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Good ideas poorly executed: Darkfall

Let’s get right down to it:  Darkfall was a swing and a miss.  The game definitely had the right idea.  The sentiment of a hardcore pvp game with action influence and all the stuff about Darkfall that makes it the game it is today (I won’t list them, sorry) can be credited, as ideas, as a success.  However, ideas alone do not carry the player to, or provide, an atmosphere of ‘stayability’.  Darkfall’s execution, or implementation, of these ideas was a miss.  The skill system, as I have said all along, is not what it could have or should have been.  What should have been designed as a game with constant action, accessibility, constant territory struggles, big battles and big toys like warhulks and battleships was lost somewhere along the way.

The pacing in Darkfall is all off.  As a good friend pointed out, 1 hour of fun costs 5+ hours of work.  I’m not averse to earning something or working towards something, but it’s not the same thing.  It takes months of macro farming to get to the point of making one battle ship.  No one is going to take that one battle ship out and do anything; 1) because they can’t and 2) because they won’t risk it.  It takes hundreds of people to successfully siege anything.  Players would rather sit in town and spam macro mana missiles to compete against the people to exploited their weapon skills than commit to any large battle.   No one is doing anything in Darkfall but sitting around! When you finally do find someone out and about wanting a struggle it’s either a completely lopsided battle with you in gear and them naked, or it’s going against someone who has exploited all their stats and skills to 100.  Oddly enough, it’s like the polar opposite of Warhammer Online where everything was happening too quickly.  Find the middle ground – someone – I beg you!

Why am I still playing?  Couple reasons.

1.) I have friends playing and I enjoy playing with them regardless which game I’m playing.
2.) Maybe Aventurine will fix it. (LOL)
3.) When sieges do happen and people actually play the game, instead of sitting in their cities amassing skill points in a horrific skill system that resembles a vertical line, it’s fun! I feel like I sit around all day or spend hours upon hours looking for this fun. When stuff happens it rocks and I want more. Sometimes it’s easier to just sit in town because you’ll get more done than riding around the world looking for someone.

Will I keep playing? Not sure. EU-1 has gone to hell. I will leave the server in a heartbeat of the next one opening. Ideally it would be a North American server, but I’m not expecting one for another 6 years.  The bottom line is that I want to play Darkfall.  Still a fan here folks.

It almost feels like burnout, yet it’s not.  Burnout is a personal issue, whereas this is the game’s issue.  It’s like… if burnout could happen to a game instead of a player (how philosophical is that?!)  It’s an issue with pacing and the game starting to collapse in on itself due to crippling issues brought on by poor execution of good ideas.   Ultimately, it’s a sandbox without enough sand.  Whatever that means.

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Comments

  1. Keen, I’ve always enjoyed your honest commentary.

    I remember how epic PvP was in SWG when it actually happened: once a week (maybe) when both sides were actually interested in fighting at the same place and at the same time! Of course that was back in 2003 …

    Presently WAR has me spoiled with such low barrier of entry RvR and it’s nearly always “on-demand” that I just would go crazy waiting all night for a good skirmish. What’s missing is that great big world to explore, and reading those moments of discovery during your Darkfall experience reminded me of what’s missing.

    If you could give me a sandbox MMO like SWG of old AND give me easy access (and meaningful) PvP I would go ape sh*t. Do I socialize, craft, decorate my house, or just bash heads tonight? Hmmm.

    Well, we can dream – ty for keeping us updated with your experiences!

  2. That would be my dream MMO, Ludo. :P

  3. AoC is waiting for your resub ;)
    Seriously DO check out the game again, many of the reasons you left back then have been worked on, fixed etc. The game is now what it should have been at release (for sure will be with the release of patch 1.0.5 coming soon).
    It just feels to me like the golden middle road between WAR and DFO, basically cos it has a lot of the harsh PvP enviroment of DFO but less zerg and more skillbased than WAR, and with the changes to PvP it’s not as fast paced either, TTK has gone up a lot.

  4. I’m willing to do it, but that would mean: spending money, investing time, and trying to find someone to play with (because I assume there are even less people playing now than there were when I quit). Doing that for AoC just to give it a try… probably not worth it in the long run when I’m not sure I enjoyed the basic game enough as it is. WAR on the other hand, I can go back to because I enjoyed it.

