Readers here know that I like MMOs (hence, you know, this here MMO blog). And unless this is the first post you are reading here (hi), you know I prefer my MMOs to be more sandbox/virtual world than themepark, and I express that opinion often and generally with examples. This is one of those posts. Enjoy.
One difference between playing a themepark and a sandbox happens even before you log in. In a themepark, you pretty much know what you are going to be doing that login, be it a quest, a raid, some instanced PvP, whatever. And short of a miracle, odds are good you are actually going to do what you logged in to do (and if you logged into WoW, you will succeed, 100% of the time).
In a good sandbox, before you log in you will have something you want to do, but sometimes the sandbox will have other ideas and you end up doing something completely different. Those moments are usually memorable too. You head out to mine and you get ganked. You go to farm some mobs and a clan war breaks out. You log in to find your Corp has been war-decced. Someone did some really crazy stuff with the local/world economy. Etc.
The themepark model relies on giving you a consistent drip of fun, and the longer you play, the higher the dosage you need just to get the same high. Many confuse this with burnout, but really it’s just the core flaw in the model. A good sandbox is a continuous set of peaks and valleys, and those memorable peaks justify the mundane valleys. Blowing up a Titan is special because a lot of time was spent shooting a mining laser at a rock to build it. A city siege is an event because some clan spent hundreds if not thousands of game-hours building it up, living around it, and planning the virtual lives of its members around that location.
This weekend was an unusual string of peaks for me in Darkfall.
The first such peak happened when a group of OTG members got on a boat to go be pirates; we geared up and sailed out looking for other ships. Our ‘tracking method’ was to fish while sailing, and based on tiles empty of fish, we tried to pinpoint where a fishing ship or two might be located. It was an inexact science, but still fun.
After sailing much of the eastern ocean with little luck (but a lot of fish), we meet up with another ship from OTG and decided to sail back home to Cairn, splitting up so that we covered two tiles as we went. The ship that I was on and piloting had two of our members recall out, and with just three left we decided to pack the ship up and just recall back ourselves. As the others recalled, I despawned the boat, accidentally cancelling their recalls and setting off their timers (the boat disappearing caused them to fall into the ocean, whoops).
As we floated in the water, I spotted a boat sailing towards us. It would be just our luck that as soon as we despawn, a target comes along. The others quickly swam towards that boat and began shooting arrows and magic at the captain, causing him to attempt to dodge, which is a very slow process in a boat. Over Mumble I called out the target, and our other boat began to sail towards us in an attempt to cut them off. In a “wonder if this works” moment, I tried to spawn our boat from the water and much to my surprise, it worked. Climbing quickly on board, I sailed in pursuit.
After about two tiles of chasing, our second boat finally got itself into position, and the two members on board started shooting at the enemy captain. The more he dodged, the closer we got, and eventually his fate was sealed and he went down, leaving his boat floating in the water for us to claim. +1 pirate success!
Later in the weekend, I was riding around exploring on Cairn when I came across a random iron node. Needing to read something on my iPhone, I figured why not and started mining. About ten swings in, I heard the sounds of a mount approached, and turned to see if it was an alliance member or someone about to gank me. It was an enemy, and since I had just basic gear on me, I decided why the hell not and attacked.
Oddly, he turned to run immediately, even though our prowess levels were about even and he was a skirmisher in better gear. I chased on my mount, not expecting much to happen since unless someone makes a mistake, you can’t really catch up when both people are mounted. To my surprise, he started fleeing directly towards the ocean (mounts swim slower than players, so it’s never a good idea to enter water on a mount when combat is a possibility), and even more surprising, he jumped in and began mount swimming.
I got to the shore, jumped off my mount, and chased after him. A quick pursuit swim later, I was able to kill his mount with my starter staff bolt spell. He kept swimming, and I kept chasing. Then, he dived down deep into the water. I figured he was luring me into a deep underwater fight, and being a skirm, he would have the advantage, but since I had little to nothing on me, I figured what the hell and dove down as well. Rather than turning to shoot, he kept swimming, eventually leaving my line of sight. Lost him.
