A new flavor of tears, plus an expansion update.

June 30, 2010

First, the comments section on this Massively article (great piece btw, riveting topic that someone should have blogged about…) is hilarious. Usually you have to go to MMORPG.com to get such ‘quality’ comments, but it seems people’s love for Darkfall has spread to other sites as well. Always nice to have a well-rounded variety of QQ, so I welcome these new ‘fans’ with open arms and empty buckets.

In other Tasos-talks news, the man himself posted an update about the next expansion, including not only a rough ETA but also some details about what players can expect. I think calling it a heavily PvE-focused expansion is selling it short, or at least giving some of the slower forum trolls too much feed (although AV has a history of tossing out troll-bait, so maybe this is just more of the same).

I say that because when you create in-demand PvE spots, you in turn create a PvP-hotspot. The center dungeon is the perfect example of this; it’s a great place to farm because of the variety and availability of mobs, yet it’s also a good place to go to get into a fight. The two simply go hand-in-hand in Darkfall, and I for one can’t wait to spend more time in one of Agon’s revamped dungeons fighting not only the mobs but also other players.

Not much detail was given on exact what is going into the new dungeons, but it sounds like AV has bigger plans for them than to just make them underground mob camps. Traps, interactive mechanics, puzzles; who knows what is going to be included. It’s most likely a pipedream, but how crazy would an Ultima style underworld be in Darkfall, where not only is the underworld itself a sizable area, but all of Agon’s dungeons connect to it, creating a subterranean network for alternate travel. As someone who still rather vividly remembers playing Ultima V and searching for the entrance to Dungeon Doom, Darkfall possibly going in this direction is drool-worthy.

The rest of the post is also rather light on solid details, and as mentioned each major feature will get its own spotlight in due time. Finally, I have little doubt that even when all of the information is presented, the expansion itself will still include a few changes that will surprise people, much like the last patch surprised most with the AoE change coming so quickly (and so far, working brilliantly).

Chuck-o-the-day: The difference between Chuck Norris and God is that Chuck Norris does not think he’s God.

(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.)

They get what so many others do not

June 28, 2010

This clip from a recent interview over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun is why I love Darkfall and Aventurine (emphasis is mine).

Tasos: We don’t really have an ideal player, but the players who would get the most out of Darkfall are intelligent players that enjoy freedom, action, more options, more challenges, don’t need or want constant hand-holding, don’t need constant direction by the game, and can look past the first few hours of trying to learn the ropes.

Here is why I love the part I bolded; I’ve seen countless MMOs give up core benefits, redirect focus, and sacrifice long-term attraction at the expense of making things ‘accessible’ in the first five minutes. I think someone seeing what your MMO is all about in the first five minutes is bullshit. Bullshit either on the player’s part by jumping to conclusions, or bullshit on the games part for being a shallow piece of ADD crap rather than a complex virtual world with inter-dependent layers. That’s not what the MMORPG genre is about. (And before you comment, sure in an ideal perfect world you could do both, but that’s not reality. Either you re-polish the same game and tack on a ‘look at me’ feature, or you try to do something actually different and react to what happens, sacrificing polish time to get it done.)

If you are signing up for an MMO, at the minimum I expect you to stick with it for a few hours before making ANY kind of judgment. Seriously, any. You can’t bitch about the UI in the first hour, you can’t bitch about the graphics, and you can’t bitch about the progression or the content. You can be confused, you can wonder how to do things, you can struggle and get lost, and you can ask noob questions or seek external help, but you should not understand the game in the first 5 minutes, the first five hours, or even the first five days. You can’t call anything ‘broken’, ‘bad’, or ‘pointless’ during this time. Again, you don’t understand the game, you don’t understand why things are the way they are, and you don’t understand why it’s important that things are the way they are.

If that’s asking too much, find a different genre to spend your gaming time in. Or pay for the next rehash while you post about being exciting for the next big thing because it will be “so different” and you can’t wait to give it a try because you are SO sick of WoW (until you return in 2-3 months to buy a pony).

Chuck-o-the-day: Chuck Norris was named after himself.

(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.)

Darkfall Online FAQ

June 24, 2010

The overall goal of this post is to give prospective Darkfall players a go-to FAQ about the game based on emails and comment questions I’ve received here, along with some of the more common items brought up on the official forums. It is by no means a be-all end-all post, and parts of it very clearly fall under “my own personal opinion” about something. Hopefully people find it useful, and in turn I continue to get mega-rich of the CPP program.

