Darkfall: The Movie

December 21, 2010

37 minutes of pure Darkfall PvP goodness.

Screw L00se is the one calling the shots, and I love that vent is included in the video. It really shows off the coordination needed for top-end Darkfall PvP. Hats off to Zealots for following orders as well as they do, and for having such great awareness of the situation. They make it look easy, but in situations like that, when everything is absolutely crazy, staying that calm and collected is a true skill.

And as always, a fantastic editing job by Valroth.


Dragon Age 2 slipping off my radar

December 21, 2010

I think I’ve mentioned before that I definitely looking forward to The Witcher 2 way more than Dragon Age 2, but this preview from Warcry just tipped the scale even more in favor of Witcher. Anyone else read the preview and walk away feeling… WoW-ed?

It just sounds like every ‘improvement’ is aimed at making the whole thing easier, and I never found Dragon Age to be impossibly difficult to begin with. Rather it was a solid challenge in a genre that too often provides you with interactive cakewalks, and it was that challenge that masked a lot of the combat systems shortfalls (that became very apparent once things got easy towards the end). I doubt making an RPG’s combat more ‘actiony’ is really going to impress me either, especially since originally Dragon Age was intended as the spiritual successor to Balders Gate, a game certainly NOT about bash-em action.

Perhaps I’m just being glass-half-empty here (which would be a first), but right now DA2 is looking very much like a pass.


Steam Sale

December 21, 2010

I was going to say every game is 50% off or more , but then realized the exaggeration might cause some confusion. I then later realized it’s kinda accurate…

Anyway, Steam Sale, huge, check it out. Titan Quest for $5 again if anyone missed it before (only for a few more hours), new sales every day. Waiting on The Witcher to go  on sale personally.

Edit: Ha, The Witcher is 75% off today, $5 score!


Darkfall: Weekend update

December 20, 2010

I played a lot of Darkfall this weekend, mostly due to League of Legends interest having mostly dropped to only playing with Aria. Inq seems to be semi-inactive over it as well. While nothing of amazing interest happened in Darkfall,  like a huge siege or blowout battle, a lot of ‘little things’ came up that I think are blog-worthy.

Overall I’m really happy with my alliance, Flying V. For me it’s the perfect mix of nice people who enjoy the game while still having a competitive edge. We are definitely a PvP alliance, but we don’t pretend to be semi-pros who must defend their e-thug rep 24/7 (and when we do it costs us 2m, oops…) We have some amazing players, we have a lot of good ones, and we also have some (like me) who do their best to contribute but have long since realized being top X is not going to happen.

We had an alliance PvP practice night recently, and it went very well. At one point we had just under 40 people on, and we split into two groups and staged an attack on Apautan (AppleTown). A 20v20 fight is fairly realistic in terms of midsized engagements, and since it was practice, everyone pulled out good gear and played all-out. I’m still working the rust off and trying some things with my keybinds, but I had a great time and learned a ton. I believe this is going to be a regular event, and I’m looking forward to the next one.

After the town fights we had a quick 10v10 duel, and again it was a solid learning experience for me. Along with just being back in the game, I’m also trying my hands at Destroyer spec, and learning when to charge in and when to back out is tough, plus without all of the magic access you can’t ‘mask’ your mistakes as easily, and you are far more reliant on your team. I’m confident in the long run this is going to be successful thanks to the solid teamwork Flying V has going right now, and it’s something we are still working to really perfect.

I’m finding some really solid PvE around Apautan as well. In close proximity we have solo spawns (Gray Orcs), small group stuff (shadow knights, blood golem), and large beasts like the Fire Dragon. I’m hoping we also take a trip to kill the newly added Demon, and perhaps the Ice Dragon. As I recently purchased a large amount of Infernal armor to beef up my siege bags, my total gold is down a bit, giving me the perfect excuse/motivation to go out and farm. A major side bonus from this is my continued push to 100 Greatsword Mastery (82 atm), along with skills like rigor, ignore pain, etc. My current stats goal is to hit 100 quickness (79 atm), and to get 400+ HP (385 atm). Slow and steady and all that.

