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Subject: Are there non-sports video games where you have to lose? rss

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Stoic Bird
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Since Christmas, all of my non-fighting gaming time has been spent with NBA 2K11. I've been really impressed with the whole package, and perhaps more so as I read about the extent to which the community has gotten involved with the game. I read through an 86-page discussion on one set of sliders, in which people where watching footage from 80s and 90s NBA games to try and replicate that in the game, and the work the modding community has done on 2K14 for the PC means I most likely will pick that up next Steam sale (every player, coach, arena, playbook, etc. for every team since 1960!)

Anyway, one of the bits I've found interesting while reading is the philosophy about winning and losing games. Most of the people who care enough about the game to post about it seem to want it to reflect reality, and part of the reality of sports is, of course, losing. The best season record in real NBA history is 72-10, and the general consensus seems to be that if your team does even that well, it's time to turn up the difficulty (or, if you're at the top there, time to adjust the settings). For the people who want to do Association (the multi-season GM mode), sometimes even having a winning record with a team they've chosen to rebuild in the first year is considered too easy.

I've found this to be rather unique in my experience among video game communities, and I'm wondering if this idea - that losing should be a universal part of the game no matter your skill level - applies to any other games or communities. I'm not talking about the "every loss is a lesson/you need to play with people who are better than you to improve" mentality that exists in one way or another for every competitive game, but the idea that even the best player in the world SHOULD be losing games each and every season. I rather doubt it would be for the same reason (realism), but it's the effect that has grabbed my attention, and not the cause.

Here's why: I know that one of my weaknesses as a person is that I'm bad at losing. I'm not a bad loser, especially when playing games with other people, but when things don't go as I want or expect, I tend to take it very hard and only learn the lessons from it much later after I've stopped chastising myself for not being the best. (This is much more true in real life than in games.) I've been like this since I was a kid; in fact, I would always make sure I had 82-0 seasons in the Live games back then because I couldn't stand it when the CPU beat me.

One of the things I want to do this year is try and use video games to help me learn to be better at not winning. 2K11 seems like a good fit for that (especially since my favorite team, the Pistons, were pretty bad that year). I'm open to recommendations, because 2K is a pretty sizable time commitment, but I posted this in general because I'm mostly just curious if this idea exists within any other games or genres that I'm missing. Any of you feel this way about anything you've played or encountered?
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Aaron Tubb
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Very interesting question, and I'm interested in what other games there are like this. I like games that let you continue playing after major defeat, but I can't think of any where it's basically impossible to avoid defeat altogether.

The obvious answer that comes to mind is competitive multiplayer games. e.g. StarCraft II, Counter Strike, League of Legends, Halo, etc.
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David Hicks
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As a highly competitive person myself, who competes at games on the national level, I cannot endorse this lol

If you train to be a better fisherman, you will be a great fisher. If you train at losing, you will be a great loser.
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Stoic Bird
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I'm not trying to get better at losing - I'm trying to get better at improving following a loss rather than just getting frustrated at myself and giving up. To stick with basketball, last I checked Michael Jordan still had the all-time NBA record for most missed potentially game-winning shots.

I keep reading that what separates the people at the top of their fields from the competition is the ability to accept loss, learn from it, and incorporate the lessons into their next attempt. That's the piece I'm trying to get better at.

As far as what makes sports games different from any other competitive game I've encountered, it's that someone could hypothetically win every single game of StarCraft they played (even against the AI) and still be considered the best, while that wouldn't be the case for sports games - they'd be considered to be gaming the settings in their favor.
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David Hicks
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I see better what you mean.

I do think learning from loss is crucial. And I do, when I can.

I still see nothing wrong with loss angering you. It drives me.

