Big DarkFall update, Aventurine-style of course

It’s not often (ever?) that Aventurine gives it’s fans a preview of what’s ahead for everyone’s favorite and 100% perfect MMO, Darkfall, yet we got just that yesterday from Tasos. Or at least, we got a long post with a lot of words, and a whole bunch of ‘more stuff’ announced. Let’s see if we can break down the update, and see if any real meat was included.

The first section addressed the RAMPANT (ask Youtube or any ForumFaller) cheating and hacking that plagues DarkFall. It’s more or less a repeat of their previous stance, with the only new addition being that they will start banning geometry exploiters and looting script users. Here is the part I found interesting:

Unattended macroing and unattended use of autorun and swimming against obstacles are also prohibited. We have taken great measures to limit macroing, to reward the players who are actually playing the game and allow them to catch up easily. We will continue working on making macroing and its effects irrelevant in Darkfall.

They state auto-running into a wall is prohibited, but left off the ‘and will result in a ban’ that was included in all the other statements. Odd, but my guess is they want some players to settle into the ‘new’ rules before whipping out the ban stick. Otherwise, if you started banning everyone running into a wall today, the world would be a very empty place. Baby steps and all that. They honestly should just remove those skills and be done with it, as everyone has 100 run/sprint/swim/riding anyway.

Next on the list, the North America server. Before DF was released Aventurine said they would allow NA players to transfer off the EU server once the NA server was up, in part no doubt to get some NA players into the game and not have them all waiting for the NA server before dropping some cash. Under normal circumstances this would be fine, but DarkFall had/has some early issues with character skill exploits, and bringing over those enhanced characters won’t be ‘fair’ to all the new players. Add to that the fact that skill gain is also now harder or easier (depending on your playstyle and the skill in question), and it’s hard to compare a 1st month character to someone starting fresh when the NA server goes up. Here is the meat of the section:

Character transfer/cloning will become available with a significant delay (months) and possible further restrictions. This concerns only the characters without any of their possessions. More on this at a later date

Obviously the two big questions are the length of the delay and what exactly the ‘further restrictions’ might be. Already confirmed is the fact that the transfer will be a naked transfer, so all items are lost. It’s hard to say what a good length for the delay would be without knowing the other restrictions. Lets say a hard cap on skills gets implemented between now and the NA launch, and the cap is restrictive enough that a new player can reach it within 2-3 months of ‘normal’ play. In that scenario, a 3 month delay will be more than enough time to get everyone on more even ground, especially since the transfers will be coming over naked into a world already occupied by established guilds with gear and cities. It’s also possible the transfer could include some kind of skill modification, let’s say all skills are capped at 75 points, so any skill at 100 is reduced. How long does the delay have to be with that factor? I’ve already decided to reroll come NA-1 (more on that in a later post), but the exact details of the transfer will likely sway a great deal of others on their decision.

Plans for more servers are also underway. Announcements will be made as needed.

Who was it that said if you are not opening up more servers 6 months after launch you are failing? (yay reference to that quote, +1 blog score) I’m curious though, if they open up an EU-2 server, just how many people would reroll for a chance to get away from the rigormax characters?

We’ve performed a complete overhaul of the account management system and things are running much smoother than they used to. We have increased our capacity repeatedly and we’ve been trying to keep the Darkfall shop open as much as possible since last week. This has been increasingly difficult to maintain as demand remains high. This despite the fact that there is still no “Buy Darkfall” button anywhere and our release has been limited to the Darkfall community.
Our number one concern is the quality of the experience for our existing users. We don’t want to create any problems by allowing too many new users in. This is why we have no boxes in the market, why we haven’t been promoting the game, why our new site isn’t up yet, why we don’t offer a free trial, why we don’t offer more payment options etc.

We understand that Darkfall’s soft launch is unorthodox, but we are working hard to change all that while maintaining the best possible experience for our existing users.

Now, if you only play ForumFall you take the above as “lulz they can’t update their website, DF sux!”, but if you have spent more time than a EuroGamer reviewer in DarkFall, you know exactly how important population balance is, especially on the high-end. The server constantly crashing is not going to help anyone have a good time, and while in the end DarkFall WON’T be the game for most people, tourists have a way of ruining a launch, and I’ll once again give Aventurine props for planning ahead and reducing their influx to a trickle.

Next is the meat (or lack of) of the update, and what Aventurine has coming down the pipe for DarkFall. Let’s look at each point separately.

Imminent massive optimizations to further improve gameplay, massive battles and sieges

Fix the sound-created slowdown, and 90% of the optimization will be realized. Without sound enabled, DarkFall actually runs amazingly well even with all it’s graphics turned on during a massive siege. With sound enabled, you get crippled down to 5 FPS. I’m sure they are aware of the issue, and hopefully it’s one that’s addressed soon. The other 9.9% of the work needed is a fix for the memory error crash, which while not usually gamebreaking, it’s quite annoying when chasing or being chased in PvP. Dying because your client crashed really puts a damper on the experience.

Improving the newbie experience, making the transition to Darkfall smoother and lowering the learning curve

Set our course to “Follow in EVE’s footsteps”. Smart move.

Continuously adding polish to the game

Disappointed by this one, I was hoping they would remove polish. Seriously, wtf is the point of the above? We all assume you will polish the game as you go. Next they will release how many characters have been created in the last 18.4 minutes.

