DF:UW – Sacrificing the game at the altar of false choice

I’ve hinted at this before, but now AV has made their plans for revamping the ‘class’ system in DF:UW public, and rather than post this to the limited audience of Forumfall, I’d rather it get more exposure here on this blog.

The change is a classic example of sacrificing some real choice to create more false choice due to the illusion of freedom. If you have played a few MMOs, I’m guessing you know where this is going.

It’s important to understand what is first being sacrificed by this change. Currently all four roles (Warrior, Skirmisher, Primalist, Elementalist) are seen in-game. Additional, almost all schools (sub-roles) and all abilities are used. There are a few exceptions, but easily 90% of all roles/schools/skills are used and are viable. No system is perfect in terms of balance, but based purely on variety and usage, what DF:UW currently has is very solid.

I’ll use one of the roles (Skirm Deadeye main) I currently play as an example. To farm certain monsters that are best killed at range, this role works very well. I also use that identical setup for PvP. The range allows me to stay alive longer than a Warrior, and the ult (Salvo) is a very useful AoE ability for large-scale combat.

After this update goes live, this will no longer be the case. For PvE I’ll be wearing light armor (+dmg) because for PvE where the failure state is simply a time delay, time-to-kill is king, and +dmg is what best increases that (even if the attack speed bonus is better, durability loss per attack would still make this choice inferior). I’ll also replace more PvP-oriented skills with skills that either make PvE easier directly (self-heal, stat regen, etc), or increase my chances of escaping PvP (movement abilities, more on those specifically later).

For PvP, I’ll have yet another build, replacing abilities that work best in PvE with PvP-based ones (most likely AoEs for damage, and filling the rest with escape/utility).

If you believe the system increased choice, you are missing the boat. Sticking with the above example, I still have one choice for PvP, and one choice for PvE, but post-patch those are two different things, and in a world PvP MMO like DF:UW, that’s not a plus.

When everyone is out in the world farming with PvE-specific builds, attacking people at a mob spawn isn’t going to be much fun. Either you smash them due to running a PvP build against someone with a PvE build, or they escape because their PvE build includes enough of those abilities to make it possible. For a clear preview, see EVE PvP when you jump a mission runner in low-sec. At least today in DF:UW when a fight breaks out, just based on builds the field is more level, not a fight decided by the fact that one guy has a warp scram and the other is only cap-stable vs NPCs.

Moving to a higher level, there is basically zero chance that post-patch 90% of all abilities are viable. That means more skills go unused, which wastes their art, their animation, and the diversity they bring to the battlefield. So while technically the game will have more possible skill combinations on paper, in-game you won’t see nearly as many skills used, and most likely, you also won’t see as many viable skill combinations used. Would I be shocked if there is basically one flavor-of-the-month build for PvP? Hell no. And that build won’t be some fun ‘Paladin’ build or whatever. It’s going to be a tank-mage that chucks AoEs, heals, and exploits movement abilities. If you love playing an AoE-chucking tankmage ala most of DF1’s prime, congrats, DF:UW is going back to that. If you enjoy the current real options and diversity seen in-game? You’re outta luck. Viable options have been replaced with false choice, sorry.

Some other points.

PvE is going to be trivialized with this change even more, as player power is going up while mob difficulty will remaining the same. Worse-case, there is one FOTM PvE build that is broken-level powerful. As with the PvP aspect, hope you enjoy that playstyle, because if not welcome to gimp-ville.

Movement abilities are either going to be grossly nerfed across the board, or make unwanted PvP impossible. To go back to EVE, imagine roaming around looking for PvP if every ship was immune to warp scram and that’s going to be post-patch DF:UW with movement abilities. Going out to dig up some treasure chests? Your ‘class’ is now one where you stack movement and escape skills to reduce the risk of map running to zero. Scouts? Same thing, zero risk build ahoy. Worst case, post-patch the game becomes an arms race of who stacks more movement abilities or exploits them best. That would actually make me miss the bunnyhopping idiocy of DF1.

This change will have massive economic impacts. Some people are going to be royally screwed and will be very upset about it. I don’t want to fully dive into this now, but again if you have played an MMO or two I’m sure you know where this is going.