  5. If we are to believe the posts on your blog then you DID enjoy it at some point :p
    But the major burnout for most people was the lack of content, and that has been adressed at large. Even the lowlvl dungeons have been revamped and they are now a VERY enjoyable experience.

    I see where you’re coming from with trying WAR again, and I have yet not unsubbed and if I do I will for sure resub once LOTD is coming. But meanwhile I’m gonna enjoy the smallscale PvP in AoC, no other game has given me the same thrill and adrenaline pumping PvP action that AoC did.

    Finding old friends playing can be a challenge indeed, but finding active servers is not as after the merges most if not all servers are thriving with activity now (at least in Europe). The game has gained subs lately, just look at the xfire rating for a hint on the trend.

    Last but not least there’s a 7 day trial out now, so trying it CAN cost you nothing. :)

  6. Russell Gusto says:

    Spot on Keen…I loved hangin’ with you guys in DF but it just took way too much time for me to feel like I was actually doing something. The funny thing is I feel like the fix is not that hard but I just don’t have the time to wait for it. They need to do all things you mentioned…of course I may jump in every now and then to steal a Drake ;P

  7. I think alot of the problems with DFO are in the current playerbase. I’m greatly look forward to another server with hopefully much less of the BS that has developed on this one.

  8. after playing a little darkfall, I agree with you.

  9. Russell Gusto says:

    Sorry Proximo did not read your post before posting and I have to say that you are wickedly wrong. AoC is the same as when I first played it in beta…yes I did resub and it still lacks. The issue here is that Funcom, well not the company but one particular individual, just killed Howards’s works…simply not right. They took lore and twisted it into go find my princesses dog (Fabio Quest line for those who do not know..what a @#$%%! detriment to REH)Sorry for the rant but AoC just really, really bugs me. Now The Secret World has promise and since the driving force behind it is Ragnar Tørnquist it will have my initial support.

    I am looking forward to gaming again with you guys but the game has to be a good fit for me. FE is rockin’ atm and CO is tasty.

  10. @Russel: I guess it’s a matter of what you look for in a game. I don’t care a rats ass for the story or the Conan lore, I stopped listening to the voiceovers at lvl 10ish and started hitting 111111 to get past the shit (I want a option to turn off the voiceover sequence, just gimme the damn quest already ><).
    The things that has improved are not related to lore or story, other than that there’s been added a TON of new quests, a new zone with MORE quests. All this so people don’t need to grind their way from 50 to 80 as it was after release. The grind is now down to 75-80 approx, and even this small part is being worked on.
    Endgame is in and working.
    A lot of the technical issues the game had at release is fixed, I no longer CTD, I have a solid decent framerate even on a old system (maybe not in sieges, have yet not tried that), less bugs overall.
    The combat has been tweaked, namely the damage you do in PvP is half of what you do in PvE, this to allow for longer fights where tactics means more than burst.
    A lot of PvP changes has been added, PvP XP is in, PvP gear is in, the Murder system is in with consequenses, the farming for BK mats in Border Kingdoms where people needs to fight for resources is in.

    As you probably see by now most of what I listed is changes done to the PvP aspect of the game, and there truly HAS been made a LOT of changes to that aspect. Lastly, it’s also the aspect that I care most for, I love a good dungeon run but dungeon runs and PvE in general does keep me in a game for the long run, only good solid PvP does and that’s what I’m looking for in AoC (not cheesy voiceovers :P)

  11. Edit: “but dungeon runs and PvE in general DOESN’T keep me in a game for the long run”

  12. *looks at watch*

    Damn, that didn’t take long. Look at it this way..at least you got your moneys’ worth out of it. I mean, for the price of a couple movies you got to spend more than a dozen hours (at least) having a good time.

    Bear in mind that there is no perfect MMO for a player like you, which is fine. I know some people that have settled down, married with kids (kids! BLECH!) and some people that will spend their life skipping from luva’ to luva’, forever single.

    The only constant for you might be boredom. That is the exact reason that I not only take my time in any MMO (no checking websites daily JUST for a new screen-shot) but play many, many different games.
    Human beings get bored with anything, period. Hell, even a serial killers’ job eventually becomes a never ending search for a bigger and better thrill.

