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Lord Vectra

Dead characters? Too maby deaths? Consequences?

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I have three questions

 

Does the death of your favorite character make you lose interest in the game?

 

Can there be too many deaths in a game?

 

How do you feel about a game that has consequences on what happens and the fact that it can possibly lead to the death of a team mate?

For example, you're doing this quest. You get a person that can possibly be your team mate after this mission but, if you lose to the boss, main character will be saved by the new person, except the new person dies protecting main character. So the battle continues and all allies health goes back to full(except for the one that dies).

 

What do you think?

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1. That depends, if the story's still good, I would probably continue.

 

2. That also depends, killing off characters just for the sake of it would seem a bit weird, and the player will get used to it. They will think something like, "Oh, this dude's gonna die, I just know it."

 

3. I'm fine with that, would feel realistic.

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6 deaths is a tragedy, 6 million is a statistic.

In that sense, death is kinda like a jumpscare. It's poignant when there's one, when there's more than one it loses value. Killing a single character, or a small number of them is a great way to highlight the dangers of the world - especially is it's a senseless or unceremonious death and there's been stories where everyone dies before, but unless that's the tone you are explicitly going for there is no way you can make repeated deaths carry weight as it goes on.

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Oh man, what a topic. I've got some fairly strong opinions on how this should be handled, because in some cases I feel like it can make or break a game -- at least for me it did once.

 

Does the death of your favorite character make you lose interest in the game?

 

To some degree, yes. I remember in Mass Effect you had to make a choice on who had to end up dying during one of the missions, either Kaidan or Ashley. I really enjoyed having both of the characters in the story as they had some interesting values and opinions that I felt were important to continue with. I wasn't as big of a fan of some of the other side-characters, so this was a huge choice for me. After picking I definitely felt that my choice had impact and consequence, but I didn't feel like it was justified. That actually ruined the series for me, even though I still enjoy playing it from time to time.

 

If you're going to kill off a character in your game, give it some reason. Try to give the player the ability to save the character or postpone their passing unless you explicitly intend to kill them off for good reason.

 

My game is going to be chalk full of tragedy and hardships. There are definitely going to be some life or death choices that the player has to make but I want to handle it in a way that will make the player feel like these events are either justified or preventable.

 

Can there be too many deaths in a game?

 

If we're talking in a general way, then yes it's definitely possible. Technically if you had every character the player met just fall over and die then I would imagine they would end up losing interest in the story. Anything side-characters say would probably become devalued and the player would lose their emotional connection. That said, not pressing the fact that there are consequences sets a different tone for the game. It all depends on your game and what story you have, as well as the message you're trying to send.

 

How do you feel about a game that has consequences on what happens and the fact that it can possibly lead to the death of a team mate?

 

I feel like a lot of developers are now pushing the idea of freedom of choice and having consequences, though it's a subject that has to be handled extremely carefully. Characters should only be disposable if it helps make the game's story more intriguing, or to add depth to another character by giving them emotions to react with. Old RPGs usually didn't have extremely serious ultimatums, so that's something to consider. 

 

Talking about financial costs..

 

So if you do decide to kill off a character you'll have to accommodate for the fact that any extra art you've made for them will likely go unused after their death. It's a fairly important trade-off if you're dealing with a tight budget. If you intend to leave the option of their death open then you have the ability to keep using their art if their death is postponed or prevented.

 

What else to consider?

 

Treat this subject as you would in reality. It's a sensitive subject because people who have lost loved ones in their lives can relate to tragedies on a deeper level than some others. You're not just trying to press an issue on a player by making a character die, you want them to feel emotionally connected. If a player feels like their choices were justified then you've proven your point and won't force them to hate your game over an event. If you've accomplished that, then you've probably got a sure-fire win of a story.

 

For example, you're doing this quest. You get a person that can possibly be your team mate after this mission but, if you lose to the boss, main character will be saved by the new person, except the new person dies protecting main character. So the battle continues and all allies health goes back to full(except for the one that dies).

 

Personally I don't feel like this is a good way to handle the death of a character. It's not particularly original or thought inducing, it's forcing the player to feel emotions for a character that they may not have even liked. Replacing a character shortly after someone dies can easily make the player forget that they existed at all. If the player has explicit control over the outcome of a tragedy then it will almost definitely hold more impact.