Along with PvP and PvE, I also have renewed interest in crafting. I’m currently just 11 points away from being able to craft r60 weapons, and a length 30 points away from being able to craft Infernal armor. I believe I also need at least 20 more points in Bloodcrafting to make bloodcrafted full plate helms. Normally it would be difficult to progress my crafting since it all requires rare ore, but again Flying V is helpful with this. Along with being able to buy rare ore for 500g a piece, we can ‘buy’ some of our city mines for a day at 20k. I bought Appletown’s mine Sunday, and ultimately pulled out over 1000 iron ore, 16 neithal ore, and 8 leenspar ore. My plan is to try and buy a mine anytime I know I will be able to jump online often, and also take advantage of the 500g ore until I reach my crafting goals.

So overall, lots to keep me busy, and lots of entertaining stuff, big and small.

On a final note, I was online (but sadly semi-afk as we had guests over) during the undead invasion event. I went up to the dwarf capital, and although I missed the main attack, I did catch some of the aftermath. Overall things were a bit chaotic thanks to some griefing players, but it was still fun to see NPCs attack a city, and to have some fighting inside the mountain fortress that is normally quiet. I was not able to grab one of the special event drops, but I am curios to see where Aventurine takes the storyline going forward.

(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.)


Looking back at 2010

December 17, 2010

Prompted by Lum doing it, lets review my 2010 predictions and see how I do. I’m not sure when I’m going to do my 2011 predictions, but my guess is sometime next week. I’ve not really thought about 2011, but there certainly should be some major activity and plenty of prediction-fodder. On to last year’s predictions!

Darkfall

Two expansions will be released in 2010, each one bringing something as new and interesting as the first two. Best guess is a major enhancement to the economy/trading that brings DF’s economy closer to EVE-levels, and something that really focuses on improving PvE, perhaps expanding the current dungeons and somehow making them better PvE destinations and PvP hotspots. I’m thinking AV uses the center dungeon as an example and gives each region its own great dungeon, with all the other dungeons serving a distinct purpose (chests, specific mobs).

We only got one expansion, HellFreeze, which was delayed from summer to fall, with the next one currently set for Q1 2011, so no points there. The expansion and other patches did however revamp a lot of PvE, and that was significantly improved in 2010. Dungeons also got updated and have indeed become hotspots with more specific purposes. No go on the economy aside from smaller stuff like rare ore from normal nodes.

PvP itself will continue to be refined and balanced, and the specialization system will continue to get fleshed out. The worry of ‘uber’ toons will subside as many reach a highly competitive level, and overall the time to reach that level is decreased thanks to specialization.

Swing and a miss here. Specializations did not get expanded, although stat gains were altered and the HP formula was changed. The first phase of meditation was added, although for 2010, the path to becoming truly viable is still (debatably) not in great shape. The hybrid character still dominates, and 90% of PvP’ers still all use familiar tactics/methods.

Ships and such ARE more common, warhulks not so much (especially the higher-tier ones, and still no one uses them in actual combat. They are mobile cannon batteries to be brought out after combat to tear down a city/stone). The NA server has still not seen a true world war, although sieging and conflict are very common. The overall population seems to be on the rise, and retention is high, with many of the same names from 2010 looking to be big time players in 2011.

I did stay subscribed for all of 2010, although for a few months I was not very active. The Community Publisher Program continues to fund all of my gaming, and I expect that the release of the next expansion will indeed increase sales to second Ferrari levels.

Warhammer Online

I hope Mythic is given enough resources to release an expansion, one that brings a third faction to the game and basically saves it from getting AutoAssaulted.

Still no third faction, still no hope for WAR. Things did settle down in terms of tech, but 2010 was a year full of revamps and removals rather than strong additions to push WAR forward. At this point I’ve given up hope for WAR, because while it still DOES have that great base to be a fun casual PvP MMO, it’s been a full year and still Mythic has done nothing to impress me or really improve the game. WAR needs massive changes to core systems, not minor tweaks and updates.

World of Warcraft

Cataclysm will eventually be released

Check.

Many will be disappointed that not as much of the old content got a makeover as they expected

50/50. Most like what was changed, but some are disappointed that some zones saw little attention. 2/6 capital cities being updated is laughable, although my prediction that vanilla raids being redone for 85s did not happen (right?).

