Darkfall: Unholy Wars going F2P and other problems sink it

June 20, 2014

Darkfall and I have had an interesting history (the fact that I heard about the first game from Tobold entertains me to this day), and unfortunately I think this post marks the final chapter. The game is going in multiple directions that don’t appeal to me, the community has lost those who make the game worth playing overall, and comical developer incompetence and corruption was the final little push I needed to finally move on.

Let’s start with the game itself. Recently a cash shop was added, which sets the stage for the game’s F2P conversion coming ‘soon’ (it’s already F2P in Asia). I was asked here a while back if I would continue to support DF even if it went F2P, and at the time I said I would not. This is made all the easier since buying more than just fluff is already in the shop. You can pay AV $5 for a prowess (XP) reset, which is pretty ‘convenient’ when you have a game in constant flux due to a massive combat overhaul and general developer indecision about balance and the direction of the game. How many times will someone accept their current build being nerfed into the ground and told they can fix it for just $5 before they get fed up?

Plus how many times have MMO players heard the song and dance from developers about not selling power when F2P is announced, and a few months later the cash shop is offering you the One Ring? When things get dire, devs get desperate, and DF:UW’s core issues persist to this day.

And what are those core issues? The main one is the game is still an oversized arena PvP game, rather than an MMO. There is no reason to PvP other than for the sake of PvP, and this is reflected in the quality of the playerbase. Where games like EVE have people like The Mittani creating content for tens of thousands of players, those key people have long since left Darkfall, and in their place stand directionless ‘leaders’ providing little if any content. Even DF1 was able to initially attract some of these valuable players (Manus, Glut, Osium, etc), which is what kept that game’s meta interesting for the first two years or so. But as they saw the state of DF:UW’s beta, and the general design flaws of the game, they never even bothered showing up on day one. Inq to this day mocks me about trying to get them to give the game another shot.

The above is also why DF:UW gets laughable indifference from so many EVE players. My alliance would always wonder what I see in a game with no long-term plan, goal, or point, and admittedly I look a bit foolish now with my “they are working on that guys!” enthusiasm, because nope, they really aren’t. So why grind up to play in an arena when you can play a better version of exactly that in games like Chivalry or even your MOBA of choice. At least those games understand what they are, rather than awkwardly pretending to be something they clearly are not capable of delivering.

A more recent core problem has been the combat overhaul. To say it’s a surprising disaster would be unfair, because if you didn’t see it being a disaster pre-release you must be painfully blind. Imagine if CCP, in the name of ‘player freedom’, allowed any ship to fit a doomsday on it, and the balance explanation provided was that since everyone can use it, it’s balanced. That’s what AV did with DF:UW recently. I wish I was joking, but I’m not. They took armor, weapons, and skills all previously designed and balanced around fitting into classes, and just removed the concept of classes without the overhaul to everything needed to make it work. At least in DF1, which had the same ‘everyone can be everything’ system, balance was attempted with that in mind since day one. It was bad, but not “lulz doomsday spam” bad.

The result is not just the expected FOTM lameness that happens in every MMO with such a system that has poor checks and balances, but that combat overall is a cheesefest of who can come up with the cheapest AoE/CC combo to drop people with because nothing was designed with this system in mind. Imagine DAoC roaming 8s cheese but turned up to 11, and that’s DF:UW. The only reason the abuse isn’t nearly as bad as you might expect right now is because of the above point; the playerbase doesn’t have the top-tier talent to create the best builds quickly, but those who remain will eventually get there.

The above are further hurt by the still woefully pointless economy, made more comical by F2P-forbearing gimmicks such as double loot weekends. Having a ‘full bank’ in DF:UW is trivial, and once that happens, it’s just another brick stacked on top of the directionless mess that the game is overall. Again, imagine playing EVE with limitless ISK and you get a good idea of what DF:UW offers once you grind it out for a month or so.

The final and minor side note is how AV handles their community. The most toxic members are left unchecked, especially in-game, where global chat will drive away anyone who has evolved beyond 8th grade gym humor and the lowest of internet meme trash. On the forums the moderation team is all over the place, at times deleting an entire and often valuable thread due to one post, while at other times leaving a cesspool up no matter how low it gets.

When members of the community would try to work with moderators in a productive manner, the end-result was as likely a temp-ban for the one making the effort as it might be for those destroying it, depending on which moderator you happen to get. Double-speak excuses were put forth when confronted about this regardless of how far someone escalated things, which ultimately resulted in many once-helpful people leaving the game in disgust.

