Salem Dev Diary Talks About Criminality, Permadeath

Salem fascinates me. Few MMOs dare go the route of full-on player-driven systems and player co-operation, but this village-builder is doing it. And it’s doing it in the lovely setting of the colonial era Americas, complete with spooky woodland folklore monsters. Salem is going to be one of those games where the basic process of doing things – collecting resources, building and so on – is relatively unexciting, but the wider prospects for co-operation and sanctioned griefing are where the true game lies. It’s a sandbox MMO with permadeath, so you risk losing everything if someone happens to be quicker than you with a knife. Becoming a criminal, as this video explains, is not something anyone can take on lightly, however, because it allows people to track you. And if the mob catches up with you…


  1. smeaa mario says:


  2. Bobby Oxygen says:

    I like where this is heading.

    • mechtroid says:

      I can definitely see a player creating a high level tracker/hunter character and then keeping it in reserve in case somebody commits a crime against him.

  3. apocraphyn says:

    The game certainly looks like it’s coming along well! Some of the most amusing times I’ve had in multiplayer have been joining games such as Wurm Online with a group of people and migrating half-way across the world to found our own village, sometimes in search of the overly-romanticised past creations of previous homesteaders. Looking forward to this.

  4. Torgen says:

    I can’t not see the possibility of griefers supplied by alts, and so powerful that regular players will not risk permadeath themselves to punish them. There will be gangs of two-legged animals roaming the countryside.

    • sneetch says:

      That’s a concern I have too, Torgen… I mean suppose you have a character with a really nice hat, I have two characters, my main and my criminal alt so I kill your character and take the hat, send/give it to my main, then log off the criminal until the next time I feel the need to do evil. Good luck tracking and punishing a criminal that’s logged off for days, weeks or months at a time.

      • JFS says:

        That’s exactly what I was wondering about. What are you gonna do when your ranger and an angry mob are tracking those clues left by the criminal, and the track just stops halfway in the woods where he signed off? Are you going to hang around there 24/7 for weeks in order to punish him when he returns? I don’t think so.

        • sneetch says:

          Yep, and that in itself becomes a type of griefing; wander off a little, preferably into a difficult/dangerous place and then log off. If crimes occur again and again and the trail keeps going cold again and again the ranger could find it difficult to find people willing to go with him.

          Maybe they’ve thought of ways to handle that sort of thing but in a free to play MMO where your alts can be on an entirely separate account I don’t see how.

      • Romtos says:

        Characters can be summoned to a trial while off-line, so that takes partially care of your concern.

        • mollemannen says:

          that is a horrible way to handle the game. being able to influence characters from players that isn’t currently playing the game.

          a better way would be the tibia way, to make the character stay in the gameworld for X amount of time (depending on the type of crime) after a crime have been committed.

        • Torgen says:

          What’s to stop someone being “set up” then have their character yoinked into the world while the player is offline, unable to defend himself physically or verbally? It’s like a kangaroo court where the defendant’s tongue has been cut out and his arms bound behind his back.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      From what I’ve heard, they’re putting a way for you to force a criminal back into the game, so they can be punished… i.e. you won’t have to wait for the player to log in.

      And there’s some sort of “legacy/descendant” system so death is permanent, but your next character receives some benefit from your previous efforts.

      • sneetch says:

        Ahhh… that changes things. That’s better but if it’s the case that your character can be killed without you being logged in then surely that makes it completely stupid to commit any crime at all? I dunno, I’d like to see more about this tracking system.

        • Romtos says:

          Players need to be actively prosecuted, so if nobody bothers to put you to trial, it won’t happen. Also, I believe players can specialize so they’re more difficult to track, making it easier to mask crimes.

        • Malk_Content says:

          It means if you want to commit crimes, you’ll want to stay online. If you commit a crime and log off you can be killed whilst defenceless, if you commit a crime and actually play the game to try and get away with it your odds improve as much as your skill allows. Tis a pretty cool system, makes greifing and active and involved game mechanic that requires some serious effort.

  5. says:

    Player-driven systems? Let’s hope it’s not Asheron’s Call 2 all over again.

    (its problem was player-driven economics, though… no NPC vendors)

  6. hemmingjay says:

    Finally serial killers get a home on the internet!

  7. RvLeshrac says:

    Rather have a permanent jail – stick them in there together, make them kill their own characters to get out.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I’ve always wondered what they final results of that sort of system… do griefers absorb the powers of those they defeat? Will it end when a single super-troll emerges and brings the apocalypse to normal folks?

  8. Gurrah says:

    I like the concept but it’s not a game world I could participate in. I grow attached to my characters and the notion that any old jerk could come along and murder me for good isn’t really appealing to me, even though friends of mine could then hunt them down and punish them in return. No, no – there’s enough grief in the real world, I don’t need to add to my troubles in the virtual one as well.

    • BlueDragon says:

      Well probably because you are weak.

      • Archipelagos says:

        Perpetuating that kind of elitist snobbery does absolutely no one any favours, Bluedragon, especially not the PvP community. Grow up.

      • Torgen says:

        Probably because he doesn’t need to define his real-life self-worth in causing distress to others.

        All’s fair in a game whose focus is player versus player combat, and the facilitation thereof (shooting miners in Eve for example,) but not in a game where the focus is supposed to be building a village with your friends. A schizophrenic approach to who you’re making the game for is a good path to failure.