The ‘new shiny’ of Cataclysm will be shorter lived than WotLK

I believe someone reached the cap in WotLK in just over 24 hours, it took someone 5 to cap in Cata. Many are also reporting already sitting at 85 with their guild, and some bloggers have predicted that the overall life of Cata may be shorter than WotLK. Still too early to fully call this one, but it’s looking correct so far.

Blizzard will be focusing on starting up the hype for their next MMO

Titan.

One highly-touted feature of Cataclysm will ‘fail’ similar to WotLK’s WinterGrasp

Not the case, or too early to call? I’ve not heard of anything really being a disaster though, and I assume I would have by now?

WoW will be even less of an MMO at the end of 2010 than it was in 2009.

I think I nailed this one. Given how linear the questing in new Azeroth is, and how phasing makes group questing more of a hassle than a bonus, WoW truly is less of an MMO (in terms of being a virtual world and all about playing with thousands) than it was pre-Cata. I’ve seen post-Cata WoW called a great single player RPG by more than one WoW blogger so far. WoW players of course don’t care, but that just further drives the point home that most of them are not MMO players to begin with.

The rest

Stuff will be released, the AAA stuff will be flooded with tourists, they will leave after a month, and everyone will be wondering why in 2010 no MMO outside of WoW has a million subs. Some will still cling to the believe that WoW really is just that good and something like it will also get millions of subs, more will accept that the MMO market is just not that big. Those in the second group will find a way to profit, those in the first will be unemployed and asking ‘why’.

10/10 here?

I mean more or less this is exactly what happened to Aion (late 2009 release, 2010 fade), Champions, Star Trek, and FFXIV (in record time). The games that aimed lower mostly found their niche (though it is sad to hear Fallen Earth is doing just so so), while big studios are giving out play time, going to the minors (F2P), or cutting staff/costs.

The blog

I’ll continue to mix in-game reports from DarkFall with opinion posts about the game itself, plus commenting on whatever happens to be going on in the MMO space.

Overall I think 2010 more or less went this way. As expected no other MMO jumped out to pull me away from Darkfall, and the biggest addition to my gaming time is League of Legends, a non-MMO.

Darkfall aside, I feel 2010 was a down year for the genre as a whole, not only in terms of quality titles, but worthwhile blogging topics. There is only so many times you can write about some AAA-aspiring game failing due to poor basics a month after release, or that upcoming AAA-aspiring game is promising the moon and the stars on a 4th, 5th, or 19th pillar.

Games like EVE kept growing, games like EQ1/UO continued to stay alive, and the post-Wow crop of major titles continued to try and differentiate themselves with unique themepark rides.

Luckily 2010 is coming to a close, and 2011 looks to at least be a whole lot more interesting (and hopefully successful).


Darkfall’s solution to Chinese gold farmers

December 16, 2010

Covert Ops indeed.

Edit: Should include this video as well; a good demonstration of small-group tactics against a much larger force.


Patch giveth, and patch… not giveth as much?

December 16, 2010

The bad news is that today’s Darkfall patch did not deliver the items I was hoping it would, and instead ended up just tweaking a few things for balance purposes along with adding in the holiday update. Still nice, and good to see Aventurine releasing smaller patches rather than bundling everything up, but not all that I had hoped for yesterday. Reason to ragequit? Nope, but it will make the wait for the Q1 updates seem just that much longer.

The good news is that Civilization V finally got its long-awaited patch, one that addresses many of the communities concerns. I’ve been itching to play Civ V again for some time now, but knew this patch was coming, so have held off on starting a new game. Time to jump in now! Double bonus that the first DLC pack is now available on Direct2Drive, and since I pre-ordered Civ, I get it free. Two new civs can’t hurt, and hopefully the scenario is fun.


Darkfall: Meditation thoughts + next patch

December 15, 2010

It would seem that I picked a great time to get back into Darkfall, as this update mentions a lot of rather exciting things, chief among them fixes to clan warfare and the expanding of the meditation (offline skilling) system. We will see tomorrow exactly what the patch brings, but last weeks was a welcome surprise, and I’m guessing we will see more of the same tomorrow. Plus it sounds like DF2010 (or whatever it gets renamed to) is shaping up well, so hopefully we see it in Q1 2011.

