Perma-death to all Darkfriends!

Since 1997 and Ultima Online the concept of perma-death in an MMO has always interested me. I think a large part of it has to do with a core appeal of MMOs themselves; the fact that everything ‘counts’ and you can’t save and reload at will like you can in most single-player games. Everything is always saved, everything is permanent and persistent, and what you do could have an impact on others. Those are very strong and unique characteristics of the MMO genre (or were, far too many games today minimize all of this to do their best job at creating online single player experiences), and so the ultimate permanence, perma-death, is never far from my mind.

Yesterday I talked a bit about fantasy IPs, in particular the Wheel of Time IP, and today I’d like to continue using that IP as a base to throw out “yet another perma-death idea”. My thinking goes like this: A strong PvE base is needed to make a successful mass-market MMO, so the WoT MMO would be PvE heavy while still being more of a world rather than a string of zones/tiers. All areas of the world would hold some interest to all players, new and old, and so where you adventure has more to do with what you are currently trying to accomplish rather than your current level. The main game for most players would be the familiar questing/items/rep game, just done up with all the lessons learn over the years. The goal is to attract a large audience, not to create a niche game here.

The only combat PvP would be against Darkfriends, and all Darkfriend characters play with perma-death. The system would basically work like a PvP flag, only it would be a permanent one-way switch. All characters would start out as ‘good’ characters, and only though a special series of quests would you be able to become a Darkfriend. Once you make the switch, options such as stealing from and attacking other players open up. The attacker would be able to earn some worthwhile evil-only reward, while the victim would suffer some penalties (but nothing like full loot or even losing a given item. Perhaps some gold or other penalty to ‘make it matter’, but not something to drive away PvE-focused players). Now the key to the whole setup would be the fact that Darkfriends don’t show up as ‘red’ to other players until they are identified. Unidentified Darkfriends could still enter towns, shop, train, etc. They would have the OPTION of stealing/murder, but otherwise they remain unchanged save for perma-death. For all you know, someone ‘blue’ in your party, or the guy next to you at the auction house, could be a Darkfriend.

The identification system would work much like the system in Oblivion, where if an NPC sees you committing a crime, you are reported and the guards notified. If the crime is minor (stealing), only the local guards are made aware, and you are only identified as a Darkfriend to everyone else in that area. If the crime is major (murder), a wide region is made aware. The more crimes you commit that are witnessed, the wider the knowledge that you are a Darkfriend gets, until ultimately you are so infamous that in all regions of the world you are known as a villain.

Good characters always have the option to attack a Darkfriend at will, and while a good character will be able to respawn with whatever penalty, remember that once a Darkfriend is killed, he is deleted. To take SOME of the edge off, and not making the death of a Darkfriend a major motivator to quit the game, an account-wide banking system (only accessible at say a few special locations in the entire world) would be in place, so that anything of major value could be stored away, and even should the Darkfriend die, the next character you roll could withdraw some nice gear or bonus items. After all, even good characters at times ‘come across’ evil but powerful artifacts, right?

The overall idea is to give everyone an OPTION to PvP, although it would be a difficult life with a major penalty always hanging over your head. History has shown that most won’t go for that option (EVE and the number of players in 0.0 space, Trammel), but it’s also my belief that having SOME threat of PvP creates a more interesting environment for everyone playing, and that some of the genres most creative, dedicated, and influential players are PvP-driven. By creating an environment where you combine the two in a somewhat ‘friendly’ manner, you would hopefully get the best of both worlds. A game where the devs are focused on updating the PvE aspects and keep everything going, while also having a small but influential population of PvP risk-takers to add some spice to the world is a game that, IMO of course, would really work. So who wants to give me a truckload of cash so I can make it happen? Anyone, anyone?

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Combat Systems, EVE Online, MMO design, Perma-death, PvP, Random. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Perma-death to all Darkfriends!

  1. Ob says:

    as a self-proclaimed PVE carebear, that sounds…interesting

  2. Adam says:

    Unlike you I’ve essentially given up on WoW players and PVE players expanding their horizons.

    I think most of them are content doing what they are doing and don’t have what it takes to step it up.

    They lack the fortitude to pick themselves up from a drylooting and they lack the manual dexterity to compete in a game requiring aim and friendly fire.

