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.


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 video – Enemy perspective from the AT siege

March 11, 2014

Enjoyable watch, quality goes from average to good.

Highlights: I die towards the end. Video starts when they have both boats already in the water. Video ends right as we start turning the fight and take out the siege stones before going on to the enemy hamlet and capturing that.

Still don’t understand why they didn’t push into the hamlet once the first tower was down, but glad they didn’t.


DF:UW – Sweet peaks

March 10, 2014

I write often about the highs and lows a great MMO can take you on vs the sustained averageness of far too many MMOs today. I think in many ways that is the core difference between an MMO and all other forms of gaming; in any other genre getting a solid 15-80hr experience is seen as a successful title, while only getting 100hrs or so out of an MMO is seen as a failure, regardless of how great that 100hrs was.

Since release I’ve had my ups and downs with Darkfall: Unholy Wars. It was in possibly the worst shape I’ve seen an MMO be in beta, to the extent that all of Inquisition decided not to play the game at release. I’ve talked often about how DF:UW was intended to fix the flaws of DF1 and also build on the core (best combat in the genre), and while AV got some things right, some critical flaws remained.

At the same time, here we are in 2014, and the MMO genre still sucks overall, we still have EVE as the only title to get it ‘right’, and so many recent entries are either entirely forgettable (GW2) or hilariously bad (SW:TOR). Yet AV keeps plugging away at DF:UW, trying to improve one of the only decent sandbox titles we have, so it would be rather hypocritical of me to ignore that, especially as I have already wallet-voted for ESO, possibly yet another themepark (the ‘possibly’ is for a different post).

I noted that I resubbed when AV added gear destruction from PvP, because IMO that one changed fixed the biggest core flaw the game had; an unchecked economy. More changes are still needed, and AV doesn’t have the greatest track record in terms of delivery time, but it’s still progress in the right direction, and in the MMO genre until the servers are down, I believe you are never truly out.

The above four paragraphs is a long-winded setup for the events that happened Sunday night. (Spoiler alert: high peak incoming).

I’m currently in a clan named Last Call, which is part of the Sick Bastards alliance. I’m there because of my buddy Rynnik, who I also followed to Proxy from OTG. Hopefully Last Call doesn’t disband like Proxy did. If they do, I blame Rynnik. The clan is a great group of people, and the alliance includes many MVPs I’ve talked/argued/insulted via Forumfall. On that front, so far so good, and having a good group to play with is perhaps the most important part of enjoying yourself.

On Sunday we had some siege action. First our hamlet was sieged by a rival alliance, and we shortly after dropped a siege on their hamlet, the timers being just minutes apart.

The action started off in our hamlet, first with some small (10v10) skirmishes, later escalating into bigger action. At one point the enemy spawned a boat in the small lake near our hamlet, using the cannon to damage our zap tower. We countered with a boat of our own, and ended up sinking their ship while holding their players off long enough to get the job done.

A bit later they spawned another two boats, but this time they were able to keep us off and the boats disabled one of our towers. As this happened, they made a large push into the hamlet itself, and were able to wipe us. I thought at this point we had lost, because most of us were bound at the hamlet and regearing would have been nearly impossible with the enemy right there.

Oddly enough, they instead just looted our tombs and backed out, giving us a chance to regroup and regear. We did just that, and counter-pushed to the siege stones. Someone from our alliance dropped one of the new deployable land cannons, and through heavy fighting that went back and forth for a long stretch of time (and four gear bags for me) we held the enemy forces off long enough for that cannon to take down the siege stones, winning us the siege and ending the threat to our hamlet.

After our successful defense we rode quickly to the nearby enemy hamlet we were sieging. As we rode, we were getting updates that the enemy was trying to destroy our stones, and our defenders were badly outnumbered and just looking to buy as much time as possible. They were successful, we arrived in time, and were able to not only defend the stones but a second force was able to rush the hamlet stone and destroy that with more cannons.

2/2 on sieges that night, not bad, especially considering we had constant action for over two hours without a single technical (lag, FPS) issue.

We then took out a Frigate that I captained for the Sea Fortress, but that is a story for tomorrow.


Payday the right way, DF:UW boats, ESO beta

February 28, 2014

Random bits on a Friday.

Payday 2 received a nice free update recently, adding a new difficulty level to every heist and two new enemies, among other changes. The game continues to be another good example of how to support your game post-release, mixing DLC and free updates to keep people interested while still making money. Certainly it’s been one of the better games I’ve purchased in recent years, and is still highly recommended.