To list just one sad example, the head community manager specifically stated that since they somehow can’t verify the content of personal messages on their own forums (yup…), they won’t take any action for that content. If you ever want a place to throw out death threats without consequence, Darkfall is your place. Hell, it already has an Erotica1 clone running rampant, without that pesky CCP getting in the way of those community-building torture sessions.

Even the once-productive MVP forum has so many like-minded people included now that it really serves no purpose, especially since AV has stopped sharing key details and instead are now just throwing out pie-in-the-sky ideas (alignment system, one-off quests, etc) without following up. Even small, silly things like there recent survey, with all its mistakes, could have easily been improved with some feedback, but they don’t use the resources available to them for whatever reason.

Much like Shadowbane and other PvP focused MMOs that have come before it, I think future developers can learn a thing or two from this experiment, and hopefully MMOs like Pathfinder take some of these lessons to heart to become successful titles. This was a good run, with at least as many highs as lows, but with F2P lurking and things overall not improving (the number of bugs and exploits in the game right now is almost back-to-beta bad), it’s time to put DF:UW down.


Shameless Steam Card begging round 2

June 19, 2014

If we are not friends on Steam we should be: Syncaine

If you have Steam cards you don’t want, I’ll happily take them. Think of it as a small token for entertaining and educating the unwashed masses all these years.

/end shameless begging… for now.

Eador’s depth is borderline silly

June 17, 2014

Aside from playing lots of Clash of Clans, the only other game I’m currently playing a good amount of is Eador: Masters of the Broken World. The more I play, the deeper that rabbit hole gets, and there is nothing I enjoy more than a TBS title that doesn’t plateau out or revert into abusing a gimmick over and over.

Side note first: I now have Eador on Steam, because when the recent DLC came out, the version on GoG broke. I couldn’t load a saved game, and the fix didn’t arrive for a week or so. That didn’t work for me, not to mention I just generally like having a game on Steam, so I re-bought it on that platform along with the DLC. The game is worth it anyway, especially at the $20 or so price.

Back to that rabbit hole, in my current game I have a large army lead by a commander that has racked up a ton of experience, resulting in high-level lower-tier units. One of those units is a slinger, the weakest archer in the game, who is now a beast at level 25.

At each level you pick one out of two upgrades, and usually these upgrades are a small stat boost (+1 atk, +1 hp, +1 ranged def, etc), but every five or so levels you get something more significant, like a range increase, shooting poison bullets, or gaining a new spell. That level 25 slinger now has great range, shoots armor-piercing rocks, has the double-shot ability, and has enough hit points to survive a single spell or arrow thrown at him, allowing healers to save him round-to-round.

He is just one example. My tier one pikeman is another; amazing counter-attack power, first-strike, and the ability to hit from two tiles away (no counter-attack vs that). My healers have gained spells to act as buff-bots, my halberdiers have holy smite to deal with physically-immune monsters, and my knights have enough speed and hitting power to cross the battlefield in one turn to charge down enemy spell casters or other high-value targets.

What’s really crazy here is those units are just a sample of one of the three major unit lines (good, neutral, evil) you can recruit in your castle. There are also a crazy amount of random units, units you can summon (demons), undead you can raise, and now, with the DLC, six different factions (elves, dwarves, goblins, ect) you can ally to gain access to their units. It’s borderline insane when you step back and think about all of the development and army composition options you have.

If you haven’t picked this game up and are a TBS fan, do so now. (Warning, learning curve can be EVE-like, but much like EVE, it’s oh-so-worthwhile)

Honest Trailer: FFVII

June 16, 2014

Worth watching.

Big boy toys

June 12, 2014

It wasn’t THAT long ago when video games were considered a kid’s toy. Now when someone asks me when I’m going to stop playing ‘games’, I tell them hopefully the afterlife has solid broadband.

Given the above, it makes sense that along with gaming content (‘mature’ themes) changing, pricing models and levels have also been changing. A kid’s toy maxing out at $50 makes sense. Little Billy isn’t the one holding the wallet, which makes picking up a $200 in-game shiny difficult if not impossible for him. Someone a little older and successful can decide between going out to dinner for $200 or buying said shiny, and a serious argument can be made in what has more real ‘value’.

TAGN has a post up about Shroud of the Avatar selling in-game towns for real money, and these are not micro transactions. The smallest option comes in at $750, while the largest is $4000. Those prices are beyond just a decent dinner out, but if you are in a long-standing guild with successful people, splitting even $4000 between 20 or so players starts to sound a whole lot more manageable.

Star Citizen, also mentioned by TAGN, is another example of this growing trend, and just like SotA, if you have the means knock yourself out.

I’m perfectly fine with games like this so long as you know up-front what is going on. While I personally haven’t enjoy my wallet winning for me since giving up Magic The Gathering, if that does it for others more power to them. If a game I’m currently playing switches over to wallet-warrioring, I have a problem, but here both games have been upfront since day one. No one can say they didn’t know what they were signing up for here.

