On Dying at Sea

Hi everyone!

I've seen a couple of threads over the last two weeks about permadeath at sea and I wanted to talk a little bit on how our thinking on this topic as changed, so here goes!

The reason we want death to be a big risk on the seas is two fold. At the most basic level, dying at sea doesn't work well with our spirit walk mechanic: When your body is at the bottom of the ocean more than a kilometer down, how do you get to it as a spirit, and once you do, how do you get back to somewhere without just drowning again?

On a slightly more abstract level: Nothing makes the world smaller than easy travel. It's true on Earth and its true for every online gameworld I've ever experienced. When travel is easy, a vast majority of the world's contents are just "stuff to be ignored while you travel" and you end up, without even meaning to, diminishing your own experience which, to be clear, we see as bad.

It can be hella convenient to travel quickly and easily, but that's not the same thing as "good" for a game. In the real world, we like to mitigate risk and save time, but games aren't the real world and we can't consider them as the same, even if we want them to feel similar. That sort of harkens back to the thing you'll see me say from time to time, "Verisimilitude > Veracity," where I basically mean "with games it's better to feel real than be real because a lot of what is real isn't really fun. But the feel of accomplishment that successfully dealing with 'realness' brings is pretty much the best there is, so if you can feel real while still cutting out all the unfun bits, you've made a good experience."

So our thinking was "We can't let "stepping off a boat and drowning" shortcut travel in any way, because you'd both foreshorten the sense of the world's size, and you'd also step away from any sense of water travel being "real" in a useful sense. This is what led us to the idea that drowning in deep water should result in permadeath. It kept the seas dangerous, which is definitely something we wanted, and it prevented any "I don't want to sail back, so I'll just jump off and die-teleport back home" nonsense that some death mechanics can inadvertently incentivize.

However, permadeath is a very harsh penalty. We definitely know that. And so we've been talking off and on about how to handle that for, sheesh, the last year or so? For a long time, at any rate. I'm sure the conversation actually even precedes my time here; I'm really just talking about my part in it. Anyway, the point is, we know it's harsh and we've been looking at other possibilities.

One such possibility is the idea that instead of dying permanently, when you drown you'll black out, as if you had been CDG'd. At that point the currents will take you, and if you're close enough to another shore, your body will wash up there, and your spirit will also appear somewhere in the same area, allowing you to complete your spirit walk, When you do you'll come to wherever you ended up, with no ship to get you home.

In that way, there's still some risk and you can't actually predict where you'll end up, so its "fast travel" ability is severely reduced, and it's still very dangerous since you could find yourself stranded. At the same time, you're potentially not so afraid of losing your character and your legacy that you're afraid to set out on the water at all.

Anyway, it's just an example of the sorts of things we're considering. I'm not really trying to sell you on any one particular approach. Rather, I'm taking a moment to explain that we're open to changing this to soften the penalty, but we do have a few factors we need to consider that still necessitate a certain level of "harshness." This isn't me saying "we're doing away with harsh penalties for water death" - just that the form those penalties take could change.

Thanks for reading, hope that helps! :)

  • Snipehunter
6/10/2019 8:27:55 PM #1

hrmmm - i like the blackout/CDG respawn aspect

I would suggest making those currents (for the purpose of the respawn only) RNG otherwise folks will metagame and figure at what point in the journey they can simply 'walk the plank' and fast travel to their intended destination

have them respawn as a shipwrecked type person with nothing on them except perhaps their tattered rags that they washed ashore in

also introduce it after the new continents have been discovered so prevent folks metagaming the discovery of those

and maybe make it an RNG where it is 50% chance of permadeath or of respawning to help head off those wanting to random fast travel

6/10/2019 8:48:35 PM #2

What we need to keep in mind is that there are no fingerprints deep underwater. Nothing can tie one to a crime.

