Why a sandbox makes life more difficult for a griefer

If you only know one thing about DarkFall, you likely know that a LOT of people just outright hate the game, or more accurately, the supposed playerbase behind the game. If you have been playing MMOs for any decent length of time, you surely have come across a ‘griefer’, so when an MMO supposedly designed to cater to that group is announced/developed/released, you have a clear target to vent all the pent-up frustration you hold for that one guy who corpse camped you in the Barrens.

DarkFall does its part to perpetrate that image in a number of ways, most notable through ForumFall. You don’t have to be employed by EuroGamer to swing by and read a few threads, pick some winners, and believe you understand exactly what goes on in DarkFall. Then apply free-for-fall PvP and full looting to the context of your current MMO (WoW or the like), and you continue to build on your idea of why DF must be a place of constant misery. You mean someone can jump you and steal your hard-earned pixels, bah what fun is that?

On top of all that, there are some who currently play DarkFall (or ForumFall really well) that would have you believe that anything grief-like is good, and anything else is ‘carebear’, and that every last person currently playing feels exactly the same way. Those players tend to be non-factors in-game due to the fact that no respectable clan wants to be associated with them, but boy can they post quickly on the forums. It’s those same players who both argue that DF needs to be more sandbox, yet then criticize anything that does not directly relate to PvP, or god help us removes things like mount-killing without going gray. Real PvPers fight mounts without fear of retribution, in case you did not know.

The reality, and more important the direction Aventurine is taking DarkFall in, is quite different. Take one look at the upcoming expansion and you will see far more PvE and non-PvP changes than that hyper-focus on PvP some expect. PvP will always be at the core of what DarkFall is all about, but veteran MMO players and AV understand that in order for that PvP to have any impact, there must be systems in place to make that a reality. Fighting for the sake of fighting is all well and good, but the reason for the fight is what ultimately separates MMO PvP from a FPS and gives a game its longevity. So in addition to making changes to what actually happens in PvP (magic nerf, specialization options being expanded), a lot of effort is being put into given players various reasons for PvP to happen, be it on land or (soon) at sea.

The other uncomfortable reality haters of DarkFall miss is that this style of MMO requires far more effort and ‘work’ than being successful in a themepark requires. By design the themepark is ‘easy’, and its job is to make sure you stay on-rails and get rewarded at every step. True success in DarkFall requires a solid clan and alliance (or a seriously strong-willed solo player), and leading/directing/guiding large groups of players is not something the average 13yr old basement dweller is capable of doing. And unlike a themepark, a sandbox WILL hand you your far share of tough breaks and setbacks, which again requires strong leadership and a solid core to persevere through. It’s those same setbacks that make success so much sweeter, but it will never be handed to you on a silver platter.

As development continues and DarkFall gets fleshed-out, more and more features will be added that will test a clans/alliances leadership and decision-making. The more tools for war that one has available to them, the more interesting and complex the battles become. For some, this will allow them to further excel thanks to good organization and leadership skills, while for others their reliance on individual skills at the expense of others will further reduce their value. Eventually they will either adapt or be forced out, crying ‘carebear’ all the way down.

(DarkFall-related post disclaimer/reminder. If you click the image link near the top-right of this page and buy a DarkFall account, I get paid 20% of the client cost. If you believe this taints my views and reporting on DarkFall, your opinion is wrong.)

36 Responses to Why a sandbox makes life more difficult for a griefer

  1. kazamx says:

    Interesting post.

    When the game first launched you couldn’t leave the starter towns for roaming gank squads out hunting ‘noobs’. After being allowed to kill and loot other players everyone and his dog did nothing but slaughter the innocent.

    The strange thing is the player base is changing. I am not sure if its that those people who lived only for griefing others have left or if once the novelty wore off they calmed down.

    Race alliance (Dwarf, human, mirdain EU) is now a much much much friendlier place. New players are asking dumb questions (how do I loot?) and are getting help guidance and often free stuff. When the game launched they would have been insulted until they fled for cover.