Went to a Sea Fortress recently in Darkfall. We had ten with us, and I was driving the boat. When we initially arrived we saw a few other boats fighting it out, and the hitpoints of the Sea Fortress were also dropping. We rolled the dice and tried to get the last hit on the tower, but no luck there. We then engaged one boat with cannon fire, only to eventually be swarmed by 4-5 large boats and another 3-4 smaller ships all from the same alliance. We held out for a bit, as I tried to sail the ship in such a way as to reduce the number of enemy cannons able to hit us, but eventually our boat was too damaged (slows the boat), the enemy ships caught up, and we got swarmed. Good times, and credit to the enemy for bringing so many people.

Finally, ESO beta is this weekend, and I’ve got a nice crew interested in the game. I don’t know if INQ is officially going to jump into the game, but either way I’m in and will have a guild up. Hoping to see some of the dungeon content this weekend, and maybe jump into the RvR area as well.


Themeparks: PvP is the filler between the cracks

February 25, 2014

Wilhelm is asking if an MMO must contain PvP. It’s actually a more interesting question when you really thing about it, especially if you limit the discussion to themeparks (the answer for sandboxes has its own tab on this blog).

Instinctively you might want to say ‘no’ for themeparks, because they are PvE focused and you would want that to remain the focus. Makes sense, on paper. But in reality, themepark PvE content is often one-and-done, and what is repeatable (daily quests, raiding) is often tied to some long term, but still one-and-done reward (rep grind, raid gear).

PvP shouldn’t be the focus, but rather play the role of filler between content updates. From my experience I think vanilla WoW did this best. Whether you were waiting for a raid to reset or had a night off, battlegrounds provided a nice side activity, made more rewarding as you could use your raid gear to get an edge (though not a brutally overpowered one from MC/BWL gear).

As time went on PvP in WoW got a bit silly, first with PvP-specific gear and later with rankings and all that stuff. It went from being a fun side activity to a game-within-a-game. It also didn’t help that all of the talent on the WoW team left and the interns ran the place, but we know that story.

I like, on paper, what ESO has planned. Once you reach the level cap, you can still PvE to gain more skill points for horizontal progression (you can only use a small number of skills at one time, so getting more skill points to open more skills doesn’t increase your power, just gives you options), but you can also get into the 3-way RvR battle areas. I think the limit to horizontal progression will help the PvP balance a great deal, as will the fact that (as of now) the best gear comes from crafting, not PvE, raiding, or PvP. Assuming that stays mostly true (a few items being BiS from non-crafting is fine IMO, so long as most stuff comes from crafting and the gap isn’t too great), I can see the model working.

I can further see it working because as players spend time on the repeatable content that is RvR, Bethesda will be given time to expand the PvE offerings. I don’t think ESO players will experience running into a ‘content wall’ like in SW:TOR.

So my answer to the question is yes, you do need PvP, but at the same time you need to ensure that the PvP remains a low dev time, high repeat, limited impact aspect. Not easy to get right, but certainly pays off if you do.

 


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 – If everyone had diamonds

February 17, 2014

As previously noted, Darkfall: Unholy Wars took a huge step towards becoming a sustainable sandbox with the recent increase in gear loss from PvP. As some have asked, I don’t know if it’s enough, but it’s certainly a start, and more importantly shows that AV is serious about the game and making it something worthwhile for the long run to MMO players, rather than continuing down the path of creating an oversized, risk-free PvP arena game.

This post isn’t about analyzing the change however, as it’s much too early to do that. Instead let’s see how Forumfall is taking the news (this below is a reply to how PvE would work as a sink, since the poster suggested that would be a better solution than a sink from PvP):

Remove resources? I don’t care if resources are removed or not, you do. I want active activities like mob farming to actually be worth it. Why? Because I actually play the game. I want to see an active world, and I want contested mob spawns. Does that mean make bandits drop 50 neithal essences each? No, it doesn’t. Give us open world mobs that are actually worth farming though. The Golems would be a great start, limited amount of them in the world, and they have a fairly high respawn timer.

The above is the best of the worst, at least in terms of the content/froth ratio that runs rampant on Forumfall. It does, of course, completely fall on its face in terms of logic, and that really is the point here.

For a long time I had feared that AV was listening to Forumfall too much, and were just doing what Forumfall said it wanted. I think the above post is a nice highlight of that. The player is asking for mobs to be ‘worthwhile’, at the same time that he is saying he doesn’t care to balance how resources enter and exit the game.

Bad AV would just do what was asked, buff mobs, and a month later Forumfall would once again ask for mobs to be made ‘worthwhile’, or more likely complain that non-mob rewards are now ‘worthless’, and to buff those. This, of course, assumes there still exists anything of value, an end-point that DF:UW was rapidly approaching, with most already regularly PvP’ing in the second-best gear (r70). Once R80 is common, what then? Do a themepark-style soft-reset?

