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  To die, or not to die...that is the question...  (Read 18647 times)
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Offline beowulf03809

Junior Devvie

We live for the code, we die for the code

« Posted 2006-06-02 17:38:19 »

I think sometimes that I'm just an evil person, and so once again I turn to you all for validation ( one way or another   Roll Eyes )

I personally LIKE the risk and anxiety that potential death of my character brings to a game.  It's the difference between watching a show like MI-5 (BBC show that shocks you with a willingness to kill off major characters when it's appropriate for the plot) vs. watching the A-Team (American show from the 80s where all machine gun fire magically struck the ground around the target's feet without ever hurting anyone). 

Now, I'm not saying it should be easy to die, loose everything, and have to start from the beginning, because that's no fun if it happens frequently.  But where is the real challenge if you know that if you die you just have to wait a little while and respawn with little penalty?  In any sort of persistent game world like an MMORPG ( or in my case something of MUCH smaller scope, but still a persistent environment ) you work hard over time to make your character stronger, richer, more magical, whatever.   If you have been playing a character for months and suddenly stumble across a dragon ( or another player's character ) that kills you and you loose everything, it's going to be frustrating.  But without that risk you loose much of the realism, danger and drama of the world you are trying to present.  Undecided

To give a specific example, let's say I wanted to make a game like the old PC game Pirates.  You own a ship and sail in a persistent environment (the Caribbean Sea) which is populated by NPC ships and other player ships.  You visit ports, trade goods and of course, battle other such ships, plunder them and raid the ports.  If the player's ship is sunk at sea, then you can put them in a life boat, have them loose whatever treasure was in their hold, and require time to return them to a friendly port.  There they will still have access to any treasure they stashed away and can re-equip for their next adventure.

But what if they are captured by the Royal Navy that is sworn to execute pirates.  If you know you will always escape, then the Navy is not as much of a threat any more.  What if their little sloop is completely destroyed in one barrage by the mighty galleon they were dumb enough to challenge?  Do you still appear automatically in your lifeboat every time?  If so, what if the player controlling that  galleon wants to sink your little life boat in revenge for attacking them?  If life boats are invulnerable to any attack not only does that destroy suspension of disbelief, it brings up the question"why wouldn't everyone just sail around in them all the time?"   Roll Eyes   If your mighty pirate ship is sunk sailing thru a major storm, how do you explain the lifeboat coming thru with no problem (getting back to the invulnerable lifeboat delima).  And none of this even takes into account being marooned or forced to walk the plank over shark infested waters.   Grin

Magic gives an easy-out for fantasy based games because you can bend reality.  But in something more "real", it is a bit of a delima.  Am I wrong to think that characters in a persistent world should be able to eventually be killed and the player need to start over?  If it can happen, how do you decide when it's appropriate vs. frustrating?  I have been giving thought to some options and can happily discuss them here, but I would like to get some initial feedback as well.

Offline Riven
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« Reply #1 - Posted 2006-06-02 18:36:26 »

The big problem is that you might be dealing with paying customers. They're not really looking for a game where they might lose everything in an instant. A game is supposed to be entertaining. There is enough reality in real life.

If you make your game too realistic, the n00b can kill the diehard in a split-second. In the realworld there are consequences, that make you think twice, ingame the n00b would just create another account and move on - nothing to lose.

What you need is a 'punishment' that a player will accept. To find the balance depends on the game, the kind of players, and maybe even finances... reduce the punishment for paying players.

In a game where you sail the sea, one of the worst yet acceptable punishments would be losing your stuff and a position-reset IMO, it hurts.

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Offline beowulf03809

Junior Devvie

We live for the code, we die for the code

« Reply #2 - Posted 2006-06-03 17:47:12 »

I definetly would not consider easily eliminating a character.  Heroes ( or anti-heroes ) should never die easily.   Cry  Using the pirate-type game as an example, this was one of the ideas I had and it sounds like it's on-track w/ your suggestions as well:

As a player wanders the sea, raids and trades, all of their plunder is stored in their ship. 

