Saturday, May 1, 2010

Darkfall: Last Impressions

I've been playing Darkfall for almost two months now and I think I'm done. In many ways, I think Darkfall is a great game. The combat is much more innovative, interactive and enjoyable than what you see in other MMOs.

I also enjoy the on-use skillups despite all it's obvious flaws. There is something uniquely rewarding about focusing on a style of play and watching that level up.

I also found that I didn't lack for direction despite the horizontal nature of the game.  I always had something to do and made a couple of friends while I was at it.

It wasn't even the grind.  I mean, harvesting isn't exactly exciting, but the full loot nature of the PvP adds a bit of excitement to the mundane.  Which is certainly something you would never experience while running around mining or herbing in Warcraft.

No.. It's because I'm a pussy.

Oh, I don't mean unskilled. I suppose that could be it, but I wouldn't even know because every time I get into a fight I'm killed pretty damn quick.

How many hours should you have to log in order to be competitive?
Now I don't mind "working" to make my character more developed. I also understand that people who have put more "work" into their character deserve to have an advantage. For better or worse, that's the nature of PvP in MMOs.

But what started to bother me a few weeks ago, really bothers me today as I'm fully realizing that in order to "catch up" to a point where I am even remotely competitive is going to take not just an incredible amount of time, but an unfathomable amount of time.

I know this because I've played A LOT over the last few weeks. And despite how much time I've put into it, my character has barely broken into the tier just above the 'newbie' stage.

To put this in perspective, I leveled my Mage alt in WoW last year from level 1 to 80 in maybe 3-4 weeks. By the fifth week, I had 4 out of 5 of the Tier pieces and decent pieces in my other slots. All of this was in addition to the raiding I was doing on my main.

The point here is not that WoW is easy to level. Obviously, it is easier than Darkfall.

No, my point here is that I have been known to log some long hours. I talked about life-balance the other day and the part I tend to sacrifice is sleep. I KNOW I play a lot. As evidenced by my being able to level a Raiding alt in five weeks without the benefit of refer-a-friend.

And at that rate of play, I also believe that in Darkfall, it would take me a minimum of another 4 months to build up a character that would begin to put me at a point where I wouldn't constantly get my ass kicked.

Which just makes me wonder, is it even worth it?

Biggest Lie: New players can contribute in PvP
This is perhaps the biggest lie that gets told to new players as they start in Darkfall. The idea is that because new players can deal maybe 30% of the damage that an established player can deal, that they can contribute immediately in PvP.

The problem here is that they can only take 30% of the effective damage that an established player can as well. If they are attacked at all, they are dead.

Now, on the surface, I don't have much of an issue with this whole dynamic. New players need to be more sneaky and try to stay in groups where they don't get focused. OK. All that is fine.

My problem is that after many many many hours, I still couldn't take any damage and live for very long. It's like PvP in WoW without resilience gear. You might be able to DO damage, but that means nothing when you are dead within mere moments.

And again, I have no real issue with that concept, my issue here is HOW LONG you remain that weak little thing who needs to sneak, escape and kow-tow to the much more powerful players.

I'm very competitive in these games. I don't want to be a cog in the machine. I want to contribute. I want to win. That's what drives me and motivates me.  I'm just realizing now that I can't keep up that motivation when it's going to take a minimum of four more months to get competitive.

New Player Perspective
I think I would have an entirely different perspective if I had played Darkfall from launch. For one thing, I have no doubt that with the hours I put in that I would have a very developed character.

Also, my "competition" would have always been at or below my relative skill level. At the very least, those far more advanced would be fewer and farther between. My skills might have been low, but so would the skills of everyone else.

The overall experience would just be more enjoyable because I wouldn't feel that I'm losing solely based on longevity.

As a new player, I have a different perspective. I'm at the bottom and I'll be at the bottom until a point where all my more advanced stats and skills begin to cap out.

I have to say that the prospect of playing a game intensely for 6 months as a whipping boy is not an entirely enjoyable thought.

This is a perspective that I just don't think a long-time Darkfall player would understand. I mean, from their point of view, they 'worked' to get where they are at and reducing the amount of work for me is a slap in the face.

But the problem is that it's relative. As I said above, when you are at the leading edge, there is never a point at which you need to 'catch up'. You are always already caught up by virtue of longevity.

But as new players start playing your game, they are behind from the start. Having the same leveling curve for those players is NOT a consistent experience. Those that came first actually have it easier because the competition wasn't as well developed.

I don't know how you fix that in an on-use skill game and keep your veteran players happy about it. All I know is that I've grown tired of it and have lost patience with the game.


Stabs said...

Hmm, very interesting.

I must admit the thing that has kept Darkfall from reaching the top of my list of Games To Try Next has been the feeling that people are miles ahead and particularly that most people macro to catch up.

I think you've genuinely nailed a game design Achilles heel here. I'm sure DF is an excellent game if you're competitive.

At least in Eve there's the option to grind isk then buy a 70m skill point character perfectly legally.

sid67 said...

Oh, it's definitely the Achilles heel. And I think Aventurine and a lot of the most experienced players realize it.

I've read they are going to take the suggestions made by some players and address how "Health" is calculated.

I just see that as a mere band-aid for a more systemic problem.

Anonymous said...

HP really is the only major system that's broken, as having 260hp vs someone with 390 is a major problem. Getting 50 weap mastery, 100 sharpshooter, or at least one school to 100 and spells to 75+ is honestly not that tough (you should be around that right now). The next patch is changing the HP formula, reducing those at the top end and increasing gains (and likely the starting point) of newer players. Once it's more 280 vs 330 vet vs newb, things will be much better.

