Is falling damage a good or a bad thing?

Playing SWTOR again I’ve noticed how much falling damage is a thing still in some MMORPGs. Not all games have this – The Secret World doesn’t, and Rift patched it out quite a while ago.

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These days when I play SWTOR on my Shadow (and equally on my Imp. Agent) I tend to do a lot of sneaking around or randomly exploring. In this bit of one of the KOTET chapters I happened to spot an objective down below and decided to find a way to jump down. This time around it worked well, another time my character got stuck on a vine on the wall I was jumping diagonally to and in getting out I plunged down two levels and almost died.

Always climbing up in this game

Always climbing up in this game

Other games that do have falling damage do offer more ways to avoid it; I’ve mentioned the new movement options in the Legion expansion of World of Warcraft but then the game has always had ways of preventing falling damage (levitate, slow fall, Paladin bubbles, crafted items).

Testing the kite toy.

Testing the kite toy.

Although I can appreciate games not having falling damage, I think on balance I prefer to have it. Exploration as gameplay loses something if there’s no element or risk or danger. I saw this transition in Rift and overall lost some of the joy I used to take in climbing mountains at every opportunity when I could leap of the tallest peak without fear. MMORPGs are far from realistic in many ways but the ability of our characters in TSW to jump from high buildings without any noise or reaction to a fast and hard landing from our characters has always seemed a big immersion killer in that game.

WoW and EQ2 deal with this issue the best in my mind, they have falling damage but give characters the tools to deal with it if it’s a problem. SWTOR has falling damage but doesn’t give you much to mitigate the risk – so exploration can be thrilling (some of those datacrons are placed in very high places!) but equally it’s frustrating for my Bounty Hunter not to be able to break his fall with his jet pack or for my Jedi Master character to be able to reduce his falling speed with the force…

Do you think falling damage is a good or bad thing?

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8 Responses to Is falling damage a good or a bad thing?

  1. Bhagpusss says:

    I’m in favor of it. It’s a big thing in GW2, especially in WvW. Pranging people off of high walls and cliffs so they fall to their death is immensely satisfying and commanders who lead entire zergs over the edge of long drops like a swarm of lemmings is a perennial chuckle.

    In PvE I agree it feels very flat with out any falling damage at all. I’d have it set generously so that all but the most reckless leaps would be survivable but I’d definitely expect characters to need to take a few seconds to recover and to be low health and therefore vulnerable to anything that chose to attack them at the end of the fall.

  2. As unrealistic as it is, games are simply more fun without falling damage. Removing it encourages exploration and makes navigating maps easier. I’ve been totally spoiled by TSW in this regard.

    The only exception I’d make is in PvP scenarios as described by Bhagpuss above. If you fighting other players in a high place, then falling damage becomes an element of strategy. It opens up new gameplay options.

    If you’re just out wandering the world alone, though? It’s just an annoyance.

  3. Karinshastha says:

    I’m in favor of it in PvP as it allows for more interesting scenarios. In PvE, I don’t really care what the game’s developers decide to do as long as it’s not annoying (e.g. the old GW2 bug where you could kill yourself by walking down a hill the wrong way). TSW gets a thumbs up for no falling damage – we’re made of bees and if Funcom tells us that taking a long walk off a short bridge doesn’t exhaust our anima the way combat does, that’s cool. I also feel a bit spoiled in that regard.

    In GW2, veteran players compete with each other to see how many times per hour they can complete the Wintersday jumping puzzle. Meanwhile, in TSW, Cost of Magic’s half-minute of platform jumping is frequently cited as one of the more difficult missions in the game. Now add falling damage to that. Probably wouldn’t work out so well.

  4. pkudude99 says:

    I like how FFXIV does it — you take scaling damage depending on the height of the fall, but you can’t die from falling from too great a height — you will always have 1 hp left from a “too high” fall. Of course if there’s a monster at the bottom of the cliff it might decide to finish you off……

    • I was actually coming here to mention this. You can die from falling, but only if you’re in battle (something has aggro on you). If you just fall randomly without being in battle, you don’t die.

      I like this because you can’t use falling as a way to run away from a fight — you do have to be mindful of not falling during battle… and of what you encounter at the bottom of the fall. I think it’s a good balance.

  5. Sylow says:

    I see it similarily. For a PvP game, in my case it was Warhammer Online, it was very important, as it mattered for tactics. For a PvE game, i know both flavours. I couldn’t tell a personal preference, though, my statement would be that it has to match to the style of the game.

    I mean, the actual extreme is not TSW, but DC Universe. Your characters not only don’t take falling damage, but also land with the classical “superhero drop” and have all the movement options so no hole, trench or anything will ever cost you more than a few seconds to climb or fly out of it again. Compared to that even TSW is harsh. You might not die when falling down, but finding a way back up might take a while. Mind you, there’s only very few geometry bugs in the maps where you can’t get out of any more, but there’s a lot of areas where getting out requires a long reroute. The premium example of course is the City of the Sun God, with ist canyons, underground tunnels and so on. I actually discovered a number of things there in the run of time after accidentally falling down somewhere and trying to find a way back up to where i wanted to be.

    It’s a style and gamedesign decission. For TSW, the character is a close to immortal. Sure your body can be killed, but you can recover from any kind of damage and even come back from the dead. You are not a god, some character traits are in their league. And while almost no MMO has perma-death, so all characters in almost all MMOs are basically immortal, in most of them that is just game mechanic without ever including it in the lore or anything like that. And how would it, if your character is of the same race as many other people around you, with the only difference being “player controlled”? In most MMOs people die, often for story reasons. But if everybody by definition is immortal, nobody dies, breaking stories and everything. So by not including the characters immortality in the lore, but using it as plain and obvious game mechanic, these problems are avoided.

    Now looking back at TSW, it very much includes the special traits in the lore. There are several cutscenes where villains lock you in (or cut off your legs!) telling you stuff like that they have no means to kill you or that they don’t have the time to properly grind you to dust, which is the only way they know which could prevent you from healing up… so if your character can recover from your legs being cut off by lasers (barely giving the villain a little headstart) it just seems coherent that a little bit of falling down, a few broken bones and smashed organs, are nothing your character troubles himself about. The only thing here which actually would be nice could be some “impact-animation”. I mean, it does exist in the dungeon “The Facility”, where the characters use a long vertical tube to jump down to get into the core of the facility. There every character impacts, with appropriate sound and some animation. Maybe this should be moved to all of the game, so whenever you fall down for a significant height (but not merely 10 or 20 meters, which would sure kill a normal human but apparently not even be uncomfortable to your character), that animation could be used.

    So falling down should not be a punishment per se. If your game world is more on the “realistic” side, your characters are more “mundane”, heroes for sure but without such traits like “almost impossible to kill”, then falling damage makes sense. As soon as they are special in any way, be it by having magic at hand, being of a super-race or being any other variant of superhuman (like being chosen by anima in TSW), it is plausible that falling damage is removed. Of course, this is is a core property of a games design, the presence or absence of falling damage makes a huge difference in many aspects, among those how maps are designed. (If falling into a deep canyon kills you, all the map designer has to do is to make sure the canyon has a floor to hit so the character can die. If there is no falling damage, the map designer better make sure that the canyon floor is not only well modeled, but that there’s also a (probably long and exhausting, but still visible and navitateable) way to climb out again, as you probably don’t want all your game population end up stuck in canyons…

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