    Beau

  13. If we want a virtual fantasy WORLD, instead of a GAME, we need more than just an optimized combat minigame, Proximo. I do not say there is no need for a good combat system, but a world cannot be built on PvP alone. A PvP game works, though they have ended badly so far, but a PvP world will never fly IMO.

    We need more for people to do than raiding and reputation grinding or farming, which is just veiled grind to stretch existing content, rather than to be content.

    Maybe Blizzard’s mysterious “NextGen” MMO will deliver the MMO system of the future. They by now should have the balls and money to try something new, to search for the holy grail of MMO gaming.

    If we are lucky, they will find it. If not, we might see a Jeff Kaplan & Rob Pardo Co-production: Achievements galore + raiding, no more questing and world zones, just a set of connected caves for raids?!? :)

    Then we might find the virtual world where we want to STAY and chat, have fun and all that. Not just necessarily to follow an achievement-to-do-list or raid for the next tier set.

    I am an idealist, maybe this is what makes me so sceptical when looking at the next bunch of MMOs that are in production right now. :/

  14. The problem is, the more sandbox an MMO is the more chance that nothing will happen, and the less often that meaningful PvP will occur. You have a sandbox so you can tinker and do what ever you want; so you end up with diverse interests and priorities that in an ‘ultimate’ sandbox would all be provided for.

    The more a game is ‘on rails’ the more chance that a certain thing (like PvP) will happen. Yes, it is a predetermined thing, but at least you can be reasonably certain that it will happen when you log on. Think WoW battlegrounds or WAR scenarios. Even WoW Wintergrasp is a predetermined thing.

    DF suffers from being too much of a sandbox with too harsh a death penalty. You can skill up out of PvP combat. If you only advanced through PvP combat you would have an incentive to compete in it. Anything you make crafting loses its value because it can be snatched away from you just by bad luck and/or bad connection. You put so much effort into building something (as a sandbox is likely to require) that the consequences of losing it are too much.

    WAR on the other hand suffers because it doesn’t have enough of a sandbox. If it had say, expanded crafting with crafting only classes, player housing, and a large exploration zone (maybe the new zone will be this) it would give you more of a sandbox feel. (Personally I find the fixed race-class combo also detracts and makes WAR more cookie cutter/rails compared to sandbox; which is further hindered by only having 2 sides compared to DAoCs three).

    I still think EQ2 has a lot of great things about it that many newer games still don’t have – levelling guilds (with an events tab in guild), player and guild housing, independent crafting levels, PvP where you level from killing other players etc. However it has graphics that a lot of people don’t like and the PvP really has no ‘purpose’ (unlike WAR RvR). for me too, everyone I know prefers instant gratification WoW compared to measured progress of other MMOs. And of course, SOE just doesn’t have a good track record of managing games to success (Mr Hartsmann and EQ2 aside).

    My preferred MMO would be:

    1. World of VG or DF
    2. Race and Class diversity of EQ2 and DAoC
    3. RvR of WAR (or DAOC really with 3 sides)
    3. Death penalty of WAR
    4. Crafting hybrid of SWG and VG
    5. Instant PvP of WAR/WoW that is more training (means to an end) rather than an end in itself.

    I am also someone who would like a good out-of-ship sci-fi MMO. I don’t think STO or SWTOR are going to be it sadly.

  15. Codersigma says:

    Is the 1 hour of fun for 5 hour of work ratio fairly accurate? I was thinking of trying this game if it ever came out in North America, but that pretty much kills it for me.

  16. I’d say it’s fairly proportional. I didn’t last long at all. I really wanted to like Darkfall, I like the sandbox ideal, but for me it utterly failed on the fun factor. I’d sit at the computer, move the mouse over the Darkfall icon and then think “why bother”. I can’t recall a session where I really genuinely enjoyed the experience. Just my personal view.

    Funnily enough I’ve gone back to AoC which I kind of ranted about amongst my friends and colleagues way back when it released. Only been playing a few days so don’t want to make a judgement yet, but if they make the proposed item changes that could be the final change that really makes AoC what I wanted it to be.

  17. Does anyone else find it a bit odd that for about 2 months Keen was going spastic about how amazing everything was and in the last two weeks has found the game horribly flawed and now everyone is looking for something else to play? I personally this is exactly where this is only 1 EU server right now and they’re only bringing in small batches of hardcore people. The game is essentially still in beta, just with a full server with paying customers. =) I bet we won’t see any more servers until they feel the game is polished enough for a more normal audience to pay for it.

