While I’m still having a blast in DarkFall (our recent ‘pirate’ adventure on four rafts was hilarious), I’ve been reading some forum posts (I know…) about certain players feeling meh about the game now. According to the post, part of the blame is the lack of small scale PvP (10-20 man fights), the lack of importance with cities, and the boredom of skill/craft grinding.
Some of the issues are very DarkFall specific. If you are in Hyperion or the Goon buddies alliance, you are going to have a tough time finding targets simply because your side is allied with more or less everyone around you. The major advantage of being in a smaller, regional alliance is that once we ride out 5-10 minutes, everyone we find is fair game, and we don’t have to constantly check the 20+ long ally list. Our area sees plenty of enemy raiders, but since we are so focused on our little spot, we always have people who are able to quickly respond. It makes for a very fun, dynamic environment; one I’ll take any day over an alliance owning an entire island and having to travel 30+ minutes for the chance of fighting another player. It’s this factor above all else that may lead to the decline of the zerg alliances, as trading in PvP randomness for the safety of superior numbers might not be a deal most DarkFall players are willing to accept long-term.
The other DarkFall specific issue is the whole notion of ‘keeping up’ in terms of skills. It seems that certain people just can’t accept that others will have higher magic or weapon skills, and instead of playing the game, spend all their time grinding so they can finally get themselves ‘ready’. It’s a laughable notion really, when you consider that a day one player can just jump right in and contribute to a guild run, without the need to grind anything. The other issue is that once they are ‘ready’, burnout sets in because they just spent the last month playing long hours just to keep up. While certainly having higher skill or gear helps in DarkFall, it’s not the “I win” button it is in other games, and obsessing over grinding your skills to the point of burnout is a great way to make ANYTHING not fun, DarkFall included.
Other issues however are more related to the players gaming style rather than actual game mechanics. While in a themepark the game leads you from one ride to the next, always ensuring you are on the ‘correct’ path, a sandbox is what you make of it, and not everyone is able to create something fun or entertaining. And while it would be easy to call all those players unable to find the fun in a sandbox carebears or noobs, the truth is that not everyone is looking for the same things in a game, much less an MMO. For some, they just want to log in and follow the path, seeing the sights and sounds as an escape from whatever they were doing before logging in. They don’t want to ‘work’ at having fun; they want it readily accessible and on-demand. (And one could easy point out that the ‘accessible’ population is 11 million strong, while the ‘work’ crowd is a niche)
The problem is some players don’t accept that that is their playstyle, similar to how more people THINK they want PvP than actually do. The players THINK they want a dynamic, random, and uncertain world, yet don’t actually accept all aspects of that bargain. In exchange for thrilling, random PvP encounters like finding a raft and shooting the crew full of arrows before sailing away with it, you accept an hour+ trip searching for players and not finding much, or worse yet finding a group that wipes you. In exchange for items actually having some value, you accept that crafting those items is going to take some gathering, perhaps even more so than needed because of random gankers. It’s the acceptance that for every amazing day, you will likely have an equally disastrous one, where it seems that every PK is specifically aiming for you. It’s the exact reason EVE for many is more fun to read about than to actually play, as reading gets you right to the good stuff (even if its only from a 3rd party perspective), rather than logging in and having to ‘grind’ through all that down time to actually get yourself into one of the memorable encounters.
For me, it’s the understanding that a sandbox game is as much fun as you are willing to put into it, and for some they simply don’t want to invest that much in a game. And while I do occasionally enjoy an easy trip around the themepark, the knowledge that my game is ‘on rails’ is a more bothersome issue than getting ganked while harvesting or PvE’ing. It’s not a better or worse way to game, it just comes down to player preference, and luckily now the MMO genre is at least catering somewhat to both camps.