    This isn’t going to change. Your system tries to create artificial games rules to bypass the essential fairness that a system like Darkfall mostly has, I don’t like it.

    Your system doesn’t even touch the manual dexterity issues most WoW players have, EVE succeeds by making the game about rightclick autoeverything.

    I think the only way for the unique Darkfall-esque game market to expand is for it to recruit FPS players.

    Dust 451, APB and some of the spy focused games upcoming could maybe do that but will require some more unique marketing and vision to convert those FPS players to a meaningful persistent world.

    • SynCaine says:

      The idea here though is not to create a DF-style game with more mass-appeal. It’s to create a mass-market PvE MMO that gives PvP-focused players a reason to play as well (along with just throwing out an idea about perma-death and how it could work in an IP like WoT). Two very, very different things. I’m very happy with what DF is and it’s market size. I don’t need 100 servers to feel good about my game, and clearly Aventurine does not need $1b in revenue to pump out major updates at a rate at/above the norm.

    • Drew says:

      Because no WoW players are FPS players, too, right? You’re making some pretty ignorant sweeping generalizations, here.

      • Anonymous says:

        12 Million subscribers, many of whom are young gamers that were introduced to gaming by WoW.

        Sure, a percentage of WoW players probably play FPS games as well, but you don’t need a 100% statistic to make a generalization.

  3. bonedead says:

    Pretty sure this is the only implementation for permadeath that seems like it could work on the surface. Well, besides my uber awesome one that no one can touch because it is just so awesome, but besides that, only one I’ve seen.

  4. Bhagpuss says:

    “it’s also my belief that having SOME threat of PvP creates a more interesting environment for everyone playing”

    Like the possibility of being mugged creates a more interesting environment for everyone collecting their car from the multi-storey after a night out in town?

    Thanks, but from the PvE player’s point of view, I’ll pass.

    I think that permadeath really only has a future in a mass-market game if the player has no significant investment of time, effort or emotion in the character. As soon as the character that might be irrevocably deleted begins to count for something to the player, you move directly into an ultra-niche.

    This set-up would be off-putting to most PvE players and most PvP players alike, I would think. It would appeal to performance artists, masochists and people who were just about to quit the game. Not a major demographic.

    (I’ve never read Robert Jordan/WoT, just to expalin if I’ve missed any nuances).

    • Wyrm says:

      Are you comparing risk of being mugged for some gold (he didn’t even proposed full looting) to being mugged in real life?

      Congratz, you just redefined the word Carebear…

    • Nick says:

      No sir it is the opposite to how you describe. You see the MORE emotional investment you put into your character the MORE emotion you will feel when your character dies. I play computer games for fun to incite emotion. I want to feel the angst of losing a 3 month old character to lag against a zombie. Because if I didn’t know this angst, how could I know the passion of killing a dragon and living to tell the tale with my next 3 month character?

  5. PeterD says:

    Umm, so what happens if a Darkfriend dies in PvE? Is that permadeath too?

    If so, what happens when a group is running a dungeon/instance/whatever and the unidentified DF in the group dies? He’s perma dead and they have to find a replacement in the middle of the instance? That’s going to lead to PvE players wanting proof that someone isn’t a DF, or refusal of people to group with anyone other than friends, because if there’s one thing MMO players hate more than losing it’s wasting time. Hooray, you’ve just killed group play.

    If the DF doesn’t permadie from a PvE death, then what’s the point? “Oh no, I’ve been identified, I’ll go run into those mobs and die so I can’t be permakilled. Then I’ll log off and come back later.”

    Not saying it isn’t an interesting idea, just pointing out some mechanics issues you need to work out.

    • SynCaine says:

      Yea the DF dies from PvE. But remember that ideally, the vast majority of the player population would not be DF, and those who would be would not risk perma-death on some PvE trip that might get them killed. They might join up, wait for the final boss to die, and then kill the remaining group members (since they are weak from the fight) to steal the loot, but only the foolish would go on a trip with a chance of PvE death.

      Suspicion that someone is a DF however would be a key factor in the game, because even though most are not, you never truly know until they are discovered.

  6. coppertopper says:

    Someone please tell me which of the WoT series I definately need to read (besides the 1st one :p) and where to stop please. It sounds like people give it a lot of props in fantasy circles but it’s annoyingly volumous.

