Permadeath in World of Darkness Online?

At The Grand Masquerade a panel was held post-announcement to give the attendees a chance to tell CCP what they’d like to see in World of Darkness Online. CCP staffer Justin Achilli’s notes on those desires can be found HERE.

There’s some interesting ideas in there along with generic items like “not a WoW clone.” But something buried in the list is creating a bit of hubbub in certain quarters – the mention of permadeath.

Now, remember that this is a list of stuff random people would like to see and not stuff CCP is thinking of including. Permadeath in particular is something that a scattering of potential players of every in-development game say they want included. I say they’re deluded, and I’ll get to why.

First, though, I should point out that every MMO or which I’m aware already has a mechanism for permadeath: if you get killed, delete the character. There are folks who play like this in every game, and I’m even aware of at least one guild that has a mandatory policy to this effect. I have nothing against the idea personally – I think it’s a fair way to play, if that’s what you like – and although I’m not sure I’d want to, I wouldn’t absolutely rule out the idea either.

The vast, vast majority of MMO players would hate playing that way, though – and they’d stay away from an MMO that featured mandatory permadeath in droves. CCP, like every other MMO development studio, would like players to actually play their game. So I can state with total confidence that although nobody has specifically denied that permadeath will be a feature in WoDO, the game will not in fact include it in any way other than that which already exists in every other MMO. It’s simply impossible to take the idea seriously.

Now this is a feature that a vanishingly small but vocal minority say they want. Just like people say they want something different from WoW, and then when something comes along that is, they make excuses for staying away from it because it doesn’t conform to their WoW-influenced expectations of what an MMO is supposed to be. There are also people who say they want free-for-all PvP, but then make excuses for staying away from games that support it. This is the same kind of thing – there are people that say they want permadeath, but would hate it if it were actually forced on them.

There’s a difference between having a permadeath option (that is, again, already there by default,) and having it be mandatory. Certainly, most people who dabble with the idea also have characters that they don’t delete when they get killed. Forcing permadeath on everybody will disincentivize people from actually doing anything that would put an established character at risk. This isn’t something you want in a type of game that rewards ongoing player involvement, and makes its living from ongoing monthly fees.

While it’s far to say that one wants permadeath in a game (there are some folks who prefer to play that way,) it would be monumentally stupid for a development studio to include it in an MMO. The overwhelming majority of people would hate it, and would flee from such a game like they’re on fire. I am absolutely certain that CCP isn’t stupid enough to put this in their game in any form other than the default option.

The actual line from Justin’s blog reads “Permadeath. Server type preference?” That makes me think that the attendee who mentioned it is familiar with WoW/EQ-style MMOs but not with CCP’s established offering, EVE Online. I expect WoDO to be shardless in a generally similar way to EVE, and thus the idea of separate permadeath servers (something else that gets brought up whenever this ridiculous notion is floated,) is impractical. Even if it were, and WoDO turns out to be a multiple-shard game, I suspect that the number of people who would actually play with permadeath, especially after their first loss of an established character, is so small that such a server would be doomed to an eternally ultra-low population.