Game Over – Why We Need A Cinematic Death System In Video Games

There’s a convention in video games that you wont find in any other form of media at all. I’m talking, of course, about the Game Over screen. When you’re reading a book and a character dies the book continues, when a movie character fails at something the movie continues, but in video game characters that fail or die bring the game to a premature halt and the game stops before the logical conclusion of the story. While this isn’t really a problem with puzzle games, in third person action adventure games this takes players out of the game and breaks their suspension of disbelief meaning the story essentially holds less emotion for those players. Why have video game designers relied so often on a tool that makes their carefully crafted stories have less impact on the players? The fact is that the Game Over screen has been around for so long that it’s become part of the mindset of people playing games.

A History Of Game Over

The Game Over screen is an ancient trick used by even the earliest video games. As these games were pay-per-play arcade cabinets, the developers limited the amount of lives the player had to use in the game and sent them to the Game Over screen when all lives had run out. This meant that players couldn’t just keep playing and would have to pump more coins into the arcade cabinet. Clever eh?

Eventually, as games became more complex, more power was given to the player with the introduction of health bars before the Game Over screen and being able to continue from your last checkpoint by inserting another coin, but the Game Over screen remained unchanged. As games moved from the arcade to home computers and consoles a large majority were arcade game ports or the same sort of genre as popular arcade games so the Game Over screen came with them. The feature had become cemented in people’s minds as an essential part of gaming and, even now when most games are specifically developed for consoles, it’s rare to find a game that doesn’t have a Game Over screen. The problem with this feature is that it pulls players out of the story and reminds them they’re playing a game.

So, here we are so many years after video gaming started and we’re still mostly tied to an archaic mechanic that was originally designed to get people to spend more money on games. Doesn’t that seem a little odd to you?

There have been attempts to remove the Game Over screen from gaming in the past either partly or in whole. One such attempt was the introduction of checkpoints. Put simply, when your character dies in a game with a checkpoint system you don’t see a Game Over screen. Instead your character is taken back to the last predefined checkpoint that they passed. Enemies you’ve beaten since then spring miraculously back to life, treasures you’ve found climb out of your pockets to return to where they were found, and bullets pull themselves out of enemies and put themselves back in your gun. The checkpoint system is the equivalent of God rewinding time and giving you another chance to get past what originally killed you, and it has the exact same problem that the Game Over screen has – it completely shatters the player’s suspension of disbelief and pulls them out of the game. So where do we go from here and how do we combat this problem? We need to come up with a death system that keeps you in the game world so that you aren’t dragged out to the real world and yet also makes sense within the confines of the game world.

New Ways To Die

The first thing we’ll do is have a look at how other games have innovated by building death systems into their worlds and where these games succeed compared with where they fail in their systems. There are a few big name games that are famous for their redesigned death systems amongst other things, and we’ll take a look at those to start with and see if we can draw any conclusions.

Grand Theft Auto

The Grand Theft Auto series came up with an innovative way to remove Game Overs. When the protagonist is killed in the game they’re taken to the nearest hospital in the city. A percentage of the player’s money is removed for medical charges and they lose weaponry. Another way to “die” in the game is to get arrested. When this happens the player is transported to the nearest police station in the city, their weapons are confiscated and they lose a percentage of their money as a bribe. It’s a nice system that keeps failure and death as a natural part of the game world, and adds a consequence to failing in the game, but it’s not without its flaws. If the player is on a mission their progress is completely lost and the mission is treated as if it was never started. This makes the GTA system merely an extension of the checkpoint system at the moment.

Prince Of Persia

The latest game in the Prince Of Persia series completely eradicated death in the game and built a system to explain it by having the player accompanied everywhere by a magical companion. During the game you can die in one of two ways – falling from a platform or in combat. If you fall from a platform a small cutscene plays of your companion grabbing you by the hand and then you’re replaced on the last solid ground you were standing on. As the routes in the game can be quite complex, the last solid ground can easily be twenty wall runs and death defying leaps back. The same sort of thing applies when you fall in combat. In this case your companion is so stressed by your death that she cries out and releases a massive blast of magical energy. This blast slightly rewinds time so that you’re brought back fully healed, but it also heals your opponent a little too. The strengths of this system are that it’s built directly into the story and gameworld, as well as the fact that there’s still a consequence for death. The problem is that you don’t really lose anything except a little progress in the game meaning that failure isn’t as big a problem as it should be and any sense of danger is lost.