Race choice: The long and short of it is that race is more about whether you like the look of the character than anything else. The bigger races have a longer melee reach while also having a bigger hitbox (easier to hit them), and each race has a few race-specific skills, but neither is really major enough to pick something you won’t like the look of after 100 hours or more. Aventurine has also stated that if/when race choice becomes more important, they will offer players the option to switch races. Finally, you can change hairstyles and such in your races capital city for a small fee, so even that is not ‘final’.

What to do on day one: Rather than type it out, just watch the Valroth videos I have linked under the Darkfall Community Publisher image, they contain all the info you need to get started. Also keep in mind that you can’t skill up the ‘wrong’ skill or work on the ‘wrong’ build in Darkfall, and basically anything you do in-game is going to increase some skill or stat to make you stonger/better. The videos will simply get you on the path to PvP viable a little faster. If you would rather explore Agon, RP, or just meet up with some friends, obviously do that rather then feel compelled to do X and Y just to ‘build up’. That can and will happen as you play anyway.

Spec: While Darkfall does not have classes or decisions you can make that permanently affect your character, that does not mean a little guidance can’t go a long way to making the game more enjoyable and getting you ‘viable’ faster.

The first thing you will want to do is pick one two handed weapon and a one-hander to skill up. Which weapon you pick comes down to playstyle more than one being much better than another. Polearms are slow but have the longest reach along with a slight knockback, Greatswords are fast with good reach but lower damage, Greataxes are slower but have higher damage compared to swords, and currently Greatclubs are slightly underpowered but do cause greater stamina loss. The same more or less applies to one-handers. Avoid daggers as a first choice. Working on your melee skill is not only the first tool you need for PvP, but is also a great way to PvE and build up your initial stats.

When possible, also work on your archery, as this will give you a ranged option in PvP and also allow you to take down mobs you can’t outright melee. Archery is preferred over magic for new characters due to the high cost of raising magic, and the increased length of time before you get stronger damage spells. Archery requires greater aim, but with just 50+ archery skill you can start to contribute some damage to group PvP.

Don’t completely ignore magic however, as raising Lesser Magic to get the three transfer spells (mana/stam, stam/health, health/mana) is critical. Also skill up your Heal Self spell, especially since it costs nothing to cast. Casting mana missile at easy mobs is a fast, cheap way to raise Lesser Magic as well.

Time to become ‘viable’ in PvP: This is perhaps the most debated topic in Darkfall, and ultimately there is not one single answer. The truth is that it will take you a good amount of time (months) and work (focus on PvE and skilling up specific things) to be able to face a developed character in a 1v1 situation, and that’s assuming player skill is about even. However this does not mean group PvP, especially against non-elite clans, is not something you can look forward to just a short time into your Darkfall career. You will by no means carry the group, or even dish out ‘average’ damage, but you will be far from useless, and just how much you contribute will largely come down to your player skill rather than your character. Just because you can’t stand toe-to-toe with someone and exchange melee hits does not mean you can’t take someone down if you and your group play things smart.

You can also greatly decrease the overall time it takes to get a ‘viable’ character if you focus on just one or two areas. If you have great FPS aim, getting your archery to 50+ sharpshooter is very, very possible within the first month, and at that point you will be dealing 80-90% of the damage a veteran character deals. You won’t have access to utility spells, buffs, offensive magic, or high melee, but again the goal is to get at least one tool up to par before focusing on something else. If archery is not your thing, melee is also a viable path to focus on, although it will take a little bit longer and your characters overall newness will be more at risk, as at least with archery you hopefully won’t be in the thick of things taking too much damage.

The best advice I can give here is to not hyper-focus on catching up to veterans and feeling like you can’t compete until you have X or Y to 100. You will burn yourself out ‘grinding’ skills up rather than logging in and just having fun, so set a goal, figure out what you find enjoyable, and just do that. You will get your skills to 100 eventually, and no one skill is a must-have to enjoy playing Darkfall.

Clans: Getting into a good clan is, IMO, more important in Darkfall than just about any other MMO. Agon can be a rough, frustrating, confusing, and unfair place at times, and having a solid group to help you out and drive you forward is critical to really enjoying the game. Even if you are traditionally a solo-minded MMO player, I’d still suggest finding a group that fits your personality and playstyle, as all of the ‘highlight’ moments in Darkfall general come from group play, and being tied to a group of players will likely get you into interesting and exciting situations.

