Why MMO Death Blows & 4 Ways To Make It Interesting

Want to find out more ways that the MMO genre can be improved? Check out the rest of our series on fixing broken MMO mechanics!

Death. It’s something we all think about at some point in our lives, and our gaming lives are no different. Death in videogames is a system of complex rewards and punishments, often with no real rhyme or reason. Some games smack you across the face with permadeath, others give you a light push back to a generous checkpoint. And when players look at the harshness of punishment for death in games, one viewpoint always wins out: strong punishment for death is “hardcore.”

MMOs are no different. World of Warcraft has perhaps the most notorious death mechanic in that you simply have to run back to your body or accept a durability loss. Earlier MMO games were a lot more strict in their punishment of character death, with some even removing levels and XP from the character that dies. A recent contingent of MMOs – such as Realm of the Mad God or (in theory) Wizardry Online – smack the player with permanent death if they manage to lose all their health. With death running the gamut from no consequence to the ultimate consequence, is death in MMOs fine?

Of course not. Death in MMOs is plagued by conflicting design purposes and awkward implementation. There’s a huge variety of ways for you to die, but character death is not always the fault of the player. Punishments flip between too severe and not severe enough, and they usually force the player to spend more time in-game without giving them extra activities. That waste of time is how death becomes extremely frustrating. It’s a big problem!

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4 Comments on Why MMO Death Blows & 4 Ways To Make It Interesting


On February 25, 2013 at 11:12 am

Nice article. Realm of the mad god i think has a pretty good system for handling death right now i think. Out of curiosity is gamefront going to continue the article series exploring mmos that are not very well know?

James Murff

On February 25, 2013 at 11:14 am


Yup! I don’t have one planned for this week, but I do have a few more planned. If you’d like to share some personal favorites of the obscure MMOs, feel free to leave some comments on the other post with titles and I’ll look into them.


On February 25, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Sweet. I’m generally not big on the mmo crowd. But something about certain mmo’s keep drawing me back.


On February 27, 2013 at 5:55 am

I know everyone hates that game, but in Star Wars the Old Republic, if you die, you have 3 ways to revive, the first is return to the last and closest safe area you visited, the second is waiting some time and revive on the spot and the last one is be revived by a group member, but this use a skill and it has a cooldown, so if your team dies a lot, you will end in the inavility to use this for a little time (like 10 mins).
I played some mmo┬┤s but i really like this way of penalty for got yourself killed and it can be used to learn how to beat a powerfull enemy or how to make your way in a fight with a boss.