Fable II

Now, Fable II is one of my favourite games but its death system has divided the gaming populace like nothing before it. The idea is simple enough: Add a system where being beaten in combat is part of the experience and allows players to keep playing the game. In order to do this they made it so losing all your health in the game knocked you down but not out. You’d be falling to the ground in slow motion and the music would become more dramatic. You’d lie there for a second or two then, emulating so many films, you’d get an adrenaline burst and get back up ready to fight again. All the experience you’d gained in the fight so far would be lost (disasterous in an RPG) and you’d gain a scar. That scar would stay with you throughout the rest of the game and people in towns would comment on it, supposedly injuring the pride of the player. Of course, even if you don’t play video games I’m sure you can see some of the problems with a system like this.

  • You effectively can’t die in combat meaning you enter it knowing that, no matter how many times you’re knocked down, you’ll eventually win.
  • You lose some experience due to losing a battle, but you can always gain more.
  • A lot of people just don’t care if their character is scarred or not, so they feel no real consequence for falling in battle.

Personally I play vain characters in that game so every scar is a nightmare to me and I find that the system helps to expand on the story, even if it can get repetitive. Luckily the game is quite easy so it’s very rare that a player will lose a battle, but that just adds more ammunition to those who believe it should have a Game Over screen instead of the storytelling system it currently has.

Build A Better Death System

So, here we get to the point of this article. I believe that the sort of video games that tell stories need to move beyond the Game Over screen into new territory. Failure needs to become as much a feature of the story as success is, and it’s up to designers to come up with new systems that fulfill that. As you can see from the examples I gave above, certain game designers are trying to do this but they haven’t succeeded in making a death system that fits organically into the world yet. And that’s where I come in. What follows is a set of systems that can be implemented in video games to give a more cinematic experience to failure as well as retaining the fact that failure has to have consequences or the player will feel unchallenged by the game. The examples I use to illustrate these systems are based on fantasy RPGs, and the Fable series in particular as it has a much broader scope than most other games, but the systems can work equally well for most story-telling games.

The Good Samaritan

This is pretty basic and shouldn’t be used too often. Basically when the hero loses all health they pass out and wake up in the nearest village a week or two later. A villager or guard will be nearby and explain how they found you and nursed you back to health. This can get more interesting if the character that saved you has a random chance of attacking you if you don’t offer them a reward. It’s a very basic system but, as you’ll soon see, it isn’t designed to be used every single time you die in the game.

Enemies Have Motivations Too

This one is probably the most complicated feature to design, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. Rather than having the hero be magically saved or get back up once they’ve been taken down by an enemy, the game continues along a different path depending on which enemy finished the protagonist off. Each person and creature in the world has their own motivations and these motivations are then built into missions that only start once the hero “dies”.

As an example let’s say the hero is beaten by bandits. The screen fades to black and the hero wakes up to find that they’ve been robbed of some of the items they were carrying. Now the hero has a choice between chalking it up to bad luck and going on with their lives or raiding the bandit camp to get their lost items back (some of which may very well be unique and irreplacable). A wild animal’s motivation for attacking the hero would probably be food and the beaten hero might wake up in a lair and have to fight their way out to safety, or have lost some food they were carrying. Guards will be looking to arrest you so being beaten by them would probably land you in prison, giving you a choice of spending time in jail or escaping. Attacking spirits such as banshees, ghosts and shadows may be looking for a body to possess and being beaten by one of those might mean the screen fades to black and you wake up surrounded by dead bodies (possibly including your family) and with a bounty on your head. Slavers might capture you and lead to you having to break out of their slaver camp. The list can go on and on, but the point is the same each time. By exploring the motivations behind why each enemy in the world is attacking the protagonist, a new mission type can be created and integrated into the world as both a new challenge to overcome and a way to add to the story being told without the character’s “death” interfering with the flow of that story.