I competed in Tetris 2 years ago and lost in the first round to a 14 year old Asian kid. I understood how and why. I had not problem with it. But if at nationals I go out in quarterfinals or higher I get pissed and self hating. And I think I learn more from that self loathing
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james napoli
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Great topic, thanks for posting about it.

reminds me of NHL2k9 i think it was...egads, i don't recall the exact year. But essentially it was a PS2 game, and i spent a ton of time working out and adjusting the sliders to make the game competitive enough without it being too cheap.

Personally i've given up playing seasons of sports games against the AI.

With the EA games at least, the advent of be a pro mode both offline and online have changed the dynamics of what i want/need to get out of sports game. Instead it's more of dealing with the drama of either running or being part of a real human team, playing as a team, who's passing the puck or the ball, who's not, who's drinking too much, what in game exploits there are and essentially the RPG elements of upgrading your Pro to be better.

However, with that said, i think that we've seen a good influx of games that brutally difficult among the most popular. The Demon Souls games for example or rogue legacy, rebirth of isaac etc.
People want to feel some sense of accomplishment from their games, and essentially what's the fun of an easy win?
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Roguelikes and die-and-retry platformers are non-sports games where it's not satisfying unless you lose a lot.
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Todd Pytel
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Roguelikes come to mind. If you're playing at respectable difficulties you should probably be losing at least occasionally. However, sports games and roguelikes occupy a somewhat unique position in that the whole game is represented in short, repeatable sessions. Most games are much more drawn-out affairs, and very few people want to invest 10-20 hours into a game only to find that they can't complete it.
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Tyler
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Crusader Kings II is like this to some extent. Coming from a mindset of games like the Civ series, where you might not win every battle, but you had darn well better win every war, CK2 can be a real tough adjustment. I remember when I first started playing I would want to restart of revert to an older save every time I would lose a war. Then I started playing on ironman mode where going back to old saves is not an option, and I learned something.

Losing is part of the game. There's no country on Earth that can trace its history back 1200 years and have that history be free of defeats. The game sets its systems up to reflect these realities, and the effect of crushing defeats is still not game ending. 5 or 10 years tops and a player can be right back to conquering even after a pretty bad beat.

Now, I tend to be very, very successful in my games and still probably end up losing about 20% of the wars I fight.
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I'm not sure if this is a good comparison, but in Dead Rising, your character's stats improved and carried over to the next new game after you died. In order to really get the best outcome, you had to play through a couple of times, and either get the less than favorable outcomes, or flat out die, to develop your character sufficiently to beat the game. Plus, the game was ridiculously hard early on, when your character was low level. After building up your stats and bit and restarting several times, your character was sturdy enough to survive the steep learning curve.

Also, I guess most war/strategy games involve losing battles. You know, the old quote, "We may of lost the battle,but we won the war"
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A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.
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Mount & Blade: Warband immediately came to my mind. It's a sandbox game set in a chivalrous medieval setting. You go around recruiting troops, trading, fighting battles, participating in tournaments, pillaging villages, establishing enterprises and so forth. There is no ending condition, everything is completely optional and all the events are procedurally generated, so in the end it all boils down to acquire renown and gold in the way you see more fun. Maybe you'll try to unify all kingdoms under your rule, become a successful independent merchant, swear fealty to a kingdom and help it grow, be a ruthless and cruel mercenary... Whatever you prefer.

Now, regarding defeat and consequences, if you choose to play the so-called realistic mode, you have a single save for your playthrough, and your progress is automatically saved to that file. Each time you're defeated in battle you don't die, but rather the troops you had accompanying you scatter, you loose some gold as ransom and are held for some in-game time. Also, you can loose the income of fiefs and enterprises if you swear allegiance to a kingdom, as during war your fiefs can be pillaged and conquered by the enemy.

In general, in Warband you try to become a successful mercenary, knight or merchant, and whenever you are defeated you must deal with the consequences, which in the end always translate to loss of resources, be them troops, investments or gold. Basically, you loose progress. An important part of the game is knowing which battles to pick, as well as establishing an economic engine which allows you to recover your losses as gracefully as possible.
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I would more closely relate losing a game in NBK 2k11 to losing a life in a platformer than to losing a game in a roguelike.

