Player Death and Consequences

Each game has its own set of rules about how player death is handled, what consequences are doled out, and how players must recover from it. In some games death even has a habit of evolving from one set of parameters to another, even increasing in scope how players can come to their own demise. While the death of a character may not always seem like a factor that should drive the mechanics of your game, if it’s not setup correctly or in a way that positively effects you game (go figure), then this is a feature of your game that may cause you some serious headache down the line. Death of characters also provide you, the game developer, with unique opportunities when you create an online game. Not only do they give you the potential to keep player stats, items, development, etc, in balance, it gives you the potential to create new levels of detail or experiences in your game that don’t follow the typical game progression.

The Basics

There are a few things that a life system offers in a gaming environment. In most cases, and in most games, your characters are not usually truly immortal – that is to say, there is very rarely a game that does not punish their players in a death style manner, if they mess up. Player death and life systems of a game provide you, the developer, with the idea to keep game play and advancing through your game in check; it allows you to sprinkle a few caveats throughout the mechanics of your game, making it necessary to think before you act. Is it a good idea to go guns blazing with your most expensive (and perishable) equipment, if the situation seems like it may very well end in death? If those items die upon death, it may make the player decide to rethink their actions, or at least put a bit more thought into the situation before rushing through various situations you’ve so carefully setup.

Death, in some games, is also a way to keep a players progression through the system in check. In many games, especially MMORPGs, its been a traditional mentality that death should penalize the player in a reduction of stats. This mentality says that this will then make players work harder to regain those points, thus creating extended game play time. The same philosophy can be seen behind making certain expensive items break upon death. While this was a readily accepted mentality for most RPGs years ago, it seems the tide is beginning to move away from this. EVE Online for instance takes away all items attached to a ship (and the ship itself) when it is blown to bits. In some cases and depending on the situation your character can also suffer skill/stat points. However, EVE does provide players with the ability to insure their ships, and create ‘clones’ of their current skill sets so that in the event death occurs, little is lost. Nice, eh? This is an example where the developers of the game have clearly said “Yes, death should have a penalty”, but they have also said “But… We should give players a chance to hold onto their goods, even if death does come their way.” In many ways this approach appeals directly to more casual players who would be incredibly turned off by losing it all, simply because they were killed. This has special meaning because it is fairly easy to die in Eve. More on this later.

Development Opportunities

It may sound strange that in death there would be opportunities for additional game play and experiences, but it’s true. A player being killed in a MMORPG does not need to be a completely painful experience. In a more old school RPG, Ultima Online, the creators made death a bit more interesting. Instead of just making it so that players would resume where they left off upon returning to the land of the living, they made it required for the departed to locate someone who could resurrect them individually. While this adds additional game play time to death, it also adds in new elements of the game play that players are forced to deal with – interacting with other players, and working together. There are numerous other approaches to death. What if the return trip from the underworld spawned additional quests that were only active to those who had perished? What if death actually was a part of the game in that there were unique skills and items to gain once you’ve perished? Since death is such a normalized part of most games, why not make it something that is truly designed? In many ways creating a crafted death experience for your users when they come to an unfortunate demise can also change how those players perceive death. Is it merely a consequence put in place to add time to their game play, or is it an experience that actually has some merit and adds to the game?

Implications of Death

Depending on how easy it is to die in your game, how easy it is for other players to kill one another, what happens when a player does die, how they recover their character from it, how they retrieve their items, and so on, all play a part in how death is perceived in your game. Ultimately, if you’re like most developers you want your game’s death system to have some bite, and for players to fear it for one reason or another, but you certainly don’t want players to hate it so much that they leave your game over it. Because death is an inevitable part of most games (and most likely yours!) it’s important to consider what your “death penalty” does to a player.

In most cases if a character is killed off for good as a result of dying, players will probably be incredibly upset and unsatisfied by those results unless this is readily expected from the beginning, and it’s easy for players to recover what they may have lost. In most cases games that have “perma” death tend to be games where players don’t get a chance (and aren’t expected) to become heavily attached to their characters. Additionally, games where perma death occurs don’t leave much room for player made history or development, especially if death is a frequent occurrence. Even the looming possibility of perm death, say after 100 disposable lives that players can come back from easily becomes a bit hard to digest. Unless you can find a way to work it into the game play and storyline flawlessly, it would be wise to keep your distance from such an approach.

Like EVE, Guild Wars has a fairly balanced and reasonable approach to death. When players die, they don’t “perma” die, but they are resurrected at a shrine closest to where they were killed. When players set out to continue their journey, they have a timed handicap that limits their health and mana. If the player dies before the handicap has expired, their new penalty simply adds onto the old one. While not creating permanent stat penalties, this can slow down game play and force you to be a bit more careful as your progress (at least until your stats are restored).