Location Location Location

You’re fighting an enemy at the top of a cliff overlooking a raging river and they get the upper hand. Rather than having the generic death system take effect or even the enemy specific system this location has been set up with it’s own death system. Your health hits zero and the camera angle changes, showing you a scene of that enemy knocking you off the cliff with it’s final blow. The camera zooms in on you as you fall until you hit the river below and the screen fades to black. You wake up washed up on the bank of the river close to the entrance to the area and must make your way back through the region with some of the enemies respawned. The same idea can be used sparingly in several other dramatic locations. You might get knocked overboard while fighting on the deck of a ship and wake up on a desert island, having to find food while building a signal fire to alert passing ships for a rescue. A fight in a castle may see you knocked into position on a trapdoor that drops you down into the sewers or a dungeon.

A dramatic location specific “death” can be anything and anywhere as long as it makes sense to the location. This sort of defeat can, like the motivated enemies entry, lead to further adventures for the character and that is always a good thing.

There Are Winners And There Are Losers

This part of the system would come into effect when the hero dies while on a mission. Rather than rewinding time so the player can try the mission over again the game would just continue and the logical results of their failure in the mission would play out. For some missions this wouldn’t be needed as the other systems would take logically fill in what happens, but others would need their own epilogue to that particular story. If your mission was to protect a village from a bandit attack you might wake up in the village to find that most people are dead and the village is in ruins. A mission to capture a criminal might see the criminal escaping and you missing out on the reward. If that criminal has information crucial to the story you may well have to track him down again or even run into him by accident in a bandit camp. As long as the end of the mission can’t be handled logically by the other systems, a unique failure option built into some missions can provide even more ways for the player to experience their own unique story filled with triumphs and failures.

Write Your Own Epilogue

This final system is a little different as it’s not built around the idea of traditional game deaths, but more about providing a premature ending to the game. Remember when I said that slavers might capture you if they beat you? Well you can escape from them if you wish to, but what if you decide not to? What if you give up? That should be an official ending to the game as far as I’m concerned, complete with an ending cutscene and the credits rolling. Want to make a new life on the island you’ve washed up on instead of get rescued? Want to serve your fifty year jail time instead of escaping? A game ending cutscene follows your decision, that character is retired and the credits roll.

Now obviously this sort of option seems strange – why on earth would anyone want to end their game that way? Granted, it’s not something that suits every game type. However, more and more often in RPGs we find ourselves given an open world to play with and, once the story is over, we’re allowed to keep on playing. While this has it’s strengths in allowing you to pick up the controller and continue with your character at any point, it also leaves so many characters stranded in Limbo. I’ve lost track of how many of these types of games I’ve left with the hero just wandering the landscape. This system is suggested as a way to provide a retirement for your hero, a natural ending to their adventures.

Ah, you say, but what if I want to continue playing that character after I’ve retired him? What if some brilliant new expansion is unexpectedly released and I want my retired hero to start adventuring again? Well, here’s where you would play a redemption quest. Set X amount of months after your decision you’d play a quest to come back into the world. If you’ve been enslaved you may have to buy your freedom. Imprisoned in a dungeon? Time to escape then. On a desert island? Time to work on those raft-building skills. Even if your hero has died you could run a quest through the underworld in an attempt to regain your life. These “redemption” quests would immediately become active when you reload a retired hero and would start with a little scene looking back at the hero’s previous adventures and how they’d been retired in the first place. Then when the hero’s redemption has been won they can carry on adventuring, with their retirement and new lease on life becoming part of the story like all other defeat options mentioned here.