6/10/2019 8:50:32 PM #3

Snipe, that mechanic of blacking out and being carried away to wash up on a shore somewhere, is exactly what I'd like! Combine it with Perma-Death if you're still to far out, and you've got the makings of epic nautical tales! Marooned sailors, awash on foreign shores, desert islands, or even just washing up in a village somewhere with tales to tell!

That kind of thing adds a lot of value to players like me. I was never worried about perma-death at sea before, as its part of the risk I assume in being a sailor, but having the chance to survive and wash up somewhere, thus starting an epic quest to get back, is the real adventure I'm thirsting for!

I really like that idea, and I hope a form of it survives the design process!

6/10/2019 8:52:14 PM #4

I like having a variable approach to it imo.

If you go under and you have heavy plate armor on, there is next to no way you are surviving.

If you go under and a ship was torn to bits with you, maybe wake up on the debris all titanic style? And then you can figure out what to do from that, but it's Something.

And then of course, if you are within a certain distance from land, and not super heavy, you have a chance to wash up ashore somewhere.

I mean really, I just like the permadeath mechanic tbh. It needs to be something dangerous, and something that is hard to endure. Finding that new continent should be the holy grail of sea faring, and the harder it is to get there, the better it is when you do.

6/10/2019 8:52:35 PM #5

I support the possibility of being washed onto shores, even foreign ones. I am not sure if spirit walking should be a thing in the ocean at all. Maybe when people spirit walk in the Ocean it should ignore location and be a different trial, one that changes and that resembles a cross between Ocean+Space+Soul, a place near the Akashic Records. For similar reasons some people have drowned themselves in real life, believing the ocean to be some form of well of souls. Unlike other things the map of it could be relatively small, a loop, and only cares the distance the person travels in a direction towards a shoreline.

6/10/2019 9:06:32 PM #6

Im a huge fan of the perma eath concept.

It makes the sea something to respect and be afraid of. Wich is a good solid ground for story.

And it would also make a huge difference in the playerbase between a seadog and landlubber.

Some of the players do love the sea so much so we are prepared to pay the price to roam free there.

6/11/2019 12:08:16 AM #7

I'm in favor of dleatherus' idea of full loot drop on death at sea and making the new spawn random. Otherwise people will definitely start suiciding off boats with all of their pvp gear and showing up to pvp ready to go where ever they land.

Then you could quite literally have huge troves of real sunken treasure in the depths of the sea.

6/11/2019 12:26:45 AM #8

I would simply add that you cannot wash up on an undiscovered continent - if the currents would put you on YoruLand, you permadie until that fateful day when someone makes it there alive.

Otherwise, yes sailing as far as you go and rolling the dice would be a "discovery mechanic" lol.

Oh and another possibility - you are found by Selkies, and are trapped in Oceanus' domain watching fish until they thow you out back onto a beach - which should always be back on your starting continent as the Selkies boot you out of their ocean, but never be close to a major city because those are scary and dangerous for Selkies.

Link to my story

6/11/2019 1:21:37 AM #9

It would be fair to make the distance from the coast directly influence the spirit loss of drowning. This makes exploring far off the coast much more dangerous, while simple travel routes would be less so.

In either case, losing most/all personal items seems fair. This significant monetary loss makes sea travel risky in any case without needed to buy a spark every time you jump ship.

I guess this would let people drop their equipment and swim for shore, ultimately blood-porting. But, you still pay for the chance to do so with spirit loss and can't bring your gear.

6/11/2019 2:30:30 AM #10

Posted By Lady Grace at 08:26 AM - Tue Jun 11 2019

I would simply add that you cannot wash up on an undiscovered continent - if the currents would put you on YoruLand, you permadie until that fateful day when someone makes it there alive.

Otherwise, yes sailing as far as you go and rolling the dice would be a "discovery mechanic" lol.

