun option). But, when you get online to play a bounty hunter, your survival instincts kick in and you try to maximize rewards by minimizing risk. Result: less fun.

Ultimately, what I think Wolfshead is arguing for is to put more of that risk in. Make the game more fun because of the risk. But, good design is required to balance things out to make it more fun than frustrating. :)

Talarian said...


That's a pretty good point, especially about design balance of fun versus frustrating. The problem with risk and death penalties comes back to convenience versus loss. You can have temporary loss, or permanent loss.

Any temporary loss can be recovered from by an investment of time. Gold, experience, even gear can be re-earned. But as their core player base has less time, they find this type of loss off-putting because it seems pointless. Would I rather be spending my time regrinding those last 80,000 experience points because a mob that just spawned on top of me killed me? Or would I rather spend the time doing other things?

Then we have permanent loss. Other than rerolling, no amount of time could make up for this. Scars, stat penalties, even permanent character death. These things are even more off-putting to many players, because the player no longer has direct control over what happens to their character, and hours to days of time can be lost to this.

WoW's solution has been to impose a minor time penalty of running back to your corpse and dinging you a small amount of money. The upshot of that is that they can afford to make some encounters (like raids, or PvP) more challenging because players aren't afraid of dying other than as an inconvenience. The downside is, yes, death is not to be feared, and that feeling of risk is gone.

Redbeard said...

Since I tend to solo content, I respect death more than I ought to. I also had experience playing pencil and paper RPGs before WoW, and depending on your DM death was pretty much the end of the road. It made perfect sense to be cautious.

When I heal in a PuG, I take it personally when people die on my watch. True, more than a bit of it is the "die in a fire" variety, but it still rankles me. Respecting death is something you have to come to grips with in an MMO; if you died and had to restart all the time, that would completely stink throwing away all of the time and effort you spent in the game. Sure, some people would have you believe that the journey is the entire purpose of the game --and it is a big part-- but seeing your toon make it past the low levels all the way to the high levels without dying once is asking a bit much.

Justisraiser said...

The problem with something like 'character death' isn't that everyone is toe carebear to deal with it, but ultimately it doesn't end up accomplishing what it should and just amounts to another timesink.

Imagine you saw this in WoW: "Patch 3.3.5 -- Characters are now deleted upon death. All graveyards have been removed." Or even "Characters now have one piece of gear deleted upon death."

Well, that's pretty serious, isn't it? So you log in for your guild's raid. You're working on a progression fight. Well, erm, progression, huh? That might mean death. You'll pass.

So then the guild suggests, let's do something where there's very little chance of death. How about a 5 man dungeon? When was the last time you died in Halls of Stone? It's probably been a long time.

Okay, so you get three other guildies, unfortunately no healers seem to be available. Well, why not just jump into LFD and get one? Except what if they're not a good healer? Then you'll die, and there goes your loot.

Okay, so your best guild healer signs on. There's no chance at all you'll die in Halls of Stone, right? Except at one point your tank lags out, disconnects, and even in your ilevel 277 epics in Halls of Stone, it's hard to tank the Tribunal Room without a... well, tank.

So you rez. They took away your gloves. Your gloves, that you spent 60 frost emblems on! Well, what are you going to do? Start grinding frost emblems. So you play even more cautiously for the next three weeks, carefully accumulating frost emblems to purchase your gloves again

My point is, this isn't fun. It doesn't make the game any better. At best it just makes you super cautious, and at worst it reduces everything down to a time-sink, since any penalty is just going to be a function of time to remove the penalty. People like to think of "risk" as adding a sense of immersion, but it just distracts you from what you want to be doing, which is actually playing the game.

Anonymous said...

I played EVE Online before coming over to WOW with some RL friends. I can tell you that having a penalty for death does seriously impact the game. "Dying" in EVE causes you to actually lose something that, depending on the loss, can set you back weeks. I know that must sound drastic, but I can assure you that there is nothing quite like the feeling of combat in EVE when there are real losses at stake.

Koch (Aszune) said...

I can't agree with Wolfshead. Unfortunately players will always (presumably - I certainly do) go for the easiest way out of a dangerous situation. In the case of a harsh death penalty, people will stick to easier content, thus actually making the game more boring than it would be.

Bold statement, let me try and give an example. In the olden days of Star Wars Galaxies (before the abomination that was called the New Game Experience), Jedi characters were rare. They also were insanely powerful - there was no one to stop them from wearing the best of armour, packing the best buffs and striking with a weapon that would chop a limb clean off.

