Dawntide: The Fantasy SWG?

Simplistic graphics
Simplistic graphics

I have not been following Dawntide for more than a few days.  Why?  Honestly, there are games being developed, in beta, and currently released that simply do a better job at grabbing my attention.  It wasn’t until I started to read their forums and understand what this game is all about that it was added to my radar of games to watch.

Bringing back that ‘Ultima Online feel’ is a growing trend.  In an interview with Massively, Christian Hummeluhr (Producer) said, “We want that “real world” feeling that Ultima Online had back. The great thing about UO was all the different kinds of players playing in the same game…”  Yup.  I needn’t say more because I trust anyone reading this already knows what I would say.

Alright, so the sentiment is there but we all know that’s never enough.  What are they doing that would make me even remotely interested?  Since I can’t see what they (Working as Intended, the devs) are doing, I have to rely on what they are saying.  They’re telling us that you can be a master blacksmith and have your goods be relied upon.  They’re saying the economy is entirely player driven.  Players can have their own structures, cities, societies, government, ships, armadas, and so on.   The world, an island, is spacious and designed so that players populate it with the aforementioned things.   Then it’s all about living in this “real world” and fighting for territory against other factions or supporting your faction with your crafted goods.

There will be 50 skills and each will come with associated benefits/perks.  Skill gains come from use.   This sytem works when it’s implemented properly.  For example, it works in a game like EQ where you swing your sword and increase your sword skill.  It doesn’t work in a game like Darkfall where you shoot your spell in the air and increase your spell skill.

Gameplay will be the deciding factor
Gameplay will be the deciding factor: What the player can accomplish.

While the Dawntide team is obviously making a game similar to Darkfall and Mortal Online, and the rest of the “We want to bring back UO” games, they have a rather insightful outlook on how their game may succeed where these others are failing.  Christian Hummeluhr points out that Darkfall’s problem is/was brutal atmosphere comes from the extreme focus on combat, and lack of equal focus elsewhere. [Edit: Comment #30]   All these games are saying “We want blacksmiths to be able to be blacksmiths and play the game how they want and get a truly equal experience of gameplay” and all that jibberjabber.  The problem is that none of them actually follow through and make it an equally fulfilling, dynamic, and fleshed out role in how the game is meant to be played.  If a game, like Dawntide, can talk the talk, point out where others have erred, and then do it right, then perhaps they really can make it happen.

The crafting is where I believe Dawntide will truly succeed or fail.  They’ve come right out and said that their crafting will be like UO and SWG, and they explain the crafting system in such a way that it sounds exactly like SWG.  That is a wonderful thing.  Having templates that can be altered and experimented on by the player based on skill level, method, resource quality, etc., is a much better way to craft than using a “list” of items.  It allows for players to create, to some extent, the items.  I was devoted to the crafting side of SWG almost exclusively for two years.  I conquered the economy on my server and set up an empire of galactic proportions with other crafters that truly governed who would win battles.  We would sell our items exclusively to one faction or guild and actually be retained for a fee to offer the highest quality food, weapons, and armor only to certain people.  As a result, we played a direct role in the combat.

Crafting is where Dawntide will get my money.  A fantasy game using a similar crafting system to SWG will make me a subscriber.  However, all of this in theory means nothing.  It comes down to how they implement it.

As others have pointed out, including the devs,  this game is giving off a SWG meets UO vibe.   That vibe = good.  Trying to actually live up to that vibe = dangerous.  Failing to live up to the vibe will crush you.  Asking players to place your game up against games that have been deemed a gem of time means that if your game fails to deliver then the players will be merciless in their persecution.

Dawntide looks average in its presentation.  Their website is modest.  Their graphics are simplistically elegant.   This game’s success hinges upon implementation of great theories.  It hinges upon their ability to deliver a game that’s meant to be played by someone wanting to stand around crafting just as much as someone wanting to go out and PvP.

  • I don’t know how this game will turn out, but I am glad over all that we are seeing a resurgence of this type of game. Hopefully one of them will strike just the right chord.

  • Check out the forums. There is no NDA so you can ask questions, and see screenshots and videos. The devs are posting daily.

