The death penalty in video games has been an ongoing topic in game studies for a while now. There has been a healthy thread among like-minded thinkers over at Terra Nova about PermaDeath. Its raison d’etre and effects are discussed, with some interesting points.
This morning, we had the chance to feel and think through some of these very issues … mainly what role does death have in a game, and to what extent is the penalty useful in terms of the risk/reward factor.
Lineage2 is a PvP (player vs player) game, and so the design of the game caters to rewards for killing other players. This reward, in the name of PvP is a random chance at losing an armor piece. [I mention this briefly in an earlier post] As discussed with other clan members, this chance of losing armor during battle was implemented to encourage PvP via the potential of an extra reward (on top of the standard pvp reward system). To everyone in our clan, this is a viable payoff for pvp, and so this is not the problem per se.
The problem lies in the fact that the game design cannot distinguish between PvP and NPC killing action. The random chance of losing your gear remains, even when you are simply ‘grinding’ to gain levels to be able to participate in PvP.
This randomness has led to much frustration since it is becoming apparent that there is no play nice rules in Lineage2, and this morning, when Manx died and dropped his bronze breastplate (of which took 3 days of grinding to collect enough adena – in game currency – to purchase this armor upgrade) he called me over to come pick it up for him. Unfortunately, i was 2 steps too far because another player, who was randomly wandering through the forest felt that she deserved to pick it up and run to the nearest village to sell it for a whopping profit.
So, where is the risk/reward factor in losing your gear to greedy people who had nothing to do with your death? The risk/reward in standard NPC combant is greatly unbalanced if this penalty is to stand once the game goes live. There have been some … ok … one nice person who when Velyxia dropped her BP upon dying was nice enough to give it back after i had sent her a nice tell asking politely. This was not the case for Manx, as this person chose not to respond at all.
So, our clan agreed we would play the game and attack her in true PvP style. But again, this system is flawed that in if she chooses to not fight back, the attacker gets penalized in Karma points, turning your name red to advertise how “not nice” a player was for attacking someone who did not fight back. So, where is the colored name for greedy lootwhores (oops! spillover from EQ days!!) Why is the penalty one sided? Should there not be a risk factor for the person who chooses to loot corpses which she had nothing to do with their death? It seems to me that the play nice rules actually do exist, just in an unbalanced manner rewarding one type of player but not another. (ironically, this system stands in contrast to some of the unwritten social rules of game communities such as Everquest)
The finders keepers mentality is rampant in this game, and the more i talk to people, the more it is a source of aggravation and disgust. A pvp game does not necessarily mean screw anyone you can at any chance you get. There is alot of smack talk in the game and alot of people who enjoy the space to be the jerks they cant be in their everyday life (and if they are this bad IRL, i hope they get beat up!)
The shame in the matter is that Lineage2 is potentially a great game, with people with a good PvP attitude. But the bad apples sure as hell outweigh the good ones at the moment, that coupled with the many other design flaws (tradeskill system is poor, chat system is even worse, bad lag and targetting issues) it has caused many to walk away from the game before it even goes retail.