This was (sort of) balanced by permadeath. Now even Sony had noticed that connection losses happened, so the penalty was set to "three deaths and your character will be deleted". You could reroll and start over at that point (I presume - never died in that age).

Did I mention that non-consentual PvP was active for Jedi characters? If you got too much "visibility" other players could (and would) hunt you down.

What this lead to was Jedi players hiding in the wilderness - at least several minutes away from the nearest Starport (planet change location) - possibly with a spy parked there to keep an eye on new arrivals. Everyone was fighting monsters considerably below their power level to make sure death did not actually happen.

In retrospect, boring play - especially on a lengthy scale. Sure there was real thrill involved, but it was not a "good" excitement whenever you saw a speeder bike fly by.

Copra said...

Like last time Wolfshead wrote anything sensible, that post has gotten out of proportion and is being given meanings it doesn't have. Well, IMO at least and that's what means anyhow to anyone of us. Psychochild recapped the reasons and odd reactions very nicely, so I won't go to that.

One thing is that people are so keen on comparing everything through WoW, when Wolfshead actually spoke about MMO's in general. That includes EVE, for example, where there is a pretty good balance in the risk/reward scale. You can have your industrial character doing millions of ISK's worth of ships and fittings in the high sec area, quite comfortably safe. Or you can have your bounty hunter in low or nullsec fighting for gold and respect with the possibility of losing it all. It's all about choices and the risk/reward ratio is selectable.

In WoW... it isn't. The whole thing is the same pudding, from the beginning to the end, dying being just an annoyance. As the loot is raining from doors and windows -and all loot is available to all- the gear doesn't act as a reward anymore: it's just a tool for a mean.

I cannot comment on the raiding side, but still I think that it would be spiced up a bit by adding some sort of setback if the raid fails. Like someone mentioned, the monetary punishment is just an annoyance, and that annoyance feels like punishment itself. But is it enough to make the whole concept as exciting as the prospect of losing something valuable?

We live pretty boring lives and for some of us the MMO's and games provide the much needed excitement for the day. The MMO scene is getting too unified and dumbed down and thus the excitement factor, or the risk/reward factor, is dwindling down for them.

That's just my few. From someone not ever raided in WoW (still playing, though) and playing EVE in highsec, where the excitement is just good enough for me for the time being (with all the wardecks on our corp, that is).

C out

2nd Nin said...

Copra, surely though that is the point of Eve? To create a ship, a role and a persona and to risk it all in the game or play it safe. From what I got playing Eve there wasn't really an end game raiding type environment, there wasn't a necessity to run instances with noobs who might get you wiped for no reason... there was no reason to take a risk without a potential reward.

Larísa said...

@Gronthe: Exactly my point. If you find the game non exciting it’s not because the death penalty is to light. It’s because you’re not challenging yourself enough.

And if you’re doing a very long boss fight, such as Yogg-Saron or LK, it hurts when you keep wiping in the final phase and have to start all over again. It hurts a lot. It’s not just the corpse run and the rebuffing you’re risking. You have to get through all those first phases again. Sometimes that feels as a very harsh penalty (looking at you KT, with the zzzzz first phase, which was insanely boring and pointless and annoying.)

I don’t think stricter death penalties would add anything at all to my gaming experience, apart from annoyance and eventually a wish to quit, doing something more entertaining during my free time.

@Shintar: Yeah, I think I could agree on that. This said I didn’t wholeheartedly love the Fel Reaver that walked around in HF, stomping me into a wet pool every now and then. But more danger around – yeah, why not? Especially in higher areas, probably not so much in the lowbie places. On the other hand – I wish there were more reasons for us to wish those areas at all. As it now is they’re pretty much deserted, so adding danger wouldn’t make any big difference, would it? However: if they did this, the danger for death is enough. The death doesn’t need to have worse consequences than it has.

@2ndNin: yeah, I agree with what you say. I think there could be a game like this (as you suggest there seem to be, I’ve never heard of “European extreme” but it sounds like something like that.) However that kind of game would be very, very narrow, just attracting a handful of players with a very elitist/hardcore/masochist mindset. Good for them I suppose but I’d say that the mainstreamness of WoW is one of the features that makes it so interesting. It’s a melting pot consisting of so many different sorts of people. And that’s actually added value in my world.