If the player's ship is sunk, they will loose all of the treasure they were carrying.  The player will be cast adrift in a life boat.  The life boat will make for the neareast port which is friendly or neutral to the player.  The length of time the player is "out of action" will be based on how far away from that port they were when they were sunk ( not to exceed a reasonable max such as 6, 12 or 24 hours ).

If the player's ship is captured by a hostile ( other player or NPC pirate / navy ), they will loose all the treaure they were carrying as well as thier ship ( which will become owned by the hostile ).  If the hostile was a pirate they will maroon the player on a desert island where the player will remain until rescured ( random time not to exceed the same max as above ). 

If the hostile was some sort of navy the punishment would be based on the player's standing with that faction.  An enemy faction could sentence the player to prison for a random time not to exceed max and charge you a hefty fine ( based on % of your treasure ? ).  A friendly or neutral faction may offer you to pay a fine with little to no prison time.  Either way, you loose your ship.

Each time you loose a ship it lowers your reputation.  A high reputation makes it easier to recruit crew, force enemies to surrender, attract better NPCs, get faction leaders to assist you, etc.  So the reputation loss will be important..

Does that sound like a more fair model then?  Harsh without death...   Wink
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Offline Breakfast

Senior Devvie

for great justice!

« Reply #3 - Posted 2006-06-06 11:51:20 »

I'm a long-time live roleplayer and one of the big things about that game is that once your character dies, they are dead. There is no way they will ever come back, all their carefully aquired skills and character traits are gone. The kit they were carrying still exists, but someone else will have probably stolen it so you're very unlikely to get that magic sword back as your new character.

It's not easy to kill another character but it is not that hard either- you have 10 minutes of unconsciousness after having taken lethal damage during which your character can be restored to health by healers and surgeons but if the people who hit you guard your body or hide it off out of site the chances are you're finished.

Rather than making the game less fun, this makes it much better- people have to hold together, you need healers around, you cannot afford to rush in without backup and ultimately it is also more realistic. Heroes are heroic because they face danger, not because they are in a totally risk-free environment. A heroic last stand where you know that anyone who dies is gone is genuinely heroic, a heroic last stand where everyone will be fine at the next respawn point is just a game of statistics.

I'm all in favour of games that treat it harshly when your character dies but it must not be random and this is the difficult balance to strike- if people feel there is no way they could have won, they will be put off. If they feel like their own choices or the choices of other human players on their team lead to their demise then it is much more fair. A lot of people would find such a game too hardcore, but those that did play it would find it very intense and absolutely love it.
Offline beowulf03809

Junior Devvie

We live for the code, we die for the code

« Reply #4 - Posted 2006-06-06 15:51:52 »

Breakfast, those were my thoughts as well. 

Although a long time "at the table" RPG player myself, I have no personal experience with any of the current online RPGs.  I actually do not consider that too much of a liability at this stage because I am not trying to build another Everquest, or WoW, etc., so this keeps me from being stuck in the paradigm-based view of what is already being done.  I'm working on a design that expands the SMOG ( Small Multiplayer Online Game   Grin ) game I was designing into a persistent world to make returning to it more fun. I want players to know that if they do something it can effect the world around them and they can see the results of those at both the local and sometimes global level.  In such a world,  I just feel an immortal life is not as compellinng.

In most single-player games your character will eventually die.  This is an excepted event and something that people even talk about with pride if they feel they went out in a blaze of glory.  However, those games almost always provide the player with a "save" mechanism which they can fall back on without having to replay the entire game.  Sometimes these are "save anywhere" style and sometimes they are "checkpoint" style (sometimes a combo of both).  Either way, the player may have lost minutes or hours of play, but it's still something.

