DF:UW – Economy, MVPs, and Forumfall noise

Warning, the following is a long post centered around Darkfall, but in many ways applies to MMOs in general, and skims many concepts in order to prevent this from being an even longer novel. Apologies if I lose you along the way, feel free to ask in the comments section for clarification on anything.

One of the core aspects of an MMO all players go through while playing is progression. It’s the thing many of us love most about these games, whether we outright know it or know it by association (the leveling part, finishing gear sets, getting into bigger or more specialized ships, having enough wealth to control sections of an economy, becoming a go-to crafter, etc). The genre has a long and very clear history to support this; games with quick progression curves struggle with prolonged retention, or at the very least become a ‘jump in, spend a day, leave’ option now that we have F2P. Some games make that style work, other games are more about a consistent world than each player’s individual adventure.

The original Darkfall had a very long character progression path, one that was flawed by the need and acceptance of macroing (much like the early days of UO), but even still that long progression was there. It also featured a lengthy gear grind, one that was extended multiple times by the developers (AV) boosting stats on gear, but leaving all of the old gear unchanged and therefor inferior.

Despite DF1’s many core flaws, its unsustainable economy of uncontrolled faucets and weak sinks was hidden or marginalized by AV resets and the long character grind. In particular, gold was needed for a long time due to the fact that in order to skill up magic (something anyone who wanted to be PvP-viable had to do), you had to spent a ton of it on regents to macro. That massive sink, while unsustainable long-term, was sufficient for long enough. DF1 wasn’t abandoned in favor of Darkfall: Unholy Wars because of its unchecked economy, but that’s only because that timebomb never had a chance to explode.

Fast forward to DF:UW today. AV reduced the character grind, eliminated the need to macro, but kept the basic sinks and faucets of the game from DF1 (and if anything, increased said faucets even further, in part because the community continues to call for ‘worthwhile’ rewards). The result is that today, almost a year since release, anyone who has bothered has a ‘full bank’ of gear, to the point where getting more ‘stuff’ is no longer a driver. Watch any recent DF:UW PvP video and you will see this flaw in action; everyone is in top-end gear, even for the most casual of PvP encounters. To put this another way, if EVE had the DF:UW economy, everyone today (if we assume EVE had been released in 2012) would have multiple all-officer-fit Titans, and everything below that would be considered a ‘junk fleet’.

It’s no real secret to anyone paying attention that the population in DF:UW has not-that-slowly dropped, likely now below acceptable levels. It’s recent and seemingly successful launch in Asia might be what’s keeping the lights on right now, but unless Asians expect something radically different from DF:UW than what the US/EU expects (and they might, Asian’s can be pretty odd about their MMO flavors), it won’t take long for DF Asia to get in the same spot DF EU/NA is today.

That spot, just to summarize it briefly, is that since most everyone has enough stuff, going out and doing things (farming mobs, dungeons, capping villages, fighting over sea towers for the rewards, sieging cities so that a clan has better local farming) for the sake of getting stuff is no longer a motivator. With that motivator gone, DF:UW falls apart completely. You stop logging in to do activities that could result in PvP finding you, you are not online when clan-mates need help, and rather than the game being a day-to-day item, it drifts into becoming a “special occasions only” type of deal. To make this worse, unless you simply enjoy PvP for the sake of PvP, you have little to no reason to continue playing. A newly added dungeon is only entertaining once, as once you’ve seen it, you don’t need to return to farm it. Same goes for any new content really; you see it once and that’s it. All of the existing content? Unused. AV being as small as they are, they simply have zero chance producing content at a rate needed to sustain that broken model, even if they accepted the hyper-inflation rate and just ran with it.

So DF:UW is broken, and the core issue is its economy; simple too many faucets without enough sinks, resulting in players reach an ‘end’ in terms of progression. Important to note: character progression via prowess is also fairly short, at least in terms of getting one class to be fully PvP viable. In a vacuum this was an excellent change by AV; in the current state it has the unintended effect of highlighting the core flaw sooner.