@Talarian: Your suggestion about not everything ending in death is interesting! We see it in a few quests in WoW, like when you’re “persuading” NPCs to change their mind by spanking them, but not killing them. Such as the famous torture q in Borean Tundra. But it would be interesting to see more innovations along those lines, including what happens to the players, not just to the NPCs.

@Brian Psychochild Green: I liked your efforts to sort out the different issues and elements, however as you say, it all blends.

Actually the one who started to mix up things was Wolfshead himself as he talks about his fond memories of early gaming experiences as well as how epics are raining over the players, rewards given out without efforts. Read the quotes!

In the end I think we’re asking ourselves. What brings in excitement in our games? Wolfshead puts a lot of emphasis on the consequences of death. While we are others that think that the level of difficulty (=the likelihood that you will die) can give you just as much excitement without having the drawbacks that a harsh death penalty (which are pointed very well by some of the other commenters here.)

I can understand that “putting more at risk” can add some sort of increased experience when your survival instincts kick in. But in the end – the price has to be paid when you fail, and if that is in the form of huge time sinks of boring content or plain waiting time… how long do you expect a new player would keep his interest for that kind of game?

I know I’m not a game developer, so I don’t know what I’m talking about, as opposed to you. But I find it very hard to see how the road of harsh punishment could be a viable road for the MMOs to head for if they want to become an interesting alternative to other forms of entertainment to more than just a handful of boys high on testosterone.

Larísa said...

@Redbeard: Oh it’s definitely the same with me. I’m absolutely devastated when someone dies when I’m healing on my druid alt. It doesn’t matter if they were standing in a fire, it’s still my fault. Just imagine the feeling of guilt and frustration you’d get if death meant something worse than today! I wouldn’t dare to become a healer in such a game. I wonder if anyone would.

@Justisraiser: I agree on this. The tolerance level for someone who isn’t a super-performing player, but still learning the game would be zero. Good luck on finding a group if the death penalty would be much harsher than today.

@Anonymous: I can imagine it adds tension; however I think that kind of tension is something that would only be appreciated by a minority.

@Koch:Yeah, I agree with you. That’s yet another argument why it would be counter productive. We already see this problem in that many players pick the easiest, green quests as they’re levelling rather than the read ones that would be way more fun and challenging, but where you risk dying. And picking the green quests they get a rather boring, grindy experience. With even more harsh penalties we would see this tendency increased.

Your description from SWG speaks clearly to me.

@Copra: I don’t see how this has gotten “out of proportion”. Am I or Tobold misinterpreting what he wrote? I still have a huge respect for Wolfshead. I love his posting, he's intelligent, well articuled, interesting, knowledgeable, simply one of the best MMO bloggers we have. But look once again at what he writes in this post. Look at the quotes. I’m a bit shocked tbh at this kind of outspoken elitism coming from someone who I thought would stand on the side of casual players, players like me. What happened with that mission? Is this really Wolfshead or someone impersonating him?

As you say yourself: you haven’t been raiding. But I assure you that when you’ve spent 100 failed tries on LK or Archimonde or Yogg-Saron, you definitely find the penalties as they are harsh enough. You don’t need another incentive to beat the goddamn boss and get it out of the way. You are enranged, you are frustrated, you are moaning, you want to do whatever you can not to die. Why add more to the pain? I just don’t see the gain.

Dàchéng said...

Justisraiser makes the point that if the penalty for death in WoW is increased, players will compensate by choosing less risky endeavours, such as running Halls of Stone instead of progression raiding, which would ultimately be a more boring thing to do.

No it wouldn't! You're forgetting that it's the lack of risk in Halls of Stone that makes it boring today. When you run the risk of losing gear for failure in Halls of Stone, suddenly this faceroll dungeon is spiced up, dangerous, sweaty and exciting again.

That's the point: there is no risk in Halls of Stone today. That's why it's boring and no fun. Put some fear into it, and it becomes a lot more fun!

I mentioned elsewhere that I've started running 5-man dungeons without a tank, just for this very reason. To inject more cold perspiration into my gaming. Without that, there's no elation when you succeed. Can you imagine how great it would be to experience an adrenaline rush in the Halls of Stone? Man, it's worth risking 60 frost emblems for that feeling!

Larísa said...

@Dáchéng: that's not about risk, that's about level of difficulty. You can achieve that without raiding the penalties for dying. And yeah, there are definitely ways to do it, such as undermanning instances. I'd definitely opt for that if the LFD tool had such a choice.

