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Post feature RSS Dev Blog: Death System

Death is a key point in any MMO game. In this developer blog we present how we intend to handle death, rebirth, and the balance of PvP and its impact on non-PvP players.

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This, the first video in a series of feature videos we released as part of our "Feature Week" during our kickstarter campaign, covers the much debated topic of death. Please note that we subsequently updated the system, based on community feedback and internal discussions, changing "Karma" to "Stigma" and slighly updating how it works. This updated system is presented after the video below. Enjoy!


System Update: Stigma

Disclaimer - ALL numbers are purely theoretical, and only given as an example to clarify a system or point.


Karma has been renamed to Stigma and we've revised the system slightly and tweaked it to better represent (without as much confusion) it's purpose. I will give a very brief outline of how it works, with some figures (though the figures are for example only, and are in no way an indication of the numbers of the system that will actually be in game)

Stigma is a rating that is essentially used to indicate how commonly a player kills or mutilates other players. The purpose of the stigma system, is to mitigate some of the potential damage in the form of permanent loss of skills for players that are not constantly engaged in battle or eager to fight. Meanwhile, players who constantly kill or mutilate others will lose this mitigation and face the natural effects of death.

The rating does not take into account other players affiliations, criminal or murderer status, or anything of the sort. It is merely a measure of how often a particular character kills or mutilates others. However, it does (silently) take into account the stigma rating of anyone you kill. This is done in an attempt to lesson the effect on a character that is only defending themselves out of necessity, and not engaging in combat and killing or mutilating others as a choice or intentionally, while not removing the effect from them entirely.

(Theoretical numbers for example only)
So for example, say you have 0% stigma as you've never killed someone before, and you kill someone who also has 0% stigma, you would gain 10% stigma. If you kill again, and the victim has 0% stigma, you again gain 10%. If, the next time, you decide to not only kill (another 0% stigma victim) but mutilate the body, you would gain 10% for the kill as well as another 15% for mutilation.
In three kills, the character has now raised their stigma level from 0% to 45%.

Now, your own stigma isn't taken into account when you kill someone, but theirs (which you won't know) does. The lower their stigma rating the more stigma you gain. The higher the victims stigma, the less you gain. However, even if they are at 100% stigma you would still receive a gain to your stigma rating. So for example, if you changed those three earlier victims to 100% stigma ratings, you might only receive 6% stigma for the kills, plus 15% for the mutilation, giving you a total of 21% stigma rating.

It is also important to note that stigma fades over time if you don't kill anyone else. If you continue to kill, your stigma will continue to climb until it hits 100%, and remain there so long as you continue killing and mutilating other players. This will be balanced to insure that players who are only fighting because they are forced to defend themselves and accidentally kill someone can return to 0% stigma with relative ease.

Keep in mind though, you don't necessarily need to kill someone to defend yourself, nor mutilate them!

Next, your stigma rating ties into permanent skill loss upon destruction of your body. Depending on your stigma rating, you can lose anywhere from 0-10% of your total skill pool, with higher stigma meaning a higher loss.


This then brings the question of what the purpose of statues if you lose skill based on stigma. Well, lets start from the beginning...

Every player character has a default statue that protects up to a certain amount of skills. As a character grows their skills, they require a higher quality statue to help protect the skills. If you don't have a high enough quality statue to cover your skills, you will lose 15% of your skill total up to the point at which your statue protects you.

For example: (theoretical numbers only!) Assuming you had 100 total skill points and your statue only protects up to 90, you would lose 10 skill points divided amongst all of your skills. If you had 100, and your statue only protected up to 75, you would only lose 15%, or 15 points, not the full amount the statue doesn't protect.

Statues do not protect you from the loss based on stigma, meaning that someone who has maxed stigma score, and no statue that remotely protects them could see a total of 25% skill loss spread across all skills. The point here being that you do not want to fight without a statue protecting you!That then brings us to the next logical step - 'well, what happens when you die and use your statue? You said it's a one time use, and if someone kills us before we can get another statue we're going to take a huge hit!'