Recognizing that their game was flawed, AV created an invite-only MVP sub-forum to get the players to help. The idea behind the forum was to reduce the amount of noise that generally happens on forums (and especially Forumfall, but more on that later) by selecting people who they identified as helpful and knowledgeable. In some ways this was an attempt at something like EVE’s CSM, which has been hugely successful. AV’s selection process unfortunately was… let’s just say not perfect, and while they did identify many of the good apples, a few rotten ones also snuck in. That said, outside of a couple examples, the sub-forum was at least successful in driving productive conversations about the game’s issues and what could be done to solve them.

The core issue, the economy, came up shortly and was discussed. I stated much of the above to the forum, and proposed EVE’s greatest sink (item destruction upon death) be added to DF:UW in order to help balance things and get the game into a healthier state. The simple fact was that the economy was so broken, so out of balance, that little tweaks or adjustments would not accomplish what was truly needed. Internally, I believe many understood the concepts and were on board with some form of solution, including AV themselves.

In a foreshadowing of future events, the most rotten of the apples went full retard on this topic, making one nonsensical statement after another (more on this soon). After a few attempts, I simply gave up trying to educate him. The situation was more of one child raising a temper tantrum over something they didn’t understand but perceived as ‘bad’, and as an adult, sometimes all you can do is pat the child on the head, tell them what they want to hear so they quiet down, and continue the conversation with the rest of the adults.

The first MVP forum update was a combined effort with AV, where the past weeks discussions were detailed, including the economy balancing proposal. Not surprisingly, Forumfall had (and is still having) an epic hissy fit. A relentless avalanche of idiocy commenced, with things being type that, had someone told me about them rather than seeing them myself, I’d have called you a liar. I don’t even know where to start on this so I’ll just throw out a few of the real gems (paraphrasing a bit here):

“We don’t need the economy balanced, AV needs to instead make PvE objectives worthwhile”

“Removing items off a grave would stop DF:UW from being a full-loot MMO and turn it into WoW”

“Rather than remove gear, AV should add more tiers of gear so people have a reason to fight over resources” (this, literally, was stated right after the above. So in summary: Item destruction = WoW, adding gear tiers = hardcore MMO. Forumfall everyone!)

“A better sink would be to have gear decay in your bank over time”

“Rather than destroying items at random, all items should take a durability hit, with low-dura items being destroyed” (If you don’t see the issue here, understand that many PvP bags are all low-dura items)

“Destroying items is carebear, AV should instead add a barrel where we can drop gear in to get point, and then we can spend those points on fluff items like different colored mounts or sex changes” (No joke, one of the more ‘hardcore’ players suggested this, in more or less exactly that way. He then suggested a magic unicorn that dropped a unique crafting pattern be added, so the sheep crafters would seek it out and the wolves could set a trap for them. I can’t make this stuff up)

And the most common and perhaps most idiotic: “Removing items from a grave would reduce the incentive to PvP”

On top of the above, plenty of suggestions were throw out that could be best summarized as “I want AV to add stuff that would take years to create, but I want it added tomorrow so the game is fixed”. A core focus in the MVP forum was to consider the amount of effort required for a suggestion, and if that effort level was high, that might not be possible. It’s not all that surprising so many on the general forum fell right into this mistake.

And on and on the idiocy cascaded. Now to be clear, I’m not at all surprised. Forums are what they are, and for every sane suggestion you should expect ten bits of nonsense or… well the equivalent of a fart noise in text.

My primary concern is that AV will cave in to the noise. They have a somewhat unhealthy track record of doing that. On top of this, it’s important to understand that the DF community is the immature little brother of something like the EVE community. When EVE players riot, odds are decent it’s for a good cause. The best and brightest of EVE are some of the smartest people in the genre, period. When the DF children get upset, it’s likely because you didn’t get them yet another candy bar at the checkout isle. If you cave in every time, you end up with a spoiled little fatty.

So we’ll see what happens going forward. It would be a shame if, once again, Darkfall’s great potential to be a solid niche MMO is wasted due to equal parts developer mistakes and misguided community noise. Right now most that are still interested are on the sidelines waiting to see what AV has planned. I can’t say I’m overly optimistic, but I haven’t fully given up just yet.

25 Responses to DF:UW – Economy, MVPs, and Forumfall noise

  1. carson63000 says:

    I got about a third of the way through this before I thought “shit, surely they need to make some gear destroyed on death, rather than all being lootable”, so I was not surprised when I got to the point where you made that exact proposal on the forums.