Copra said...

Larisa, I'm sorry but I still cannot see a raider as purely casual gamer. Really.

I can easily see the reason behind Wolfshead's posts and I can fully relate to the casual friendly approach he has nurtured being in these posts, too. The way I see it, if the game was such that the risk/reward ratio was harder, the player playing more casually would get even more reward for his/her few moments in game. The reward would be one of the memorable experiences where the 'hero' beat the unbelievable odds and saved the day.

Raiding, be it as rewarding/frustrating/compelling as you say sounds more like a grind after which you get a group to work well enough together to accomplish the kill. Sure it will suck if you wipe a hundred times, but is that really needed to feel as strong entitlement and reward? Higher risk/reward ratio and more intelligent encounter design would do the same trick without the frustration index I'm sure.

Our mileage varies. It seems funny to me that the people who are raiding day in day out are discussing things which should affect the levelling game, exploration game and the game world outside the main cities and raid dungeons. Why should they care?

The game starts at the level cap, I've heard a million times. Well, for the casual player it ends.

C out

Larísa said...

@Copra: I suppose it depends on what you put in the word "casual" (oh, will we ever come to any agreement in this discussion?)

If you mean someone who plays very few hours, but is immensly skilled and experienced from years and years of gaming, I suppose harsh penalites can be attractive and fun fopr that sort of "casual". But face it, the "elitist casuals" are probably a quite small clique of the players.

Let's talk about another sort of casual. For the newbie 40 year old mother who for some weird reason has stumbled upon the world of MMOs and now has started her long road journey exploring this universe, harsh penalties would be brick wall she'd never bother to get over. Trust me. She'd go back to where she came from. Solving crosswords, knitting or whatever. Isn't that a pity to lose those potential new inhabitants of the MMO world?

But I guess the jaded gamers like you want to keep this to yourself? You'll rather see 20 000 players in a super-elitist MMO than 12 millions in an accessable?

Gaaah. I don't know why, but I find your remarks rather provoking. They're hitting some weak spot in me I suppose.
The constant question I'm always struggling with: "Do I really belong here? Am I good enough? Am I just not carried, do I deserve it? Would the game be better off without me?" I've fought so hard and so long to get to where I am, and yet I've got the feeling I'm still not good enough in the eyes of some elitist parts of the community.

All the struggles I've gone through are dismissed as a "dumbed down game".

The grandness about WoW is the big range of variety in difficulty, the wide assortment of possible playstyles and activites to engage into. There's something for everyone, especially with the addition of hardmodes and achievments. You may be right that there are some S/M interested hardcore players who long to be punished. Give them a server where there's perma-death, XP-loss and such for death. Let them have their fun in their own enclave. Go there and play with your likeminded! That would fix the issue. But for heavens sake, don't force it upon the entire playerbase! If nothing else it would cut down into a fragment of what it used to be, and who or what would then pay for the development?

I also want to stress that just because you're into raiding it doesn't mean that you don't care about or enjoy other parts of the game. If you've been reading my blog you should know that I'm all for exploration and other aspects of the game. There's way more than just raiding to enjoy and of course we do that as well. We're all players like you. Not just raiders.

ReversionLFM said...

Death penalties were why I stopped playing EVE. Sure the risk is exciting. Knowing that death means you lose millions makes for a lot of adrenaline. But once you make the mental connection that one death means hours, sometimes weeks of your life have just been erased. I could spend two days mining ore and then lose all the money I made in an instant to a ganker. Why would I want someone to have that power over me? The power to walk up to me, point a gun and make whole weeks of my free time evaporate. To heck with that!
I also played a game ages ago that had a 10% Exp penalty. As you got to high levels that started turning into days, then weeks, then months of leveling time that would be erased if you died even once. That is NOT fun. There are other ways to make the game big and scary. Even long corpse runs are annoying. But that is nothing compared to losing all your gear or hours of your life. No, WOW has never had a stiff death penalty. Early on it was one of the things that separated them from other games and I think their success speaks for itself.
There are other ways to make the game seem harder or more ‘risky’ without that stuff.

Barrista said...

I think many of you are finding the one point he used as an example and making that his only point. The real point is that as these games are made easier you lose the people who like challenging content and retain/obtain those who like easier content. The amount of people in the world who like an easier game is greater than that who want the hard modes, so at some point the development is geared towards this.

