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June 4, 2020
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Doing Death Differently

by Attila Branyiczky on 08/10/16 12:11:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


The following article contains my Extended Thoughts on "Death" discussed in the Gameology podcast with my co-host Mathew Falvai. You can listen to the Podcast via RSS, on iTunesGoogle Play Music, or watch the episode in video format:

Death as a means of helping players

A few years ago, I created a Jam game called When We Were Young, a 2D "exploration-platformer" which was all about collecting treasure chests in a world where the player couldn't be harmed. There are no enemies, and there are no death conditions. I realized that as a result of this, failing certain jumps were actually more aggravating than if the player had simply died. The reason was simple; if the game included had a check-point next to the more difficult jumps where the player would re-spawn after dying from failing the jump, this would result in less set-up time before they could attempt the jump again. Instead, players have to perform a walk-of-shame to get back to the correct position before they can even attempt the jump again.

Given the game's intention to provide a stress-free exploration-driven experience, it would have been far more helpful to reset a player's progress a little than to leave them to wallow in the misery of their failure. Bearing in mind that a goal of a game designer should be to guide players through their games, death can be used to expidite a player's progress towards attempting a particular challenge again, placing them just far enough back that they can make a new attempt equipped with everything that they need.

Sapling: The spiritual successor to When We Were Young

When We Were Young has been Greenlit on Steam! I'll be adding Death to the game (as well as a Paper-Mario style action-RPG battle system). Look for it in the coming years under it's new name; Sapling. If you're interested in hearing more about other developments as they happen, you can find me on Twitter @BluishGreenPro

Want your game design questions answered? Submit a question or comment to the Gameology podcast on, and check out the Extended Thoughts articles while you're there.

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