DF:UW – Two more videos of the triple siege night

June 13, 2013

Rather than an extensive battle report, I’m just going to post the key details and let the videos fill in the blanks (aka: lazy blogging).

Here is one from our initial enemies and then mercenaries point of view, and here is a good one from OTG member Cotton.

Our alliance got triple sieged Monday night. Our hamlet on Niff, our hamlet in elf lands, and the hamlet closest to our city of Kvit where all sieged, with roughly two hours or so between each siege. We attempted to defend all three, and only lost the hamlet on Niff.

The battle on Niff was fairly close, but ultimately we got pushed away from the siege stones and as we had a second and third siege to still attend, we back off and took the loss. The high ground taken by the enemy was a huge asset to them, and we simply could not push them off despite our best efforts.

The elf lands hamlet was not heavily contested, and after one push up the ramp to the siege stones, and attackers broke and we quickly destroyed the siege stones to end the contest.

By far the heaviest fighting occurred at the 3rd siege, the hamlet near Kvit. Our first two attempts to get to the siege stones were repelled after heavy fighting, and the decisive battle was also very close. In the Nox video you can see that the enemy was attempting to destroy the hamlet stone as our forces destroyed the siege stones, so it was very, very close.

Now that the crashing issue has been resolved, I think everyone is looking forward to more sieges, and the political aspect of DF is going to really get rolling. Good times!


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!


DF:UW – Sieging Alden Enak

May 16, 2013

Last night OTG had a siege against The Empire for their hamlet of Alden Enak (AE), located just south of our city of Kvit.

The nice thing about this siege was that the numbers, gear, and player skill were about as even as you are likely to find in Darkfall, resulting in multiple battles in a few locations rather than one steamrolling.

The unfortunate part was that on our end, we had a lot of crashing, which we believe is tied to using Mumble instead of TS3 or Vent. In each battle a good 20-30% of our force would randomly crash, which not only reduced our overall fighting numbers, but caused havoc for communication and organization. It did not appear that The Empire clan members were crashing nearly as often, which is good once we correct the Mumble issue, but bad for trying to win that particular siege.

For me personally, a few crashes aside, performance was excellent. I kept my game maxed out at 1900×1200 and never had my FPS dip below 60 or my ping go over 70, even though at the peak of combat we had over 100 total players fighting it out.

On to the fighting itself!

Right as I got home and was preparing to log on, Empire was raiding Kvit and blew up our bank. After they cleared out, we formed up a group of about 20, got on a boat, and sailed around for a sneak attack on their hamlet. The idea was to kill who they had before the siege went live, and hopefully hold the hamlet itself so they could not use it as a rally point.

The boat ride itself was uneventful, and we snuck up on the hamlet without incident. They had around 20 players as well, some right at the bank and others spread around the hamlet grounds. Our initial charge took down a few, but they quickly rallied to some high ground and counter-pushed. One warrior in particular, sporting Dread Plate (second-best warrior armor), was incredible disruptive and took a few of us down. After a few back and forth pushes, we lost too many and had to retreat back to our city.

After both sides gained some more members, a scout reported Empire was heading into our city. We decided to retreat up the lift we have in Kvit (the city itself is inside a mountain with three large cave entrances. A lift runs to the top of the mountain through a hole in the ceiling. There is also a path up the side of the mountain that leads to the top area). Once at the top, we waited for the enemy to follow us up, and planned to AoE the lift as it came up.

The plan initially worked, but once we started AoE’ing those on the lift, they jumped off, and we made the tactical mistake of getting on the lift ourselves and taking it back down into the city. The enemy was able to AoE us as the lift reached the bottom, and our general disorganization lead to a rather quick defeat (I crashed right as the lift hit the ground, so missed the fighting, and once back inside had to sneak my way out of the city). Though we did take down a few, overall we got wiped and they were able to loot most of our graves and ride back out of our city.

