Alternative punishments for dying

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by Mitty, Oct 31, 2019.

  1. Mitty

    Mitty Villager Member

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    Hi everyone.
    I'd like to get your thoughts on alternative ways on punishing the player for dying other than just booting them to the game over screen straightaway.

    For example, in my game, I'm working on implementing a mechanic in which the player must pay to revive themself and the cost becomes higher each time the player dies. If they can't afford the revive cost then they get a game over.

    After thinking about it more I've realised that this will probably force the player to farm currency as a fail safe or simply save scum whenever they die, which are obviously things I want to avoid.

    What are your experiences of games that do this? Do you feel like it added anything to the game or was merely an annoyance?
     
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  2. Black Pagan

    Black Pagan Veteran Veteran

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    Here are some Penalties i can think of :

    Decrease in Stats, Increase in Game Difficulty, A Penalty which disables a certain Feature, A Timed Penalty that lasts a few minutes, You lose all the Gear, Some Attribute gets reset. While I like your "Pay to Revive" Concept, I do think it become meaningless if the resource you pay is infinite and easy to obtain. Maybe make the resource you pay with a lot more rarer, That makes it more challenging.

    What i mean is, instead of Gold, Make it a Rare Secondary Resource like Tokens which the Player uncovers from Hidden Areas or Elite Monsters in the Game. So, Now suddenly Player is forced to collect Tokens if they want to avoid dying. Make the cost of Reviving with Tokens increase every time. Now the Game becomes a Challenge by itself, Collecting Tokens becomes a Different way of Playing the game and Tokens have a Purpose.

    So, The Player would now go collecting every single Token they find in the game and Reviving feels "Special" compared to simply paying with just "x" amount of Gold which I wouldn't even care, I can just farm that much Gold and Game becomes "Easy Mode".
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2019
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  3. Mrs_Allykat

    Mrs_Allykat Failsauce Veteran

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    There are several methods for dealing with player-death. Here are a few examples that I've seen:

    A. Loss of coin. When the player dies set their gold to "0." It's similar to what you're doing, and it gets more expensive to die later in a game. This is sometimes offset when the maker puts a bank in the game that allows some gold to be stored outside of the party's purse. ( An absolute classic RPG tactic. )

    B. XP Debt. When the player dies, the party must earn some amount of XP before they can start leveling again.

    C. Broken Weapons/Armor. When the player is revived their armor or weapons become "broken+name-of-item" which cannot be used in combat and have to be sold for a pittance of their original value.

    D. Revive Jail. Depending on *where* the player death occurs, some games will put the character in a location that won't allow a save, is difficult, or has a puzzle as a requirement to get out of. This can be anything from an actual jail requiring the player to find the box with their equipment to having to perform some mundane quest to "payback" the local priesthood for the the resurrection.

    That's a few off the top of my head, and each has variations and combinations.

    EDIT
    I almost forgot the variation of D, The Ghost. This is where the player is not revived but is given an alternate sprite/model that must find their own corpse to revive. If the player cannot find their corpse, or solve a puzzle, they have to restart the game.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2019
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  4. Mitty

    Mitty Villager Member

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    I actually like this idea a lot. I've been using a variable that the player can use to buy skills for actors and you pay with this same variable when you want to revive. A separate hidden collectible that the player can use to revive is a nice idea though. It reminds me a bit of the hint coins from the Professor Layton series.

    This method has been in the back of my mind since I've been playing Dragon Quest XI recently, a game where this also happens except you only lose half your gold when you die. I think this can be a nice system since it presents the player with a choice to either go head first into a dangerous encounter and possibly lose all their gold, or backtrack through a dangerous area to store their gold but then have to make their way back to the boss.
     
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  5. MechScapeZH

    MechScapeZH Veteran Veteran

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    I think the best way to do this is how Kid Icarus Uprising did it- decrease the difficulty each time the player runs out of health. On lower difficulties, enemies drop less valuable items, enemies' stats are all-around lowered, and certain enemies don't appear at all.

    This makes sure casual players who don't care about difficulty and just want to beat the game don't get stuck and more hardcore players who want to 100% complete the game or complete it on the highest difficulty get punished for losing, since they won't be able to get the rare items they wanted or beat the area on its highest difficulty.
     
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  6. Scoodoink

    Scoodoink Villager Member

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    Depending on your type of game reviving as a different character can be really cool and a huge reason not to die. like, in zombie U it was a huge pain because you would then have to retrieve your supplies from your last corpse, which may be swarming with zombies. Or differently in No Delivery where you have different stats each time.
     
