Why is Darkfall so tempting? It’s not what you think.

Relaxing after a nice bear hunt with my friend Damace Inc.

When I’m between games I know that I have to watch myself to make sure that I don’t get swept away by the need to play something, and just subscribe to the first game that comes along promising me a persistent world.  In the past, actually twice in the past… hmm… I’ve resubscribed to WoW.  This time around, I’m being tempted by Darkfall.  If you just spilled something while laughing, I apologize.

What is it that Darkfall could possibly offer that would be of interest to someone currently ‘between’ games?  I find myself yearning for the virtual world feel.  I hunger for the open-ended or multifaceted character progression.  I enjoy being able to chop trees for 5 hours and have no one around me question why I have spent my time doing that.  Are these the reasons I am so tempted by Darkfall?

I’ve done the 14-day trial (which Aventurine cut short…those savages) and played around with the game.  There are many things in Darkfall you won’t find readily available elsewhere.  The death penalty is harsh; you can lose your stuff.  The learning curve is steep.  It takes a lot of time to see results.  You really have to rely on other players to advance.  Maybe that’s why I am tempted by Darkfall?

No, despite being decent at some of those things, those aren’t the reasons.  I finally realized what it was drawing me to the game: Friends.  If I did not have three friends playing, I would not even consider playing Darkfall right now.  I’m still not impressed by the game enough to praise it, and I would drop it in an instant if a better sandbox came along.  My friends are the reason why I’ll log in and play because in Darkfall you can truly utilize your friends.  You can rely on them, need them to watch your back, watch them give you the shirt off their back, and experience with greater enjoyment all of the things I mentioned above.

That’s why I’ll consider returning to Darkfall instead of WoW.  1) My friends aren’t playing WoW, and 2) WoW doesn’t condone the social dynamics of community quite like Darkfall does.  As I look for a future game to play, perhaps the next best thing, I’ll be looking more closely at how that game capitalizes on and sustains friendships that players form.

That’s my feel-good message of the month.

  • Have you considered Wurm Online?

    That is a strong sandbox game, far more oriented to crafting than combat with EQ era graphics, but nonetheless it has a much more open world feel.

  • Keen, I played DF during launch for about 3-4 months. I believe you did the same. Is the game hard to get back into? Also, how are server populations?

    I really enjoyed the world pvp where you could go hunting for other solo players farming on creeps. Is this still possible?


  • It’s a thin line to tread. Know another game that utilizes friends? Farmville.

    I’m convinced friends are the only reason why anyone would play an MMO long-term, but I would not want to play a game where friends were required. Hopefully the nuance comes across.

  • @Dazzle: Very hard to get back into. Server population is low-med. People are spread out and entrenched in alliances/guilds.

    @Azuriel: Makes sense to me. It -is- a fine line.

  • That’s one of the dynamics that is easily looked past yet was a key element in why games like Everquest lasted forever and was so good. The need to rely on others is something that got lost over the past decade in mmorpgs. I also think it really degraded the entire community as a whole as well.

    One fact I’ve always really liked about my days in EQ on pvp servers was that if you were a jackass, good luck progressing. Since you basically had to group with others/rely on others to level up, it acted as an auto retard filter. Meaning if you were a douche or were just bad, word would spread, and people wouldn’t group with you. It killed two birds with one stone. So when you did hit level 50 and saw other level 50’s, you knew A. they probably know what their doing and B. they probably arn’t a jackass. Which then led to great communities.

    Today a 8 year old can tard his way through the levels with little to no penalty and not much effort in most games, flooding the end game community with “barrens chat”. Sadly the overall community suffers and a great aspect of original mmorpgs is lost, all due to AAA companies catering to the masses for more money.

  • Which then led to great communities.

    Well, yeah, of course. Small, homogenous, insular communities are great. They are also not able to support the AAA games around which they are based.

  • I played Darkfall for 3 days last year and at first I was completely blown away by how much fun I was having, untill on that 4th day I was gang raped by a group and camped for a solid 2 hours. Came back the next day and this time decided to find a newer place and voila a new group of gankers preying on the lowbie areas.

    Not my cup of tea and I love PvP but I despise FFA full-looting PvP with as much passion as I do Raiding in a themepark MMO. Needless to say I quit after that and never bothered to go back.

    For the life of me I dont understand why they wouldnt of tried a couple different rule set servers much like how Asherons Call did it, a White PvE server and Red PvP server. I never played UO and all I hear is how Trammel ruined it but I honestly think that it prolly saved the game esp with the release of EQ and AC that came out. I think there wouldnt of been a “big 3” (UO/EQ/AC) if there was no Trammel there would of only been a big 2.

  • Will you give a review of the games current state at any time? I tried a few times but could not get myself back into the game.

  • I’m not averse to non-consensual PvP or even full-looting mechanics. The issue I do have with these games is that the ruleset is always in favour of the ganker. There is simply no deterrant or consequence to make these so-called ‘hardcore PvPers’ think twice about their actions.