Probably the most important factor to consider when determining what the penalties for death are is to decide and figure out how frequent death occurs for the normal player. If, like in Eve, it is fairly easy to blow up your ship and everything inside of it, you probably want to make death something that is 1. reasonable and 2. something that players can mitigate on their own (like in eve through purchasing insurance plans that protect your assets). While making sure that every player in your game is “happy” with every aspect of your game should not be your primary concern, making sure that at least most of your players are satisfied with the consequences for such a big system (like death) is incredibly important in retaining the people who play your game.

What do you think about all of this? Have you ever encountered a game that had an awesome method of dealing with player demises? Let us know!

– The Game Studio

Millsberry Virtual World Review – A Cute and Enjoyable Experience For Kids

Millsberry is an online virtual world game created by General Mills, the food giant. The virtual world is however 2D and not 3D. Millsberry can be played online and is totally free of cost. Once a player signs up and creates an account, he or she has a variety of options to choose from- the avatar’s outward look, the clothes etc. These things can be purchased using Millsbucks, the currency form of the game. Initially every player is provided a certain sum of money, but later, the players have to earn this money by playing different mini games.

Every player’s performance in the game is judged by the following 5 factors- Health, Fitness, Intelligence, Civics and Hunger. In fact, Millsberry is a very educative game- children get to learn to open a bank account, or to send a post at the post office and several other things, which come in handy in life.

However, what excites the children are the options available for customisation of the avatar and all the goodies they can buy once they have enough millsbucks. They can buy their own house, decorate it, make friends and visit their homes. Having said that, the virtual world lacks the X factor as it is two dimensional. One doesn’t ever get a holistic idea of how the place looks like. The navigation is a little rough and there are other technical problems as well. Because of these, the children are sometimes left dejected- they create their perfect house but somehow. It just doesn’t look that great in the game. This problem is compounded by the fact there is no preview option.

The Millsberry mini games aimed at the collection of Millsbucks are interesting. Games like Archery and Solver keep the kids hooked on Millsberry. They lay great emphasis on creative activities like music and photography. Thus, they promote these interests in kids and kids get to develop their skills here.

But again, they come with their own set of problems. The instructions for these games are very unclear and kids are left confused about the rules. Also, the games tend to become repetitive and boring after a point of time.

The plot of the game has weekly stories which are also related to mini games. These are updated regularly but still, there isn’t a central story line running through Millsberry. Nevertheless, the weekly aspect manages to keep the kids curious.

One area that is flawless in Millsberry is the safety aspect. Parents have absolutely no reason to feel worried about their kids playing Millsberry. There is no offensive language, no obscenity at all. But this is a direct implication of the fact there is no communication in the game. Millsberry lacks any interactive qualities and has only educative books. This makes the game a little monotonous. After all, kids love to interact and make friends.

Millsberry also falls short when it comes to the community aspect. There is no sense of social bonding. One would expect it to have a strong community, it being an online game. But there are no chat forums or any platform that facilitates conversations between fellow players. There are only a select few pre-determined phrases which cannot support a normal conversation.

General Mills has also used Millsberry virtual world to advertise their own products. All the food products that can be bought in the game carry their logos. These products are ridiculously over priced and this reportedly bothers parents. They believe that since everything is so expensive, children tend to get obsessed with collecting money. They are solely driven by consumerist tendencies. However, this is one of the minor problems.

Thus, Millsberry is cute and enjoyable for kids. But it has its share of technical and thematic problems which need to be looked into.

Moshi Monsters Review

From toddlers to teens, the Moshi Monsters virtual world for kids is a site which no one can resist. Your children will be immediately drawn in by the cute characters, and find plenty to do on this site. While your child can gain extra benefits if you decide for him to become a member, Moshi Monsters offers a whole world of fun without purchasing a membership.

Moshi Monsters is one of the safest virtual worlds for kids online today. One feature which makes this site safer for kids is that social networking is limited and moderated. This feature can reassure parents that their children of any ages are in a safe online environment.

The primary game consists of your child adopting and caring for his very own pet monster. This includes feeding and housing his monster, as well as acquiring a pet for it. While it truly is as much fun as it sounds, it is also educational. Children will learn arithmetic, vocabulary, and other skills, as they earn “rox” to purchase various items for their pet.

In addition, the pace of the game will accommodate kids of every level of skill. He will be entertained for hours, whether he is relatively new to online games or has had quite a bit of experience. All of your children will likely consider Moshi Monsters to be amongst their favorite online worlds.

Your child will delight in learning how to do puzzles. He will also have the chance to participate in a variety of contests. Education and having a good time come together easily in this free virtual online world for kids.