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  7. BK-tdm

    BK-tdm Manga Maker Veteran

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    Im pretty sure that if everytime you died in dark souls, sekiro, bloodborne or code vein the game made itself actually harder it wouldnt be a funnier experience, actually i would quit those games because the "git gud" process would be even more frustrating, people get game overs because of mistakes, increasing the bar needed to surpass these mistakes whitout a window to learn and correct them wont actually help you get better, it will just frustrate you.

    In my opinion ill just take the Devil May Cry 3 gold orb route, 1 buyable/found item that revives you on defeat once, max carry limit of 1 piece, so farm all currency you like, you still can only buy and carry one at a time and revive once per level, thats good enough.
     
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  8. CraneSoft

    CraneSoft Filthy Degenerate Veteran

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    The thing about punishments is that, if there is one at all, once the player learns about it they will definitely do everything they can to avoid that, with the easiest method being save-scumming for 99% of the games that allow you to. To the eyes of the player, punishments by themselves are nothing more than an annoyance because they don't accomplish anything other than making the game more difficult and/or frustrating, regardless of the justification you give for the penalty. Hence why a lot of games either don't bother with anything other than giving game overs or simply give no penalty for dying.

    You can make it work by providing players a really good reason to not load a previous save after a death (Eg. Bonus scenes/content that are otherwise inaccessible such as escaping from a jail) and the penalty itself not being too punishing in nature.

    I personally don't like the loss of gold/EXP penalty for dying after my experience in Sekiro - oh you lose half your exp/money upon death? Now I am just gonna spend all of them right before a new area or a boss fight until I gitgud.
     
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  9. Aesica

    Aesica undefined Veteran

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    I don't really think it's all that important to "punish" players for various things, such as dying. IMO, having to go back to the last save point is punishment enough. I do like how the earlier DW/DQ games handled it, though by giving you a choice to either reset and start at your last save point, or continue playing, but with half of your gold lost.
     
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  10. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    I haven't joined in this discussion before now because I am doubtful about the whole premise of the question. Why do I need to 'punish' a player because they died? Punishment follows a morally culpable act - what is so blameworthy about being defeated? There is a built in penalty (not the same thing) in that at the very least the player will have to start over from their last save. Penalties can vary, but I think to go into this as a dev with the mindset of 'punishment' is probably not a good idea. You want, surely, to be challenging but fair, and in such a framework 'punishment' has no place, imo.

    Some may think that this is pedantic nit-picking. However, the words we use shape how we think. They are not neutral. And the concept of punishment in a game that is not trying to be a troll game is questionable at least.
     
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  11. gstv87

    gstv87 Veteran Veteran

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    I'm gonna side-comment this en-passant : if you die in a game that offers you lots of information about how to not-die, and you still die, that means you're not paying attention.
    putting myself a bit on the side of the developers and playing a bit of devil's advocate here, I'm gonna state that not-paying attention, is disrespecting the developers.

    think about the game as a work of art like a book or a movie: if you lose the thread of the narrative, after buying that book, or buying the ticket to watch the movie (and taking the time to go *to* the place where the movie is being screened, or the book being sold), why even bother doing so if you're not going to pay attention to it?

    lately, we've been too much complacent with defeat, everywhere: "oh, it's ok if you fail, everybody fails... here, try again...".
    and in reality, you're not always given a chance to try again.
    you always get one chance.... if you screw it up, it's your fault for not gauging the challenge correctly.

    that, on one hand.
    then, if the challenge is not clear, or the information too confusing, that's another discussion.... it'd be about game design, or psychology, or something else.
    but, I'm talking about a finished tested product that offers clear information, and a reader/viewer/player who is in full use of their capabilities for identifying that information.
    if they manage to fail with that level of information, that's on them.

    /end of the deviation.
     
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  12. velan235

    velan235 Veteran Veteran

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    I'm more of "rewarding" the player insted of punish them for dying.

    nothing more annoying than getting punishment after you actually not able to win in the first place, like... what do you expect?

    doesn't have to be real reward, just auto-saving on every checkpoint already a great "reward" for dying player, it encourage player to retry because not a big loss in playtime / resource.
     
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  13. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    @gstv87 I get your point on people being too complacent, and basically agree that "they must all have medals" attitude is not a good thing. However, your response assumes a couple of things.

    First on the giving of information. I know from my own experience as a developer and conversations I've had with other developers that what I, as the dev, think is adequate information is not automatically so to someone else who does not think the same way that I do. I really want to avoid the "you have to get the Guide in order to succeed" mentality that we see way too often. Players will think differently, with different logic and different play styles. Assuming that more than one strategy is potentially successful means that players will experiment (and if there is only one successful strategy, I'm not playing that game anyway, as I'm not a mind reader). If there is some 'punishment' for experimenting, then people will probably end up playing cautiously/get the Guide/rage quit etc.

