Monday, April 8, 2013

Darkfall Unholy Wars: The myth behind the polarizing labels

If you have read my blog or comments on other blogs over the years, one of the things I despise is how often MMO pundits toss out "labels" on games.  I prefer to think the actual truth of a game lies within the features that comprise that game and not some "label" that is tossed out to force a game into some box.

Darkfall: Unholy Wars is a prime example of labels in action.  It will be described as both a "sandbox" game and as a "hardcore pvp" game.  As such, it will be compared to EvE ad nauseum and success or failure, you'll hear all about why people don't want a "hardcore pvp" game.

Bullshit. Darkfall is no more like EvE than it's like WoW.  

The similarity between EvE and Darkfall can be summed up in the following way - these are games without a story. That's it.

Even here, both games take a radically different approach. EvE is largely about empire building and actual PvP is very rare. In many ways, PvE and crafting is more central to the EvE universe and the game has more in-common with Minecraft than Darkfall.

In Darkfall, the game centers around the PvP. Crafting, as it exists, serves only to create a value of sorts for the zero-sum PvP.  Darkfall is not an empire building game any more than it's a PvE raiding game.  

Darkfall is a fast-paced shooter style MMO with a focus on controlling specific bind points through PvP.  In other words, it's a conquest game that has as much in common with a persistent world-wide version of Arathi Basin as it does with EvE's sandbox game.

In other words, start with elements of EvE (city building) and elements of the classic control-point scenario (like Arathi Basin).  Mix them all up and put them in a large persistent world.  Then throw in some first-person style arcade combat and zero-sum PvP.  That's Darkfall.

If DF:UW fails, the reasons will have nothing to do with so-called "hardcore PvP"

Wait, you say, EvE also has zero-sum PvP.  Umm, kinda.  

There is loss in EvE, for sure, but it's not zero-sum (which means winner-takes-all).  It's a winner-take-some scenario because some items are destroyed.  Also, it's relatively rare.  The loss is something to be feared and protected against.

In Darkfall, PvP truly is a zero-sum game. Often labeled as "hardcore PvP" what most people don't understand about such PvP is that because it's zero-sum, it's just as possible to GAIN as it is to LOSE.

Zero-sum, by definition, means that if one person loses 10 gold, then another person gains 10 gold.  The problem with the original Darkfall was not the zero-sum PvP, it was that there was such a vast gap between the veteran and the new player that the new player was always the one to lose the 10 gold.

This is an important distinction because it's not zero-sum PvP that poses the problem but the relative balance between players that leaves one player at a significant advantage.  A problem that has since been corrected in Unholy Wars.  New players can and will become viable in PvP very quickly.

The myths of zero-sum PvP

The biggest misconception about zero-sum PvP is that there is this monumental loss when you lose your items. In other games, gear progression is an important form of character progression and it's not uncommon to spend weeks and weeks to try and get that one key drop.

There are no make or break drops in Darkfall.  Ever single usable item can be crafted and farming for those items is no more of a time sink than harvesting some mats for your typical crafting profession.  In fact, most of the "time sink" comes from leveling the skill to craft the item and not the harvested mats.

Instead, you see a different dynamic that is based on people managing their own level of risk. You don't always go out in your best gear.  You save that for the special events.  And sometimes, you wear bad gear on purpose because you don't want to take the durability hit on higher cost items.

It's a game of easy come and easy go. Everyone loses gear and the game is designed in such a way that individual losses are not monumental.

1 comment:

Amalec said...

Because of durability loss as well as consumable use, Darkfall PvP is also negative-sum (or winnter-take-some). There really isn't a difference between having some items not drop on death and having all items lose durability.

That said, the value lost in a 'death' in EVE is a far higher proportion of the total value than it is in Darkfall. In EVE, you *can* make a profit doing PvP - I did exclusively for years - though it was extremely difficult.