    I WAS surprised to hear that people went frothing at the mouth opposing it!

    I always thought Darkfall had a large amount of “EVE with swords” to its nature, I can’t believe that there would be so much opposition to something which is such a core part of EVE and which I’ve never heard of any serious complaints about.

  2. Azuriel says:

    My question would be: is destructible loot actually something that would incentivize people to return at this point? Sounds like it should have been in on Day 1, and would likely work as a concept generally, but it’s kind of a odd thing to be put in at this stage. “I have a bank of top-tier gear, so let’s go PvP people and… either lose it, or gain only half of the winnings!”

    I suppose people might not have a choice if they want to keep their player towns or whatever, so there’s that.

    • SynCaine says:

      Its certainly not a cure-all on its own, and yes, if it had been in day-one much of the current issues would have been avoided. That said, the mistake was made, and perhaps its too late to fix, but the attempt should be made regardless.

      As for what happens after, well, getting people out and fighting is easy to do. Keeping them fighting is what’s difficult, and this would aid in that, along with other needed changes.

  3. Ragelle says:

    You simply can’t balance a game with mobs spawning gear without destroying that gear at some point as a balance. How did AV get so many players advocating a WoW system of gear into a game focused on PvP?

    • SynCaine says:

      To make it worse, there is now a “the problem is people stopped PvE, if we get them to PvE again, gear will be destroyed from that sink” movement going on…

    • Kryss says:

      Wthey could add new receipes wich required scraps left after destroyed stuff, with some lore mubojumbo about “tasted battle” or something. New items will be better but rarer and old stuff still needed and used.

  4. anon says:

    Anyone who has dealt with members of “the public” knows that what a person says he wants, what he actually wants, and what he truly needs are often three different things.

    In that regard, the EVE community is no different from Darkfall’s. Sturgeon’s law applies to both in full force.

    Darkfall is suffering from the same problem which every other MMO with indestructible gear has run into at some point — massive item devaluation as a critical mass of the player base obtains the ‘best’ gear. Most MMO’s deal with item devaluation by regularly introducing new gear — the standard WoW loot treadmill. The alternative is to make items destructible.

    Inflationary pressure is a different creature. Some Ragnarok Online private servers had to ultimately deal with it by removing gold from player accounts while both cutting gold faucets and introducing massive new gold sinks. Darkfall’s devs may wind up having to do the same thing if they let inflation get too far out of control, and allow players to accumulate too much wealth.

    Also, there’s never a “good reason” to riot over a video game. It’s a fucking video game. If a video game is what compels a person to riot, that person has a serious case of first world problems.

    • anon says:

      Dfuw had a lot of promise buy av just makes bad design decisions, Asians prefer more grindy games I think alot of them will find uw lacking just like the us players. personally I left when they nerfed player city’s. I saw that there would be no driver for mass pvp and in a game where the only thing to do is mass pvp this is a death nail.

    • Sjonnar says:

      the “riot” was an in-game protest where players shot at an indestructible monument. it wasn’t an actual riot.

      • Furthermore, CCP got the point… that they ought to focus on spaceships when it came to their spaceship game… and even put a new version of the indestructible monument into the game that looks like it was shot up to commemorate this watershed moment in the history of the game. Faith with the community was restored… in that regard at least.

        Of course, now every time somebody doesn’t like something CCP does, the default cry is to “go shoot the monument” over whatever trivial shit they are whining about. Fortunately “three guys shooting the monument” doesn’t have anywhere near the same impact.

      • anon says:

        I know that the Jita riots were in-game. It is still a bloody silly thing to get worked up over. The amount of butt-hurt at the time was absolutely absurd. I’m not saying that Incarna ultimately was not in many respects a huge waste of resources, especially since CCP seems to have abandoned it completely. But shooting pixel monuments, spewing nerd-rage, and calling for the death of various people who were only doing their jobs was hardly a sane reaction.

        Anyways.

        A thought on item durability damage. I’ve seen two methods of implementing durability damage: non-permanent and permanent. As the named imply, in one the damage is reversible, and in the other it is not. Non-permanent durability damage is just a giant gold sink, which forces players to find some source of gold to fund their PvP and/or PvE habits, depending on exact implementation. The danger is that if PvE is a resource faucet, then the economy can become unbalanced on the resource supply side; and not everyone likes PvE, especially if the most efficient farming method is solo. I don’t see ‘grinding’ as a bad thing, because it means players are actually playing in the world, and aren’t going to a competitor for their gaming fix.