For totally new players the clan NEW is a great choice to learn the ropes and have a solid community to ask all the newbie questions you will have. They are also very active, so if you are not a totally self-motivated player, their activity will help draw you into the game and make things happen around you. If NEW is not your thing, there are also plenty of clans willing to take in new players and help them along, just make sure the clan you are joining is active and ready to assist you, while at the same time be ready to join in to whatever their current goals may be.

Darkfall is 100% PvP: While the core of Darkfall is indeed player conflict and most things revolve around it, there are many players who greatly enjoy other aspects of the game, and how heavily you balance your own personal PvP-to-other-activities ratio is completely up to you. Some players try to PvP as often as possible, while others focus more on character development or exploration, and will PvP only during clan events or the occasion group trip. How often you PvP and its style (solo, small group, large group, siege) is also heavily dependent on your clan/alliance, so take that into consideration when looking for a group to join. While some clans are very focused on improving their style of PvP, others will engage in organized PvE or other activities. As with most things in Darkfall, the options are out there, it’s just a matter of finding them.

And while the paths to PvP viability are well documented, the information to become a successful trader, or middle man, or crafter is not as readily available. The same goes for focusing on PvE. Many players, and most forum posters, will view PvE as an evil that must be overcome to reach the land of happy PvP, and so they ‘grind’ the same 1-2 PvE spots that are the FOTM in terms of profit, all while being terribly bored. Don’t fall into that trap. Mix things up, farm different spots with different people, see what you can do with 2-3 friends. Mix up the gear you bring out; create a fire elemental killing set, or an evil eye set, or whatever you have in your local area. Challenge yourself to get the spawn down as efficiently as possible, work in different spawns to create a profitable rotation.

Always remember that Darkfall will not come to you with content, you have to go out and find it, and there is plenty to find if you know where to look, or are not afraid to do some searching.

Crafting: While crafting can be very rewarding in Darkfall, it’s also a long and expensive career choice. When you join a clan, most will have a few crafters that are able to supply you with anything you might need, but this does not mean you can’t also slowly work on any crafting skills that interest you. Just keep in mind that initially, there won’t be much demand for your goods, so most of the stuff you make will either be for personal use or sold to a vendor. That said, once your skills reach the mastery level, a smart crafter/trader can make a tidy profit, and this is one area Aventurine has stated will see significant improvement over the next few expansions.

Gathering: Aside from being a great source of easy-to-acquire income (assuming you sell what you gather, and things like timber and ore are always in demand), gathering is also a useful activity for raising your base stats. It’s not as efficient as constant PvE, but it’s also far less input-intensive, meaning you can play ForumFall, (not that I recommend playing ForumFall to ANYONE, especially new players), read up on strategies or possible new spots to farm, or watch a DF youtube video or two to see if you can pick up some tips or tricks from some of the games best players. Basically gathering is a nice ‘downtime’ activity (low-risk as well, as you can head out naked with just a gathering tool) unless you are looking to specifically skill up a crafting skill or hit some other milestone. That said, finding the perfect gathering spot (safe, plentiful, easy for you to reach consistently) can be a mini-game itself; one that can pay huge dividends if played well.

If you have other questions not covered in this post, please ask them in the comments section. My plan is to update this post and expand it as time goes on, to hopefully make it a useful as it can be to newer players.

(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.)

Eschalon Book One aftermath

June 23, 2010

Yesterday I mentioned finishing Book One of Eschalon, and now that I’ve finished the game I want to write about it a bit more and also talk about its sequel.

I finished Book One with just over 20 hours players, which might seem a little short but felt right given the plot and pace of the game. I also did not explore every last area, which I believe would have added at least a few more hours to my total. I played a light armor wearing sword user, and only picked up magic at later stages of the game. Had I picked up magic earlier, especially the buff-heavy divination school, the overall challenge would have decreased by a noticeable amount, as spells like Bless are a huge power increase. That said, I felt the challenge of the game overall was solid, and with the ability to save and reload, you technically can overcome any obstacle with enough patience.

