What if in a heartbeat everything you owned was gone, and you felt like half of you just wasn't there anymore? No, I’m not talking about a divorce, though that would be a good guess. Earlier this week Jagex formally floated the idea of a so-called "Deadman Mode" for RuneScape in the form of a Developer Blog. I had heard of the name several times but with the blog I took the impetus to read about it. In essence, one of the key points of the idea is to have overworld PvP uniformly. You could literally be prancing along looking for a place to fill your bucket, spot a little brook, put a bucket down to the cool, clear water and BAM, someone shoots you between the eyes and you're dead!
If that doesn't make you think "oh dear", don't worry, there's more. In addition to the omnipresent threat of actual death, there are some pretty harsh penalties associated to it. For one, your assassin attains a key from you that can be used to access your entire bank for one time only, and take whatever they please (except untradeables). It doesn't stop with them loading up their inventory either. Thanks to a special interface, they can rob you blind of all your worldly possessions - whatever fits in their bank. So if you die at the hands of another player in this mode, which you probably will, you will have the pleasant experience of most of your bank likely being cleared.
Believe it or not, many players have already had such an experience despite this mode not being released. It's called (although the term is a slight misnomer) being hacked. One can see an endless stream of players claiming that some rascal got into their account and ran off with their bank, and not to kick them when they're down, but they don't exactly rise and meet the challenge. No one jumps for joy and says "Oh awesome, let me make the best of this and use this opportunity to experience rebuilding my bank!" But under the proposed new game mode, that is something most everyone interested in playing would be sure to experience on a regular basis.
At least, you might think, you still have your skills. Even with a freshly cleared bank, you can still go and do whatever skill you had in mind without any interference, right? Not quite. When you die in Deadman mode (at least, as per the original proposal), a good chunk of skill levels simply vanish. More precisely, you lose 7 levels in each skill. Because of the exponential progression system of RuneSape, it works out to be equivalent to losing half your experience in a skill on death. If you have level 99, you are sent back to 92. If you have 50, back to 43, etc. A few unlucky deaths for non-super high level players could easily send you back practically to nothing.
As a matter of fact, if you fit the bill as the technical definition of a skiller - that is, level 3 with base combat stats - you are more or less walking around with a huge "Kick me" sign on your back. I don't imagine it would be a whole lot of fun to skill when you can lose half your progress subsequent to someone one-hitting you.
If Deadman mode is meant to encourage PvP, I have to question its intentions and their consistency with reality. PvP and skilling are two different branches of the game. One shouldn't be disregarded over the other, but the simple fact is that as humans we have preferences for liking one or the other better. Players who enjoy skilling will probably feel turned off by a system that punishes them so harshly, with no real recompense. Remember, many players have an adamant dislike for friendly PvP under the safest of circumstances, for reasons I have yet to fully understand. Jagex did mention there would be town guards to keep order, but when an unarmed skiller can die in 3 hits...it seems more like too little, too late. Similarly, I doubt players who are in it for the PvP aspect are going to terribly enjoy the prospect of training up their stats and re-obtaining equipment to get themselves back on the competitive front. They are two different worlds and forcing them to collide in such a head-on way seems like a recipe for disaster (pardon the pun).
Keep in mind that if this does come to pass, it will no doubt have its share of players known as griefers. As the name suggests, these are players devoted to making someone's gaming experience as miserable as possible, i.e. killing them over and over in this hypothetical situation to reduce stats down to 1 or what have you. If you think that people throwing around insults or getting into an argument at the Grand Exchange on a normal day is bad, just wait and see what happens when they can actually attack each other! Or perhaps it just might teach people to try a little more to get along.
It may not be a total loss. Clearly a good number of people do want it and are interested in playing, as evidenced from a good number of votes on a Twitch stream. It does provide a good short-circuit to mass-produced high level armour, at least for a good while. Clans and factions devoted to forming alliances will be forged and probably prove vital as a serfdom type system. But while I mean no disrespect to Mod Mat K, dreaming up an idea and implementing it and making it successful are two very different phases of a project. Just like an apocalypse in a Hollywood movie, some ideas are significantly less sexy in practice than they are for pretend. Granted, this is a game so it may fare much better.
Still, I don't expect Deadman mode to be terribly successful, nor do I think it's the wisest use of developer time and money (speaking of which, how are those servers and DDoS issues?) without some more work. But perhaps if they make a few revisions like gentler death penalties and attaching it to a main account so players do not need to pay another set of membership dues, it's not too late for it to fill its own little niche like Ironman.