Of course there are plenty of other ways that games can invigorate their death systems with a little imagination. A survival horror may see you making deals with dark forces to stay alive, deals that you’ll have to repay later in the game. A spy drama may see you captured by enemy agents and having to survive a torture scene before making a daring escape. A legendary warrior may actually play as their own soul fighting their way through the underworld for a chance to be back in their own body. The options are as endless as the stories in video games, and would usually only take a little extra effort to put into the game. One thing’s for sure though, Game Over has had it’s time, and then some, so we need someone to take that next step into truly cinematic story-telling.


50 thoughts on “Game Over – Why We Need A Cinematic Death System In Video Games

  1. Wow, a huge post, I spent about 15 minutes reading it :left:I like the old fashioned GAME OVER creen but I am not a big time gamer so my opinion could not be relevant on this matter. What I wanted to say is, gamer needs "game over" screen simply because it is a drawing line between real and artificial life. It is a game and at certain point is should be over. Not to be mixed with real life. In real life, if you got smacked with an axe for instance, it is hardly that one will survive, not to mention that he will be crippled to the rest of the life. There is no way that one will survive after being shot by 20+ bullets from a short range – at least I have heard for only two cases of surviving in such occasion in a war we had here. I know you know that, but what about kids playing Mortal Combat, for instance. Some of them would start to think they are inwincible…But as I said, I might be wrong in this and it is just a fun what people need to have extended in games.GAME OVER

  2. That's true for one on one combat games, and a few other genres. But for story-telling games, in particular RPGs, it breaks the immersion in a story that has taken years to write and put together.The hero in these sorts of games should be protected by the narrative in the same way that the heroes of film and literature are. The story may end with them dying if needs be, but it wont kill them early on unless they're getting resurrected at some point. Rather there'll be a series of near misses and events that the hero barely survives through skill and a lot of luck. That's what this particular system aims to emulate, tying defeat into the actual story being told but never quite allowing the hero to die.

  3. Hmmm, you have some very interesting ideas. Some, as you say, could be very difficult to implement, but… Well, it'd be worth it.

  4. No, that was Hideo Kojima, the guy behind Metal Gear. The thing I remember most about his games is in Metal Gear Solid 3. I'd just entered a pitch black cave and put the controller down while I smoked a cigarette. As I smoked I noticed the cave getting lighter and lighter. The character's eyes were adjusting to the dark. He has lots of innovative ideas. Some pan out, some don't.

  5. Long post.. Break up. . . Long posts. . . Mik. . .Listen. . . . Err.. :left: right..Sounds like some pretty good ideas right there but then by allowing anyone to end a game wherever would probably spark the replayability issue though it will also become tedious especially for someone like me who would like to see every little option. This is my reason for replaying a game usually. But having a too many choices or options throughout would seem daunting after a bit.Example would be Splinter Cell Double Agent that I finished a while back.You choose to be bad and get people killed or you do the opposite. Usually I just play through and that's the end but wanting to know the alternate ending you see why I played the other way.Metal Gear was the same and you ended up with Mel?? or the guy. Err I think. Just had to play again.Now laden with so many choices I'd want to save before my choice and then choose one to see what happens then be able to come back to my save to take the alternate route.Prompting to save would take you out of your little world wouldn't it?

  6. I keep games to see every little option, knowing I'll be going back to them and choosing what I feel like doing at that point. Makes them last longer and be worth more money. As someone who saves to retry options you'd probably be in the opposite camp to me in this battle, so I'm declaring you a traitor and having you sent to the cats for dissection.Over two years after the original Mass Effect came out, and just before the sequel came out, I found an option I hadn't found in the original before. The more options, the more personal the experience can be for each player.As for prompting to save, it wouldn't be an issue under this system. The world would exist with a 3D GUI built into it, so no menu screens would get in the way. Want to save? Go to sleep or something and you'll wake up after saving, with loading waking you up after your sleep. With a more interactive world and less to take you out of the game, choices would merely become ways to make your current playthrough more personal.