In that vein, if I'm playing through a platformer and I'm not dying at all (or having to retry the challenge ala Rayman Origins or Kirby Epic Yarn) then I'm almost certainly not having fun. I do want to be challenged.

I don't like games where I have to start the entire game from the beginning which is what I would take as "losing the game", but there are players who prefer this arcade, unforgiving experience Cynical comes to mind immediately.
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Bullseye71 wrote:
In order to really get the best outcome, you had to play through a couple of times, and either get the less than favorable outcomes, or flat out die, to develop your character sufficiently to beat the game. Plus, the game was ridiculously hard early on, when your character was low level. After building up your stats and bit and restarting several times, your character was sturdy enough to survive the steep learning curve.
That's a common concept in browser games nowadays. Just look through the "Upgrades" tag on Kongregate to find many such games.

Just linking one prime example here: Upgrade Complete
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frumpish wrote:
I would more closely relate losing a game in NBK 2k11 to losing a life in a platformer than to losing a game in a roguelike.

I don't agree, but I'm really glad you said that, as you triggered a "lightbulb moment" for me this morning regarding my own preferences.

The difference is permanence. If I die playing something like Mario or Contra, I get to try that section again - it's harder because I lost my items, but I get another shot. With stuff like Kirby, there's effectively no penalty. With stuff like Dead Rising (or the more recent Mario games if you die enough times), not only do I get to try again, but it's actually easier. If I miss the game-winning shot in Game 7 of the Finals, short of save state manipulation, I'm done.

And that may just be the key thread that ties together all of the single player games I like. Like you, I do want some kind of challenge, which is why I've generally forsaken the Kirby games. I also learned that I don't want the AI's pity; my 4 year old gets really excited when we lose enough to be offered the Super Leaf in Mario 3D World, and I've found it an interesting contrast to my hubris (my mental reaction is "I don't want your stinkin' leaf"). But I also want to be able to try again. This is probably why I stopped playing sports games 15 years ago; it's probably also why, for example, I greatly prefer Advance Wars to Fire Emblem (anonymous units vs. actual characters you never see again when they die).

And all of that would be fine - this is a hobby, after all - except that I do think it's reflective of how I live the rest of my life (not wanting to do anything I feel like I might fail at and not get a second shot), and that's a problem. Interesting.
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That is interesting, so is it accurate to say you view a loss in NBA 2k 11 as a permanent taint to your game?

Would you view the number of lives lost counter that appears in some games the same way? Or the use of a continue?

It seems like it may not be the failure that bothers you as much as how the game presents the failure to the player.

Also if we are getting into real life, learning any new skill and indeed any growth is going to require failure along the way.

I like this quote by Neil Gaiman.

"I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever."
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Stoic Bird
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frumpish wrote:
That is interesting, so is it accurate to say you view a loss in NBA 2k 11 as a permanent taint to your game?

Some games are more important than others, but historically, yes and that's precisely what I'm trying to change about myself. I thought starting with something low stakes like a video game would be a good first step.

Not sure how familiar you are with modern sports games, but it does have in-game consequences as well if you lose too many - it impacts your ability to get free agents and the morale system can even cause a drop in your current players' attributes.

frumpish wrote:
Would you view the number of lives lost counter that appears in some games the same way? Or the use of a continue?

It seems like it may not be the failure that bothers you as much as how the game presents the failure to the player.

Exactly - it's the perceived chance at redemption. Mario 3D World tracks the total number of times you've died on your save file, and if I wasn't playing with my kids (my 2 year old has shot that number up at least 50 in January alone from bubble popping at inopportune times), that would drive me up the wall. Metal Slug (and many arcade games, but that's my favorite) track your continues in the ones place of your score, and I hate looking at 9s there.