The design and graphics of Moshi Monsters is as lovely as a young child’s board game. It is free from any unnecessary details or complications, which makes it easier for kids of all ages to become interested, and to hold their interest through many hours of play. The interactive quality  will meet or exceed your expectations. Your child’s time in this online virtual world will be exciting and lively. From the youngest children to the child-at-heart, Moshi Monsters is virtual entertainment at its best.

The Elusive Non Fantasy MMORPG

Remember back when the MMORPG industry really started? There was not a single non fantasy MMORPG out of the original big three: Ultima Online, Everquest, and Asheron’s Call. They each provided the user a different experience with varying graphics, different skill sets and ways to improve your character, unique enemies, but they were all part of the same general fantasy theme. At first glance it doesn’t seem that we have made much headway into the non fantasy MMORPG. As MMOs have gone mainstream we haven’t seen much of a change. World of Warcraft, Aion, and Guild Wars top the sales charts and all of them are a descendent of traditional swords and sorcery. But judging by Google’s popular search queries people are looking for something different.

One of the reasons fantasy settings are so prevalent in the online world is because traditional, popular RPGs such as Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Breath of Fire have all succeeded in that setting. In addition, many of the gamers that enjoy these video games also read fantasy novels so it’s simply a setting that many people are familiar and comfortable with. When the genre was first being fleshed out it made sense to stick with what would have the best success rate. Now that there are over a hundred MMO titles available, why does it seem like non fantasy MMORPGs are still outnumbered by a singular setting?

Over a decade since The Realm and Meridian 59 started the concept of a graphical online MUD we do not see a single mainstream, alternative MMO setting amongst the top five. It’s not that non fantasy games aren’t releasing but it’s rare to see a big budget or big name studio take on such a product. The big money almost always goes to what works based on risk/return.

That’s why the two biggest of NCSoft’s (one of the bigger industry publishers) current games are easy concepts to jump into like Aion and Guild Wars. When they ventured into other unique settings like Auto Assault and Tabula Rasa they got burned because they weren’t high quality enough games to warrant a separation from players’ ideal fantasy worlds. If that leaves mainly independent developers to produce something truly unique then they will face the problems of not having enough resources. That doesn’t mean a good game is impossible though.

While non fantasy MMORPG games aren’t as much in the mainstream there are still plenty that are well produced, fun to play, fully featured, and sometimes even free. One of the best is a science fiction, space opera by the name of Eve Online. There is a subscription fee attached that gives you monthly updates and access to an entire universe where you can pilot dozens of different ships. But even space and science fiction is more closely akin to fantasy.

Top Six Fun Things To Do in Lincoln City Oregon

1. Go Fly a Kite!

Lincoln City is located at the 45th parallel. What this means is you get steady winds pretty much year round. This makes Lincoln City the self-proclaimed “Kite Capital of the World” There are two kite festivals each year in Lincoln City, one in June and one in October. The beaches, all 7 miles of them, are beautiful and provide plenty of room for kite flying! So go and feel like a kid again!

2. Take in a Show!

The Chinook Winds Casino is a beautiful casino, right on the ocean. It’s a great place to stay, and they always have big name musical acts. Of course there is the gambling that is available. The Casino also offers a restaurant, pool and a sauna to relax in. They also offer child care, with arcades, Nintendo and a playground.

3. Watch the Glass Blow!

The Alderhouse Glassblowing Studio is well worth your time. You can watch masters at the ancient art of glassblowing. You can also purchase some of their beautiful pieces, including something called a Witch Ball. You will be amazed at what they can do with glass.

4. View the Mighty D River?

The D River is not all that mighty. It is the shortest river in the world, traveling 120 feet from Devils Lake to the Pacific Ocean. There is a Oregon State Park wayside there, with plenty of parking and access to several miles of sandy beach. Right next to the wayside is my favorite restaurant, Kylios. Great views of the ocean and wonderful seafood.

5. Catch Your Dinner!

There is a lot of fishing fun available in Lincoln City. Whether it’s on Devils Lake (fish for trout, perch, catfish, crappie, large mouth bass), the Siletz River and the Salmon River (fish for chinook, steelhead, trout), Siletz Bay (fish for perch, crab, flounder) or deep sea fishing in the Pacific Ocean. Charters are available.

6. Shop Till You Drop!

If you need to get away from nature a bit, head to the Tanger Outlet Center.

Tanger outlet center has over 60 stores, including Reebok, Eddie Bauer, Old Navy and Pendelton Woolen Mills, an Oregon favorite.

Lincoln City is easy to get to from Portland and by driving the famous Pacific Coast Highway (US Route 101). Come visit Lincoln City, I know you’ll love it.