  • I am in beta phase one, and ya theres no NDA.
    Its a very early phase but there is a lot of promise! I am very excited about the game.
    And yes crafting is amazing already… very similar to SWG.

  • Hi, I had this linked from our IRC.

    I think you’ve pretty much nailed it. The fact of the matter is that no PvPer will stay very long in a game where there aren’t real targets, and non-PvPers won’t stay very long without real risk, so a PvP MMOG lives or dies by its ability to retain both, not one or the other.

    If you try to solve the problem in its typical incarnation by taking the crafters and putting them in the dominant role, you will face the exact same result: mass exodus of PvPers from the game because of lacking or unbalanced mechanics, followed by a mass exodus of non-PvPers due to a lack of real risk.

  • I gave up on the “recapture the UO feeling” stuff. It will never happen…maybe it isn’t necessarily the awesome gameplay that made UO so great but the novelty…

    I doubt I will ever be all excited “because I am playing a game with other people on my computer.” UO was the first game I played online..it was fascinating.

    The people I played with were (like me)naive…new…inexperienced…excited..emotional.. There was no real other game..there was no choice between a PvP game or a non-PvP game…there was UO as a mainstream game (ignoring some other less successful games of that type for now). Nobody can bring the new feeling back and the innocence of the player base.

  • I’m also in the “beta”. Alpha might be a better description.

    I haven’t played much yet, maybe three or four hours. So far it reminds me of a graphically superior Wurm Online, but it certainly has the potential to be a lot more mainstream than that.

    The Massively interview is very interesting. I’d be curious to see how long WAI think it’s going to take to get from where they are now to what they describe. Quite a while, I would imagine.

    I haven’t managed to get out of sight of the starting town yet, since you either sprint and run out of endurance, or walk at a snail’s pace. If you die it takes a very long time to regenerate health, so exploring is an unusually difficult task. It takes an absolutely inordinate amount of time to get anywhere.

    I foolishly spent most of my starting money on a cloak and haven’t found any way to earn enough more to buy any recipes, so as yet I haven’t experienced the crafting, although it looks very detailed.

    As for PvP, so far I haven’t even seen another player, so it’s not been much of an issue. My PvE fights so far have been limited to rabbits, grass snakes and small deer (even they give me quite a tussle). My character appears to have no combat animation at all, so it’s hard to tell what’s going on.

    Early days yet, though, and it does have a nice feel to it.

  • @Christian Hummeluhr: Thanks for stopping by Christian.

    At least you’re in the right mindset to accomplish your goals. That’s more than anyone can say about most developers trying to deliver on their promises – especially ones similar to yours. You’re onto something really meaningful here with avoiding an overwhelming emphasis on combat. Stay the course.

    I’ll be anxiously awaiting beta registration to re-open for a chance to try out the game.

  • Dawntide beta tester here.

    The game is very basic currently but shows much promise in all aspects.

    If you’re curious for a look at the game I’ve linked one of my current ingame beta videos below for you. More will be taken and uploaded to the same youtube account as the game progresses.


  • @Keen: I’d be interested in grilling you a bit over this: “Alright, so the sentiment is there but we all know that’s never enough. What are they doing that would make me even remotely interested? Since I can’t see what they (Working as Intended, the devs) are doing, I have to rely on what they are saying.”

    Can you send me a mail? I can’t seem to find yours anywhere here, oddly enough.

  • I wonder if I could drop items to the ground like in Ultima Online. In modern MMOs this destroys them. Taming or Breeding mounts would also be interesting.

    Basically, one must be able to do lots of things with items and the world. Digging for treasure, placing chests in the world (I loved to wire my chest with poison/explosive traps) and all that.

    I totally approve of any game that wants to be a bit like Ultima Online! 🙂

  • Yup Longasc, you can drop items like UO. And others can pick them up… so ya droppable items is in.

    and yes there is taming for mounts/pets.. breeding in the future maybe.

  • I got accepted a few weeks ago, but I haven’t got the email back with the client details.

    Looks good though! UO was my first MMO experience, so this appeals to me quite a bit 🙂

  • “F(*# trees, I climb buoys Mutha Fu….” Ok, Ok, I’ll stop. Song is just sooo good.

  • Minor correction the dev never talked about Darkfall failing. They were mentioning darkfall being more brutal.