        Permanent durability can be a huge resource sink; danger is in seeming to penalize players for acquiring powerful items, and destroying game balance to incentivize item consumption. After all, what use is that Hammer of Powerfulness if it can only be used four times? But the upside is that rare and powerful items become truly special, to be rolled out when things are serious, or if the player has gold or time to burn.

        I experimented with semi-permanent durability damage in a tabletop RPG, to mixed effect. Everything would degrade with use, but spending gold would restore effectiveness, but to a reduced maximum. Say a sword started with durability of 100 points; repairing it the first time would restore durability to 75 points; second time to 56, then 42; then 32, and so forth. Eventually a player would sell the thing and buy something new. Not terribly realistic, perhaps, but it gave players a chance to go full-retard at important moments and feel awesome. It helped that the really shiny stuff had low durability to begin with — something about magical energies degrading the structural coherency of the materials.

  5. anon says:

    Dfuw had a lot of promise buy av just makes bad design decisions, Asians prefer more grindy games I think alot of them will find uw lacking just like the us players. personally I left when they needed player city’s. I saw that there would be no driver for mass pvp and in a game where the only thing to do is mass pvp this is a death nail.

  6. qyte says:

    Controlling the game economy is imho the SINGLE MOST important thing any MMO must watch out for. It is definetely what ruined many games and will ruin even more.

    I know that many mmo webzines and blogs think that blizzard is trying to prey upon the nostalgia/love it’s playerbase has towards The Burning Crusade expantion.

    The burning crusade was enormously popular because you always had something to do. The world (indluding Azeroth) was FILLED with farm spots that you NEEDED really bad. Before the quel’danas dailies the ONLY sizeable source of income was completing the remainder of your quests when you hit the cap. That netted me about 4k Gold, but given the fact that there was a MASSIVE gold sink in the form of epic flying mounts that was around 5k gold (5k for the licence (reduced by stormwind rep) and 250k for the mount itself), Anything else that you wanted to accomplish, be that professions, gearing up levelling alts or whatever else required you farming either exclusively all of the required mats or some of them and getting everything else from the AH.

    The ONLY other source of income back then was either farming/grinding humanoid mobs (i know many friends that were farming tyr hand elites back in vanilla MAINLY for the silver they dropped), or farming popular auction house stuff that you put up on the market.

    On top of that just for keeping up with your repair costs from running wipefest dungeons or raids, you had ABSOLUTELY no other way than to farm gold yourself (there was always gold sellers but one cannot rely on that, not even take that into consideration no matter how popular they may be).

    So there was arrakoa feather grind, Sunfury signet/Mark of sargeras grind, Zaxxis insignia grind(BOP), I personally also did the shatari skyguard grind the hard way (killing off 70lvl arrakoa and summoning elites), not to mention the nagrand factions farming ogres.

    ALL of the above went down the toilet once quel’danas was introduced, you could just spend 30 minutes daily, get 300Gold and design your goals on that income (that was MASSIVE as opposed to the previous situation).

    All in all any dev can and should limit the amount of gold inflation any server has at any given time, and they need to keep it small. Blizzard back then could just play with a multiplier on the gold that mobs dropped and that was it, after the dailies got in though things went completely out of hand.

  7. Raelyf says:

    I think Darkfall made a huge mistake in not going with an EVE style skill system. By forcing players to farm mobs and harvest nodes to build their skills and stats you’re adding an enormous intrinsic faucet to the economy. By definition, you can’t have meaningful reward for activities that you force your entire player base to participate in.

    If every player in EVE mined, minerals would be worth nothing and mining would be worthless. The same would be true if everyone ran missions, farmed wormholes, did exploration content, ran incursions, etc. The system works because different players participate in different activities.

    Darkfall needs to add more horizontal economic activities, encourage players to specialize in specific areas, and stop forcing their players into roles they’re not interested in. Then they need to add some serious gear destruction on death and, ideally, a system that offers diminishing returns so that a higher percentage of more valuable gear is destroyed than cheap gear – like EVE does with tech 2 and capital ships.

