all experienced it at one point or another; that
sinking feeling you get the first time you realize that
you’re staring down on the ragdoll body formerly known as
your character. Whether you bit off more than you could chew
or simply were in the wrong place at the wrong time, nothing quite
compares to the sudden realization that not only has your beloved
character died, but that there are... style="font-style: italic;">consequences.

*queues up the death march drums and wailing horns*

Enter the dreaded style="font-style: italic;">Death Penalty;
a gameplay mechanic that oftentimes is at the very heart of the debate
between what constitutes casual vs. hardcore in MMOs. This lone aspect
of design can even go so far as to help some players decide whether or
not they want to give a new game a few spins around the virtual block
based simply on which side of that fence they want to plant their feet
over a longer period. For some, the thrill of raising the stakes and
going all in is paramount to having an enjoyable MMO experience, while
others might prefer to simply bop along in a persistent world that
lacks the same kind of harshness as this nutty place commonly referred
to as “real life”. MMO gaming style="font-style: italic;">is
an entertainment industry after all.

So why do we have death penalties at all? Is it all about providing the
risk vs. reward factor, or are there deeper thought processes at work
behind the design decision to include them as a gameplay mechanic at
all? To help answer these questions, Ten Ton Hammer contacted two of
the leading developers in the current MMO space race; Noah
“Hammerhead” Ward, lead game designer for style="font-style: italic;"> href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/eve/" target="_blank">EVE
Online and
Hermann Peterscheck, lead producer for NetDevil’s upcoming href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/306"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Jumpgate Evolution.

To help provide some
deeper insight
into the design process, when asked what considerations are made to
incorporate a meaningful death penalty during the development process,
Noah had this to say:

“I suppose it would depend on the exact game but in EVE the
harsh death penalty was designed in as a core aspect. All of the ships
in EVE are built by players and as we all know when you build
battleships for a living war is good for business.”

  • Read our newest premium
    member article “Returning to Bind
    Point: The Death Penalty in MMOs” by clicking href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/69672" target="_blank">here!

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Sardu 1
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.