Blog Azeroth – Shared Topic for the week of June 13th, 2011
Shared Topic Idea: Death in an MMO
How do you think dying in an MMO should affect the characters? In WoW we have a relatively insignificant repair cost from durability for a PVE death and no consequence for dying to another player. Do you think this is enough, too much, or needing improvement? Tie-ins to related MMO’s or multiplayer games and what sort of repercussion there is for failure there can be a good way to explain your thoughts.
Dying. It’s something that nobody wants to have happen to them, yet something that is inevitable. We all rail against aging by deploying skin creams, exercising, getting costly cosmetic surgeries, and myriad other treatments. But when it comes right down to it, nothing we can do (at this point) can delay death’s visit forever.
In Azeroth, however, death’s touch is much less… permanent. According to my statistics, Aliera has made 1381 trips to the other side to date and I am sure that number will continue to rise. (Incidentally, that comes out to about one death every hour and a quarter.) Of those 1381, fatigue set in 12 times (I probably wandered away from my desk with autofly on), my entire body was splattered upon 41 rocks as I hit them at terminal velocity, and 3 times Vanndar Stormpike broke my neck. 422 times some Alliance pigs cut me down as I fought for control of vital (maybe) battlefields.
Through all 1381 of those deaths and resurrections, my body has been perfectly preserved. I have not a single scratch from any of my battles. My gear has taken beating after beating, but those masterful armorers scattered across Azeroth have always managed to pop out each dent and mend each tear.
But should it be so simple? Yes, I have spent a great amount of gold on repair bills, and I have spent a fair amount of time running around the spirit realms, attempting to find a path back to my remains. That lost time and gold is the price I pay for death. A price which, I think, is sufficient.
After all, World of Warcraft is a game and, as a game, it is meant to be entertainment. If the game were made too realistic, and death were to be made permanent or near-permanent, I would be so on edge all the time that I would be unable to enjoy playing. I would constantly be looking over my shoulder, hoping that no high-level enemies pop out of the woodwork to strike me down. Ganking would spell doom for many players. Nobody would venture too far without help, nobody would risk themselves for fear of having to start over.
Then again, if the price is too low, nobody cares about dying. If dying meant you stood still for a few seconds and then could continue playing with full health and energy, even the deadliest foes would seem trivial. Chain pulling would be the norm for everything at all times. Just keep pulling until you run out of mana and die, then start over in a few seconds.
The in-between solution is to have death be a bit of an annoyance, but not so much that it ruins your day. Sometimes dying is not such a big deal. You happen to be right next to a graveyard, but just got a bit overwhelmed by a patrol. No huge thing, just run over a few steps, eat and drink to full, and go about your day. Sometimes dying is a massive pain in the butt. You are on the opposite side of the map, up on a ledge you probably cannot get to, and all you want to do is hearth.
Blizzard fortunately allows an out there. If you just do not want to run all the way back or for some reason cannot reach your body (perhaps due to fatigue), you can double down on pain for a bit and resurrect at the spirit. This really hurts your equipment, causes some serious pain to your character for a few minutes, and essentially reduces you to a pile of squishy. Again, a price for the out that feels good to me. Too much extra damage, and I would rather spend the time running around trying to get my body back. Too little cost and why run back at all.
Getting right down to it, I like the format that World of Warcraft has applied to death. Could little tweaks be made to the amount of durability damage from each death? Sure. Could the time cost be adjusted by slowing down or speeding up my ghost? Absolutely. But the existing cost is pretty solid from my chair.
(After reading over the topic once again here at the end, I just wanted to point out that there is a cost associated with dying in PVP: time. In the world at large, you must run back to your body from the graveyard which takes the place of gold payment. In battlegrounds, you must wait at the nearest graveyard for resurrection and then make your way back into the battle. In raids and arenas, you stop doing damage to your opponents, tanking bosses, and healing allies. Death in any aspect of the game has a consequence beyond gear damage. These other costs should not be neglected when considering the question.
Also, I didn’t have a chance in this post to discuss the lore implications of player death or the lack thereof. I will have to consider that and come back around to this idea.)