MAKING GAME OVERS ENGAGING

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LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6003
I'm thinking about ideas for making game overs into something more than "try the same thing again." Something that adds to the excitement and fun, instead of just postponing it. Something that prevents frustration, but not by skipping the challenge or making the player feel awful; something that's still satisfying.

I don't think punishing the player more for their death, by itself, accomplishes this; Everquest and Dragon Quest and FF11 all take away gold or EXP, and many games have equipment repairs you have to pay for. This adds stakes to surviving, making death feel less shallow, but doesn't do anything positive for the game AFTER the player dies.

Roguelikes are built around this concept but I'm wondering how it could be done in a JRPG or WRPG with a traditional story campaign.

Dark Souls succeeds, kinda, at least better than most games. It creates a new objective each time the player dies: go get all your EXP that's in a dangerous spot. That's cool. It's like another game mode! That's fun, it's engaging! Doesn't happen when the player dies to a boss though, which sucks.

Rogue Legacy takes a totally different approach that also works. The player can only level up when they die. I wonder how well this would work in a non-roguelike. The goal of trying to get as far as possible without dying would feel like a challenge brought on by the player's pride instead of by the pressure of punishment when they fail. And leveling up is already interesting in most games - you choose stat point allocations and skill upgrades and talent trees and so forth - so deaths would feel interesting and engaging as long as the player gained enough EXP to do something. Again, though, this works poorly in boss fights, unless the player has to redo the whole dungeon each time. If they just refight the boss and die again, they earn no EXP.

More ideas! Give me more!
pianotm
The TM is for Totally Magical.
29202
Or you can skip the game over entirely and go to the previous save.
This is a bit of a crutch for if a player is struggling, but some King of Fighters games allowed the player to choose a temporary bonus after losing a match to the AI and continuing. More attack, more defence, enemy starts with less life... these advantages aren't so strong that winning is certain but they do give a small leg-up, and of course the player can choose "no bonus" if they want to do it with no help.

I found it nice to be given the option of a small advantage to help you get past a tricky spot. I can see it working in a game that lets you restart battles if you die.

City of Heroes didn't take anything away from you for dying, but it did give EXP Debt, where half the XP you earned was put towards paying off the debt and you got to keep the other half. It sounds like it sucked but it wasn't that bad given how easily XP could flow in that game.

Hm, perhaps a game could be made where dying was the only way to proceed - say you need to travel between the nine circles of hell, and dying is the only way to get to the next circle. You'd want to gain as many levels and items as you could in your current circle, so you'd be ready to face the next circle after you deliberately die. Dying too early would make levelling in the next circle more challenging or just too difficult, making you completely unable to handle further circles or the final boss. So there would need to be some way to go back to circles you left accidentally, and you pay a penalty for travelling back there when you get there.

But this all sounds rather grindy and I don't know what kind of penalty for returning to a previous circle would be good... hm...
Level up upon death is an idea I was going to use in my game. I did not know that it was already done before. One idea I had is that how much you level up depends on how badly you lost. :p (Although the real point of this is so the game knows if you gave up prematurely or lost on purpose)

In theory it makes balancing a game a lot easier, which is one of the biggest draws for having it.
NeverSilent
Got any Dexreth amulets?
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Especially in games that are supposed to be fast-paced, skipping the Game Over like pianotm suggested and simply giving the player another shot right away seems like the most functional and player-friendly option. This is especially true for games where the player is pretty much expected to lose a lot, for example because the focus of the game is about finding and executing a solution to a specific challenge with great precision, and then moving on to the next.

However, in more slow-paced games with a focus on story, exploration or experimentation, I personally like the idea of incorporating Game Overs into the game's workings themselves. One example I once saw and really enjoyed was a game where every time you died, a different message from an NPC would appear. Depending on the circumstances and total number of your Game Overs, it would comment on your death, encourage you to continue, berate you for your failure, or give you tips on how to proceed. This made losing feel much less frustrating and even fun in a way, because it meant you got to see new content even upon failing. I could even see this working to the point where curious players would feel encouraged to lose on purpose at certain points, just in order to see how the game reacts to it.

