Dying for fun and profit

Apparently, I’m a douchebag :) But the topic of dying in MMOs has been cropping up the last week or so during our adventures in – funnily enough – Vanguard.

There’s a lot of stuff in Vanguard that, frankly, isn’t nearly as hardcore as you expect. “Rest experience”! When you die, after level 7, you lose experience (but not levels). Your death generates a tombstone with all your non-souldbound items which you must either go and recover (and recover some of your exp in doing so) or you must summon it to a bind stone to recover your items (and none of your exp).

And then you have to get back to your group.

But I find myself running back to a tombstone caused by a bug or a glitch, and thinking “huh?”

It does make you more careful about not dying than other games… I’m told enemas make you feel lighter on your feet and that an hour a day having ice water pumped into your rear can help prevent cancer.

Death penalty is what WWIIOL used to be all about and the heart of the problem with Death Penalty in an MMO lies in the fact that you aren’t playing a single player game.


“Death penalty is what WWIIOL used to be all about”

Which death penalty were we talking about in ww2ol?

ww2ol can only barely, in the terms I’d use as a gamer, be considered an rpg. As the abstraction was you were part of an army of millions of men, and freely interchanged a role within that group, individual deaths were not especially significant in the larger picture. Certainly no particular emphasis was placed on “you died…you are penalized by so and so”.

Penalties are largely imposed on the group. Loss of resources. Loss of towns. Loss of position. Loss of morale.

Certainly in the “used to be” sense, with unlimited spawn pools, the only penalty for death on an individual scale (other than ya know…the ego-sting of getting your fanny paddled by the opposition) was travel time back to the fight. There’s never been any sort of ELO scoring or loss of points or anything.

So…your last paragraph there sort of puzzles.

Back in the olden olden days with permadeath online (talking 80’s stuff here), the death penalty added a spice that has pretty much disappeared. I never got my heart pounding quite as hard playing a game as when I confronted an old pk’er on a character I’d spent 3 years and thousands of dollars in online access fees developing when the outcome of losing was the permanent loss of the character and equipment.

It wasn’t really a feel you could get in a single player game. So I’d pick a bone even with the last sentence. Sometimes death penalty and multiplayer game are pretty darned compatible. It’s just not a spice you want to be putting on every single meal. (for me, anyway. who needs that kind of stress constantly? :P )


Death penalties for the individual would be fundamental to a KOTH rank structure in which rank has functional meaning. AFAIK they’d be incremental, i.e. death=personal functional downgrade, and no one within the WWIIOL sphere that’s discussed KOTH in a context accessible to the involved-player community has advocated persona death=start a new persona. But, in a properly designed three-tier KOTH structure, I think it *could* be done that way without too negatively impacting the game’s fun delivery and playability.

Vanguard, like EQ2 or WoW, is hardly an RPG except in that people call an online game with elves “MMORPG”. You don’t have to be an RPG to have death penalty and WWIIOL certainly has dying.

Spending 10-30 minutes to get to your play area and then having to start again because you died – that’s a death penalty.

There was no “rez” in WWIIOL, so whether you group or solo doesn’t make a great deal of difference – you run out, you die, you start over.

Now, if your group manages to deploy a mobile spawn or take a depot, you will be able to rejoin your group in short order, which lessens the penalty for death, but if you fail to do so then WWIIOL has a simple and severe death penalty.

WWIIOLers call it time to battle but, especially for infantry, that battle can consist of your screen going black indicating you found some enemys for your “group” to engage.

“Death Penalty in an MMO lies in the fact that you aren’t playing a single player game”

It’s pretty simple if you think about it – in most single player games there is some sort of save function which they can use to dodge any kind of death penalty.

So SPG designers tend to design light death penalties or simply even just reload your last save for you and trust that you will save often and frequently.

Clearly, you can’t save in an MMO because the game isn’t about you – sure you died, but everyone else is still playing.

I seem to be using a different dictionary to determine what = rpg. My definition has nothing to do with elves, though.

And the death penalty relativity scale kind of takes place across the spectrum of mmorpgs, spgs, etc.

WW2OL’s death penalty is severe compared to, say, Minesweeper, I admit. Up against that old 80’s game I was talking about, it doesn’t qualify. In terms of the “gamespace” the current crop of consumers live in, it’s not exactly soul-crushing.

In the simplest terms, death penalties deal with the time resource. How much time did you invest, how much of that investment did you lose. Across all the games out there, my guesstimate is an average of hours lost. WW2OL = minutes.

Another aspect would be the “here we go again” factor of trudging through the same content again to get back to where you were. Most often, in WW2OL, that’s not the case…as the playfield is alot more dynamic. If it’s repetitive, welll…the whole game is….spawn, kill, die in that light.