Clash of Clan tips

June 11, 2014

In addition to these 10 great tips, here are some of my observations from having played a decent amount of Clash of Clans now.

1) Learn the wallbreakers AI as best you can, as they are the key to an attack strategy (especially when using giants). They will aim for weaker walls when possible, but generally they will try to blow up whatever is closest, which in a good base won’t be an ideal opening. This can be countered by using 1-2 breakers on the first wall, and then following shortly after with 2-3 more to open the wall you really want. Once you get the hang of their AI, you can use them to really guide your giants around a base, greatly improving your chances of a successful raid.

2) Similarly, learn the giants AI. They are easier as they will attack the closest defensive structure, but good wall/maze placement can really reduce their efficiency. AoE (mortars and wizards) are their main counter, so you will want to open up holes to those defenses first if possible. If using in combination with healers, take out the local air defense, but then also try to get the giants away from a lot of the defenses to give your healers a little more time to heal them up. Done well, this can be almost unstoppable.

3) Keep the two tips above in mind when designing your base. Try to create something that is difficult to exploit with only a few wall breakers, while also making sure giants can’t easily move around and soak up all the damage. Trap placement is key here, especially spring traps. The best way to refine your base design is to watch replays of attacks against it; see where people like to deploy against you, see how the AI moved attackers around your base, and try to move things around as needed. No base is impossible to raid, but the harder you make it, the less people will try.

4) During clan wars, if you are a stronger member of your clan, wait until later to use your attacks. Let your newer/weaker players attack who they can get stars off, and then come in after to clean up.

5) Whoever in your clan has access to the best defense troops (high level wizards work best) should be filling the clan war defenders first. If you are a newer player, don’t put your low level troops in. Also ask the higher level players to give you a dragon if possible for attacking. Especially against weaker bases, one high-level dragon can make a major difference.

6) Buff spells (healing, rage, etc) work best when used on the most troops possible, so don’t wait too long during a raid. Dropping a heal on 5 giants who are all red isn’t going to help you as much as dropping it on 15 who are currently taking a bit of AoE damage (especially if you are not using healers). Rage is the same way; the earlier you drop it, the more troops you are going to buff, which will mean they all help destroy the base (and defenses) that much quicker, reducing future casualties.

7) When attacking, the first thing you should always do is draw out the defending troops. Just drop a single archer or barb close enough to the castle to spawn them, and once that single unit is dead either drop your lighting spell or use another single troop to pull them out further. Wizards are great at taking out clumps of units; use this offensively, and beware of it when attacking, especially since wizards will survive a lighting spell.

8) Visit the villages of your clan mates to get ideas for base defense. Watch linked replays, and if you have a good example, link your own.

9) Upgrading defenses is more important than upgrading walls, especially once walls start costing a lot of gold (75k per wall). Don’t be tempted by the quick, cheaper option of walls, save up for defensive upgrades.

10) Finally, once you have access to heroes, take the time to figure their AI out as well. The barb king loves hitting everything on the outside of a base, often walking into defenses and getting himself killed for little gain. If used correctly, he can be a huge boost to an attack, but he is harder to use than most options. Also don’t forget to upgrade him as well; it takes a lot of dark elixir, but it’s very worthwhile!

If anyone has additions tips/suggestions, feel free to post them in the comments section. Happy raiding!

DF:UW – Day of reckoning

June 10, 2014

Today Aventurine is releasing their class removal, combat overhaul update to Darkfall: Unholy Wars.

If the next few weeks aren’t a complete balance cluster, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Worst-case here IMO is that a build that completely trivializes PvE is left unchecked for weeks and further sends the economy into the toilet. I fully expect cheese builds/combos to rule the day for a while as well.

If combat diversity goes up and more skills are used tomorrow than yesterday, I’ll be shocked. MMO history has shown that the more ‘freedom’ you give players related to character options, the more players will gravitate towards a FOTM build while avoiding false-choice options. A game being focused around PvP means you either adapt or perish (bonus point if you get that reference), so ‘doesn’t work as well but it’s fun’ builds reduce you to a loot piñata.

Ultimately however if the game is more fun to more people and the population increases and is able to sustain/grow, that’s all that matters. We’ll know the answer to that in a few months. The ‘new’ AV, if IMO a bit misguided, at least seems very committed to making the game work and putting in the time to make that happen, unlike what they have done in previous years. Hopefully that’s rewarded, and today’s major gamble works out for them.

Edit: Just noticed an item shop (prowess reset and name change currently) is also included. Yay…


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