Even lotro has announced that the original group content, including raids, will be able to be completed by ay size group soon. We realize why it is done (so people can see content), but you also have to acknowledge thatit can bred a certain laziness or the inability for a player to constructively group.

As for your lotro post, I hope it is truly fair, although I don't expect it to be. WoW was my first MMO, but I tend to evaluate things for what they are. I did a bit of "oh blizz does this better", but to do a true evaluation I realized I had to take it as it was. Plus, this is a WoW blog.

ReversionLFM said...

Anyone thinking that 5man runs need a lot more risk of death keep one thing in mind. It is risk VERSUS reward. If dying was that risky who would ever do it? No really. The reward is 2 frost badges, are you really going to risk losing a lot more than that one a random pug? Not unless you are already uber geard. But no one would BE uber geared if they had to run 10, 20, or, 50 heroics, randomly, without dieing at all just to get their gear. Think about that. Yeah one run might be scary, but what about the 5 run? or the 10th time through the same content, knowing that one death would force you to do it all over.

No way, never again. Been there. Done that. Stopped playing those games and never looked back. I have a lot of other hobbies I would do besides gaming if the game had a system like that.

Want things hard and danger filled again? Make double heroic modes where everthing is even worse. Or go run instances nekid

Dàchéng said...

ReversionLFM, your reward for doing 5 man runs shouldn't be two frost badges. The reward should be fun and excitement, an adrenaline rush, a blast! When you increase the risk, that is your extra reward.

Dàchéng said...

Larísa, I think I must have explained myself badly here

I meant to say, in those first three paragraphs, that if you risk more with each death, then with no other change, you can start to feel alive again, even doing the Halls of Stone. This is my main point. Ignore the last paragraph, if you like.

(The point that you addressed, which was the subject of my last paragraph here is just an addendum that in the absence of greater risk per death, I am attempting to make things more exciting for myself by increasing the risk per run by increasing the chance of death. Yes, I am doing that by increasing the difficulty, but not because I want extra difficulty per se. I can do hard-mode sudoko for that. I'm increasing the difficulty to increase the risk, which is the source of the adrenaline).

Copra said...

Larisa, you take this 40+ year old father of four who has barely time to enjoy the game... um...

not likely that the 40 odd mom would find a properly thought out challenge in a game a brick wall, as you put it. As a matter of fact, the levelling game has been nerfed pretty hard over the last few years (during WotLK) so we're probably talking about completely different levelling experience here. I'm talking about the current state of MMO's (not only WoW).

Call it a learning curve. The game teaches you from the beginning that there are no repercussions on what ever happens to your character. Heck, you don't even learn to group properly anymore, that is taken care by the LFD which I deem to have done more bad than good to the overall game.

My first WoW session was a string of corpse runs. Why? Because I was stretching what I knew with what I didn't know. If that 40+ odd newbie player finds that the learning -getting killed and not understanding to do something else to get better? - curve in WoW is too much, maybe, just maybe, the game isn't for them anyhow. However, the current state of the game IMO is that you cannot get killed anymore even if you were a complete senseless Super Mario console jumper.

Like I have stated time and again, I am the most insecure tank there is. And that is the reason I don't raid in the second place (the first reason is the time, or lack of it). I am my worst enemy and critic, and I go through the same thoughts you claim to be going. The difference is that you are in the position where it doesn't matter anymore (aka raiding) because you can show time and again what you are capable. Because of this handicap I won't even get the chance and am forced to do the 'trivial' content time and again.

Bet you I may sound bitter. But I still have the right to question the risk/reward structure of the game and have my opinion about the casual gaming.

As you know, even though we are casuals, we are not stupid. Or lazy.

C out

Copra said...

Oh,now that I read what I wrote I missed one thing I have been pointing out a long time: MMO's are supposed to be social, multi-player games. If this supposed 40+ mom/dad newbie hits a wall, shouldn't there be other players around, too?

And yes, I admit, my tone sounds like elitistic jerk, but that's what you get when you start calling me on names and degrading my being instead of what I say. Kind of strange behaviour from one non-english native towards another, I'd say.

Might as well stop commenting. Everyone would win.

C out

Anonymous said...


If you increase the death penalty, people won't be running Halls of Stone, either. After all it's still possible to die in HoS, which is a big no-no, as we've seen from the testimonies of people who've played games with harsher death penalties.

Inno said...

