Making Permadeath More Appealing
This topic has been brought up before, but it’s something I personally have been thinking about for quite some time, so I wanted to jot down some thoughts. In the majority of MMOs I have played, permadeath (ie: once you die that is it, your character ceases to exist) is not a factor for pretty obvious reasons. Number one, no one wants to lose everything they own as well as the hours they spent dedicating themselves to a character. Number two how do you keep players entranced with your content if they’re constantly required to level up through it again with a new character. I thought about the things that make permadeath unattractive to me personally, and also came up with some solutions to change this. I’d LOVE to see at least one ‘mainstream’ MMO work it into their game some how. I’m going to be relating most of my ideas to EQ2 as that’s the game I have the most experience in, but it could certainly be adjusted for any game out there.
1. Allow Permadeath to be optional. A tag that players can add to their characters, or perhaps a flag that works on a PvP server in specific. Players love choices. Allow them to control whether or not their character will be facing the void forever themselves, and they may warm up to the idea some what.
2. Institute some sort of ancestry tab so that players can track their family trees. I am always fascinated by history, and lore. Perhaps that’s just me but I doubt I am the only one. I know that LotRO has a family tree type tab, but lets take that and evolve it to the next step. Where you can track your entire family, any great feats they have accomplished, how they died, and how they were related to you. Expand on that history for each character, and let them feel as though their characters – be they reincarnated or first generation or 10th generation are a PART of something BIGGER. People want to feel important, as though they have made a difference in the world – even in an MMO world where that is virtually impossible.
3. Add level restrictions. No one wants to level up from 1-90 every week. Have permadeath kick in after a particular level (if toggled on at character creation) like level 60+ so that your game is not absolutely swamped with new level1’s wandering around bored. Much like the Deathkights start at level 55 in WoW after you’ve leveled your own character to that level, your “reincarnated” self would also start at the designated level.
4. Keep zones FRESH and New. For this option I go back to EverQuest. For those who are not aware, every few months EverQuest takes one (or more) of their zones and revamps it for a different level then it’s been intended for. They update the loot table, and while the zone itself does not physically change the technicalities of the zone do. This ensures that people are NOT doing the exact same content all of the time. Who wouldn’t want to run through a level 80 version of Blackburrow for a short time, or any other long forgotten zone for that matter. It’s so important to keep your players moving through different zones that you’ve created, and not have them stagnant in one location for months on end.
5. Make each death matter. There are various ways to do this, and I’ve thought of a few ideas to make it work. In EverQuest II in specific, you can mentor down to a lower level, and your gear will mentor with you. Why not change that technology slightly so that it’s not the character that mentors down but the gear on its own. That way your ancestors can leave you gear in their will, and pass down heirloom items that their descendants could use. Why not add a special title or skill or some other trinket that players will obtain for being a 10th generation (or any other number really) survivor. A skill perhaps that you’ve researched and can pass down to your family. Little things that make it so that the previous character death was not for nothing.
I’ve got a few other ideas bouncing around but these were some of the more simple ones that came to mind. Really, I understand why permadeath doesn’t work in MMOs, and I can only imagine the amount of whining complaints that would go on when player A died and lost all of their gear, not to mention how unstable that becomes for things like raids (perhaps have the feature turned off in instances and left on only in real world combat). I just think it’s an avenue that’s incredibly unique and has so much potential, were it not for things like time and money playing larger factors in why MMO companies simply haven’t explored it.
Thoughts? Let me know in comments!