As for new players contributing, it's all relative. Compared to WoW, a new player in DF can do a hell of a lot more in 'end-game' PvP than a lvl 1 (or lvl 79 for that matter). Does that mean they can solo or even small-group veterans down? No. But they are NOT dead weight in larger-scale stuff, and they can put up a fight against other newer players (just have to know where to find them, and how to stay alive when accompanied by vets).

Adam said...

I'm glad you gave the game a good try.

I hope you did find a guild to group with though.

Months of solo'ing in this game especially when new are going to be brutal.

Low hitpoints suck but probably thats not most of your deaths?

The other point I would make is that while there is the player skill of hitting what you aim at (which I'm sure you did fine at), the problems I see in "player skill" are not that so much they are missing things like -

Don't pick this particular fight (more geared than me or more likely to have friends with that clan tag),

Don't panic,

Don't hang around this area without banking or at all,

Always Be Converting,

Blind is your friend,

Terrain is your friend,

an extra mount is your friend,

pull them into the water and kite them,

use waypoint,

shield kite,

Heal Other/ Sacrifice ftw,

etc. etc. etc.

There is way more to learn than just aiming and getting high hp.

RyanT said...

I mostly agree with Adam. I have seen "your type" in my clan a lot recently, as many players have started with trials (or resubbed). They piss and moan for the first month or two ("I only have 290HP! I don't even have a nuke to 75 yet!"), but then they magically get better ("I'm not dying as much!" or "I beat so and so vet in a duel!"). Their stats/hp usually haven't improved drastically. It's learning to play the game that really makes the difference.

Let me break it down further for you: If you're a relative noob, you've got 250 health. Vets may have between 300 and 350 health. (The top percentile is probably 400+ health. Only ever seen 1 guy with health past 400.)

Anyway, I hit for 25-50 damage with my sword, depending on my opponents armor. I have 326 health. So the difference between myself and a noob is AT WORST 3 swings. I could be dead in 10 swings.

The biggest difference between vets & noobs is avoiding damage and healing. Since the majority of your healing power comes from lesser magic (heal self + transfers) and items (food, pots), and your damage mitigation is characterized by armor, the noob character actually has a much better chance than s/he thinks. They just aren't good enough to take advantage yet.

For a good example of this, watch Val Roth's accelerated character development videos. Notice how easily he dispatches mobs, even on his first 8 hours of play. Remember dying repeatedly at the hands of goblins? Case in point.

sid67 said...

Your experience is just not consistent with mine simply by virtue of you starting earlier.

I'm not bitching or moaning, just stating a fact.

I, by having started later, will have to compete against more people who had a much longer period of time to raise their skills than I.

I'm not even complaining that this is unfair. I'm just saying that after 300 hours of play time, I'm still not competitive.

So fuck it. It's not worth it.

There is a blog post coming on this topic, but this underlying problem is not unique to Darkfall.

It's a problem with perspective.

Max said...

Compared to WoW, a new player in DF can do a hell of a lot more in 'end-game' PvP than a lvl 1 (or lvl 79 for that matter).

And here is the flaw. -In wow you can level in 2 -3 weeks to 80. So stop comparing DF grindfest to reasonable timeframes of WoW. Given that WoW actually has content and that 1-80 leveling is not boring (if you play first time) DF system is not justified at all.

I personally dont give a crap about MMOs anymore. - FPS do not have persistence , but neither does any non time sink MMO , so I skip all leveling BS altogether in favor of pure gameplay

RyanT said...


I agree. My "skilling up" experience is not consistent with yours -- when I was killing goblins, most folks were killing goblins. And you are competing against more people with higher skills. The only point I'm trying to make is that character development is a lot more subjective than objective. That is to say that a character with X skills is not necessarily going to beat a character with Y skills.

Or, perhaps put this way -- there's no amount of character hours that will put you "on top" in Darkfall. You can't beat someone on the basis of higher skills, unlike other games. No matter what your HP looks like, there are players that are just good and will win. Players that can play through a VIT debuff and still kick my butt. And there are players that it would take a serious effort for me to lose to, even though they have a similar skill level/HP.

A lot of people on Forumfall cry out for faster skill ups, so they can be 'competitive'. They come from a generation of gamers bred on the idea that characters that are level Q are the same "power" (or at least very close). DF is different. Characters that are level Q aren't the same power, and just getting to level Q doesn't make you 'competitive'. In fact, it's very disheartening for a lot of players when they reach a certain skill milestone (mastery 75, for example) that they don't start stomping on folks. It really just doesn't work like that.

Stabs said...

Very interesting that you've attracted hate from WoW carebear Gevlon and misrepresentation from WoW carebear Tobold for this post but that hardened DF pros are sympathetic.

Somewhere in my head I have a Universal Explanation of Gamer Subtypes that will probably reference this post once I get it all figured out.

Anonymous said...

I think that Universal Explanation is as simple as: most just want to be entertained, and some want a real challenge.

If those looking for challenge pick the wrong game, boredom and quitting the game is inevitable.

If those looking for entertainment pick the wrong game, an unstoppable flow of excuses, complaints and blames (== game is too hard but won't admit that) until the challenge is replaced with entertainment, is inevitable.

RyanT said...

By the way, I reposted this (with citation! :P) on the official DF forums here: