I’m not writing about 38 Studios, or BioWare. I know how those employees feel though, it’s awful, many of us in games do unfortunately. No, instead I’m talking about the consequences of death in an MMO.
Over the weekend I played a serious amount of LOTRO. My teenage son has challenged me to get to 75 by the end of my week off (I won’t by the way, too hard, now I’m aiming for 70, am currently at 67). I’d really like to be able to tick the ‘done’ box on more than just Wow soonish and LOTRO as I rediscovered, is my best chance of getting there :D
Saturday was cruisy, I don’t think I even died once. I had left my character those many moons ago in Fordirith, the first area of Enedwaith. A couple of hours in I was advised by a guild member that if I wanted to level reasonably fast I should really go to Dunland, so off I went, again doing the starter quests for the area. Sunday, out of the early quests, I tackled the harder ones, plus some skirmishes, and I died so many times that I went to bed a little sad. In one Skirmish my gear went yellow, then orange, and then red (in my defense I was trying Tier II difficulty on a character that I’m rusty with). Red means broken, so your skills using a red weapon don’t even work anymore.
There are two sides to MMO death; firstly ensuring that the gameplay is challenging enough that you will die if you don’t play well (Wow, I’m looking at you here *), and secondly adding consequences for when said death occurs. How do you balance the consequences of death in an MMO enough to make us avoid death? If you die 50 times and don’t feel the pinch, then it’s clearly not enough. It’s a fine line between encouraging players to be their best, and putting them off playing altogether.
LOTRO isn’t too harsh on death but there are consequences and you (or should I say ‘I’ in my rusty state) die a lot. In Skirmishes, each time you die the rewards handed out are decreased and this penalty is only removed once you complete a skirmish. Out in the open questing, you are penalized with reduced abilities for 10 minutes (which stack if you die while you have those reduced penalties), all buffs from cooked and trail food gone and the money sink from constant repairs. More than that though, it’s embarrassing. ‘Wardens never die in skirmishes’ was one comment from a guild mate.
I like the LOTRO death consequences and I think Turbine have done a great job with their difficulty curve. Although I went to bed annoyed, I was annoyed at my inability to play my little hobbit properly, annoyed at myself, but not so much that I don’t want to make an effort to improve.
Today I’m going to spend some time reading up on Wardens, making appropriate changes to my skill rotation and armour as well as making sure I have enough food and potions on board (this will mean leveling my cook at some point). After all, my pride is at stake now.
* I’m talking about leveling, not raiding.