DF:UW – This is how you should play in the sandbox

The shitstorm that is the Bonus Room controversy continues to rage, and as of now CCP hasn’t made a move. How all of that plays out will be very interesting to watch, but I want to put that aside for right now and talk about a different post from Jester.

The main thing I want to focus is the second-to-last quote, where Destiny talks about the sandbox and the players insisting that everyone play a certain way. Jester and Destiny are talking about EVE here, but I want to apply that to Darkfall.

My likely very biased opinion is that Darkfall is in a make-or-break period right now. AV has made a few solid changes (dura loss from PvP being the main one so far), and their plans for improving the conquest and territory control aspect of the game, if executed correctly, I believe will turn the game around, going from a “PvP for the sake of PvP” oversized arena to, you know, more of a sandbox with sustainable content and reasons for players to do things.

At the same time, there is a minority subset of current, but mostly former players that want AV to focus mostly on changing the combat back towards DF1; allowing for hyper-carries and for the elite to better handle larger groups of lesser players. They are convinced that the total appeal of DF is limited to what it is now, and that rather than attempting to expand that appeal, AV should instead just work on getting the ‘core’ base that loved DF1 back. They seem to ignore that said core wasn’t large enough for AV to keep DF1 going, and instead replaced it with DF:UW, but yea.

My overall take on this has been pretty simple; the only thing the elite actually need in a game like Darkfall is a population (targets), and one of the main things that drove people away from DF1 was said elites going superman on a group of casuals, over and over. League of Legends wouldn’t have the millions of players it has if Riot allowed the top 1% to regularity play ranked games against those far below them. There is a reason LoL exploded while DoTA itself never did; Riot fixed a lot of the core flaws of the game, chief among them the very idea of a hyper-carry (one player deciding the fate of 9 others in a game).

Most gamers are ok losing sometimes, but most won’t put up with getting smashed over and over. LoL controls the smashing, DF1 didn’t. DF:UW does to about the extent it really can. Numbers can help overcome skill, but at the same time an elite group can still run into double their numbers (or more) and win. That balance is in a good spot IMO, but AV has a bad tendency to listen to the Forumfall minority and shoot themselves in the foot.

As I said earlier, I think the game is coming up to a critical turning point moment, but I also have this fear (based on history) that AV will take one major step forward, and a giant leap back.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Combat Systems, Darkfall Online, EVE Online, MMO design. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to DF:UW – This is how you should play in the sandbox

  1. sid6.7 says:

    It’s a progression problem.

    Character progression stalls at 100k prowess for the one role players and stalls again at 300k for the jack-of-all-trades guys. That’s a big problem, but it’s not THE problem. You can work around not having character progression if you have strong sandbox elements that fill the void.

    Unfortunately, DF:UW doesn’t have these elements. The economy isn’t very deep, so progression related to growing wealth, gathering items, and is boring and you quickly reach end-game. This is what I call the “not enough sand in the sandbox” problem.

    I know you think that the dura-loss helps with the economy, and I’m not going to argue that point. However, it doesn’t solve for the REAL problem that Sandbox games rely on having diverse options and DF:UW doesn’t really offer many choices or options.

    The above two items are the REAL reason that DF:UW bleeds players and it’s been painfully obvious since beta. A player subscribes, they play until they hit that 100k wall (or 300k if they are the ambitious sort) and then quit.

    In fact, with regards to the economy and progression, there is really only one good example of something that DOES work in DF:UW. Naval combat and naval objectives.

    The rest of the game (holdings, territory control, villages, etc) had flaws. No question. But I believe that if the above was solid, players would have happily continued to deal with those flaws.

    So how do you make the economy deeper? I know some people hate this suggestion, but enchanting would help. Again, it’s about options. People want options. Likewise, a greater variety of equipment and armor — even if it’s near equivalent gear but just obtained it different ways.

    I know you love to hold EVE up as a shining example, so think about the sheer number of OPTIONS that you have in equipping a ship. Not to mention the sheer number of types of ships you can choose from to pilot. This is the piece that’s missing from Darkfall.

  2. Rynnik says:

    “So how do you make the economy deeper? I know some people hate this suggestion, but enchanting would help. Again, it’s about options. People want options. Likewise, a greater variety of equipment and armor — even if it’s near equivalent gear but just obtained it different ways.

