Salem: Permadeath and open PvP

I saw a trailer for Paradox’s Salem over on Arislyn’s Tumblr page. I’d only heard a tiny bit about this upcoming MMO: basically that it took place in Colonial New England, was a sandbox game and so lots of crafting and what-not.

Now I’ve learned that it features permadeath and open PvP. The creative director, “Brother Bean” says he believes the player population will police itself and find its own balance. It’s a brave direction to take and I enthusiastically support the plan while at the same time doubt it can succeed. I’m glad I’m not investing in it, but I’m happy it is being made.

Here’s the problem with punishment in MMOs, in my opinion: it’s binary. When someone commits a crime against you, your options are: ignore the character or kill the character. There’s no other law or recourse beyond slaughter. I think for a system like Salem’s to work there needs to be the potential for some kind of (player run) police force. If you steal a chicken from your neighbor, someone should be able to forcibly take that chicken back and then make you pay some kind of fine. As it stands now the only way of doing that is to kill you and loot the chicken and fine from your corpse, which seems pretty extreme.

I’m not sure how to handle punishment in any other way. If you put a character in some kind of prison, the player is just going to log off and go do something else. Maybe some kind of tax system where a % of any wealth you pick up magically goes to whomever you’ve mistreated?

Maybe Salem will work; I’d love to be proven wrong. But there are just so many bored gamers out there who’d happily spend time to strengthen a new character just so he can then go and grief someone else. Sure, the ‘community’ will then kill him in turn, but that’s small comfort for that character’s initial victim, who now has to start over.

Hmm, maybe a semi-permadeath system where you only stay dead if the person who killed you manages to stay alive for 24 hours after the killing? And the dead has the ability to speak to the living and plead his case…

I dunno, just a random thought. What do you think? Could permadeath and open PvP ever work together?

6 thoughts on “Salem: Permadeath and open PvP

  1. Well, if they’ve gone the extra mile, then maybe they’ve come up with some kind of colonial New England-style punishment…for the digital age! Back then, it wasn’t always about “lock em up”. Considering how important every member of the town was, ostracism was HUGE. Public ridicule, too. If these could somehow find their ways into the game mechanics (really reducing their stats, allowing them to run around, but maybe they’re not SEEN by other players, or preventing them from DOING anything) it could mimic that kind of sitgma. But it’d have to be game time, not real time, to prevent the log out bypass.

  2. “Could permadeath and open PvP ever work together?”

    Not with the dominant MMO game design that has a huge power differential between new players and veterans, and permadeath is effectively just a huge time sink. (Tangentially, a sub model would *suck* for this, as death’s time sink would sting more.)

    It could work if anyone could be at full potential power in a couple of hours, tops, and a skilled newbie could kill a lazy or unskilled veteran. Or if stats were static and nobody had a power edge, only a skill edge… or if defenders got some sort of “adrenaline boost” buff… basically, if there are easy targets and little in the way of consequences for gankers, it’s going to fail.

    If bullies get beat down *hard* by NPCs and/or can’t find easy targets, and PvP is based on player skill instead of time investment, and losing a character doesn’t mean losing a month or more of playtime… it might work.

    Still… I maintain that permadeath fits a niche market *at best*. If they aren’t shooting for a wide audience, maybe they can work with a hardcore approach. I can’t help but wonder, though… what if Darkfall had permadeath?

  3. It is worth pointing out that its going to be “free” to play. Of course what “free” really means, we’ll have to wait and see.

    But Tesh, you have me thinking about an MMO where you get to max level in 30 minutes or so and character creation is really quick. Sorta like “Half Minute Heroes” for MMOs.

  4. Digressing from the primary question a little, I LOVE the idea of a colonial new england / salem witch hunt type atmosphere and scenario, with complex crafting. I want Bognor to be able to farm uber trade goods a la our our Coventry SWG days, so I can then tailor or cook high-end goods for sale, next door to the expert blacksmith that’s down from the awesome tanner, and so on. I would be willing to suffer open PvP to exist in this model, but I need some “real life” aspect to it. Like if I wander out of my home in the middle of the night, then I should take an escort or expect to be jumped. But if I wander out in the middle of the day in the middle of town, there should be a bustling population such that someone attacks me, there are a number of someone’s that will attack him/her in return. If it’s a slow player day, I would hope the server would compensate with attack-oriented NPCs. Or allow me to hire NPC escorts.

    That said, not sure I’d ever welcome a perma-death scenario. Hardcore consequences, fines, stat reduction, my belongings stolen… any of that I can work with. But essentially having my character and everything I’ve done (whether two minutes or two years) go *poof* is just not even remotely fun to me and would keep me from buying the game.

  5. Permadeath in combination with *open* PvP? That is a horrible, *horrible* idea. Consider–the victim of a griefer loses significant progress in play while the griefer pretty much loses *nothing*, since the entire purpose of that character was PK and they can just make another one and do the same thing.

    ‘Police themselves’? What a load of manure. The only way to do that is to have a group that’s as much a bunch of griefers themselves as the ones they’re trying to police–oddly, there’s been a non-MMO that’s discussed that very problem, the .hack//GU series–the whole PKs vs. PKKs thing is a major part of the plot.

    Then again…there’s also the idea that if you’re doing an open PvP setup in the first place you might as well just throw the idea of trying to do ‘normal’ play out the window anyway–dealing with your ‘fellow’ players is going to be more of a hazard than anything. I’ve already seen some complaints about this from people trying to play the PvP servers on DCUO, only to keep being ganked while trying to do basic ‘tour the city’ missions–and worse, there’s at least one mission that *specifically* sends you to beat 5 lower-level players (granted, the reward for it is complete crap buyables anyway, but still).

  6. I’ve seen several interviews with developers who think the answer to oPvP is for the players to handle it themselves. This is the mentality rolling around certain segments of the industry, so I wouldn’t expect to see anything more structured then that.

    But that’s basically anarchy; you trade in the PKs for the PKKs, who may or may not be as bad or worse then the PKs.

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