Oh Darkfall…

Darkfall holds this bizarre place in my heart. On one hand the game itself is mostly terrible. The company that made it is also mostly terrible. The people who play it are — you guessed it — terrible. Yet at the same time, Darkfall is the game where I met some of my best friends. Darkfall is where our gaming community had the most fun playing together.

The reason for our enjoyment rests solely on one of the only things Aventurine got right: They created a game where players had to rely on each other. That’s the magic right there.

So why am I writing about Darkfall of all games? I saw a post on Reddit from a Darkfall dev asking (unofficially) if people are interested in bringing back Darkfall 1.0.  No, I’m not interested. The only way I would be interested in playing Darkfall ever again, 1.0 or otherwise, would be to cut Aventurine out of the equation, turn development over to a team of people who know what they’re doing, and give me (or someone sane) full power and authority to ban just about everyone who currently or previous played, and retain that power to protect the community.

I would try a player-run server of Darkfall if operated in a similar fashion to P99 or SWGEmu. A team of people who are passionate about the game, remove what sucks, bring back what works, and continue to develop more things the game needs.  Otherwise, nah.

Will Darkfall Unholy Wars Launch? We’ll see.

Darkfall Unholy Wars comes out day after tomorrow.  At least… we think it comes out tomorrow?  No one has heard a word from Aventurine.  Why is there such a communication blackout?

The forums are in complete disarray as people have already begun rocking back and forth with, shaking violently with anticipation — or one too many Red Bulls.  As I write this there are four posts on the front page questioning whether or not the game will launch on 12/12/12, a few taking bets for a new release date.

The big problems I foresee are account management issues.  Forget the communication about what day and time; We don’t even have details on how or when we’ll be able to actually buy the game.  At this rate, if the game does launch in just over 24 hours will everyone be slamming the site at once?  Does anyone else remember the four day process of trying to actually buy the original Darkfall?  I think they sold a few copies an hour at most before the site imploded.

It doesn’t take much at all for one person from Aventurine to log in to their forum and make a simple post about the game coming out or not.  I can do that in 30 seconds for free (hit me up Aventurine!). That’s why I believe they themselves have no idea what the next 24 hours holds.  Chances are the third party people that handle their billing are either unresponsive, or there’s a last minute hiccup that will probably delay the game another two weeks.

Regardless, these are things you communicate to an eager following of players who are literally begging to throw money at you (see forums).  I believe any communication at all, good news or bad, is better than none.

Darkfall fans are an odd bunch.  I guess I count myself among them right now, as I am eager for any sandbox experience like the one I hope Drakfall will become.  We get ignored, the game gets delayed, there were tons of things wrong with the original game, yet we’re banging on the gate to be let in with our money in hand.   That’s all the proof you need to know there’s a market for a game like Darkfall.

Once we learn whether or not the game will even come out, I’ll make another post detailing my plans for tackling launch.  There should be a fair amount of extended coverage over the first few days of launch as well.

Darkfall Rank and Permission Changes

Darkfall Clan Permissions

Assign permissions within your guild to members individually instead of by rank.

Darkfall has made some waves within its pond by announcing some changes to guild ranks.  Basically, ranks you would normally assign to players are gone.  Think of those ranks like the ranks you would hand out in most MMO’s: Recruit, Member, Veteran, Officer, Leader — although the names are different in Darkfall.

Instead of ranks handling permissions — like a captain having bank access and the ability to invite people — players can now be assigned permissions individually.  Bob might have ABCD, and Chuck might have ABD.  All permissions are highly customized on a per-person basis.  I like that system, and I think everyone else does too.

What’s causing the issue is that the old rank titles (Captain, Supreme General, etc.) are now like an in-guild ladder.  Within each guild, members will compete against each other to see who can earn the most kills during an active siege.  The more kills you get, the higher your rank title.  Remember, ranks/titles have nothing to do with permissions, but are entirely cosmetic/showoff.   I think people are putting way too much emphasis and worry on a random person in the guild holding prestige over a try-hard who doesn’t perform as well.  It really doesn’t matter.