    Second on paying attention. One can pay attention and still miss something. Perhaps there is a subtle hint in something that an NPC says. Great - unless English is your second, third or even fourth language, in which case you might genuinely not realise what is being hinted at. So no, it's not "on them" unless you want to say that their birthplace is somehow their fault, and they should have been born in an English speaking country. Or maybe you were tired when you got the hint. Or maybe the hint was given a couple of days (RL time) ago and you don't remember it so clearly because a lot has happened in the mean time - which is why a movie is not a good comparison, because you only have to carry the info for a couple of hours at most, or in a book you can flip back to check something in a way that you cannot in a game.

    Third, mistakes happen. In RL you have to live with the consequences of that, it's called taking responsibility for your actions. But a game is not RL. Its purposes are different. Success is measured in different ways. There is usually a penalty in most games for getting a defeat, but as I said in my post above, a penalty is not the same as a punishment. Now of course a dev is free to make a game with dire penalties e.g. permadeath, which are flagged up in advance so that the player knows what they are getting into. But there is a reason why such games are something of a niche, and it's not because everyone else is a wimp.
     
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  14. Ace of Spades

    Ace of Spades Veteran Veteran

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    I love these open-ended discussions, because there is no one right answer. As a game designer, it's important to think about what kind of feeling you're trying to invoke in your player, and go from there.

    For example, losing a couple coins on death in Mario Odyssey fits the game's easy-going nature. Dark Souls delivers tension and fear by having you drop souls on death, offering the player a risk-reward decision of pressing onward, or retreating to the nearest bonfire to save. Fire Emblem and Oregon Trail can kill off party members on failure, meaning your choices have real consequence. Resident Evil 4 dynamically changes in difficulty, so if the player dies numerous times the game will spawn less enemies to give you a better fighting chance.

    I use a checkpoint system in my game, that will autosave periodically. Upon death, it will warp the player to the last checkpoint location with full health. Any items found, chests opened, doors unlocked, and puzzles solved will still remain completed. It's a more modern solution than having to load a save file and re-watch the same cutscene before a big fight, or solve the same puzzle again. There is no 'Game Over' screen in a traditional sense, since I want to encourage the player to continue exploring.

    TLDR: Think about what kind of feeling you're trying to deliver to the player, and design your consequences around that core idea.
     
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  15. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    So, this kind of question is really difficult to answer absent of the context of what type of game we're talking about. The structure of the game, as well as the intended Aesthetic of Play, is instrumental to determining what kind of penalty for "death" is appropriate.

    If you consider the Game Over to be the 'default' penalty, then examine what the Game Over usually entails: usually losing anything you've earned since your last save, and repeating that segment of the game to get back to where you were when you died. This is useful because it can encourage risk-reward tradeoffs (push forward, or exit the dungeon safely?) and avoid negative spirals that come from things like monetary penalties. This is also annoying, especially in RPGs, because immediately repeating the same content in RPGs tends to offer nothing interesting or enjoyable.

    Ultimately, as the designer you have to ask yourself what you want the possibility of a failure state, and the ensuing penalty, to contribute to the player's experience. (You also have to ask yourself what Aesthetics of Play are the most important to enjoying your particular game, and make sure that your planned penalties don't interfere with those Aesthetics!) That's why some hardcore roguelikes literally delete the player's save file (or character) upon dying, whereas Pokemon dings you half of the money you have on hand and lets you keep everything else you've earned.

    Meanwhile, in most modern platformers, what you often see good developers do is include a save point (or automatic checkpoint) between every distinct challenge, or between short sets of challenges (especially if a "lives" system is used). The beauty of this is that it forces the player to prove their mastery over a set of mechanics by chaining them together during the challenge (you can't simply save after every single action). But if the player fails, they're asked to try that challenge again, and do it better. They're not punished by being forced to complete an entire level again, or restart the game. Once they've proven their mastery, they're allowed to move on to bigger and better things without being forced to tread ground they've already conquered.