    Also any system that has the you do you gain thing automatically leads to macroing. Ultima Online spent years trying to patch their system to stop macroing, the same thing is holding true for darkfall.

    The one reason i think this game might succeed is its smaller focus. They seem to know what they want to do and within their means to do it. And they are not trying anything experimental. They do not have the hype associated with DF or MO.

    One thing that does concern me though is the skill cap system. They are doing it the same as DF with diminished returns over time. Games like Ryzom, df and others try this and it seems to be a failboat every time.

    My second concern is the combat. I really hope who ever is playing the game is playing Aion. That game had one of the funnest rpg style combat system I have ever played. Simple fun intuitive but hard to master. But i have a feeling the combat system is gonna be drowned out by the skill system and just be boring.

  • Keen-

    Darkfall elimated skilling without a target a long time ago. Get a new complaint… lame for you to use this months later.

    If this Dawntide is a better game than Darkfall we will come grief all of you and make you quit… just saying.

  • Dunno about Keen but I didn’t know skilling without a target was gone from Darkfall but I also don’t care at all about Darkfall. Always count on fanboys to call you out on not checking what the latest updates are on games you have no interest in before making a blog post.

    Also that bug, feature whatever should never have made it past beta and that it did is a testament to how terrible Darkfall is. Yeah I said it.

  • Do people honestly have nothing better to do then throw a hissy fit about Keen not constantly checking for updates on a game he is not currently playing?

    That said, Dawntide looks very interesting and I’m definitely going to keep an eye out. The fact that the game has no NDA and developers that actually take interest in the community really catches my eye.

  • Is it just me or is there some sort of rule that games trying to recreate the UO experience have to look… lackluster, visually?

    I’m not trying to take a cheap shot, Dawntide is definitely graphically better of the three (Darkfall and Mortal Online being the other two) even at this early stage, but it’s still not jumping out.

    It looks utilitarian.

    I’d love to get into this side of the MMORPG genre again, but a virtual world has to appeal to me visually before anything else. I’m aware they’re not a huge developer house, but I’m left wondering why the art direction isn’t a greater priority.

  • @Adam

    So you’re saying you’ll bring the community that ruined Darkfall to ruin Dawntide? The macro, running against the wall, spell spamming, E-peen crowd?

    Good job?

  • @Rog

    regarding the visuals…there probably isn’t anything as subjective in the genre. I’m not sure what games you are comparing the visuals to but personally that’s one of the things i like about Dawntide, although i wouldn’t say they are any better than MO or Darkfall. Compare them to, say, the 800 lb gorilla and i’ll take Dawntide any day of the week because i don’t want to play a cartoon. Other peeps think just the opposite…they’d rather play something with the artistic style of Wow because the “realistic” style to them appears drab.

    With visuals, you just can never please everyone. Some people want WoW, some people want EQ/VG semi-realism, some people prefer over-the-top Korean anime etc. etc. I just cannot ever get into any game unless it uses the semi-realistic style so i’m happy with the art direction they decided to take.

  • “”If this Dawntide is a better game than Darkfall we will come grief all of you and make you quit””

    Bahahaha. Are you 8 years old?

  • I love the concept.

    Unfortunately, I need visuals that don’t look dated. It’s one thing for a game that is 2D, looking like a 2D game should, but if you’re going full 3D, then I’ll need the game to look like it was developed in the last 5 years by 3D standards. Otherwise, terrible animations and poor visuals break the immersion, which is a no-no for me.

  • I may not keep current on the game, but the community for Darkfall sure does keep their reputation current.

    No, I didn’t know that skillups for hitting air were removed, but for the couple months that I played (and subsequent months that I didn’t) it was still in. In fact, the skill system destroyed an entire server/region.

    I did put words in Christian’s mouth, and I’ll correct that in the entry. He did not say Darkfall’s problem, that was an injection of my own interpretation of their heavy focus on combat. In my opinion, and the Dawntide devs opinion obviously, such a heavy emphasis on combat and its part in the game detracts from accomplishing their goal of a UO/SWG type game. I regret the error.

  • IMO, I liked the SWG experience system. It was not directly tied to swing a sword, get a skill up in swords. But you got sword (in this case combat) XP. Which then you can use to purchase different sword skills.

