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Design Elements: Death

Death and the save-reload-die sequence and why I don't like it.

I could probably write a whole blog on this alone but I’m gonna make a short post now. The primary method of advancing in almost any games these days is save, attack, die, refine tactics, load, in one long repeating loop. I don’t think theres a lot wrong with it, but there are so many other ways of dealing with failure that it has become absurd. In games without freedom of tactical choice, this simply becomes save, attack, die, hope you aim better next time, load, which is even more unappealing. A game with no consequences for making mistakes is an interactive story, but surely some people can come up with a better way to punish the player for failure.

Rather than player failure causing the end of the world/line/game over, how about some real consequences for your actions. If the whole game was structured this way, and emotional/narrative consequences were compelling enough, a game where the player succeeds at every mission without “dying” could feel rewarding. Now most games these days are gamey enough to make real player punishment a necessity, but there are other ways to do this besides taking up more of his time. And failure should be instructive. The player should know why they failed and what behaviors they need to change to alter the outcome. In a tactical game, they should have to adjust tactics. In a twitch game, simply practice more at the game (there should be some way to do this rather than grinding away at the same difficult encounter over and over) or adjust the difficulty curve so the player can barely beat the current encounter and modify every encounter later in the game to reflect this. To put it simply, the save-die-load cycle is about as original and exciting as the bald space marine protagonist.

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