The final major battle occurred again at our city. Empire again made a push, but this time we were more organized and held them at the southern cave entrance. The choke point where a city gate can be built (we have not built the walls yet) was AoE’ed heavily by both sides, and the first push from the Empire was turned back as they lost half a dozen fighters, with the rest falling back outside to regroup.

However the second pushed got them through the choke point, and while we held for a while further inside, ultimately we again were overwhelmed and defeated.

It was only after this battle that the siege officially went live with our siege stones becoming vulnerable. At this point however moral was pretty low, people were low on gear bags, and we never reformed to defend the stones. Empire took them down quickly, and the siege ended with them retaining their hamlet.

Crashing aside, it was a very fun night, and while initially OTG was a bit down, identifying the Mumble-based crashing and getting on TS3/Vent will mean next time we don’t have to deal with the technical issues getting in the way.


DF:UW – The value of owning a city

May 13, 2013

A popular topic on ForumFall of late has been the value of player cities and hamlets, with some believe they are not worth owning, or that the cost to build them up is too great and needs to be reduced. OTG has been living out of our city (Kvit) for about a week now, and it’s highlighted some ‘hidden values’ to me.

There are the obvious benefits of owning a city, such as being able to bind at the stone, receiving the system messages when anyone comes in/out, and the minor regen buff the city provides to its owners. Cities also have resource nodes (mines, farms, etc) that can be built, but OTG has yet to build ours so I can’t really comment on that.

The above are nice, but certainly not worth the large amount of resources needed to build up a city. But because DF:UW is a sandbox, the hard-coded benefits are only a small part of the value.

Since moving in, we have put up the keep and some houses to increase the maximum number of binds allowed, and currently we are at 71. This has allowed many (but still not all) of our members to bind from the same spot, making grouping and responding to attacks much easier.

For a more casual clan that has a wide range of PvP-skilled players, having numbers close by means we don’t get rolled whenever someone comes along. It also means we can farm high-value spots like Ogre Bullies or Arctic Bears with confidence, and have the numbers to chase someone off the spawn should we need to. It also allows for quicker grouping, so those with less time don’t spend most of it riding to get to a group. And since we are all concentrated, groups are always up and something is always happening.

Another benefit is learning the local area. By knowing where all of the local spawns are, as well as the major geographic features, we are better able to quickly respond to a call for help, and when fighting know the terrain and how best to use it. For instance, we know where the land gets relatively flat and clear of obstacles, so we know when to keep chasing someone on a mount and when it’s best to jump off and try to bow them down. We know the location of iron nodes for quick gathering, and where the best hiding spots are for escaping a chase.

Owning and building up a city also motivates us to take group mining trips, where a bunch of us will head and out clean out iron nodes for the clan. We do this geared up for PvP, and often find it (or it finds us). Seeing the city gain buildings and (soon) added functionality gives everyone a goal to work towards, and creates game and clan ‘buy in’.

Finally, because other players know OTG lives out of Kvit, we in essence have created a bit of a PvP hotspot. This is greatly beneficial for a number of reasons. First, DF:UW is a PvP MMO, and having PvP come to us saves us the trouble of having to finding it (though we do plenty of that as well). Near-constant PvP also means our members are getting experience and becoming better players, rather than sitting in a secluded corner getting fat and lazy off nothing but PvE (something that happened in DF1 to many clans). And thanks to the factors above, OTG has been holding its own in most fights, meaning not only do we have PvP delivered to our front door, but nice loot as well.

Owning and actively living out of Kvit has been a major boon for OTG, and we are excited to continue building up the city and carving out a place for ourselves in Agon.


UO Forever: More lessons

January 28, 2013

UO Forever has been a great time so far, both from just a pure gameplay perspective and as a refresher of sorts on how the MMO genre got started and the design decisions that worked.

I’ve covered combat already, as well as talking about the slower pace and why that’s important. Keen has a post about his enjoyment of crafting, which I think touches on some of these points as well.

