Today is the first full day of the Darkfall launch. The servers technically came up right around 11:00pm PST last night, but I didn’t sit down to really play until after class this afternoon. There is a lot of information floating around out there about this or that and most of it is probably true. Darkfall’s launch is not going very well right now. The account issues with the pre-orders have still not been entirely resolved. Several of my clan members were screwed out of their copies of the game and some are still unable to even try to get a copy because of the big “sold out” sticker.
I wish that I could write about how today’s launch has turned things around and made it all better, but it’s simply not the case. The biggest issue facing the servers today is something being referred to as “syncing”. The servers are not synced right now at all – when I say servers I’m referring to how these games have a “mob AI server” and a “loot server” and a “combat server” – I don’t know why it’s called that, but it’s a habit from the old days. Right now the mob AI server is extremely out of sync. Invisible mobs are hitting people, people swinging at visible mobs are seeing nothing happen, and sometimes you’ll even swing at the air and hit a real player who you can’t see. It’s a mess, and it’s having ramifications on the game beyond being simply frustrating.
Some clans have decided to take advantage of this syncing problem by going to the higher level areas and killing mobs, somehow, that don’t fight back. As you can imagine, the result is that they’re getting money and items they should not be able to acquire at this stage of the game. Guilds have already formed (2,000g), clan stones have already been claimed (1,000g), and people are already gearing out beyond their means. It’s… it just plain sucks.
There has also been some trouble with characters being unable to log in. I have no idea why, but sometimes newbie characters are corrupted and have to be deleted to stop you from crashing to desktop when trying to log in. There’s also a bug where you’re forever stuck at “queuing”. I lost 3 characters (and 3 names since they don’t get cleared from the database) to these issues. That ticked me off.
Aside from the Syncing, the lag for North American players is actually pretty good. I’m in Southern California and getting ping from 170-200 with other people sharing my connection. When the servers were not having extreme sync issues (earlier today) I didn’t even notice any lag at all. The servers are coming down (probably down right now as I’m writing this) to fix the syncing issue – I hope they roll back or wipe those who exploited.
Aside from these unfortunate launch issues, I really think it’s important that I share my thoughts on the game with you. After all, in a few days when this all quiets down the gameplay is what matters. I have been pleasantly surprised.
The graphics are amazing compared to what I was expecting from the movies. Much, much, muuuuch better than I ever thought they would be. I’m running everything cranked up and, aside from some slowdown in the wheat fields, I’m getting amazing performance. Some of the animations are a bit wonky, but I thought the same thing about LOTRO when I first played.
Combat is FUN! When it wasn’t out of sync I can’t believe how well it actually works. It’s really, really simple but it feels right for the type of game. It feels just like Oblivion, except more responsive. I’m impressed with how they’ve managed to get the real-time working so well, especially given the lag. Questing has been very basic, but really rewarding. Money is hard to come by (When you play legit, you clowns) and getting 60g from a quest and a chain tunic actually makes you super excited. In fact, the first thing I did was bank my chain tunic so that I didn’t lose it while I’m still a newbie in the game. Valuing a newbie item to that extent says something about the atmosphere.
The UI is very basic and reminds me of the old DAOC ui. I always liked the simplistic UI’s, as you know if you’re a regular reader, so it doesn’t bother me. You can move everything around and change transparency as well as turn on and off certain features. I wish I could zoom the main map because it’s hard to see things clumped up on 1680×1050 resolution.
Pking isn’t as bad as people thought. I was expecting non-stop fighting and to be ganked right when I step outside town. People are being surprisingly conservative. If you attack people then you will turn grey for a period of time and others can attack and kill you without penalty. If someone kills you while you’re blue (meaning you haven’t attacked anyone) then they will turn red, lose faction, and can be killed without penalty. That’s not something you want to mess around with this early in the game. The result of this “I know you can kill me if you want to” atmosphere has created this sense of dire realism. Stepping outside the newbie town and running 100 yards feels like an epic journey because I truly do not know what waits for me behind the next tree. If you die, you lose it all.
Darkfall has a unique feel to it. I feel like I’m living the game, and not playing it. There isn’t this drive to level or to progress. I have so many options and I don’t know what to do first. I can harvest resources or complete some of these really rewarding quests. I can go kill goblins and raise my skills as well as gather resources or I can kill players to jack what they’ve earned. I can explore the world and run for hours in one direction never once seeing something familiar. These aspects of the game are pure untainted win.
When the servers come back up I really want to take some HD video for you guys to let you see it.
I’ll be continually blogging this weekend to keep you all updated on my impressions. I especially want to make sure I blog until the new car smell wears off to make sure I still feel as pleasantly surprised then as I do now. If this feeling lasts, and the server issues are fixed, then I will highly recommend Darkfall. However, until they do, I think people should watch from a distance.