Having experienced the meditation system first-hand now, I can see the direction Aventurine is taking it, and it makes a lot of sense. Rather than having it be a total character progression system like in EVE, Darkfall’s system is more supplemental. Ultimately (once you can use it for stats and more skills) players will log in and do whatever they enjoy doing, be it PvP, PvE, gathering, or crafting, and then they will be able to set up meditation to either compliment what they are doing, or fill in the gaps of their character.

So say you enjoy PvE with your clan, but you find yourself always using melee and archery, so your magic skills and Int are falling behind. Meditate to get a few spells, then work those into your PvE trips. Without meditation, for some schools you would have to cast spells you had no interest in just to skill up the school itself, and this largely contributed to many feeling like they were ‘grinding’ rather than playing. Character development is a key characteristic of any good MMO, but in Darkfall too often the path to where you wanted to go was filled with poor choices. Meditation cleans this issue up rather nicely.

With diminishing returns, the system excels at getting you to a happy point, but is very costly if you expect it to do everything for you. In a way, this solves the EVE-offline ‘problem’ (if you consider people paying you NOT to play a problem…), because short of buying gold, you won’t be able to sustain simply logging in to set up meditation. Plus those who actively play will progress faster, another common criticism of EVE.

I’m also hopeful that the siege-related changes put an end to alt-clan sieges and other tactics that ‘cheapened’ the whole experience. Considering that a good siege in Darkfall is about as much fun as you can have in an MMO (fact, not opinion), putting an end to loopholes that ultimately lead to players NOT fighting over property is much needed. Sometimes it’s great to give players freedom, but sometimes, it’s necessary to set some baseline rules. In this case, it’s very much the latter.

Much more on all of this as the patch notes are released and I experience things more in-game.

(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.)


Collision Detection revisited

December 14, 2010

Different games require different things, and something vital to one might be completely trivial to another. The goal of this post is to consider how important spot-on collision detection is to Darkfall, and to also touch on some other games and how collision impacts them.

When I say the collision is spot-on in Darkfall, I mean it. The smallest rock, wall angle, or board across a window will stop a projectile (arrow, spell, cannon), and character collision is 100%: if someone is in your way, at no point will you ‘pass through’ them, regardless of how long you push against them. The collision is so accurate it’s always surprising when something DOESN’T stop a projectile, such as certain tree leaves or ground vegetation.

If Darkfall’s combat was tab-target based, the collision would not be as important, but when you factor in manually aiming every arrow or spell, its impact starts to add up. Ducking behind a window is 100% viable in DF, while in most MMOs it’s generally useless (if it’s even possible). The different races in DF having different height values are not just a graphical difference, but a gameplay one as well. A tall Maharim peaks out above a wall more than a short Alfar, and this has significant tactical value (easier to hit the Maharim, easier for him to look over a wall to get a shot off, etc). That same Alfar might be able to get through a small window, while the Maharim will run up tall stairs that the Alfar would have to jump to climb.

The layout of each boat, the location of a window in a house, how a city is laid out, how a wall starts to deteriorate from damage; all of these things have major gameplay impact that skilled players will take full advantage of. The arc of an arrow has value beyond just looking realistic. That some spells arc while others fire straight, the size of their AoE, that a few pass through walls, etc, all of these are not just graphical differences in Darkfall, but things that must be calculated and mastered.

And if the collision was not so spot-on, if objects had an ‘estimated’ size rather than an absolute one, much of this would be lost. If a wall did not allow objects to pass through the lower sections of its crenellations (Google ftw), this would not only ‘cheapen’ the experience, but cause confusion as to what does or does not block a projectile or player. If house windows were just ‘fluff’, the different combat situations I’ve experienced fighting around them would be drastically different. If that newly-fallen piece of rubble from a wall was just an empty graphical effect, siege tactics would simply not be the same.

Before WAR was released, I posted how crucial collision detection can be for a PvP game. (Bonus points to Spinewire for mentioning DF back then!) The ideas behind that post still stand, but where WAR failed Darkfall got it right. WAR simply did not do enough with collision to really make it matter, at least in the way I had envisioned it. Yes, you had players pile up at the top of a ramp, but it never got as detailed or important as two players blocking a ship ramp, or the tactics that go into a small scale engagement. The ‘zerg’ in WAR is not the same beast it is in Darkfall, and collision plays a large role in that (friendly fire be the biggest factor).

