New Dawn vs. Rise of Agon

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Original Darkfall
My original character and guild from Darkfall
[/su_lightbox]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.

[su_box title=”Keen’s impromptu interview with Marc Thompson” box_color=”#011948″]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.”[/su_box]

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.

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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.

  • Hello Keen,

    Seems you’ve gotten misinformation about Rise of Agon. As the CEO of Big Picture Games and lead game designer for Rise of Agon I encourage you to reach out to me for information about our upcoming game. I included my email in this reply.

    Andrew Ballinger

  • Hi Andrew, thanks for stopping by. What I’ve seen from the community and posting about RoA has clearly been aimed at the Darkfall veterans with a very vanilla Darkfall approach. I know you have a few new things in the works as well as a few fixes aimed toward improving the disparity between players who have played a long time vs. newcomers. There’s also some housing and other sandboxy elements, but correct me if I’m wrong by stating your intent really is to bring back to Darkfall crowd and create a truer to vanilla game than New Dawn.

    Not that this is your fault, but I see a lot of the people flocking to RoA that remind me a little too much of the toxic wolves who ruined my experience the first time around.

  • Thanks for the link to our podcast!

    I came to Darkfall very late in 1.0. Sometime towards the end with the huge xp boost. Then only spent 2 months with Unholy Wars. Housing seemed pointless other then for a port. Crafting was far to simple and just served to pump you and guild mates up with tons of gear to feed pvp. No local banking, no trade routes, and no reason to use a ship. Most importantly neither versions of the game deterred random pvp enough so that in the wild you are left with only two real choices, attack/run. All that makes for a very uninteresting sandbox game.

    That combat and game engine is amazing though! Seems like what new dawn has planned is to finally shape darkfall into probably something much closer to Eve so I really hope they achieve their goals. I wouldn’t be upset to see Rise of Agon take off as well since where darkfall 1.0 left off is a much better place then where Unholy Wars is currently.

  • @Nateryl: You guys had a nice interview, glad to have posted it for people to listen and learn. I think you’re absolutely right and I wouldn’t mind seeing both projects succeed. In fact, I hope RoA does succeed. There’s nothing wrong with giving people the game they want. Simply put, I don’t want to play Darkfall anywhere close to what it was, and I don’t want to play with the people who do, so a game that creates that for that demographic is a win-win.

  • Was the player community in the first darkfall toxic? I had a great time on the EU servers with the Awful Company and their allies. If anything the players made the game as great as it was.

  • @TomTrustworthy: Yeah it was awful. Full of cheaters, exploiters, people who would stop at nothing to ruin other people’s fun in ways that went well beyond your typical ganking. Darkfall changed even people I thought I knew well into monsters. The game promoted horrible behavior.

    That said, there was still enough of a foundation there for a group of people to get together and rely on each other. We had fun building up a city, a hamlet, collecting materials and crafting, PvEing, and even PvPing when we weren’t against exploiters. Friends I made in Darkfall have become some of my closest friends. We bonded over our experience in Darkfall, but ultimately all had to get out of that environment and away from those people.

  • While I agree there were scummy people, the whole getting a city and building it up was awesome. Everybody in the clan was gathering stone and wood to make the walls and such. Then after that having allies and helping them get cities or hamlets was great.

    Playing that game solo would be rough, luckily I didn’t have to. But maybe this could be something addressed by one or the other new darkfall projects.

  • @TomTrustworthy: Agreed. The core elements of the game were a good foundation that simply wasn’t executed well at all. I like the philosophies behind what New Dawn is looking to do with making more things to do in the game and more ways to play for people who like the crafting, economy, etc.

  • I’m no journalist, but I just had to laugh at this.

    You find out about DnD, do a piece on it. Then, you find out they have a competitor in Rise of Agon….and state you want to find out more about RoA’s approach and decide to do so… interviewing a guy from DnD?

    Isn’t that kinda like finding out about a democratic candidate by asking his/her republican rival?

  • It gets better, said person then receives a response from CEO of Rise of Agon, pointing out errors in the piece regarding his product and offering an opportunity to further the story, to which the journalist responds by saying “Nonsense, your product is inferior because your competitor told me so”.