    The community on both servers have created and supported a number of noob friendly initiatives with both servers currently supporting Clans called ‘New’. In New players can stay for a maximum of 30 days and learn the ropes. Most major alliances are letting anyone with the New clan tag pass by in relative peace. There are a whole bunch who still prey on them however.

    We will have to see how things progress. One thing I do know is that life for the Pker with no social skills out to grief noobies is getting harder and harder all the time. The people who survive in DF are those who make friends, can work as part of a team and can either lead or follow a group.

    DF is what you make of it. If you find a group of people who think like you then the whole world can be yours to explore. The Solo griefer is screwed when he confronts you and your 5 buddies.

    • SynCaine says:

      I believe the reason the population is changing is due to design. While DF is FFA PvP, it DOES have rules to make life more difficult for lawless individuals. They can still be successful, but its not easy. The traditional griefer is not looking to work for his success, and so once the community has established itself a bit, they have a harder time finding easy prey and move on.

      • Draglem says:

        Way off topic, is there a medium to organize without sharing the same guild? I assume there is at least a mail system, but how about creating letters or objects that you can edit like a letter. I heard that there are physical maps in game that emulate maps. Is this true?

        • SynCaine says:

          No mail system in DarkFall.

          Alliances cover multiple guilds, which gives you access to a chat channel, in-game standing, and the ability to bind at each others cities. They don’t share a bank or anything like that however.

          Multiple players can share a bind at a player house, and with the expansion keeps are being added that allow up to 10 players to bind at one. Player housing also has local storage.

          You can’t write notes like you could in UO however, nor can you make maps. There are third-party websites however that allow you to make your own map notes, and obviously out-of-game forums can be used for communication. AV has hinted at changes to clan and journal functionality however, so perhaps some form of note/map system is coming with that.

        • Draglem says:

          Can you create a channel without a guild or in addition to your guild channel?

          Is there even a grouping mechanism for that matter?

        • SynCaine says:

          You can group with anyone at any time, up to ten members. There is a party chat channel. As far as I know you can’t create your own channel, but /tell does create a new chat tab with that player.

        • Draglem says:

          Upsetting.

        • SynCaine says:

          What and why, if I might ask? (Answer below instead of replying to avoid thread formatting)

  2. Derrick says:

    I’m not a huge PvP-centric MMO sort, but I absolutely appreciate the genre. You make several very good points, particularly in terms of public (re: people who haven’t spent a significant amount of time playing a PvP-centric MMO) perception of the people you find within the game.

    In my experience, the ratio of asshats to decent players is comparable. Yeah, yeah, lets not get into arguing about how there are more obnoxious sorts running around in PvE games where there is no real recourse; their harm is typically mitigated too.

    What happens, though, is that the PvP environment in PvE games is so handicapped that it cannot really develop properly, and a great many players act out unreasonably simply because they don’t care about the PvP world at all, and can do so with impunity.

    I’ve played a few PvP centric MMO’s over the years, and I’ve found without fail that they end up being very self-regulating. It’s a largely unfair perception that develops because, in reality, the communities that do form tend to be much more organized and pleasant overall despite forum showboating, which to an outsider often looks really bad.

    Most recently, with a great deal of time spent playing PotBS, it was clearly visible. Rivalry between groups of players was fierce, but in actual fact in game battles were often very fair. Rarely did packs of players hunt lone solo players (except when they were obviously good prizes, or someone in particular that had it coming).

    Once the game matures, in particular, PvP centric games tend to be very newbie friendly. Much, much moreso than PvE games. This, I believe, is because PvP games *need* new blood to keep things going well. More bodies = better battles, and everyone understands chasing out new players is counterproductive for everyone. Thus, when you’re new, it’s generally fairly easy to find people who’ll teach you the ropes, and help you get going.

