DF:UW – This is why we play

March 28, 2014

Our alliance is currently in a war with another major alliance, and the result has been great PvP for a number of days now. Last night we had another battle, and it might have been the best one of the war so far.

Here is the video from one of my alliance mates. You can spot me at various points; I’m the attractive blonde elf skirmisher. I’m also the guy who calls out dying near the tower and gets rezzed. I seem to always die in these videos, probably because I generally die in most battles. At least here I got rezzed and didn’t go down again, so was able to experience the entire thing.

As you can see from the video, a large ship had sailed up to one of your cities to do some asset damage. Our alliance as a whole reacted quickly and we soon had just under 20 people ready to defend. The video starts as the boat is already hammering the city walls with its cannons, and they also sent a ground force ashore.

We battled around the gate for a bit, softening them up, and finally making a push out. Along the beach the fight went back and forth for a bit (hence going down), but eventually we broke them and they retreated back to their boat.

The video misses some of the chasing, which involved us using a few boats along with swimmers to keep eyes on the larger ship, until eventually we were able to get some people on board and stop it. Video picks up with the fighting on and around the boat (love the part where the dread warrior climbs to the crows nest, and then knocks our guy off into the water.) Video ends when the cameraman dies, but we continued the fight and eventually won; killing almost everyone in the water and capturing the larger boat along with multiple smaller ships.

What’s great about the video is it shows almost all aspects of DF combat. A ship with a large crew sailing up, a city being attacked and defended, PvP in and around a gate, a battle along a beach that is a mix of ground and water combat, a chase into the ocean by both players and ships, and finally a decisive battle on board a larger ship. This is the stuff that makes Darkfall unique, and oh so much fun.

DF:UW – This is how you should play in the sandbox

March 27, 2014

The shitstorm that is the Bonus Room controversy continues to rage, and as of now CCP hasn’t made a move. How all of that plays out will be very interesting to watch, but I want to put that aside for right now and talk about a different post from Jester.

The main thing I want to focus is the second-to-last quote, where Destiny talks about the sandbox and the players insisting that everyone play a certain way. Jester and Destiny are talking about EVE here, but I want to apply that to Darkfall.

My likely very biased opinion is that Darkfall is in a make-or-break period right now. AV has made a few solid changes (dura loss from PvP being the main one so far), and their plans for improving the conquest and territory control aspect of the game, if executed correctly, I believe will turn the game around, going from a “PvP for the sake of PvP” oversized arena to, you know, more of a sandbox with sustainable content and reasons for players to do things.

At the same time, there is a minority subset of current, but mostly former players that want AV to focus mostly on changing the combat back towards DF1; allowing for hyper-carries and for the elite to better handle larger groups of lesser players. They are convinced that the total appeal of DF is limited to what it is now, and that rather than attempting to expand that appeal, AV should instead just work on getting the ‘core’ base that loved DF1 back. They seem to ignore that said core wasn’t large enough for AV to keep DF1 going, and instead replaced it with DF:UW, but yea.

My overall take on this has been pretty simple; the only thing the elite actually need in a game like Darkfall is a population (targets), and one of the main things that drove people away from DF1 was said elites going superman on a group of casuals, over and over. League of Legends wouldn’t have the millions of players it has if Riot allowed the top 1% to regularity play ranked games against those far below them. There is a reason LoL exploded while DoTA itself never did; Riot fixed a lot of the core flaws of the game, chief among them the very idea of a hyper-carry (one player deciding the fate of 9 others in a game).

Most gamers are ok losing sometimes, but most won’t put up with getting smashed over and over. LoL controls the smashing, DF1 didn’t. DF:UW does to about the extent it really can. Numbers can help overcome skill, but at the same time an elite group can still run into double their numbers (or more) and win. That balance is in a good spot IMO, but AV has a bad tendency to listen to the Forumfall minority and shoot themselves in the foot.

As I said earlier, I think the game is coming up to a critical turning point moment, but I also have this fear (based on history) that AV will take one major step forward, and a giant leap back.

ESO, DF:UW – Sometimes we go looking for something we already have

March 17, 2014

This past weekend ESO had another beta weekend, but I wasn’t able to play much as I had issues with the account my highest-level character is on. I did create an Imperial on my purchased account, but beyond that and testing mob collision quickly, I didn’t really play the game.

