Part One
- Death's Eminent Rebirth

There are a number of gameplay
conventions that have been around since
the dawn of MMOGs that many gamers have been eager to see vaporized and
vanquished in the swirling ether of history rather than perpetuated in
each upcoming title that dots the development horizon. Thankfully
we've finally come to that crossroads where design paradigms
are altogether shifting focus rather than simply adding incremental
iterations on perhaps one or two minor aspects of gameplay and calling
it a day.

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Voice in the Void

was the former god of
death and king of the Underworld prior to his defeat and imprisonment
in the Hall of Judgment. Kept dormant by Grenth’s seven
faithful Reapers, should Dhuum ever break free it would be bad news for
all of Tyria.

the one hand, he doesn’t tolerate the undead which would mean
he’d no doubt see to it that Zhaitan’s army forged
from the undead inhabitants of the ruined city of Orr was stopped dead
in its tracks.

again, Dhuum also does not tolerate resurrection, which would make for
one harsh death penalty indeed: permadeath. So let’s hope
that even with the elder dragons ripping Tyria a new one in Guild
2, Dhuum remains sealed within
the Hall of Judgment, shall we?

While the original href="">Guild

isn't without its flaws,
series has proven to the larger gaming world that developers ArenaNet
aren't afraid to shake things up by challenging conventional
MMO gameplay philosophies on a much grander scale. To paint the series
in broad strokes, one could go so far as to say that the original
Prophecies campaign and its successors have each attempted to push the
limits of what is possible in online gaming without ever losing sight
of the larger goal. In other words, when all is said and done,
it's all about creating memorable social entertainment
experiences. You know, that nutty thing commonly referred to as
“fun” that many bizarrely punishing gameplay
mechanics such as death penalties tend to lose sight of.

Given the rich history of the
original series and the caliber of the
skilled individuals that make up the development team for upcoming
Wars 2
it's easy to see how with each new gameplay
reveal the hype factor exponentially expands. You see, one reason why
so few titles have failed to claim a seat on the href="">World
of Warcraft

success train over the past five years isn't so much due to
lack of effort, but more so vision in that far too many games have been
built using the exact same core gameplay philosophies in hopes of
garnering the same explosive reaction amongst fans.

However, ArenaNet fully
understands that for the genre to ever move
forward, that same core needs to be melted down, reforged and hammered
out into an immaculate shape unlike anything that's come
before it. Sure, Guild Wars 2
will still contain many gameplay elements
that have helped weave the industry
as we know it today, but the most exciting bits are those that intend
to break new ground and ultimately create one of the coolest MMOG
tapestries in the
great guild hall of online entertainment.

One such aspect of gameplay
that’s been put under the
microscope is the concept of death in Guild Wars 2, which is one of the
major gameplay elements recently revealed on the official Guild Wars 2
site titled A New Way of Looking at Healing and Death. But before we
get into the nuts and bolts of how the death mechanic will function in
Tyria tomorrow, let’s first take a look at its role in Tyria
as we know it today.

Part Two
- The Sting of Death
in Guild Wars

Death in the original Guild
can be a particularly
experience. Not so much old school EverQuest
harsh where you could lose
your current level due to experience loss, rendering those new spells
you just scribed useless until you could regain the lost XP. Nor do you
have to hope that you can make friends with a necromancer that would be
willing to summon your corpse and a cleric that could resurrect you or
else face the dreaded naked corpse run which more often than not
resulted in creating additional corpses and adding to your total XP

While a defeated team is simply
sent back to the nearest shrine in
Guild Wars,
it will always go hand in hand with the dreaded 15% penalty
to health and energy. In some cases a single group wipe isn’t
terribly difficult to recover from, though at the same time if you were
defeated by a specific enemy at full strength it becomes increasingly
more improbable that you’ll ever emerge victorious once the
penalty kicks in. Adding insult to injury, the death penalty can reach
a full 60% which can really take its toll on your ability to function
individually or as part of a group.