Simple answer... without going into detail (sorry): You will have ways of acquiring another statue without being exposed to more skill loss by another death. Meaning that if you die again without a statue protecting your skills, it's because you chose not to get one with sufficient quality, not because someone camped you and prevented you from doing so.and finally...

Binding - teleportation concerns

We completely and totally understand the concerns about teleportation, and we're not over-looking the fact that death could be used to bring soldiers home to defend their lands, or in a number of other ways. We actually have a solution for that which is planned, and has not been mentioned thus far. It certainly does not eliminate all potential abuses of the system, but it makes them much less likely, and far more painful.

Everyone who dies and respawns in a new body suffers a temporary penalty to things like stats, skills, health, energy, and resilience as part of the recovery process (jumping into a new body isn't easy, even for an immortal soul!) If your body is destroyed near your binding point, there is a standard temporary penalty applied, which lasts for a fairly short amount of time. If, however, your body is destroyed extreme distances from your binding point (hours away, for example) that penalty is not only magnified, but the time period it lasts is also increased. With the penalty and duration increasing as the range does. So as you can imagine dieing on a distant continent, could be extremely painful!This makes it virtually useless for an army to use the death system to return home from a distant campaign in an emergency, as their soldiers will be suffering grievous penalties for a long period of time which will make them much easier to dispatch, and far less effective in combat. This means that players should make an effort to bind to the nearest possible place to where they plan on exploring/adventuring to lessen the penalty as much as possible.

Combined with the cost of statues and the threat of permanent statloss, we believe the abuse of this system will be minimized and it will be a non-factor in wars, and economics.

I hope that these tweaks, and my explanations help! As always, if we find a better solution, or something that we can change or tweak to improve the game, we will!


I just recently started tracking this, and I don't know all the details but I have to say I am extremely dissappointed with your karma system. imo you are balancing everything in favor of those who want to play totally peacfully, but some of us consider that playstyle to be horribly boring.

There should be some kind of option for people who want to (for example) play as bandits. In a realistic scenario there would be bandits in a world like this, and players may want to fill that role.

My suggestion would be to have some kind of city or town or w/e that offers roughly the same services in the opposite way. for example: say you have 10 towns in your game (just a random number) then 1 or 2 of them should be the reverse of the others (helps "bad" karma people and is dangerous for "good" karma people). so they could sell something like the statues, but that will allow people with bad karma to retain their abilities.

The idea would be that this "lifestyle" would still be more difficult (1 friendly town as opposed to 10 or w/e) but it would still be possible. Penalizing anyone who plays that way would only make your gameworld boring and without risk (which imo makes any RPG style game boring).

idk if you ever played freelancer, but they had something like this. There was a reputation system, as your reputation decreased you lost the abililty to do certain things (safely anyway) at normal outposts, but you could increase your reputation with bandits and other such "bad" groups and be able to trade and do everything at their few bases (which tended to be inconveniently located in minefields and badlands and whatnot.)

sry for the long post, but I think ya'll should consider this. I love the overall concept of your game, but I don't play games that only cater to weak, peacefull, no-risk playstyles.

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DaveBelcher Author

On the contrary NCC-1701, the system HELPS you play a bandit without ever having to take a stigma hit (I assume you read the update on stigma?).

You only receive stigma upon killing and mutilating a player, so if you are a bandit intending on robbing someone, you merely need to incapacitate them then take their stuff. You never need to go beyond that and kill the player.

I also forsee a fair few bandit towns which welcome those who have lower factional standing with the "good" towns.

Anyway, just to bring up your last statement, about catering to weak, peaceful and no-risk playstyles. Certainly those people who aren't player killers still risk things from death, such as the temporary stat loss, the goods they have on them, and the cost of a replacement statue... I certainly wouldn't call it no-risk. Likewise, without the additional penalty on death as a player killer, where is the additional risk to add spice to that chosen playstyle?