  • @Fnights: Exactly

    I am following both, and wish both well. Even casually following them I know the basics.

    Keen, seriously, woulda taken you a LOT less time than that interview, or even to post it, to go over to their website and read a page or two of their plan.

  • Hi Owyn, good to see you too. I like New Dawn’s outlook on and approach toward making a new version of Darkfall better than RoA’s. While I wish both success, I would rather see people play New Dawn and let the Darkfall crowd ‘go back to Darkfall’. I want to protect my readers who haven’t been subjected to the Darkfall crowd find a better opportunity for fun. I’m no journalist either, though. I write my opinion which tends toward always being biased.

    Keep representing the Darkfall crowd though; Makes explaining the community a lot easier when people can see examples of the aggression and hostility.

  • That went through. Couldn’t post on my comp and switched to my phone. If it’s technical the my apologies

  • When is your interview with Andrew scheduled? Would love to see some dialogue between you two on Rise of Agon as well!

  • @Owyn: You (and fnights) misrepresented what I said, and made a couple of antagonistic remarks. I do not want to get into a back and forth over any of this because it’s simply not worth. For the record, I did do a writeup on New Dawn. I did learn about Rise of Agon the next day. I did read their forums and the sticky posts about their design. I did read the boards extensively and saw the same mentality I saw from the Darkfall community.

    I made the decision that I liked New Dawn’s approach better, so I decided to give the New Dawn team a platform to tell people about themselves a bit more and to set themselves apart from the RoA crowd. I’m not trying to be journalistic or objective. I’m open about liking Ub3rgames’ approach toward making a different game using Darkfall’s foundation.

    My questions were fairly simple. I asked them to tell me how their game is going to be different, and I asked them to tell me why someone should play their game over another game. Anyone reading should expect that to be biased. That’s common sense.

    I never said that I was telling people about RoA through their competitor. I never told Andrew above that their product was inferior because their competitor told me so. I believe that based on my own research. Those are my own words.

    Anyway, I get that people will disagree. It’s no secret I dislike the Darkfall community. I dislike most of Darkfall in general. The only way I’d ever play again is if someone else made the game and made it drastically different. That’s why I’m leaning toward New Dawn over a game aimed at making a version much closer to Darkfall. If someone is looking to play a better version of Darkfall but have it be like Darkfall? Definitely go RoA all the way.

    @Chris: I put Marc on the spot in an email. I’ll do the same for Andrew. Should be interesting!

  • That’s well and good, Keen, except you havent told anyone what you know about RoA except some generalities and vague opinions.

    Instead of actually stating what RoA wants to do (which you did not have to do) you instead posted an interview with DnD about RoA.

    All I am saying is that next time, either tell everyone what RoA wants to do, do an interview with RoA or not, but posting an interview with DnD about RoA is laughable.

    Im sorry if I hurt your feelings. Honestly, next time make this recent post instead of going with the “you’re a big meanie” card.

  • Didn’t hurt my feelings. 😉 Just to clarify, the interview wasn’t a “Tell us about RoA.” It was a “How are you different” and “Why should people choose to play your game.” Thanks for your feedback.

  • You’re really missing the point here Keen. The reason why the ‘toxic’ Darkfall community is at ROA isn’t because of the design goals, it’s because it is by far the more popular project. You’re very wrongly and biasedly ignoring that if all the toxic elements of the community left ROA, it would still dwarf ND. What about them?

    Trust me, if ROA disappeared tomorow you’d get your crowd back.

  • I read RoA’s plan and it does seem pretty good. The ability to deploy structures anywhere is very important to me. That is in RoA but missing from New Dawn. You can make all the excuses and explanations you want for why a game only allows structures in predefined locations but the end result is, to me, a game that feels like it is taking place in a board game rather than in a world.

    However, if their plan for the alignment system is the old red, blue, and grey system we saw in Darkfall 1.0 then it is destined to become the FFA Deathmatch with swords game it was before.

    I wish them both the best but I’ll probably be skipping both of them. I’ll be waiting for CU to enter Beta 2 which is probably going to happen before either of these games is complete.

