AVWW - Permadeath: It Means Give Your Health Bar The Respect It Deserves
This Isn't A Roguelike, Sorry
So... permadeath. Yeah, that's a loaded word. Whenever most people hear that word, they think of uber-hardcore roguelike games. But you'll notice that, in our What Genre Is This, Anyway? page, we don't list roguelike among the primary genre inspirations for this game.
There are a lot of ways permadeath can be implemented in a game, and a lot of them are... well, frankly they are punitive. Our goal with permadeath in this game is not to make it something that punishes you-the-player, but rather to make it an unfortunate event that happens to your character. And thus part of the story you are weaving through your actions.
Here's How Our Implementation Of Permadeath Actually Works
1. When a character dies, that character is dead for good.
2. The world is a pretty brutal place. During the cataclysm that shattered reality, most of the people didn't survive. Those consciousness shards that you're picking up all over the place? Yeah, those are bits of the minds of people that didn't make it through the cataclysm.
3. Still on the whole brutality thing: whenever somebody dies away from the protection of the Ilari (aka, pretty much anywhere outside of town or the tutorial), a vengeful ghost of that person comes back to haunt you. We said death was permanent, not that an evil shade of yourself wouldn't come back to half-life to prey on the living.
4. Your characters are always glyphbearers, chosen by the Ilari... to... do... something. It's kind of mysterious, and you can piece it together through clues in the game. Without giving anything away, we can safely say that each settlement always has at least one glyphbearer. When a glyphbearer dies, which is pretty common, then that glyph passes to another.
5. Anyway, only glyphbearers can leave the areas where the Ilari are protecting them, or... well, that would be kind of a spoiler, too. But suffice it to say, Bad Things Happen To Them. So when you're out there in the wild, you're pretty well alone aside from any survivor who you might be able to rescue from death-coming-soon when you find them trapped inside a building or cave near an Ilari stone but not near, you know, stuff like food or other people.
1. When a character dies, that character is dead for good. And if it happens outside of town, you then have to later fight and kill the vengeful ghost of that person.
2. When your character dies, the glyph he or she was carrying will pass to a new character that you must choose (none of these characters will be people you've already met in the game).
3. Along with the glyph, all of your inventory, enchants, and enchant points pass to the new character.
4. Your base stats do NOT pass to the new character (the new character will have different base stats of his or her own).
Mechanically Speaking, Why Does It Work This Way?
Well, permadeath was always something we wanted, because for a believable dangerous world it seems pretty important. And you're shepherding a whole settlement rather than one lone hero, which seems a lot more interesting and realistic. Various people go out questing, with mixed success, and pretty much all of them die eventually. Sounds about right to me!
So thematically speaking, this is exactly what we wanted -- but the problem is, if you're not careful, this just gets into punishing the player. Early alpha versions of the game had it so that when your character died, not only did a vengeful ghost spawn, but you also dropped all your inventory in a bag wherever you died.
In practice, that was super annoying -- because you'd first thing have to wind up getting all your equipment back (and the "corpse runs" tended to be either trivial annoyances or impossible blockages, rarely anything in between). Then there was the matter of getting your ability bars back the way you wanted it, which would involve a lot of interface fiddling, possibly some duplicative crafting, and a bunch of annoying stuff.
When the player dies, they don't want to feel like it's meaningless in a game like this, but at the same time they don't want twenty minutes of aggravation every time it happens, either. In a roguelike you don't have that problem because when your character dies, the game is over and you start again. But here the point was that the world and the settlement went on even after a particular hero had fallen. The two ideas didn't mesh until we started having the inventory and enchants stay with the glyph.
That made death feel a tad too trivial, though, so players were lobbying us for some sort of temporary buff to characters that could be lost on death. Hence upgrade stones were arrived at, and it was really surprising how much they added to the overall feel of the game and the amount of customization you could arrive at with the experience.
Eventually though, the Upgrade Stones were dropped entirely, being replaced with the Upgrade Enchants, which like all enchants ARE carried over from one character to the next. Instead, each individual character now has randomly generated "special" stats, such as a bonus to deflection, a higher recharge rate, a bonus to damage of a specific element, or other various effects. These make each character seem a bit more unique, and are lost at character death.