 

This also confused me a little. Do you mean that the one that was KO'd will remain KO'd until after the battle is completely over? If you leave the player the option to save them then I think it's a decent way to handle it.

Edited by CVincent

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There's a problem with permadeaths. In certain games, like Fire Emblem, all deaths are permadeaths, save a rare few characters who have plot relevance, and just get wounded to the point where they'll basically never walk again. The point of this was probably to keep you on your toes, but I would never let anyone die, and would hard reset whenever that happened.

 

Maybe if you can disable saving during most of the game, having a save point at the end of each chapter, and only quicksaves for the rest? That way, you'd lose a lot of progress if you tried to save everyone. Wouldn't be for everyone, but it might work.

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Seconding the above sentiment. Using the death of a character as a punishment for failure, especially a playable character, just encourages save scumming. Being able to save a life as a bonus for fulfilling certain conditions can run the risk of the same thing, but on the whole feels a lot better for the player. For instance, take your impossible battle in which the bonus character dies protecting the player. The first couple of playthroughs, the player is basically guaranteed to make this sacrifice. But, by means of New Game +, a hidden sidequest, or a combination of sheer luck and skill, it's possible to save the other character. Once they've finally pulled it off, the player feels like they've accomplished something impossible, instead of just living up to the game's expectations.

 

Another character can potentially be a game-breaker, so if the player is already good enough to do the impossible, it's important to reward them but not too much. Half-Life had areas in which it was possible to save scientists and guards, which could grant access to bonus ammo and weapons, but the rescued characters could only follow the player up to a certain point. Similar allowances need to be made for one fewer character. If you don't know how many people the player will have in their party at any one time, you need to balance the game so that it's playable no matter what the party setup is.

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To sum it up briefly, too much of anything in a game will make it lose it's initial shock factor or impact. Too much death, destruction, crazy flashy graphics for every skill are a few things that personally bug me with games.

 

You have to have life to appreciate death, lightheartedness to appreciate despair, humble beginnings to appreciate progress and hard earned power. Anyway, too much of death takes away from the impact death should have.

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Death of a favourite character shouldn't make much difference, truthfully. It's very unlikely that a single character was all that made the game enjoyable. Don't worry on that score, just make sure that all the characters get good lines and are interesting.

 

No, there can't be too many deaths in a game. There is no magic number of fatalities that is 'best', it depends totally on the style and themes of the narrative.

 

In general, there are two kinds of deaths in RPGs;

 

1. Deaths that are necessary to the narrative ('necessary' as in progression). The classic example is Aeris, but also the heroes village being wiped out, a mentor sacrificing themselves etc. The point of this is to add tension to the story, provide impetus to the protagonists, redirect the plot and further characterise the surviving characters be they hero or villain. 

 

The key thing to consider is how you want the player to react to the death, and this isn't a simple matter of 'I want them to be sad'. If you want them to truly hate the villain then make them the focus of the death scene. Over a decade later I still remember this scene from Suikoden 2

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The villager is nothing to me, but Luca Blight's sadistic cruelty made her death memorable and emotionally affecting; I hated that guy.

 

But that's not the only emotional response you can want the player to have. Killing the heroes village should almost be downplayed, because the point is that it is sending the hero on their adventure; the player wants to move on to the game. So having the hero mourn and be sad and take the tragedy seriously, paradoxically, works against the story. Better to have them swear vengeance, remember their mothers words and move on.

 

The other key thing to remember is don't have a girl die so a boy can get motivated. That's such a boring cliche, it's rooted in misogyny and it has to stop. At this point I'll put a game down if that shit happens.

 

2. Deaths based on player choices. This is potentially far more interesting, but as with any player decisions the trick is to reward them no matter what they choose. This can be tricky to get your head around, I'd say examine Alpha Protocol for a perfect example of it in practise. 

 

As an aside, your idea of beating a boss to save a character is one I'd be wary of. Most players will just reload until they win the fight because that's just how we're built.

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Does the death of your favorite character make you lose interest in the game?
It depends on the story and how fast somebody will die. If you do that in a correct time and stuff like that it can make game even more interesting. For example I'll use "Digital Devil Saga 2", where 

Everybody dies, including main character. (But that is not the end of them. :D)

I was like "WHAT? WHY?" and I was more interested into the game to reveal what will happen next. Of course I liked every character, since you're getting into characters in the first part of the game.
Can there be too many deaths in a game?