Granted, all this does little to make Game Overs interesting purely in terms of gameplay.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6003
author=pianotm
Or you can skip the game over entirely and go to the previous save.
That's what I'm trying to avoid. Just turning back time and making the player do the exact same thing again. There's nothing wrong with it, but this topic is about alternatives.

author=geri_khan
choose a temporary bonus after losing a match
I don't feel like this adds anything new to the game. There's nothing exciting or fun about it. It succeeds at reducing the frustration for people who can't get past a section, but that's not what I'm interested in doing. It doesn't succeed at making failure just as fun as success.

author=geri_khan
Hm, perhaps a game could be made where dying was the only way to proceed - say you need to travel between the nine circles of hell, and dying is the only way to get to the next circle. You'd want to gain as many levels and items as you could in your current circle, so you'd be ready to face the next circle after you deliberately die. Dying too early would make levelling in the next circle more challenging or just too difficult, making you completely unable to handle further circles or the final boss.
This is a cool idea. You'd have to base the entire game around it, but it would totally recontextualize player death. It seems very easy to softlock the player though. If they aren't strong enough to beat the enemies, they'll die, which will put them in an even harder area where they have even less chance of winning. Meanwhile, players who have grinded enough to survive the next circle will have to intentionally kill themselves. I feel like this idea would work best as a short roguelike, where getting yourself stuck in an unwinnable game would be the expected outcome most of the time anyway. As a 20 hour JRPG it wouldn't work so well without some major changes.

author=NeverSilent
One example I once saw and really enjoyed was a game where every time you died, a different message from an NPC would appear. Depending on the circumstances and total number of your Game Overs, it would comment on your death, encourage you to continue, berate you for your failure, or give you tips on how to proceed. This made losing feel much less frustrating and even fun in a way, because it meant you got to see new content even upon failing.
Changing the narrative instead of the gameplay can work just as well to make failure interesting, I think. The idea that you get to see new content each time you fail is the real key to why this works.

I was also just reminded of Shadows of Mordor. In that game, the enemy army has an entire heirarchy that you're trying to dismantle. Every time a boss kills you, it gets a promotion, gets more territory, new guards, and so forth. If a regular enemy kills you, you find out its name and it gets promoted and becomes a low level boss.

I was also reminded of Breath of Fire 5: Dragon Quarter. If you die or get stuck in that game, there's an option to restart either from your last save point or from the beginning of the game. When you do so, you keep all of your unspent experience points, and your map stays intact. However, any you spent are lost. You also keep certain information, keys, and important items, and this changes the story in some ways if you die repeatedly, unlocking new areas, new enemies and treasures, and new cut scenes. The addition of new content only works a limited number of times, since eventually you'll unlock everything, but they did a good job of keeping things fresh up through 15 or 20 restarts. The EXP stuff is also really interesting. Having to repeatedly replay hours worth of the main story content, however, is grating, especially for your first few game overs, when you probably aren't much stronger (if any).
Corfaisus
"It's frustrating because - as much as Corf is otherwise an irredeemable person - his 2k/3 mapping is on point." ~ psy_wombats
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I liked how in Everlong, if you died, you'd be taken to Purgatory where you could buy items from Death before returning to your body. I don't know if it worked for every random encounter, but it definitely worked for chest battles and didn't for bosses (but that should be a given).
Craze
i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
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Rogue Legacy takes a totally different approach that also works. The player can only level up when they die. I wonder how well this would work in a non-roguelike. The goal of trying to get as far as possible without dying would feel like a challenge brought on by the player's pride instead of by the pressure of punishment when they fail. And leveling up is already interesting in most games - you choose stat point allocations and skill upgrades and talent trees and so forth - so deaths would feel interesting and engaging as long as the player gained enough EXP to do something. Again, though, this works poorly in boss fights, unless the player has to redo the whole dungeon each time. If they just refight the boss and die again, they earn no EXP.


rogue legacy is a terrible game because it executes the roguelight concept so poorly. (it's also just pretty boring.) it's a game about grinding out a bunch of currency for stats instead of learning the actual game. compare to, say, crypt of the necrodancer, which also has permanent upgrades (making it a roguelight instead of a roguelike) but there's so much more quality gameplay and player skill involved.

bleh. rogue legacy is a piss stain.
I once saw (though did not play) a side-scrolling shooter where, every time you die, time rewinds a little and you get to choose a new character to play until the next death. The fun part is that the previous character would still appear and do the exact movements you did while playing him, so you could take that into account and let your previous you deal with whatever you dealt with at the moment and focus on the stuff that killed .

