RPS Demands: I Want To Live Forever

By John Walker on September 18th, 2008 at 10:12 pm.

Irony in a lollipop.

I have a challenge, developers. I know you’re reading. I want a high profile, big budget, mainstream action game in which the player character is invincible. I believe that the next truly great game will be the one that does this.

Games have come close. There have obviously been infinite lives for many. Mario, as he ages, becomes far more generous with his back-up existences – anyone who played Galaxy will know it was hard to have few than a few dozen laying around. Then of course there’s Quicksave, which creates an artificial invincibility, so long as you remember to hammer it frequently enough. And perhaps the closest to the goal would be time travel, with games like Prince of Persia and Braid demonstrating that you can have a great deal more fun if you’re not constantly condemned to death.

However, they’re all still a significant distance from my desired goal. I want a character who cannot be harmed. Impervious to bullets. Unbothered by spikes. Swinging blades? They bounce off him or her. Falling from the top of a giant building? A nice, safe thud at the bottom. This person, for whatever narrative reason, simply cannot die.

This of course doesn’t mean he or she is otherwise supernatural. A wall is still a wall, and if it cannot be broken, it cannot be broken. An impassable cliff face cannot be mysteriously ascended. Swathes of enemies still impede progress, their blasts of laser fire sending you reeling backward. And, most of all, actions can have consequences. You may not die, but you can still regret.

I interject here for clarity – I’m not talking about games where death changes nothing. A regular MMO will bring you back to life with minimal penalty, your pre-death actions still seeing their results in the world (well, to a point, clearly – the dragon you killed is probably alive again by now, but that had nothing to do with your demise). But if anything, an MMO kills you far more often, and in far more ways, than most games, lacking the rescuing Quickload. We’re talking about a game in which you never, ever die.

Eat his sandy time.

This isn’t just some peculiar fantasy of mine. There’s a purpose behind this challenge. Imagine the difference it would make to a game’s design. Imagine the old, reliable themes that would no longer be there to keep a weak scene buoyant. Imagine how inconvenient it would be to the average action game if falling down a hole wasn’t a way to kill you.

Of course Prince of Persia deserves another mention here. When Sands Of Time was first revealed in Montreal in 2003, I was one of a group of journalists staring slack-jawed at the screen in sheer wonder at the painful obviousness of it. This didn’t happen when we were first shown it on the big screen. It looked nice there, but it didn’t yet make sense. It was when we were sat down to play it for ourselves.

The idea for rewinding time came to producer Yannis Mallat while he was in the shower. It was an idea so good that when PoP creator Jordan Mechner heard it, he moved himself and his family to Canada, so he could oversee the game. These are big, important moments. It’s time for another.

I was playing Sands of Time that day for quite a while before I used the sand. PoP’s excellent acrobatics were instinctive and simple, letting me perform superb moves without much trouble. But then I messed up a big jump, and watched as I fell to my death. Years of ingrained training had taught my immediate reaction: Oh crap, when did I last save? How much will I have to do again. I hate it when… wait a second. And I jabbed the Rewind button and watched my error so beautifully undo itself before me.

I can’t capture that moment for you, but I can show you this:

That sort of thing.

But then you run out of sand. The glass goes empty, and some big, stupid baddy twats you with a sword, and you’re gone. At that point that Rewind button becomes accursed. You hit it, despite knowing it won’t do anything. You hammer at it uselessly, watching the stupid, dead Prince slump to the ground.

Hurry onto PC, will you?

Think of any first-person shooter. In fact, don’t. Think of Half-Life 2 Episodes. Valve make their games in a much discussed (and yet all too often ignored by the developing community against all reason) way – they playtest the code with outsiders every single week of development, the dev team forced to watch helplessly as Joe Public haplessly fumbles with the current build. They take notes, noticing when the player gets stuck, when they stare in confusion at a wall for fifteen minutes, when they get lost, and most of all, when it’s not clear what they should be doing next.

