Should the player be able to die and how should one manage that?

Darthmaul and Will brought up a terrific question on my mind from the beginning. Should a player be able to die? If so where do they go in the story? Are there penalties instead? Does it turn players off or on to be able to die? For me I love the tension of death. Missing out on “things” is a tension; but, it is just not like mortality. I think this is one of my most favorite subject to discuss across games. Of course if its a romance game think of death as “ failure to romance and permanent bad things happen.” But does it turn some players off? To me, one can always gamefaq, or whatever, a game if worried. Tauk amongst yourselves :joy:

7 Likes

It depends:

The MC (I DEARLY hope you mean the fictional character and not the ACTUAL player) is the character through which the story is experienced. If they die, why continue the story? An epilogue will do. Likewise, always ask if a sudden end is punishing the player for playing the game. There’s already games out there that will give you a bad ending if you ‘missed out’ on even a single stat point cause a choice for it felt wrong for your character.

As for romance: This scenario would again punishing the player for not playing to an authors idea.

So, no, this is not a good idea as it is, as said, punishing the player for not being able to read the author’s mind.

22 Likes

I would only allow the player to die if they make EXTREMELY MORONIC choices.

6 Likes

I think it probably depends on what your player base is looking for. Without possible death in, say, a survival horror, there might not be any risk or gravitas. If no one believes their choices have a meaningful impact in whether they and theirs live or die, it may defeat the purpose. However, death might destroy tone in a comedy or romance. :skull: :heart: :question: :zombie:

I’m betting it depends on the product you want to create too. In my WiP, perma-death will be possible in the last three chapters. I intend to broadcast it honestly. Some people will be disappointed, I think. But it doesn’t feel honest to my story not to make it so. Decisions have consequences in my world and it’s a choice-based game. Part of what makes my world my world is the fact that things like that happen. Hopefully, I know what I’m doing. But I suppose we’ll all just have to wait and see. :thinking:

10 Likes

I feel like death should only be used if it’s clearly signaled that the player is making a bad choice. If they make a choice that feels right to them based on the information the author has given them and they end up with a game over, they won’t have any reason to trust the author or the game mechanics. I’ve stopped playing IF games for far less.

Generally speaking, I don’t play IF games because I’m looking for a challenge, I do it because I’m looking to take an active role in a narrative experience while getting some much needed queer rep along the way. Death doesn’t give me any of that. It literally ends the story in an unsatisfying way and adds another dead lesbian to the mountain already created by mainstream media. So, yeah, not really my thing. Mileage may vary for others.

9 Likes

Depends on the game, I guess.
You can die in Monsters and it makes sense for that setting. It has this tension you’re talking about and you can die for many reasons. Took me some time to understand why I was dying so much during a certain scene and I get how that can be frustrating for some people since you have to start it all over but I can’t imagine that game working without it. Honestly, I love it.
Now what I like about Fallen Hero is that you cannot die when losing a fight and stupid decisions led you to the other characters possibly figuring out your secret identity. Everything else is a simple consequence of your decisions and that’s what makes me tense, not knowing the full story, what will happen next. If I made the right choice to get the outcome I expected and if doing X will come back later to bite me. I guess it’s quite similar to what I feel when playing Monsters but executed in a different way.
So I guess you can achieve this tension without killing the player.

Also I wouldn’t like death in a romance game. Seems kinda pointless unless the MC dies at the end or something and not because I got overconfident and decided to fight this huge dude in the middle of the game.

4 Likes

It depends, for me. I’ve played plenty of these games where I lost the game due to what I emphatically believe is ripe bullshit (like refusing to get married in Gilded Rails meaning that you get a game over, period, no matter how well you’ve been running the business, or in Magikiras, where failing to perform the EXACT CHECKLIST that the author expects you to means you lose the game, despite how well you’ve been doing), and I’ll argue to the day I die that those game overs exist for no other reason than to punish the player for not doing what the author wanted. But then there are other games where I wind up dead, but because I did all kinds of hard work prior to and the story wound up being really good despite my death, I ultimately end up not minding that I got the bad ending. (Such as, in the first VTM COG, when my unwilling vampire sold the Masquerade out to the Inquisition in exchange for safety and the promise of a better life, but ultimately got beheaded by one of the head honcho vampires when the Inquisition attacked for being a traitor - that could be the start of an interesting VTM campaign! A vampire goes rogue and sells out the Masquerade, and now the surviving vampires have to figure out how to avoid getting hunted down by the Inquisition? Dude, I’d be down for that.)

I guess, for me, it boils down to: did my death do anything, or was it just there because I screwed up a stat check?

EDIT: So another good example of a death feeling like a rip-off happened to me in the HC game A Pirate’s Pleasure - it was chapter ten, I’d been steamrolling through the game with no trouble by that point, my crew and I roll up for a fight against Caleb Wren… and then I choose the wrong option and he pummels me into the earth. Just like that. Didn’t matter what my stats were, no “oops, strike one, try again,” no “your crew jump in to distract Caleb long enough for you to regain your bearings,” nothing. One wrong move, dead. Game over. I was so pissed.

