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Dhruin February 14th, 2007 11:19

The Escapist - Killjoy
An interesting piece in the latest Escapist tackles the issue of death in games, and RPGs in particular. Titled Killjoy: How Inconsequential Death Took the Fun Out of Virtual Life, the article argues that the quick-death mechanics often found in RPGs have resulted in a culture of quick-save creeping and destroyed narrative tension:

It's tense frustration, really; at best, anxiety. The feeling is familiar to most people who have played a single-player computer RPG recently. Leading your party down a dark and mysterious cavern, your finger is poised over F2 or F5 or whatever button quicksaves. Every so often, you tap the button, watch a progress bar move, the action pauses for a moment, and then you get back to the tunnel. Suddenly, a spike thrusts up from the floor. Your wizard is dead. So it's F3 or F7, a longer pause - "LOADING" emblazoned on the screen - a hang in the music, and then the wizard's alive again, a few feet farther back. Perhaps you're wondering how your versions of the indomitable Conan, Gandalf and Robin of Locksley started dying faster than Dirk the Daring. More likely, though, you're just muttering about why developers can't find a way to speed up quickloading. It's supposed to be quick, after all.
More information.

Thaurin February 14th, 2007 11:19

Everyone plays differently and it is, in fact, your own responsibility as a gamer to decide when or how often you can save before you start killing your own fun. The thing is, the possibility is there and it is a means to something that it even worse: the unbearable frustration of having to play through the same piece of dungeon you have been through, doing the same actions, inventory management, party reforms and combat, because you are stuck on this one encounter.

Who cares if the game lets you quicksave? In the same vein, you can just as easily set the game difficulty to 'easy' or even go out and grab yourself a cheat off the internet. I've really never understood the part where "when it's part of the game, it's not cheating" anyway. You provide for your own fun and if you decide to ruin it for yourself, it is your own decision, be it by use of the quicksave button, a difficulty slider, a cheat, powerleveling, or whatever. I personally don't play games "to beat them" so I can go on the internet and boast about it, so it's a non-issue.

Except that resorting to a hint or walkthrough on the internet can become extremely addictive and since it's so easy to do these days… you run the change that you make your game essentially a chore where you follow directions. Where are the good old times where you needed to connect to a BBS and spend long minutes downloading a zipped text file with a 2400 baud modem for your walkthroughs?

Corwin February 14th, 2007 11:48

Ah, an old timer who remembers the days of dial-up BBS's!! The good old days!! :) Wish they still played BRE.

Dhruin February 14th, 2007 12:30

I don't think the point of the article is to criticise quicksaving per se, but rather the design and use of death as a "consequence" in games. And I agree. What is the point of a trap that potentially instakills, for example? The player simply reloads until they survive. Better to make death more meaningful as a gameplay element (PS:T) or find some other way of "punishing" the player for losing a battle or taking the wrong choice.

Wulf February 14th, 2007 12:45

An interesting read. Save game styles must always be determined by the dev's-gamewriters i think?
I found this site for 'older' buddies :) re: BBS and a BRE forum
(registration is required)

Corwin February 14th, 2007 13:40

Thanks Wulf, I signed up!! Inter BBS Bre leagues were a blast last century!! :)

BillSeurer February 14th, 2007 14:20

Designers design games differently that have quicksaves. Gothic 2 is a good example. I think my character died more times playing Gothic 2 than any other RPG I have ever played. They used death not as a consequence but as an indication that you weren't supposed to go somewhere yet. Turn a corner and something killed you? Whoops, reload and go a different way.

Moorkh February 14th, 2007 15:27

I for one remember instadeath traps or similar as common fare of my early crpg forays in the late 80ies. I do not remember this happening much to me anytime lately, and neither do I move down corridors with a party these days anymore. In fact, I would welcome more of that, as long as it is not just a die roll that may improve after reload but something that requires a different approach by the player in order to yield different results.

bjon045 February 14th, 2007 16:56

The worst example of this I can think of is Ultima 8. One second you are walking along and the next second the floor of the cave collapses and you fall to your death. RELOAD. Fall through the floor again due to the crappy control mechanism. UNINSTALL (at least for me).

magerette February 14th, 2007 17:58

Good article with a lot of excellent points. I don't know that I want to be unable to save, but I would like to see something besides instant death as a plot enforcer. Consequences are important, but it's more fun when they require a little more wit to resolve than pushing the quick load button.

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