New Dawn vs. Rise of Agon

Original Darkfall

My original character and guild from Darkfall

My fascination with the Darkfall revival projects continues to grow, and I’ve recently become aware of another project called Darkfall: Rise of Agon. Unlike Darkfall: New Dawn, Rise of Agon is looking to basically bring back the original Darkfall.

New Dawn is seeking to take the foundation of Darkfall and create the game we should have been given. That’s my take on these two projects, but to try and bring another perspective in I asked Marc Thompson, Lead Developer and CEO of Ub3rgames (the company making New Dawn) a few questions. He was kind enough to reply, and I will say now that he was very professional and did not rag on Rise of Agon at all. He was quite objective, and my questions, albeit brief, weren’t easy PR questions.

Keen's impromptu interview with Marc Thompson
Keen: How does New Dawn differ from Rise of Agon?

Marc Thompson: “In our opinion, both projects have merits, but their approach is very different. What they do have in common is a desire to have diminishing return on stats (they call it front loading) and some form of specialization. They did not enter into details yet, while we’ve had everything ready on our website for a few weeks, but I believe that we are going further than them regarding balancing the power gap. Our title system will be probably more specialized than them, as this is quite a polarizing issue in the current community. To be honest, we’re curious to see what they will release.”

Keen: Why should someone choose to be excited for and follow, and ideally play, New Dawn over Rise of Agon?

Marc Thompson: “On our side, we are less nostalgic, or at least we try not to be blinded by our love of the game. We believe that Darkfall was not a sustainable product back then and are not afraid of doing the necessary changes. We want to mix the dreams we had during the hype in 2008 with what worked well in Darkfall 2012 and the successful games in the genre.”

[…] “We will focus a lot on getting more play styles viable and getting players to enjoy the game sooner. We’re making changes that are unpopular with the late Darkfall crowd but was asked by the early Darkfall crowd. Like less grind, more specialization and a balanced meta game. We are not doing sandbox for the sake of sandbox but as a tool to fuel activities. The local banking is there for trading to emerge, along dedicated crafters and highwaymen. We are expanding holdings and villages for people to have something they can call home and want to fight for. We’re doing skill decay for players to stay interested in the world and collaborate with each other. Same for racial wars and our engaged/alignment system, we want to create a sense of larger community, what you would call realm pride. We are not afraid to use “gamey” mechanics if it means it serves a purpose.”

Marc really hit on a key point for me. You guys all know that I really hated so much about Darkfall because of what Aventurine screwed up, and because of how the players (who are 99% toxic trash) ruined the experience. Rise of Agon looks to recreate that playground for the deranged sociopaths. New Dawn is looking to provide an experience that I personally believe is a better game. I like that they aren’t afraid to use gamey mechanics. I like that they’re thinking more along the lines of ‘how can we make this game fun’ rather than ‘how can we recreate this social experiment gone horrible awry.’ (All my direct and very poignant words, mind you.)

If you’re interested in more New Dawn talk, Marc was on The Sandbox’s podcast.

To wrap this up, I want to say that whether or not any of these projects ever get to fruition doesn’t matter as much as the overarching idea of making better games. Darkfall really sucked in so many ways, but if a team can make it better? More power to them. That goes for all games, and one of the many reasons why I support fan-based initiatives. I’m a P99 fan and SWG EMu fan; I’ve played plenty of UO shards. Bring back what works, toss out the rest, and continue to improve.

There’s a lot for developers (the ones not in basements) to learn from this mentality. There’s a lot for players to learn here as well. I used to be incredibly preachy on this subject, and perhaps it’s time for me to dust off my soapbox for another round. Identify what you like about MMOs, what you don’t like, and demand developers quit fixing what isn’t broken or focusing on flash-in-the-pan gimmicks. Return to substance, and return to making MMOs fun.

Darkfall: New Dawn

I get contacted by a lot of people who want me to check out their game, republish their press release, or somehow how let them piggyback on whatever small amount of attention this blog can bring. Usually I ignore them, but this time the email was a tad bit different.

Darkfall: New Dawn

The team at Ub3rgames is negotiating a licensing deal with Aventurine to re-open Darkfall as a somewhat new game called Darkfall: New Dawn. Why did they contact me? Apparently they read my stuff regularly. Now I get a lot of people buttering me up. It’s usually in the form of, “We’re big fans of your blog,” or “We really agree with you.” Most of that I shrug off as the usual BS. These guys are a bit different, though. They cited specific things about the blog here that has influenced them over the years. In fact, I “brought them to Darkfall” which means I could be the reason why they played Darkfall to begin with.

My last post about Darkfall talked about how I would never go back to a Darkfall run by Aventurine, but if someone else stepped up and took the reins I would be much more willing to try. Apparently that got these guys thinking because they mention that specific post as something that got the wheels turning and motivated them. Again, this is what they are telling me. Could it still be buttering me up to get me to cover them? Sure, but I like a little butter now and again.

We exchanged emails a bit and they sent me over a link to New Dawn in a nutshell. It’s a little bit like a design document talking about how they want to change the game to be more like a fantasy version of EVE. They’re saying all the right things.

  • Reducing the power gap
  • Giving more reasons to play, and more ways to play, especially “positive” ways to play rather thank just ganking
  • Fixing the economy (or actually creating one)
  • Making PvE more enjoyable
  • Making PvP a little more sensical

Take a look and let me know what you think. I see a lot of potential here, especially in making Darkfall more than just a “gankbox” as they call it.

I have always maintained that Darkfall was one of the better social experiences I’ve had in a MMO as it pertains to creating an environment where people have to play together. I made friends in Darkfall that I still talk to every day, and Darkfall was one of the best experiences this community has had playing together. Put that potential in the hands of a good team and we might have something here.

As always, talk is cheap. I told them I want to get in there and get my hands on what they’re making so that I can try it out for myself and let you guys know what I think. I’ll keep you posted.

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.