In a persistent-world you can't save and replay without impacting all other players.  So from the feedback here, some forums I've read and discussions I've had with MMMOG plyaers I know, it seems most persistent-world games just make you vanish for a while and respawn somewhere else.  Sometimes this comes with a penalty, but not always.  But there is little sense of "danger" or risk.  It is impossible to make the "ultimate sacrifice" at a nobel time, less motivation to band together, and less sense of risk as you grow stonger.  I have known situations in live RPGs and online-games where players become disinterrested in a game because they have grown strong to the point of boredom or games where the stakes have to get elevated so high to keep strong players interrested that things can get out of hand.

I was considering a situation where the WORLD is what you want to return to as much as a specific character.  An active, dynamic environment that you want to come back and visit and explore.  I am thinking that if the players are able to have up to 2 - 3 characters going at a time ( but only one active during a session )  then they can explore different aspects of the game as well as curbing some of the shock of loss if one of them passes away  Cry ( which would of course free up a slot where they can now start another one ).  Also set up "retirement" options for the characters so if a player has some points where they can part with stronger characters without just abandoning them, and maybe making those characters become part of the persistent world ( you can be given the option to retire your character so it can become governor of a trade port, for example ).  The player may then take pride in seeing his hard work elevated in such a manner.   Smiley

This would all be counterpoint to the fact that those characters do have a mortal life.  The struggle is defining limits on that mortality so that it does not become a discouragement.  Perhaps no death from Player vs. Player interraction but death is possible from Player vs. Game interraction ( and even then only under certain more-extreme conditions ) would be enough of a balance. 

As always, I appreciate feedback and criticism to these thoughts.   Cheesy
Offline Breakfast

Senior Devvie

for great justice!

« Reply #5 - Posted 2006-06-06 20:59:01 »

The flipside of this is that you need to do everything you can to make characters distinctive, so that they can be memorable- lots of customisation options, lots of opportunities to make them quirky, so that when your character dies you can start a new one and have it totally different.

Maybe you also have an armoury attached to your guild that you can put kit in that you don't need for your current mission so that other members of the guild can use it. That way, if you come back as a new character in the same guild you can maybe still collect some of the kit you left there before, if another guild member hasn't picked it up already. You could even add armoury raids on rival guilds as a PVP option if you were so inclined.

I remember a Slashdot discussion about playing Diablo with permenant death switched on and how it made the game much more intense and more rewarding.

Offline harry@dayfamilyweb

Junior Devvie

« Reply #6 - Posted 2006-06-06 22:35:46 »

i think that you shuld not die but if you are killed you wake up in  hospital and you lose some strenth say you have 90strenth and you were kiled you would have say 1 point of strenth tooked off you so you have 89strenth and end up back in town in hospital not out in the battel of near the rare prizes of the wildernes and so on
Offline beowulf03809

Junior Devvie

We live for the code, we die for the code

« Reply #7 - Posted 2006-06-07 12:44:27 »

Harry:  That is a good idea and I had actually already considered a situation where instead of death a character wood suffer a permanent loss in an appropriate stat during a "death" situation.   

Talking it out though it started to seem like to have this be any real incentive it would need to "hurt" at least a little, and after two or three of these situations the character may have been weakened to the point where the player would rather just abandon it anyway.  Without that much pain though we're back in the situation of most persistent world games where death is not much more than a pause in your game play. 
Offline beowulf03809

Junior Devvie

We live for the code, we die for the code

« Reply #8 - Posted 2006-06-07 13:28:11 »

Breakfast, you brought up two real good points that I was also wondering about. 

The first was passing on hard earned items from one character to the next.  The risk here is that it would give your second character a far-too-significant jump start over the first.  And if that character passes away and left behind items from both the first character and what they gained themselves, then it would be even more of an issue.  The way I saw getting around this would be to set minimum skill levels needed to use certain items.   Many other games already do this.  So even if your previous character left a galleon in port which you want to claim, you would have to start with your sloop and play the game for a while before you had enough rank in all the skills necessary to command such a large ship and crew.