I did play a lot of Darkfall, as that game has sunk its hooks back into me. Momentum is a powerful force in the MMO genre, and who you play with is, IMO, a bigger ‘content driver’ than the actual content itself.

Quick example: On Saturday a few of us went out on a boat to attempt to kill the Ice Dragon. We failed; his regen offset our dps and we didn’t have enough people, enough arrows, and enough repair shards. One member of the alliance was driven to killing him, so much so that he pulled together the enormous amount of mats to craft the biggest ship currently in the game (a Ship of the Line), had it crafted, and put together a large crew to attempt the dragon again.

This time we were successful, and even though some uniquely Darkfall stuff happened (climbing to the extremely tall crows nests of the ship was the key to success, as at that height you are able to target the dragon with arrows much easier), the fight was overly long and the loot was terrible, so until its buffed we won’t be going again.

So overall not amazing content in terms of effort/reward, but something that entertained 16 people mostly because of those 16 people. If that doesn’t sum up WoW 40 man raiding, you didn’t raid enough. Is there such content in ESO? We’ll find out shortly.

Another comparison; DF:UW isn’t known for its PvE. ESO has a lot of PvE content and that is a major selling point. One of the early complaints about ESO is that the PvE is faceroll easy. Another is the combat lacks a real feeling of impact, and Bethesda has made multiple changes to that area to help fix the problem. I don’t think anyone has ever said PvE in DF lacks impact, nor has anyone called it faceroll easy by MMO standards.

Quick example: Near one of the hamlets our clan owns is a mob spawn with some easier mobs and one terror-level mob. Lately I’ve been making the quick trip out to the spawn to kill the terror. It takes me 2-3 minutes to kill him using full plate (3rd best warrior armor) and a leenspar greatsword (second best weapon). My character is maxed when it comes to spending prowess for a warrior and the related stats. I haven’t died to him yet, but each time I have to kite him a bit, recover hp/stamina, and use my life-leach attack as often as possible.

Beating that mob is harder than anything I’ve done in ESO, and that’s 100% ignoring the fact that at any point someone could come along and jump me at the spawn; something that can’t happen in ESO. In ESO I’d also never consider what gear to bring to kill him, I’m always wearing the best stuff I have. In DF I could wear higher-tier armor/weapons, or lower tier if I felt in greater danger and accepted that killing him would take longer. Also in ESO I’d kill him once and be done Perhaps not major decisions overall, but still decisions to be made vs no decision at all.

Another example: Rynnik and I set out to farm some Black Knights. We both had not completed the feat for them, we both could use the loot they drop overall, and Black Knights specifically drop the item needed to make the gauntlet for the new village requisitioning system. Three birds, one stone.

We recalled to his house as a starting point as it was close to the spawn, and we both set ourselves to Deadeye skirmishers since we were going to kite and bow them down. Rynnik also brought a party strongbox deployable so we could store the loot inside rather than carry it on us.

Things were going well for the first wave. We killed and looted all the knights, stored our loot in the strongbox, and waited for the respawn. About a third of the way into the second wave, a warrior and mage attacked us at the spawn. Initially they fought both of us, but shortly both focused on Rynnik and he ran them away from the spawn. I recovered and Rynnik circled back after losing them. Stupidly we started farming again, and quickly got jumped by those two again. I went down, Rynnik escaped.

I regeared quickly and made my way back to the area, as we hoped they had not found our strongbox and we could at least recover all of our farming loot. As we crept back into the area, we noticed the mage was standing on the nearby hill, and as we continued, we noticed the warrior was just returning. They found our strongbox, and the warrior had gone to get battlespikes to blow it open. As they were focused on opening the strongbox, we gained the high ground and prepared to attack.

I opened with a large AoE that puts a DOT and also slows anyone caught in it, while Rynnik went for more direct damage. The warrior reacted quickly and moved away, but the mage was loot-drunk and had his head inside our now-open strongbox. Taking advantage of this, we put a half-dozen arrows in his back and down he went. We fought the warrior for a bit, but the 2v1, double-skirm vs warrior setup was highly in our favor, and he too went down. He had banked my previous gear set, but in return we got his, the mage’s, and also all the loot from our strongbox. A nice ending to our little PvE adventure.