This change also dramatically increases how much prowess (XP) you must earn before you become PvP viable, which hurts new players most. Currently that point is around 40-60k, but post-patch it will be much higher. Having 100 in all four stats will be far more important, as will having access to all boosters. You will also need to max more skills, especially if the expected PvE and PvP builds vary so much.

Additionally to a longer grind to viable, the system as described is also more complex and arcane. How intuitive is assigning your Wisdom stat to a Greatsword to get access to better Greatswords? Oh and then assign your strength stat to cloth armor so your swing with the greatsword hit for more damage. What sense, even in a world where people throw fireballs, is there in leather armor allowing you to cast spells faster than other armors, including the wizard-looking cloth armor?

So yea, I’m not really looking forward to this. In fact, it’s basically taken most of my motivation to play away. It’s just hard to keep building in something that you know is going to fall off a cliff, and off a cliff is exactly what this update is. Sad really, especially given the big steps forward AV took with DF:UW from DF1, and even with more recent patches.

9 Responses to DF:UW – Sacrificing the game at the altar of false choice

  1. Rynnik says:

    Nice post – pretty much sums it all up for me.

    Selling my property in game.

    Oh, also, Go Bruins! ;-)

  2. Ranez says:

    Lets be frank tho syn, you have basically been waiting for AV to do this since the game came out. You cant expect AV to NOT break one of their games can you?

    • SynCaine says:

      It’s strange really, they had a few months of making smart decisions and setting the game up for long-term success, and then for whatever reason (panic move, changes in leadership?) they have done a 180 and are now letting Forumfall design the game.

      The useless part is I don’t need another MMO example of why that’s bad. The genre has a pretty established history when it comes to designing to appeal to your vocal minority, so this will just end up being yet another footnote, which is a shame given the potential and the overall state of MMOs.

  3. Kyff says:

    So why do you praise Eve where you also have to fit your ship for PvE or PvP and a miner should always expect being ganked by a pirate?

    If you expect to encounter enemies, better take the PvP skillset and farm slower. Furthermore I think numbers will still b the deciding factor in most fights. So bring some friends, a lookout alt, whatever and an ambush will be much less likely.

    However, I do dislike the changes because they cater to the “bring-back-DFO-and-10.000-players-will-return” crowd. The last part will never happen so AV should focus on the current DF-UW players rather than the DFO nostalgists.

  4. sid6.7 says:

    I call it the illusion of choice. It may seem like you have a lot of choices, but there will be 4 to 8 core builds and everything else is just a minor variant.

    It’s not unlike selecting talents in WoW, there is an optimum path and while you may make minor variations to that path, those that don’t stick closer to the path will be at a severe disadvantage.

    That said, I would argue that the current system only has around 8 viable paths anyways. The difference is that when the flavor changes after some future patch, you have the flexibility to massively overhaul the role. That part is a plus.

    The other thing is that there are also already ways to min/max for PvE or map running within the current system. A naked deadeye skirm with a decent bow can kill scourges solo. I don’t think you will see more/less change in behavior here. Those with an interest to min/max will still min/max it.

    I have mixed feelings overall. On the one hand, I agree with your overall message. This particular area is an area that was ‘broken’ and game mechanics changes at this level are effectively a new game. Good changes or bad changes, it’s a massive overhaul and the resulting product will bear little resemblance to the game that launched a year ago.

    On the other hand, the game needs a boost of some kind to revitalize the population. This type of change is pretty sweeping and the reaction is going to either be a visceral dislike or intrigue. If enough people are intrigued, it could be a real boon to a population that desperately needs it.

    • sid6.7 says:

      Edit- “This particular area is an area that wasn’t ‘broken’”

      This is what I get for commenting on no sleep.

    • SynCaine says:

      If this update results in 8 distinct and viable builds for PvP, I’ll be shocked. If I was betting money, my money would be on 2-3 (and one clear FOTM wouldn’t be a surprise either).

      The other thing to keep in mind is that if AV had kept the current system, but finished the final 4 schools, diversity would have increased. In the new system, balancing and additions likely won’t result in more diversity, just a change from one FOTM to the next.

      And yea, short-term the game will see a pop increase, because existing players will still be there, and those looking for a reason to get back in will have one. Long-term it’s going to be DF1 all over again.

  5. Rod says:

    most retard shit a ever read for years

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