It’s been a while since I talked about Setback Mechanics, and the reason I wanted to bring them up now is because I was just watching some new gameplay videos from Diablo 3. *shrug* Something about the Diablo series just reminds me how annoying it is to punished for failing in a game that makes the rules.

I’ve talked about it enough before, and I think NCSoft gets it — death is punishment enough in itself. “Why should we debuff you, take away experience, or make you run around for five minutes as a ghost instead of letting you actually play the game?” (I’m not saying they got it from me, I’m just saying I think they’re on the right track.)

Whether setbacks come in the form of death, or something else, should probably be considered on the single-player/multi-player level. It’s more difficult to take a player away from the action of an encounter to have them fight their way out of hell when there are five other people around the table. “Death” is more acceptable there.

How do you contend with someone who just doesn’t want to lose though? Good sportsmanship aside, how do you make the experience of failure meaningful (or recognizable) when someone doesn’t want to lose, ever? Part of the experience is winning, isn’t it? And it’s why you play cooperatively instead of competitively.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m frustrated when it feels like the game is letting me win. I don’t want the game master to grant me a special reprieve of death or punishment when I’ve earned my failure, and I don’t want to just reload my save when I fail to accomplish a goal — I’m looking at you, video games.

I like the idea of having to crawl back up from the ditch I’ve been dumped in, I think it lends additional drama to the gaming experience. But I also don’t want to be dumped in an arbitrary “death” ditch, I want a whole selection of ditches to choose from, if the game doesn’t specify which ditch I’m dumped in — just to mix things up a bit.

Anyway, in my previous post, I was talking about player characters manifesting a special sort of “ghost” character they could continue using while downed. I haven’t given the concept much thought since then, since I’ve been focused on developing the rest of the game’s mechanics, but I have a feeling I’ll need to come back to it soon.