Originally posted January 2007

Applicable To: Any massive multiplayer game that wishes to implement permanent death (PD) as a check against players ultimately clustering at the level cap/unsatisfying endgame, but doesn’t want to drive off newbies who are afraid that they’ll get killed.

All player characters have a flag that defaults to enabled, but can be disabled at will. When disabled, it can be re-enabled at will, with a slight delay period.

When the flag is enabled, the character is in safe mode (“insured,” “resurrectable,” “registered at the cloning facility,” or whatever else the world fiction is for recovering from losing a fight). The player plays the game normally.

Each time the flag is disabled, the player is warned that the character is now vulnerable to permanent death. Individual games may decide whether or not to allow some benefits to roll to a new character after a character dies permanently. When the flag is disabled, the character is deleted from the server on death, and the player must switch to an alternate character.

Additionally, while the flag is disabled, the character accrues intangible game rewards (exp, skill increases, etc.) at an X% greater rate. This percent increase can be tweaked to whatever provides the greatest risk/reward proposition to players. While the flag is disabled, the character’s level cap is Y% greater than the normal level cap; if the flag is re-enabled while the character is beyond the normal level cap, the extra levels are temporarily lost until the flag is once more disabled.

Disadvantages of this MGI:

  • Unflagged players will complain when they die
  • Flagged players will complain that they don’t receive the same leveling benefits as unflagged players
  • Add-ons and strategies will be developed to unflag the player for the optimal periods to still make use of the safety net when in actual danger (the reason for the delay on re-flagging, to prevent a mod that re-flags at the instant before death)

Advantages of this MGI:

  • The endgame can be tweaked to be difficult but possible for flagged characters. Unflagged characters gain a benefit of increased levels to tackle endgame challenges at the risk of permanent death. Outleveling the endgame becomes an ongoing risk commensurate with its rewards.
  • Those adamantly against PD regard the game as having no PD by default. Those most likely to outlevel content, for whom PD is a typically touted balancing mechanism, will be more likely to enable it for themselves.
  • Players can disable PD when they are in situations where PD would be unfair: when idle in a dangerous area, when engaging in unregulated PvP, when there is above average lag, etc.
  • Even in open PvP situations, griefers have no way to tell when most players are unflagged, so will not know who can be attacked in order to player kill (PK). The only players that are obviously unflagged are those beyond the level cap; these targets are both the hardest for griefers, and griefers will generally have to open themselves to PD to have a shot at killing them.