    The Economy of SWG was almost there. The problems I had were that novice crafters had nothing worth making, you had to grind your all the way though Master before you could compete. In EVE, a new crafter could make ammo (either for them selves or others) and sell it for some profit. Established industrialists would use their limited manufacturing capacity for larger ticket items.

    Second, not everything crafted had a returning market. Tailoring was mostly cosmetic and the had to put in a very artificial mechanic to help create repeat business. Weapons wore out so you needed to have a weapon supply to maintain long wars.

    One thing I really did enjoy about SWG was that I could be purely a resource gatherer and make a decent amount of money. With the limited number of lots, you had to work with others to create a viable manufacturing empire.

    Other good things. Regional/Local Markets. Very little could be bought and sold remotely. Well you could buy something, but then you had to go and actually pick it up from the vendors. Put in some form of limited cargo holding and now you have trader occupation.

  • I always thought Fable had a novel approach to the “skill up as you use it” system, even though it only had three skills.

    If a mobs worth 100xp, and you defeat it 100% with swords, then you get 100 sword exp, if you defeat it 50/50 sword/spell then 50sword and 50 spell etc.

    In an MMO it would have to be more complicated of course to deal with grouping, but I reckon it’d work out well as a good hybrid of UO and SWG style systems.

  • I’m trying to see how Darktide distinguishes itself from Mortal Online? SWG-like crafting?

    Also Keen you’ve been very quiet about Mortal Online. Feeling burned by Darkfall and think it is just too similar?

  • This is the 3rd MMO that I know of that is boasting the back to UO roots. UO and EQ weren’t just good because of the gameplay… they launched at the perfect time.

    I don’t think we will ever have games like UO and EQ again for a number of reasons, the major being that the market has changed.

  • blah not going to go through one of these games again. my sights are now set on GW2.

  • @Curious George: There isn’t enough info out about Mortal Online to really talk about it. Darkfall definitely deflated any excitement I could possibly have in a smaller company developing a game with their goals and ambitions. I’ll let other people try it and let me know how it is before I invest any time or energy.

    As for Dawntide, it’s interesting enough to at least think about because there is no NDA and the devs are the ones saying that combat should not be the focus instead of us players having to say it.

  • As others have mentioned above, skill-on-use is over, done, stick a fork in it, obsolete. Bots and macros have put paid to that model of advancement.

    MMO developers need to stop doing this, because it cannot work anymore.

  • @ Bertie: If your premise is that botting/macroing has caused the “skill gain via practice” game-play mechanism to become obsolete, then ANYTHING you can do in a game is obsolete by your reckoning, because EVERYTHING can be botted/macroed!

    For example, in World of Warcraft we see time-and-again the farmer-bots running set courses to acquire stuff. Can we thus claim that WoW’s game-play model is obsolete because it can be botted? I think not. (Although I do think it may be obsolete for a number of _other_ unrelated reasons…)

    Regarding a return to UO-like game-play: I’m all for it! UO had a number of design concepts that were effective as well as fun, but have been disregarded in newer MMOs.

    For example, the randomly spawned rat/orc/lizard camps — this was a very simple technique which went a long way to making the world feel more alive.

    In most (all?) newer MMOs, 99% of the encounters are nailed down, unchanging. After a while, players know exactly what to expect and where to expect it — boring.

  • Re: Darkfall, i think that too many people let the community sour their overall outlook on the game, including (but definitely not limited to) Keen. Say what you want but you actually liked the game for a short while before pulling yet another mmorpg flip flop. Now you talk about it like it’s comparable to Dark and Light or something. Just kind of weird for a game that surprised you initially and frankly it just isn’t that bad when looked at objectively.