  • @Fnights: Oh I don’t disagree. In fact, I even agreed with you completely before when I told Andrew that it’s not their fault they have that crowd. It’s just what it is. If New Dawn had the Darkfall crowd? I’d skip it in a heartbeat.

    @Gringar: Definitely agree with the structures going anywhere being a nice feature. I can’t get around the distinct essence of it still being too much like Darkfall and what made Darkfall an unsustainable game. New Dawn is a little bit better at that, at least as far as their on-paper philosophies go. Execution? Everything. I do not think either have given me enough to say I’m for sure playing. New Dawn has done much better at making it sound appealing to someone who was pretty much never again going to touch anything called Darkfall.

  • @Keen

    OK then I’ll correct you as you asked :).

    From the beginning when we started this project we identified that the non combat players and content were missing from DF. Our focus above all else is on adding in the missing mechanics for sandbox and roleplayers to thrive in Darkfall. Mechanics to give merchants more power, to make specialised crafters, tools for players to affect the world around them and create a more dynamic experience. We also are going to implement a revamped specialisation system to give players complete control over their play style with the goal being 50+ specs to start varying from small bonuses with minimal tradeoffs to huge bonuses with large tradeoffs.

    Our goals are for a thriving sandbox world for players to be able to play as they want, be it an uber PvPer, empire builder, adventurer, crafter, fisherman or master carpenter. We want to see content for a diverse community, the hundreds of thousands that wanted the true PvP sandbox experience DF was destined for.

    We’ll be going into a bit more specifics on features in the future. We feel it to be a bit naive to go into great detail on exact specific features at this time until our programmers have a chance to work with the code, to assess any limitations. The above details were just a sample to give you an understanding of our goals and design plans.

    Hope that helps Keen!

  • I look forward to hearing how you guys plan to accomplish that. Just as I praise New Dawn for focusing on creating more positive non-combat ways to play the game, I’ll praise RoA the same. But so far you haven’t technically corrected me on anything.

    New Dawn purports to “transform Darkfall into a medieval fantasy EVE online with an amazing combat system.” Do you plan for RoA to still be the same Darkfall, despite having those new specializations? Just because I can specialize to become a crafter or a fisherman doesn’t mean the rest of the game departs from its Darkfall roots.

  • @Keen

    Am I reading you right? Are you basically saying:
    DnD “We plan to change things”
    Keen “Yay, DnD has the Darkfall I want”

    RoA “We plan to change things”
    Keen “whoa there, talk is cheap, you better explain how you are going to do that, and I want evidence of that”

    And, with all respect (seriously) because I don’t want you to get upset, but he did correct you. You basically said that RoA was not going to change anything, that they were just going to release DFO for the dfo players. He stated that was not the case.

    That sounds like being corrected to me. Which goes to my whole point here.

    If you like DnD’s vision and don’t have a clue about RoA, just say so. If the names you see on RoA’s forums scare you, just say so and move on.

    Man, you are one shady dude.

  • Making changes or adding to a game does not mean they are moving away from or not keeping the game close to vanilla Darkfall’s design. (RoA)

    Making changes while stating clearly that they want to make a different game aimed at a different crowd is something I’m interested in learning more about. (New Dawn)

    Since you continue to antagonize and post inflammatory remarks in your comments I’ll ask nicely one more time for you to be more level-headed. Thanks Owyn!

  • “We’ll be going into a bit more specifics on features in the future. We feel it to be a bit naive to go into great detail on exact specific features at this time until our programmers have a chance to work with the code, to assess any limitations. The above details were just a sample to give you an understanding of our goals and design plans.”

    I could be wrong… but doesn’t this entire paragraph when boiled down to its essence simply state: “We have ideas, but have no clue if they are possible.”?

    If the reason they aren’t sure is because they do not yet have access to Darkfall source code… does New Dawn have that access yet? If neither team does, then this is literally just pure conjecture from both parties.

    I’ve seen ideas like this before lol. Specifically, when a new MMO is in development. You hear about all the amazing things they want to do from their PR guy. The finished product is a far cry from the hype they spout.

    I won’t hold my breath for either game at this point. If they release, awesome. I may take a look and see what is different from the Darkfail I remember 😛

    @Owyn “if the names you see on RoA’s forums scare you, just say so and move on.” This sentence. Just… wtf?