Undertale, as part of its story, has characters, the protagonist and the game itself remember deaths, so dying or reloading a game to make a different choice usually gets some extra comments and can even unlock completely new scenes.

One of my favourite games that does something interesting with death is Transistor. The combat and character building of the game is based around Functions: basically, skills that can be equipped as either active, passive or upgrade to other skills. The thing is, when you run out of health in battle, instead of immediately dying, you lose one of your equipped skills and your health goes back to full. That skill cannot be reequipped again for some time, but the twist is that there are very few skills and skill slots, so losing even one in battle means that you have to completely change your playstyle and try new combinations of skills. This changes death from a setback to a new interesting challengue for the current battle and a new experience for the next one.
A few of the non-standard Kirby games do some things I like. You can't actually die Epic Yarn, but getting hit or in a position that would kill you in a normal game (spikes, lava, etc) makes you lose a ton of the collectable gems, which is what determines the medal you get in the level. So if you're not gunning for gold medals, it's not that big of a deal, but if you are, it's a huge pain and you may as well just start the level over. I will never get a gold against Meta Knight. Never.

Rainbow Curse actually stops and asks you if you want to advance to the next stage if you die enough times. Depending on the type of player you are, I guess you could interpret that as either a kind gesture or a slap in the face!
author=EDPVincent
I once saw (though did not play) a side-scrolling shooter where, every time you die, time rewinds a little and you get to choose a new character to play until the next death. The fun part is that the previous character would still appear and do the exact movements you did while playing him, so you could take that into account and let your previous you deal with whatever you dealt with at the moment and focus on the stuff that killed .

Undertale, as part of its story, has characters, the protagonist and the game itself remember deaths, so dying or reloading a game to make a different choice usually gets some extra comments and can even unlock completely new scenes.

One of my favourite games that does something interesting with death is Transistor. The combat and character building of the game is based around Functions: basically, skills that can be equipped as either active, passive or upgrade to other skills. The thing is, when you run out of health in battle, instead of immediately dying, you lose one of your equipped skills and your health goes back to full. That skill cannot be reequipped again for some time, but the twist is that there are very few skills and skill slots, so losing even one in battle means that you have to completely change your playstyle and try new combinations of skills. This changes death from a setback to a new interesting challengue for the current battle and a new experience for the next one.

Transistor did it really well to use different skills and combinations because of this.
Please note that using skills (as active or passive enhancement for other skills, both separately handled) also unlocks flavor text and story background from the characters or beings you got the skills from (as they basically personify someone)


I love both the change layers and otherwise flavortext ideas.
The promotion one does seem very tricky to pull off (as do other largerspanning ideas), but it would be genius and lovely to pull off for a short experience, or with limited impact and more flavor.

I agree it'd work well for roguelikes as you won't really lose your base battle prowess asa much.

@Rogue Legacy

I agree it is not the strongest focus on the roguelight elements, and I think that's part of what made it so appealing for a wider audience. It wasn't magnificent, and I didn't feel like I wanted to delve into the nitty gritty hardcore skill-development, but I did enjoy my time with it a lot and I appreciate the sense of progress.
It's not great, it's not gritty or all that involving - and that makes it relaxing and easy to chill out with which is a little rarer for the genre. I appreciate it for that.

What I do find more interesting to note about it, is that you choose your "descendant" after death who have random attribute effects - ranging from making the game a little easier, harder or completely different (like walking on the ceiling all the time), or doing nothing other than making you fart every now and then.

As well as selecting from classes with small differences in spells, health distribution and other effects.
It's just fun. It's so fun! To see lady beard XV come to life hahaha.

That made the seemingly linear progression a lot more variable and fun.

I'd love to pick up my hero's descendant in jrpgs where the great great evil takes ages to be reached anyway.
Most plots revolve around some ancient prophecy, some ancient beast stirring or some evil awakening. What's another 100 years gonna do when it's been thousands of years?

This could make for an incredibly fun narrative where you see the townfolk age and the town mature after each death a bit (it could be a cycle where at some point it repeats so there's not too much work involved when people die all over all the time).
This could also open or close certain areas while leaving the big bad evil stuff about untouched. (and the hero could, for once, have a wife or partner waiting at home.. or a mad scientist or mage who creates a semi-perfect copy of the hero through magic or "the power of science" .. to take over)
Dragnfly
Beta testers!? No, this game needs a goddamn exorcist!
1809
In Trillion, death determines the story. You're sending your subordinates out to fight an uber boss, and whichever subordinate kills it determines what ending you get. This makes NewGame+ very important.

