Yesterday’s post started the discussion about the perception vs the reality of a new player’s role in Darkfall, and what chance that player has of really contributing to Darkfall’s ‘end-game’ of massive PvP. It also brought up the issue of what it really means to be a hero or MVP in an MMO vs just playing/looking the part.
The first point is of course highly dependent on just who is controlling that new character. If a top-tier veteran player rerolls, his chances of being the MVP of a battle are far better than those of a random player who has yet to find a clan, but that only points towards player freedom rather than game restrictions. That the ‘average’ new player is unlikely to find himself at the center of a massive siege has little to do with game mechanics; it’s all about the social dynamic that all good MMOs heavily rely on. If today one of my friends wants to get started in Darkfall, tomorrow he can fight alongside me at a siege, wearing good quality gear and potentially playing an important role.
To get more specific, there are many aspects of the game that a totally new character is every bit as good at as a veteran. Controlling a ship or warhulk, riding a mount (stam drain aside), firing a cannon, rezzing, looting, or ganking; all of these activities are completely independent of your character’s skills. Someone with everything at 100 will shoot a cannon just as far and deal just as much damage as someone with one hour played (and if the player behind the new character has good aim, he could very easily be better at this role than the veteran).
In addition to these ‘even’ activities, a new player can still deal a non-trivial amount of damage to other players (both melee and ranged with archery), still has enough HP to take a decent amount of hits, and if geared up, looks no different than a veteran, meaning the enemy can’t pick off the new guy or decide beforehand to ignore him.
This sounds limited and simple, but when compared to other MMOs it’s actually rather amazing. What can a level 1 character do in WoW even if he belongs to a top-tier guild? He can’t hit anyone/anything. He can’t ride a mount. He dies in one hit, be it direct or AoE. He can’t rez others or finish off opponents. He can’t equip top-end gear to make himself look like a veteran or to help close the stat gap. Hell most likely he can’t even enter the same area his guildmates enter. All he can do is watch and wait until a lvl 80 comes by and one-shot whacks him. Not only this, but the situation does not change until you hit the level cap and very possibly grind out X tokens or whatever to gear up, and no amount of player skill or guild support will help close this gap. The same applies to LotRO, WAR, and I’m sure countless other MMOs.
Even EVE, which does allow newer pilots to contribute to fleet warfare far quicker than most MMOs, does not allow as much freedom or options as Darkfall offers to a new character. Flying a frigate is not nearly the same as being the captain of a Man-o-War, or roasting an incoming wave of players with a flame cannon.
Oh and roasting an incoming wave of players with a flame cannon is the stuff of legend, which brings me to the second topic; being a hero. In MMOs like WoW there is no shortage of NPCs telling you that you just saved the farm/village/world, and every other item you trip over is some legendary artifact of godslaying power. Yet what can actually be accomplished in-game that would truly make you a hero is so very limited. The guild that opened the gates of AQ did something special (per server), world first guilds do something special, and the top arena team is distinguished. But when you look at what is possible in WoW, the hero/grunt ratio is amazingly lopsided. Your odds of being part of a world first, a top arena team, or the focal point of a one-off event (do those even happen anymore?) are incredibly slim.
No, the closest you will get to playing the role of a hero will be when your guild, thanks to a 25% ezmode buff, takes down the same boss someone got a world-first on a few months ago, walking in their exact steps since you just watched their youtube video telling you what to do. But don’t worry, the NPC at the end will still call you a hero, and you will still wear your godslayer trinket with pride. Just like the thousands of others before you, and the thousands of others who will follow. Being a superhero is not all that special when you live in a world where the superheroes outnumber the ‘normal’ people, just like saving the world is a rather dull event when it’s your 29th time doing it, this week, and you only need to save it 43 more times to earn your sack of godslaying fairy dust.
In contrast, there are no ‘save the world’ quests in Darkfall. There are no ‘unique’ items. There are no ‘final’ bosses to slay or ‘final’ dungeons/areas to complete. A city can be sieged, resieged, and resieged again. A lost ship or warhulk can be remade, a destroyed city rebuilt, and any lost gear can be collected again. And yet I’ve had nights that far and away blow any ‘epic’ quest out of the water in terms of being a memorable, heart pounding, hold-your-breath-till-the-end event.
I play on a server where anyone remotely involved knows who the top players are, knows just how good they are, and knows to fear/respect them on the battlefield. I play on a server that is, more or less, controlled by just a few influential individuals all vying for power, where one move will shape not only the course of their clan and alliance, but of countless others. And I play a game where, in the right situation, I can take down one of those feared players, or turn the tide of a battle and a war to crush one leader’s dreams and position another for power. I can witness, take part in, and potentially influence the outcome of an event that affects close to everyone on the server. And it’s this potential that eventually leads to heroic moments and legendary events. They don’t happen daily, and you might never be in just the right situation to be an unlikely hero, but the fact that the possibility exists is what makes it a thrilling virtual world.
I’d much rather have the possibility of being an actual hero than to be called one in an indistinguishable sea of them.
Chuck-o-the-day: Chuck Norris employs a stunt double for his crying scenes.
(DarkFall-related post disclaimer/reminder. If you click the image link near the top-right of this page and buy a DarkFall account, I get paid 20% of the client cost. If you believe this taints my views and reporting on DarkFall, your opinion is wrong.)