  18. You guys got problems …

    These days, I log in and wish for a day where nothing happens at all. Where I can go fishing and chat a bit on clan chat and don’t have to deal with drama, people getting attacked, people needing help questing, the need to bring down some “justice” upon fools who mess with us, or politics.

    Sometimes, oh very seldom, I actually get my wish. And I enjoy the heck out of it.

    – A Lineage 2 clan leader on Teon (EU)

  19. Longasc said: “If we want a virtual fantasy WORLD, instead of a GAME, we need more than just an optimized combat minigame, Proximo. I do not say there is no need for a good combat system, but a world cannot be built on PvP alone. A PvP game works, though they have ended badly so far, but a PvP world will never fly IMO.”

    Reply: Yes I agree somewhat, but AoC DOES have more to do than just PvP, it DOES have a FANTASTIC fantasy world imo. To me the storyline and lore is totally irrelevant, I don’t need to know WHY I’m asked to go kill a mob or a dungeon boss. So to me storyline/lore is not vital to feel part of a big fantasy world.
    Furthermore while I said I agree somewhat I do not agree that a game based on PvP only could not fly. I’m not looking for a game to immerse myself in, I’m looking for a good solid and fun gaming experience which is much more similar to first person shooters in multiplayer. I just want to log on and be able to test my skills against other players in PvP, the rest is just fluff to me and gives the game a little longer life as it adds diversity in things to do.
    Why not play a FPS then ? Well I like spells, swords and axes as means of seperating my enemies heads from their bodies to guns and grenades, and I need it to be PvP, hence MMO. =)

  20. Keen,

    You chew through games faster than anyone I know/read. And that says a lot, considering the speed that an average blogger moves on to the next game.

  21. It isn’t a huge surprise. Darkfall has the basics, but sounds like it just needs more.

    Eve is a very complex and mature (time wise) game, which certainly helps it sustain itself as a sandbox.

  22. DFO has a laundry list of problems, but I see it eventually evolving into a hell of a game. There are definitely issues to fix, a lot of them having to do with resource requirements for bigger items to take away some of the grind and a lot to do with skills.

    Some of the problems will go away for the most part when/if a NA server opens up, assuming they don’t allow character transfers. Other problems will go away when the big toys become less expensive and people will be more open to building and using them – ie ships.

  23. @Beau: Still playing Darkfall. I’m just writing about how the game’s great ideas were poorly executed.

    @Darthus: Praising things I was experiencing only a few weeks in to the game can not possibly be weighed against experiencing things I’m seeing now. It would be like enjoying the leveling of WoW and then not liking Raiding but being criticized for enjoying the leveling. I was a newbie then, exploring everything and seeing the basic systems from a newbie’s perspective. They are fine at that “level”. However, now that I have a few sets of full plate in the bank, a city with almost everything built, an alliance that owns 1/4 the map (the other 3/4 owned by 3 other big alliances all just staring at each other), and nothing to do but wait for something to start… there’s just no comparison to what I did earlier in the game that I liked.

    I’m still playing Darkfall. I probably won’t cancel unless this stagnation of a game-wide scale lasts for another month. Even then, if my friends still play then I will too. Bottom line: I’m sharing my feelings on the game now that my perspective has changed since I last spoke in great length about it.

    And yes, the problems can be solved with a new server, such a NA one, if the players there aren’t content with sitting around doing nothing (as a whole) like EU1.

  24. I think its time that you think about your playstyle and what you want in a game. Even though its not burnout this time (maybe?), I wasn’t surprised by this post at all. Actually I’ve been checking on this blog to see if my gut feeling about your pattern was right. You even have said it yourself:

    http://www.keenandgraev.com/?p=1880

    Maybe through blogging you start crunching on the game too early before launch and patches, so that there isnt so many surprises for you in the game.. Maybe you have a too competetive attitude.. Maybe you seek a perfect immersion, but at the same time want a perfect game.. I’m just throwing suggestions to help btw. Even though I’m not really interested in Darkfall, I like to read your articles about it.

  25. It’s very true that part of my problem is that I look for how a game can be better, and then I obsess over it. That’s a great problem to have in any capacity other than actually playing the game. When I do stop playing a game it’s usually because the game has huge problems or I’ve done all there is to do. DAOC, SWG, and WoW lasted many years each for me and they are very different games.

