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"In the end, there can only be one." - McCloud
Many people have said they want harsher death penalties in their game, but at the same time, we are all aware that harsh death penalties push away players; specially the unexperienced ones. This is an idea that could be applied to just about any MMO out there to increase the adrenaline flow, and at the same time, keep everyone (including what some people like to call "carebears") happy.
Highlander Progression Realm
Summary - Separate Realm through same sedrver instancing; Harsh death penalty. Set amount of deaths = Permadeath. Last (few) remaining receive Buff for a set amount of time, but cannot qualify for Highlander Pregression while buff is in effect.
Instancing used to create a seperate realm where everyone that has signed up for the progression sub-game will start the game with their character at a specified level. Level 1 for full progression. (Their original characters are unaffected, and anytime they wish they could log back to their "main". ) Normal players can "switch" to this instance and back, but they will have no effect on anything around them, with the exception of chat. They will just be "observers".
NPC scaled strength. Level 1 = Level 1 in normal game and gradual increase as levels are gained. So depending on the game in question, if max level is 50, then the level 25 NPCs can be 4:1 strength, and max level NPCs are at 10:1 strength, but these have increased rewards and points. Group encounters will also be stronger to the point that some will have to be outright avoided.
Death will be harsh, with a set amount of deaths resulting in the permanent death of your Highlander character. Penalties will be in effect for amount of time offline (commulative, so peple don't just log on every 8 hours and log right back out to just not incur in an offline death), or inaction while in game, and passed a certain point or level, auto PVP will be enabled and can't be turned off. Example: 1 Week Highlander competition - Every 24 hours offline: 1 death. Log in for 1 minute every 2 hours for 25 hours = 24 Hours & 48 minutes of offline time, which means, next time you log in, you will receive 1 death. If the permadeath occurs at 3 deaths, and this was your third death, then you would receive a message saying your character is dead, and it will give you your current score and ranking vs all others.
Rewards & Winning: At the end of the predetermined time (or before if only one player remains), Highlander progression will be over, and the winner will receive a long term buff (30 days, for example), where his stats are increased, gain a temporary mount/armor, and has a title and/or other effects on his avatar. Depending on how much they progressed, additional rewards can also be granted, and certain "rank" rewards can also be given. Everyone who participates receives whatever they earned while doing the highlander progression, including items, gold & exp.
These are just ideas, and much more stuff can be added or tweaked depending on the game in question. General idea is to have a duplicate world, instanced, where people can play with truly hard perma-death style gameplay & PvP, without having to worry about being at a permanent disadvantage in the ongoing world. Since the Highlander Progression will always restart every week (or any other time period in question), everyone will start off the same, and only their actions will determine how they rank at the end. Since the winners will also not be able to participate in a few games, it will also shuffle things up so other people will get a chance to win.