Downed vs. Dead, consider them in context

| Wednesday, October 2, 2013
The topic of GW2's universal rezzing came up. Of course someone has to claim that this convenient mechanic is, in fact, the death of challenge and the harbinger of the trivialization of all things. I disagree.

First off, being able to rez people out in the world is a bonus. The defeated player can feel as if someone cared enough to help. And they can refrain from being angry because they were a few steps from the next waypoint and all the ones nearby are contested. The helping player can feel like they helped someone, which is a pretty nice feeling. This mechanic is essentially a kitten-dispenser. Or puppies if you're allergic to cats. Or a Portuguese Water Puppy if you're allergic to dogs and live in the White House.

Second, this mechanic should be considered in the full context. The first bit of context is that I'm not considering the difference with underwater fighting because I hate underwater combat so much that I don't care about the balance. It can go burn in sodium.

A downed player can recover on their own, but the circumstances tend to be rather specific. An enemy must be very near death or they must not take any damage while they bandage themselves. The first is essentially a market-killer for the keyboard manufacturers, who have long relied on the destruction caused by mobs at 1% health. The second is unlikely when soloing and hardly a guarantee in groups.

Other players can help, but at a snail's pace and at the cost of being unable to move, dodge, attack, heal, or buff. Effectively a second player or more are temporarily made useless to bring back the currently useless player. Compare this to in-combat resurrection spells, such as in WoW where players can simply pop back up with something between no effort from other players and a single spell cast. Those do have lengthy cooldowns, but again, they are much quicker and less risky than GW2 recovery.

Then there is the big question: is it easier to be downed in GW2 or dead in another game? GW2 doesn't have a lot of get out of jail free cards such as invincibility bubbles or preventative damage absorbs. If you don't dodge, you take the damage. Dodging has a very short cooldown, but usually, so do the horribly damaging things you need to avoid. Dodging isn't a bonus; it's a requirement, so to consider it as such would be as absurd and claiming that healing in another game makes players invincible and immortal. In my experience it is a lot easier to get knocked into a downed state in GW2 than it is to die in WoW.

Taking into account the wider context, the downed state should be considered, not as equivalent to death in other games, but rather as an intermediate state with no clear parallels. Furthermore, because of the potential recovery, even the fallen state cannot be considered equivalent to death.

Instead of comparing individual mechanics and pretending that such comparisons are meaningful, the logical thing to do is to compare the chance of the group being defeated. At this point, all things are equal. There is no recovery and the instant-rez mechanics are nullified by the enemy resetting. Do groups fail more often or at a higher percentage of groups or attempts in GW2 than in other games?

Using this context does not mean that recovery mechanics are to be ignored. They could still be too easy or tough, but directly comparing individual pieces of group success or failure will only yield nonsense.


caerphoto said...

"...the downed state should be considered, not as equivalent to death in other games, but rather as an intermediate state with no clear parallels."

Basically this. It's not always possible or sensible to try and map mechanics directly from one game to another; you have to, as you say, look at things in the broader context.

Anonymous said...

I feel like you were spurred to this by my own opinions on the matter. Context is important indeed.

Contextually, these games like GW2 have penalties for not playing well, or smart, or alone, or unprepared and such. One of those penalties is the death penalty. There's no ignoring the history here, because that history is the context. I don't think any of the mechanics you described here are bad. But I do think that once you're at this place of partial deaths one has to ask themselves why have the mechanic at all. What is partially dying doing for the gameplay? A second chance? Then this is no different than a soulstone or Divine Intervention (skills from WoW) which were far more interesting in my opinion. My point is that it's all the same. Hearing about this downed state pre-release was like "meh". Nothing innovative here which actually adds to the old experience in my opinion. what do you think on that point?

As for rezzing, the previous point still stands. Being careful has been a core part of MMORPG gameplay since forever and GW2 doesn't abandon it. It just adds convenience by allowing anyone to rez anyone. It's a convenience feature. The idea that this adds to community or is kittens is dubious. It's convenience. The cost, though I think is small, is that the world is less a place where caution is worth anything. What do you think?

Klepsacovic said...

"What is partially dying doing for the gameplay?"
It is giving us a state from which to consider the fight and be ready to rejoin it without laying on the floor utterly useless. It is giving us a notification that we screwed up without entirely killing us. In other games such notifications have the effect of stressing healers without necessarily teaching the player anything, since they are costless for the person who made the mistake.

"There's no ignoring the history here, because that history is the context."
That's a different meaning of context. History is irrelevant to balance.

"The idea that this adds to community or is kittens is dubious."
Someone else, a complete stranger, can help me, and often does. This will tend to make me more positively-inclined toward strangers. Since strangers make up the vast majority of any game population, this means that I am going to have a slightly more positive impression of them. It's psychological manipulation that helps us get along a little bit better. It's also convenient.

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