I swam a little further in the general direction of the pursuit and was about to swim back when I noticed something far off in the water. As I swam closer, I realized it was a player gravestone. Swimming closer still, it displayed the name of the player I was chasing. The guy hadn’t escaped; he drowned himself.
When I opened the gravestone, I figured out why he had panicked and run. He had a treasure map on him. Looting it and the rest of his (pretty decent) gear, I double-clicked the map and my assumption proved true; his treasure was very close to my initial mining spot. Very, very close in fact; just over a ridge and near the general flight zone of the local red dragon.
As I attempted to pinpoint the location, I noticed a player grave in some lava. Because “why not” was the theme of the day, I jumped in, got some nice burns, and looted it. Another treasure map, more decent gear. My lucky day! Oddly, this treasure map was nowhere close to Cairn based on the blinking, so this seemed like just a random death.
The fire dragon corrected me on the random part.
The ‘fun’ thing about the red dragon is it has a giant agro range as it flies high above. Sometimes it notices you and says hello, other times it keeps flying. Just as I was getting out of the lava, the dragon decided it was a good time to fireball me. That hurt, and flung me a good distance (luckily, not back into the lava). Not content with as single scorching, the dragon then showed me it also has a streaming breath attack that really, really hurts. Down I went. My guess is the gravestone in the lava was some poor soul that also experienced the above, but was additionally unlucky and died in the lava (insta-death). I simply had to wait out the revive timer and pray no enemy came by to gank me.
My luck held, I got up, and shortly after located the initial treasure and dug it up. 3k gold richer, I rode back to our bank and called it a day.
Finally, on Sunday I started my day by farming some ogre bullies just south of the human safe zone. Most (all?) ogre bully spawns are a PvP hot spot right now because completing their feat is worth a good chunk of prowess. As I farmed, another player ran into the spot, and I turned expecting a fight. However, when I looked at his prowess total I saw he was just at 4k (I’m at 17k), so rather than instantly attack I waited to see what he would do. He ran up, stopped next to me, and sent me a “hello” message. I said hello back and we grouped up to share the spawn.
About three mobs later, an enemy skirmisher that I’ve actually died to before ran up and started attacking. My new friend and I fought him for a bit, but the guy was good and eventually we both went down. Since I was bound to a chaos stone close by, I ran back to my corpse to see what loot was left. Luckily, the guy only looted some ore off me, leaving all my gear. After re-equipping, I went back to farming the bullies.
A few mobs later, the guy was back and attacked again. As I still had little of value on me (a bit of gold off the bullies), I figured more PvP practice never hurt and fought him, dragging the fight out by ducking behind trees to make it difficult for him to hit me with arrows and forcing him into running into melee range. The strategy worked in terms of delaying him and forcing him back, but I could never finish him and he was always able to dash away and recover. This cat and mouse game continued for a good bit of time.
Then someone on Mumble asked if I wanted to join their group that was about to start farming the bullies. I told him sure, but first we would have to take care of this enemy skirmisher. A bit more delaying later, they arrived and eventually killed the guy after a lengthy chase both in and out of the water. Recovering my previously looted ore and gold, I went on to finish the ogre bullies feat with the alliance group. Double success!
As the safe zone was close, and since I needed to do a bit of crafting, I said thanks for the group and headed north. Between me and the safe zone boarder was a small water inlet, and because this was just that kind of weekend, I spotted a boat sailing directly towards me. I called it out on Mumble, the ogre bullies group scrambled towards me, and I did my best to delay the boat with some archery shots.
The boat, with just two people on board, started to turn back towards the safe zone, but then suddenly stopped and just sat in the water. After the ‘wtf’ shock wore off, I climbed up the side of the boat and killed the mage who was not the captain (not much room to run on a boat). I then figured out why the boat had stopped; the captain had crashed/disconnected.
I waited for him to log back in, and when he did I fully expected a fight. Surprisingly, in a panic move, he instead started to steer the boat, no doubt hoping to hit the safe zone. He never even got close as I hacked him down. +1 boat, +2 graves!
And to top everything off, a SECOND boat had made its way down the inlet and got caught by my alliance group.
Pretty unreal weekend, and a very high peak in the sandbox.