This is probably even a factor in my continuing to regard Mario World as my favorite video game - it's certainly not by time spent any more and the flaws become more obvious to me the more I play it (and other games), but as long as I get to the end eventually, I get to bask in my victory without being reminded of my defeats.

frumpish wrote:
Also if we are getting into real life,

Always

frumpish wrote:
learning any new skill and indeed any growth is going to require failure along the way.

I like this quote by Neil Gaiman.

I like that too. I hadn't heard that one specifically, but I've heard that sentiment from many, many greats in their field - which, again, is part of this whole project.

Another thing starting with something low stakes will do is help me to be patient with myself. Our popular culture is so youth-obsessed that I had a really skewed perception of how achievement should work. No one really talked about age with me growing up, so my perception was shaped by NBA commentators, who marveled at how much Robert Parish contributed to the '97 Bulls (not a ton) despite being "ancient" at 43. As an aspiring filmmaker, I set my target at being Orson Welles (26 when Kane was released) or John Singleton (nominated for Best Director at 23) or even Steven King (26 when Carrie was published), and felt like a failure when I hadn't achieved anything culturally significant in my early 20s.

I realize now both that this is patently absurd (exceptional people are exceptional because they're the exception) and that I didn't do what they all did - take small steps to work their way up to the level that they are at now. I tend to try to go for broke, fail, get discouraged, and give up, which is stupid. I'm still doing this to a degree, most likely biting off more than I can chew with the fighting game project I'm working on - but at least I'm a bit more realistic with my timeline (long) and chances of success (acknowledging that they're low).
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Stoic Bird
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I started a GeekList to explore this semi-tangent a little bit more, if anyone has any specific games/series that come to mind:

Games where failure has permanent consequences
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Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future. H.G. Wells
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VolcanoLotus wrote:
Not sure how familiar you are with modern sports games, but it does have in-game consequences as well if you lose too many - it impacts your ability to get free agents and the morale system can even cause a drop in your current players' attributes.

Not familiar at all. That is interesting.
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This conversation reminds me of when I was playing Lemmings.

For a while in the game I would restart the level as soon as I found a flaw in my plan, or lost a needless Lemming.

After a while I learned to sit back and let the game develop. Often instead of learning just one new improved technique for the level, I would learn several or I would learn a technique that was vital to getting through the level rather than something that would delay me losing a couple lemmings. Or I would learn that I could still get through the level without that lemming.

It improved my times getting through levels considerably.
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I frequently play games where I can lose. I'm a pretty big fan of rogue-likes, and you can't really play those without expecting to lose. I also play a lot of puzzle games where there is a correct and incorrect way to solve things, and I play other games that have set fail conditions, like strategy or simulation games.

But then, I don't like games I can win all the time. I like to be challenged. However, there is a huge difference between being challenged, and having a limited number of lives in which to accomplish things. There is also a huge difference between losing in a way that makes you want to keep playing, and losing in a way that makes you frustrated. After all, many people find the "one life only" policy of rogue-likes highly frustrating.

Now, are you also talking about games that create an "impossible to win" situations because of poor game design?

Example (and yes, this is really from a game): You don't bother to pick a flower in the fourth land, to carry with you. Now you are in the fifth land, and it turns out you need that flower, however there is no way back to the fourth land. So if you don't have that flower, you have to restart everything.

There are a number of adventure games that have puzzles that do exactly that - more because they were created in the early days of adventure gaming and the designers had not yet realized how frustrating that kind of loss is. It is not fun to find something you overlooked because you didn't know you would need it is actually used after all. And that caused many people to hoard unnecessary items - just in case - they ended up being used.

And where would RPGs fit into your view? When I die in Skyrim, I die - that part of the game is lost, that character does not magically resurrect with full health and all my items. But I can go back an restore from a previous save. Of course, that means I then have to replay that section of the game. I still see that as a loss - a loss of my time if nothing else. How would you see it?