  7. True, that particular option isn't suited to most games. There's a series called Way Of The Samurai that thrives on it though. Each game lasts about four hours from start to finish, but there are dozens of endings and the game is played in pseudo-realtime. When you enter an area, things happen in the other areas as if you were there but couldn't stop them. From the first choice you make in the game, you're making allies and enemies you may not have known existed in other playthroughs. As the games are so short they work well.The option is added in to show that some games can have death (or exile or whatever) as a player-chosen epilogue to their adventure instead of a way to prematurely end the game. In the full piece there's details on having those endings being mentioned in future playthroughs as if they were other characters of the time who simply failed their mission, making previous playthroughs a part of the experience too, although I'm still unsure about that feature so I'm thinking of cutting it.

  8. A game to me is like a flick or book. I wanna be enthralled by the ending and the middleparts just take me to there so the journey is the pleasure.Most things not having a replay value except alternate endings is a rather tedious affair as having to go through a few hours of shit to just change one little thing to see a cutscene you couldn't because you chose another path.Now of course having to make alot of choices to have a specific ending sounds great but gameplay should be that different too for me to the level that nothing feels familiar and you just know where those last suckers were ambushing you.I get what you mean with and it's all good.Damnit. Massive dose of dΓ© ja vΓΉ now as I answered a gaming post of yours on same spot watching the same series.

  9. πŸ˜† Yeah, I get what you mean. Different series have pioneered different systems that can help each play seem different.Last generation's Call of Cthulhu game had sprawling levels and spawned enemies in the same places, but then the enemies went hunting for you with varying results. Different things, like the AI noticing a certain weapon had been taken, could tip them off to your location in or path through a level and get them on your tail again.The Left 4 Dead series has specific spawn points for items and enemies, but changes which are used for each playthrough. Furthermore a horde of zombies can come rushing at you if the AI thinks you're taking too long in an area, or an uber powerful boss can spawn if you've got lots of health and ammo. Conversely, if you've got low health and ammo you may find the pace slows a little so you can find resources. It's a balancing act.A lot of games are going free-roaming, streaming-world these days. As the landscape has it's own situations, and most enemies will also fight each other it's easy to come across different situations even when reloading from a save point and doing the same thing again. The problem with open-world games like those is that it's harder to control the tension and flow of the games, which is why they need to learn from some of the other games.

  10. I remember some old Commodore game where if you died you carried on the game from the gates of hell. :left:.There were some good games on the old Commodore 64! :up:.

  11. Originally posted by Furie:

    I had to cut this almost in half to upload it. It's 15.5KB now and was 28KB in my files before I started cutting.

    It was still a very comprehensive article! Up there among your best, I'd say! :up:Originally posted by Furie:

    A lot of games are going free-roaming, streaming-world these days.

    I wonder if there could be games where you'd find aspects of (or entrances to) other games by the same company, perhaps set in the same 'universe'.For instance, you could be playing Grand Theft Auto and come to a place where a couple of guys from Street Fighter met their match and left blood stains on the concrete, or something (assuming – in my knows-very-little-about-modern-games example – they came out at the same time and were produced by the same companies, which I'm pretty sure didn't happen πŸ˜† ). Or vice versa: If you were playing Street Fighter and come across people stealing cars, you'd be able to bust 'em up as you try to save the neighbourhood. The graphics and gameplay would be similar enough that there'd be some sort of continuity … Now that I think about it, it would've been easier to just use one word – the comics analogy, 'crossover'. Not to radically change things in the game you're playing, perhaps, but as a little side-quest, or hidden round, or something.For all I know, this sort of thing happens anyway (probably mostly in games by Marvel or DC … πŸ˜† )

  12. Doesn't happen as often as it should, with most companies being very protective of it's properties. Little Big Planet has costume packs based on major games. Fable II's limited edition came with a medieval Halo armour and weapons. Star Ocean 4 has a well with absolutely nothing in it and asks why you'd look in a well for treasure (a reference to an earlier game in the series which had a treasure hidden in a well).

