Death Penalties

This is part of a Blog Azeroth Shared Topic.  Check the thread out to see posts from other great blog authors!

There are only two things that are certain in life: death and taxes. Fortunately there isn’t a monthly gold fee to pay to Stormwind or Orgrimmar to pay for the services you get there – that’s why you have to pay for repairs and the auction house fees. However, death is rampant in WoW. There are very few people who can say that they haven’t died at all while leveling, and if doing dungeons or raids is your thing it’s a given fact that you will die at some point.

One big question stands out: how does a game deal with a character death? This question has been mulled over, thought about, and discussed a great many times as everyone has a different approach to it. I’ve played a few games which have all had different ideas about it, which I will explain and then give my own thoughts.

The first MMORPG I played was one called Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds. Penalties for death included losing half the experience you had (over level 99), as it was used as a currency to purchase better health, mana, and stats. Also there was a “death pile”, which consisted of various items that the character was carrying, and certain items broke upon death. Prior to level 99, the character would lose a portion of their current experience.

After Nexus, I played Final Fantasy XI. Their death system worked similarly, with the exception of the items being dropped in favour of a more steep experience penalty. When a character dies there is a large experience penalty, and the chance that the character can actually level down. I had experienced that many times, when I was in a group killing stuff and recently leveled and then we all died… and I was suddenly the level I was previously.

Full disclosure: I haven’t played either game in a very long time, so their death systems may be different now. What I explained is how they worked when I played them.

As many people know, in World of Warcraft the penalty for death is fairly low. In essence, the taxes that I mentioned in the first paragraph are the penalty for dying in WoW. Equipped items are charged 10% durability loss with every death, in which the repair bills add up quickly after a night of learning a new raid boss.

If it’s decided to use a Spirit Healer, then an additional durability loss is charged to ALL items that are carried – whether they’re equipped or in the inventory. A character who has multiple sets of gear will go through great lengths to avoid using a Spirit Healer. On top of that a debuff called Resurrection Sickness is applied to the character for a period of time, which reduces health, mana, damage, and healing done. Basically, if you don’t go to recover your corpse you can’t do anything but travel for a while.

The death penalty is charged to discourage people from not caring about dying. Blizzard wants us to care about our characters, and try to keep them alive. At the same time, the penalty isn’t so steep that if a death happens we aren’t so discouraged that we throw our computers out the window.

In comparison to the other games, I believe that the penalty is exactly where it should be. It’s not so huge that we are mad beyond all reason, and not so small that we don’t care about dying at all. I can attest to the fact that after a night of learning a new encounter in a dungeon or raid, seeing my repair bill sure makes me want to have less wipes the next time I go.

Melee state of mind

For the longest time, I was always the same type of character when I played any game. If there was a magic-dealing ranged class, that was me. I was your typical “mage”-class player, for my gaming career up until about three years ago. It was then that I seem to have had a bit of a shift in my mindset of what I enjoy, and I learned to love melee classes.

My very first MMO was a game called Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds (which is pretty much dead by all accounts now). It’s a standard 2.5D top-down RPG where you do the normal stuff: you level up, you kill stuff, you quest, you gain levels, you grow in power. My very first character was a healer, and when I got bored of that, my main character ended up being a mage. I got fairly powerful (by standards of the day), but never near the top of the power listings. I enjoyed being able to blow things up from afar, trying to stay away from those who would tear me apart.

When I started World of Warcraft, my first character was a Druid. I had no clue how to properly play the game at the time, and somehow ended up speccing into the Balance tree. This was back in Vanilla, while the trees were still very broken, and I stopped playing for a while. When I came back, I re-rolled as a Mage, and once again was loving it. I could shoot stuff from my hands, blow things up, and still be far enough away that I (hopefully) shouldn’t die. When we re-rolled to Vek’nilash, my first Horde character was an Orc Warlock, and the time of bliss continued.

It was when Burning Crusade released that things started to change. I had decided to re-roll as a Paladin to help the guild out with class balance, and through the process of leveling up I found out that being a melee class wasn’t so bad after all. I may get hit more often, but there were ways to accomodate that. Once I had hit level 70, I did my time as a healer, so I returned to the back of the raid with my healy hands.

I forget when exactly through Burning Crusade that my wife started to play, but it was at that time that I rolled a Druid to level up with her new Shaman. I specced into Feral, since I read that it was the best one for leveling, and thus began my time as full-time melee. We did quite well while leveling, as long as one of us reminded the other when our health or mana was low. All in all, the process to get to level 70 was quite fun and easy.

I tore things up as a cat, and I got hit in the face as a bear. Through Wrath, I’ve been able to be near or at the top of the charts for DPS, while mastering a very complicated rotation (JFM, anyone?). It gives me a great deal of satisfaction that I can do something well, while still having fun. Going from 70 to 80 was a breeze, and I rarely had to get help for group quests or elite mobs.

To this day, I still have my Feral Druid as my main character, and I plan on keeping it that way for a while. Until the class isn’t fun anymore, I finally found something that I can enjoy and stay competetive in a raid environment.

It’s amazing what happens when you give something a try, isn’t it?

After all this time… why?

My last post was a reflection on my past five years worth of playing World of Warcraft.  I am far from the only person to have played the game since launch, and I’m far from the only person who is still playing today.

In a conversation with a friend of mine yesterday, the thought came to me: why?  Why after over five years, am I still playing WoW?  It’s a little more than a simple answer, of course.

Continue reading “After all this time… why?”