The Permadeath Debate

Slashdot brought up the Permadeath Debate yet again, in the form of The Eight Stages of Permadeath Debate, based on Ubiq's blog post.

(What is permadeath? It means that when your in-game character dies for some reason, they die permenantly and cannot be resurrected and played again.)

So which stage is this post? Oh, probably Stage 3, Captain Obvious Speaks.

First off, I have never really heard what it is, exactly, that permadeath is supposed to solve. (Except maybe "having people play the game in the first place.") Fortunately, someone on Slashdot provided me with a list of reasons they think permadeath would be a good idea, so I can go over that list and refute them.

Pxtl wrote:
1) endless progress. The strong players can become obscenely powerful and lord over the newer players. While this provides a nice incentive to keep playing, it means that the fundamental concept of play balance is really impossible (which is pretty crucial for a multiplayer game).

And this is a problem why? See, in every single MMORPG I've played, the goal - such as there was one - was to reach the level cap, while playing with other people. Apparently Pxtl is mistaking an MMORPG for a FPS, where the goal is to go around and kill other players. Getting rid of the high level players is pointless - there's no reason to do that. In almost every game, there is "endgame content" that's designed explicitly for people at the level cap.

Besides, I suppose I could be wrong, but I always thought that the entire point to play an MMORPG over other games was that they are "continuously updated" and offer new things to do all the time.

If the idea is to have everyone play at the same level, then you aren't looking for an MMORPG. You're looking for something like an FPS where player skill is more important.

Pxtl wrote:
2) fear. Fear is fun. This is why many people prefer Counterstrike to fast paced FPS games - CS has the fear of death because if you die, it sucks. It gets your heart thumping hard.

Yeah, and I prefered Counter-Strike over classic deathmatch for that reason. However, in Counter-Strike, when you die, you lose maybe two minutes of "progress" and restart - along with everyone else - a couple of minutes later. This is enforced by a "round timer" that ensures that after a set amount of time everyone resets. Of course, Counter-Strike gives out "money" for various actions which can be used to buy better equipment. But if you simply don't buy anything a couple of rounds, you can hit the money cap easily, putting you back on par - item wise - with the better players.

Note, however, that this absolutely does not apply to an MMORPG enivronment.

Pxtl wrote:
3) changing classes. These games often have a massive variety of player classes and species to play, and often no easy way to change. Death lets you roll up a new character, and lets the player explore the game more completely.

Final Fantasy XI lets you play multiple jobs on the same character. World of Warcraft allows you to create up to fifty characters at the same time. There's absolutely no reason why death should be the only way to try something else out!

Pxtl wrote:
4) realism. How realistic is it to never die?

How realistic is it to play with a character that can conjure bolts of fire and shoot them out of his hands? This is so dumb it really doesn't even need a response.

Then there are, of course, the several thousand "Non-permadeath permadeath solutions."

Ultimately, though, everyone comes to the same conclusion: permadeath will only work in a different style of game than present MMORPGs.

Imagine that.