Don’t Punish Your Players With Harsh In-Game Consequences for Losing
You want to keep players playing and have them feel powerful and challenged throughout your game. It can kill a player’s motivation and knock all the wind out of their sails if after a long journey or mission, or even just a harder-than-normal section they lose before saving and have to go waaaaay back to some checkpoint and start all over again. Some games add further insult to this restart by having the player depleted of items that they used during the previous failure. Unless you just hate players and love making mean games don’t bash the player over the head with extensive consequences after they lose. Make several checkpoints, have an auto-save feature, a “save-whenever-you-want” feature (which can be tricky or limited in order to get right) or just make sure to give the player back their previous status instead of making them start from the bottom after every failure.
Make Losing Matter to the Player. Do It With Visceral Effects
This point is the counter-element to the previous point about not punishing players with harsh “in-game” consequences for losing. However, you can make the player feel the effects of losing in plenty of other ways. Many games use visceral effects like graphics depicting fatigue, blackout, blood or death through the players character’s eyes to give a realistic impression. You can have the player character have an animated “loss” sequence showing the player character quitting, losing, dying, etc. You can have big words appear on screen like “GAME OVER” or “YOU LOSE” with various visual effects. You can even use the vibration feature of some controllers to give the player a jolt and communicate the failure in this physical way. Of course there is always the tried and true sound effects and music that play when the player loses. Whether it’s a simple “Womp-Womp-Womp” sound effect or more elaborately themed music you want the player to get that sinking feeling that they want to avoid, and then give them the opportunity immediately afterwards to keep going. If you play your elaborate “losing” sequence with music, graphics, etc. and then show the player characters in a position to bounce back and redeem themselves (or some other scene that depicts an opportunity to continue) then it gives the player motivation to continue or at least plants to seed for them to come back later.
Think outside the box and use all kinds of elements like previews of things to come and taunts from other characters to entice players to continue and add to the visceral effect of the failure. In a way, failure has to be interesting and even fun if possible. You could have the player character do a crazy dance or blast through the screen in some wild display after the player chooses to continue. Make it worth their while to press that button.