Diablo® III

A way to make death less frustrating

TL;DR version: Death can be made less frustrating by eliminating the resurrection timer and removing checkpointing in favor of a system that revives you near the spot you died. Death can be made meaningful still by the addition of a system that rewards you for killing elites (e.g. get +1-2% MF per elite pack), but the reward is eliminated if you log out or are killed.

Read more if you want to understand the specifics.

The Problem

Death is frustrating. When you die, you incur three penalties:

  • You lose 10% of your durability on all equipment. This costs you gold, which impedes your ability to by new gear so you die less.

  • You have to wait for the resurrection timer to go away. While you're waiting, you're literally doing nothing. (The timer increases with repeated deaths in a short span, increasing the frustration of this element.)

  • You must restart at the last checkpoint, which may make you run for a minute or two without fighting anything.

The gold penalty actually isn't that bad; it should probably stick around because you'd literally wind up with no element of risk without it. The latter two are the primary causes of frustration. Both of those punish you for playing poorly by forcing you to not play the game for some amount of time. The timer obviously outright prevents you from playing. The resurrection at the last checkpoint stops you from playing because the "game" part of D3 is fighting monsters and getting loot, and you're not doing that when you're running back to where you were, through the rooms you've already cleared of monsters.

When all you want to do is play a game to relax, being told you can't play is one of the worst things you can hear. Have it happen enough and you're apt to go play something that won't do that to you.

The Complication

So, if you just remove those penalties, you'd get rid of the problem, right? Wrong. Pulling both those penalties results in two problems:

  • Removal of checkpointing -- presumably causing you to res where you died -- potentially could set you up to die over and over even more quickly than before. Frustration can quickly skyrocket in this situation.

  • The gold penalty, while having some effect, eventually becomes completely trivial as you earn enough gold. Therefore, there's no longer any encouragement to play well. Players with enough gold no longer feel any real element of risk, and no risk quickly makes a game boring.


I think removing those penalties is the right thing to do, but you still have to resolve those complications in some way. (Note: If there's a technical reason you wouldn't want to allow immediate resurrection, having a three second timer might still be fine, just don't increase that timer as you die more. You should remove the timer if it's technically feasible, though.)

The Solution?

Resolving the first complication (removal of checkpointing) is a little difficult, but I believe I've seen other games do this before. Cause the player to res somewhere close to where he died, but not right where his death occurred. Basically, put him just out of the line of sight of any creatures. It's possible the "ghost mode" you're put in after you res today might even make that irrelevant.

The second complication (death is trivial) can't be solved without introducing something to take the place of the removal of penalty. It's a pretty well-known psychological fact that positive reinforcement is a better way to encourage a particular behavior than negative reinforcement or punishment, which is better for extinguishing behaviors. With that in mind, I'd encourage the addition of an element that rewards skillful play (i.e. playing without dying) instead of punishing unskillful play.

Here's an example of such a reward: Every time you kill an elite pack, you get a buff that gives you an additional 1% or 2% magic find. That buff would basically function like Nephalem Valor (including lasting around 30 minutes, refreshing when you get another stack, and not being subject to the MF cap), but if you die, you lose it. As you play better, the risk/reward goes up for every elite pack you encounter. You can get yet more MF, but if you die, you lose it all. Note that you don't have to use MF (you could instead use an increase to damage, as another example), but you must make sure it's something that doesn't stack up too quickly while still being something the player really wants.

Does anyone have thoughts about such a system? Has this been tried before and I'm just missing some downside to it?
Edited by DragonLord#1497 on 9/15/2012 9:28 AM PDT
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I knew someone had written an interesting post about this a while ago. I just dug it up.

http://supermeatboy.com/13/why_am_i_so____hard_/

While this has to do some with difficulty and some with death penalties, I think both concepts are applicable to D3 at high levels, even if the specifics don't apply (e.g. bite-sized levels).
Edited by DragonLord#1497 on 9/15/2012 6:36 PM PDT
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