Then there was the risk of leaving behind too many powerful items, or leaving large amounts of wealth, etc.  I have a solution to this which I am keeping off line for now    Cool

These two together would allow the player to pass on items that are special to them which hey worked hard to create or earn without unbalancing the whole process of starting a new character.

Regarding the customization of the characters.  I have already been drafting a wish list in this area and I think I will really put some more focus there.  This would be for both "flavor" as well as game-play customization.  For example,  I was thinking about a background generating process where the player could either select from a couple options at each point or have the computer randomly pick one and each of those choices lead to other choices.  My example below may explain better.  It just presents background that has in-game effects but in reality 75% of the background choices were just being designed to add flavor to the character.

Pick one Family background:  Pirate, Merchant Captain, Governor, Orphan
If you pick Pirate then you can select an option that may give you a modification for recruiting other pirates, or your family name is known so there is an increased chance of merchants surrendering, etc.
If you pick Governor then you have extra standing in certain social circles, or you have connections for special missions, etc.

I was 50/50 on if this would make loss of the character worse or if it would help the player focus on their next special character.  I agree with your suggestion that if the characters are going to face real peril in the game there should be more of a pay-off to the player in terms of their investment into the character and the uniqueness of the character so it doesn't feel like they just keep repeating the same boring process.
Offline JAW

Senior Devvie

Medals: 2

« Reply #9 - Posted 2006-06-08 14:33:24 »

Talking about games, the core discussion is easy. Anything, player death or other questions, that adds the challenge and the fun, is good. Anything that produces anger or frustration is bad. There are examples for everything. Some games can save and reload everytime, and it takes all the challenge. Save, go around corner, fail, reload, try again. Any surprise goes down, cause next time you know what happens. Other games have checkpoints or savepoints, or short missions without saving in-mission. This increases the skill factor, but sometimes gets frustrating for a player. You play the mission like 10 minutes and always die at the end to start over.

I remember Diablo 2, the Battlenet had a "professional" mode where you lose your char if you die. So even this works. But when a player dies after 1 year of leveling, he probably wasnt happy.

In the end, the chance of dying, the consequences, and the save / reload system is a very individual gameplay decision. Sometimes fixed savepoints are good, sometimes a fixed amount of free saves is better. Maybe you just loose money when you die, sometimes you start over in the city, all that stuff.

I had 2 ideas considering save/reloading and dying:
1) Randomize the game where it is possible. Everytime you reload, change enemy positions, change surprise effects, so that you can reload but you wont face the exact same situation. So with each reload the skill and challenge remains, but you can start over if you die.
2) When you have checkpoints or no saving in missions, make missions easier every death. When the player dies 3 times in a row, reduce the difficulty with each next death. So the player can make the mission. When the mission is done, the skill of the next mission is back to normal. On the same way, the game could get harder, when you beat it easily. I think adjusting skill can provide the best challenge for every player. You could even adjust to the players behaviour. When a player likes to sneak around, make the guards more alert but dont improve their shooting. Or improve their shooting and dont improve their alertness. So the player can still sneak but it is harder when he gets detected, so he is forced to maximize his sneaking skills.
If a player is in many firefights and dies, reduce damage or accuracy of enemies, maybe drop more ammo if the player often lacks ammo, etc.
I think you can make really fun games when they adapt to the players way of playing.

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Offline Breakfast

Senior Devvie

for great justice!

« Reply #10 - Posted 2006-06-08 21:15:23 »

The advantage of character death is that you don't have to worry about having 10000 levels of character development. If someone has got to level 8 and survived they are better than average, if they have got to level 10 they are a god among gamers- that means each level can offer something meaningful, have attached skills or whatever.
Offline kevglass

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« Reply #11 - Posted 2006-06-08 21:31:38 »

Just thought I'd say - its fantastic to see an actual "Game Design" question here.

For my 2 cents, absolute death - start again type thing - in any game puts me off. I don't mind losing things, or having to complete some of the level(s) again - but to lost everything seems a bit harsh and annoying for any type of game.