    • SynCaine says:

      I would suggest 1-13, and then get the final two coming this year and next.

      On a serious note, I don’t think its a series you can jump in and out of, it’s one very long continuous story, with sadly a few really, really slow books (9 and 10 I believe?). Problem even those books have key events and parts worth reading.

      It is one hell of a commitment from start to (current) finish, but I can’t say I’ve read a better series of fantasy books.

      • sid67 says:

        If you read the books continuously, none of them are boring.

        The issue was that some of the books felt a bit incomplete because so much was going on that one book couldn’t hold it all.

        I want to say that Jordan is on record somewhere as saying Winter’s Heart and Crossroads of Twilight (9 & 10) were really one book that he was forced to split into two parts.

        On the re-read, when they weren’t spaced two years apart, I enjoyed both books far more than I did the first time around.

        And I agree with Syn, IMO it’s the best series of fantasy books ever written.

        Also, as you read it you might notice that some of the themes have been stolen by other authors. Most notably, there are some really obvious similarities to the Terry Goodkind books (which came after) and are not nearly as well done.

    • Adam says:

      The first book is promising… the second begins to drag.

      After those two the series is unholy… go look at the reviews on Amazon which are half-trolling half-raged out readers that made it to book 6-7 before exploding at how terrible the series is.

      10 page descriptions of wedding dresses… entire books where almost literally nothing occurs…

      To each his own.

  7. Brindle says:

    one problem is that in most PvE games and even in PvP games player death comes quick and easy. This would mean that after a very short time, the only ‘darkfriends’ would be low level players picking on new players. And once you become darkfriend, if PvE death is perma, then you will be virtually blocked from progressing since wipes will be often in the upper end pve content. Unless their is some real way to dramatically speed up leveling for darkfriends or at least some way of avoiding pve perma, then the idea is destined to be a fail

    • sid67 says:

      I agree. That’s why it needs to be a whole different game with a shorter leveling process.

      PvE type balance is not important for this character type as that is not the purpose. As such, you could do a good job of balancing it relative to other players.

      If it’s ‘different’ enough from the core game, then the time to reach a ‘competitive’ point could be shortened.

      You could even do other things here to compensate. Tab-targetting for non-DF, First-Person style for DF.

  8. sid67 says:

    I think what could be neat along these lines is that instead of taking a single character and converting him to a Darkfriend, you allow each player to have an “alt” that is a Darkfriend.

    There is still perma-death, but the whole game is different for the Darkfriend. There is a mini-leveling game in which you become a Darkfriend and maybe even earn your powers.

    At the end of which, you are relatively similar in power to another player but you do it in much less time.

    For example, let’s say that non-DF level up skills (or levels) to a maximum increment of 50.

    DF level them up to 25, but a DF 25 is pretty close to a non-DF 50. It just takes half as long.

    Also, the places where DF go are different. Inside each city, there is a warren where other DFs go (that are hooded). These are the quest hubs for DF players while leveling.

    Also, to lend some sort of permanence to your story arc, a DF character can also gain some “spies” and henchman. Upon perma-death, the DF player takes over one of his henchman. These henchman, if trained, can only have up-to 50% of the skill of the main DF character that just died.

  9. Imrys says:

    I think this is an ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC IDEA!!

    First, you mention the all areas accessable, and what I read to that is that there isnt a 1-80 level curve. The actual power of the char is not based on level per se, perhaps make it item based or something. Also, perhaps make the characters “progression” more based on something like titles earned while questing that allow access to or advancement of that chars storyline. If they are a channeler, it advences them through the ranks of Aes Sedai, pick an Ajah, advance to sitter, new quests etc. Their char doesnt get 1500x more powerful from newb to level cap, and a small group (1-3) could still kill top end.

    Also, maybe make it where Darkfriends have a lot higher individual power cap but somehow penalize them for working with or even NEAR other Darkfriends the more powerful they get individually. That way, if a Darkfriend manages to live a long time and advance his Power, to the point of being on par with one of the Forsaken, he essentially becomes a sort of “raid boss.” Maybe make it where at top levels, he appears on the map whenever he is logged in and everyone knows where he is etc etc, so that obviously, eventually he will be killed.