They then go back into their game knowing exactly what needs work. They reiterate, and refine, and the result is games that glide like a buttery penguin on an ice rink. Valve take this even further. After Episode One was released, their frightening Steam-based spybots noticed that many players were getting horribly stuck in the car tunnels. People were dying down there an awful lot, and as a result, very many just gave up on the game at that point. It’s Valve’s desire that people see all of the game they made (despite already having that person’s money, which is quite nice), so they released an update that made the sequence simpler. People preferred the game, and far more people went on to complete it.

I don’t say this to celebrate Valve, although certainly I think they deserve it in this instance. I say it because it so helpfully demonstrates that people don’t want to die over and over again. Difficult sections in games are a good thing. Dying because it’s difficult is not. And that’s my challenge.

I want games to get more difficult because they are more challenging, not because they are more deadly. In my utopia, cranking the difficulty level at the beginning of a new game would not increase the number of enemies intent on your death, or weaken your defences to their attacks, but rather make the game more challenging. And I think the best proof of this would be the first developer to create a game in which you simply cannot die.

Let me be clear. I am in no way talking about simplifying games. A badly implemented understanding of Valve’s iteration process could lead to a stupefyingly easy game, which doesn’t kill you simply because you’d have to actively seek out death and jump into it. My challenge is to make a game that’s every bit as involved, frightening, imposing and impactful as the best action games out there, but without being able to dangle the scythe of Death over your head.

Imagine what would have to happen. Removing the overly familiar would force a developer to think in brand new ways. People wouldn’t be fooled by a lousy physics puzzle every fifteen steps, they’d want a lot more. Think of what new, inspired scenarios we’d encounter to push us to our gaming limits, without their relying on wearing away at my life bar. Don’t ask me what they would be – that’s not my problem! There are amazing, imaginative minds in this industry whose job it is to invent such things. Minds I argue that aren’t being exercised, because of the gaming default of, “Oh, just make it hard not to die in this bit.”

So who’s going to take me up on this? Make a pledge. Pledge to be the developer who will set out to make this breakthrough.

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133 Comments »

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  1. Dr Snofeld says:

    It’s not big-budget, action, recent or even the right platform, but if anyone remembers Wario Land 2 and 3 on the Game Boy, you were invincible in those games.

  2. Obdicut says:

    The new commenting system has me doubleposting. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Planescape, though.

  3. cyrenic says:

    I would argue Portal came very close to this as well. Yes there were several ways to die, but personally I only died a few times playing it. The challenge of the game was the portal puzzles.

  4. Obdicut says:

    Prey.

    Yeah, I know, it doesn’t really fit, and in fact proves your argument well. The “death” in Prey meant absolutely nothing, throwing you into a really dumb minigame that had no real penalties for failure.

    To put it another way: I too prefer the comic book version of the crow.

  5. Anonononomous says:

    I honestly think Valve’s playtesting is overrated. I can’t recall getting horribly confused by the layouts of any non-Valve games. It seems to me that Valve level designs are always ridiculously simplified just so that a toddler will be able to stumble through them no matter what. I heard something about how Valve once had a section in HL2 where you could take 2 paths to the same point and because their tester was dumb he just kept running in circles so they took it out and, as usual, the game is a single straight line from start to finish. I very much prefer games where I have options in how to get from point A to point B.

    The new Prince of Persia looks like it ought to be up your alley, at least in terms of the acrobatics. Elika won’t be running out of magic, as far as I know, and she’ll reset you if you fall to your doom.

  6. Leeks! says:

    I’ve gone on this very rant to my friends in the pub before. Not only would it make for some clever game play opportunities, but think of what you could do with that narrative, if you were clever. It’s an inherently defensive ability, where most games give their protagonist inherently offensive powers. Just by flipping that around, what are you saying about the nature of power in the medium? You could subvert the hell out of that dominant paradigm! Hoo-ah!

    I mean… Glad to see someone important shares my views.

  7. The Archetype says:

    I never would have remembered those Wario Land games, but they actually were really creative in how they used the invincibillity. In every level (in 2 at least, I never played 3) you tryed to get treasures, and a lot of the puzzles actually required that you get hit by enemies in order to be lit on fire/blown up like a balloon/frozen/turned into a zombie/wrapped up in a giant ball of yarn/turned into a vampire so you could turn into a bat and fly etc…

    There are probably other action/puzzle type games where you can’t die (Braid is pretty close to that from my understanding). There’s probably more untapped territory in other genres, but I certainly can’t think of any sort of game where you couldn’t die that wouldn’t have to be based more on puzzle-solving than combat or platforming.