On the other hand, having collision as accurate as it is in DF occurring in WoW would be, at best, a non-factor. Sure, it might be neat to see players go around and over the details of a battleground field, but with tab-targeting, no friendly-fire, and the overall pace of the combat, how much would collision really add? Is the importance of a WoW window the same as in DF? With nametags (another WAR mistake) above everyone’s head, is it really all that important to have a small rock block spells or arrows? And ultimately, is that really what the PvP combat in WoW is all about? LoS arena mechanics aside, does the average players even factor that in, or do they value that the game has lower system requirements and an easier ‘feel’? Outside of PvP, how enjoyable would fighting a WoW mob be if you got stuck on every little detail or your attacks failed because the mob ran behind a rock?

With so many new MMOs in the pipeline for 2011, it’s easy to get lost in the big features and not consider the small stuff. Rift has some interesting ‘big name’ mechanics that it hopes to bring to the genre, but what does its collision detection model look like? Just how important will character size be? Will the overall mechanics lean towards PvE or PvP balance? These among other questions are difficult to full answer until you experience not just one game, but also another that does it drastically different.

If you asked a WAR player who has not played Darkfall about collision, I doubt many of them consider it an issue. If you asked a WoW-only player about it, I doubt many would even know what you really mean. The reverse could be said on other issues; ask a DF-only player about gaming the Auction House for instance and I doubt you would get much out of them.

Point being, it’s only when you truly consider the countless factors that go into the MMO design soup that you can you really start to piece a game together, and figure out what really makes it work, or in some cases, not work.


Darkfall: Northern Sea Fortress

December 13, 2010

Darkfall’s latest patch set the Sea Fortresses to go live in prime time rather than on a moving 22 hour schedule. The patch also made it so they go live daily, which might be a bug (the previous timer was for once every ten days). Forum opinion seems to be that every three days in prime time would be ideal. We shall see what Aventurine does, if anything.

As I had time last night, and my internet was stable (which now is a 50/50 proposition, some days it’s fine, some days it still spikes), I was able to join Flying V as they set out to try and capture the northern fortress. We had about 25 people, and sailed out on the recently added Junk (Yunk) ship.

We arrived just as the tower went live, and the battle was already raging. At first approach we tried to position ourselves to get as many cannons on the fortress as possible, but it soon became clear that, due to the six or seven other ships in the area, this would not be so easy. Numerous times enemy boats would sail across our field of view, shooting a few cannonballs and continuing on. Our overall organization was very solid however, and whenever the ship took damage we were able to quickly repair it (the more damage a ship takes, the slower is moves).

The fortress was ultimately captured by DHW, but that did not mean the fighting was over. At one point we got in good position to fire on an enemy Barque. We crippled it (25% HP), and then considered a boarding action to take it. However, as we were not the only ones taking aim at it, it’s HP continued to drop and eventually the decision to just sink it was made. Once the ship was down, a large battle broke out in the water, and at a later point we would end up returning to this spot to loot a good number of graves.

As we sailed a bit further, we spotted another ship (a Brig I believe) that had already been boarded and had fighting on its deck. Making a quick call, we sent our force to the ship to capture it. After some fighting, the deck was cleared and the ship was ours. At this point we had suffered a few casualties, and not having the manpower to control two boats, packed the Brig up and continued on.

An enemy Schooner then came into range, piloted by Covert Ops. Our two ships came close enough to board, but neither side made the jump. After some back and forth fire, we got positioning on them and unleashed our cannons, making quick work of their boat. With the crew now in the water, we sent in most of our players to clean up, and that fighting went well. However, as we were finishing off the last CO, a DHW force engaged us, and in our wounded and scattered state, we were defeated (I say we, but I was still on deck guarding the ship, so only watched/listened to the action). A few attempts were made to board our boat, but the enemy always jumped off quickly, in part thanks to our wall blocking the captain.

Having suffered some serious casualties from the fight with DHW, we sailed away, stopping once to pick up some loot. While we were not successful in capturing the tower, the night was still a success thanks to the captured ship, not to mention all of the good PvP. Seeing that many ships in action was a blast, and rumor has it AV has some additional plans related to swimmers vs ships, as currently it’s just a little too effective to sit in the water and attempt to board a ship.

Definitely looking forward to the next trip though, and hopefully some of the games bigger ships get brought out.

(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.)


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