Maybe Blizz can implement a feature that allows you to go into your account settings and allow you to turn on harsher death penalties. Upon your demise you can be locked out of a particular raid id for a week, or maybe your gear can be downgraded in stats from shiny purple quality to blue or green quality. Oh and we could then loot your corpse as well.

Needless to say I find that my own repetitiveness is what causes me to want more from the game. If I change what I'm doing I can enjoy the game just fine. Try to change up what you're doing and find some fun again.

Larísa said...

Copra. We're on the same side. Let's sort this out. I'll write you a letter.

Brian 'Psychochild' Green said...

Larisa wrote:
I can understand that “putting more at risk” can add some sort of increased experience when your survival instincts kick in. But in the end – the price has to be paid when you fail, and if that is in the form of huge time sinks of boring content or plain waiting time… how long do you expect a new player would keep his interest for that kind of game?

The problem with a lot of design discussions is that people make a lot of assumptions. People assume that "risk" means taking the existing game but changing something simple. For example, Justisraiser assumes designers would just make a piece of gear be destroyed. Yes, that would be stupid and not very much fun, because the current design of WoW is that you will die in raids (probably a lot in progression raids) and that your gear is relatively permanent (until your next upgrade). Violating these two assumptions breaks the game.

So, let's consider a mechanic to add risk without screwing over a character. Let's consider the concept of "soul points". A player can store up to 10 soul points and earns 2 soul points per 24 hours. You lose some soul points from resurrecting: 1 point if you get a player rez or run back from a raid/group wipe, 2 points if you run back to your corpse, 5 points if you use a spirit healer. Players under level 10 would lose no soul points. If you do not have enough soul points, you cannot resurrect using that method.

Now, obviously, this still needs to be balanced. There might also be some special rules for raids and groups so that someone who dies on the way to the instance doesn't screw over the whole party. But, you can see a mechanic that could be added to add risk to dying without necessarily adding an in-game timesink or significantly ramping up the difficulty.

This is a design I've come up with in 5 minutes. Imagine what could be done with real focus. But, most people's gut reaction is that this can only be a bad thing, unfortunately.

Finkum said...

Blizzard already tried "Soul Points" for raiding, except they called them Limited Attempts, and in general they were not well received (when they were limited enough to have a real impact). Players either worked around them by using multiple characters, or just grumbled a lot, depending on how "dedicated" they were.

Perhaps this is because high-end raiding is not so much participation in a massively multiplayer world as it is a moderately multiplayer group puzzle, where (ideally) all the players need to do their part at the right time in order to "solve" the puzzle.

Raiding is enjoyable because you are collectively learning how to solve the puzzle, and placing additional artifical hoops to jump through, be they Soul Points, Limited Attempts, or whatever, generally just gets in the way of this enjoyment. (Although notably, some hoops like trash/trash respawns often seem like a bad idea until they aren't present, whereupon you immediately miss them and feel that the raid instance is missing something! So maybe it all comes down to what you're accustomed to.)

Essentially, arguments for more punitive player death (at least in WoW raiding) ignore the fact that the true punishment for failure isn't death, it is that the raid boss puzzle remains unsolved and the accompanying shinies remain unobtained. Punishing the player more for dying is placing emphasis in the wrong place.

Now, having gone and said all of the above, I will note that this is all seen through the prism of WoW raiding, and that in a different game (or a different aspect of the same game), with a different playstyle, punishing players more for dying could well have merit.

nugget said...

O.o my comment turned into a huge heffalump, so I've instead turned it into a post here instead!

FWIW, it starts out @Brian! XD

Larísa said...

@Copra: We've sorted this out in a private conversation at a table of our own far away in the corner of the inn. And I'm glad that we clashed so that we really could connect. It's just that we for some reason don't do that through this comment section.

@Reversion LFM: I think it’s about mentality. I too enjoy adrenaline rushes, but I really get them as it is, for instance in hard first-kills while raiding. Getting everything erased as you describe in EVE sounds devastating to me. I’d never be able to relax, have fun and try out some challenging content in such a game.

@Barrista: As I’ve said many times before I think Blizzard has done what they can to cater to different skill levels and different wishes of challenge among the players. The hardmodes are there exactly for this reason. They could to more though. I wish there was game support for forming 3 man pugs for 5 man instances for instance.

About LOTRO: I suppose it’s hard to take off your WoW glasses. But come on, I’m not a serious and important game evaluator. I can’t write reviews. Just give some glimpses of what’s going on in my mind. And yeah, I know this is a WoW blog and I have no plans on changing that atm. 

