17 thoughts on “Death

  1. Rick C

    Well, permadeath comes to AAA shooters, or something. It’s always been a part of certain genres, for example roguelikes (including Diablo 2, where it is optional.)

  2. Matt B

    While it’s good that knowledge of the workings of video games is reaching a wider audience, this article is pretty old news, in addition to being both incorrect and incomplete–for instance, Dark Souls is not a game that features permadeath in any capacity, although death is a central theme of the game and the game’s mechanics tie into that. You die a lot in Dark Souls because it’s hard and unforgiving of mistakes, which teaches you to be careful and observant of your surroundings (things which most games don’t require you to be), but the character you create is the character you end the game with, no matter how many times you die.

    There’s also no mention in the article at all of the roguelike genre, aside from a passing reference to Diablo 3, which is quite possibly the least roguelike of the series. No mention of Rogue, Hack, or NetHack, the likes of which essentially pioneered the concept of permadeath as we understand it today, way back in the early 80s. If the point of the article is that developers are carefully inching toward permadeath as a game mechanic to give their big-budget titles emotional heft (which is true), then it ought to be comparing them to the body of small-budget independent games where it is used much more frequently.

    I suppose it’s too much to expect a journalist to actually be intimately familiar with the subject they’re writing about, though.

    1. Daver

      Even Adventure had permanent death, although there were only a couple of places where you could die in it.

  3. Brett Brewer

    I don’t consider this to be a good feature on a game. There is nothing more frustrating than working your way to get powers, weapons, etc. Then getting killed and losing everything you worked towards.

    1. Matt B

      A few years ago, I was trying to finish NetHack, and after maybe ten or fifteen hours getting my Valkyrie halfway through the game, I made a stupid mistake because I wasn’t thinking and died. It was the furthest I’d ever gotten in the game up to that point, and I threw it away because I didn’t stop to think about something that I knew would happen if I’d have given it a moment of consideration. I was utterly bereft. I started at the screen for several minutes while my failure processed, and I didn’t play the game again for a week.

      Not too long after that, I gave it another shot, and succeeded in finishing the game after a few more tries. That victory was among the most euphoric I’ve ever had in a game–and that loss among the most tragic. Compare to Modern Warfare 3, which I finished in a few hours and realized afterward that I felt literally nothing about the experience. It was as emotional as a block of wood.

  4. Annoying Old Guy

    Quite. I was playing a multi-player D&D style game with this feature back in the mid 1970s. If you died, you got one chance at a “raise dead”. If that failed the character was irrevocably dead or “permed”. So the feature has probably been in the field longer than the article writer has been alive. Kids these days!

  5. wodun

    Back when I was a kid, we had corpse runs. It could take 30 minutes or more just to get back to your corpse but you didn’t just run back because all the nasties you killed had respawned. First, you went to the bank and got your cr gear. Why? Because you were naked. Then dressed in your second hand cr gear you would confront the mob that killed you in your good gear. Hopefully a /drag would work.

    I don’t know if encounters are easier these days but the price for failure is certainly lower. Permadeath would certainly ruin many games, perfection really isn’t possible and games are designed to kill you. 100% chance of certain death.

    It would be hard to make an mmo game with permadeath because it would hinder a lot of social interaction. I have faith in the creativity of humanity but a ln enjoyable game where you start from scratch after every death would be hard to pull off.

  6. Scott Ganz

    I play XCOM, one of the games featured, and I love it. You really do get attached to your soldiers (particularly after customizing them) and it makes you stop and think before acting willy-nilly.

    Frankly, I’d like to see more of this in games. I used to play those big online shooters, and it drove me nuts that I instinctively wanted to play with some eye towards self-preservation and would constantly get killed by players who just hurled themselves into the fray and took down a few people before being ganked themselves. Sure, there were also plenty of times where a better player would get me the honorable way, but how long can the average player stand up to a never-ending suicide squad?

    1. Bill Hensley

      I’m with you, Scott. Years ago my sons (yes, my sons) introduced me to the original Battlefield game, and they laughed at me because the first thing I did was to drop behind some tall weeds and survey the area. It just made sense to me that if I was going to play a war game I should be trying to stay alive. When I realized that the winning strategy was to make suicidal lunges into the battle over and over again, it made the game less interesting to me.

  7. ken anthony

    In poker tournaments you have the concept of rebuy. Once past the rebuy period, play changes. This is not controversial.

    Permadeath would imply no game save feature. I do not see that as a trend.

    1. Leland

      Permadeath would imply no game save feature.

      Indeed, this is even the problem with early games that had permadeath. If the game lacked a save feature to prevent easy saving and restarting, players easily figured out where the character files existed and saved them through a more manual process. I think it was this that ended the concept of permadeath for roughly a generation of game players.

      As others mention games that have some form of this, I’d add that very simple Terreria has an option for permadeath which works much like Diablo II (you can set it, or if you play enough rounds, you are forced into it).

      1. Matt B

        Some games, such as XCOM (the new one) and NetHack, get around the idea of having no save games by either prohibiting more than one save file (as in XCOM) or automatically deleting a save file once you bite it (as in NetHack).

        You’re right that, insofar as save files are present on a computer as data, they can be copied. People do this to get around the permadeath in NetHack in particular, since the files are easily located and manipulated. But this sort of cheating behavior invites the utmost scorn, and anyone with any sense of shame knows better than to boast about doing such things.

  8. Josh Reiter

    I used to be big into the FPS, Counterstrike, precisely because when you died you had to sit out the rest of the round until someone won or the time ran out. You could do the suicide charge if you wanted but usually that meant dying in the first 30 seconds and then sitting there for 10 minutes watching other people play.

    1. Brett Brewer

      That’s a better approach, an online game I play now, Left 4 Dead 2, will make you sit a couple of minutes until someone comes along and opens the door to a room that you respawned in.

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