Chris Roberts: Star Citizen's death system creates "a sense of living history"
Star Citizen's huge ambitions haven't faded since the upcoming space sim warped past the $6 million mark during its twin crowdfunding campaigns. In a lengthy blog post, project head Chris Roberts shares his ideas for creating a "sense of living history" through a permadeath mechanic that underscores a character's legacy.
"I hate the current game trend in single-player games where the game auto-saves every two seconds, and if you die you just start a few steps earlier," Roberts writes. "This makes you a lazy and sloppy player."
Roberts cites the limited save points of Wing Commander and Privateer as examples of "creating a sense of anxiety" during a mission, particularly when shields run low and damage gets high. "If you managed to limp home successfully, you felt a sense of accomplishment," he states. "Without the risk of losing something you’ve worked hard towards, the sense of achievement is cheap."
For Star Citizen, Roberts envisions characters dying a limited number of times before finally succumbing for good, complete with a funeral jettison ceremony seen from the viewpoint of a beneficiary determined during character creation—in other words, your next pilot.
Death isn't necessarily a guarantee when losing a fight or hugging a friendly-looking asteroid, either. Successfully ejecting before your ship disintegrates saves your neck at the expense of your cargo. It echoes EVE Online's escape pod system for defeated fliers, but Roberts doesn't want a re-hash of that MMO's usage of clones as a ward against death's impact.
"If everyone can be cloned easily, it fundamentally changes the structure of the universe," he explains. "You now have a universe of immortal gods that can’t be killed. Death is just a financial and time inconvenience that has no further consequences. The life and death cycle of humanity is what has brought us our history, our need to 'make a mark' in our time, to push forward. If I want a living, breathing universe that has a lot of the dynamics of a real world and is inspired by the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, immortality for all is problematic."
Perhaps the coolest results of scraping by the space-reaper are permanent physical marks upon your character's body such as scars, cybernetic limb replacements, and presumably a "Death to Death" tattoo across your forehead. "I want to be able to walk up to another player in a bar and see that he or she is a grizzled veteran with the battle scars to prove it," Roberts enthuses.
Roberts has plenty more to say about Space Citizens' take on death, including a short FAQ for the TL;DR inclined.