Tips On Fighting A Vengeful Ghost Of Your Old Character(s)
Yeah, these are pretty rough. Some monsters (or whatever environmental hazard) killed you, and now you have to go back and kill your old self again? Well, it's more than just that, actually -- whatever it was that killed you is probably still there, but now you also have to deal with the ghost of your old self. If you're not careful, you'll just get your new character killed, too, and now there will be two ghosts to deal with. And so on.
I've seen literally dozens of ghosts in one room, and it's not pretty -- miasma everywhere, and you can hardly move because of it. Vengeful ghosts home in on you and move through walls, making them one of the nastiest enemies around despite the fact that they don't have that much health. One vengeful ghost really isn't all that bad, but multiple ghosts plus whatever it was that killed you originally can be pretty crazy indeed.
Friendly tip: don't let vengeful ghosts stack up a bunch in a room that you absolutely have to clear. Say... the overlord's throne room? If the overlord keeps killing you, and ghosts keep stacking up there, you really might get yourself into a situation that is un-winnable. That's not really supposed to happen in this game (you getting into a place where victory is impossible), but if you work at it enough you certainly can make it so.
When faced with a room with a vengeful ghost in it, the best strategy is to try to hide from the other dangers of the room, then take out the ghost (which you can't hide from, remember), and then resume dealing with whatever else is lurking in the room. Otherwise, no matter how you cut it, you're going to be fighting the ghost, dodging its miasma, plus fighting whatever else is in there, all at the same time.
How Do I Heal Myself?
You may have noticed that there are no healing spells, nor even any healing potions, in this game. This is not an oversight -- in earlier alpha and beta versions they actually did exist, but through a lot of experimentation and player feedback, we decided to remove them. That leaves you with two, and only two, ways to heal yourself:
Visit An Ilari Stone
Mostly this means "go back to the settlement." They'll fully heal you up for free, and you're ready to go out on your next expedition. But you can't just be running back to the settlement all the time, which leads us to healing source two...
Kill Monsters ("Trash Mobs," If You Prefer That Term)
Whenever you kill a non-boss monster, some health orbs will pop out of it and then fly to whichever character on your team is the most damaged. The healing is fairly small, so you have to kill a fair number of monsters while not taking any damage from them in order to get back to full health. However, if you are at full health, the health orbs will spawn and then just sit there, and if you take more damage and then go near any of them, they'll then come to you and heal you, which can be very useful depending on the situation.
Mechanically-Speaking, Why Does It Work This Way?
Health in AVWW is the measure of "how much longer can I stay on this expedition?" As such, it's in fairly good abundance if you want it to be. You can use upgrade stones to get some pretty ridiculously high health in terms of games of this genre. The thing is, if you're not good at dodging enemy attacks you'll need that high health in order to go on expeditions of any real length.
A skilled player can stay out on an expedition (meaning "away from the settlement") pretty close to indefinitely if they are good at dodging enemies and also good at killing the smaller enemies to get those vital healing orbs. Of course, if they're not taking much damage then they can even just ignore any of those smaller enemies that aren't directly blocking their way. If you're good enough to do that, more power to you.
In boss rooms, you'll notice that there are monster spawners present. These serve two purposes: first, to make the boss encounter harder and more complex by introducing a multiplicative element into the boss fight (e.g., you're not just fighting this same dragon again, you're fighting this dragon plus these three other enemies, in a room of this sort rather than that sort, which changes everything compared to the last time you fought a dragon).
But secondly, if you leave the monster spawners alive and spewing enemies, you're rewarded by having a source of health orbs during your boss fight. Also another source from which to take damage, and more projectiles or enemies to dodge, but hey -- nobody said this was supposed to be easy! Unless you crank the combat difficulty down -- then it really is not hard (our goal isn't to exclude anyone, but to provide an interesting and appropriate challenge regardless of your level of skill).
So that's basically it. These health mechanics were designed to make long expeditions dangerous, but also to make it so that skillful play is rewarded on long expeditions. Since missions have to each be completed in one continuous go (you can't run back to town without having to start the mission over), that means that a certain amount of skill is required to beat any given mission, and you can't just grind down your opposition by running in, dealing some damage, slogging back to town, and repeating. That would be boring for you, and also pretty cheap.