Quick comment on the crafting aspect; as I said on vent, mining in UO ‘works’ because you are advancing towards something that matters to you, in a way you want to. You mine to get ore, to get ingots, to skill up smithing, to smith better items, to place those items on a vendor, and ultimately to make that vendor known and have people come to you to shop. This ultimately makes you good money, but also gives you a bit of fame, carves out your spot in the world, and opens other doors (shoppers become friends or guild members, the gold is used to fund bigger projects, the vendor traffic attracts other shopkeepers to your area of the world, etc).

In other MMOs, a ‘crafter’ is just a monster slayer that happens to dump gold into a side profession (usually at a huge loss), and the ‘fix’ that many have added is to get monster slaying experience from the art of crafting. “Level to the cap from crafting” should not be seen as a step forward, it should be seen as a slap in the face to crafters. Of course, when the result of crafting is being an anonymous listing on some global AH, who really cares?

Moving on, the skill gain rates on UOF are interesting. Combat skills go up very quickly. You can max out the basics in about 10 hours, and all but a few skills (magic resistance being the main one) shortly after that. Crafting skills on the other hand are very slow.

The fast skill gains, IMO, just shorten one area of the game and get you into another faster. Had they been slow, players would have spent more time fighting weaker creatures, all while farming less gold/items while they skill up. Eventually many would have reached the cap, and what is happening now would have happened then, but instead that early phase was basically non-existent. If UOF had a sub fee, that would be bad design from a business standpoint. Since it does not, it might just lead people to burn out quicker.

That said, just because you are able to get some skills to the cap does not mean you are ‘done’. Far from it. My current goal is to buy a house to place in our guild city. Originally this was going to be a basic house for about 65k, but the farming has gone well and along with a buddy, we have decided to go big and aim buy a two story for 150k. We are currently about 50k short of that goal.

And once we buy and place the house, it opens up some additional options for us. We will now have a base to PK out of. We will have a place to run a vendor from if we choose. And of course, we can’t leave it unfurnished, now can we?

By the time all of that’s done, who knows what other goals or options will pop up. Perhaps we will be in a guild war, or working to establish control of a particular dungeon. UO being a sandbox, the path is not pre-arranged and laid out for you to follow.

Finally, playing UOF reconfirms my belief that the reason UO retained subs for so long was because it’s a great game, not because it was the only MMO out (as if people didn’t have other gaming options back then…). It also confirms how massive of a mistake EA made when the trammeled it, and later butchered the IP with silly stuff like elves, ninjas, and whatever else is in the current paid version of the game. To think that UO could have been handled like EVE has been handled, expanded and enhanced while remaining true to its original design. Somehow I don’t think the genre would be quite as focuses on ‘personal stories’, instancing, or voice acting.

 


MMO housing IS gameplay

January 17, 2013

And yes, I’ve heard the Ultima Online house analogy. But until I can plant a flower box outside my POS, I don’t buy it. EVE ain’t Minecraft.

Going to pick on Jester a bit in this post. I say pick on because while Jester is extremely knowledgeable about EVE (and writes the best blog about it), his overall MMO experience is somewhat limited, and I’m 99% sure he did not play UO and experience its housing.

So with that said, flowers did not make UO housing. Not even a little bit. And ‘flowers’ would not be what would make EVE’s POS revamp. ‘Flower’ housing systems, like what LotRO has, suck. They are pointless, vapid wastes of instances space. That type of housing has zero gameplay. But that’s not what UO had.

The reason housing in UO was amazing gameplay was because it centralized you in a huge world. Without a house, you lived out of an NPC city, and those cities were not ‘yours’. As soon as you had a house, that was YOUR spot. Everything around you was important, because it was connected to YOUR spot in the world. That alone is perhaps the biggest retention ‘hook’ in the genre.

But housing in UO went further than just claiming land. It also opened up options such as running a vendor, or a crafting station near a mine, or just being a guild house for everyone to store items in and work out of. Each of those avenues further branched out. Once you start running a vendor, you care a lot more about the economy, and what items are worth. Or you go into crafting to ensure supply. Or you make connections to a crafting guild to work out a deal.