    I’d love to see a sandbox game with the balls to implement an actual crime and punishment system. I wonder how the non-consensual PvP crowd would fare if, say, killing another player tagged you as a murderer and left your character subject to permadeath for a couple of weeks?

  • Keen, you could always look into Minecraft Factions. A friend of mine showed me a little, and he said he liked it cause it was something like Darkfall.

    Players join factions, build bases, PvP with each other to take each other’s land, etc. Sounds like a cool virtual world feel, along with some PvP.

    I’m tempted to play more, but alas, I have so many games right now and so little time.

  • Also interested in your thought process on not playing Eve. You may have discussed in the past, but I don’t recall, and I don’t see a box for it in the mmo category box. Maybe it is as simple as the reason you may give Darkfall another shot – wanting to have some friends in game.

  • I think the answer about Eve is already outlined in his post. A bunch of people are playing Darkfall who Keen enjoys playing games with, thus he is playing Darkfall.

  • @everyone who is asking Keen why he isn’t playing Eve. Did you even read his blog post? He’s playing Darkfall because three of his friends are playing it: myself, Bartlebe and Phandy. Interestingly we also got another old member to start up last night as well. Don’t know if he’ll be hanging around long but at least people are giving the game a try.

    Also, as for how hard is it to get back in. Lets just say that it’s both easier and harder.

    Easier because skill gain is much faster now than when EU and NA first launched. Also the ability to meditate skills while you are offline helps a ton.

    Harder because many of the vets are almost maxed out on their skills/spells. I’ve progressed much further in my 3 weeks of playing Darkfall than I did back at server launch but I can easily be killed by any vet as if I were a starter zone mob.

    The thing is though, I like this game because it ISN’T a theme park. Everything I do helps my character in some fashion in this game, from the simplest thing as running to fighting mobs.

    Good Example: Simply killing a mob does so many things. Whatever skill you use to kill it, that skill is increased. You then loot the mob for stuff. Finally all mobs can be skinned for enchant mats. Skinning is a gathering skill so again by skinning the mob you gain skill in skinning and gain more stuff.

    Everything is connected and everything you do helps build your character. So that means you can do anything in the game and you will get character progression. You don’t have to follow a stupid connect the dots quest hub to progress, you can do anything you want and that is why I like and play Darkfall. Granted I wish there was a better sandbox out there because Darkfall’s UI is so freaking horrid but I put up with it because it’s the best sandbox for me.

    Oh and no I’ve never played Eve and don’t want too. I’ve been an avid PvPer in MMO’s since my days on Siege Perilous in UO back in 1998 but Eve just doesn’t do anything for me.

  • darkfalls inability to add diversity after years of updates is just sad. Hopefully 2.0 will gut this but fighting someone who can barely has to make a choice between their strengths and flaws is just crap game design.

  • I’ve tried out a lot of Indie MMOs and some of them were really fun even if a little brutal (DF bloodwalls for skill gain ugggggghh)but the lack of friends to play with is really what killed it. So if you organize a community movement into any of those games, well sign me right up.

  • To add to what Damage said:

    Keen put it best last night. In terms of the grind, if you start comparing your character to Vet characters you will quickly find your self feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of reaching their leveling (or a level you feel is competitive) and depressed at the thought of just blinding grinding.

    However, if you just look at it in terms of your own character progression in terms of investing your time into something then you will find the game rewarding. There is a sense of satisfaction that comes from realizing your character has grown enough to be able to defeat various mobs. For example mobs that you used to have to kill in a group you can now solo. This sense of accomplishment is furthered by being part of an active clan that will help you out and plan activities. No matter how much satisifaction one gets from seeing their character progress, no one likes grinding 24/7. Mixing up grind/farm sessions with various clan activities really makes the game fun for me.

    Sure, it is frustrating to lose stuff when you get ganked. But at the end of the day they are just pixels.

  • Ah, Darkfall. I actually played this for a bit sometime last year (for the first time) and enjoyed it quite a bit. Unfortunately for me, my friends aren’t really playing a lot of games at the moment, so I was mostly by myself.

    The only sandbox game that REALLY gave me that open-world, community feel was Xsyon around launch. Tons of guilds setting up their territory all over the map, gathering resources together and building their area. Sadly, that’s where the features pretty much ended, and when the guilds couldn’t do much else except kill each other and hang out in their safe zones, they stopped playing.

  • @alex taldren So no more Hopi for you Alex? I was hoping the community and the developers might have advanced the game along but I have not read anything about that in months.

  • To answer the questions about why I’m not trying EVE or ‘X’ game, and to reiterate what others have already replied, I am playing Darkfall because of my friends. I wouldn’t be playing Darkfall if I were by myself, regardless of finding a guild.

  • I checked out Xyson and it looks really interesting but at a 40 dollar starting price point I’m very hard pressed to try it out. I really wish games like this would have some form of free trial system even if it isn’t a traditional one. With Indie’s especially I like to try before I buy.

