Forward Progress

The Guild Wars death penalty is wiped when you head back to town, so there are no permanent setbacks. At worst, you can fail to gain. You will usually come out at least marginally ahead: a little gold in your pocket and experience toward a skill point. After an evening of utter failure, you still gained a bit of rep, added 0.3% towards Cartographer, and banked some change.

Item wear is a minor death penalty and gold sink, but it can lead to your losing progress in a night of play. However many hundred times you are supposed to fail a raid, you are losing each time you do unless the raid comes with enough trash to pay for your repair bills (and that is just wrapping in the farming you could do outside the raid). You have heard of people hitting their heads against a wall so hard that all their armor broke and they could not afford to fix it. Then there are the expected consumables of potions, food, scrolls, etc. that get burned for each attempt. Those are dispiriting evenings, when you leave with less than you started with, and that experience cannot be wholly beneficial for player retention (which is funny when the game that avoids it does not have subscribers).

EVE Online is a game where you can lose everything you own but keep making progress because skill training is time-based. You are supposed to lose ships over time. Don’t get attached. Even if you are down some ISK, your skill points keep increasing.

There is something to be said for a lack of consequences. It’s a game.

: Zubon

11 thoughts on “Forward Progress”

  1. “Of course I’m coming back to Vegas next year, I want my money back!”- the Motto of the Gambling Addict

    I’m really glad that GW2 has a light death penalty. I’ve ran head-first into some “brick-wall” raids, and came out utterly broke and with some of my gear broken. SWTOR recently patched getting more money from Flashpoints, but it’s still pretty rough to make money in that game, with all the money-sinks all over the place, crafting being a major one.

    I can’t wait to get my grubby hands on the GW2 crafting, it looks awesome.

  2. THIS!
    It’s a game, I should not have to go grind to have resources to raid (which I said elsewhere, is designed to make your group fail several times). It’s a game, I want to have fun with it, and the way it’s being done in gw2 sounds like I never consider I’m losing (time, resources I have) when I do stuff. Good reference to EVE too, losing ships should be a given to any EVE player.

  3. Ultimately though Eve is as consequenceless as GW. What did you do last night – I played video games all night. Does it matter what happened in those games?

    We can get all technical and talk about the psychology – some people like to achieve a meaningful impact on others (griefers, etc), some people are highly loss averse. In real terms however you put in time and take out fun and one person’s style of fun isn’t superior to someone else’s.

    1. Of course it matters what happened in those games. Fun isn’t binary; it’s a continuum. And I’m not playing games to kill time, I’m playing games to maximize fun.

      It might be unfair in a “closed universe” sort of way, but any given game has to compete with every other game I could be playing instead. Grinds simply aren’t going to work anymore.

  4. I’d prefer not to attach value judgments to the various ways individuals in comparatively stable economic environments spend their leisure time. I don’t consider there to be a hierarchy of worth between, say, watching television, reading books, going to the movies, hiking, building model railway layouts and playing video games. It doesn’t really matter what you do, it’s what you learn that matters. And, of course, what you do with what you learn.

    As for the substantive thesis of the post, the tipping point comes when lack of consequences leads to lack of involvement. Things have to matter enough that you care enough to want to continue but not matter so much that you want to stop. Difficult balance to achieve.

    Personally, during my initial run at Guild Wars at launch, and coming from Everquest and DAOC, I found it more difficult to deal with failure in the Mission model than I did in the open worlds of the MMOs I was used to. Yes, your character doesn’t go backwards on failure as it did at the time in EQ or DAOC, but if you can’t complete a mission you are completely blocked (or you were in the original game). I found that much more off-putting than any loss of experience or gold could be.

    1. What Bhagpuss says here about the balance is spot on. And, that balance is different for different people. As a designer, you need to find the point that best satisfies your audience. (Note that I didn’t say the largest number of people, because some of those people may not ever play your game, and thus are not in your audience.)

  5. Guild Wars is certainly the only game where I’ve been a group who are looking forward (in some bizarre way) to hitting the maximum death penalty you can attain. I could imagine people hitting it for the additional challenge, regardless of anything else!

    All aboard the -60DP train!

  6. I believe the OP is about Guild Wars 1 not 2? I agree with Bhagpuss, Guild Wars 1 is like an old-school platformer – if you wipe it’s back to the start of the level, so zero progress. The death penalty may be super-light but the progression penalty is actually harsher.

    Open world MMOs are more forgiving generally as within an instance or raid you have the bosses to provide mini-progression through the gear drops or special currency towards new gear. So by hitting that brick wall you are increasing your groups collective power with a high probability you will get past it in the end. If you really get stuck you can go back to the open world and do something else to out-gear the instance or even ignore it. Aren’t the missions strictly linear so you’re locked out of campaign progression if you don’t finish one? ( I ask because I’m not 100% sure on this for all the campaigns)

    Also with Guild Wars the importance of skill and build means you might never make it through a mission without investing heavily in online-research (feels like cheating to me) and getting skills from far flung quest-givers or skill merchants.

  7. Yes, GW missions are mostly linear. My thoughts are that some of the missions are a bit overlong, with the challenging parts usually occuring quite late, that’s especially the case with the Eye Of The North dungeons; so that can create frustration with repeated wipes or when you find you’ve equipped a poor build for defeating the boss. Would have preffered it if they had put some outposts in the dungeons, so that they can be done in more manageable chunks.

    1. “Welcome to the Heart of the Shiverpeaks boss fight! Your heroes are entirely useless here. Go get some players or re-build them specifically for this fight. We hope you enjoyed the last 30-60 minutes of learning this map and that it will be more useful the next time through!”

  8. This happened to me in the Finding Gegg mission (or whatever his name is; one of the Asura main quest lines).

    All of a sudden the dungeon has large packs of skeletal warriors, priests etc, and my idiot Heros won’t focus on the healers at all so we can’t beat the mission. By the time I realize we need to switch our startegy, we are at -60% and its hopeless.

    Maybe next time ;/

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