October 11th, 2012
First, what is perma-death as defined in Trials of Ascension? Your character is permanently removed from game play upon its 100th death. We allow 100 deaths to account for normal loss during game play as well as things that are out of your control such as lag, server mishaps and bugs. Each player will know how many more deaths their character can incur before their soul is too weak to return to the living. We have also implemented unconsciousness as a buffer between life and death, meaning in most cases if someone (or something) wants to kill your character, it will need to be a deliberate action after you’ve been rendered harmless.
The notion of perma-death in videos games is nothing new. Think of the days of the stand-up arcade games. You dropped in a quarter, and got 3 lives (sometimes more) to go as far as you could. When those lives were used up, your game was over and you had to drop in another quarter. I don’t know about you but that sure sounds like perma-death to me. Many of today’s single player games are no different. You use up the lives, health, hearts, whatever given and you start over.
The difference here is we’re just putting it into a persistent world. The largest problem with doing so is getting gamers over the idea of loss. Unfortunately MMOs have trained gamers that loss is simply not an option and puts everyone on a happy one-way ladder of gain. We sometimes wonder if nobody else sees the problems with this approach. It’s akin to turning on the kitchen faucet, plugging the drain, then wondering why you must continuously make your sink larger to hold all the water. Online games ensure their economies have drains to keep it balanced. Why isn’t the same being done with player characters?
While the loss of a character might sting, the benefits to the player and the overall player-base are immense.
As a player, perma-death offers you a beginning, a middle, and an end to the story of each of your characters. Many players tend to grow bored of characters after awhile. It’s because there is no closure to their character’s story. It just goes on and on and on. Perma-death forces this closure which in turn encourages you to make the most of your character before he or she shuts their eyes for the last time. Lastly, let’s not forget the heightened sense of danger that comes with the potential loss of your character. This mixed with the absence of a conning system will make even the most trivial encounter take on a whole new level of adrenaline and emotion. The chance of loss will even heighten the sense of awareness when traversing terrain. Recently Varl and I were sculpting a mountainous area and I positioned my character on the very edge of a large drop-off and it immediately came to mind—would I get this close to the edge if it meant slipping and losing a life counter?
With the risk of perma-death, sacrifice and greatness can finally mean something. For example, in other MMOs, your group is losing a fight with a monster. The ‘tank’ yells for everyone to run as he sacrifices himself. He dies, does a corpse run, grabs all his gear and is back with the group in about a minute. Now imagine the same scenario in a game with perma-death. The tank yells for everyone to run and saves the group from certain death. As one of the survivors you look back at his corpse to see a light forming around it. The light slowly ascends into the sky marking his death as his last. He has perma-died saving you. Now that’s sacrifice and greatness. Perma-death will certainly separate the talkers from the walkers, so to speak.
Beyond the benefits to individual players, the player-base as a whole will benefit from perma-death as well. It creates an always-changing ebb and flow of powerful characters. Sure, your character may spend some time “at the top” but perma-death will catch up with him sooner or later and you’ll be forced to pass the torch to the next wave of up and coming characters. The constant influx of new characters created by perma-death will ensure items of all types and power will stay in demand, keeping the economic engine running at full strength. As developers, perma-death removes that pesky plug from the kitchen sink, stopping us from needing to make the sink larger all the time and instead lets us focus on making the journey through each of your characters lives all the more engaging, exhilarating, and exciting.
Hopefully we’ve demonstrated how beneficial perma-death can be for us all and have swayed you non-believers to at least giving it a shot when the time comes!