    Edit: Now that you’ve got me thinking about the it, I’m realizing just how prevalent death is for no good reason.

    How many old adventure games have you played where you’ve had to redo a few hours of puzzle-solving because the designers felt that there needed to be some way for you to cock things up and die and you’d forgotten to save regularly?

  8. greeneggsnsam says:

    You can’t build up the suspense like that and then tell us that you’re not going to tell us why it’d be cool!

  9. Meat Circus says:

    So, Braid then.

    You want to play Braid.

  10. beermaster says:

    is it really better to tell the player ‘you’re stupid’ when they can’t move forward in this sort of game rather than ‘you’re uncoordinated’ as you do in more traditional games? i’m not convinced it is.

  11. Rudolf says:

    I like the concept, try monkey island, I never died in there xD

  12. Schadenfreude says:

    Monkey Island?

  13. BrokenSymmetry says:

    Yes, I love it this idea! I simply hate dying in any game. Sands of Time is a great example, because even if you run out of sand, you’re put back to the previous checkpoint with an exclamation of “No, no, that’s not how the story went!”. The subsequent Prince of Persia games are so much worse in this respect, because not only do they give you less sand to play with, but they also send you back to a “Game Over” screen when you die (the worst sin of all!).

  14. JulianP says:

    I promise I’ll make it happen within the next 25 years.

  15. Carra says:

    You also played an immortal in Planescape Torment. Dieing just meant you’d wake up a bit later. There were even some puzzles which could only be solved by dieing in the correct place.

    As for Monkey Island, it even made fun of dieing:

  16. Noc says:

    To be clear, are we specifying no death, or no failure states?

    The titular Escort Mission is an example of this: the enemies, in many cases, pose no real danger to you, but keep offing the poor jerk you’re supposed to be protecting. Player death is only one kind of failure state, and in many cases only one of several similar ways of handling a particular failure.

    For instance, in a platform game, you miss a jump and fall into a pit. One of a couple things happens. Either you a) die, and quickload back before the jump to try again, b) die and get zapped back to a checkpoint before the jump, to try again, c) fall into a nonlethal pit where you can run back up and try again, or d) rewind time so you can try again. In all of these cases, failure at a task allows the player to repeat the task, hopefully with better results.

    And the obnoxious part of dying repeatedly isn’t that you’re dead repeatedly. It’s that you’re replaying the same sequence over and over again without any clear progress. This isn’t something particular to death. Rather, it’s a function of failure states in general. The same thing happens in adventure games, even the ones which don’t let you kill yourself or lock yourself in corners: the frustration from repeatedly trying different combinations of something with no apparent progress and no clear path to success is identical to that of being killed over and over again every time you step around a corner in an FPS.

    The way to beat this isn’t to rule out death, it’s to rule out failure. You will succeed every time, just with varying degrees of success. But then it simply becomes a game of high scores, and we already have plenty of those; THAT’s not a particularly novel concept.

    [Edit, and addendum: And if you think about it, a high-score game is simply a game where you fail by not doing well enough. People shooting for high scores tend to replay the same stages over and over, and reset/quickload if they make a serious mistake along the way. But yes, if a developer is rejecting both failure states and high scores/completion percentages/whatever, then it would require them to build a much more compelling and sophisticated narrative. Or a much larger and deeper world. Since, you know, they don’t have a game anymore.

  17. Hoernchen says:

    Prey ! The game was not awesome because of the graphics, or the portals, but becaus it was the first shooter that managed to solve the problem of dying without breaking the game.

  18. kafka7 says:

    In gaming, death is just an analogy for failure. But there are plenty of other analogies that could be used. The problem is that games need to find some way of representing success and failure. It just so happens that life/death is the most fundamental analogy for success/failure since, well, the beginning of human storytelling.

