The Weekly Raid: How Should MMORPGs Handle Death Penalties?

With the recent launch of Albion, a full loot open PvP MMORPG, the question of death penalties has come up again. Earlier MMORPGs tended to have harsh death penalties. Games like Ultima Online, RuneScape, EVE Online, and EverQuest all had players drop everything they were carrying on death. Ever since World of Warcraft, death penalties have relaxed considerably. A meager durability hit on equipment is all most gamers can expect nowadays.

Albion Online has managed to find a decent compromise. There are three tiers of regions, each with their own death penalty. In Green regions, players cannot be killed nor do they drop anything. In Yellow regions, players can knock each other out and force a small silver drop but they can't finish another player off. Red and Black regions allow full loot where death means everything you're carrying is lost. The saving grace is your gold and silver stash are safe.

Will this tiered death penalty system serve Albion well? What are your thoughts on an ideal death penalty system? Should death have meaning in a MMORPG? And if so, what penalties or consequences should players face for dying? Share your thoughts below! Also, share your worst or most vivid MMORPG death story with us! Here's mine:

I recall one particularly terrible situation in EverQuest where I accidentally walked off the ledge of an active volcano. My poor character fell headfirst into molten lava and died instantly. My newly spawned naked character had no way of recovering my corpse. Even if I could sneak my way past the goblins scattered across the mountain paths, there was no way I could survive long enough on the lava itself to get to my corpse. I eventually ended up requesting the help of a Necromancer who, using an in-game coffin could summon my corpse to him. Oh did I mention death in EverQuest also led to a considerable loss of experience points?

Lifelong gamer always looking for the next virtual adventure. I'm still waiting for the next big MMORPG. Until then, you can find me hopping between multiple games.

  • EazyMakaveli

    i only played mortal online and when you exit town, you instantly get pk'd by people with gear and in that game gear is so powerful that no amount of skill can overcome it. A geared player can legit 1v100. And mortal online is overall a pretty shit game. So in my experience full loot sucks dick.

    However, i can see how full loot can be great if levels and gear would matter less, but still give you an edge. the game must allow a really good player to defeat shitty players with medium gear. Its really when levels and gear matters too much that full loot becomes shit. There must always be a way to outplay your opponent.

    In my experience, Vanilla wow PvP and death penalty is the best. You spend alot of time running back to your body and repairs are somewhat expensive. However, random PvP is fun enough to make it worth dieing for as well as the honor rewards which add up. Its simply fun to PvP and to this day

  • I like Albion's approach. Not completely unforgiving but also has the hardcore experience 😀

  • The only mmo PK system I experienced and liked was the one in Silkroad Online. They had this trader, hunter and thief system and also regular player PK iirc. Traders would carry their goods on camel to sell in other towns, hunters protect them from thieves. I wish new games had a similar system.

    I recall being a low level trader with goods on a newbie camel. I didn't have any hunters protecting me. And when I got near the port area I was attacked by a thief who summoned/aggro'd mobs onto my camel. Lost everything I had. The only thing I remember after that was writing down the thief's name on my desk. Yes, on my desk because I didn't know screenshots or notepad existed.

  • ivan_

    Albion's death penalties are the same as Terraria's. You either drop nothing, drop some money, or drop everything. (There's a 4th tier where you die permanently as well iirc. Runescape has this feature so I think it's only a matter of time before Albion uses it too.)

    RuneScape's pvp system was pretty bad imo, but got a good revival, and then they went backwards (vanilla style PvP). They did well when they reworked the pvp areas to remove pvp completely and feature NPCs that simulated PvPers (like a revenant ork would simulate a high level pvper, equipped with CC, (high) DPS, and self-heals). They weren't easy to defeat, if you fought one you had to use food to heal and maybe switch armour/buffs as often as against a real player. Most of the time you'd be forced to run, and sometimes they'd even travel in groups too. They were NPCs, so bots, but I'm convinced that if given a player character model and name, players wouldn't have complained about how unrealistic/anti-pvp they were.

    Re: death penalty, some gear damage and a paid teleport back (or walk of shame for free) to your corpse is a fair system (like GW2, their death penalty was perfect - getting back to where you were was fair enough punishment especially on bigger maps). Part of the MMORPG charm for me is being able to out-compete try-hard players (PvPers) with consistent grind, even if it meant slower financial gains.

    My fondest pvp memory is a bit strange and its from RuneScape - I used to be scared of the pvp areas because I would always get jumped trying to get somewhere and lose my stuff... I was never interested in pvping so I grinded (ground?) hard, got strong, and got so strong to the point where most other players couldn't even attack me anymore even if they wanted to (if the level difference is too high can't fight them unless you go further into the pvp area). Players who did attack me, their attacks pretty much just bounced off because my defence was so high and I had the appropriate gear. No matter how tryhard they went, they just couldn't kill me, and I'd end up escaping the pvp area pretty casually.

  • Buzzcut

    More games should take the approach of "If you die in the game, you die in real life." Joking aside, I like the idea of permanent death as long as people with better equipment can be outplayed and levels either 1. don't exist or 2. don't matter much and are gained quickly.

  • I think opt-in approaches help encompass all styles of gamer - except, It's always best there's a reason to opt-in because otherwise the hardcore players might feel like they're playing for risk but their characters don't actually gain anything more than the casual players' characters. For example, Albion's got a nifty little system of different tier zones. You don't want to have a death penalty? Fine, you don't have to, but you won't get as good materials. I think it's important to reward players who play the risky game (High risk, high reward) especially in an mmorpg, where the game is literally to simulate the life of the character you have created. As for the more casual areas, I think perhaps a small loss of gold or some xp penalty is fair game. Not frustrating, but makes you want to survive tough situations. In-fact, xp penalty is very clever, because a lot of the reason one might not care about dying is because it won't lose them any time or progress in the game. By losing xp, the player actually loses progress and therefor makes their current task a lot slower. (Perhaps hardcore areas could lose more, whilst minimal xp is lost in easier zones?).

  • Ron Harris

    I have the same type of Death in Everquest in 1999. I died in the Plane of Fear, I had to track down and pay a Necro to go to FEAR and pull my corpse, it took hours...it was the single most stressful time in any MMO I have ever played.

  • Nick

    I like RuneScape's death system at least their newer one that they have set up. Which is if you now die you get gravestone and you can either go back and retrieve your stuff if you get to it in time for free. If not, then you can visit Death's Office and pay to retrieve your items you died with at a MUCH cheaper price of what the actual items cost.

    I also like that in RuneScape if you do die, you have 24 hours of time in game to retrieve your items. So if you are logged out after your death, time to retrieve your items isn't ticking down.