  9. Jupiah says:

    I do like the concept. Permadeath would give griefing a real, serious consequence, and give players a lot more incentive to cooperate and help each other to avoid become victims of griefers.

    Too bad the game looks rather dull.

  10. Deadly Habit says:

    I think it will be like their other title, Haven and Hearth, which deals with criminals and prosecution very well. Then again there are people like me who hide behind multiple walls and locked gates to avoid this player provided prosecution.

    • Stupoider says:

      Haven and Hearth! I knew this reminded me of something. Seeing the Paradox label on this is also encouraging, looking forward to it.

  11. hench says:

    When I heard it was going to be F2P and with the possibility of purchasing in game currency with real life money I lost all interest.

    • hemmingjay says:

      they limit the amount of purchasable currency to maintain balance. Not much of an advantage in these games as most have learned the lesson from others more than a year ago. It’s sad to see people still clinging to this old attitude in the face of so many changes to F2P innovations.

      • Brise Bonbons says:

        The news this is planned to be F2P is a real downer for me too – and I was extremely excited for Salem…

        I am content with F2P in many games – I think it can work well in an FPS to keep population up, and LoL does a pretty decent job with it. But I think it’s a very dangerous move in a game like this. It becomes very tempting to artificially limit the player’s ability to build things – the whole point of the game – and I think it’s actually undesirable to offer free access in a game where griefing is going to be so possible.

        I’m still excited for the game, but deciding to go F2P means their design must be significantly more water tight… I hope they’re up to it.

        • smg77 says:

          You’re right that F2P works great for some games but in MMORPGs it always turns out the same no matter how well-intentioned the developers say the are going to be about it. In subscription games the devs have to improve the game and find ways to make it fun to convince people to continue their subscription but in F2P games they have to actually make their games un-fun for people who aren’t buying stuff from the cash shop.

          I’d rather play a game where the devs focus on fun rather than play a game where their focus is on making the game irritating.

    • Consumatopia says:

      I think some kind of gold-farming in an MMO is inevitable, and therefore all MMOs of significant size have de facto purchasable in-game currency, subscription or not.

      I share the suspicions some of you have about F2P games, but I think there’s a huge difference between purchasing in-game currency in (what sounds vaguely like) a player-driven economy and the bizarre “energy” points and other meta-currencies that some of the more intensely manipulative games employ.

  12. Doddler says:

    This doesn’t really address the issues I had with Harth & Haven, their last game that uses the same system (almost exactly if you go by the video). Sure, the game has all these cool systems in place, but they’re not easily accessible. Griefing and theiving established players is a bad idea because they can do something about it, but there’s little repercussions for killing a new player or stealing their items. You’ll be playing 5-10 hours before you can set up a claim, and then a player could just ignore it and take your stuff anyways. Sure they leave a scent of theft behind that’s traceable, but it’s only useful to you if you’ve had the days upon days of play time to get that skill. Even just getting to a point where you can attack at all required a few dozen hours of play time, until then you have literally no way to retaliate at all.

    Anyways, I don’t think it addresses the issues at all unless the systems are available for players to get justice without a billion hours of playtime leveling skills. A permadeath game that punishes new players won’t be very appealing.

    • Deadly Habit says:

      that’s why in haven and hearth there are mercenaries. my town was pretty much all mercs for hire to track down thieves or be thieves/murder people etc. it was just a matter of who paid us the most

      • Consumatopia says:

        Dang, this sounds like a non-scifi EVE.

        Which is awesome. All the player coordinating and betrayals, but instead of looking at spreadsheets and dots shooting lasers at each other from far away, you’ll be looking at people working and fighting.

        This probably isn’t gonna be as awesome as I’m building it up in my head.

    • makute says:

      As a regular DF and Unreal World player I’m not afraid of permadeath. I found Heaven and Hearth very appealing and played for a few weeks a while ago, but the roaming gangs of russian thugs stole all joy very quickly (and in the game!).

      I actively participated on the forums, and even sugested a Karmic System that could help balance the whole good/evil system. But I was called “whiner” by the hard core of the comunity, and invited to left the game, and so I did.

  13. Aezay says:

    This system gives me pre NGE/CU Star Wars Galaxies vibes (SWG). Here, bounty hunters could take missions to kill off other players, had they gotten a high enough bounty on them.

  14. pakoito says:

    Isn’t that Neville Longbottom on the video preview?

  15. Gauphastus says:

    If Salem sounds appealing and you guys haven’t tried Haven and Hearth, I highly recommend it.
    It’s certainly not 100% complete, definitely rough around the edges in some areas, but it has enough to keep you busy for quite a long time if you’re committed.
    There’s a lot of satisfaction to be had running farms, paving roads, constructing cabins for housing and storage, finally locating a suitable source of metal, negotiating for a pick axe with a settlement far up river..

    One of the coolest gaming experiences I’ve had was getting a village going with a group of friends from my forum and slowly but surely building up.
    Our community was small though so it did peter out after a bit.

    Heh, Bay12 (Dwarf Fortress forums) even got an axe named after them a couple of years back because they were running a place of their own. /v/ plays every now and then too.
    Gotta compete with them Russians, man.

    All that aside, Salem seems neat. I look forward to giving it a try with my buddies.