Or how about games that give you options when you die, such as Diablo II or Fate or Torchlight. You have to decide if you are going to lose gold, character XP, or nothing, and that determines if you are resurrected a few levels up, exactly where you died, or back in town (and of course, you lose all your items until you return to your body to pick them back up.) Dying in those games is definitely a loss that can set you back.

There are many different flavors of losing.
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frumpish wrote:
VolcanoLotus wrote:
Not sure how familiar you are with modern sports games, but it does have in-game consequences as well if you lose too many - it impacts your ability to get free agents and the morale system can even cause a drop in your current players' attributes.

Not familiar at all. That is interesting.

The series I hear NBA 2K compared with most frequently is Civilization, of all games. Many, maybe most, people who play the franchise mode simulate the majority of the games, while a not insignificant percentage will simulate the entire season (only controlling players in the playoffs) or even never play basketball at all, instead acting only as the GM trying to win games and/or make a profit (I haven't dug in yet, but I'm pretty sure you can even set concession stand prices). It's a pretty nifty game.

And your Lemmings story is exactly what I'm trying to do for myself. I'm already getting better about it intellectually, but my emotional reactions haven't caught up yet (time will tell how much they actually will).
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adularia25 wrote:
Now, are you also talking about games that create an "impossible to win" situations because of poor game design?

Good question. No, that's not what I'm looking at, because I agree with you that that's just poor design, and you can't continue the game. I'm looking more at games where you are able to continue on but have to deal with the consequences of your failure, without having a chance to rectify it like you do in, say, platformers.

adularia25 wrote:
And where would RPGs fit into your view? When I die in Skyrim, I die - that part of the game is lost, that character does not magically resurrect with full health and all my items. But I can go back an restore from a previous save. Of course, that means I then have to replay that section of the game. I still see that as a loss - a loss of my time if nothing else. How would you see it?

I've never played an Elder Scrolls game, so I can't say for certain, but for most RPGs I have played I'd regard what you're describing as a genre-shift version of the Mario/Contra situation, where you get to try again with less stuff. Are you saying that in Skyrim, you have one shot at a quest, and if you fail, that quest goes away forever unless you go back and load a save but you can continue on with the larger game? If so, that sounds interesting (and like the sort of thing I'm getting at here).

adularia25 wrote:
Or how about games that give you options when you die, such as Diablo II or Fate or Torchlight. You have to decide if you are going to lose gold, character XP, or nothing, and that determines if you are resurrected a few levels up, exactly where you died, or back in town (and of course, you lose all your items until you return to your body to pick them back up.) Dying in those games is definitely a loss that can set you back.

I think I'd need to see an example because I can't really picture that. I read that as sort of like choosing whether to credit feed or start over in an arcade game - am I on the right track?

adularia25 wrote:
There are many different flavors of losing.

Don't I know it
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VolcanoLotus wrote:
adularia25 wrote:
And where would RPGs fit into your view? When I die in Skyrim, I die - that part of the game is lost, that character does not magically resurrect with full health and all my items. But I can go back an restore from a previous save. Of course, that means I then have to replay that section of the game. I still see that as a loss - a loss of my time if nothing else. How would you see it?

I've never played an Elder Scrolls game, so I can't say for certain, but for most RPGs I have played I'd regard what you're describing as a genre-shift version of the Mario/Contra situation, where you get to try again with less stuff. Are you saying that in Skyrim, you have one shot at a quest, and if you fail, that quest goes away forever unless you go back and load a save but you can continue on with the larger game? If so, that sounds interesting (and like the sort of thing I'm getting at here).
No, what I'm saying is that when you die in Skyrim, you are dead and the game is over, forever, unless you go back to a previously saved game. You don't have more than one life, but you do have unlimited save options. So you don't have one shot, per-se, since you can always go back to a previous save. And when you die and go back to a save point, everything you did from you last save point to the moment of your death never happened.

And there aren't always ways to "lose" quests. In Skyrim, quests are usually branching quests - so by choosing one way of completing it, you are barred from getting a different outcome. Which isn't a failure. Now, with some of the older Elder Scrolls games, there are ways of failing quests, and if you fail, you never get another shot at that particular quest with that character.

