I want to want to die

| Friday, August 13, 2010
Why is death so incredibly boring in WoW? Religious, spiritual, and philosophical concepts for death vary, but most don't seem all that boring. A few say death is nothingness, which isn't so much boring as nothing. A few have various forms of reincarnation, which is the closest to what WoW has, but none that I've found predict a ghost run to the corpse. With all the inspiration that WoW draws from mythologies and faiths, you'd think they'd have managed to find something interesting for death.

But no, death is just a temporary annoyance. Annoyance. Not a challenge, not an adventure, merely an annoyance. Death doesn't even change anything beside your gear durability, which can be repaired and is therefore just a time sink. Annoyance.

Imagine if death was a place in which we did something beside run to a corpse.

Some afterlives are of feasting and glorious battle.
Some are of righteous worship of the Lord. This might also be boring, seems more suited to an end credits than something to do after every wipe.
Some are of resurrection to higher or lower forms, or transcendence out of the cycle altogether.
Maybe that's all too repetitive, too simple.

I want to fight someone when I die.

If I die near Scourge, I want to have to fight off valkyr. If I fail, then fine, I'll do my pitiful corpse run as my spirit runs fleeing in terror. But if I succeed (keep in mind my spirit isn't wearing any gear), I come back more powerful, at least temporarily. Maybe I do a bit more damage to undead or take a bit less damage from them, 1% or so, for a few minutes. Doesn't stack, so no wiping as fast as possible to trivialize a fight. Trolls will try to capture my spirit, while demons and servants of the Burning Legion attempt to steal my soul for use in their rituals. All will fight in different ways and all will give a thematic and useful, though tiny, buff.

I should care what happens to my soul after death. Even if the naked angel claims it's not my time yet, surely it's not so simple as just running from a graveyard. How did I even get to the graveyard? Why are those never under attack? They are clearly of great importance to us heroes and there are attempts to deal with us, why has no one ever gone for the true source of our power: our apparent invincibility?

I want to enjoy death.

P.S. I am aware of a few quests which take place while dead, but they are an extremely rare exception, often being obscure chains that few people will ever find, if they bother to do many quests even.
P.P.S. Timing is a strange thing. Who trusts coincidence?


Quicksilver said...

you do realize that complicating the game's mechanics over pointless lore reasons will only lead to a clunky and unpleasant game play?

Glyph, the Architect said...

I thought it would be kind of cool if deeath in the game world was permanent (but not in the true sense of the word). When a player dies the very first time, they are taken to the after life. They get to walk around the awesome looking "heaven" or "hell" or "waiting room" or whatever and explore while a servant of the gods tells them that they have been chosen by said gods to be one of their champions.

A champion has the following benefits: When you die, your soul stays there until either someone heals your body and you can reenter it or you can summon one of these servants to teleport your body to the nearest temple to be healed (or you can pay the servant a sum of money to have them heal the body right then and there for you).

It's functionally the same as what WoW offers now except the initial side trip to heaven and an extra button to click to summon the servant before releasing. But it does offer a convenient and logical explanation for why some people just can't seem to be killed, and it even applies for many of the major NPC heroes as well when they respawn.

You can also turn down the Champion status and just stay dead. Mostly, this would be game over (and who would choose this option?), but there could maybe be other things to do while a spirit. Maybe you could become a guide for other players or haunt your enemies or something cool like that.

You could maybe intentionally die, have the servant show up, and they could help you as you use your new undetectable spirit form to scout enemy bases or figure out puzzles ahead of time or talk to other spirits to complete quests. I just think there are so many things that can be done with the death concept other than just using it as a penalty.

Klepsacovic said...

@Okrane S: You seem to have read this in exactly the opposite manner as intended. The problem is that death is a clunky and annoying mechanic which seems to exist for only lore reasons. Think about what death is: you run around for a minute or so, lose a bit of gold, and that's about it. How is that not a perfect example of a clunky and unpleasant mechanic? I want to change that.

@Glyph: The champion idea does seem to be just barely touched on by the spirit ghost who informs us that it's not our time yet, implying that we have something more to do.
"there are so many things that can be done with the death concept other than just using it as a penalty."
That's exactly what I was trying to get at.

Tesh said...

Great article, K. Have you read up on what GW2 has in mind for "death"? They seem to want to get rid of the "corpse run" time sink and keep players having fun.

The notion of having things to do once you're "dead" is a cool one, one that I've bandied about before. I think there's a lot of design potential there.

Anonymous said...

I remember playing "Prey" (3D Realms). Every time you died you were put into a shooting gallery type situation where if you succeeded you would re-spawn at your current location vs. the last checkpoint.

I recall it being quite fun. You could strategize around it and also felt very free to explore.

I like this type of idea very much. Instead of taking the twilight portal to kill sarth 4.0's minibosses I will just stand in the fire and die to get to the eggs.

Klepsacovic said...

@Tesh: Thanks! I've not seen GW2 death stuff yet; I've not been keeping up on it as well as I'd like, though it does look amazing. Then again, everything tends to look pretty amazing.

@Anonymous: That's an idea I like, that failure can be overcome by challenge rather than repetition.

rowanblaze said...

Fascinating. Of course other games deal with "death" in various ways, with more or less the same success as WoW. STO away team missions can be delayed by unconsciousness and return to a spawn point. In LOTRO I guess you just become so demoralized you flee the battle. Neither is quite death. AoC death is the opposite of WoW: there is no option but to spawn at the graveyard, then find and click on your death-site to remove a debuff.

None of these options is as exciting as what you are looking for. I wonder how SWTOR and other MMOs in development are going to deal with death.

Callan S. said...

Yeah, fighting your way out of some sort of death zone sounds cooler than a spectral jog.

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