In a shock to no one but perhaps himself, Keen is on his way out of DarkFall. The same game that last month was god’s gift is now a “bad game” and “destroying itself”, despite the fact that since launch it has only improved both from a code/content perspective and also from general player activity (the cold war is over, sieges happen daily, boats/warhulks are starting to come into play, alliances form and fall).
A player leaving a game like DarkFall disillusioned is not surprising. On the contrary, I fully expected the churn rate to be far higher at this point given the nature of impact PvP and the majorities’ perception/reaction to it. The mentality of “it’s not me, it’s the game” is somewhat sickening however. The same source that continues to ask for something different goes out asking for more of the same, while at the same time wondering why 95% of the MMO market is an EQ clone.
A perfect example of ‘doing it wrong’ is Haven’s history. (Keen pre-launch created guild) Starting off as an independent and casual guild, they soon discover that more forward-thinking guilds have captured all of the world’s real estate shortly after release. Now rather than doing something about it themselves, Haven joins the largest alliance on the server (Hyperion) and is soon handed both a hamlet and a city. The ‘cold war’ sets in, with both Hyperion and the Goons doing a lot of forum talking and not a whole lot of in-game fighting. It’s at this point that, according to Keen, DF is broken because everyone just sits inside their city walls doing nothing but boring PvE and grinding, and there is no small scale PvP to be found (to the contrary of this and other blogs). The solution here, again according to Keen, is to change the game rules and create rare spawn points and other artificial incentives. The cold war breaks, Haven loses their city, leaves Hyperion, and claims to go ‘nomad’ and return to what made the game fun for them all along. Shortly after we get the ‘I quit’ post and comments linked above, complaining that character skill is beyond broken and that somehow DarkFall did not deliver on its promises.
Now while it would be foolish to argue DarkFall is currently perfect, its issues are not those that Keen found. Exploiting in-game mechanics to enhance a character beyond normal means is an issue currently (and becomes less of a factor daily as everyone catches up), but it’s far from game-breaking. The game is not based on 6v6 conflict, let alone 1v1, and continually focusing on an individual characters skill total is misguided. Yes that enhanced character is likely going to take you down 1v1, or perhaps even 1v3 assuming he is skilled, but not 1v5 if the 5 are competent players, and the odds of actually having that fight remain 1v5 are slim. In a 10v15 scenario, that one enhanced characters impact is minimized, and again the deciding factor will be player skill, rather than the sum of the characters skill points. Yet when you continually obsess over your stat sheet, and each encounter with that enhanced character sticks out, you stop playing the game to play it and jump on the skills treadmill trying in vain to catch up. DarkFall is an open PvP game, and won’t hold your hand to make every fight ‘fair’. Expecting to go out and find that ‘fair’ fight will only lead to disappointment; either in being underprepared and overwhelmed, or in the enemy avoiding you until they have a more favorable (read: unfair to you) situation. There are games that cater to preset, ‘fair’ engagements that are readily available, DarkFall is not one of them, nor was it ever sold as such.
The issue of cities and guild activity is another player created problem, rather than a broken game mechanic. It’s obvious that something will have less meaning when it’s just given, rather than something you worked for. Inquisition takes pride in our hamlet, and we work to keep the surrounding area as safe as possible. Our small alliance’s focus is based around that same principle of establishing our little area of control. Had we been given our hamlet to watch over by a large alliance, I doubt we would feel as attached to it as we do. Yet somehow, according to Keen, it’s the games fault Haven feels indifferent about its city or alliance affiliation, and the game rules should be changed to fix this. Balance changing rare resources should be added, creating artificial player incentives (which would only increase the advantage of the major power blocks, and push the smaller factions further down, but it sounds good, right?). In essence, he is asking for a themepark-style design to be added to the sandbox; rules to govern player activity and herd them in the right direction. That’s fine in a themepark MMO, but goes sharply against the ideas behind a sandbox. The issue is not the rules, but rather how the players use them. In this case, rather than being a focal point of guild unity and pride, the city and alliance were a source of boredom. That’s called user error.
In the end, a player’s choice to leave a game is his/hers to make. And while a guild leader/officer leaving so soon is sure to disrupt that guild, it’s also to be somewhat expected of guilds formed pre-release and with little history (It happened a few times to CoW in WAR). What I take issue in is the perception that the game did not live up to the expectations of the players. The players actually playing and embracing the game for what it is would strongly disagree (and since the game world is near max capacity, clearly more agree than disagree) Asking for radical changes to be made to tailor the game to YOUR expectations is what upsets the current players and gets you a “WoW that way” response. We play DarkFall, in part, because we enjoy creating our own rules/content rather than having it delivered. For those looking for a themepark, plenty of options already exist.
Of course, the likelihood of Tasos actually reading such a post on a blog or forum and pushing DF in that direction are slim to none, but if you look at MMO dev history, more than a few changes have been made that displaced the current population in favor of chasing those who left or never came. It’s that history, and those burned by it, that elicits the common response misguided or disenchanted players received in the past, receive now, and will continue to receive in the future.
Edit: Just to hammer the point home, we have this from Keen:
“It should be about constant action and dynamic gameplay in a hardcore, real-time, environment. Ships everywhere in the seas, warhulks razing the countryside, keeps falling, armies amassing, and all of that good stuff. Right now Darkfall is like watching paint dry.”
That sounds a lot more like Lake Wintergrasp than DarkFall, but at least you made your point a whole lot easier for everyone to see. It really is overused, but in this case it just fits: Go back to WoW.