[MUD-Dev] Re: pet peeves

Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no> Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no>
Fri Feb 19 14:32:27 CET 1999

Matthew Mihaly wrote:

> Yes, I agree that losing face is a MUCH bigger deal than losing stats. It
> is you vs. the other person, not character v. character. However, when
> death is such an infrequent thing, as it must be in a viable permadeath
> system (Genocide not withstanding), think of how much bigger of a rush you
> will get, knowing that if you fight to the death with your opponent,
> either you or he is going to lose your character entirely.

What I was trying to argue was that what you achieve by increasing damage is
not linear to what you achieve in overall game play and player experience.
One has to judge how much a design choice actually contributes to the big
picture. For instance, the "rush" is dependant on a lot of factors, pace,
sound effects etc.. The question is whether permadeath is worth it, or if
you can achieve the same effect through other means. One possibility is to
have consensual permadeath (duel). Nonconsensual permadeath is troublesome
as it makes the casual "romantic" user very vulnerable to attacks from
dedicated cynical users (players with a _lot_ of spare time that are willing
to reroll often just to get the rush. That is, the rush is all they want
from the game). The subjective nature of MUDs makes rational choices about
PvP damage difficult.


However, the notion "permadeath" is in itself questionable.  You can have
permadeath effects in non-permadeath systems as well. For instance: if you
loose one level when you die and it takes ten hours to gain one level then
you are effectively permadead if you have an entire guild on your neck. If
you want real permadeath then you have to ban the player from the game
entirely :-) because what other players owe the dead player is a resource
which is out of reach for the game system. Thus, instead of talking about
permadeath or no permadeath, it would make more sense to distinguish between
games where it is possible to end up in a situation where your pool of
resources are continuously decreasing and those in which regeneration is
guaranteed to those who knows the secrets of the game.

> I don't think permadeath works in a system where it is possible (and where
> it is desirable, due to a lack of "justice"-type measures) to easily kill
> someone, however. Nevertheless, in a permadeath system where both death
> and murder have huge consequences, I think you'd end up with some quite
> interesting politics, subtle manouvering, etc.


I believe the real trouble is that we are used to viewing the character as
the basic unit. It is my opinion that the group should be viewed as the
fundamental unit in a game system, at least if the majority of players are
expected to be of the law-and-order variety. Group support is no easy task,
and I don't think the problem complex is well understood either.  However,
in a large system you won't recognize individual characters, but you will
remember the icons of the powerful groups and you can also add KOS support
(group support which let a group record and share information about enemy
players). In such a system you risk becoming persona-non-grata in areas
controlled by that group and it's allied. Thus you risk becoming spatially
permadead. Of course, you don't want a nazi group, so you now have the
problem of balancing groups, which is more difficult than balancing
characters due to the fact that groups can accumulate extreme levels of


Frequency of death is an interesting topic. On a typical MUD the newbie
learns about the consequences of death by dying a lot initially. He realize
that death is bad, boring and to be avoided. The presence of death is
furthermore made visible by broadcasting "player so-and-so was murdered",
having decaying corpses etc. Non-permadeath has some positive social
consequences as well, when you die you can rely upon your friends to fetch
your equipment, even newbies can do an experienced player some favours. I
personally only see permadeath viable as a spice, not as a general mechanism
which the design rests upon. Permadeath might be appropriate in a cyberpunk
setting though, but I am sceptical about relying on permadeath in more
"romantic" settings.


Permadeath also makes revenge very difficult, which in my opinion would make
continued play less interesting. With regular death you are likely to seek
revenge, you repeat to yourself "I hate doodz, I hate doodz" while regaining
your levels and equipment, try to build alliances, spend more time in the
system in order to outmatch the enemy etc.

(I am personally not too keen on PK and revenge, but if you want PK, you
also want revenge).
Ola Fosheim Groestad,Norway      http://www.stud.ifi.uio.no/~olag/

MUD-Dev maillist  -  MUD-Dev at kanga.nu

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