6 Likes

Eh, I’m a huuuge bad ending fan - as in, early bad endings. But with some conditions. First and foremost, the endings must be narrated - if it’s only “it seems you died”… eh? Boring!
That aside, I don’t like it to be strictly linked to tight stat checks - there must be some leeway, the player should still be able to roleplay and not be punished for not following a strict playing plan.

When it’s a romance game, I really enjoy scenes where the MC dies, if a bad ending is reached, and the PoV switches to the chosen RO for the “epilogue” to that ending - or well, simply for the scenes that directly follow the MC’s death. It’s always very effective drama wise, and oh so rarely used in text-based IF. It’s more of a visual novel thing.

With that being said, the issue in CScript made IFs, is that there is no save function in most of them, so death is a chore since you have to restart the entire game if you get one of these endings, so I tend to only see these in code only (I code-dive) to avoid restarting.

Basically, I like it when a “dead end” is pretty obvious and I can see it if I want to, but I’m not a fan of being heavily punished for stat checks.
With that being said, in some games, I may like a true final ending that would be MC’s death - as in, a bad ending that wouldn’t be a premature ending, but really something that happens at the end of the story.

16 Likes

I think the view on the matter would depend per person so it’s not a black and white thing.

I, personally, believe that the player should die only at the ending of the story. Like if you wrote the death as an ending, it’s fine but if you wrote the death as a sudden thing done because of a moronic choice or failed check at the beginning of the game, why did you put the choice in there in the first place if you didn’t mean for the story to end there?

Now if you did, I would still advise against putting an ending so close to the beginning of the game as it won’t have a satisfying length and therefore amount of care. What I mean by that is, if you’ve ever played a dating sim, there are multiple routes that each have multiple endings with different people. However, you can traditionally always tell which is the “true ending” or which character is “best boy/girl/person” because that route has clear cut choices to reach it and much more attention paid to it than the rest of the routes. To me, this is sometimes bad writing because this “true ending” can make the other endings lackluster. A lackluster ending, be it though player death or something similar, will always be the result of lack of care in writing vs the other endings. If an ending happens too early, 9/10 the lack of writing will constitute in lack of care compared to the other endings that can be reached. It’s still possible for an early ending to still be okay but it’s something that’s harder to do than if you placed an ending further in the story. The biggest thing to be wary of is, as someone said earlier, you run the risk of punishing players for not playing the exact way you want which brings me back to: why did you include the choice then?

To also note on something someone said earlier, I agree that epilogues help with player death based endings as they wrap up loose ends, making things seem less sudden for the player.

4 Likes

Good gracious! Finally read all the responses. Yes of course I meant the character and not the person. of course in a good story its hard to tell the difference right? I think in a Romance I really met “failure at romancing someone.” Doesn’t that feel like death sometimes? I also really know nothing about romance style IF games. I should try one!
It suddenly dawned on me that in most games now, particularly online games, you “re-spawn” and never what I will call “die-die”. Usually death there also means missing out on the bonus item. What if there were save points? Is that viable? Maybe you loose a portion of your money? I’m starting to see that part of the issue is defining what “death” means in game. I think I personally lose interest if my choices and planned choices don’t have real positive/negative consequences that make me either *pat myself on the back or *grimace in anguish. As far as the Author making you “read their mind.” I hope that can be avoided by good description and fair placement of variable stats. In other words, in a given situation, most skills can be used to solve the problem ;and or, there are evenly dispersed stat checks in events you face overtime; and, the character is not punished unfairly for either specializing or dispersing abilities. This is very difficult of course. I found Lost Heir to handle that well. But you did not actually die in that game. Wow! So much to think about and thankyou so much everyone for adding your insight to the discussion. As they say " To each their own."

4 Likes

Nope the player, if you mess up you get hit by predator missle.

On more serious note, I do belive killing MC is viable. But more how to properly do it. Reloading constantly and starting all over again in a IF book isn’t as much interesting as in lets say for example Doom, Hotline Miami or Dishonored.

And same as with ending the book with dying MC, they could have some uncurable disease and just biding time or sacrifice themselves for greater good. Its important to make sure players don’t feel cheated

10 Likes

Yes, but if it’s in the second half of a long game I personally tend to get cranky (and sometimes rage quit if it happens more than once) unless there’s a do-over option since there’s no save/recovery system automatically built in these things unless an author writes one in for the player to use. If I’m 2 hours into a game, choose the wrong options (or worse it’s reliant on RNG’s shivers) for a fight and die, then have to start over I really don’t love it as it feels like the game isn’t respecting the player’s time. If given the option to restart the chapter though I’m cool with it. (Exception: If death is a legit and meaningful ending that’s ok, it’s more insta-deaths without recovery options that I don’t like.)