  19. Dr_demento says:

    There’s definately a trend here. Games always used to have limited numbers of lives, a throwback to the arcades, and that’s virtually eradicated now everywhere except dinosaurs* of gaming like Mario. Likewise with non-recharging health; who wasn’t surprised to see BioShock still using medikits to keep you from death? Well, Valve I guess, but personally I think persistent health meters are an irritating distraction, like managing your carrying capacity in Oblivion. It’s there for a reason and it always has been, but in the end it’s trading off your love of shiny items against your hatred of making dozens of round trips to carry all your ph4t l00t back to your house. Invulnerability is certainly coming, and might indeed make game design more interesting.

    It’s not just health/lives that this has happened to, either. Force Unleashed has recharging Force; Braid has unlimited time-rewinding; Black had virtually unlimited ammo; even Oblivion had recharging mana. If you remove the permanent consequences, the player feels much more free to experiment and try stuff differently in the short term. “Sure I’ll try using a fire spell on the house to force my victim outside; it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work.”

    Quicksave is still a terrible invention, though. Frequent and intelligently-placed checkpoints are far easier to get right.

    Also: colossal, intensive, serious end-user playtesting really does help games. Read this, it’s fascinating.

    * “dinosaur” is unfair… it’s been around forever without changing, but is still a rea competitor. “crocodile” would be better.

  20. Nelsormensch says:

    It’s an interesting challenge, John.

    Most the games that have tried this feel a lot more like puzzle games, e.g. Portal or Braid. Action-based games are fundamentally a matter of reacting quickly and accurately. If the player fails to do so, they have to try again at some level of granularity. If we remove the reflex-based modality, what’s left? If not having to try again, what interesting consequences can an action game have?

    Shifting things to “… everyone else in the world needn’t be invincible. There’s people to save!” isn’t necessarily a good solution. If you fail to save other people, what are the consequences? If there aren’t any, what’s the motivation? If they’re too severe, then it’s even worse than the player dying because now the entire game has become one giant escort quest. Given how atrocious every escort quest basically ever has been, it’s pretty clear the player’s ability to succeed in the game can not be contingent on NPCs.

    A fantastic proposal though. I suspect this subject will be on my mind a lot in the next few days.

  21. Cybergangster says:

    Funny – I was thinking about this recently after playing Superman. The guy’s supposed to be invincible so why not make him so? If he takes a beating then slow him down a little, make his punches a bit more laboured until he gets a chance to rest…? The only thing that can kill the S bird is kryptonite, so when that finally shows up, start out by diminishing his super powers before we finally see our protagonist stumble and fall. Damn, I wish I’d gotten into game development…

  22. Plinglebob says:

    How about this for a game idea. In X years BC, the game character was blessed by Random God X with immortality. Fast forward to now and the guy is fed up with life and so spend the entire game looking for a way to kill himself. No in game deaths or forced restarts and could be quite fun as an action game if done right.

  23. andy says:

    I also wish there were more options as to play style when playing games.

    I’m one of those gamers that plays for the ‘escape’ and fun factor, not for some pretend achievements, or sense of accomplishment, or challenge.

    Case in point: A while back i bought a used copy of Crackdown for the 360. Didn’t take me long to realize that the game play style wasn’t going to be one i would be any good at, nor would i enjoy the constant dying.

    i looked online to see if there were any cheats for the game, as i was still interested in enjoying the story aspect of the game, or at least discovering if there even was a decent one in there.

    i found out that there was some cheat built in that would let me play on invincible and do absolutely everything i could want and have a blast, BUT… i couldn’t save the game at all, so unless i wanted to do something as stupid as leave my 360 on for days on end (for multiple gaming sessions), the cheat was useless.

    bottom line, i wasted $10 and never touched the game again. i’m glad i didn’t buy it retails, and i guarantee you i won’t buy the sequel, if there is one, as it’ll just be more of the same (i.e. me sucking at it)

    even though it was nice of them to include the feature, why would they include such a stupid rule along with it? what are they scared of? that i’m going to enjoy the game’s story not in the intended manner?

    games should have more of these FUN modes built in, with no strings attached. since the market these days seems to be nutz about the stupid achievements and points and junk, they can even include some off the wall achievement for completing the game in cheat mode in some short time or some huge score or whatever, giving both the achievement tramps something to enjoy, as well as the rest of us who just want to enjoy a good story, WITHOUT BEING FRUSTRATED!

    why do the devs have to be so elitist? superiority complex? inferiority complex? closed minded? can’t think outside the box? need to turn sales away?

    everyone keeps whining about development costs, and then they turn around and limit the potential base of people who will even want to buy the games with their decisions.

    i would have loved to have played devil may cry, or ninja gaiden, or pretty much 85% of all the games that get put on the shelves. but i won’t ever buy them.