The main plot, start to finish, is very solid. It’s nothing earth-shattering in terms of originality, but it’s well written and contains just enough twists to remain interesting. Another thing I liked about the plot was that it never felt too heavy or forced. The updates you would get as you progress were generally short and to the point, while still containing a good amount of character and background about the world. Further detail get also be found in the various books you can find or buy in the world. The various side quests you can accept and complete also range from decent to great. One nice feature that made exploration rewarding was the fact that you could recover a ‘quest item’ ahead of time, and so when an NPC asks you to retrieve item X for them, you can tell them right away that you already have it and complete the quest. It’s really amazing that such a simple feature is ignored in so many game, be they MMO or otherwise, when it does so much to reward the explorer. Nothing made me happier then to finally have some random item I found a few hours ago turn up as a request by some NPC. This also gives the world a sense of ‘realism’, as quest items don’t magically pop up for you now that you have the quest, which I always found rather lame in other games. If while adventuring I come across a unique and giant skull, I should be able to pick it up and find someone who might be interested in it rather than just leave it be because I don’t have a specific task to grab it.

There are a few nagging issues with Book One that Book Two either fixes or makes a bit more manageable. For starters items in your inventory don’t auto-stack, which while not major does lead to a noticeable amount of extra clicking. Same goes for casting spells; you can’t do it with a sword/shield equipped, which means every time you buff you have to pull up the inventory, remove the sword/shield, cast all your spells, re-open the inventory and re-equip your gear. Annoying once, rather painful after the 100th battle. You also can’t hold a torch and shield at the same time, which makes sense, but it would be nice if the game auto-unequipped the shield for you rather than forcing you to do it yourself. Spells? You have to manually select the spell and its power every time, for every spells. In the beginning of the game this is hardly noticeable, but when you have 6-8 buff spells to cast before combat near the end of the game, each encounter is more setup than actual battle.

UI issues aside though, Eschalon Book One came out of nowhere for me and had me hooked for its duration, and just a few hours into Book Two I can tell I’m in for an even better overall experience. I would recommend everyone to play through Book One first however, because even though Book Two is a fresh start character-wise, it is a somewhat direct continuation of the story.

Chuck-o-the-day: Chuck Norris penned “If Your Happy and You Know it, Clap Your Hands” as a way to find victims.

One too many gaming options

June 22, 2010

Having too many games to play might seem like a silly thing to stress over (it is), but man can it be annoying/frustrating/great all at the same time. Between Darkfall being about as exciting as its ever been (with an expansion right around the corner as well), Eschalon coming out of nowhere to enthrall me, Battle of Wesnoth being multiplayer TBS gold, Guild Wars all of a sudden getting good, Age of Conan and Wizard101 being interesting rather than terrible in the one hour I’ve played them, and EVE always looking at me from the desktop, I just feel swamped right now. Not to mention gaming’s Armageddon, Civilization 5, is coming to steal 100% of my life away in new hex-based glory.

Can you feel my pain?

I need to do a proper post about Eschalon book one, but I’ll just say here that it was 20ish hours of classic RPG gaming greatness, and book two so far has been an overall improvement on the whole thing. I still don’t get how something that looks so simple on the surface can be this good, other than the old adage that gameplay is indeed king.

Battle of Wesnoth also needs its own post (see, I’m even swamped with potential blog posts here!), but I’ll just say this: if you are playing a strategy game and the very first turn is not critical and always interesting, you are doing it wrong. There is just something amazing about being able to play a complete game in 10-15 turns and feel like you just executed/failed a master strategy, with all of the tiny make-or-break details of a massive multi-hour gaming session. Oh and the maps? Possibly the greatest multiplayer maps of all time, no joke. The game is crazy good, both offline and on, and it’s a crime that it’s free.

Guild Wars: As readers will remember, GW somewhat failed to keep Aria interested, and I was 50/50 on it. Not being a quitter, I decided to press on a bit more with my Dervish, and I must say things really picked up after level 10, including a nice set of missions (with cutscenes), and the overall progression of the story/setting. I had a feeling we quit right before things got better, and at least so far, I was right. Now to get Aria to catch up…

Not much to say about AoC/Wizard101 other than I’m interested in playing them a bit more. So far both games have made a solid first impression (for very different reasons), and if not for the avalanche of options, I’d likely be putting in some serious time into one or both. I’d say hopefully things clear up soon, but I don’t see that happening. The good news is that since neither game is going anywhere, and if anything only improving with time, no worries on the delay to really play them. Same deal for EVE really, just too many options to fully jump back into EVE, so beyond a few missions, some market work, and just talking to old Corp mates, nothing to really write about.