    In a PvE game, in comparison, most people are well past that “newbie” point in the game, and have little interest in helping out new players. There’s no benefit to them. Guilds don’t need new random players, they need levelled, geared players to help in raiding.

    It’s funny, in a way.

    Again, this is from the prospective of someone who’s not terribly interested in PvP (but, who believes 100% in open-world pvp, player looting, etc).

    Without fail, overall mature PvP games are actually much more newbie friendly and have much better communities overall… if you stay out of the forums anyways.

  3. Malakili says:

    As someone who recently picked up the game after wringing my hands about it for a while, in part because of the perceived player base, I have to say that my fears were unfounded, at least thus far.

    The forums are unrelenting and lame, but when I logged in I’ve gotten nothing but help when I’ve asked. I get the impression that the people that are complaining on the forums are spending all their time there and not actually in game.

    Now, I’ve got plenty of experience in EVE Online, so I’m somewhat broken in already to the whole “oh crap I just lost all my stuff” thing, which I understand could be a sticking point. I’ve just been making sure I bank early and often, and so far I haven’t had any disasters. You’ve got to approach this kind of game with the idea that the playing it is the fun, and the journey is the fun, and the destination isn’t so much an end point, just just where you are at the moment.

    But I digress, the worst thing someone can do to you is kill you and take your stuff, if you put yourself in the mindset where you are prepared for that, you’re all set. It doesn’t matter if you accidentally die to a monster and a player comes along and loots your corpse, you get attacked by someone while you are mining, or if you die in a all out PvP battle, the end result is effectively the same.

  4. The Claw says:

    Obviously Darkfall doesn’t sound like a game where a new player is going to prosper without hooking up with a larger group, but my concern was that the world would get carved up by various big alliances, mostly running a policy like Eve’s NBSI (“not blue = shoot it”) policy, i.e. if they see you in their territory and you’re not a member of their alliance, they kill you, no questions asked.

    Has this happened? Or are there still large uncontrolled areas, or areas controlled by alliances that are happy to ignore a non-threatening interloper?

    • Malakili says:

      There is quite a lot of empty space out there. The world is truly large, and if you stay away from major settlements, you can definitely find yourself some space. Also, not everyone is out to gank everyone they see that isn’t immediately allied with them, at least from what I’ve seen so far. If you look at the alliance/political maps for Darkfall that are out there, it looks very carved up, especially on the island continents (which I haven’t been to yet). However, the fact is that people are generally not out patrolling the limits of their holdings. Staying away from cities, especially during primetime, is not a bad idea though.

  5. Stabs says:

    It goes back to the classic wolves v sheep issue.

    To re-create the UO experience you need a world with both wolves and sheep. DF is obviously very pro-wolf but it can attract sheep if it’s clever.

    You see what carebears want is the ability to make an impact. I loved being an Armoursmith in SWG. I was the second best on the server. I sold my armour as designer sets with my own style and label and commanded huge prices and great demand. People were proud to wear my label and my look.

    Fast forward to WoW and all crafting was kinda pointless. Blacksmith meant you get a free socket and your best friends wouldn’t remember what your crafting skills were most of the time.

    So if DF creates a place for crafters to make a big impact it will draw them in. They won’t be totally fluffy innocents of course.

    But as DF expands it could well draw in hardcore gamers who increasingly find that WoW (and the stable of games that follow all WoW’s trends like Lotro, AoC, etc) no longer floats their boats.

  6. Coppertopper says:

    What turns me off more then even the pvp balance issues (which you have outlined yourself on this blog) is that there is no non-pvp area. I don’t want to have to run for 30 RL minutes
    to find a mob camp that is away from established towns so I can level up and get prepared for pvp. I want a low risk (but not risk free) environment and a virtual gateway of some sort to do actual pvp gameplay. Give me a sandbox that provides this environment and I’m in. Eve even provides this sort if environment. As hardcore as you think you are, everyone enjoys mindless mob camping (loot pinatas) from time to time. Daoc provides a perfect example of this, and Aion is good as well (mostly theme park but still risk no matter where you are). I think te more Darkfall improves the PvE, the more of us semi-carebears will be drawn to it.