VolcanoLotus wrote:
adularia25 wrote:
Or how about games that give you options when you die, such as Diablo II or Fate or Torchlight. You have to decide if you are going to lose gold, character XP, or nothing, and that determines if you are resurrected a few levels up, exactly where you died, or back in town (and of course, you lose all your items until you return to your body to pick them back up.) Dying in those games is definitely a loss that can set you back.

I think I'd need to see an example because I can't really picture that. I read that as sort of like choosing whether to credit feed or start over in an arcade game - am I on the right track?
Something like that. It is sort-of like an arcade, in that you still get to restart, instead of facing permanent death - but it gives you options for how much you lose when you restart - restarting isn't free (and since you don't have "lives" in this type of game, you need to lose something other than a heart symbol.)

If you choose to start back in town, you lose any gold you were carrying, which drops to a pile next to your dead body, and all equipped items, as they stay with your dead body. All these things can be recovered, should you be able to find your body again. But as you are now back in town, that might take a while.

If you choose to start a few levels above where you are in the dungeon, you lose a percent of your gold, which this time permanently goes away instead of appearing in a pile next to your dead body, and your equipped items, which stay with your body.

And if you choose to start at the same level where you died, you lose a percent of your XP (which you have to re-earn), a percent of your gold (which goes away) and your equipped items, which stay with your body - but as you are pretty close to where you died, you can potentially run back and recover everything faster.
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adularia25 wrote:
VolcanoLotus wrote:
Are you saying that in Skyrim, you have one shot at a quest, and if you fail, that quest goes away forever unless you go back and load a save but you can continue on with the larger game? If so, that sounds interesting (and like the sort of thing I'm getting at here).
No, what I'm saying is that when you die in Skyrim, you are dead and the game is over, forever, unless you go back to a previously saved game. You don't have more than one life, but you do have unlimited save options. So you don't have one shot, per-se, since you can always go back to a previous save. And when you die and go back to a save point, everything you did from you last save point to the moment of your death never happened.

Ah. Then no, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about when the game itself moves on in spite of your failure - sounds like with Skyrim it's either game over or "continue" (with a user-defined save point instead of game-defined).

adularia25 wrote:
Now, with some of the older Elder Scrolls games, there are ways of failing quests, and if you fail, you never get another shot at that particular quest with that character.

That's the sort of thing I'm getting at - you're still playing the game in a future in which your failure persists.

adularia25 wrote:
It is sort-of like an arcade, in that you still get to restart, instead of facing permanent death - but it gives you options for how much you lose when you restart - restarting isn't free (and since you don't have "lives" in this type of game, you need to lose something other than a heart symbol.)

If you choose to start back in town, you lose any gold you were carrying, which drops to a pile next to your dead body, and all equipped items, as they stay with your dead body. All these things can be recovered, should you be able to find your body again. But as you are now back in town, that might take a while.

If you choose to start a few levels above where you are in the dungeon, you lose a percent of your gold, which this time permanently goes away instead of appearing in a pile next to your dead body, and your equipped items, which stay with your body.

And if you choose to start at the same level where you died, you lose a percent of your XP (which you have to re-earn), a percent of your gold (which goes away) and your equipped items, which stay with your body - but as you are pretty close to where you died, you can potentially run back and recover everything faster.

Thanks. Unless equipped items are more unique than I think they are, that's not really what I'm getting at either. You can always get more gold, more XP, and more armor/swords/whatnot, but you can't go back and win the 2012 NBA Championship after losing, or win the Crusades (or whatever you're fighting in Crusader Kings) after you've already lost them - even though in both of those cases the game, if you continue playing it, moves on.
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"The master has lost more often than the amateur even tried" or something like that.

Crusader Kings 2 would really be the best choice imho as every setback also makes a great story.
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