One life in the New World: Salem MMO to feature permadeath

Permadeath is a topic that's brought up on a regular basis in MMO discussion circles, usually featuring a cast of characters that span the full spectrum of the debate. Is there a burning desire for the risk and finality of a permadeath system in MMOs? Would players flock to or flee from such a game? And how would it work in such a way to retain players instead of alienating them?

Game Designer Bjorn Johannessen is working hard on the answers for those questions in his new MMORPG, with the working title of Salem. Developed by Paradox Interactive, this free-to-play title is set in New England during the early period of North American colonization and features players stepping off the boats from Europe to make their way in uncharted wilderness. Like Wurm Online and Minecraft, Salem will focus heavily on crafting as players forge the tools, buildings and weapons they need to survive. For Salem's aesthetics, Johannessen named H.P. Lovecraft and Tim Burton's gothic horror as sources of inspiration, and the MMO will include magic and witchcraft as potential paths.

Over all of this is the specter of permanent death: "When your character dies, he stays dead," Johannessen said matter-of-factly. This is made even harsher by the fact that Salem will allow free-for-all PvP, which means that anyone can attack you without provocation. Player buildings can be razed and their corpses looted, but Johannessen hopes that the players will band together to protect each other and mete out justice.

You can watch Bjorn Johannessen's introduction to the game after the jump.