But what constitute as too harsh or too lenient? Some people (especially some parents) believe that if their children repeat certain behavior that the only way to fix it is to break them by using physical force. Others believe that children learn their behaviors from their parents or their environment (relatives, friends, school, and etc) and the best way to remove the unwanted behavior is for parents to change themselves, their child's environment, and/or teach them through self-empathy on why the behavior is not accepted.
I guess the same can be said of MMORPGs. Many times I've seen players do unwanted things that may upset other players. Things like ninja looting or mindlessly fighting in battlegrounds and neglecting your teammates or objectives. Of course these types of behaviors can effect other players, but what can one do to stop it? For the most part nothing. Even if one player was able to kill the other person causing grief, the death doesn't really matter. The player simply just respawns back to the original spot or somewhere else. In the end, this doesn't warrant the bad behavior.
In the past, I've heard suggestions from many gamers that a harsh death penalty enforces players to play smart. I believe this has a lot of truth. If a player makes a unwise decision that causes him to lose some of his or her valuables, such as experience, gear, money, reputation, repairs, or time. I believe a player would learn to play better, as he would wish not to suffer the consequence of his bad choices.
But the question is, does this punishment defer gamers from playing such a game the punishes you from bad decisions? Possibly, in fact I am pretty sure it does if the punishment is too harsh. But at what point is the penalty for death becomes too harsh or too lenient? Make it too harsh players will leave but too lenient players will not learn.
It's a hard balance that MMO developers have been struggling for years. I think most developers decided not to deal with death penalties and have removed them entirely and instead have players focus on not the consequence of their bad decisions but the possible things you can do with your character, such as acquire more gear, vanity items, or killing hard bosses.
Though to be honest, I think MMOs need to have some form of a death penalty to deter bad behavior. I don't mean bad behavior in a sense of griefing, but more in the sense of players not taking the time to learn their character and the community. Such as in Eve Online, a player doesn't fly through lowsec with a slow ship holding billions of isk worth of items. They know not to do this because they understand the game and its community and the consequences of dying. In other words, its a bad idea and a relatively small amount of players would ever think about taking on such a risk.
Also at the same time, there's nothing worst than being stuck in a scenario where you have to rely on other players knowing how to play their characters, otherwise if they don't you too could suffer a setback. All because a player is unwilling to learn from his mistakes (if he or she is even aware of them) simply because the penalty for death is minor or non-existent.
In the case of most MMROPGs, so what if I died.