We are just giving a higher risk factor for those who choose the life of a player killer, while not imposing that risk on the more peaceful players who just like to craft and trade (driving the economy for those who do wish to purely PvP!). But, either way, it certainly isn't no-risk to anyone!

Anyway, thank you for your comment, and your thoughts on the subject :)

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I misunderstood the system somewhat. Now that I understand the purpose of the incapacitated state (in this case to allow bandits to rob without killing and therefore without gaining negative karma/stigma) it makes far more sense. For some reason I got the impression that even putting someone into the incapacitated state would also gain stigma.

I was worried that if penalized to greatly people would simply avoid confrontation almost entirely, which would create the no/low-risk situation that I mentioned.

what exactly do you mean by "permenant skill loss"

I assume that that the game allows you to earn skill in some way, so does this permenant loss mean that it is gone forever and cannot be re-earned... or does it mean that it simply will not regenerate on its own to its former level (so you have to re-earn it as if you had never had it)?

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Also, if I understand properly being in the incapacitated state you are basically dying (not dead yet, but unless you get help you will die). So if you were to injure someone to this point, then loot them and leave, if they die from their wounds, that would not give you stigma. Is that correct?

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DaveBelcher Author

OK, replying to both comments here.

First, skills are trained through using them. The general loss everyone feels is a temporary loss (short term memory loss), which comes back after a little while. Basically, chill out in a tavern for half an hour, have a good meal, and by the time you are done the skills will be regained. Permanent loss basically means they don't come back automatically after you recover from the death penalty, and they must be re-trained (long term memory loss).

Again, this isn't intended to be so harsh that people choose never to PvP, but rather that they value their life a bit more and try a little harder to stay alive (not just zerg rush everywhere). It's there to make you stop and think before jumping into a fight, in case you might be biting off more than you can chew.

As I explained in the system above, health is managed through a regain/deterioration system. Once the person is incapacitated, if they are not too badly injured, their health will slowly regain over time and they will regain control of their body. If they have minor bleeds, they could even staunch the flow long enough for the bleed to clot, and agian recover in time.

If, however, you caused serious injury to the player, and they are bleeding seriously, they will likely bleed to death in time. If this happens, then you will still get the stigma hit when they die (as you contributed to their death).

In these situations, it may be worth your time to bandage them up so they at least survive... or use clubs and blunt instruments in your banditry to reduce the amount of bleeding you will inflict ;)

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Now that I fully understand it, I actually like your ideas about short/long term memory loss alot. It is an ingenius solution to the issue of making sure deaths hurt while maintaining gameplay. I hope that you are able to implement this system like you have described it.

I was of the impression that once you were incapacitated you could only be brought back through some kind of external help (I seem to be making a lot of incorrect assumptions today, lol). It will be very interesting to see how this plays out. Part of me thinks it could be a very cool gameplay mechanic, while another part thinks that it would be very strange to have to worry about whether or not your enemy bleeds out after you leave the area. Especially if you incapacitated said enemy purely in defense.

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DaveBelcher Author

Well I'm glad I managed to convert you! ;) I'm also glad you can see the benefits of the system we have designed.

Whether you will naturally recover from an incapacitated state is dependant on a few factors, and being able to administer some form of first aid to yourself will certainly help (top tip for lone hunters!). This also ties into things like creatures in the world... a creature like a deer or similar may just incapacitate you then run off once the threat is gone, while predatory animals my finish you off. Really bad ones may even rip up the corpse and mutilate you ;)

As for accidental deaths when you are defending yourself, this ties into the stigma balancing system. If they are attacking you, its likely they will have a higher stigma rating than you (if you are completely passive player), so if they do die the stigma gain you will get will be pretty small, and will be easy to recover from.

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DaveBelcher Author

Oh, and just to re-iterate the disclaimer at the start, this system like all others at this time will be subject to thorough testing and balancing before we go live, and may end up being changed completely before then. This is just an early look at the design board, so to speak :)

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Yay, more work for me!!!

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