Oh and another possibility - you are found by Selkies, and are trapped in Oceanus' domain watching fish until they thow you out back onto a beach - which should always be back on your starting continent as the Selkies boot you out of their ocean, but never be close to a major city because those are scary and dangerous for Selkies.

I'd actually argue that you wash up randomly on any land, even undiscovered land. This way, it is not so easy to know where you ended up and simply jump on discord and ask some friends to come get you.

it would then be up to the stranded survivor to either make that place their new home, or perhaps build a raft and try to get back, which may lead them on an adventure to discover even more land

6/11/2019 3:00:58 AM #11

Thanks Snipe!

For me, I will always prefer the situation with the most gravity to it... so, leaving shore and knowing for certain that I'm dead if something goes wrong appeals to me :) It makes the gold at the end of that particular rainbow that much shinier!

However, I do think there are some opportunities for washing up somewhere... (always the 'closest'? 'random'? etc) with some great stories of survival to follow!

Although, if most players end up near-drowning, washed up and then presented with the inevitable battle to survive and make it across the content back home - just to ultimately die again anyway - would that "feel bad" in the wrong kinda way?

I dunno, lots to process! I know I've always appreciated your design philosophies on these topics, so as far as I'm concerned we're in the best hands we could hope to be in!


World Class Indoorsman

6/11/2019 3:14:32 AM #12

Love the idea. Washing up on distant shores etc. actually maintains the risk, but potentially adds lots of fun scenarios.

Also foreign navies risk having their people wash up scattered in enemy regions, leading to capture, prisoner exchanges etc. as a possibility during war.

I can see a lot of exciting potential for it, without it being easy to exploit.

6/11/2019 3:26:13 AM #13

That's an interesting thought, washing up on some unknown/known island. If it's uninhabitable, to some, that's basically perma death anyway. Since they wouldn't have the survival skills to last long. While would be cool if there was a chance, for the whole crew to wash up on the same island.

That does make me wonder, if there are any islands in between the starting continent and the undiscovered ones. Or if it's just unending sea.

If you did go with this idea, would still need to make it a rare chance. Or you just get people jumping overboard to discover islands. Which people would just create alts to do it.

6/11/2019 3:50:05 AM #14

I have always loved the idea of Permadeath at deep sea. I mean, I do understand that many people don't like games that have a super harsh penalty like that...but seriously...being in the ocean with nothing around you to keep you afloat, eat or drink, that's pretty much a death sentence. Considering the huge rewards that traveling to other continents will provide, I really do hope the permadeath at deep sea stays.

Maybe a 10% survival rate if you have floating debris to cling to or something, but nothing that strongly mitigates it. Just my two cents.

-The largest cause of war is selfishness. The hardest thing to achieve in life is mutual selflessness.

Friend Code CD4DE7

6/11/2019 3:56:38 AM #15

I think there needs to be a chance of permadeath, simply to deter suicide for advantage that so many have mentioned. In my comments on the subject, I've always mentioned the risk of permadeath, because I never saw it as a certainty from the subject's point of view.

The limitation on information transfer to the rest of the community is also a powerful deterrent to abuse. It simply doesn't matter to have discovered another continent if there is no way of determining exactly where you are. The discovery credit should only go to those who report it to the general community using entirely in-game means. Discord communication will exist, but will merely serve to register the existence of habitable (or maybe not so habitable) land somewhere in the general vicinity. Unless the character so marooned has substantial cartography and navigation skills, and is able to tell time with chronometric accuracy without benefit of said instrument, he will have no idea where he is within the rough boundaries of, say, a duchy.

This brings up a side issue that I've been mulling for a while. Will the horizon on Elyria be proportional to the sized of the Elyrian world, or will it by artifice or fudge be similar to what it is on earth? If it is proportional, actually sighting land at any distance will be rather difficult. Seasoned seafarers might be able to detect land over the horizon by presence of cloud formations, types of birds nearby, etc., but landlubbers should mostly be totally clueless.

P.S., don't forget about krakens!

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