DF:UW – Just call me Captain Ghostship

March 13, 2014

Once we had wrapped up our sieges Sunday night, we noticed that the nearby Sea Fortress was going live in under an hour, and it was decided that we would bring out a Frigate and try to capture it.

A Frigate is one of the larger ships in DF:UW, featuring seven cannons per side, along with two cannons facing the rear. It has three crow’s nests, and overall is an intimidating weapons platform. I was the captain of the ship, which meant that the game zoomed my view WAY out, so far that everyone on board looked like little ants running about. It was a very cool ‘whoa’ moment, and being the captain for the whole thing was a very unique, very different thing to do in an MMO. Naval combat overall in DF is better than any I’ve experienced in gaming, and I think comes about as close to the ideal as one could imagine.

Once we arrived in the area, and after fighting off a few much smaller ships and shooting some cannonballs at the Sea Fortress itself, we spotted another Frigate and it was on.

Both ships exchanged broadside cannon volleys while extra crew members on the deck shot spells and arrows at the enemy, while still others used repair tools and shards to keep the ships floating. In terms of a group-based PvP activity, ship combat in DF:UW has a lot going for it. Ships are worth a good deal so losing one stings, people need to bring black powder and repair tools/shards, all these things are player-crafted, and all of it happens on/in the water or on the decks of the various ships.

As captain this was particularly fun, trying to sail the ship to maximize cannon fire while also keeping an eye out for swimmers or smaller ships, avoiding the various rock spikes in the water. We had 15 or so players, so those shooting cannons had to run from side to side as the ship turned, those on deck were repelling swimmers, and overall it was the essence of controlled chaos for about an hour or so.

Eventually we sunk the enemy Frigate, but as we battled the Sea Fortress was captured. Once we were done with that battle, we sailed around and sunk a few smaller ships and killed their crews in the water, but eventually the call was made to leave the area and not risk losing our ship to swimmers. A few small ships chased us for a while. We turned and sunk some, all while moving away from the area.

The night ended on a somewhat comical note. One ship that was chasing us slowed to pick up a swimmer, and that stoppage put us out of view distance. However, on their end they could still see our sails due to a visual bug. Initially they thought we did something shady to escape, and I got more than a few amusing rage tells. Here is a video from their side; skip to about the 10min mark for the actual bug and the reaction on comms, the first ten are the chase.


DF:UW – A return to siege action

February 20, 2014

I took part in my first siege since returning to DF:UW last night, and good times were had. The siege was over an ally’s hamlet, and the enemy included my old clan the Old Timers Guild, so it was fun to see and kill some old faces/names.

The siege had close to 100 players total, with our side outnumbering the attackers by a few. Scroach groups were at a minimum, and didn’t impact the siege. I didn’t experience any ping or FPS drops, everything stayed at my normal 50ping, 70FPS. Siege performance had been a hot topic on Forumfall of late, so either the last patch greatly improved things, the people complaining are playing on welfare machines, or Forumfall was once again making a mountain out of a mole hill. My guess is all of the above.

The action of the siege came in two parts. The enemy initially charged into the hamlet, and while the attack somewhat caught us off guard, the push wasn’t coordinated enough and between our numbers and the guard towers, they were repelled quickly. I was fine with this, as the brief skirmish was a nice little warm-up. Between just having returned, changing over to using the Slayer role as my secondary, switching from greatswords to polearms, and still being terrible at FPS games, an ‘easy’ fight is a-ok in my book.

The second battle happened just outside the hamlet. The enemy was stationed on top of a mountain, and as the siege stones went live, we pushed into them. We had a group of warriors on mounts flank them while our main force drew their attention from the opposite side. It worked, they broke quickly, and the cleanup commenced.

Once the enemy was dispatched, our clan group went off to search for scroach groups, and we found one not too far away. That provided the most even fight of the night, with our 7-8 taking on a similar sized group. I certainly wasn’t the deciding factor or anything close, but having warmed up I was able to at least contribute here, forcing warriors off our primalists in melee and preventing others from chasing after people with some archery.