    Why? because i know i don’t have the skills (or time for the effort required to gain them) to enjoy these games. I know i will be frustrated with them, so i don’t waste the time or money on them.

    So go ahead developers, keep spending more and more millions on your games, and then keep telling us only the ‘leet’ need apply.

    i guess i see why fluff like the sims is in the top 10 for the last 100 years.

  24. Schadenfreude says:

    You can actually die in The Secret of Monkey Island, but you’d have to be really, really rubbish to do it. The scene where Guybrush is tied to the idol and thrown in the harbour; if you don’t do anything effective in ten minutes or so Guybrush will turn funny shades of blue, purple and green and start to float to the surface.

    Game over.

  25. Thingus says:

    Returning to the Wario Land example, though excellent, I still found certain parts of those games frustrating, due to the aforementioned sense of ‘trying time and time again without getting anywhere’. One level involved you having to find an owl, and fly though a maze of spikes. Touching one of the spikes would scare the owl off, and you would have to trek all the way across the level to find another. Even though the main character couldn’t die, this was frustrating due to the constant repetition.
    (Last played the game at age 14, mind…I might’ve changed a bit since then. Maybe.)
    Maybe instead of penalizing failure, through loss of health, lives, McGuffin, ect, games should lean more towards rewarding success? Perhaps an invincible action game character should be rewarded with goodies for, say, defeating enemies in a particularly stylish manner, like in Devil May Cry, ,clearing an obstacle course in record time or exploration?

    (EDIT: Longest post I’ve ever made. On anything, ever, I think. Yay for intellectual stimulation!)

  26. John Walker says:

    To people suggesting adventure games and so on, that’s why I stressed action at the top. There are many games where death is irrelevant, and so I’m not really talking about them here. I want to see how someone could make an action game without death. As for Prey and Planescape – you still die. Their ideas are definitely great, but you still die.

    And that takes care of Braid too, which is a platform game, and not an action game. Of course, I cite it because it’s significant for a similar argument that would otherwise need making in the platform world.

    And yes – I worded the part about saving people poorly. I’ll fix it now, but it’s quoted in the above comments to remind people of my wrongness. Clearly escort missions are the worst thing ever, and if a game replaced the player’s death with having to prevent the deaths of others, it would be no better. What I meant to say was there are consequences to your actions, and other people might matter to you. Having to keep them alive would defeat the purpose of the exercise. Your choices having consequences is perhaps a possibility. But I made the mistake there of making a suggestion, rather than just the challenge.

    Plinglebob – I LOVE that idea!

  27. matthew says:

    With what knowledge do you make the claim that absolutely no developer other than Valve understands the value of playtesting?

  28. John Walker says:

    I don’t believe I state that “absolutely no developer” does any such thing. I believe I make some light-hearted comments about my frustration that Valve’s particular technique is not more commonplace. Clearly all developers use playtesting. However, most use it differently. I’ve edited the post so hopefully this is more clear.

  29. Pantsman says:

    I believe there was actually a recent Superman game in which you were invincible, but rather than a health bar, the city itself had a health bar, and if it dropped to zero, you lost. Apparently it was rubbish.

  30. The Poisoned Sponge says:

    Building on Plinglebob’s idea, and kind of moving off from it, I think a game where you are invincible but trying to do something like perhaps saving the world or somesuch while staying under the radar would be rather brilliant. Obviously you can’t die, but if you alert the police or evil doers of your intentions it would make the game a hell of a lot harder for you. Think sort of The Fugitive mixed with Superhero Movie. In a game.

