Author Topic: Why I hate the term "Permadeath"  (Read 19184 times)

keithburgun

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Why I hate the term "Permadeath"
« on: May 10, 2013, 03:25:07 AM »
This is bound to get some interesting responses from my fellow roguelike developers... but, I hate this term, "permadeath".  I explain it fully here, and I'd love to hear some of your responses.

http://keithburgun.net/why-i-hate-the-term-permadeath/

guest509

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Re: Why I hate the term "Permadeath"
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2013, 04:01:07 AM »
Well then I h8 you Keith, you can go to...wait...okay you have a point here...

For those not wanting to read he's saying that we shouldn't even need to say that permadeath is a feature of games, but rather that should be the default in games where appropriate. No need to list it. You don't list it as a feature in Tetris. You don't list it as a feature in Galaga. You don't list it as a feature in civilization.

Also you don't list it as a feature in Zelda, or Final Fantasy. Narrative games don't need to list the feature "You can't Actually Lose" because everyone assumes a story game doesn't feature challenge or loss. It's about immersion and love and puppies and other shit I could could give a fuck about.

Personally I want to know if it's permadeath. Because I want to know if I want to play it or not.  >:(


kraflab

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Re: Why I hate the term "Permadeath"
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2013, 04:08:15 AM »
It's a modifier for a genre that doesn't have it by default.  So I could say I made a turn-based rpg with permadeath to mean the same thing as saying I made a roguelike (assuming the underlying system is turn-based rpg).  We've actually talked a lot about this on here lately.  I agree that removing permadeath makes it a different genre, so it should be assumed.  The problem is not that developers list permadeath as a feature, but that there are developers that don't mention that they don't have it, causing people who do to need to clarify that their game is actually correctly categorized.

I do disagree about your claim that competitive strategy needs permadeath.  The problem is you are assuming vertical growth.  If growth is horizontal there should be a way to maintain strategy but also persistence.  I think loss is important, but total loss is certainly not.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2013, 04:13:08 AM by kraflab »

keithburgun

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Re: Why I hate the term "Permadeath"
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2013, 07:47:45 AM »
I do agree that there's some practical application for it, in the way you've mentioned.  But, it still bothers me because it's more of a REQUIREMENT than it is some "freak property", which is how it's generally talked about.

I prefer the expression "you can lose in this game."

Vanguard

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Re: Why I hate the term "Permadeath"
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2013, 08:28:13 AM »
I prefer the expression "you can lose in this game."

It's so strange to me that this isn't the norm anymore.

Ex

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Re: Why I hate the term "Permadeath"
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2013, 08:46:11 AM »
I disagree. There's pretty much two sides you can look at the term from. Either the side of supporting permadeath, or the side of opposing permadeath. The side for support is probably going to not like the term for the reasons that you listed. The side that doesn't support permadeath, including myself, is going to look at it differently. However, the term was probably created by people who supported it, so there is that. And the term has also been around so long that it'll probably never change.

Anyway, I don't like permadeath, and in my games I'll never include it. None of the games that I grew up on and loved the most (aside from roguelikes) used it. Not one. But I encourage you all to put it in your games if you believe in it.

It's also a very small feature to exclude something from being a roguelike over. If you take nethack, and you add saved games (that don't get deleted), it's still a roguelike. The people who savescum essentially do this, but nethack is still a roguelike.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2013, 08:55:50 AM by Elig »

zasvid

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Re: Why I hate the term "Permadeath"
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2013, 10:16:32 AM »
Overall I agree with the premise, but not the details. After decrying "Permadeath" as a term the article went on to use it and as I understood only in the meaning of "you can lose and go back to beginning" in opposition to "you can save at any time". And I vehemently disagree with portraying such a duality and further mapping it to another duality of competitive strategy (CS) vs non-competitive non-strategy (NCNS). What really matters (and the article mentions that) is decisions and the fact that they can't be done over. This is what's truly essential to CS (Cf. Princess Maker, including its roguelike version) and I'd argue that there are at least some NCNSes (most cRPGs, such as Bioware's) that could greatly benefit from enforcing decision permanence in a playthrough (and as the article points out, getting rid of death altogether), but not for the same reasons as CSes.

Etinarg

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Re: Why I hate the term "Permadeath"
« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2013, 10:57:51 AM »
Diablo II had "softcore" and "hardcore" modes, and I must say I find the term "permadeath" much clearer than "hardcore mode". It's been coined for roguelikes, and the term is pretty old, also well known.

I'm not sure how many RPGs have permadeath, some have "failed resurection" or such, which also kills a character permanently. "The Bards Tale" (Atari ST version) had a temple where you could bring dead characters to, and the priests tried to revive them for a good amount of gold. The attempt failed at times, and then the chracter was permanently dead. So even there "permadeath" made sense, and distinguished the final end of a character from the normal game "death".

If it is seen as an important feature sure depends on the player. I played Diablo II both in hardcore and softcore modes and it didn't make that much difference to me, but eventually I preferred softcore mode. Depending on my mood and how much I feel attached to a character, I also back up my roguelike save games (if a game allows that), so I can cheat "permadeath" in roguelikes.

To me the term is alright, describes the feature correctly, is also well known, and IMO it should be a players choice if they want to play this way or not. But I've got used to that roguelikes see it as an important feature, and that having it as default sets roguelikes somehwat apart from other RPGs. (But IMO there are other features which contribute more to the roguelike feeling of game than permadeath.)
« Last Edit: May 10, 2013, 11:00:53 AM by Hajo »

kraflab

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Re: Why I hate the term "Permadeath"
« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2013, 11:39:22 PM »
I prefer the expression "you can lose in this game."