I have a far off project that is similar in some ways. It's a strategy game where losing a battle changes the story route you're on. It's possible to "re-take" the route you came from by doing other battles. That's a long way off though and the flow chart for it is insane.

The Rosenkreuzstilette games don't help you gameplay-wise but they do give you funny gameover screens that reference other classic games.

I played one once where dying sent you to a foggy soul space where you could solve a random puzzle. How quickly you solved it determined how much of your loot you got to keep when reviving. I remember liking the puzzles more than the game because the controls were floaty as heck LOL.

author=Kylaila
The Agarest series has a generation system because the hero's soul needs to simmer and grow to be powerful enough to face the final boss. Which girl you marry only decides your son's stats and appearance though. It doesn't do the Phantasy Star 3 thing where the entire story changes. 1 and Zero are strategy RPGs and 2 is more of a traditional jRPG.
So .. how does that work gameplay wise?
I did try one game of the series once but I didn't get far (and didn't own the console, and holy crap did they have a lot of weird systems in place, with tarot cards n what).

Is that tied to gameovers? Is that a necessary story progression (like fights you can't win otherwise resulting in the next generation taking over story-wise)?
Is that anything that changes the world around you beyond your hero party?
Just having descendants appear somewhere is fun, but not quite as interesting by itself.

(also, I totally remember that dungeon crawler where you needed to send your clay-baby army into the dungeon in groups of .. 8 .. or 16? It was more a gimmick n setup-promise than a gameplay modifaction tho, and nothing to do with gameovers, naturally)
In PlaneShift, an old MMO, when you die you go to the death realm and have to find the exit to return to the normal world. Each time you do, you spawn in a progressively deeper part of the death realm and have more of an adventure finding the exit. But the place was more than a labyrinth - it had NPCs, quests, and actual content to explore.

I've also played some time traveling detective board games where a game over is part of the game play. It resets the game and you get to use all the knowledge you've accumulated from your past attempts to make better decisions and get closer to solving the case, which would be mostly impossible the first few tries.
Dragnfly
Beta testers!? No, this game needs a goddamn exorcist!
1809
Tragedy Looper?

I felt it was quite akin to Shadow of Memories, which was a cool adventure game for PSP/PS2. I think you needed to die in that to get the story to move foreward sometimes too, since you needed info gained from your death for the next loop.
Yeah, Tragedy Looper and Time Stories. Though Time Stories is more about using past information to be more efficient the next time.

I can see the concept applying to a JRPG that was thematically built around it. Say every battle in the game ended on the 6th turn when the enemies use a powerful finishing move, and the players job is to determine the conditions that let the enemy use their move and prevent them.

An example is fighting a priest, ritualist, and cultist. The cultist uses life sacrifice spells to deal heavy damage, but the priest seems to only heal the ritualist. You aren't entirely sure what will happen on the 6th turn, so you take out the cultist since he's the most threatening. The final turn comes around and the ritualists chants a spell that uses the cultist's corpse as a sacrifice and wipes the party. Game over. So now next time you have some choices - keep the cultist alive or stun the ritualist on the 6th turn. If you stun the ritualist, the priest acts first and heals him. If you keep the cultist alive, he acts first and uses a spell that sacrifices his remaining HP. Game over. Okay, now we need a new plan. Keep the cultist alive and stun him on the final turn, blocking his suicide. And so on.

Each game over the player gets stronger. Not through stats, but knowledge on what will happen.

Dragnfly
Beta testers!? No, this game needs a goddamn exorcist!
1809
Yeah, I love me some Tragedy Looperooperooperooper

author=Ramshackin
I can see the concept applying to a JRPG that was thematically built around it. Say every battle in the game ended on the 6th turn when the enemies use a powerful finishing move, and the players job is to determine the conditions that let the enemy use their move and prevent them.

There's a Sting game premise if I've ever heard one LOL

I've always liked puzzle battles. Re:Kinder was good for that. It used the RM combat system but everything relied on finding and having certain items and using them at specific times. I do things like that too in one of my upcoming projects.
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