So all in all a good night of siege and small-scale action, and a quick remember of just how great the combat really is in Darkfall. It will be interesting to return to ESO for the next beta after this refresher with DF. I suspect, much like going from DF to Skyrim in the past, that I’ll be a little disappointed. Ignorance is indeed bliss sometimes.

DF:UW – Dungeons, not instances

September 4, 2013

Dungeons in Ultima Online were much different than instances in WoW. In UO, you went into a dungeon to farm for however long you wanted (or until PvP showed up), while in WoW an instance is ‘run’ from point A to point B. It’s a fairly significant difference, though one that many might miss if WoW is their main or only point of reference.

I bring this up because the dungeons in Darkfall: Unholy Wars are very much in the UO style; you don’t ‘run’ them, you go in to farm and you are ‘done’ when you either need to log, your bags are full of loot, or PvP finds you.

Over the last few days, I’ve spent a fairly significant amount of time in two of the game’s three dungeons, including finally seeing the largest dungeon currently in the game, Broadherne. I’ve mentioned the first dungeon (Iriendir) added to the game before, but to quickly recap it’s a small-ish oval loop in a cave full of trolls, including a giant troll boss that spawns every 30 minutes. The loot there is great, and you get PvP fairly often, in large part because searching the dungeon for people is quick and easy.

Broadherne is a completely different animal. It’s huge, dark, and contains plenty of traps. The zone-in area is the most ‘basic’ part of the dungeon, but even here you can be placed in one of two spots, which could lead to some interesting scenarios in PvP. The exit halls out of the two starting rooms are very narrow (one character can block each), as are most of the tunnels in this dungeon.

Once past this initial area, the first room you enter actually contains the exit portal on one end, and two passages on each side. These passages will randomly open and close, which can result in your party being split up if not every makes it in before the walls come down. The room also contains pools of blood, which will drain your stamina if you stand in them (a theme that continues throughout the dungeon).

The next section of the dungeon features a few lower-end mob spawns, along with more winding tunnels and ramps up/down different levels. The ambient sound in the dungeon really kicks in here, and since so much of DF awareness is hearing other players coming or fighting, the sound here keeps you on your toes and really adds to the danger/panic mood that the place is going for.

Once past that set of rooms and tunnels, you enter the maze part of the dungeon. Here walls and gates open and close at random, and the entire place is extremely dark, with certain tunnels being pitch black and basically requiring the use of the light spell. Getting lost here is very easy, and whenever PvP happens here, it’s always chaotic. The fact that you have mob spawns on both sides of the maze also means you are constantly hearing footsteps, and it’s very difficult to separate mobs just walking around with other players looking for you.

The final part of the maze is a hallway with three sets of moving walls. If you don’t time it correctly, the walls will push you into a pool of blood and a spiked wall, causing both physical damage and stam drain. More than once I’ve seen a friend or enemy die in this area during PvP, forgetting about the walls and running right into the trap. Even when you are aware of them, the fact that other players can push or pull you around means a well-timed ability could be a game-changer.

Once you find your way past the maze, you enter a fairly large room with a very balanced mob spawn. It is in this room that I’ve done the most farming, as it covers all three of the mobs you need to kill to complete the related feats, and the spawn rate is perfect for 2-4 players.

The next room is a huge, open space covered in narrow catwalks that climb upwards towards the exit. The floor here is mostly blood, and getting across requires a few well-timed jumps. It’s nothing frustratingly hard when you are not being pressured, but PvP in this room has a very unique feel to it, as you are constantly trying to knock your enemy into the stam-draining blood pools while at the same time still going after them. Getting out of this room with someone chasing you is tough, while the entrance and exit areas provide excellent platforms to fire down on anyone who fell down.

The final area of the dungeon is another large room with a big mob spawn, although this one is mostly higher-end (villain) mobs. On both sides of this room you have narrow hallways that take you around to the boss room. The hallways again feature moving walls that will knock you around, but this time rather than knocking you into a trap, they knock you into the boss room below. If you manage to avoid being knocked down, the end of each hallways contains a slew of treasure and resource chests that can be looted.