    As one example of a unique type of game that demands a unique solution, I'm developing (well, remaking) my game How Badly Do You Want It?, where the goal of this RPG is to earn enough money to pay off a loan before deadlines hit (similar to the popular game Recettear). Each day, you can engage in an activity to try to earn some money - many of which involve combat. The game is meant to feel 'competitive' - you often fight against other characters and expecting the player to win every combat would destroy that feel. So the penalty for losing a battle is simply that the day ends, and you can't earn any more money that day. This is a blow to your overall goal because you only have a limited number of days to work with, but it doesn't cause you to lose anything you've earned and you don't need to repeat something you've already done just because you lose a battle. I can get away with the only loss being "the lost opportunity to gain even more", because of the larger structure of limited days to earn enough money.
    • You may be wondering what happens if the player encounters the ultimate failure condition, which is failing to meet a deadline for paying off the loan. Originally, this was a straight-up Game Over (where you need to load an older save file). I noticed this caused a lot of pain for players in the original version of How Badly, so in this remake what I plan to do is automatically rewind their game seven days, and let them keep character stats they've gained as well as any rare items they were lucky enough to earn. The activities are diverse and variable enough that it won't feel like you're doing the exact same thing over, and more importantly it won't feel to the player like they're losing out on all the things they "experienced" during the losing run. Instead, they're essentially being challenged to "do it better", with a slight head start based on keeping the stats and rares they earned during the losing run.
    @Ace of Spades Great post!! I don't think I've seen any of your design-related thoughts before, but now I am looking forward to seeing more of your posts!
     
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  16. rue669

    rue669 Veteran Veteran

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    I don’t really punish the player for dying.

    Rather I give them an opportunity to retry the battle, check their gear, fully heal them, and even let them skip the battle entirely.

    My intent is to not frustrate the player. And since rpg maker games have a bad rep, I’m trying not to give the player an opportunity to say screw this I’m out! Gotta stop any excuses they may have.
     
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  17. Finnuval

    Finnuval World (his)story builder and barrel of ideas Veteran

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    In my humble opinion it all boils down to what game you bare making, what story are you telling and what feeling are you conveying in the player...

    I see value in both rewarding and punishing the player based off of this.
     
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  18. Failivrin

    Failivrin Final Frontiersman Veteran

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    I agree with all the above who said there is something wrong with the concept of punishing the player. I also strongly disagree with the concept of making the game harder if the player dies. You'll just make them die at an increasing rate. Many professional games actually lower the difficulty if the player dies a certain number of times in the same level. Sometimes the player is given the option to play at the same difficulty for a big reward, or to play at a lower difficulty for reduced reward. (Reduced reward = less gold, no rare item. Do not reduce EXP, because then you simply make it harder for players to win the next battle, causing them to die at an increasing rate).

    Threads of Fate had an interesting mechanic that I have not seen repeated. When the player dies, they are given a choice to load their last save file or to spend a coin. There are gold coins, silver coins, and bronze coins. Each one revives the player at a checkpoint just before the fatal battle. Gold, silver, and bronze coins revive with something like full HP/MP, half HP/MP, or one-quarter HP/MP. There are various ways to collect coins, including random item drops, treasure chests, and buying them from shops. The brilliant thing about the mechanic is that it turns death into an opportunity for players to strategize. The player has to determine the reason they died, assess the difficulty of winning, and weigh it against their resources. For example, maybe the boss wasn't really very difficult; it just had a strange gimmick. Thinking about why they died, the player figures out the gimmick and decides to use a low-cost revive option. The player spends a bronze coin, taking a risk that one-quarter stats won't be enough but believing they can get a jump on the boss with their knowledge of its gimmick.

    (Edit: To be clear, coins in Threads of Fate are items only used to revive. They are not part of the game currency, so it is different from spending money to revive.)
     
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  19. JosephSeraph

    JosephSeraph White Mage Restaff

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    This is a fantastic point. I'd like to talk about when it is good to talk about 'punishing' the player, though. (A better word may still be required)
    Survival horror games. A lot of the new ones give you no penalty for dying whatsoever. You just respawn in the last door you crossed. That eliminates tension because you're not expecting a consequence and thus can play sloppily. A good sense of "punishment" can really help deliver that consequence and keep the player on their toes -- that has to be very well balanced though, as to not be frustrating and not have the player die too much and restart stuff. It's all about the message you're sending, too: nothing stops you from ""punishing"" the player with a gameover that sends them back by a whole lot, while still making the game easier behind the scenes so that they succeed this time.
     
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  20. CuddleFox

    CuddleFox Furry Veteran

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    Game Over
    Go back to the beginning of the previous map without penalty.

    I think it's up to the player to estimate when he can't beat an enemy, and choose whether or not to do so.
    And it opens up the opportunity to return to the title screen for other reasons. For example, if your game is pretty childish so far and a boss doesn't just want to knock you out but to kill you.
     
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