Offline OverKill

Junior Devvie

Java games rock!

« Reply #12 - Posted 2006-06-09 06:45:06 »

If it were my game, I'd say kill 'em off, but then make death an adventure in itself.
If I made an RPG it would have a Pratchett-style afterlife.
Maybe give them the chance to make the tv-like dramatic reappearance.

Alternatives could include a finit amount of reanimations with a penalty.
Though watch out with the penalties, people will find any and all ways around them.
f.i. on a NWN server I played, when you died, you lost all xp beyond the amount needed for your current level.
So people would become more an more cautions the closer they got to the next level and then go crazy after reaching it.
A nice workaround was, uppon death, to create a negative account for the xp that needed to be ballanced before you gained xp again.

I am no fan of the level system and more of the Dungeon Siege type system and in that case remove points from all skills.
I also do not like the D&D HP system. One trial I did with my pnp group was to give them full hp allowance at 1st level and then 1 point per level.
Totally changed the game as a simple arrow could mean death even at a higher level.
Offline Breakfast

Senior Devvie

for great justice!

« Reply #13 - Posted 2006-06-09 11:03:50 »

I'm not keen on total death for anything single-player, but once you have many players together it becomes much more logical. The other thing is that characters that survive for a long time get a lot of respect from other players and you don't have the whole godchar thing. For a smaller scale, more closely balanced, game I think it could work quite well. It would surely be too hardcore for the masses, though- it would appeal to the elitist gaming snobs...
Offline Riven
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« Reply #14 - Posted 2006-06-09 11:58:32 »

If you'd have perma-death in a persistant multiplayer game you'd have to ensure the initial timespan to get to _acceptable_ gameplay is extremely short. Then the killed players will find themselves 'average' again - not n00bs - before too long, making it less harsh for everybody. It also ensures that the gameplay for new players is interesting as it's not so much about the virtual knowledge of the character, but about the knowledge of the actual player. Power-leveling is boring, so try to make your gameplay less depend on it, which makes the perma-death less annoying, yet still very important as you may still loose your valuable stuff.

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Offline beowulf03809

Junior Devvie

We live for the code, we die for the code

« Reply #15 - Posted 2006-06-09 17:34:34 »


I'm familiar with the model that a lot of persistent-world ( generally mmog ) games take so far as having initial characters be REALLY pathetic, and require you to spend a good amount of time playing ( or running macros / scripts ) just to get the character to a "fun" place to start.  I'm not sure if that's what you mean by the expression "power leveling" though.  Would you mind expanding that a little for me so I understand your comment better.

Overkill, I thought the idea of an "after life" world is REALLY interresting and not something I thought of before.   Huh  If it was a fantasy based game I'd probably do that.  So many good examples of afterlife situations in mythology to draw on.  You could have a chance to bargin or compete for your chance to return, you could have your "soul" weighed against your actions to determine your eternal fate, and other characters still in the "living world" could try to launch rescue missions to the afterlife to get you back.  Cheesy If any of those fail, then perma-death for you.   Cry  In a "historical fiction" or sci-fi environment though that doesn't play out as well, but I will not forget that idea for future concepts.

For all others, thanks much for the replies so far.  As you can see this is not an easy subject and one that can really separate a game or plunge it into "not fun" hell.  The feedback I've gotten here and off line so far has been more interresting than I hoped.  I know that issues like dull early stages of noob characters and loosing lots of hard earned work can be a put off if done wrong.  But I'm still leaning to finding a play balance where characters start with a fair degree of ability ( based on the "background" process I mentioned earlier ), advancement "means something" ( no "levels" for me! ), and death can carry an honor of its own.

To quote from the movie Troy:
If you go to Troy, glory will be yours. They will write stories about your victories in thousands of years! And the world will remember your name. But if you go to Troy, you will never come back... for your glory walks hand-in-hand with your doom.