The boss room has a large pool of blood in the middle, and columns all around it. The room has a heavy spawn of villains, and the boss is a floating demon with a very nasty ranged and point-blank AoE attacks. Despite multiple attempts with different players, I’ve yet to see the boss die. He is a tough bastard, and the spawn rate in his room, combined with the fact that you can’t run away to recover easily (the only way out of the room is through a one-way door back to the previous room), makes this a very difficult encounter.

PvP happening often also delays/derails attempts, but that’s half the fun.

Skyrim vs DF:UW combat

August 26, 2013

Playing Skyrim on the side again (new mods ftw), first time since Darkfall has been release, and yikes is the combat in Skyrim slow and disconnected compared to DF:UW. I also can’t hit a damn thing with a bow because I’m so use to archery in DF; I keep forgetting you shoot missiles in Skyrim.

(Yes, sorry excuse for a Monday blog post. Sorry. A detailed update on what I’m doing in DF is coming tomorrow)

DF:UW – Pirate dreams can come true

July 22, 2013

Over the last few patches AV has been adding more boats to Darkfall, including two utility boats, one that scoops up fish for mastery-level cooking, and another that scoops up ‘sea junk’ like ship cannons and building mods. Both ships add a PvE/harvesting element to the seas, and in turn bring out pirates looking to plunder them.

That last sentence is often seen on paper for games (including DF1) and never materializes. At least not organically; at best a game will add a ‘pirate’ class and stage pirate action under a specific scenario, but really the content is no different from any other pre-build; it’s just pirate themed now.

Currently in DF:UW pirating is a very real thing, and it’s a blast. Part of that comes from the fact that it happens out in the world rather than in an instance, which leads to things like a quick coastal spawn raid where you and ten others pull your boat up to the shore, jump off, and (hopefully) quickly kill anyone farming a spawn before sailing off into the distance with all the loot.

Or you spot one of the slower harvesting ships, successfully board and capture it, and as you finish up, a 3rd party comes along with their ships and you go from victorious pirate to desperately trying to escape.

Or as you are out looking for ships, players back at your coastal city report an enemy ship is attacking, and as the ship you are on returns home, you surprise the attackers and end up with a new ship for the clan to play with.

Point being, the fact that all of this happens out in the world means that while you might head out with the intention of fighting another ship, what ultimately ends up happening is far more varied than that, and not always by your choosing.

Another factor that makes all of this so fun is the combat mechanics of DF. If this was a tab-target game, ship to ship (and water fights) would not play out all that differently than ‘normal’ combat. In DF, what works on land might not in the water, and how a captain moves the ship is critical, as is the crew supporting it. In a way, ship combat in DF is a fun ‘mini-game’ without the usual shallow, short-term thinking that goes into most mini-game MMO implementations.

Lately the seas have been full of ships, combat is plentiful, and Sea Fortresses are coming ‘soon’. Good times.

The choices you can make

June 25, 2013

Over at KTR, thanks to a RSS trigger from TAGN, the topic of groups has been brought up. I’m generally a “pro groups” person, but playing DF:UW has reminded me why and how most MMOs get the basics wrong.

In most MMOs, the game makes the decision to group or not for you, and often tells you exactly how to group as well. You can’t enter a raid instance solo, just like you can’t bring 100 players to a 10 man raid. In Rift, the random finder goes so far as to insist you have the correct group makeup (tank, healer, dps) before zipping you inside.

Games do this in part because it makes designing the content easier. If you know that 100% of the time the players will only have a group of five, you have a much easier time designing enemy abilities and setting difficulty. This is not always a bad thing, but if it’s the ONLY thing going on in your MMO, you have robbed the players of a very interesting decision; do you group, and if so, how big will the group be?

In DF:UW, the content is not gated behind group requirements or class restrictions. If you want to try and solo the red dragon, you can do so. If you want to bring 100 to down it, go ahead. And while doing it solo is basically impossible, and bringing 100 makes victory almost assured, both results are acceptable because the game is balanced based on the reward; the dragon drops 50k gold whether one person or 100 kill it, so while more makes it easier, it also makes it less profitable per person.

This balance however only works in games without permanent Best-in-slot (BiS) systems; in DF:UW you can gain 50k gold in a number of ways, while in WoW only one raid boss drops the item you want. Additionally, in DF:UW and games like it, that 50k is fluid. You gain it and you can lose it. In BiS setups, once you have it only the devs can take it away from you (expansions).

