So I was reading into MMOs that used to feature permanent death, and a few that still do, and I became completely enamored with the concept. Specifically, I was reading up on how Jedi used to function in Star Wars Galaxy and was amazed with how cool it sounded, how it actually gave the Jedi character weight in the world and allowed the devs to make them extremely powerful simply because one death would end them forever. It sounded incredible, and then there was the idea that using the force in public would mark you for death and then everyone would come after you and GOD DAMN IT SOUNDS SO COOL.
It also fixes a problem I've been trying to work out forever which is how do you cultivate a player mythology in a game that isn't EVE Online. When I say player mythology I mean the server lore that players themselves build over the course of an MMO's lifespan. In more recent games like WoW and all the games that copied WoW this comes from people who do things the first and in game events like that time Blizzard fucked up and unleashed the black plague. The problem is this tends to be super fucking boring so no one really cares or considers it to be an integral part of the experience.
As EVE has proven though, this is actually one of the most engaging parts of an MMO if done correctly. It's so appealing, in fact, that it often stretches outside the bounds of the game's community and draws new players in. Not only is it a veritable player run PR machine, but it also creates a world that is more fun to exist in and gives players a feeling that they too can shape the history of this world. But developers don't build with this in mind, instead they copy WoW because it got the fundamental gameplay aspects of the MMO so very very right and was so successful because of it that people tend not to see past that, I of course say this from a position of years upon years of working as a veteran MMO developer.
Okay, look. The point is that player mythology is important but games just aren't built for it. You need a way to limit resources, make power meaningful, and have a world with a ruleset that allows for players to make drastic changes. This is very very hard to do within the WoW framework, or at least it seems to be. I think permadeath solves a lot of these problems, despite how horrible this idea sounds.
Imagine if attaining level 80 in WoW was almost impossible, maybe there were only 100 people in the entire world who were level 80. Or, as another example, let's say there was a instance so deadly, so devilishly hard, that only the most brave and foolhardy of players would ever dare enter it, and those who did would spend days if not weeks preparing, pouring over all the data people had collected, knowing full well that months of their hard work could be erased in an instant if they should fail. What if MMOs had heroes, living legends that could be approached and interacted with, not as NPCs but as real player avatars.
I think there are many other advantages to allowing permanent death into an MMO too. It makes resources more scarce allowing for a more realistic economy, world PvP becomes meaningful and a real threat rather than a mild annoyance, and with both these things comes a place for player run governments and organizations. Imagine running a bandit ring in WoW that roved around picking off players and plundering their riches or a mercenary corp that protected the hub cities in exchange for a weekly payout from a player run government body. Obviously these kind of things require a bit more work to be properly implemented, but i think introducing permadeath solves a lot of the prerequisites.
More than anything I think introducing permadeath into a game like this brings in a certain audience that would appreciate why it is there and exploit that fact. I think introducing permadeath in a game like WoW as it is now, or even as it was when it launched, would be disastrous simply because of how it was built and the kind of audeince it caters too. I do think it has a place in the MMO genre though and that it could be the next step forward that people have been struggling to grab onto for years now, and if not it is certainly worth exploring as it may lead to even more creative solutions for how to cultivate a true player mythology.