Failure itself is punishment enoughI read this phrase recently. Try out this thought experiment - your walking a character through a forrest when a goblin runs out starts hitting you, your HP score rapidly going down! It gets to the bottom and...resets to full! The goblin keeps hitting and it keeps going down and...reseting. Up, down, up, down.
Is failure to avoid this is punishment enough?
No, not really. It's a complete non moment - the health just slides down, then leaps up, slides down, leaps up. It's just a red bar bouncing. A non moment. Nothing.
It's not even failure, let alone a failure that's a punishment in itself. It's a non moment. Nothing.
Okay, lets take a common model - your HP go down to zero, then they are put up to full, but your 50 feet back from where you were, at a prior checkpoint (From what I've heard Bioshock did this - indeed on RPG.net I heard people talk about the 'strategy' of whittling down enemies by hitting them once before dying, then coming back again and again...masterstroke 'strategy' that). And let me stress, all enemies are dead between you and the point you died, they don't come back when you die.
Still pretty much a non moment AND it's essentially the world of warcraft ghost walk.
Failure to notice the goblin or the fireball coming at you is not anything, in itself. Let alone enough of something.
The only model that really works with challenge first, and has been used in a billion shoot 'em ups, is that when you die, all enemies return - you can only get as far as you can survive.
Now maybe we could dumb down the enemies till they move like molasses. That just lowers the skill. But mmorpgs, like wow don't do that, except perhaps in the peripheral - ie, if you take long enough to get back to where you died, the monsters have respawned. Though if you can beat the ones around your body, then you haven't lost progress - and thus entering back into 'non moment' territory again.
Actually that's an interesting point - once you start fighting those monsters, your putting effort into playing a non challenge game. If there's ever a way of turning someone from X and having them start doing Y, it's to make it look like they are doing X, but really they are putting effort into Y. Once someone puts enough effort in, they are lothe to stop doing it - indeed, they are conditioned to do that thing, even if it's Y and they actually intended X to begin with. It's how you train dogs - you give them a little treat for doing something, they do it for the treat, but latter on they just do it, sans treat - doesn't make sense, really.
So no only is failure not enough in itself, it can actually twist the player from what they intended, to something else (and hey, if you say 'no, I'd resist that', well you can only resist what your aware of)