In a PvP MMO like DF:UW there is also the added consideration of safety. Just because I can solo a mob spawn does not mean that’s always the best choice, even if bringing more will ultimately reduce the gain/hr. Sometimes having a group will be the difference between fending off enemy players and getting sent home naked. This goes one step further; even if I’m going to solo a spawn, if the spawn is close to my player city, that increases my chances of delaying a fight until allies can aid me; if I’m farming on the opposite side of the world, I’m alone. In most MMOs, the location of a spawn is often a non-factor, and again this robs the players of a choice/consideration.

The term sandbox gets thrown around a lot, and games will claim to have ‘sandbox features’. To me, what makes a game a sandbox isn’t always the big-picture stuff like whether PvP is FFA or the world is seamless, but the choices you are offered like those described above. Those choices, and dealing with the consequences, is why farming 180 mobs in DF:UW is entertaining, while a kill 10 quest in a themepark is a complete snooze.

DF:UW – Dungeon content in a virtual world

June 3, 2013

Last Friday the latest patch for DF:UW was released, and it included the first dungeon added to the game. Sunday night OTG and allies put together a group of eight to go check it out.

Entering the dungeon works like it did in DF1, where you click on the portal entrance, charge for a few seconds, and then you are taking down into the dungeon. You are not in an instance like in themepark MMOs, but rather in a different ‘zone’ that anyone else can enter as well.

A bit of strategy plays into entering or exit a dungeon, as we sent in our warriors first and delayed the entry of our squishy characters. This is done in case someone is camping the dungeon entrance/exit, but that was not the case last night.

Once inside, we explored what is ultimately a large loop with a few offshoots, one being a spawn of lizard-like creatures and another being the boss room. The main room of the dungeon contains a large cave troll (new mob) spawn, featuring cave trolls (easy), cave troll shamans, and cave troll fighters (fairly tough in numbers). The boss is a Primordial Troll Juggernaut, who while not overly difficult for our group of eight, was not a complete pushover either.

The dungeon itself has a good look and feel thanks to the advanced lighting and effects new to DF:UW, and the spawn rates are such that you are always kept busy. The loot from the troll mobs was nice (they drop gold and a good amount of large pots), and the boss mob drops a key to a chest that, among other loot, usually had 1-2 portal shards inside.

The dungeon overall would be decent content in a pure PvE game. It’s not huge or overly challenging, but it is larger and more detailed than the starter dungeons found in the capital cities, and just from a pure PvE perspective we had a good time. Of course DF being DF PvE is only a part of the equation, and like almost all locations, the PvE also drives PvP, with the dungeon being no exception.

The first time we arrived at the dungeon we found one player just outside trying to recall. We quickly gave him an express ticket home, and found a decent amount of dungeon loot on his tombstone. Once inside, we found another player farming and he too was dropped quickly. After killing the boss once and farming for about 30 minutes, we left the dungeon to bank at our nearby hamlet.

Along the way back we came across a few players, killed a couple and had the rest run away. On our trip back to the dungeon, we caught a naked player on his mount, killed the mount, and chased him to the nearby village. He ran into a house he owned, and one of our members followed him inside. He killed him, looted a treasure map, and found himself stuck inside as the door had been closed. The owner came back, we asked him nicely to open it, he refused, and so out came the battle spikes to blow his door down.

On our third run in the dungeon, we had two geared warrior run into the boss chamber with us, and a short, cramped melee commenced. They did well, taking down two of us before one of them got very low and ran away. We made the mistake of not pursuing immediately, forgetting that in order to exit the dungeon he would have needed to charge at the portal, and that would have been easily interrupted. We left the dungeon shortly after and called it a night.

I think the dungeon is a great addition to the game. It brought new feats which you progress through at a good rate thanks to the quick spawns, the boss is something different, and your PvP tactics need to adjust thanks to the limited spacing. It’s very ideal for a group, adjusts well for small or large numbers, and creates a new PvP hotspot in the world. Hopefully AV doesn’t take too long to add more, and we get them ‘soon’.

Video of the dungeon from Ripper Exe. Enjoy!


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