Would you give up some permadeath if it meant a stronger story and character building?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Felio, Feb 2, 2017.

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  1. Felio

    Felio Here To Help

    I loved Memento, it is my favorite part of the story, but it was only possible because Lily can't die. Any content made for a character that can die is content the player may never see. As a result, our survivors feel more like Pokémon we have collected than people.

    And maybe that's OK because it is just the kind of game SOD wants to be.

    Would a more impactful story be worth giving up permadeath? I will start with the assumption that a better story would be a very good thing. It would be to me. So what is the value of permadeath?

    I like the permadeath, in theory. Or at least I did. I restarted twice after someone in the starting trio died, though, and it wasn't fun. And it doesn't mean anything now that I know how to back up and restore my saves. I do it in case one of the three dies again or I fail a mission I can't repeat. I don't think I'd have the discipline to not resurrect someone else though.

    Really it is the threat of permadeath that makes it fun. Once it actually happens, there is no way of knowing how the player will take it. Depending on circumstances, it can even be a "just quit playing" experience.

    Can we have that pressure, that threat, without actually pulling the trigger? People could still be badly maimed and take a real-world week and a lot of medicine to recover. Rucksack retrieval could be replaced with injured person retrieval.

    Or maybe permadeath stays and there could just be more characters like Lily -- invincible but not playable. We would just have to be prevented from using them in combat (in the field or by kiting enemies to them) which limits the writing but it would be something.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2017
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  2. DJB204

    DJB204 Famous

    The group is our character, and I think UL is working on building the groups character.For example: Our group leaders will be decided by us, every leader will have their own agendas. Our group will also have a reputation based on our choices, and we will manage relationships with other groups that can fluctuate between friendly and hostile depending on our choices. The outcomes of these choices create a story unique to each playthrough.

    If you view the group as your character, there is a lot of character building and personal story telling going on. Permadeath is part of these stories.
  3. CaptainAssassin

    CaptainAssassin Here To Help

    Not interested in nerfing permadeath. No way.

    Besides, the 'Memento' mission was just a fetch quest; and with the necessary audio, it could be made into it's own type of 'personal request' mission— that any survivor could offer. Version-A you retrieve whatever item they asked for solo, or version-B, they accompany you.
    Kid Kayole, MrsFish, Hendo003 and 4 others like this.
  4. Aaron V

    Aaron V Famous

    No. Permadeath is one of the core aspects of SoD, it wouldn't be SoD without it. More NPC missions with stories that actually have wider arcs and come to an actual conclusion would be welcome, e.g. the Wilkersons and Judge Lawten. Sacrificing permadeath for player characters, just to advance their "personal" storyline, would ruin that aspect and devalue another core aspect, community.
    Kid Kayole, MrsFish, rebel36 and 5 others like this.
  5. Blackthorne

    Blackthorne Here To Help

    Complete agreement with the replies against changes to permadeath; it forces you to focus on the group and not the individual characters. Sure, you can grow very attached to one character - especially one that you've spent time maxxing out their stats for - but the game is about trying to maintain a cohesive society in the apocalypse.

    It's all about the many instead of the one *takes off Spock ears* ;)

    I honestly can't think of a way of doing so without ruining the game experience in the long run. Once the players realise that the threat of imminent character demise is all but an illusion then it changes their perspective on how they treat their community, they'll start hunting for/implementing exploits so that the damage doesn't register and turns their current toon into a hax wrecking machine...

    ... and worst of all; it would eventually make the game boring in my opinion.

    I'd be all for it being an option, or a mod, but not as part of the standard set-up. It would take too much away from the spirit of the game for me.
    MrsFish, rebel36, Bob Crees and 5 others like this.
  6. Doomen Gloom

    Doomen Gloom Famous

    I like the permadeath it give you the sense of dread needed in a zombie game.
    Kid Kayole, rebel36, Cejao and 2 others like this.
  7. Mike.

    Mike. Starting Off

    The permanent death is what makes this zombie survival stand out from the rest.

    I remember my first playthrough after getting to the church and taking Ed out to scavenge nearby. Still new to the game I just assumed I would die and revert to a checkpoint or lastsave. Nope I died and Ed was gone for the whole game, which meant that one careless choice I made effected the character and the group throughout the game. Instead of having writen character stories the player writes the story. Which I found to be much more entertaining for this game.
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  8. Alan Gunderson

    Alan Gunderson Here To Help

    I'd like to refer to two games that come to mind when it comes to balancing permadeath and story.

    Until Dawn is a make-your-choice multi-protagonist horror game that doesn't have a game over screen. If you fail the wrong QTE, fail to save your friend or make the wrong choice that results in your death, the game just continues on and if you try to reload the game it will be almost right where you left off. However, in ways similar to State of Decay, the game was not short because every character can only die past a certain point in their story until the game is beaten.

    Translated to State of Decay, characters like Alan, Will, Jacob and Sam all have their own individual quests before they either die or can become a friend.

    State of Decay isn't as story-heavy as Until Dawn, but Until Dawn still managed to have "permadeath" (no game overs until the game is over).