  31. Power Liche says:

    Having adversaries that waste your time instead of killing you is horrible. And everyone hates escort missions. I agree that people should try new things, I just don’t see why you think this in particular is a good idea. The immortality thing is why Superman is so boring that they had to invent kryptonite just to make him mortal again.

    p.s. if you can’t die it’d be fairly confusing if anyone bothered attacking you after watching you casually wander around the battlefield trying to use your sniper scope to look up people’s noses.

    p.p.s. play Doom in god mode and tell us how you could make it fun.

  32. Rufus T. Firefly says:

    Along similar lines, I would also like to see an RTS game that didn’t focus on genocide as a win condition.

    What would these games be like if “Kill everything” wasn’t an option? Alpha Centauri and some other 4X games have other win conditions, but not SupCom, StarCraft, etc…

  33. John Walker says:

    I love how Sponge’s and Liche’s comments so beautifully capture the difference between the imaginative optimist, and the cynical pessimist.

  34. Power Liche says:

    Sponge’s idea definitely communicates what’s fun about the idea a lot better than the post. Don’t see how it works though – is it a stealth game, are you campaigning for a revolution? Why are you not just saying “I’m immortal, bitch” and charging at whoever is opposing you?

  35. John Walker says:

    I’m not suggesting how it could be done. I’m putting out the challenge.

  36. Hypocee says:

    cf. Tom Francis’ The Invincibles.

  37. futage says:

    Noc’s argument seems right to me. And assuming your examples (Braid, PoP) are intended to illustrate the rough direction you think things should move in, I really don’t think rewinding time is functionally different from quickloading. It’s a bit more sensually pleasing and perhaps makes the player think of it as a ‘tool’ within the game rather than something external to the game but it loses something too.

    There’ve been many games where I’ve enjoyed quicksave-quickload play. It’s allowed me to explore far more freely than if death were final. It’s allowed me to revise tactics and find a way of doing x thing without dying. Exploring the branches of possibility and then choosing one is unique to video games and I’d really love for someone to make it internal (and possibly central) to a game rather than feel like cheating.

    What I think would better discourage f5-f9 gameplay (perhaps combined with an intelligent approach to not dying) is deferred consequences for the player. So that rather than trying something one way, not liking the results and then quickloading and doing it the other way I have to wait for… an hour or two before the consequences (of death/’failure state’, even (with Planescape in mind)) become evident. Or perhaps actions and results become less tied together in pairs, more organic and cumulative.

  38. GiGinge says:

    I’ve just come back from the pub and am drunk but this seems like a really interesting idea I hope that some developer somewhere can come up with a great gameplay concept based around this, I’d def buy it!

    However I’m somewhat tipsy and may well read this tomorrow and wonder what the fuss is about lol

  39. Thiefsie says:

    I’m not a fan of the Valve over testing either… I can’t remember the amount of times I was picking apart the levels going oh duhh, they’ve lit up that area obviously so joe boring figures out where to go. Insipidly boring came to mind a fiar bit, even though their games are great. I wanted a bit less predictability and a bit more feeling that I actually solved something myself, rather than being signposted with EVERY SINGLE THING I’m meant to do. Same goes for Halo 3.

  40. Power Liche says:

    Walker – I was trying to ask Sponge about his idea particularly, not clear, sorry.

  41. Stu says:

    That Soulja Boy clip is fantastic as an example of what happens when games-as-art meets the real world…

    As for an imaginative take on the concept of a game where you’re invincible — don’t look at me, I’m drunk. I can barely keep it together enough to type this, much less offer a reasoned argument as to why this may or may not be a great idea.

  42. Janto says:

    Ideas…

    I had an idea for a superhero game with 3 different characters where the characters would be invulnerable in different ways. One became stronger and heavier through damage, one was an ethereal electronic wraith, and the last was a forcefield generator.

    The basic setup would revolve around the early Authority plots – maximising the potential of your team in saving lives on a massive scale, although I never pushed out the idea on how (a) the 3 characters work together (b) what penalties there are for failure and rewards for success in saving lives, and (c) what opposition you would face.