Yes and yes.
Yes it is possible to code in manual recovery saves to negate a premature death.
Yes you can add penalties to that recovery save if you want to (but have to be careful you don’t make it an unwinnable situation by doing so.)

6 Likes

Fantastic! I figured this was an option. Was hoping it was. And I think i found a clever way to do the respawn and not make it all sound ridiculous. The penalty I would like is loss of particular items, like a weapon. But as you say I need to allow for progression without said item. This is quite beyond my talent so far but I made my first loop today. Next will be sub routines. I’m trying to learn as fast as possible; learning what I need to for the story. I have to say its a pretty cool program. I can tell a lot of thought went into it. I have a friend who codes and got excited for my first loop. :joy: Baby steps

2 Likes

Nice :+1:t3:

My favorite death is the one around the beginning in Choice of the Star Captain, where you kill that stupid Lloyd. But you pretty clearly had to choose that death.

Otherwise, I don’t mind deaths as an ending. Dying as a failure mode in the middle is usually bad design (Infinity series excepted, but then you’re expecting a high difficulty mode in those games). Of course, failure modes are only a good idea if you have multiple options and roads to success, rather than “do what the author wants or it’s curtains.”

6 Likes

Most of it depends of how you die. Like some people already said, if it’s really obvious that a choice will kill you, then sure, let the player torture themselves by having to start all over again, but if you want death options littered throughout, I suppose you could lower the maximum stats every time the player dies, but that is the only ‘punishment’ I would recommend off the top of my head. Locking someone out of story content because of something they can’t control would piss a lot of people off.

Now if you want some story impact to dying, you have to treat dying as something every player will do at some point so it feels normal. Give some story reason why the MC can return from death. I always loved Shadow of Mordor/War’s respawn logic: the player is possessed by a wraith and is “banished from death.” The player dying has an in-game impact on the story.

1 Like

Yes I think restarting the chapter would suffice. To replay the prologue for example would be torture. Although I do it to get the results I want. I’m liking that most comments are story centered. What a funny concept, respecting the players time. Not many RPG games really do that. They are huge time sucks. But i think i was leaning on item loss instead of missing out on an item. As far as missing content goes, so far that’s possible all the time with nothing important left out. The story alters slightly depending on choices, which I have found to be excruciating. There is no random test for content linking. I guess I really want someone to play more than once, even if they wait before replay. And I’m not a fan of “ feeling safe.” Adventure is not safe. The books I read create stress, good stress. Psychologist call it the “ epic win” effect. If you were never troubled then there is no “ epic win” feeling

It should be possible, with a few caveats.

#1: A choice that kills you should kill you almost immediately. Don’t waste my time if I have crossed the line.

#2: It should be impossible to build a character in such a way that you will hit a certain death later on in the story. If I need 75% in one of five skills to get past the death trap, it should be impossible to hit that point without a 75% in one of them. It’s okay if a build can only get me a bad ending, but it’s not okay if a build can’t get past the midgame. Again, don’t waste my time; if I can’t get to the end of the story then pull the plug so I can try again.

#3: A choice that kills you should be a choice that’s obviously got some element of risk to it. Don’t pull a Choose Your Own Adventure thing where choosing to go the grocery store gets me killed in a car accident unless that car accident was predictable beforehand.

#4: If your game is long-ish then you should implement checkpoints so that I don’t have to redo the past hour and change of progress. Deaths should occur far enough after a checkpoint that they can be avoided somehow with the new information.

2 Likes

CoG don’t publish RPGs, they publish interactive fiction. There is no “gameplay” here besides the story. I personally won’t reread a chapter just to get to the same point, I’ll just skip everything over. If i have to do this multiple times to progress the story i will drop the book. There are better things/books that don’t waste my time.

Again this is interactive fiction not some “Hardcore survival game”. Possibility of losing items just incentivizes a “optimal” playthrough. Remember no one likes “backwards progression”. Also if you make items easy to acquire, penalty is useless. Or if items have some large impact to the story, loss of them just incentivizes restarting the story and making optimal choices to keep them. Making player waste time.

Intentionally wasting player time is bad. Mkay? This isn’t MMO where you have to stretch playtime.

I don’t think this is a medium for that. Books aren’t long enough that i can’t restart if i mess up and not get to point quickly. I doubt “Epic win” applies to interactive fiction like CoG. There can only be limited amount of approaches to any given situation of the story. And if it’s a stat based game the solution usually come down to what stats player has been focusing on.

Unless the author writes it, there can be no “Damn i failed, next time I adjust the positioning of the party” or “Gun blazing didn’t work, I’ll try the sniper rifle next”. At least for me “Epic win” demands i do something more than click choices, it requires some sort application of skill, be it mental or physical.

4 Likes

I recall that in the Heroes Rise trilogy, in the second game specifically, you could retry if you failed at a minor cost to your overall hero rating at the end of the story, which was not difficult to bounce back from at all - it just sucked to have it happen.