  13. You know I'm not a gamer, but this post was really interesting. I've never given Game Over any thought at all (but I have cursed the screen a couple of times), but apparently you have.Those are some cool ideas. It'll be interesting to see if anything around those lines will happen.You'd tell us, wouldn't you… πŸ˜‰

  14. Demon Souls currently has a death system that allows the player to battle through the underworld to regain life. Risen usually has the character knocked out and looted by intelligent enemies (although animals kill the character and take them to a game over screen). Final Fantasy XIII lets players who lose a battle retry from the beginning of the battle. Left 4 Dead has characters die, then the players respawn in a closet to be rescued (horror movie style) by other players. Overlord has the character lose all energy and returned to the underworld.I'm obviously not the first to have thought of these things, and I'm glad that they're starting to make their way into games. Thing is, the few games that are starting to think about cinematic death systems are vastly outnumbered by games which don't even try. And it's these established games series that usually have the cinematic presentation that'd really suit this sort of system. Even those that are trying are only going part of the way forwards.

  15. You're forgetting about Raziel and how he doesn't really die.I thought you get captured in Metal Gear? Snake Eater I'm refering to.Anyway. At final boss you get a almost sort of alternate ending if you don't beat the Boss in time.And I really can't think of any of the earlier titles's endings now :insane:.Alternate note: I found that you can't save ps1 games with a ps2 as the memory card doesn't get recognised. Online says the same thing :(.I just know I got my ps1 somewhere :insane: shit.

  16. All you need is a PS1 memory card. That'll work with PS1 games in the PS2. :up: You've played Snake Eater? :hat: I love that game.

  17. Finished it and fucking loved it. Gonna finish Timesplitters then try to find Final Fantasy XII and Substance.In meantime I'll look for my ps1 memory card just to finish some very old games lol. Just for the sake of closure.Question on Snake Eater. How or when do you get the stuff (patriot, tuxedo etc) when you replay the game? Or do you only get it if you play it in the same mode as before?

  18. I really can't remember. :confused: Main things I remember from that was the shadow sex scene, the singing ladder, the awesome opening sequence, the cave where your eyes adjust to the dark, the walk through all the enemies you've killed, the med report on Eva confirming she's got breast implants when you play her, having to pull the trigger in that field, and possibly the most emotional cutscene ever to end a game breaking through my manly exterior. :left:

  19. Shadow sex scene? Talking ladder? Playing Eva? I haven't done nor seen any of that! :insane: definitly a replay now.Just checked out some writeup on it :sherlock: interesting stuff..

  20. Not even a little? Just a small chunk in a jar I could hook up to wires and a car battery, or something? :whistle:

  21. You really think it's possible to hook up a disembodied chunk of something containing my DNA to electric without creating a whole new me?

  22. I can provide a design document that'd outstrip the features and presentation of most games, but coding it would be a whole other matter. You'd need a decent team of around a hundred different people. Included in that are the people to design quests and write a story plus all the dialogue would have to be recorded.

  23. If we go GNU open source on it, getting a good team together should be easy.. It will also facilitate the implementation of the game across all current platforms! :hat:.

  24. Aha! Finally found a way to edit this post and put the entire thing up. By the way folks, I'm warning you now that I'm working on a sequel to this which is already twice as long. Stock up on coffee. :coffee:

  25. What? You think that's too long? :awww: Check the first comment to see how much I had to cut off this post before making it. The original post was about way more than just death systems, I just focussed on those for this one when I had to cut it down, and I've taken elements of the stuff I cut out and written up something new looking at something similar.

  26. The most obvious things are hardest to spot. Interesting and intelectually stimulating article, thanks. And it is not too long! I would appreciate even longer one. πŸ™‚

  27. Thanks. Nice to see a new face here. :D.If you're serious about a longer article, this one was created out of some of the things I cut from the original piece. I'm currently working on something else that covers the last part I mentioned in the original piece too.