    • Malakili says:

      You don’t need to “level up” in this game, you can help out of the gate. Obviously you need to get skills higher, but there is no reason you can’t go out with a PvP group early in your career to do it. You might die and lose some basic gear, but a really basic set of gear is EASY to get a hold off. Also, I think you vastly overestimate how much ganking is going on. I mean, yes, you will die, and you must be prepared all the time, but Agon is big, I mean real big.

  7. Derrick says:

    I absolutely love involved economic play, the sort that’s only found in pvp games. I never played SWG, and feel I missed something there.

    You just can’t recapture that withthe current wow-clone games where every players goods are identical and everything but the most expensive ‘endgame’ gear is mass produced for skillups and thus utterly without value.

    And wow’s ‘economic play’ (fiddling with the AH, typically via Auctioneer) just doesn’t cut it.

    I yearn – truely yearn – for an MMO where crafting can be personal, where location is as critical as the product. shopkeeper NPC’s, inventory management, all thatgood stuff. Not hawking the same crap everyone else is in /trade.

    • Malakili says:

      And EVE doesn’t work for you?

    • Coppertopper says:

      Aion

      • coppertopper says:

        To clarify, Aion’s crafting just has the ‘made by’ tag, so its not really personal. And its your typical ‘watch crafting bar fill up’. But the gear you make can fill important gaps in your equipment. Finding an upgrade is hard in the world so crafting is usually the goto option.

    • willee says:

      although i’m not a crafter, “involved economic play” is something i really miss in the current crop of mmorpgs as well.

      One of my favorite things to do in the early days of EQ was hanging out in the EC tunnel for a couple hours on a Sunday just selling my wares i’d acquired over the past week or looking for that good deal where i could upgrade a slot. Absolutely loved that part of the game.

      With so many games implementing “no drop” for any item worth while…really eliminates that part of the game for adventurers who like to trade and get involved in the economy.

  8. Spins Meats says:

    Stupid question, does Darkfall have killboards?

    • SynCaine says:

      It does, but not as clear-cut as EVE. The game does track everyone you kill and everyone that kills you (but not how/in what like EVE), but there is not a community resource to view who killed who.

  9. Kyff says:

    I’m sorry. I still have doubts if the game is right for me. But thanks for the caveat at the bottom of each post.

    What I hated most is not only the idea of losing your stuff. But EVERYTHING. When I watch the videos describing the techniques of siege and large scale sea battles they always go like: Man it would be great to be trhe Raider taking hat fortress, sinking that ship or destroying that hamlet. But by desing vor every winner there is a loser. For every successful pirate there are lots of players who lost their ships, which I presume to be costly. I think I could live with losing armor, especially if the guild smith replaces it quickly. But losing a building structure or or a vessel would be quite hurtful.

    Don’t you think the political and actual landscape is going to change rather quickly once the first guild is able to produce siege machines instead of hammers?

    • SynCaine says:

      Warhulks and cannons help, but they are far from a siege ‘I win’ button, and remember that a clan/alliance loses a city/hamlet, not an individual player. It still sucks, without a doubt, but solid clans will bounce back and see the loss of their current holding as an opportunity to either attack something new, or fight to get it back.

      End of the day though it comes down to the mentality of the player. If the thought of losing stuff (gear, ships, cities) is going to ruin the game for you, it’s not going to work out. No matter how well you play and plan, at some point everyone loses a fight and some stuff.

  10. Bronte says:

    Wha-ba-ha?