    That said, State of Decay has well over one-hundred survivors and it is impossible to see all of them in a single playthrough without exploiting the bugs or mechanics to interchange survivors. So instead, they gave them the generated quests and backstory.

    The second game I'd like to refer to is Dead State. It kind of has permadeath, but for everyone that isn't the main character. Dead State is a crappy game in general but it has an all-star story. Events in the story will happen (or not happen) based on who is alive in your group and how they are allied with the character. Unfortunately this is cut-and-dry for a lot of important questlines (Clifford's evolution into a potential pervert won't happen if Amy either died or was never recruited to begin with, alternatively if Clifford isn't in your group Amy just kind of sits in your base with next to no events that involve her otherwise).

    This is permadeath that directly affects the story but it is done wrong, since there is no "contingency plan" for if certain characters are dead... some stuff just doesn't happen. Then there are characters like Jodie which present the player with somebody who brings a new load of baggage to the table (he is a young teenage boy with Asperger's, obsessed with cars and just wants his brother to "come pick me up") but they literally never created a questline or competent dialogue for him to have any real development on. And this is bad considering he is indeed a usable character with the same weight in the group as anyone else, which is just how the game works.

    So in State of Decay, permadeath:story was probably handled better than Dead State since any playable character can activate the next mission or spawn missions of their own.

    Point is, there is a lot of work that comes with making permadeath work but it by no means has to drag the story down with it's existence.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2017
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  9. Furie

    Furie Here To Help

    I think a better way is to build storylines that either go on regardless of character or that work with the systems.

    Perhaps character X is taken out of the playable roster for the duration of their storyline, as they appear as a companion instead. Perhaps that storyline is what unlocks them as playable, with some minor events later on that they might come across while you're playing as them. That would allow the main storylines to play out without a chance of missing them, but then have extras that you can find related to them but that are missable. To be honest, I'm not as fond of that idea as this next one, but I do see a place for it in the game if the stories demand.

    That's one way to play it. Another would be to have storylines related to the community itself, or to people with specific traits. It'd hit all Trumbull Locals hard that Mrs Jenkins who ran the soup kitchen got turned, after all. While all with a soldier background might get a shock and extra scene when they come across the first soldier zombies and proof the military lost. These work best with minor storylines, but there are ways to build on that. Perhaps those traits can evolve in that first event, putting the character in a new role (Soldier becomes Wounded Veteran for example) that opens new events to them or when they're in the team as well as new dialogue in common situations.

    The good part about this second idea is that different roles might affect later missions in unexpected ways. Someone with a Soldier trait might show up to save you in Mission X so long as they're in your community, but leave you for dead in Mission Y as the odds are against your survival anyway. A Wounded Veteran might be afraid to see anyone die and show up in a lot more situations, including some that put him in a lot more danger and result in you working harder to keep him alive. This way the overall storyline changes subtly based on what your characters have been through, and with the use of a few triggers any mission might play out in many different ways.

    Finally there's the stories that the players make. With a few well designed dialogues that depend both on the situation (having to take time in the hospital for example, or needing to catch up on sleep in the bunkhouse) and traits, and a few small scripted events that can run as part of the simulation (run into a Bandit at an unlooted store and you might be mugged/have a fight for food/both have to back away) and everything will feel part of the story. And that's really the aim of the game here; a meld of freeplay and scripted that works in such a way that the player feels like the whole lot was tailored to them.
  10. SomeRandomGuy

    SomeRandomGuy Famous

    A story that has major characters that actually have a major part in it would be nice, but then what do you do if one of those characters dies? SoD did the best it could with what it had (and what it had was the 2GB XBLA limit) so there probably wasn't any room for branching stories based on who lived and who died. I mean, you could have Marcus, Ed, and Maya all die within the first few minutes of reaching the Church and the game basically goes on like they had never been there at all.

    There are, however, games that do have permadeath and branching stories based on who lives, who dies, and who you never managed to recruit. And there are games like This War of Mine that have a scenario that changes a bit depending on who is in your group. But these games all have one thing in common, the characters are premade and the only element of randomness is which ones you get. SoD is full of random characters that don't really have a backstory and are just there to fill a spot in your roster, it doesn't really matter if Joe Bob the taxidermist gets his face eaten by a Feral because nobody really knew him unless you RP it yourself.....and that's one of the things that makes SoD good, you make your own story. I had one BD game where literally every other person I recruited in level1 had the same last name. By the time I decided it was time to move to level 2 I had (no joke) something like 8 people with that same last name, and many of them with bad traits that I'd normally leave behind (pack a day, asthma, psychopath, etc.) but that time I left the good people behind and took that bunch as if they had been told they were being left behind and stole the RV in response. Don't mess with the Altman family.

    It's moments like that you just can't have in other games that feature premade characters.
  11. Rock33B

    Rock33B Here To Help

    I'm all for permanent death. Makes it more realistic, and it makes you really feel bad when you make a poor decision and it cost the life of 1 or more of your survivors.