That flavor just seems to og away if you change the end to be: will never come back...until you respawn...for your glory walks hand-in-hand with how many levels you can accumulate to sell your character on eBay.
Offline Ask_Hjorth_Larsen

Junior Devvie

Java games rock!

« Reply #16 - Posted 2006-06-09 18:18:14 »

There was a really old MSORPG (massively single-player off-line role playing game) called Vampyr, where you would go to heaven when you died. However you would have to face the Creators (that is, the creators of the game) and be judged, and if you had done well enough you would get another chance (or else they would turn you into dirt). I think that might have been the best implementation of this I have seen, though I have not given much thought to it before.

One funny thing was that you could actually attack the angels in heaven (though IIRC it was a bad idea).
Offline Jeff

JGO Coder

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« Reply #17 - Posted 2006-06-09 21:19:30 »

me."  Your choie at highlevel is either to continue to adventure and risk dying permenantly or retire and become just a supporting character to the newer players.

edit:  What happend? This was a long post that seems to have gotten et Sad

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Offline OverKill

Junior Devvie

Java games rock!

« Reply #18 - Posted 2006-06-12 07:09:07 »

You also have the option of defining 'death' yourself.
In pnp you can control the monsters and how they fight. What I sometimes did to my pnp group was to have the enemies 'collapse' (hp > 5%). From then on what happend was a question of injuries and players reactions.
The same also worked for the heros. The more hp you lost, the weaker you became.

The players then treated this enemy as conquered and ignored them for the rest of the fight.
Imagine the shock when the started rummaging through the corpses and one of the 'dead' stuck a knife in an unlucky hero. *evil grin*

So the player could be incapacitated but not dead. If his party fails to rescue him he might die. If the monster decides he is his lunch, well you get the picture.

If a player can do something while incapacitated is up to your design. For my Terry-Pratchett-Afterlife I wanted to have the screen go Black&White, while the player stays in colour and death arrives and holds his dialog.
For your game you could do similar but no death. The player could see what is going on (like above) but cannot react.

Greatest cause of  people dieing is because they were ill prepared. Wandering alone in a dark forrest is not a healthy thing to do.

Another thing to think about is why an adventurer would go out and risk life and limb. This is a discussion I have had before but only vice versa and that it applied to a job-system in an MMORPG.
Take a weaponsmith and a promising hero. The life of a weaponsmith will probably be very boring, save for the marauding horde of barbarians or the pissed off dragon. No great dangers, no great treasures.
The hero on the other hand goes through great dangers to get great treasures.
If you eliminate the dangers you destroy the ballance.
If a weapon smith can make as much money as a hero, why become a hero?

Make the adventuring life dangerous but very profitable (and make sure the hero finds a lot of ways for the money to drain itself).
Offline Breakfast

Senior Devvie

for great justice!

« Reply #19 - Posted 2006-06-12 09:27:02 »

If a weapon smith can make as much money as a hero, why become a hero?
He was only a humble weaponsmith, but on that day he discovered that even a smith can become something more. When destiny calls, fate will find a hero in the most unlikely of places... </film trailer guy voice>

The incapacitated player idea is certainly good- from the lrp games I have played a 10 minute grace period between critical injury and death give enough time for players to do something if they are going to.

I like the afterlife idea as well- having different afterlife scenarios for different races or cultures could be really entertaining...
Offline Breakfast

Senior Devvie

for great justice!

« Reply #20 - Posted 2006-06-12 13:52:24 »

What Jeff said- level 1-10 you have relatively safe missions that you can be retrieved from if you get knocked down, once you get past level 10 you need to travel further out to progress - and things get more dangerous out there...
Offline hifujava

Senior Newbie

« Reply #21 - Posted 2006-06-15 21:30:11 »

Interesting... this "afterlife" concept.

Perhaps after death (which would be permanent), a character could live on but still be playable (maybe not indefinately?).  For example... envision the gameplay dynamics if you could come back and terrorize the living as a zombie/ghost/whatever.  You'd have some sort of setback as a result of being dead... (only come out after dark?  only in certain places such as your character's home/shop from life? only within a certain distance of the grave? etc...) Various stat/speed penalties..  Then say all your 133T stuff gets buried with you, and people can rob the grave for it, but then if you like you get to haunt them til they put it back.

