Game Design

The Dark Souls bloodstain system SUCKS

written 2023-11-05

Experience points suck:

Stop doing experience

But now we're talking about a system often used on top of experience and why it's extra bad: the mechanic in Dark Souls and everything inspired by it where, when you die, you drop all of your money or experience, and if you get back to where you died you can retrieve it, but if you die again before retrieving it, it's gone forever. I call it the bloodstain system because in Dark Souls you "touch your bloodstain" to get your experience back.

Let's start with the universal problems with this mechanic:

These problems can vary in degree based on the implementation. For example in Jedi: Fallen Order, levels are unlocked instantly when you fill the experience meter so your bloodstain can never be more than 1 level's worth, but in Dark Souls, it can because you can't actually level up until you bring that experience to a save point.

Now let's talk about reasons the bloodstain system sucks extra hard in the context of highly nonlinear, unguided games like Dark Souls.

In these games, the hand-crafted balancing of a linear campaign is considered an acceptable loss. Since the player can proceed in any of several areas at any given time, and the game doesn't indicate an intended order, they might walk into a challenge they're severely under-upgraded for. That's supposed to be okay because the player can realize and go somewhere else. But the bloodstain system spoils that, by forcing the player to go back to where they died every time.

It's even worse in Dark Souls because when you die in a boss, your bloodstain spawns *inside* the locked arena, so you can't just get in there, retrieve it and get out; you're stuck trying that overpowered boss until you win.

Proxied content from gemini://yujiri.xyz/game-design/bloodstain.gmi

Gemini request details:

Original URL
Status code
text/gemini; lang=en
Proxied by

Be advised that no attempt was made to verify the remote SSL certificate.

What is Gemini?