    My ideal MMO (which I’ve lost faith in ever playing unless I make it myself) is a game with meaningful, challenging, and highly developed PvE content with faction based PvP (or realms) with sandbox elements. I like owning property and defending it, working towards something that others are working towards as well. I like group content – yes, even forced grouping.

    I enjoy parts of games that I wish could all be combined together. SWG, DAOC, WAR, WoW, DF, LOTRO… there are parts from each of those games that I could combine to make a great game. If you’ve played some or all of those then you probably know which parts I would take.

  26. Heh I’m kinda the opposite, instead of dissecting a game to death and thus realizing what’s lacking and loosing interest as a result, I usually just start feeling bored with the game but keep playing it out of spite, and a long time after it might hit me like a truck why that is.
    Like with WAR, I started getting bored, and while part of the reason why I was bored was the zerg based RvR I didn’t really realize what it was I was missing until I started playing AoC again.
    When I was leveling my Bear Shaman in the 20s I suddenly got jumped by a Barb bout the same lvl as me, and we had a pretty short fight cos he got me by such a surprise I messed up everything. Well the same Barb came back a couple of times more and each time I got him lower in health before I died, at last we started speaking and he thanked for a good fight the last round.
    Just then and there I realized that my heart was beating so hard it felt like it was on it’s way out of my chest, and my hands where shaking. A had got a PROPER(real) adrenaline rush from the last couple of really tight fights and it was fun even though I died every time.
    I’ve only experienced it a couple of times before in a MMO, and sad to say but that was in WoWs Arena (reason for not playing Arena is another story about flawed PvP system bla bla).
    THAT is what I miss in WAR, THAT is why I’m now looking at AoC once again. :)

    Anyways before my point is lost in babble about AoC, I tend to just try to enjoy a game without analyzing why I like or not. Thinking about WoW for instance can get me all wound up on playing it again, but that’s until I start playing and my brain tells me he is bored and to log off :P

  27. Keen; I’ve experienced only three of those. Wow, Lotro and War. WoW practically introduced me to MMO-genre. Before I just watched over fence as I know that I dont like the last generation mmos “hardcoreness”. The reason I knew I’d be best just to read about Darkfall, although I like sandboxes in single-player games.

    But I think I know what you mean, as I’ve played all my life all kinds of games and work at a gamestore (another way to be obsessed about games..;)). Its the ubergame that combines all the good things in other games.

    I read a blog about that sometime ago. The problem with idea of “ubergame” is that it is always “your ubergame”. People like different game, and then you would be essentially making a game for yourself. I admit that I often trace the same “what if..” thought patterns. But there is always something that is good in something that you just cannot do in other. No rpg-computer/console game can compete with a real tabletop game in RP area for me so far. That’s something I’ve always wanted to see, but I think that it is impossible.

    Nowdays when I bump into something negative in game, I turn my attention to something positive in the game. For example: I read about all the problems in endgame in War. I realised that, for the first time in mmos, i love alting in this game. So we’ve took our time with chars. We’ve yet to get to r40 and have several chars through t1-t4.
    I used to be a “main-only” kind of player before. So I’ve changed my gaming pattern and I’ve been enjoying the game. :)

    ps. damn.. that turned out “wallish”..

  28. João Carlos says:

    Keen, the clans don’t build the warhulks yet, there are no big ships on the sea yet. Yes, that itens demand too much resourses, and so the clans will need time for build them. I think that when that ships come they will chance how the war is played now.

    The politic situation we see now, two big alliance playing the big game, will change sooner or later. Sooner or later Hyperion will broke, too many clans and so few cities and hamlets, not everyone will gain a city.

    That is the problem with sandbox games. They depend too much upon the player creation. How DFO was populated, too few player gaining the access the game, created a disbalance that caused the situation we see now. The first clans to enter the game occupied all the cities, who entered first had time for advance skills to max.

    We are seeing now the political game. Clans are making alliances and two big alliances were formed. No one is really trying to attack other cities now because you can get access to that city making an alliance to that clan.

    The situation will change when we start to have big clans that have no cities. They will need attack the clans that have them. But we will need wait more people have the access to the game for that “dispossessed” clans appear.