    • SynCaine says:

      DF1, at some point after release, actually added an offline meditation system that was basically EVE’s skill system, with the major difference being you had to pay gold to keep it going (a nice sink), while still retaining the in-game, grind/macro to skill up system. Sadly meditation did not make it over to DF:UW.

      That said, I think farming for prowess can work alongside farming for wealth, especially if you make the two more distinct. Mob A is great for prowess but poor for wealth, mob B is the reverse, Mob C is a nice middle ground, etc.

      • Rammstein says:

        Is that how DF works? People keep saying you can quickly max prowess for one combat class, which leads me to believe you’re not actually forced to mine to get prowess, but that optimizers will do *some* mining/fishing/etc to max prowess quickly. This is much different than someone who likes to mine in EVE and mines every day.

        • Rammstein says:

          *poor threading, that’s a reply to raelyf, I agree with Syn that prowess farming is or could be balanced*

        • sid6.7 says:

          Prowess is badly implemented. It’s a nice concept but it’s fatal flaw is that after about 50k prowess (2-3 weeks), there is very little incentive to keep grinding it if you made the right choices. AV also introduced more things to be able to grind prowess AFK, so new players will “trawl” for prowess rather than complete feats by killing mobs. It’s the DFUW version of AFK Swimming.

          By 100k, you’ve maxed one role entirely and another 15-20k can max a second one. The third takes significantly longer and the fourth quite a bit longer than that..

          Many people have alts — it helps with gathering and you can easily get both up to 120k prowess and play all four roles between them.

          One of the issues with the economy is that farming for prowess to improve PvP skill and farming for prowess to improve crafting ability are the same. This leads to people completing “crafting” feats for the purpose of gaining prowess that they use for PvP skills.

          The net result is that “crafted” items are worth less than the cost of the raw materials. If you are a pure crafter, there is no place for you in Darkfall because it’s impossible to make a profit by crafting items.

          Truth is, that is the reason all the crafters and non-PvPers left the game. It has nothing to do with scarcity.

          Contrary to the opinions posted in the OP and many of the comments here, gear degradation actually does exist in Darkfall in the form of durability loss and it’s actually quite significant and fast if you are actively doing something (like farming mobs). Weapons, in particular, degrade and break very quickly.

          The problem is that there are no meaningful activities in which players should waste durability. Gear accumulates because there is nothing to do OTHER than PvP. However, rather than address that flaw and give players something to do, Syncaine would advocate that a new sink be introduced.

        • SynCaine says:

          Our first neg-sum PvE fan everyone.

        • Igolbug OWE says:

          @sid6.7
          I was a pure crafter and made enough money through sales that I wasn`t forced to go farmign anymore, I could simply log on and craft the entire time for people and then use the money they gave me to buy the mats. Basically I didn`t make much profit but I kidn of broke even.

          I didn`t quit because I couldn`t make a profit, I quit because the GM`s and Forum mods were extremely biased. I got a perma forum ban for saying something that another player had said 5 times before me without even getting a warning.

          I had a lot of regular customers who would have to look elsewhere for gear or make it themselves.

  8. Antivyris says:

    This is one of those rare moments I would love some internal data. Most games, forum participation is typically 10-20%, and never 100% accurate to the game population.

    I preface all of below with ‘I have never even seen darkfall in any incarnation’.

    Seems like gear is not filtering out like it should. In PVP games, at least, “End Game” is top-gear + top skill vs the same. However, if gear is never removed, PVP in an MMO becomes essentially a glorified shooter. If it is never removed/changed/made obselete, than we have what is happening now.

    For anyone that things suddenly adding in a massive sink/”game breaking” change is bad, take a look at the response of removing the AH on D3.

    Finding the right system, though, sounds like the challenge. Do you do gear decay by time, or by use? It sounds like by use would be not a good idea if numbers are falling, and by time would be better. Perhaps a system of stats degrade on items over time down to 50% of what they were?

  9. kalex716 says:

    Good sandboxes need Producers, Consumers, and Degraders.

    Fail at any of these and it all falls apart.

  10. sleepysam says:

    Just a /golf clap for an excellent post and discussion.

  11. Larofeticus says:

    I would still play DarkFall if the combat wasn’t fantasy blernsball.

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