Greedy Goblin

Monday, July 11, 2011

(Death) penalties

There are some discussion about death penalties once again. It seems to be a dead horse, everyone spoke their piece and the AAA MMO developers made their call: there will be no such things. And they surely did serious market research behind this call and find that making death penalties will make the game unpopular, unsuccessful.

The most common philosophical argument against death penalty is that it forces players to be overly cautious, punishes taking risks, so everyone will play on the safe side, which is boring.

Now let's imagine that if you do something bad in a WoW 5-man dungeon, you are punished by being locked out of all dungeons for 30 mins. For example every death gives you a spirit res debuff that last 30 mins. That would be extremely harsh, right? Introducing this would surely destroy 5-man dungeoning, or at least would limit it to a few HC players who play extremely cautiously, to make sure they don't die. If I would suggest such feature, everyone would call me a madman, right?

Now, surprise! The feature exists, it's called deserter debuff! If you do something bad (leaving a dungeon or battleground), you are locked out from the feature for 30/15 mins!

Is it a harsh penalty? No doubt. Does it do all the bad things that the penalties are accused? Yes! It makes many people to be extremely cautious, they go only with a pre-made group which is safe from failure (of being so bad that you want to leave) or be so overgeared that it doesn't matter.

Did it destroy LFD? No. Players can take much more than believed by liberal bloggers and marketing guys who never played a game but making the calls in game studios. The penalty also works and prevents mass exodus of players from failed groups. They just suck it up and carry the group, as intended.

Maybe death penalty would be no different, players would just suck it up, and learn to play as intended.


Meene said...

You're leaving out one important detail of the deserter debuff: choice. You have to purposefully leave play. A death penalty would penalize those that die even though their death may not be their fault but another player's role that is not being handled. The penalty would make any new content almost unlearnable.

maxim said...

Erm, disagree heavily on this.

Deserter does not happen when you fail. You don't get it when you die in a dungeon, you don't get it when you get kicked (i think).

Deserter happens when you see that the group as a whole fails and would rather eat the 30 min timer than babysit these M&S anymore.

As a matter of fact, the character i'm levelling now spends most of his time in deserter, because i am constantly leaving random dungeons. Not because i failor anything, but because i really don't want to do any of these random dungeons more than one, so i just leave when i get thrown into one i already cleared.

All in all, deserter is not a death penalty. Deserter is an asocialness penalty.

Glyph, the Architect said...

The difference here being that leaving a dungeon is a choice made of one's own free will.

Dying is not (Unless you count being terrible enough to die a choice).

Downsides for actions the player willingly took are acceptable. Downsides that are forced upon the player for no particular reason (or at least no particular sensible reason)...not so much.

Hirvox said...

Deserter debuff is less harsh than the spirit res debuff. The latter inhibits most gameplay, while the former only prevents the player from using that specific feature.

Azuriel said...

Maybe death penalty would be no different, players would just suck it up, and learn to play as intended.

Playing WoW "as intended" is dying to shit over and over until you execute the mechanics properly. Hell, Blizzard doubled-down on this gameplay when they introduced the Dungeon Journal, so as to remove the "puzzle" metagame of figuring out what the actual mechanics were. In effect, all of WoW PvE can be summarized as choreography... and people obviously enjoy it.

Under this paradigm, what possible good comes from making a death in WoW more punishing? Keep in mind that harsher death penalties automatically smash raiders the most, given how much death occurs in progression fights. That is, unless you want to make death penalties different in the different activities - they already do this in PvP, where you are auto-rezzed in BGs and never suffer durability loss in any case.

Aside from that, your analogy is awful. Nobody ever gets the deserter debuff through no in-game fault of their own. You DO absolutely die all the damn time to any manner of things you have no control over. A tank/DD can die to sloppy healer play, DD/healers can die to sloppy tank play, everyone can die to mechanics themselves, falling off ledges, elevator bosses, and so on. And even in the situations where it was your fault you died (standing in fire, etc), a lot of the time you don't have (had) much of a margin of error. Clip a corner of the poison maze? Nearly instant death. I could see a harsh death penalty as being fair in a game where you have every opportunity to escape dying if you were skilled enough. Otherwise... no thanks.

Botter said...

Greg Kasavin from Gamespot and other MMORPG reviewers praised WoW for being the least harsh against death in-game. And I do agree with them since it will prevent the negative feeling a player get when he is harshly penalties, and imagine if another player messed up in dungeons and caused a wipe, with harsh penalties the group will all be filled with anger and it could escalate to unwanted behaviors.

So the current setup eliminates some negativity which is something to be praised for. And it is one of the reasons why WoW is the most popular MMORPG.