    I know you love to hold EVE up as a shining example, so think about the sheer number of OPTIONS that you have in equipping a ship. Not to mention the sheer number of types of ships you can choose from to pilot. This is the piece that’s missing from Darkfall.”

    You rarely miss so completely. You are completly wrong about what drives the EVE economy and what lessons need to be learned from that in the context of DFs needs.


    This is a recent snapshot of a SMALL segment of economy that keeps EVE ticking along. So you are right about ‘depth’, but only in the most incidental sense. The ‘depth’ of EVE has very little to do with the number of ships you can pilot and the number of mods you can fit on them. Much the same way that enchanting will make fuck all difference to Darkfall if it is added with nothing else changed.

    Options don’t build economy.

    Syn, for no reason other than shear stupidity I am still holding my breath hoping that AV may not in fact step on its dick. It will only take one bad patch imo to make the situation unsalvageable but some how or another they have managed not to lose it so far. Small, slow pushes like they are doing and this game will be safe in a year, solid in five, and amazing in ten.

    Hope lives eternal.

    On a different note I had my wife read the Jester post on bonus room and she reaffirmed for me that my COMPLETE lack of giving a shit for any of the involved parties is warranted. Either I married a beautiful beautiful psycho (I didn’t) or the forum noise ref the incident is retarded beyond words.

    • Rammstein says:

      Sid is actually right about drawing a comparison to EVE, but the metaphor he chooses to use is wrong. A well fitted titan in EVE takes both minerals from null, minerals from high, and officer mods from plexes. Those officer mods are farmed by ships built with WH components, or moon mining components plus industrial time/effort through invention. The mods for those farming ships come from people farming missions for faction LP, or from lesser plexes. All of those efforts have their own risks and pvp opportunities involved. That is depth, the way in which the mods for a lesser fitted titan are acquired differently is also depth: the choices made in fitting that titan are depth insofar as their prices depend on that chain of supply; they are not depth when looked at merely as ‘variety’.

      I don’t know how DFUW falls short of EVE’s model: when I look at the description it sounds like they have items/mats from instances as well as items from gathering in different areas. It sounds like the interrelations between these is either too limited or imbalanced to qualify as depth atm? The key danger when adding in more options is that if those options aren’t balanced properly, you’re actually removing viable options and shrinking the depth of the game/economy. I probably said this exact thing the last time this subject was brought up, but what else could I say? Balance is still more important than variety for the sake of variety.

      • Rynnik says:

        EVE is an amazing example for DF to learn lessons from. Sid just ignored the wealth of excellent parallels between the two games and latched onto some irrelevance.

    • sid6.7 says:

      Options are necessary to provide SANDBOX elements to a game and the Darkfall economy lack options and therefore depth. This is a fact, not opinion.

      To illustrate this, imagine a game where the only resource is a rock you can pick up and throw at someone. Your game may have supply/demand for rocks, but you don’t very far because the game lacks dimension. After all, you just have rocks.

      Same game, but now our rocks come in different sizes and colors. Suddenly, some rocks have more value (perceived or otherwise) than other rocks. It still lacks depth, but surely you see that adding options creates dimension and diversity to your economy.

      That’s particularly important in a sandbox and DF:UW does a terrible job at it. Again, that’s a fact, not an opinion.

      Every ready bag is readily interchangeable with any other ready bag that any other player using your role is using. Food, pots, weapons might be a slightly different variations, but even here there are all more or less the same thing. If you pick a role, I can tell you what to expect in that gear bag.

      The root cause is progression. Once character progression stalls at 100k or 300k, people quit because of a lack of sand in the sandbox. And Syn’s right, all that remains is the PvP for the sake of PvP crowd.

      All the rest of what you consider “fundamentals” to the EVE economy working are likely things that also have merit. I’m not going to argue with you on that, but the root cause is a lack of diverse options and without such options, long-term player retention of anyone NOT in the PvP for PvP crowd is going to prove impossible.

      • Rynnik says:

        Guess you didn’t read the link.

      • Rammstein says:

        You can’t illustrate how complexity works by using an example stripped of all possible complexity. That’d be like trying to illustrate how painters balance color masses by imagining a blind painter who’d run out of paint.

        • sid6.7 says:

          The core group that enjoy sandboxes were the very first group to leave DF:UW. In the the mass of ‘goodbye for now’ messages I read on our private forums, I couldn’t count how many times I’ve read ‘no sand in the sandbox’.

          DF lacks depth and you would be surprised how much closer it is to the ‘rock’ example that I gave than to EVE.

