Tuesday, June 21, 2011

All Ways to Punish Players

If we were to brainstorm all possible ways to punish players what would we come up with? Scrusi already started it in a recent comment.

(a) Loss of some accumulated value. Be it gear, money, experience, points, what have you.
(b) Loss of time. Corpse run, restart at a save point, etc.
(c) Temporary reduction of character strength.
(d) Loss of real world money. (Insert coin to continue)

Later, Azuriel, in a comment, proposed (e) embarrassment as yet another option. I think that's a very creative idea. Has any larger MMORPG actually ever tried that?

I want to add two:
(f) symbolic punishment, like very small gold fees.
(g) To end the current adventure without encouraging the player to immediately start another try. This requires some extra work to shape a player mentality, otherwise it becomes a loss-of-time.

Syl adds:
(h) (temporarily) restricted access to content

Jesse adds
(j) Loss of in-game social contacts. Very innovative.

A few more from myself:
(k) Your NPC enemies grow stronger
(l) Your guild/social group suffers
(m) Your in-game adversaries (players) are rewarded
(n) Permadeath


  1. I like that suggestion. It would be fun to have some kind of "social currency" that could be earned, and traded. Think how great it would be if the asshats in the world were TRULY SHUNNED for what they were; if you ended up grouping with them, downvote them. Give them a -1 "notoriety point". Overtime, those people would be forced to either a) suffer in MMO solitude, or b) endure a series of quests (arduous ones) that teach them the error of their ways (ie., educate them on whatever they did wrong, based on the types of votes they got).

    That would be fun! Otherwise, I'm all for serious death penalties in my MMOs. Corpse runs were a pain, but the added danger they created made EQ much more fun.

  2. If I think back on WoW as an example, the only real punishment worth mentioning to me would be the "loss/restriction of content access". I think this is a very fundamental loss and something players truly resented about the big raids, gated instances and atunements - so of course Blizzard changed it.

    naturally, I loved the way it was before.

  3. Ah, that's a good point, Syl.

    h) (Temporary) Restricted access to content.

  4. Embarrassment. Not to be confused with notoriety, which some players still find a matter of pride)

    An example is Asian-based MMOs make a habit of posting the character names of players who were caught hacking and were subsequently banned, thus using embarrassment as a deterrent.

  5. The oldest and the most reliable one: physical pain.

  6. Loss of Friends. It's not likely to appear in a live game, but what about a random friend/guild mate disappearing for a week. They are still playing the game, but you can't see and interact with them. Loss of Reputation. Killing certain mobs may give you reputation, but being killed by them would make you look like a bit of a loser.

  7. Hehe, thanks Ephemeron. I also thought about the company hiring a death squad to take you out. Or founding Scientology. Let's keep it within the framework of the game, though ;)

    Jesse, (j) Loss of in-game contacts. Very innovative.

    Loss of reputation that you can re-grind is already covered, I think. It's loss of time/some accumulated value.

    A few more from myself:
    (k) Your NPC enemies grow stronger
    (l) Your guild/social group suffers
    (m) Your in-game adversaries (players) are rewarded
    (n) deletion of character was still missing;

  8. Along the lines of embarassment, a long time ago I had suggested temporary titles depending on the action.

    For example, instead of a deserter debuff, give the person the title "Deserter of his Friends" and then make that name/title bright and flash over his head. Logging out won't get rid of it, you can only shake off the title after 3 hours of in-game, active play time. Etc...

  9. Kind of a bizzare subject, but I'll bite :)

    I only count the ideas posted so far which don't also drain the fun from the game. Afterall, the point of "punishment" is to penalize the player for bad decisions. Not make him feel like a worthless person not worthy of chatting with friends or worthy of seeing more of the designers content (intentional lockouts).

    1. I think in early WoW, rapid respawn timers were an interesting penalty. Like it or not, it truly penalized your lack of skill. If you couldn't get through the mobs quickly, you did it again until you were fast enough to clear straight through the boss which kept them from spawning again. Complain about the trash needing more flavor, but the actual mechanism penalized bad/slow players by forcing them to become efficient at clearing.

    2. Experience loss itself isn't a bad penalty, it's just the idea is somewhat flawed (what's the explanation for why I no longer have powers I once did? amnesia?).

    3. (f) in the above is on to something. If a rare creature threatens the player and the player attempts to vanquish him, but fails, then the creature despawns for X number of hours/days/weeks. This has the down side of not allowing the player to practice on him, but a major upside exists as well. you can encourage the player through this mechanism to study the creature through quests, objects, and interaction with other players so that he is better prepared next time.

    4. Surprisingly no one has mentioned this, but gating mechanisms. This is a pre-penalty/punishment. Gating mechanisms bar players from even viewing the content until they have the requisite skill/items. It's a pre-penalty because the game is telling you you're not good enough before you even try. Its telling you youre not worthy yet. To me this is one of the more exciting "punishments", because you become worthy once you unlock the gate.

  10. How about having to skip 24 hours worth of "dailies", or loss of access to rewards which are capped over time?

    In WoW, blue !'s disappear, or your next heroic (or raid boss kill) rewards no valor points. And you must complete one to get back the privilege.

    How about having to complete a "special" quest line (walk of shame) before you can group, or do other quests, or even access the AH or venders?

    I loved the DK questline in Stormwind when the guards would throw garbage at you when entering the city. How about public stocks in which you lost control of your char, but must stay logged in for a period of time to get out?

    A square in the opposing faction's capitol would be a good spot, and public humiliation would certainly be an entertaining option.

    It's a fun, albeit potentially savagely inappropriate concept...but what exactly are we punishing these players for again?

    Some commenters seem to be on the "unskilled" track, seeking to encourage less sloppy play. While others are thinking "social engineering" and discouraging asshattery. I'm also thinking that cool punishments would add "flavor" to an MMO.

  11. No penalty at all.

    Because the game is so immersive that you don't want to die (and there's no advantage from dying.

  12. How is that supposed to work, Kring?

    No penalty for dieng means nothing happens when you die, does it? Then .. you cannot die. God mode ?

  13. Permadeath is just (a)+(b)+(c) pushed to the extreme.

  14. > No penalty for dieng means nothing happens when
    > you die, does it? Then .. you cannot die. God mode ?

    Ah, good point. Didn't think that through. :)

    When I leveled my first char in WoW I tried everything to not die. The world was immersive enough for me that my natural survival instinct kicked in. The existence or non-existence of in-game DP didn't matter at that point as I didn't want to die.

    You're right, death must have an effect or it's nonexistent.

    But the will to not die should/could/might come from immersion and not from a mathematical calculation taking a numeric penalty into consideration.

  15. Edawan, if you are emotionally invested into your character, it's more than that.

    Kring, real world is basically a game without death penalty. You have just no idea what happens when you die and have extreme fear of dieing.
    You do see what happens to other people when they die, but you will never be able to experience it, or be annoyed by it ;)

    It works. I will eventually write a post on why permadeath is not immersive.

  16. How about slowing-down as a punishment?

    What I mean by this is that both you and the mobs have reduced DPS, but the same overall health.

    e.g. a stacking debuff that reduces both incoming and outgoing damage by 10% per death (decaying at one per hour).

    The idea is that it gives people more thinking time to move out of fire etc, but makes the whole game just take longer.

  17. And what if we punish player by rewarding them ? Give them more power, add more health, etc... The last Devil May Cry on PC do this : you lose ? I give you more Ability points and this time you will be able to kill him !
    This way, you will also separate good player from time-eater gamer. Beat every dungeon at level ten shows how you are really good !