Gives the living players motive to venture into graveyards and stir up trouble...
Gives the dead characters motive to have fun tormenting the living...
Keeps the cool 133T items around without instantly handing them to over-privileged lowbies...
If you raid a 133T item from a grave, you better be strong enough to keep it if its dead owner comes looking for it!
If the owner does come looking X number of times and fails to take it... "ownership" transfers?
Offline OverKill

Junior Devvie

Java games rock!

« Reply #22 - Posted 2006-06-16 06:53:39 »

A friend of mine worked on an UO mod that also had an afterlife where people floated around as ghosts and when they talked, only "ooooohhh" came out.

The problem with such afterlifes is that it will become boring for the players.
Unless the afterlife is only of short duration or they can adventure on in the afterlife.
Maybe make the afterlife a portal to the superduper hard areas. When a player dies they take their ghost-'1337' items with them and then are allowed a choice:
new character or to enter the 'planes', a huge set of superduper hard levels where you can only 'die' once.
Once you pass them, you are returned to the world, only no items and changed.
Random set of 2 changes, one positive, one negative.. i.e. the infamous missing right hand but a jedi master.
Offline Breakfast

Senior Devvie

for great justice!

« Reply #23 - Posted 2006-06-16 17:26:50 »

Overkill, your idea sounds a bit like Wizard's twilight in Ars Magica, for any Pen and paper fans...

I think one conclusion we are coming to is that if you you have a limited lifespan the low level play needs to be really fun. This is probably a good way to bring new players in anyways...

I don't know how Guild Wars operates this, but I heard they have tried to get around the level grind somewhat by allowing people to create a character at any level. Not really sure how that mechanic works out though.
Offline OverKill

Junior Devvie

Java games rock!

« Reply #24 - Posted 2006-06-18 15:34:51 »

I play(ed) GW and it is a little missleading.
You can build a lvl 20 from scratch, but they only work in PvP arenas.

GW is only little level grind because you only have 20 levels (good) but you still have farming. Not a bad thing because the devs wanted it that way.

If you die you lie on the floor until someone rezzes you or your entire party dies. No matter what you get a 15% penalty everytime you die. (iirc been a while)
If the entire party dies they respawn at the areas spawn points (tempels)

If you are really are trying to avoid the level grind, don't give people reasons to level grind.
I have tried out a few games in the last few days. last and most fun was a nethack kinda iso mmorpg game:
Nothing to great graphics wise but still kinda fun. I like their skill progression, even if it can be exploited.
Yet they offer nothing else but level grinding as its only means of 'progression'.

I'd love to help out in your game but a) have something of my own (will post info soon) and b) no real time.
Though if you are looking for the devils advocate or suggestion person, I'm always game.
Offline beowulf03809

Junior Devvie

We live for the code, we die for the code

« Reply #25 - Posted 2006-06-20 13:16:47 »

Devils Advocation is one of my main reasons for reading and posting in these forums.   Grin  If I do all my design work in a vaccume I would find that I have a game that I absolutely love, but for some strange reason not everyone in the world has my same opinions.  I'm trying to correct that with a side-project in brain manipulation, but in the mean time I like soliciting the views of others.   Wink

There are a few pen+paper RPGs that allowed characters to start off with various levels of skill already by generating background events.  But doing so always came at a risk.  For example, Twilight 2000 was a military-based game where you play members of NATO forces in the European theater when the cold war heats up. All hell is breaking loose, the war has gone nuclear, command strucutre has broken down and you find youselves cut off far behind enemy lines.  You and your team need to survive and return across a hostile and devestated Europe to friendly territory.  During character generation you can build a character with a lot of background experience, giving you a higher rank, more skills, etc.  The downside was that you could find yourself with injuries, accumulated radiation, etc.  So it was taking a chance to do so.  Other games have had similar processes for creating higher starting characters by giving the player a pool of points to "spend" on categories like abilities, skills and resources ( money & equipment ).  If you wanted high starting abilities you would find youself with fewer points to spend on initial skills, for example. 

