Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Darkfall Trial: Doomsday Clock

Darkfall is not a forgiving place. Of course, I wouldn’t know that yet because I’ve been under what is called New Player Protection. A protection that grants me immunity from being attacked by other players while I get my newbie skills all worked out.

And that’s important because in Darkfall anyone can attack and kill you. And when you die, your loot (including everything you were wearing) stays with your body and anyone can loot your corpse. Even new players aren’t protected from the corpse looting (but you soon learn that it’s not quite as scary as it sounds).

Of course, killing other friendly players is not without consequence. They might become outlaws unable to visit racial cities. But it’s a still a choice they can make. And so even the friendly guy grinding mobs right next to me might decide to take a shot at me if he has a bit of gear envy and I’m low on Health.

The Doomsday Clock
But for the first 24 hours played of any new account, you are granted New Player Protection. Others can’t harm you and you can’t harm others. The amount of Newbie Protection you have left is prominently displayed in big numbers near the minimap. I’ve taken to thinking of this timer as a Doomsday Clock.

A countdown to my destruction.

Because EVERYTHING changes once that clock hits zero hour. That big nice fella that gave me a buff? Ya, well now he might be the guy trying to shove a sword in places where swords aren’t welcome. Right now, I have little to fear from anyone. But when that clock strikes noon, I suddenly have to fear everyone.

I had my first experience with this paranoia on Sunday night. I was kitted up in what, for me, was finally some decent gear that I had gotten from Quest rewards. Mostly leather, which was better than the cloth armor the Goblins had been dropping.

A bit before I logged on Saturday, I had found some Kobolds I could kill. Kobolds are slightly harder to kill than Goblins and drop better loot. When I logged in Sunday, my plan was to finish two Goblin quests and then head over to kill some Kobolds. As I showed up to slay some Goblins, I got invited to a group with two other newbs who were already at the spawn.

I quickly wrapped up what I needed from the Goblins and announced to the group that I was taking off to go kill some Kobolds.

A mistake.

The more poorly geared of the two players thought this was a great idea and wanted to come. My first reaction was “Sure! Follow me!” and off I went with my buddy in tow. When we were about half-way there, a thought dawned on me: What if I die?

My body, rich with rewards, is going to be lying there with my “buddy” looking upon it enviously. And the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that he was just planning to steal all my stuff.

That bastard.

The reality is likely far more mundane. He was new, had only been killing Goblins, and wanted to see Kobolds. And yet, this fear or paranoia I had in a game like Darkfall is actually healthy. Trust is not something you freely give away, but something you give to those who have earned it.

Stronger Bonds
This paranoia episode immediately made me realize the importance of trust in Darkfall. A casual player who only enjoys loose bonds with other people would never like a game like Darkfall.

Something similar to Blizzard’s Dungeon Finder could never work. Dungeon Finder is a simply a tool used to help random individuals with no connection but a common goal find each other and form a group. The only bond is the common goal and once that is gone, there is no longer a purpose to grouping.

But in Darkfall, the risks associated with grouping with random people you don’t know are so high that they outweigh any benefit in the common purpose. You wouldn’t want to form a group with some random guy that might just decide to kill you for that drop instead of roll you for it.

That’s not an indictment of the Dungeon Finder (or Darkfall). The two ideas are just not compatible. There is definitely a lot of merit in just being able to quickly from a group and do stuff.  Particularly for one whose strength is in PvE goals against a computer opponent.

For a PvP based game which is very centric on territory control, the game itself is defined by the strong relationships.  Such relationships explain why it's important to HAVE territory in the first place.  .

Consider it an intrinsic property of these PvP games.  It's YOU versus THEM.  Anyone outside of your group is therefore alienated and the enemy.  The more territory your group controls, the more progressed you are relative to other groups.

Players who don't want to make these bonds or prefer loose relationships aren’t going to make friends with anyone. And without friends, who do you trust to not stab you in the back?

Adapting to No Protection
My time with Newbie Protection is quickly dwindling and I’m faced with the reality that I haven’t yet learned how to be paranoid enough in this game. I suppose recognizing that I’m not paranoid enough is a good start.

Part of my problem is that I’m impatient. Long years of playing MMOs without consequences taught me some bad habits about being risky. I think I earned that achievement in WAR for surviving a fight with really low health in about my first five minutes. I push it to the line. Always have.

That’s something I’m going to have to unlearn quickly. Because standing there victorious with 1 health is just going to get me one-shotted.


Carson 63000 said...

Do you think that a 24-hour timer is too long in conjunction with a 7-day trial? I'm not sure many trial players are even going to hit doomsday before their trial expires (I know there's no chance that I will)

RyanT said...

Nice post. I think you've definitely grasped a lot of Darkfall's big picture concepts. Paranoia is definitely one of them :) I remember walking to work a few weeks after launch. I saw a guy walking the opposite direction in a kinda deserted park, and I was like "OMG! He's gonna try to gank me!" I literally walked 15 feet around some random dude.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to what you have to say about the middle- and end-game stuff (ie joining a clan, PvP, trading, etc.).

Anonymous said...

Just read this post now after visiting syncaine's blog. I have a lot of adjusting to do when I leave the racial area.