Substantial improvements to the graphics

You know people are going to roast them for the use of ‘substantial’ when a patch comes out and changes something minor (or even major, because even that won’t be ‘substantial’ enough for everyone) As someone who has never been bothered with the graphics of DarkFall (other than how it looks on Youtube, fix that!), so long as the update does not hinder client performance, I don’t care all that much.

Large content updates

This next to “adding polish” really brings a wealth of information for all of us, thank you.

Massive feature updates

Add this to the list above.

Further improvements to the economy

Player run vendors please, Blizzard it and copy/paste UO on this one.

Massive improvements to the solo and the small group experience

If by this they mean “90% of the worlds mobs will no longer require a huge group, or dubious abuse of the AI”, then yes please. PvP should be the challenge of DarkFall, we don’t need more than half the mobs in the game being able to easily solo a player in a ‘fair’ fight. Sure keep a few mobs tough, but the majority should be doable in a small (3-4) man group, and larger (6-10) groups should be able to take down 99% of all mobs in a straight up fight. Reducing mob hp/damage would also allow players to actually go out and gain combat skill gain by fighting mobs. Crazy, I know!

More PvP diversity and options

I was hoping they would keep PvP for white people only. I blame Obama.

Substantial improvements to PvE

Raiding yo! Hopefully they can get the instances working and not keep everyone locked out, or have to bring this down a month after its release due to poor planning. Luckily they have the massive resources and glacial update schedule to accomplish this…

And finally, the update links a bunch of media coverage about the game. Oddly no link is provided to that amazingly entertaining EuroGamer ‘review’, although a certain kids table is indeed linked. Someone needs to send a note to Tasos and let him know that that tourist has moved on, and won’t be back until (LotD release + 2 weeks + 1 month on X new shiny). Funny that Tasos would EuroGamer his own update and only skim a site he linked, unless somewhere along the line he agrees that DF is ‘beyond repair’ and a ‘bad game’, but I have my doubts about that.

8 Responses to Big DarkFall update, Aventurine-style of course

  1. Bonedead says:

    Somebody woke up and put on their funny pants.

    BTW Diversity is an old wooden ship.

  2. evizaer says:

    Hah. I’m glad someone else noticed the hollow ring of the majority of their “new stuff soon!” notes. They might as well just have said “we’re going to fix the game some more.” They just opened the door to a lot of whining.

    I agree with removing certain skills from Darkfall as well (Running/Sprinting/Riding). The fact that they were included shows how Adventurine has not been paying attention to the gaming world for the past 10 years. If you take some time to actually think about how MMORPG advancement and gameplay work, it becomes clear that such skills do nothing except become macro-bait.

    Sometimes I facepalm when I hear about what players can do to macro up their skills–how does AV not think of these obvious exploits? Running into walls ups your running? shooting arrows or magic into the air ups those skills?

    Is it clear to anyone else that AV really didn’t spend much time thinking about the core design of the game?

  3. syncaine says:

    They spent a lot of time on the core, because that part works (PvP combat). The game is still rough around very fixable edges (macro-me skills, PvE imbalance, the client-sound issue)

    The biggest ‘core’ flaw that I see is the lack of a hard skill cap on characters. Anyone with a minute of thought knows that without a cap, most characters will eventually be maxed out in everything, and at that point we might as well just be playing a FPS. UO figured this out in 1997, why is it an issue in DF in 2009?

    • evizaer says:

      A crucial part of the core of an MMORPG is character advancement. It has far-reaching effects on gameplay and needs to be very carefully designed to avoid game-breaking imbalances and exploits in sand boxes as we’ve seen in Shadowbane and Darkfall. Because Darkfall is so focused on the fundamentals at the expense of polish and rollercoaster quests, there are no excuses for fundamentals that are not sound, not well thought out, or not implemented.

      I love the sandbox gameplay and the open PvP, but it really bothers me (and in fact has convinced me to not purchase the game) that the fundamentals are either broken, lacking, or barely sufficient. I see the beginnings of my dream game in Darkfall, but if I can find flaws in the core design of the game without even playing or relying on lopsided commentary for evidence, I’m not going to waste my time and money. AV has taken steps to improve the game and they are certainly going in the right direction, but they have not proven that they actually know what they are doing with character advancement–I think that is game-breaking.

  4. Bonedead says:

    The only problem I could see from removing Running/CrouchWalking/Swimming is that the people who already maxed them received the stat gains.

  5. Eyeball says:

    I am glad I held off on the game. It seems the EURO version is sort of a paid beta, and once the North America servers come online the game will be free of exploits, macros, class balance etc. I still have this game on the back burner if LotD fails my expectations.

  6. [...] full post containing all of the juicy details can be read over at the official Darkfall forums.[Via Hardcore Casual]Filed under: At a glance, Fantasy, Darkfall, Business models, Game mechanics, Patches, PvP, News [...]

  7. John says:

    It’s not that a running skill is a bad idea, but that raising it is too simple. If it’s simple, people will macro it. If people could macro levelling up, they would. If they could macro pvp, they would. If they could macro the entire gameplay, they would. If running as a skill wasn’t so simple to raise, then people wouldn’t macro it and would feel so compelled to grind it.

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