I guess we need a better, catchy term that can convey this idea.  The problem though is that everyone can recognize what permadeath means, while new/better terms will potentially confuse people (and leave them wondering if you meant permadeath or not).

The heart of the problem, where some people think that permadeath is a "small feature" (in this thread even!), is something that is very difficult to fix.  I tend to think that some people "just don't get it", but that isn't a satisfying explanation for me.  We need a way to convince people the importance of it, why its inclusion is so fundamental.  Education breeds change.

The trouble is that a person can erroneously play a game identically with and without permadeath and come away from it thinking that the permadeath was meaningless (due to their own poor playstyle/tactics).  I don't know how to properly intimate the difference to such a person, and I also don't want to get into a discussion on "intended" or "ideal" ways to play a game.

I think anyone who spends the time and manages to beat a roguelike with permadeath can immediately realize the incredible difference in sensation compared to beating a game without permanent loss.  When there is no permanent loss the game has no tension, actions are meaningless.

Vanguard

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Re: Why I hate the term "Permadeath"
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2013, 09:58:42 AM »
The heart of the problem, where some people think that permadeath is a "small feature" (in this thread even!), is something that is very difficult to fix.  I tend to think that some people "just don't get it", but that isn't a satisfying explanation for me.  We need a way to convince people the importance of it, why its inclusion is so fundamental.  Education breeds change.

Most people who play games believe they should be at least somewhat challenging.  The thing is, a huge number of successful, mainstream games offer no challenge whatsoever.  The reason isn't because the enemies are too weak, the player too strong, resources overly abundant, or anything like that.  It's because you can save and load whenever you want.

Most people don't realize how thoroughly that destroys a game's difficulty.  Too many gamers have no exposure to genuinely challenging single player games.  And for someone who doesn't understand how genuinely difficult games work, permadeath doesn't make any sense.  It looks like utter masochism with no payoff.

Ex

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Re: Why I hate the term "Permadeath"
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2013, 12:20:14 PM »
The thing is, a huge number of successful, mainstream games offer no challenge whatsoever.
As you say, those games are successful and mainstream... It's hard to argue that successful mainstream games are doing something majorly wrong when they're successful and mainstream. I understand that you and many other gamers want games to be harder, but there is an equally large if not much larger group that likes the ease of difficulty that mainstream games provide. If most players really disliked saving and loading as much as you say then it wouldn't be a feature of virtually every successful mainstream game, and the games that had it wouldn't be successful and mainstream.

This isn't an all or nothing situation, anyone is free to put permadeath in their games or not. There's not a lot of point in arguing for it or against it because everyone can make their games however they like. If you like permadeath then implement it, if not then don't. If people really want permadeath, then your games are bound to be more successful than other games that lack it.

Vanguard

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Re: Why I hate the term "Permadeath"
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2013, 01:24:15 PM »
Ok.  But let's recognize that this goes beyond "ease of difficulty" and into the territory of "literally impossible to lose."

I don't even mind that people are enjoying those kinds of games.  I understand that Wind Waker is too hard for some and DoDonPachi is too easy for others.  None of that is a problem.

The problem is that our terminology has become so distorted that "normal difficulty" now means something any living human being with functional eyes and hands can complete, and whatever lies beyond is masochism.  That's the problem I was getting at.  If these things were widely recognized for what they are, and the mainstream knew what a genuinely difficult games were like, I think there'd be more interest in challenging games, including permadeath games.

I disagree with your premise anyway.  It's easy to argue that mainstream games are doing a lot of things wrong, so long as you see them as games meant to be played, rather than business products meant to be sold.  Popularity and financial success are poor indicators of quality.

jim

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Re: Why I hate the term "Permadeath"
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2013, 05:41:56 PM »
I guess it's a weird, small part of a much larger discussion - there's very little appetite for any form of entertainment that doesn't offer instant, continual, unconditional gratification with very little risk of loss. As those standards for entertainment increasingly become the norm, activities (or games) that do not offer this instant gratification become alienated from the mainstream, endangered, sometimes all but extinct.

The argument can be made that this is an indicator of a bad trend, since there are a great number of activities that are incredibly rewarding after a great deal of initally fruitless struggle. It's probably not a bridge too far to suggest that a reduced appetite for serious setbacks on the road to success does not bode particularly well for humanity.

Krice

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Re: Why I hate the term "Permadeath"
« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2013, 08:33:09 PM »
I don't know what that article was about. Permadeath is a feature of a roguelike. So? What is the problem. Let me answer for you: you are the problem.

Ex

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Re: Why I hate the term "Permadeath"
« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2013, 09:53:56 PM »
Popularity and financial success are poor indicators of quality.
I think that most game developers want their games to be popular and financially successful. Most game devs probably spend a lot of time trying to make their games popular and financially successful.
I don't know what that article was about. Permadeath is a feature of a roguelike. So? What is the problem. Let me answer for you: you are the problem.
There isn't a problem, as I keep saying anyone can implement it if they want to. I'm also not sure who the "you" is that you're referring to in this, and what "problem" caused by this person is.

I think you're trying to say that something without permadeath isn't a roguelike. Permadeath is a feature of roguelikes, ascii is another feature, but most people these days use tiles and we don't say that roguelikes with tiles aren't roguelikes. Permadeath is a very small feature to exclude something as a roguelike over. It's a smaller feature than tiles. I'd much rather call something that doesn't use ascii "not a roguelike" than to call something without permadeath "not a roguelike."

Again though, there isn't a real problem here. It's just a matter of taste for game devs whether or not they want to put permadeath in their games.