    I don’t play anymore because i unfortunately just don’t have the time for a mmorpg right now – but just looking at the game itself i’m pretty amazed at what a small shop like AV with limited resources was able to pull off. And the game updates and patches have been very impressive as well to date bringing in some pretty big fixes, additions to the game etc. Just looking at a few of the features it’s successfully pulled off so far:
    -large-scale PvP battles while maintaing playable framerates. how many “mom and pop” shops have been able to do this? And don’t give me Eve – little spaceship icons in outer space isn’t quite the same technical feat…
    -Huge/impressive looking fantasy world. It’s not Vanguard (say what you want about that game, and i’ll agree with most of it, but i thought they nailed the world building). character models may not be the best but when you are trying to enable large-scale PvP battles and still maintain playable framerates on most computers this is a virtual necessity given current technology
    -buildable guild cities/villages/housing
    -solid guild and war system which has set up some pretty interesting 100% player-made politics happening in the game world.
    -ship content, battles etc. yes, this needs some work mainly to stop the hacking but it is in, working, and will only get better as AV continues to work on stopping the hacks.
    -crafting/harvesting system. It’s maybe not SWG level but still very good with thousands of craftable items
    -some interesting PvE content which is constantly being added to. The mob AI ranges from buggy to great and everywhere in between, but i liked the fact that the ones i encountered in my time were much tougher to bring down than the typical mmorpg mob that stands there until it dies or you die. The PvE content is pretty light for sure, but not surprising given the PvP focus of the game. And they will be adding a lot to the PvE sphere.
    -Server was incredibly stable from the start. I’ve played many games from day one and none were as solid as this one. This in itself for such a small team is a huge accomplishment, especially considering the lack of instancing and large-scale PvP focus. (note for those frothing at the mouth to reply – i was never interested in and never played Wow. I fully admit it’s a great game by all accounts…just not my cup o tea)

    Anyway, now you talk about it like it’s comparable to Dark and Light or something. Just kind of weird for a game that surprised you initially and frankly it just isn’t that bad. It may not be your type of game and that’s fine, that doesn’t mean it’s failed and should shake your hope in any small company for making a decent game…that’s just absurd. Seems to me some of the more immature DF players “got your goat” at one time and you try to get back at them occasionally by slamming their game.

    I realize it’s your blog and you don’t have to be objective. Just given the popularity of this site i guess i expected more objectivity than you tend to show.

  • The thing that really impresses me about the potential for this game is that it allows multiple “end-games”. In WoW or Warhammer, you wind up with maybe one or two legitimate end-games (in WoW, that’s raiding and arenas). Darkfall really has only one (get into as large of an alliance as possible). EVE seems to have succeeded at this better than most MMOs. One major thing I hope that Dawntide can do is avoid getting tied down into one niche. WoW supports hardcore and casual PvE and PvP, whereas Darkfall only supports hardcore PvP, and while something like Warhammer or Age of Conan support(ed) (at launch and in the immediate aftermath of launch) a range of PvP players, their PvE was lacking. It would be a tight line to walk, but I’d like an MMO where sandboxers, economists/crafters, PvEers, and PvPers can co-exist.

    I would really like to see a sandbox game that doesn’t turn into a gank-fest game. I like the idea of making an impact in the game world, but I’m not enough of a hardcore PvPer to enjoy something like Darkfall or Mortal Online.

    @Xenovore – there’s a major difference between skill-botting and resource-botting. Resource-botting (WoW-bots farming Relics of Ulduar in Storm Peaks, for instance) causes price deflation, and enables gold-selling. You can tweak that out pretty easily (by imposing anti-gold-farming regulations elsewhere, and balancing the economy through dailies and gold-sinks), and it’s pretty easy to catch with clever data-mining heuristics. By contrast, skill-botting can’t be easily offset (unless you take away people’s skills or ban otherwise legal customers), and it’s harder to catch.

  • argh.
    been wanting to play this since i laid eyes on it..a review of it.
    thought while refreshing myself on why–once i finally got hold of the big computer; the one with the memory/speed to play stuff; pretty much the only com we are allowed to download stuff on–i wanted to play in the first place, could download. and sign up. which is where the trouble starts.

    keep getting the rror ‘cannot connect to mysql game account’ ..or something. gahh

    see there’s a game i wanna play. ‘a tale in the desert’. or something along those lines anayway.
    but alas! it’s not Free. grr. think it’s monthly payment thing..even worse. at least with aone time payment i might hope to rip a copy off the–ehem. somehow convince my da to cough up. but nopee…

    anyone having a suggestion for a free to play ‘sandbox’ game like this one? in depth crafting, sense-making experience/skill gain, etc. do tell.
    with the telling, also give a brief descip how combat works. control and shiz. thanks =DD