          Here is the extent of the variety:

          You: I’m an Elementalist.
          Me: You are wearing fine, elegant or extravagant robes. Most likely elegant. And you have a Veilron or Leenspar staff. You are also carrying a few pots and some food.

        • sid6.7 says:

          Keep in mind that Elementalist is one of four possible roles. I can easily make the same observation about any of the other roles.

          As an aside, I agree with you on the balance observation and DF:UW fails on this score as well but that’s another discussion.

        • Rammstein says:

          “I couldn’t count how many times I’ve read ‘no sand in the sandbox’.”

          Both sides in the debate seem to agree that the sandbox wasn’t feeling sandy enough, so this point is moot.

          “You: I’m an Elementalist.
          Me: You are wearing fine, elegant or extravagant robes. Most likely elegant. And you have a Veilron or Leenspar staff. You are also carrying a few pots and some food.”

          I don’t see this as all that different from EVE, at the top level of analysis. Sticking with the Titan example, there’s not that much variety in which modules people use for the ‘standard fits’–the main difference is the meta level. Are fine, elegant and extravagant robes all made in a similar way, with mats gathered in a similar way? To me, that’s the real difference, because it means that not only the economy less complex, but that there are less economy driven gameplay options.

          extravagant set costs: 304 Cotton, 4,094 Gold, 28 Mandrake, 20 Neithal Essence, 36 Veilron Essence

          elegant set costs: 274 Cotton, 1,534 Gold, 18 Mandrake, 36 Selentine Essence

          fine set costs: 165 Cotton, 283 Gold

          This to me is the real difference. The crafting materials required look more like WoW than EVE, similar gathered mats, plus some special essences from PVE content. WoW has a ton of different items you can craft, but it’s still not a sandbox, because a sandbox is about variety at every level of the web, with complex interrelationships between them; not about top-level variety only. To post a list for a T3 strat cruiser with some officer mods and some t2 mods in EVE? forget about it, it would be an entire page long, with ties reaching out to every level of gameplay.

          In your blog post from Nov 22, you include a picture of just such a web, with the decomposers, producers,etc. The complexity of these webs isn’t measured by the number of Apex predators–there are usually very few of these. The complexity is distributed throughout the system.

        • Rammstein says:

          A DF:UW gear system like EVE’s gear system could possibly be something like this: to build rank 1 gear, you use some simple mats from gathering. rank 2, some rare mats from gathering, plus a copy of the rank 1 gearpiece, with a chance of failure possibly destroying all the mats completely, again with a small chance of failure destroying everything. Rank 3, take the rank 2 piece, and modify it further with rare drops from hard pve content. Rank 4, take the rank 3 piece, and modify it further with items obtained with pvp control, like villages. Now, tier 2 works the same, with another 4 ranks, but a step up. and Then tier 3, another step up. Have rank 1 tier 2 gear be better than tier 1 rank 4 gear in some ways, and worse in others, but rank3 tier 2 gear is better than rank 4 tier 1 gear in all respects.

        • Jenks says:

          If someone told me Darkfall’s crafting worked like that I’d probably buy it after work today.

        • sid6.7 says:

          I agree w/ you on the crafting materials required. The irony is that the variety of items that can be ‘harvested’ is relatively diverse.

          That said, I think both you and Rynnik mistake my point. While it’s certainly related to the economy, it’s more a commentary that for a ‘sandbox’ game, it doesn’t have many options and this makes it a more linear game.

          As for this being a moot point — it’s not. It’s a matter of prioritizing. Everyone knows this is missing. It’s been obvious for a long time. And yet it’s ignored.

          If I’m honest about it, I’m as guilty of this as anyone since I’m in the ‘PvP’ crowd and I would have first addressed some fixes to encourage more 5-man group PvP.

          AV is doing work on the PvP, but in typical AV fashion, they throw out the baby with the bathwater and too often start from scratch. And then when that has problems, they throw it all out again. But I digress… totally different subject. :)

  3. Anonymous says:

    DF is Dead

  4. Anti-Stupidity League says:

    I have an idea that would rescue Darkfail 2: Fail Harder, bring more new players (like, at least two – two is more than zero, right?) and stop current players from canceling their accounts, but you wouldn’t like it.

    • Xyloxan says:

      A-SL, your obsession with DF is truly pathologic. Maybe a visit to a shrink would ease your brain convulsions?

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