  29. I’ve been enjoying DF just because it is something so completely different from any MMO that I’ve played before. There are definitely flaws in the game- the effort magic requires in comparison to archery being one of them .

    As for AoC, I resubbed and played through all of the endgame content. They did a good job smoothing out the lack of leveling content, at least up to about 70. My big problem is the same problem WoW has: the endgame is just a gear treadmill run. It takes, on average, 3 months to get completely geared up in all purples- and this is for the best guild on the server. The endgame is just too repetitive.

  30. @Joao: Warhulks have been made. Big ships have been made. There are four big alliances. Hyperion owns enough cities. (In fact, my clan has a city AND a hamlet). Too dependent upon player creation is not a problem with sandbox, it’s a problem with poorly made sandbox games.

    The reasons why people are not attacking each other eludes me. However, I believe it’s largely due to the fact that people do not need to leave their cities. There is nothing drawing people out. More on this today.

  31. Howdy Doody says:

    As much as I do like DF, the fact its not on a NA server, there are still issues, and the server is just skewed, is making me want to wait a bit for them to get it together.

    And what perfect timing, WAR just released a huge patch today. Looks like I’ll be knocking some dust off of some old characters.

  32. The parts about the large sieges are what turned me off from trying this game. Well that and the cross-atlantic server thing.

    I’m guessing that probably affects the pacing too, because it’s meant to be a game of high risk? Can’t have risk without first some investment, but if players are unwilling to make the investment– maybe it isn’t really good ideas poorly executed, because that whole concept may be flawed for their target audience. Last I checked, most PvP players don’t want to grind before getting into the action. Or at least that’s a commonly voiced view.

    I’d love to see a good solid PvP game where skirmishing and small team tactical play comes more into focus. Maybe something kinda like Tribes but with both short-term and long-term goals.

    I’m really bored of the this-big-zerg versus that-big-zerg. This-big-guild versus that-enormous-guild. Or worse, this-entire-faction versus that-entire-faction.

    I guess I’ll keep getting my PvP from FPS games.

  33. Howdy Doody says:

    Yea Rog, that’s the one thing that has me hesitant about WAR. The “Zerg the Front Door” gets old quick. I know that slayers/choppas can got through the back door now (how they got it and not ninjas is beyond me) but that still isn’t enough. There needs to be other ways in.

    But I’ll give it a shot.

  34. MountainDewMike says:

    Man, you pretty much nailed my feelings about this spot-on. I too hope things improve but as it stands right now I don’t see myself sticking around for long.

  35. this reminds me of a post i wrote that turned into a weeklong blog shitstorm about WoW Tourists.

    : /

  36. You won’t see any of that here, Ixo. :)

  37. Kinda like a WoW Tourist but more of a MMO Tourist.

  38. Billy Hicks says:

    Keen,

    It seems to me that your biggest problem is your part of the Hyperzerg. Looking at the location of your home town your trapped right in the middle of the empire.

    Hyberion (not sure on spelling) has become so big that it forced all the other Alliances to group up to counter their size. The problem is that this forced the server into pretty much 2 main factions. That forced us into a cold war as both factions aren’t prepared to set off WW3 and stand the chance to lose all their stuff.

    The Alliances who have grouped up to stop Hyperion will split back up once the threat of Hyperion taking over everything is gone. We will then have a many faction game and a lot of small wars rather than the potential single massive war we have now.

    The other problem is that Hyperion are so big that they fetch so many people to a fight that the sever crashes. While we can whine that the server should be able to handle it, we all know deep down that its just impossible. Smaller alliance fights will result in smaller fights (only a few hundred at a time) and that will be more fun.

    While I am sure you felt joining up with the largest guild put you in a strong position, so did many many other people and thats got us in the position we are in now.

    If you really wanted a fight, just leave Hyberion, I bet you they will zerg you 24/7 until you lose your home (unless you found people to support you)

  39. RE: 5+ hours of work for 1 hour of fun.

    I was wondering about this. EVE stumbled in to finding the right balance. But I think that is more due to its maturity of a game. Once DF gets to the point where 1 non-com player (aka crafter) can support half a dozen or so other PvP combat players such that the PvPers don’t notice their down time, then it will work. (For example the spoils of war in EVE go to the crafter/industrialists to create replacement parts)

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