    I would really like to see the backstory traits actually have a use in the next game.
  12. CaptainAssassin

    CaptainAssassin Here To Help

    I think the thread title itself is paradoxical. Removing the threat of death... in a zombie apocalypse... would only serve to dilute or disparage character development. It needs that element of permanence in the game. From a player's perspective, the feature puts them in a seemingly uncomfortable position— there's no reloading, no correcting fatal mistakes, no do-overs. You screw up, somebody dies and you have to live with it. Hell, you might even go thru all five stages of loss like in real life— albeit a much lower dosage over a shorter time, but it's the same formula.
  13. rebel36

    rebel36 Famous

    I don't think you need to sacrifice permadeath in order to have a longer story or deeper character development. They can co-exist within the same game. The main difference, as someone else previously pointed out, is that the community is the real character you play or create. In most RPG games you play as the hero character. You create the character and all his/her traits, skills, looks and so forth. It may take hours to get the final character you want. Naturally after all this you become very attached to this hero character that you are going to take on numerous adventures through this game. Now imagine if there was permadeath in this type of game. Your character dies, there is no save point or do over. What would your reaction be? Pissed. Quit the game. This is why most RPG games allow a method for you to continue. Permadeath doesn't fit most RPG game styles but it is what makes State of Decay stand out and unique. It works in State of Decay because you don't have one central hero character but play as a community of people. We all have our favorite characters, but the game will not end if one of them dies. It only ends if we can somehow manage to kill off our entire community. Which could happen, I suppose. If a character dies, we don't quit or give up. Life (the game) goes on. We may be upset at losing someone, but other characters may need to step up and be developed. I think this could make for some strong story telling and character/community development.:)
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2017
  14. CharlieChainsaw

    CharlieChainsaw Here To Help

    I love the permadeath aspect. Makes it so much more devastating when I lose a character I've spent so much time building up and grown to love. That being said, I'm not opposed to a couple of characters being immune to it if they had story specific missions. But I'd also think it would be better to make general generic stories/missions that can be carried out with any character. In case one dies. Either way, I'd be happy.
  15. PhDPeddler

    PhDPeddler Here To Help

    It is my fault for not reading all of the OP so with that said permadeath should not be touched....ever.

    I love the story to SoD but will take perma over story any day.
  16. Dolbs79

    Dolbs79 Got Your Back

    Hi Guys. Permadeath is one of the things that made this game stand out to me. To water it down in anyway would take from the game. The Memento Mission for me is just to add some extra emotion to the storyline. Permadeath needs to be left in completely in my opinion.
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  17. lamoi

    lamoi Got Your Back

    No...... I think we'll keep perma death and forsake some mediocre story.

    There's soooo many games that are exactly the same! I'm so bored of the same $hite.. Let's keep a unique game - UNIQUE!

    Dare to be different and stay true to your vision Undeadlabs!!

    What is people's obsession with story? I personally want to play a game.

    You want more story go watch a movie, or go play the Witcher 3, the Last of us....

    State of Decay really isn't that kind of game, if anything it's a RTS/survival simulator.

    Perma death is what made State of Decay such a tense, interesting and unique experience. Most games don't have perma-death, and you know what, you don't really care about the NPC's in these games ... The stories in these games want you to care, but you don't really. As soon as you understand the NPC cannot die - you treat them differently, casually, it's only natural. Why not send them on suicide mission, because who cares? They can't die!
    Where as if the NPC can die it creates a radically different dynamic and there will grow a real attachment to the NPC. This makes for a far more meaningful experience, and it radiates through the who game.
    It facilitates player created stories, which are far richer!

    I personally hated when Bethesda made Followers in Fallout 4 'essential' - they could not die. It ruined it. Totally destroyed that dynamic.

    The way to tackle story and perma death is like Bethesda's Radiant Ai... a story or mission can be assigned through multiple NPC's.
    So if Jack was meant to give you a story mission, but Jack dies before giving the mission, then that same mission can be given through Bob or another NPC etc.
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  18. Vanilla

    Vanilla Here To Help

    No way. Perma death is integral to State of decay.

    Why not have both?

    Potential character development with the risk of them dying would make players try harder to keep their community alive. And if then they lose someone it would be even more devastating.
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  19. Erudain

    Erudain Here To Help

    Because then you'll have a bunch of babies crying because they didn't get to see the whole story of a character because it died.
    Reminds me a little of SWTOR.....where you got huge screens "WARNING!! killing this companion will be a permanent choice" or "WARNING starting this chapter will make previous companions unavailable" and players still complained later on the forums because they killed their prefered companion...

    Edit: just to not sound like a douche, I'd love to have your idea, perma death and character story quest at the risk of missing them if that character died, just that I don't see it happening for what I said above, probably more people will be mad than those who'd like it
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  20. Vanilla

    Vanilla Here To Help

    I get your point and no you don't sound like a douche. But this recent mention of dynamic narrative from Jeff Strain sounds a little bit like more character development with each individuals agendas, impulses and ideas.
    So having both may be possible, We'll have to wait and see.
    Bob Crees and rebel36 like this.
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