  • I’m currently tinkering around in Xsyon as well. I’ll write some stuff up soon to share my thoughts.

  • @Proximo: Did you mean GW1 or GW2? If GW1, I heard it’s a ton of work to get the Hall of Monuments stuff, and I may not have time to do it. If GW2, I will for sure be playing the second it’s available.

  • Ahhh… peer pressure!

    Just kidding. You must like it to some degree to return even if friends are playing it. I don’t think I could ever return to WoW. I left about 2 years ago and left all my WoW-friends there (many of whom are coworkers and family members). If I would have still enjoyed it on some level, then I would have easily returned in those 2 years.

  • @Barrista: I know what you mean. Even if my friends went back to WoW I couldn’t. I think I am finally 100% done with it. A part of me wants a sandbox bad enough to try Darkfall again.

  • I would play still play Darkfall to this day if they had implemented the skills the way they SAID THEY WERE GOING TO BEFORE LAUNCH.

    The system was supposed to be a limited pool, with degradation on less-used skills. Meaning you would have to decide what to specialize in and stick to it to hit the cap for those core skills (such as being a two-handed swordsman, or alternatively an archer, etc).

    The way it is implemented and has been since launch is that any joe-schmoe can max literally every skill in the game. Not only does this dilute gameplay, it crazily slides the scales for new players vs veterans.

    2.0 is supposed to fix this issue if I remember correctly from some bored reading I did on it… but its Aventurine. They already said they were going to do it once…

  • I didn’t know you were trying Xsyon. I would be interested to see what you think of it so far. Just from browsing the forums however it still seems like a game with a ton of potential but it’s also a game that looks like it has just stepped into the first stages of Beta. Which is an improvement because a few months ago it looked like a game still in Alpha.

  • I just recently went back to Darkfall for pretty much the same reasons this article describes, that open world feeling of doing what you want, I also get a thrill of seeing a red (or usually in my case, being dead and then seeing a red).

    Unfortunately the game is just too much for my casual game style now a days, which stinks, but I probably go back to it once or twice a year since I first started playing. Its not the best, but at least the devs tried something different then the standard themepark.

  • I have held off playing Darkfall for a long time. I keep hearing about 2.0 changing things, when does that it or is it still up in the air? I would like to try it out but prefer just to wait until the change.

  • DF 2.0 is tentative for q2 2012. There’s a beta beforehand. IMO – expect the beta near the end of Q2, release before the end of the year.

    That being said, it’s a fine time to jump into DF. Pick an active clan and make friends. Don’t play with people who require you have skill level X to do something with them. Everyone is useful.

  • My biggest problem with Darkfall is that it’s a sandbox wannabe but with little sand and no tools to shape it. It’s basically a PvP gank fest.

  • @Don – Although UO circa 1997-1999 was a gankfest, AC and EQ as well as UO post 1999 were not and they were the closest MMO’s to a Sandbox we’ve been given and all three were much better games than anything that came after them.

  • @Damage Inc: UO maybe. But EQ and AC? By no means. EQ was pre-wow. Grind levels then grind gear. The community was amazing, but it wasn’t anything more than a prelude to what we have now in WoW, SWTOR, Rift, etc. AC wasn’t either. That was even more of a themepark with events being hosted by GMs, etc. A sandbox is defined by how you can build and shape a world. DF, MO, UO to an extent, Shadowbane, they were sandboxes. The problem so far with sandboxes is that with great freedom comes responsibility and most players don’t have that. So they eventually devolve into gankfests.

  • @Magnus: That has a lot to do with the game functionality as well. Darkfall for example has no long term economy or world building so the game has de-evolved to just a PvP game that culminates in a lot of ganking (which I think is overblown a bit). If you build a sandbox with meaningful World Building, Economy, Exploration, and PvE you give the players a lot more opportunity to create their own content rather then get pigeon holed into one aspect ala Darkfall.

  • What Phandy said. PvP has taken the whole game over.

    The problem with PvP is that it’s the strongest way to affect others in a MMORPG. And unlike real life, where there are natural, cultural and institutional barriers to “mindless ganking”, murdering, etc…, in game, people are anonymous behind a screen.

    UO was and still is the only and best real sandbox MMORPG. Many people confuse sandbox with open unrestricted PvP. This is total nonsense. Minecraft is a sandbox game, is PvP mandatory in that game? Definitely not. A sandbox game is about shaping a world, creating stuff, not about killing each other (even if it can be part of it). PvP needs to be controlled and harnessed, with VERY harsh consequences for mindless killing, or it will take over the whole game, become the main focus of it and mandatory (aka forced), and destroy the other aspects of a sandbox.

  • I sincerely hope they do it right with 2.0. The game is enjoyable enough in its present incarnation (I’d still be playing it myself if I felt I had the time), but it had the potential to be so much more. Reading some of AV’s old pre-launch blog and forum posts, it’s depressing how little of the original vision survived to see release.