An MMO’s death penalty is an oft discussed topic. Some games, like Champions Online have such a slight penalty, it might as well not even exist. Technically, Champions has a live bonus instead of a death penalty. Other games like Darkfall, Eve or Final Fantasy XI are known for steeper penalties. (FFXI more-so in its earlier days) Death in Darkfall and Eve means a likely loss of all the items you had on you. Critics say Death Penalties Are Stupid. That’s a valid, albeit blunt, opinion. Penalty or no, what’s the one thing that all these games have in common? Death.
Why are we so accepting of a mechanic that mirrors such an unnatural process in real life? Repeating death and resurrection is a bizarre mechanic for a medium that, generally, tries to mimic the real world. Why do all the players’ characters get saved by the spirit healer in World of Warcraft and yet truely important individuals like… I just realized where respawns come from.
My point here is that death is a rare thing for an individual to experience in real life, and I think many games would be better off if death were a bit less frequent in-game. I don’t mean to say that MMOs should be so easy, it’s difficult to die. I mean that the games should promote a mentality that dying is bad or rare instead of just something that happens every day. I think running an instance would be a bit more interesting if you could only die once, or if it were a bit more like Left 4 Dead 2 where a bit of teamwork would be required to get someone back.
Some games have a more unusual take on death. It’s not an MMO but the FPS Prey had a fun and unique mechanic of resurrection. Tommy, the protagonist, had to fight wraiths to replenish his health and energy. Diablo II was well known for its hardcore mode, where your character could only die once. After that, said character was unplayable. Designing a game with such an philosophy on in-game death would certainly require ground-up planning, but the rewards for such a design concept would include a richer gameplay experience and deeper player-character bond.