Soo…again…ww2ol…not so bad.


I didn’t imply a quality judgement on WW2OL’s death penalty, I just said that “WWIIOL used to be all about” it: You spawned, you spent a long time getting someplace, you died. If you were lucky, you got a good group for the “getting someplace” part, but when you got there you were going to die and be ejected back to the start of the process.

Step 1: Form group, e.g.wait around at FB for 1-5 minutes to get with other people, find a truck to ride
Step 2: Begin time to battle
Step 3: Kill time en-route to battle
Step 4: Die

Where it goes wrong is when you apply this to a group of players.

T+000m Inf1 spawns inf.
T+001m Inf2 spawns inf.
T+002m Tank1 spawns tank.
T+003m Inf 1 and 2 ride onto Tank1.
T+004m Inf3 spawns and rides onto Tank1.
T+005m Tank1 sets off.
T+012m Tank1 arrives at Town after careful approach.
T+013m Inf2 dies.
T+017m Inf1 dies.
T+033m Inf3 dies.
T+048m Tank1 dies.

Remember – these guys are “a group”. They set out together because they’re a group of friends, their aim is to play together.

Inf2 died, his death penalty is separation from the group and additional time to battle time.

WW2OL had no depot spawning, no mobile spawns. If Inf1 died after a 7 minute ride to town, his death penalty was 7 minutes of separation from his group unless they also died.

“He could just join other people at the FB” – that’s not his aim, his aim is to play with Inf1, Inf3 and Tank1. Making him join a different group is death penalty.

There was more incentive to play tanks and planes in WWIIOL 1.0 because their frequency of 1-shot kills was far less, which meant you got to “fight” the enemy more often than simply die to him – once again, all about death penalty.

With no “rez” and no “bind” or “save” point system, if you died, your character essentially restarts the time-to-battle sequence. The only reward a good offensive provides is that your buddies might live longer and you might be able to get back to them to rejoin them. But on the whole, the general play experience was that dying as a trooper mean’t starting again with another random group – whomever respawned around the same time as you did.

So for infantry you advocate something like the X-number-of-mission-respawns-at-the-mission-leader (or alternately, at a token that he can place and move) concept, as the shortest-return-time-to-group TTC approach?

I’m not advocating anything in the above :)

Well, again…your crazy, insane, unbalanced, koo-koo, nutty, twitterbrained, juggler-hat-wearing, psychotic, weird, etc etc statement “ww2ol used to be all about the death penalty”…when I sorta think it was about alot more than its death penalty or any death penalty at all, sorta stands in dispute :P

Doesn’t matter that it’s ww2ol we’re talking about, by the way…lest you think I’m just standing up for my particular horsie.

I read, I raise my eyebrows, and I reply. If you said “Oranges are all about the color orange”, I’m sure I’d be equally as eyebrow raised.

In any case…moving onward…


I get that that wasn’t the intention or the idea, but as a player that was the experience I and many others had. The intense experiences like a 90 minute ditch crawl were all fuelled by the death penalty, but so many of the negatives were also based on. Ultimately, if the bugs didn’t get you, then it came down to whether you could stomach the death penalty – in one way or another.

WWIIOL kinda has two different types of Death ‘penalties’…the Infantry one were a lot of time was lost trying to return to the battle (pre-MSPs) and the Vehicle one where its less of a Penalty and more of a Reward. Run out of ammo when you’re far from base, its sooo much faster to get back in the fight by despawning right where you are and getting a new vehicle. The Team loses a valuable piece of equipment, but the Individual doesn’t have to waste his personal time returning said valuable piece of equipment back to base.

As ‘proof’, take a look at total percentage RES and MIA Sorties per basic unit type (Didn’t use PT Boats or Trucks as those are either hardly ever used (low value) or are used in odd non-offensive ways. Nor did I look at Sea Vessels as apparently no Sea Vessel has been killed this Campaign…at least according to CSR Unit Usage). Anywho:
Infantry: 6%
Para Troops: 7%
AT Gun: 7%

Compared to:
Fighters: 11%
Bombers: 17%
Tanks: 19%

That’s Fighter, Bombers and Tanks being roughly 2-3 times more like to be REScued or go MIA than it is for Infantry, Para or AT Gun.

For Vehicles at least…and perhaps all INF units other than the Rifleman, there perhaps needs to be a Failure to RTB Penalty possibly in the form of Personal Repawn Timer …something that makes it more valuable for the player to RTB his unit than it would for him to either fight until he dies or simply despawns/alt-F4s.

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