@Dáchéng: I hear you. But I think it would be more fun to have the 5-man tuned more difficult, making you die often, than to have it just as easy, but the death will cost you a ton. The fear of death isn’t fun or exciting to me. But maybe that’s just a matter of taste.

By the way: if you love to do the non-dying game I suggest that you do the Undying achievement in Naxx. I’ve never heard that this achievement is immensely popular thanks to the adrenaline rushes it gives… Hm… I wonder why?

@Inno: Hehe… I wonder how many players would use such a feature if it was optional. Not many. Which is interesting. People love to suggest this kind of things, but living with them is a little bit different probably…

@Brian Psychochild Green: I guess no idea should be dismissed without a proper brainstorm at least. There could be other ways and it deserves a good discussion, not just gut feeling rejections.. But I still don’t really see that this is necessary. I don’t argue about that some content is a bit too easy to be fun and interesting. The kill-10-rat-quests get rather tedious. And the dungeons of Wrath are really sad and boring compared to the ones in TBC which had a more appropriate level of difficulty. But make the game exciting by adding difficult content with really good rewards, carrots, rather than adding horrible sticks that spank you if you fail on easy content. I want adrenaline rushes too, just from a different source!

@Finkum: I agree wholeheartedly on this! You’re much better at analyzing and arguing in this than I am but my view is the same. You already have punishment, but of a different sort.

@Nugget: what a lovely and interesting post! And I can’t help getting envious reading about the community in the MU* world. What a wonderful place to enter as a newbie! I wonder what had happened if I had stumbled upon this before WoW. Would I ever have gotten to WoW? I doubt it.

2nd Nin said...

Soul points sound fine. A raid is now limited to 10 deaths (assuming someone survives) or 5 limited deaths.

The issue then becomes that this makes trash a huge issue, in fact it makes any kind of difficult fight a huge issue where your raid group fragments slowly over time (2 deaths on trash, 5 progress attempts, 1 death on trash, 2 progress attempts... go sit out). Harsher death penalties are typically applied in solo player games where the only idiot that can cause your demise is yourself.

Forcing 24 other people to suddenly have to make sure that you don't die (and god forbid if you die farming before a raid...) makes the game way less fun imo.

Brian 'Psychochild' Green said...

Finkum wrote:
Blizzard already tried "Soul Points" for raiding, except they called them Limited Attempts, and in general they were not well received (when they were limited enough to have a real impact). Players either worked around them by using multiple characters, or just grumbled a lot, depending on how "dedicated" they were.

Oh, dear gods, players grumble? We better make sure no player anywhere is unhappy. ;) Er, yeah....

As I said, this needs to be balanced more for raiding. Especially for people who get "out of sync" with the rest of the group. Read my next proposal below, though.

Larisa wrote:
But I still don’t really see that this is necessary.

Define "necessary". Is this necessary to keep you intersted? Perhaps not. Would this be something to keep someone like Wolfshead interested? Perhaps.

Of course, I committed a grave sin: I proposed this mechanic as a penalty to existing gameplay. Let's to the Blizzard(tm) thing and turn it into a positive.

Upon entering a raid you get X soul points (depending on the difficulty of the raid, let's say up to 5). As you die, you lose a soul point. Once a boss is downed, any soul points are converted to favor points and a new batch of soul points are awarded.

What do favor points do? They increase your chance to find rare materials to make raid items (such items for flasks, etc.) Maybe also a small bonus to raid cash rewards and income from daily quests. The goal is that raiders would have to spend less time farming to get raid consumables the better they do.

Points might decay over time to encourage people to stay active. The exact bonus and maximum number of points would need to be balanced out. There would also need to be provision to prevent people from adding a new raider right as the boss is going to die in order to have the one "farming alt" that has the max bonus without the risk. Or, doing an "easy" raid to pad the point totals.

Of course, this still waters down the risk. But, again, it's something where it adds a bit of risk to dying (requiring more farming).

Again, these two things are something I've come up with in 15 minutes of thought. Pay me a salary and give me access to data, and I could come up with something a lot more interesting. But, my point remains: there are ways to add risk to the situation that don't involve making raids harder, massively increasing testosterone, or doing stupid things like making people lose gear upon death.

Pindleskin said...

My thoughts are pretty much summed up in a post I did a few months ago. I'd like the idea of a permadeath option in a reworked environment where there are other ways of failing without death.