Anonymous said...

Just to counter-point some of the comments, you CAN/DO get Deserter debuff when you get kicked (whether this is intended or bugged I am unsure) so you can get it through no fault of your own. I have several times sucked down dungeon kicks for pointing out that the tank doesn't have a shield/prot spec/defensive stance/plate gear and/or isn't producing threat, to which they reply with a votekick; and most LFD-fodder just click 'OK' on kick popups.

Anti said...

deserter penalty punishes the elitist.
death penalty punishes the bad.

wow makes content for the bad.
wow clones are clones by choice.

Cathfaern said...

"deserter penalty punishes the elitist"
What about a casual/social, who just don't want to do that dungeon or someone didn't gratulate him when he dinged and leaves?

"death penalty punishes the bad"
What about an elitist, who dies because someone ninjapulling in the instance? Or because the other elitist player got DC?

Anonymous said...

Death penalty would mean a needed nerf to everything, and PVP death.
you can't ask someone to wipe 100 times, when every time is a new char :)

Anonymous said...

Well, they could always make like a old MMO (cant recall the name) that if you died for whatever reason you had to run naked to your char, anyone that came across your corpse could loot it and after a few hours all the gear was gone if you had not gotten there in time, and the GY was at 30secs distance, apply that to a raid/BG and let me know how it works out for you.

The harsher death penalties are asked for those that
a)Never played a game with them and think it makes them look hardcore.
b)Those that never played with them and got by some reason convinced by those of option a.

A game that relies on trial and error can never have harsh death penalties or it will never have any significant sucess, not saying no one will play such game, just as there are S&M practioners, there will be an audience for those games but it will never be a huge sucess.

Brian said...

WoW DOES have a penalty for dying, it's just a very small one (some gold lost for repairs and time lost running back to your body).

I suspect what the market research shows is that players support penalties that seem "fair" for the situation. The deserter debuff is certainly more annoying than the death penalty, but the debuff works in favor of the other members of the group, while the death penalty doesn't help anyone. So players are more likely to support a harsh desertion penalty than a harsh death penalty.

I'm sure players could "suck it up" if faced with a more severe death penalty, but I'm also sure that many would ask why they should do so.

Anonymous said...

I remember heroic raid with X tries left in ICC and trial of the crusader. One wipe (or ninja pull) and the counter would go -1. What good did it do? Hardcore raiders made another character identical to their main. This character would receive the same gear as the main. During progression, they'd use this clone. When understanding the mechanisms they'd use the main. I foresee the same happening when there is a death penalty with a debuff. Or alt market will flourish.

Your suggestion would give healers immense power over other players. Don't like the skin color of Arthasloldk? Don't like his perfume? Let him die! Be sure to use shadowmeld/vanish/invisibility yourself. Or leave group. Not only that, if you have a terrible healer people will die a lot. You don't know this; you always heal.

They had a death penalty in certain classic dungeons, and end WotLK patch 4.0.1 at ICC (gryphon bug): it was a horror to get in the dungeon. The walk from GY to entrance was horrible, there was a maze, and then the walk through the instance was long too because of size of instance. Deadmines, Blackrock Depths, Blackrock Spire, Temple of Hakkar, certain TBC instances. They solved it by putting spirit healer near instance, providing teleport, and they gave us mass ress all of which lowers the down-time and hence death penalty. There still is a death penalty as of now: repair bill, losing of temporary buffs (raiding: food buff).

Deserter Debuff you only get when you leave group after X minutes in dungeon, and when you leave a BG in progress. Going /afk in BG will get you kicked. Getting reported from BG while offline gets you kicked. Getting kicked from dungeon gives you no debuff. Arena and TB/WG are excluded. While you are logged in a character the debuff wears off on all other characters you possess on same account. Having alts or a business hence helps you.

In dungeon what matters here is X. I believe it is less than 15 minutes, but more than 5. If you leave after say 20 minutes you will get no deserter debuff. If you immediately leave from start you get debuff. If you go AFK or offline from start or argue about the DK's spell power gems you get no debuff.

If you have a bad group, simply go offline ("fake DC"). There is a macro which allows you to walk while logging out (20 sec) and then go offline. Before you go, tell group: "sorry I have to go my internet connection is bad today." Bonus points if you argue you took major part in the wipe. They will kick you (they think you are holding them back), and you won't lose much credit from them. If you simply go offline some will not kick you, they will wait for you. You can also simply leave instance but stay in group. After 3 minutes the group becomes eligible to kick you no matter the previous kick history.