Well... Same example as above, I had nothing against what happened in that game.
How do you feel about a game that has consequences on what happens and the fact that it can possibly lead to the death of a team mate?

I personally don't like it, but it also depends on a game. Most of the time in these games I'm making multiple saves to prevent losing characters, because of my stupidity or something like that. If someone has to die, then it should be more unexpected and making the story more interesting, than punishing players for something. I don't like permanent deaths that I've caused. When I have a favorite character and I'll make him die, I'll simply load game and try again. It COULD be good, but it should be well planned, than just losing characters one by one, because someone is not that good in game.

Edited by Rikifive

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Somewhere Andew Hussie has just doubled over in laugher. Probably George R.R. Martin too but I never watched that Game of Thrones thing.

 

But seriously, the question I always have to ask is: Is there actually a point to killing off characters? I mean a real one, not just a half-assed way to up the drama to try and get the player invested. I am sure you can make the case that there is for a lot of stories, I mean that there are  stories that really genuinely need someone to die to make their point or make sense. I don't think very many dark gritty war stories are going to get very far if death is not hanging over it somewhere, but then again I don't tend to like those types of stories very much. It just makes it hard to care about the story when it is so unpleasant. (Warning TVTropes, yadda yadda.)

 

I guess I am just skeptical about the need to torment and kill off characters. I don't think stories that just go right for "teh feels" and never let up are necessarily better stories because of it. There are a few notable well crafted examples I enjoy, but honestly I think it's more a matter of how well the story is written rather then it's content. Even so I would say that, for the most part, one or two deaths is all you really need. Don't drown a story with it or it will just lose all impact.

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Does the death of your favorite character make you lose interest in the game?

Yes and no.

A favorite character is often a good and strong reason to continue playing, but they're not the sole reason, usually. Unless the writing is weak and the plot not compelling, I would continue. Make each character's death count. Make the deaths make the player want to see to the end of the quest.

 

Can there be too many deaths in a game?

It depends on the story... In a way, no, but at the same time yes.

Like someone pointed out before, the more deaths the less impact on you. After a while, the player becomes accustomed to anticipating the deaths and that would distance them from the game emotionally. At the same time, springing 3 character deaths in 2 cutscenes might leave most in a bit of a shock, probably.

 

How do you feel about a game that has consequences on what happens and the fact that it can possibly lead to the death of a team mate?

I personally feel like so long as there is a GOOD point to this, I wouldn't mind it. Like... Do know that teammates are really important, as the players bond to them most, so you have to make each death count. If possible, make the death preventable? Eg, if the player pays enough attention they can prevent it. I think it would make more impact on the player, because they're involved with the moment. They become part of it.

 

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I don't like having a lot playable characters die in an RPG. The more customized the characters can be, the less I like it. If I spend a significant amount of time leveling and developing a character and they die, I feel like, "Well that was a waste of time." 

 

I do like the idea of game choices causing a character to die or otherwise leave a party. The first Dragon Age did that well. I ended up somewhere way off the default story line. One character left my party, but he was replaced with someone who was actually a level higher and had slighter better armor. (Spoiler?)There was also an assassin who joins you during the game who you are forced to kill.

He's not in the party for too long. Long enough that it seems like he'll be there permanently so his betray is a twist, but short enough that you don't spend eleventy-billion hours leveling him for nothing.

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I don't like having a lot playable characters die in an RPG. The more customized the characters can be, the less I like it. If I spend a significant amount of time leveling and developing a character and they die, I feel like, "Well that was a waste of time." 

 

I do like the idea of game choices causing a character to die or otherwise leave a party. The first Dragon Age did that well. I ended up somewhere way off the default story line. One character left my party, but he was replaced with someone who was actually a level higher and had slighter better armor. (Spoiler?)There was also an assassin who joins you during the game who you are forced to kill.

He's not in the party for too long. Long enough that it seems like he'll be there permanently so his betray is a twist, but short enough that you don't spend eleventy-billion hours leveling him for nothing.

Dragon Age does have a lot of sad stories but it's well-written. The assassin guy, I heard if you become bestfriends with him BEFORE he betrayys you then he won't betray you.

 

Everyone, thanx for your feedback.

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