So as predicted, the usual suspects of Forumfall are throwing their hissy fit as they experience actual consequence for PvPing. What is surprising, and encouraging, is that others on Forumfall are seeing the benefits of this addition, and trying to push back the idiocy. Ultimately it doesn’t matter so long as AV continues to show a basic understand of MMO design and what’s important to keep a game going.

Furthermore, most of those currently complaining will change their tune, as AV is finally able to add more meaningful and interesting faucets to the game, and those faucets will stay relevant for longer than a week. On that front they have some good plans, and recent actions suggest they will correctly follow-through on said plans.

As for the game’s future overall, as multiple MMOs have shown in the past, a game can slowly build itself back when its core issues are fixed and things start working again. Launch is the best time to grab the most players, certainly, but especially in the MMO niche space, where DF:UW resides, players have limited quality options, and are more than willing to revisit something if they hear it has improved. If AV continues down the path they have set out on with the last update, they will be successful. Here’s hoping.


DF:UW – Take care of the sheep to keep the wolves

November 27, 2013

The biggest challenge for any PvP sandbox developer is figuring out how to keep the sheep around. The easiest challenge is figuring out how to keep the wolves. If you look at the history of this MMO sub-genre, it’s not difficult to notice a pattern of developers focusing on the wolves, losing the sheep, and then seeing the wolves lose interest as well, despite making so many of the changes they asked for.

Darkfall 1 can be added to the list above. DF:UW may or may not qualify just yet.

So let’s talk about those sheep, because I think they might be the most misunderstood group around. If you have already taken the first step, and have bought a game like DF or EVE, you are already in a different class of player than the ‘normal’ PvE themepark player (I’d write that makes you better, but then someone would point out I’m an egotistical asshole and my feelings would get all hurt :tear: ).

That said, simply because you have taken the first step does not mean you instantly fall into the wolf category. Far from it actually. What the vast majority of these players are looking for is actually a very PvE-focused, social (no not that kind of ‘social) experience, just with the flavoring of an open world and PvP. They don’t play in spite of the PvP, but they also don’t only play for it. The “PvP Only” crowd, while very vocal, is always a tiny minority. For every Hydra Reloaded, you have dozens of EVE Uni pilots. For every Zealot, you have dozens of Empire players.

The game in question needs to cater to the sheep in order to survive. It must allow them to grow despite the efforts of the wolves, and it must be a better, more interested PvE experience than what they could get in ‘safer’ MMOs. Certainly leveraging the open world PvP aspect here is key, as you can’t compete straight-up on PvE, but there is a fine line between leveraging and simply allowing PvP to be ‘the point’.

As is always the case, EVE gets this right. Ganking in Empire space is still possible and can be very profitable, but it’s also very easy to avoid and really only effects the sheep who more or less should be ready for it (rich players). Null, while being the PvP-focused portion of the game, is also setup in such a way that the average cog player is not some PvP expert, but rather just another player in a giant Corporation/Alliance. The core PvPers are your FCs, CEOs, or the small-scale, elite Corps.

That said, the incentives are also there to get those Empire players out into more dangers space. Wormholes offer far more profitable PvE than known space, and both null and low-sec also hold advantages outside of simply allowing PvP. The balance however lies in the fact that in Empire, most of the game is still possible, if perhaps not optimal.

DF1 failed here because the influence of the core PvPers was far too great, both on the small and large scale. In small scale, a single great player could easily beat multiple weaker players, quickly recover, and continue on. On a larger scale, the smaller elite clans were often the deciding factor in a siege, and under the ‘merc’ tag, basically strangled the game’s political aspect.

DF:UW is better on the small scale, where it’s more difficult for one player to go superman-mode in a fight. Player skill still creates a large gap, but not SO large as to be a major, insurmountable problem. This then translated into large scale combat as well, making ‘zerging’ more effective and giving large, casual clans better odds.

DF:UW current problem however is not PvP-based, its everything else. For the sheep, reach the state of being ‘done’ is fairly quick, and for them PvP’ing for the sake of PvP is not a major draw. There are no long-term goals to shoot for like in EVE, nor is the simple allure of more wealth there. In EVE sitting in a fully-fitted Titan (if we pretend that’s an end-game goal) is very difficult. In DF, reach the equivalent is trivial.

As for those wolves, they will remain so long as the sheep do. Oh, they will cry you rivers of tears when you make things more difficult for them and threaten to leave countless times, but don’t worry, they aren’t going anywhere. In part because their options are limited, but also because deep down, that play style naturally enjoys the challenge. Goons didn’t burn Jita because it was profitable, or because it was easy; they did it because CCP put up road blocks to try and dissuade them.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 161 other followers