Major play-balance considerations in each type method, but as long as all players have the same options to them and there is little random effect ( die rolls ) that people can wine aboue, then it shouldn't be too bad.  And such a process will give players a sense that their starting character comes from "somewhere" already and is not just fresh meat. 
Offline Breakfast

Senior Devvie

for great justice!

« Reply #26 - Posted 2006-06-21 10:11:58 »

Points-based character creation is easy and fair, especially when combined with virtues and vices- a side effect of which is that you end up creating bizarre and freakish characters as you pick more flaws, although these maybe work best in pen & paper as they give leverage to the GM. You would need quite a sharp game system to take advantage of them, though...
Offline OverKill

Junior Devvie

Java games rock!

« Reply #27 - Posted 2006-06-21 11:25:17 »

Problem is that people do not make characters but munchkins.
I've played & dmed on my share of NWN Roleplaying servers and you would be amazed to what lengths people go to justify their munchkins.

Planeshift has a similar system but they tell you what what costs and you can see the results before you start.

What might work would be a storybook kinda think where each character runs through their own story.
IIRC there were some D&D novels that gave you choices what to do next and then you had to jump to a certain page.
Something like that.
And in the end, dump them with thier stats.
Also make the story a little random. Players will quickly know what effects what.
f.i. different paths :
player gets the choice of a (combat) or b (outsmart) an enemy.
first time they choose combat them they roll a 20 and beat the enemy. second time they roll 5 and loose. Call it fate.
But even if they lose, give them something for it.

Make the story long enough so that people won't want to repeat it just to tweak their scores.
Offline beowulf03809

Junior Devvie

We live for the code, we die for the code

« Reply #28 - Posted 2006-06-21 12:14:03 »

Overkill, I'm intrigued by the phrase "munchkin" as slang in this case.  Do you mean minimizing certain features for the sake of maximizing others, or something else?  If that is what you meant, I'm already working on a balancing method.  Basically, a maximum number of "negative points" that each character can acquire is the easiest solution.  If you are familliar with the Microprose game Master of Orion II, it allowed you to customize your race in this way.  Each player had a number of starting points, and all attributes ( combat ability, research generation, production, growth, etc ) were initially neutral ( +/- 0 ).  You could spend the points to buy bonuses in any area and if you wanted you could take negatives in other areas for more points.  But you could only take a maximum of about 10% of your starting points as additional negatives.

RE your mention of using a background story to generate the player's starting values, that's what I was hitting at in reply #8 to this thread.  Sort of a pick-your-way flow chart with very basic story elements.  I hope to avoid a menu-like list of bonuses and penalties for the player to choose from.  I would rather have a "mini-game" with some variation in the choices presented to the player ( to avoid the situation of someone determining the "best" choices and everyone producing clones ). Of course, the variations would have to be fairly minor ( choice between getting a bonus in one skill or another ) so people don't feel cheated, but they should still be enogh to keep characters uniquie.

And this all gets back to the concept of killing off the characters if appropriate.  By getting enough investment up front on the character, and making the new charactes something more than just a generic blank slate waiting to enter the level grinding machine, I would hope that the character is "worth" something right from the beginning, successes really mean something more than a level change, and death means more than just a respawn.  But in the event of such a death, a new, equally unique, interresting, and not "noob" character is just a short creation away.
Offline OverKill

Junior Devvie

Java games rock!

« Reply #29 - Posted 2006-06-21 12:25:42 »

Yes Munchkin = min/maxing.
Yes MoO2 was one of my favorites. Now GalCiv2. But I min/maxed my races as well. At one point I had a killer setup and strategy that helped me beat the game on its hardest level.
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