Finally Civilization 5: when Civ 4 was released, I don’t remember how long I played it without playing anything else, but it was a good chunk of time. Civ is just one of those games that demands you keep playing it, and once you start you don’t really stop until you at least finish your current game. Problem is, when the game is still new and fresh, as soon as one game ends you have about a million other things you want to try, so starting another game is inevitable. It’s a great problem to have of course, and I can’t wait for the game to get released, but hopefully I can wrap up Eschalon book two, get enough Wesnoth, and somehow balance Darkfall time come this fall.

Busy gaming season, it’s serious yo.

Chuck-o-the-day: A sequel to 300 is currently being filled staring Chuck Norris. It will be called 1.

Mildly entertaining, I guess

June 21, 2010

First up is this video from Obs of LoD. The combination of the latest patch increasing Sea Fortress rewards, balancing AoE magic, and the overall excitement about Darkfall among many veteran players lead to this rather massive naval blowout. Looks like a ton of fun, and I know Blood has plans to attend soon as well; can’t wait for that.

Speaking of my clan, what would a weekend be without someone dropping a siege on us, eh? After two victories against the Zealot alliance, DHW challenge us at the Bladethorpe hamlet. Unfortunately for us, things did not go so well, and DHW simply beat us. They took the local high ground before we could mobilize and secure it, and then used a wall of clan strongboxes to create a chokepoint. As we could not get close enough to throw battlespikes effectively, we had to drop a cannon, and even that was not enough to fully finish one of the boxes as DHW countered and dropped some cannons of their own. We eventually got it down after a few members rushed in to throw some spikes with others healing them from behind. It worked, but the amount of focused magic dropping down on them was amazing. After a long and generally unproductive magic standoff, we made a mounted charge and engaged in melee.

The charge itself looked epic, and initially we crashed into their line and had them backpedaling, yet for a number of reasons we simply could not bring enough of them down, and eventually those who did not go down retreated back to the hamlet. As we regeared, DHW made a strong push into the hamlet itself and forced us to retreat a bit to the north. However we were able to push back and re-secure Bladethorpe, taking down a few enemies as they retreated back up into the highground ruins. But with our forces a bit scattered, random third-party enemies plaguing us around Bladethorpe, and our hamlet stone now vulnerable, it was only a matter of time before the combination of cannon and warhulk fire ended the siege.

It was a ton of fun even in defeat, and the new balance between magic/archery/melee is going to take some time to adjust to. Congrats to DHW, a victory well earned through a solid balance of player skill and strategy.

Chuck-o-the-day: Chuck Norris does not have an open-door policy, but he does have a closed-fist policy.

(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.)

Darkfall: Day after the patch

June 18, 2010

So that patch went… about as well as most Aventurine patches really. Some extra downtime, a short-lived exploit, and dramalama on the forums, in other words, business as usual. My character went from 326hp to 387hp, Ghana now has rats and spiders crawling around, and it seems hamlet/city mines got a stealth boost in the amount of rare ore they put out, no doubt to help balance them in comparison to the small chance regular iron nodes have of dropping rare ore.

The magic AoE nerf is rather harsh, as combined with the HP increase it makes shooting someone for 10-15 splash damage near pointless. Or at least that is the initial impression, as I think after some time with the new rules people will figure out how best to play a ‘mage’ and adapt.

One major change that I’m looking forward to seeing in action is the Sea Fortress change. Now that they go live once every ten days, and the rewards have been seriously increased, the battles for them should be far more intense, and clans will hopefully bring out the big guns. I also think this will go a long way to improve ship-related balance, as I have no doubt some changes are needed to really make things work. One major issue that detracts greatly from using ships right now is how easy it is for players in the water to get on board and, rather than having a ship vs ship battle, you get a melee brawl on the deck. That just encourages people to sail out on rafts, and with little risk, attempt to take over bigger ships. The ability to pull up the nets, or to somehow better defend against swimmers is needed IMO.

And right on the heels of the patch AV has posted about an upcoming dynamic lore event. While initially the events were disorganized and difficult to access, AV has slowly been getting better in that area, and while not flawless, the last ship-based event was good fun for many. Hopefully this event goes even better, and gets the ball really rolling on the overarching plot set to drive the story in Agon.

Chuck-o-the-day: There are only weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when Chuck Norris visits.


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