    Well, I did work it out for the main brawler character. Basically, for her (supergirl superfriends forever) the game centers around causing the maximum amount of mayhem in the shortest amount of time to keep powering up, so like Mirror’s Edge, the game is all about maintaining momentum. I imagine this character being thrown or jumping into a mass of space invaders, ripping open bomb bays and smashing a missile into the cockpit, then using the explosion to leap to the next target before eventually falling to ground and demolishing an entire building. Although you’re technically saving lives, it’s probably similar in structure to most of the missions in say Freespace where success or failure on any mission objective was not essential to advancing the plot, you just have the shame of seeing your ‘civilians saved = 20%’ and ‘civilians killed=200′ and not getting sparkly stuff like medals, or newspaper stories or whatever. The enemy should quickly realise that you are invulnerable, and be doing their best to prevent a powered-up version of you from ripping their motherships to shreds by using blast weapons to knock you off course and disrupt your momentum.

    (For some reason I think the idea of someone who can’t actually fly having to fight an airborne enemy is great. Oh, and it’s probably a situation where you aren’t saving people just to get a high score, you’re also saving them because if you don’t they’ll join/strengthen your enemies. And it would be cool to also have antagonists who were also invulnerable.)

  43. perilisk says:

    Hmmm… maybe you’re a do-gooder with a gothic curse/blessing. You’re invincible, but your soul is always at risk. Your goal is to get a bunch of good-guy points, Ultima-style, to bring your soul into balance and be freed from your curse and from life.

    However, you always have the Skull of Mondain option to deal with things — kill bad guys indiscriminately, you lose good guy points, and have to work harder to win. Needless to say, dealing with things the ethical way is more challenging that dealing with things the bastard way. Especially since killing is usually unjustified for you (if no innocent lives are at stake). You can’t exactly claim it was “self defense” if you’re immortal.

  44. ._. says:

    permalife? i thought this was a troll until i clicked to read more and saw it was tl;dr.

  45. Jezebeau says:

    Putting out the challenge isn’t worth much if you aren’t more specific. Do you want a game with no failure conditions, or a game without death?

    In a game without death, being captured effectively by enemies or falling into a pit without a way out is, mechanically, death. You reload your game and try again.

    A game where you can’t lose, however, is going to be frustrating if it just means attempting the same problem again and again. For a game with, perhaps, an interesting take on “immortality”, try ‘Choke on my Groundhog, YOU BASTARD ROBOTS‘. It might not quite be what you’re looking for, but it’s probably thematically close.

  46. Reverend Speed says:

    Am obliged to mention that Soul Reaver > Prey.

    And what a twist in SRII.

    Yes, from a pure mechanics standpoint one could argue that you die in Soul Reaver, but the gameplay and story are so wrapped up in those mechanics that one could argue it never broke the flow of the experience (dynamic loading helped a LOT).

  47. K says:

    You are Doctor Manhattan.

  48. suchchoices says:

    I’m playing through clear sky at the moment, on the highest difficulty setting. It’s a glorious festival of quickloading, with the occasional crash to desktop. I’ve even had one crash that corrupted a savegame. double plus masochism :|

    braid has failure states, in the levels where there are objects that are non-rewindable – nothing to do but restart the stage.
    there’s also the massive failure state where you need to restart the entire game from scratch if you miss grabbing one of the collectables on your first pass through

  49. Pijama says:

    “You may not die, but you can still regret.”- That is the core principle. And I got a pretty heavy Planescape vibe here.

    Such a game is very well within possibility. If I were a designer, I would integrate the gameplay totally with setting and story – but I would have to make a BLOODY AWESOME setting and story. Having an invincible character means that the player will disregard his/her safety, so we should compensate it with something that makes the player care so much. Creating a family for him/her and developing it very deeply to the point that if something happens during the course of the game you get genuinely sad/pissed/frustrated/*insert powerful emotional state here*. This is just a scrap in the surface, of course.

    It is a genuine challenge; But one that could, perhaps, bring a revolution to gaming.

  50. Darth Benedict says:

    How about a game where you play one of those ubiquitous ancient evils that always rises again. The goal is to get through the whole game without ever revealing your plan to supposedly defeated heroes while cackling maniacally.