I can agree and sympathize with those who feel like the ability to assign a name to certain member groups was a nice guild tool — but we got along without them just fine for years.  I can also agree with anyone feeling uneasy about kills being the only metric for earning those titles.  There are plenty of ways to contribute other than getting a kill, so why should only those people get neat titles?  And yes, knowing someone’s rank within their guild just by clicking on them was nice, but there are very few MMO’s out there that tell you someone’s guild rank anyway.  Now you’ll have to make do with a title that shows how many kills they’ve achieved — that’s what Darkfall’s about anyway, right?  (Yes, my tongue was in my cheek for that one.)

For those of you fretting over rank being associated with kills, it’s time to lose to idea of titles being associate with rank.  Come up with your own ranks and post them on your forums.

Now I’m off to read up on what clan points are all about.  I hear you need them to declare a siege or something.

Darkfall Feats, Player Points, and UI

Darkfall Unholy Wars supposedly launches early December.  I say supposedly because I believe we won’t see it until at least January.  Nevertheless, information about the changes to Darkfall is finally being offered up by Aventurine.

Darkfall Bank GUI

The new bank menu with paper doll and inventory management.

Interface – Slicker, more console-like experience

I really, really like the look of the new UI.  I have no idea how it will actually behave when playing — I may despise it when I actually get to experience it.  I think visually it conveys a more action-like approach with radial menus for combat abilities, almost console-like menus, and a much more polished and informative GUI.

In particular, the Bank interface looks to be vastly improved.  I wasn’t a fan of the chaos created by the random, throw yourself anyway bank space.  The new paper doll looks good, and I like the general aesthetics of how information is being presented to the player.

Darkfall Feats

A list of Feats on the left helps to guide players toward activities, and rewards them for doing things.

Feats – Achievements meet Quests

The Feats sound to me like an achievement system and quest blend.  The game will suggest these objective-like tasks and the player can choose to complete them or not.  Look at the screenshot I took from the video, it looks like everything from exploring a town to killing monsters, crafting, PvPing, sieging, and just about every aspect of the game will give points.  I see a colored point value next to each Feat; I’m not sure if those are general Player Points or special points of a particular type matching the type of Feat.

I think Feats will give players direction.  One complaint I often hear from inexperienced sandbox players is, “What do I do next? What is my goal?”  This will provide that goal in an open way that will hopefully maintain the spirit of the sandbox game.  If these become more like chores that become required by the min-max meta game to be competitive — meaning the points associated become important — then the system will be a failure.


Player Points – Character Development Currency

Player Points appear to be the equivalent of experience.  They are used to buy new skills, boosters (whatever those are Titles with stat bonuses), and yet-unnamed “features” that allow you to develop your character further.  As I mentioned previously, Feats reward you with points, and simply playing the game however you want is supposed to reward you with Player Points.  Crafters can earn them by crafting, PvPers from killing other players or sieging, etc.  Sounds like this could work.

Overall, Aventurine is finally taking steps to modernize Darkfall.  I like the game I’m seeing on paper, and I’m anxious to get my hands on these changes to know for sure whether or not Darkfall will be worth investing my time. [Read more…]

Darkfall Unholy Wars

Well, I’m going to give Darkfall another try.  I can’t say it’s because Darkfall suddenly deserves being played again or because I missed the game.  I’m simply curious about the changes.  The basic premise of Darkfall was a good one.  Darkfall is definitely unique, and it has always felt closer to a virtual world than most games over the years.  Fun fact: I’m still quoted for saying that right on the official website.  I still stand by the quote.

The problems with Darkfall have always been the poor execution of ideas, slow development time, and awful communication from the dev team.  Unholy Wars marks the first change big enough to bring me back.  The game is being wiped clean, skill system redone, UI changed, and in many ways it’s a rebirth for Darkfall.  There’s a definite change to the game’s direction.  I get the feeling Aventurine wants more mass-appeal.  It’s still Darkfall, so it will never appeal to the masses, but the focus on third-person combat as well, as a streamlined skill system with classes, are obvious steps in that direction.

I’m itching for some medieval combat, a sandbox game, and some anxiety-driven PvP with consequences. Hopefully Aventurine can get it right now time.  At least it can’t get any worse, right?

Below is a new video Aventurine released to show some gameplay.

If any of you are planning to play, maybe we’ll cross paths. Who knows, maybe we’ll even be in the same alliance… or maybe I’ll be scavenging arrows off you.