To put that into perspective,
my Ranger typically has 530 HP and 25
Energy. A full 60% DP cuts those totals down to a scant 242 HP and 13
Energy. In other words, most boss mobs can likely one-shot you without
a lot of Monk or Ritualist support via enchantments or a spirit skill
like Shelter. Even worse, say your build is centered around a skill
such as Broadhead Arrow which costs 15 energy to
activate (not counting the reduction from the Expertise attribute),
that means you may outright lose the ability to use key skills in your
build until you actively work to reduce your overall death penalty.

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God of Death and Ice

the original Guild Wars, Grenth
is known as the patron god of assassins, necromancers, ritualists and
water elementalists.

Underworld is also accessed by kneeling before one of the statues
of Grenth scattered throughout Tyria and paying a fee of 1 platinum to
the Voice of Grenth that appears.

Yet the interesting thing to me
always been that in certain situations
the harshness of the 60% death penalty in Guild
makes perfect
sense. For example, it can ultimately help turn the tide in PvP battles
and can often help prevent matches from being absolute standstills. By
weakening the other team little by
little, you can eventually emerge
victorious as it will become increasingly more challenging for them to
deal with incoming damage.

Another place where the harsher
death penalty makes sense is in
something like Hard Mode or the various Elite mission areas. As parts
of the game designed to specifically to challenge players, it only
makes sense that death and any resulting penalties should sting a bit.
It’s the old
tried and true risk vs. reward scenario and
works out pretty well in those situations in my opinion.

Over the years, the Guild
death penalty has remained
somewhat of a
constant, but thankfully a player’s ability to recover or
prevent it from happening to begin with have been greatly enhanced.
Solo players in particular have had it much, much easier since the
introduction of Heroes into the mix, since you can always keep a
resurrection skill on at least one of their skill bars to help with
battle rezzing which can mean the difference between restarting a
mission from the beginning due to a full wipe and being able to
continue forward with only the resulting 15% death penalty on a few
members of your team. You can otherwise customize specific healing and
protection monk builds which do a far better job than what most
henchmen were originally able to manage.

Now that we've taken a brief
look at where death has been in the Tyria of old, let's take a closer
look at where ArenaNet intends to take in the future with Guild
Wars 2

Three - Death is Not the End

In Guild
Wars 2
, not only will death be
a vastly different experience,
but players will have the chance to evade Grenth’s icy grasp
entirely. Upon defeat, rather than immediately being taken out of the
fight players will be put into what is being called “downed
mode”. In this state, you’ll gain access to
specific abilities that will help you continue to contribute to the
fight, albeit in a limited capacity.

These downed skills are said to
be less powerful than your normal
profession skills, such as a warrior attempting to daze an enemy by
throwing a rock. However, when combined with the
“rally” mechanic, the idea of being down but not
out means you or your teammates might eventually bring you back into
the fight again minus needing to be revived after a short dirt nap.

According to Guild
Wars 2
game designer Jon Peters:

While you are downed,
if you manage to kill an enemy, you will rally,
returning to life to fight again. When you rally, you are thrust right
back in the action. This potential to rally from the edge of defeat
adds greater drama to combat and gives a player some tactical control
while in a state where they normally have none.

One thing to note here is that
while in the downed state you can still
be attacked. I’m sure that when grouped this will mean that
you’ll potentially make it back into the fray before being
defeated entirely, though it remains to be seen how this will pan out
in solo play. It could be a case where your downed abilities are enough
to finish off your target before they do you in, or it could ultimately
mean that your defeat becomes a slow, painful process before
you’re able to release to an unlocked waypoint on your map.

Still, the combination of the
downed state, the ability to rally back
into the fight and the fact that all characters will be able to revive
one another
straight out of the gates at level 1 sounds a lot more
appealing than most other MMOG death mechanics. The death penalty
itself is also said to be much milder, where a player who has recently
been downed several times will simply take longer to revive.

For more info on how death is
evolving in Tyria, be sure to check out the full article at the href="">Guild
Wars 2 official site!

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Guild Wars 2 Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Reuben "Sardu" Waters has been writing professionally about the MMOG industry for eight years, and is the current Editor-in-Chief and Director of Development for Ten Ton Hammer.