  • @Rawblin: I’m not holding my breath for either. The very concept of being in talks with Aventurine feels like an oxymoron. So desperate for something even remotely decent to come out, though, that I’ll get behind ideas that don’t require a Kickstarter.

  • @Rawblin
    We get your point, and cautious skepticism is always a good course of action.
    However, in defense of both RoA and New Dawn, the features announced on each side are just an expansion on existing mechanics. The technical basics are there already, and it is mostly a matter of tweaking numbers or reusing code.

    The advantage these licensing projects have over a new MMO is that the game was proven to work already. Battles of hundreds of players have occurred, wars, PvE, PvP and so on. The game is a tangible fact.

    In New Dawn’s perspective, we’re not creating a new game. We’re finishing one that was never completed.
    Racial wars, player housing, specialization, territory control, an alignment system and the economy all existed in a basic form, something like a first iteration. We just have to fill in the blank.

    For the implementation aspect, we’re pretty confident we have it covered:

  • I’m a little surprised to hear that some pvp games are more toxic than others. I thought they all just sort of naturally drew the invisible rogues who wanted to stun lock me and then dance on my corpse and then camp the spawn point??

  • @Sanz I’m not sure if this was an inside joke or not. Sorry if my answer was unnecessary.
    There are games out there where PvP is a mean to an end rather than the purpose of the game. It is a pretty old school vision, dating back to when the virtual world concept was young enough that the players had not realized they could abuse it yet. How can a world exist without combat?

    With New Dawn, we’re trying to bring that back a bit. Even though Empire building and conquest is the purpose of the game, daily PvP is a tool to create a home, trigger gregarious reactions and obtain access to better PvE. Ironically PvE is a tool to have gear and skills to play PvP. It’s cyclical, and we hope it will create a feedback loop of daily activities hooking the players on the long term.

    The way a game is designed and how PvP is allowed/encouraged by design choices makes a big difference on the toxicity of the player base.

  • @Keen: All these comments have me curious, how bad was the darkfall community compared to say… LoL (since that’s the most toxic one I can think of that is relatively modern).

  • @Marc: I liken all of this to games like UO or even DAoC. People think DAoC was this grand PvP game when in reality it was one of the better PvE experience, and it created both a need to PvP and a need to PvE — both at once. In UO PvP happened a lot, but I actually preferred the servers where PvP wasn’t FFA all the time. PvE and building an economy and community where the gankfest behavior was the fringe made the world feel much more realistic.

    @Drathmar: Comparatively? I would invite the LoL community to my birthday party and let them watch my children.

  • Keen you aren’t actually being fair to the DF1 community that was around at launch, since 95% of those player were solid players/people. The main issue was that AV sucked about removing the 5%, so that 5% got 99% of the exposure (hard not to notice them when they exploit, hack, and then use those gains to affect everyone else), and were a major reason in ruining the game for the 95%.

    Once most of the original 95% left, that toxic 5% made up a larger portion of the remaining DF population, but originally and I’d say for the first year, you had WAY more good people than bad. EVE really isn’t any different; most people who play it are awesome MMO players (both as gamers and as people), but you still have the psychos running the reward box or whatever stuff, and more often than not that’s what gets a news article on certain websites.

    Now that said, DF has the rep it has because of people like Owyn, who don’t even realize the harm they are doing while trying to ‘help’ the game. That aspect is somewhat unique to DF, and sucks. Should either of these projects actually happen, it will be interesting to see how they handle such players.

  • @SynCaine: Very true and well said. I’ll take a step back and say that originally in Darkfall, especially in the WAY earlier days, there were many good people. I played with lots of them. The alliance I was in — even that ridiculous rolepalying group that was so over the top — had good people. Hundreds of good people.

    I think it may have been a bit more than 5% of the population who were absolute scum — maybe 10% (we’re just throwing out arbitrary numbers but it was a small yet sizable group) — but overall you’re right that in the first 3-6 months the population was much better. After that… yeah. I remember quitting because of how bad it got, and I wasn’t around for too long.