Point being, a house is the central point of the giant spiderweb we call sandbox content, and it’s a damn crime so many MMOs do it so poorly or don’t even do it at all.

Returning back to EVE, running a POS is painful. Really, really painful. No one likes it, very few tolerate it. Yet even in the sludge that is the current system, you have some interesting gameplay. Jester himself covers one example here.

Now imagine if CCP removed the sludge of the horrible UI you have to use to place POS guns, or the mishmash that is placing refineries and hangers. Designing a house/POS should be fun, like it is in UO. It should allow talented individuals to do something like the deathstar, but to the degree EVE lets you do things (think EVE market manipulation vs WoW kiddie pool economy).

And if newish players are given the chance to jump in and setup a small home, how many new players does that bring in? What kind of splash would a video showing the creation of a great looking and function POS make in the media? Hell, new players often struggle to define a ‘why’ in EVE; and building/growing your POS could be just the ticket. Reach a certain size, and the game should naturally encourage you to branch out, socialize, and work with others to continue on, much like UO subconsciously did way back in 1997. Again, the problem has been solved. The solution has simply been forgotten and drowned out in WoW-clone me-too trash design.


Darkfall:UW – Best Case

November 6, 2012

With Darkfall set to release in two weeks, I want to write down my expectations for the game. Today will be a best-case post, while tomorrow I’ll do worst-case. If nothing else, it will be interesting to revisit these post-release and see how Aventurine did and how DF2 ended up.

Best Case

The launch will be smooth from a performance standpoint, as the three years of DF1 experience will have refined the engine and stabilized it. Queues will still occur but won’t be ridiculous (over 1hr) in the first week or so, and player populations will be similar to levels experienced when DF1 launched the EU server. Server stability will be good, with minimal or no crashing. Hacking and exploits will be kept in check like they were in the later years of DF1.

The game will feel like DF1, but refined with the new roles and skills. Progression will still matter, but without obvious “must grind” skills like swimming or running. The early days/weeks will be heavily focused on character development and world explorations, with PvP happening when hunting parties cross naturally rather than along pre-defined PvP routes. The early land grab will be an interesting scramble, and the true value of each holding won’t be known until everything settles down and cities/hamlets/villages are built up.

The game will look similar to DF1 graphically, but with a nice facelift in terms of animations, lighting, sound, and overall feel. Much like DF1 in 2009, it won’t be cutting edge, but it will hold its own and the graphics will get the job done. Agon itself will be a better –designed version of its old self, with more places of interest and fewer barren spots. The three years of watching player behavior in old Agon will result in AV crafting a better, simply more interesting version, retaining the aspects that made the world interesting (magic lifts, high mountains, hidden passes) but removing the troublesome parts (one-entrance cities, imbalanced resource allocation).

The safe zones will allow players new to the DF experience to settle in before jumping into the deep end. Clans that are still forming will have a place to grow and learn. Veteran players will shortly leave these areas for the much richer lands beyond, but a sizable population of players will always occupy the safe zones. This will in turn allow DF2 to retain players better, and more of those new to the experience will be converted into core players rather than being driven off before really seeing what DF is about.

Those core players will have an environment that is busy and politically complex. Empires will rise and fall much like they did in the early EU days. PvP strategies will develop around specific roles, but then get countered by other roles and battle plans. The ‘grind everything’ character will not be the end-goal for everyone, and this will keep PvP interesting.

Crafting will be a refined version of DF1 crafting, with more designed being overall viable. With harvesting and resource placement redone, the DF2 economy will be stronger than anything DF1 saw, and ‘playing the market’ will become a legitimate role.

Finally, AV will have the resources to support DF2 much like they did for the first year or so of DF1, with frequent small updates and bi-annual expansions. This in turn will keep the core players playing while also attracting new ones.

Edit: Eurogamer will review DF2 and give it a 6/10, assigning someone who will actually login before writing it up.


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