  28. I am always serious, even when I'm kidding. πŸ˜‰ I do not read in English as fast as I do in Polish, but I used to much longer articles. πŸ™‚ β€žSandbox”? Yeah, now it's something I will really feel I'm reading. πŸ™‚

  29. I just got through this rather epic post. I agree that games where the RPG element is strong the story should continue. However I believe that the Game Over screen was never intended for those games.When the first games with the Game Over screen where there to collect money the games didn't have that much of a story element. Say I fall to a coopa in Super Mario. Or loose to someone in a fighting game. Restarting the level sounds about fair.WoW has kinda a cool solution where you never die, but when you reach 1 hp your soul is let loose and you must backtrack to your corpse or be resurrected. I guess the same issue with bosses regenerating back to 100% health could be explained by "If we have time to heal, so should they."Anyhow. Interesting read!

  30. That's fine Artur. I can't read Polish at all, so you got me beat there. πŸ˜‰ Glad to find a wider gaming audience for this. Let me know how the other reads.Hey Al. Yeah, pure games that are story light don't suit a system like this at all as they're usually built with an arcade frame of mind. Still, a puzzle game that chucks you back a couple of levels rather than making you start again would make an interesting change of pace. In that case they'd need it as an optional extra to the traditional Game Over screen. In a one on one fighter, it's all about arcade thrills so Game Over definitely still has it's place there.You've hit my point straight on the head there, by the way. Game Over screens weren't built with story heavy games in mind, just instituted into those games because everyone else was doing it.

  31. Skills Gamer writes:You may have seen me around LH forums. Out of curiosity I clicked upon the links in your signature. I myself am a gamer and honestly Game Over screens have always bugged me. I have had thoughts like this many a time. However you clearly stated your reasons and facts and even gave solutions. I like this post and am glad that my curiosity brought me to read it. One day things like this shall exist however it can't happen soon enough I am sure you agree.

  32. I'm glad you enjoyed it. The game over screen should have evolved years ago, and the way it is utilised in storytelling games is ridiculous. If I were reading a book and it told me that the main character was dead then continued the main story about the same main character after his death I'd be horrified, although slightly intrigued as books don't tend to do that and I'd want to see where it was heading. But if there were no explanation, just time rewound to that point and he didn't die as a result…Fact of the matter is that there are loads of different ways a system can be built to allow a character to face mortal peril and yet continue the story. With a game like Fable you can have children. Why not use those children as extra lives, so to speak. Each time your character falls in combat the game pronounces them dead, switches you to the oldest child who will be brought forward to say 16 years old and puts them on a set quest to find out what happened to their parent. The new child would start with only half the abilities of the parent (but easier enemies to start with) and basic equipment. During their quest they'll not only find the body of the parent with most of their items still there, but also learn the quest the parent character was originally on and take it up themselves.That's just one more way off the top of my head to do this. The problem, of course, is that the games would have to be built from the ground up to allow a decent system like this. In the case of the child taking over system the story would have to be long enough to allow a child to grow up and take over, yet written so no sense of urgency is lost, and characters couldn't react to any children as if they were one of their ancestors. In the case of the solutions I provided in the main article, the regions, missions and creatures would have to be built around the defeat systems present in the game. For a lot of designers it's much simpler to build a game using a death system they know works and that is unlikely to cause them any problems or complaints in the long run.

  33. I did indeed forget Soul Reaver in this little tirade. That was a truly innovative gem in these respects, and the system it had could still work today in quite a few games that choose to go for more traditional Game Over screens. It really is a shame that so many developers lean so heavily on what they know rather than taking strides into new territory.

  34. Anonymous writes:You forgot Soul Reaver. I think that game had a lot in the way of integrated deaths in the game (actually it was pretty much a whole half of the game). Granted it wasn't as robust a system as some of your ideas would suggest, but then again it was only PS1. But in it if you were to die you enter the spectral realm where you have to find conduits to re-enter the physical realm. It even had a double tired death system. While in the spectral realm you could be "killed" again and sent all the way back to the elder god to trek your way back to the area you died in. It didn't by any means punish you severely for dying by taking weapons or equipment away but, it did make you try hard not to be sent all the way back to the start of the game.

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