Sometimes it can be tough to forge bonds with other players in massive sandbox games. That’s why Final Fantasy 11 was built harder than other MMORPGs at the time by adding an experience penalty system. When you die, you lose EXP, and if you die a lot you can even lose whole levels.
Even Elden Ring doesn’t make you lose a level from repeated deaths, but according to game director Koichi Ishii, that mechanic was very deliberate.
"In FFXI, I wanted people to play with the mindset of ‘I never, ever want to die!’ instead of ‘It’s okay if I die, I can just start over again.’ If the consequences of getting KO’d are light, then players will also feel little responsibility for their own actions," said Ishii in a new interview. "In a safe environment, it’s easy to feel like other people don’t matter, and you don’t think twice about inconveniencing someone else.
"Whereas those who’ve leveled down before can sympathize when someone else is hit with the EXP penalty, and those feelings motivate them to protect their friends and rush to aid anyone who needs help. Some people who’ve been through rough times are spurred by their experiences to help others."
Like many RPGs before it, Final Fantasy 11 also allowed players to form parties to take on greater challenges. With the stakes so high for everyone, Ishii said that the EXP penalty made it so "people support each other without expecting something in return."
It's a similar mentality in the Elden Ring community, where one player made it their mission to help as many people as they could. That solidarity in the face of adversity helped break the game out of the toxic "git gud" mentality that the Souls franchise suffered from, even inspiring others to take up the mantle themselves to help thousands more players in their journey through The Lands Between.
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