You will get better LFD if you are playing on a "good" realm. Since patch 4.1 the DF prefers to put you with people from your realm.

Anonymous said...

This is just a way to let rogues, mages, hunters and night elves grief groups by pulling more than the other four can handle and dropping combat until they're all dead...

What you're looking for is a way to force people improve when their poor play skill is holding them back.

Punishing the player on death gives them cause to blame everyone else and brings nothing constructive to the matter. What's needed is some way to tell a player why they died.

A player who stares at their DPS meter won't see that they died from standing in the green puddle. If a tank doesn't move away from shockwave/shatter or doesn't interrupt some other big painful attack, he blames the healer for not healing enough, even though he got one-shot.

Some sort of prompt on death saying "Cause of Death: [Shatter]" with a link to the Dungeon Journal will help players learn to play better well beyond what any arbitrary punishment might do. Unfortunately, that would require so much effort and custom code to implement for every single encounter (not to mention the fall-through cases such as being undergeared, or not doing "enough" heals or DPS) that it's really just easier to follow the path of least resistance.

Yaggle said...

I liked the xp-loss penalty of Everquest but I much prefer the Wow corpse retrieval being able to get back to your corpse in ghost form as opposed to having to get back to your corpse naked(no equipment). There is a fine line between accountability and masochism, in my opinion. But it seems to me that people see things in black and white and either want Wow's near-nonexistent death penalty or the worst punishment possible for dying.

Kristopher said...

I'd like to see a 30 minute Burn Ward penalty for standing in fire.

And maybe a similar penalty for queuing as tank while wearing PvP gear.

Bitcoiner said...

The problem with MMOs is that you either take it all or none of it. You can't pick and choose the features you want from an MMO. WoW has a lot of good features, which makes it very popular, but it also means there are people who will take 1 or 2 features they don't like because they have to in order to get all the features they do like.

I hate WoW's lack of consequences for failure and lack of death penalties, but for a long time I played anyway because the positive features I did enjoy outweighed the one negative feature.

Anonymous said...

deserter debuff killed LFD for me. i would say that LFD killed wow for me actually.

being in a group with random strangers from different realms was bad enough. forcing me to put up with those random strangers with the debuff made LFD unusable.

i tanked heroics in burning crusade with much delight, but these days i am actually afraid of joining LFD.

in fact, these days i am not even a subscriber to wow.

Bitcoiner said...

A lot of comments are based on WoW's skewed form of balance. That is, in world of warcraft your gear *is* your character. In other games, your skills, spells, statistics, etc have a much larger impact than your equipment. Heck, it's perfectly possible to create an MMO where equipment is such a minor boost that losing all gear when dying is less of a statistical loss than losing food & elixir buffs in world of warcraft.

So simply saying that equipment drop on death is too much needs to be qualified that it is only too much because WoW is a broken system in which equipment is everything to a character.

Stubborn said...

While I tend to agree with your sentiment, that harsh(er) penalties for death aren't as bad as some make them out to be, I don't agree with the analogy you make to deserter. Deserter is a deterrent from a specific group of behaviors (giving up, bailing, whatever you want to call it), whereas a death penalty exists to punish you from making a mistake.

A deterrent and a punishment are not necessarily the same thing. While it can be true that punishments are meant to deter, some are not, and not all deterrents punish people, so the analogy doesn't stand.

That said, I do agree your main point. Right now, the only death penalty WoW really has (assuming you can get to your corpse, which is almost always true) is a financial one, something that a Greedy Goblin, I would think, would approve of (in fact, doesn't your guild use financial penalties?).

I would like to see something a bit firmer within the game world, though I honestly don't know what. I prefer to bring solutions when I bring problems, but I can't here, which is why I've not chimed in elsewhere. Good idea, but faulty comparison, mate.

Otter said...

There is no way Blizzard would impliment any serious kind of death penalty.

Instead they go the opposite way... they introduce mass resurrection, so that a group can recover from a wipe within seconds.

They want the average player to think that they are amazing, among the best of the best. Any kind of serious death penalty would shatter that illusion.

Anonymous said...

I didn't see this comment before:

"Some sort of prompt on death saying "Cause of Death: [Shatter]" with a link to the Dungeon Journal will help players learn to play better well beyond what any arbitrary punishment might do. Unfortunately, that would require so much effort and custom code to implement for every single encounter (not to mention the fall-through cases such as being undergeared, or not doing "enough" heals or DPS) that it's really just easier to follow the path of least resistance."

I have Fatality addon set to show the last 3 sources of damage a player took. If they happen to be unavoidable dot ticks or whatever, there's Recount death log or, better still, Death Note addon to show why people died.