  • To add to what Syncaine said, Darkfall is also a very polarizing game. It had the worst but also the best community at the same time. Look at how long the players have supported and loved the game? Look at the NEW initiative, or the Eurogamer debacle? Even at the end, most players that attacked mob spawns would just let new players get their loot back, or they would revive them and give them stuff and advices.

    My opinion on the early days is that people simply did not understand the game yet. They thought that the alignment and racial war components worked, so they acted like they did. As soon as it was found out that both were meaningless, the switch gradually occurred as the “virtual world” folks started leaving.
    But that’s just my interpretation of history. Even within the team we have varying theories, and we’re trying to address them all.

  • Which goes back to AV’s biggest problem, from basically day one until today; they created a game that appealed to a lot of people (DF1 selling well early was hype, DF1 having a solid population 6 months into the game was because of the design), but instead of focusing on the larger crowd that wanted more than an oversized FFA PvP Arena, they kept listening to the overly vocal tiny minority, and move after move turned DF away from a sandbox and into a gankbox. Never fixing bunnyhopping, and then actually bringing the ‘feature’ back into DF:UW is a prime example.

    So again, should either of these happen, it will be interesting to see if AV’s core mistake is repeated, or if it is fixed.

  • We tend to agree with your interpretation. Hopefully we’ll not repeat any mistakes. However it is certain we’ll be doing our own mistakes, it is impossible not to, with such complex systems. But we hope to react faster with adjustments. We have the advantage of having a vision, stated mission goals and years of hindsight.

    One point though, bunny hopping was a bug, but the emergent gameplay was interesting. Balanced and introduced as a risky feature, it can add depth to the game. The issue is in the implementation. In UW it is not risky enough and spamable. We’re trying to balance that.

  • “even that ridiculous rolepalying group that was so over the top”

    @Keen: You aren’t talking about Legend Gaming, are you? They were previously Hand of Set for the much anticipated (and dreadful release) of Age of Conan. A full guild of Alfar (Dark Elves)?

    I didn’t think we were over the top, but I don’t remember many other RP guilds at the Euro release, so just checking lol.

  • “One point though, bunny hopping was a bug, but the emergent gameplay was interesting”

    What’s interesting about allowing the top-tier to escape from fights or make it so they can always chase down others, up to and including making mounts nearly pointless?

    The only people who find that ‘interesting’ are the hyper-minority, at the massive expense of everyone else, which is why it’s a prime example of AV killing the game by ‘listening to the community’. Bunny hopping looks incredibly stupid (and like an exploit to lesser-informed players), ruins other content (mounts, distance, travel times), and is only a ‘tool’ for a small crowd that already has more than enough advantages over the average player.

    It’s not about balancing it so you eventually die or whatever would make said niche ‘happy’ with it (they never are), it’s about recognizing the fact that not fixing the bug makes the game look worse for the average player, who is the audience that is critical to the success of the game and the group hardest to convince that they should return/stay.

  • I certainly was not a fan of the bunny hopping. I get the surface level idea behind “emergent gameplay” but I think this stretches that idea way too thin. SynCaine is right about taking something that is already a (broken) tool and giving the minority who already has an advantage an even greater edge. It was stupid looking too.

  • Kyky’s crew and all the crap they were using at release was basically what turned DF into a ‘3 monther’ for most people.

  • Don’t get me wrong, bunny hopping as it existed was fun but negative for the game. Everything you both said is true.

    But a non exploity form, that has consequences, can be an interesting mobility tool:
    Start by making it easy to use and explained to new player through tooltips, to remove the arcane side of it.
    Make fall damage bleed through to stamina, and once both stam and health are at 0, kill the user. To add risk.

    At least, that is our plan, and we’ll see how it will change gameplay during play testing. Our hope being that it becomes an actual choice with a valuation skill test to reposition during a fight but not cancel it.

    It’s like all those games with a blink ability, but in this case the blink users break their legs due to the momentum.

  • Hi, i want to point out that the Fnights post above is not me (the one who post on both forums and reddit).

    As you can notice, these old players are scums and toxic, they bash everything is against their game, even if Darkfall failed already. The imposter is just an example.

    ROA will be a more vanilla iteration of the game while DND will be a true and new sandbox experience, they don’t like this fact because they know that new players will not play a pure fps pvp gankbox.

    Thanks, the real Fnights.