    I think your “account global” bank idea is good as well. Maybe make it slightly limited, 2 pieces of each gear slot and X amount of gold, so you cant fund someone infinitately on it, but you can at least have a couple sets to start with.

    Also, give something for Darkfriends to do as part of groups if they are undetected. Ways they can sabatage quests or something. Make it where they go into a raid and the raid boss gains extra minions or powers because there is a Darkfriend in the group that “warned” him they were coming. The group would know ONE of them was it, but not who. Maybe give the Darkfriend bonus XP or something if the group wipes (except him of course).

    So many awesome possibilities!! Definately have to balance where only lunatics would actually ENJOY playing a Darkfriend, that way there are enough to spice up the game, but not enough to ruin the PvE.

  10. Coubo says:

    In principle, it sounds like a good idea but it doesn’t work in practice because DF cannot hide themselves properly as the information about who they are cannot be hidden.
    Let me clarify this statement
    If you have been killed by a DF, then well, in theory you are dead and you can’t tell others. That’s how DF remain annonymous in the “real story”. If one guy in your party turns out to be a DF and kills everyone when you were carelessly resting, then, you will respawn and ‘know’ this guy was DF. Nothing prevent you for telling to everyone he is, even if he is not ‘tagged’. People will build external database about who DF are and it will remove all the fun.

    While reading the WoT I had similar thoughts how a DF system would be implemented in the MMO since the hidden “bad guys” play a major role of keeping the WoT story interesting. But metagaming is a major obstacle to that.

    • sid67 says:

      This is why I think the DF world needs to be shrouded a bit in Mystery. DF have a a hidden DF name only known to other DF and only visible when you are wearing some disguise (think DF tea party).

      Outside of that, DF can also use several several ‘names’ or alias. However, their ‘description’ never changes. So if they have been a real bad guy in an area, they become known ‘on sight’ in that area as a DF (true name visible).

      This is pretty consistent with the story as there are several examples of DF who were ‘found out’ and then went somewhere else under a new alias.

  11. Kyff says:

    If I had several truckloads of money I would gladly hand one over to you to make such a game. Just to see how it would work out.

    But alas, this is not the case.

  12. Anonymous says:

    We gotta take the power back, come on, come on!

    Just delete your characters when they die. Dev’s can’t stop you. Bhagpuss can’t stop you. My mom can’t stop you.

    They’ve all so far failed to stop me anyway.

    Do we really care about having a red name for ‘proof’? Do any of us really care if carebears stay dead when they die? I suspect not.

    hmm we should establish a tag or format for character names that means “I’ll delete this guy when he dies”. We can be like a secret hardcore society transcending all games :)

    FL-FFA-PvP may be under control of the devs but Perma-Death belongs to all of us.

    This aside your plan looks fun Syncaine, but I’d rather eat my own eyes than read WoT (it might be great as far as I know but long stories are long).

  13. Deano says:

    Just a quick comment to say if you like fantasy then by far the best of the lot is the Malazan Tales of the Fallen by Steven Erikson. It’s a long series of 10 books but is very well worth the time investment. I thought I had out-grown the fantasy genre till I decided to check it out on a friends recomendation

    • KaKTy3 says:

      Just to throw a few more series for non-core (read: post-adolescent) fantasy readers:

      ‘Prince of Nothing’ by R. Scott Bakker
      ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R. R. Martin

      Now, GRRM series is probably what *I* consider the best fantasy series ever written. And, sadly, I read too much of it some fifteen years ago :)

    • sid67 says:

      Malazan Tales are good, but I find they are more like novels in some ways than a series. I would say that’s because the ‘main’ characters aren’t consistent from book-to-book. Even if many (all?) the characters are recurring.

      GRRM is also good, but it’s another a series where you will struggle with character attachment (although for a much different reason).

      I haven’t read Price of Nothing, so I’ll give that a read.

      For myself, one of my other favorite fantasy series is The Book of Swords and The Book of Lost Swords by Fred Saberhagen. The Runelords by David Farland also come to mind as an interesting series.

  14. Dave says:

    anything by GGK is likely to be good as well, imho.

    I liked Sailing to byzantium duo but most people prfer Fionavar and tigana and so forth. Still most of it is VERY good.

  15. Kyff says:

    Hi Syn. In case you didn’t know. You might be a bit late:

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