    I don’t agree at all! EVE Online was nothing but perpetual grief-fest due to its player-centric nature. X 0.4 system has a really good trade deal, buying Mexallon for 34 ISK/unit. Before the first trader could make a run, several pirates would already be gate-camping or station-camping, looking to vaporize anyone foolish enough to take the bait.

    I know there is merit in your argument, and I agree with a good portion of it, but I don’t think it applies as categorically.

    • Draglem says:

      Perhaps a definition of terms is due.

      Killing a fat target is not the same as griefing. I believe the context of the post as well as in general griefing is killing someone for the sake of killing them or hassling them with no real reward for your avatar, and at its core no real detriment to the victim other than their time. What value is a new player’s gear to an established player?

      Now, in the case where someone is gracious enough to gather resources, cash, gear or whatever and then donate them through coercion, well, pimpin’ ain’t easy.

    • Malakili says:

      If you consider someone hanging out in a relatively lawless area of space, and waiting for traders to come by so they can kill them “griefing” then we aren’t talking about remotely the same kind of behavior.

  11. Cec says:

    I really enjoy your perspective and points of view. I completely agreed with your post a couple weeks ago about Modern Warfare 2 and the hypocrites that whine but were still first in line to hand Activision/Infinity Ward their money, validating their shunning of the PC gaming community.

    I’m a Guild Wars player so I definitely get your view on non-mainstream MMO’s and the innovation that they bring. You certainly have made me curious about DarkFall, but is this blog going to become just about DarkFall? Either way, keep up the good work.

    • SynCaine says:

      Not just DarkFall no (it’s been Dragon Age-heavy lately because I’m playing that a lot), but so long as DF remains my MMO of choice, obviously a lot of the topics will at least relate to it. The next few months should be somewhat busy in MMO land overall though, and I’m sure I’ll have an opinion or two about it all.

  12. Draglem says:

    I like the idea of creating a secret society apart from a guild, recruit through letters and hold meetings and formulate agenda to coordinate apart from a visible guild. Plenty of identification available if crafting is diverse enough (if you can customize color alone of craftables).

    • SynCaine says:

      Hmm yea you can’t really do that in DarkFall without some 3rd party out-of-game tools.

      A group infiltrating other clans and alliances would certainly have a purpose in Agon, and a collection of merchants trying to control or heavily influence the worlds economy would be a possible (but difficult) goal. Crafting currently is more about meeting supply/demand, adjusting to changes in market values, and being able to deliver said goods to various locations. I think with the addition of player vendors the economy is going to majorly shift however. Things like custom colors for gear are not a part of DarkFall currently however.

    • Draglem says:

      Hrm, well I love counter intelligence and love its incorporation into MMO’s. And not the kind of Fourmfail.

      • Draglem says:

        … Granted it is more RP as one could identify by name to their group supplier; though this would be a simple means to pass information (and I could go on with detail) I would like to operate within the game structure; especially for recruitment and making posts/visible posts to many players while a few know the true meaning of a message or document.

        Town Bulletin boards or a paper of some sort would be fun to exploit… I mean use.

        • Andrea Bargs says:

          @ Draglem. An easy solution to your fantasy is called Ventrilo.

        • Draglem says:

          Though I would like to operate solely in-game for various reasons I understand that organization mediums above games themselves exist.

  13. YelloBird says:

    If I remember correctly, people made twinked griefer/ganker alts in Shadowbane (even forking over money for a second account if needed), just so they kill some unwary players without people being able to trace them back to a guild.

    May I also remind how you were killed in some cities/villages, whose only existence was as extended newbie traps ? As in go to the city … be welcomed into the guild, sell stuff and get a dagger in the back … get resurrected at the tree 10m down the road, just to get killed again and again and again when you got out of the shroud? Then unguilded and got teleported to a neutral tree where the mobs converted you to minced meat within 5 seconds? Of course with mocking tells in the chat window.

    But I guess it depends a bit on how well the guild recruitment works, as the ganker usually did not touch anything that would have had a chance to fight back.

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