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Paragus Rants

Rants, reviews, and interviews from an MMO veteran and guild leader.

Author: Paragus1

Darkfall's Trial and Interview with NEW

Posted by Paragus1 Thursday February 25 2010 at 9:00AM
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Darkfall's Trial and Interview with NEW

It was a little over a year ago today that I opened my review of the Darkfall beta with "Darkfall Online is a game that is not for everyone."  A lot of you have followed my blog closely (thanks for your support) despite the fact you may not play the game and didn't want to risk trying it without some form of a trial.  Well apparently now you can find out if Darkfall is in fact for you for only 1$ for a one week trial.

Yes it is not free, but given the nature of the game and the fact that the trial does not seem to place any restrictions on you, it seems like a fair offer.  If there is one thing you might have learned about this game from reading here and certain reviews out there, it's that one week is not enough time to even come close to seeing all that this game has to offer.  Despite that, I think it should give curiosity seekers a good chance to get a handle on the games unorthodox controls, feel for the gameplay, and a chance to wander around Agon's zoneless and open world.

I've always believed that your first day in Agon is usually the hardest. To take the edge off getting murdered while you grapple with the controls, Aventurine has finally patched in their new player protection system that should give you some breathing room is those rough first few hours.  You can identify these fresh players by the halo-like symbol over their head, of which I have seen quite a bit of lately.

Despite having the trial and the initial safeguard, learning the ins and outs of Darkfall can be overwhelming, especially for players accustomed to theme-park MMOs which have saturated the genre the last few years.  Lucky for you, there is "NEW".  NEW is clan of players who are dedicated to showing you the ropes and exposing you to aspects of the game (on both servers) that you might otherwise not see initially.  They offer up to 30 days of membership to help teach you the ropes, after which it is up to you to find your own path into the world.

Instead of me trying to tell you what NEW is all about, I figured it would be best if I tracked down their leadership and let them explain some of the specifics for themselves.  I traveled over to Hammerdale to visit their city and got to spend some time checking our their facilities and activities.

 

1) Tell us a bit about the purpose of NEW. Why was it started and are there any restrictions to joining up?

Fury Mortis – Newborn on Agon [NEW] is a clan on the North American server that was formed to aid the new player experience. With its harsh environment, quirky UI and steep learning curve, Darkfall can be a real challenge for beginners. Every time we lose a new player it puts more pressure on Aventurine to "Trammel the game up" to increase its appeal to the masses.

NEW was started as a joint effort, and officially kicked off when Elder Saurcon (Lords of the Dead) purchased an account and created the “New SupremeGeneral” character. With the support of Black Shields, Grief, Apollo, Imperil, Dominion, and too many other clans to list, NEW acquired Hammerdale at a very low cost. When the sticky post went up on the NA-1 forums and people could see that this was an honest effort, donations quickly poured in from across the community.

The only restrictions to joining up are that you are a relatively new player and that you agree to the rules on the website.

 

2) Tell us a bit about the services NEW offers and how owning a city has contributed to your mission.

Spewart thePunisher – New offers its members a place they can come to ask questions and get advice, either via clan chat or voice chat using the Mumble program (also hosted by lotd.org). Hammerdale provides new players (and visitors) a player city with a workbench, enchanting station, laboratory, anvil, oven, fighter trainer, master mage, and a farm. Our city is open to everyone, whether they are in NEW or not. In addition to its amenities, the city serves as a gathering place where people can trade, group up to fight tougher mobs, and help defend each other from the occasional PK raid.

 

Mycke Soulslayer – Without Hammerdale, NEW would be a little more than scattered new players getting war decked and ganked in NPC cities, pretty much more harm than good.

 

3) How many people roughly would you say have joined up with NEW and graduated since its inception?

Fury – Clymene Darkwind (our first Counselor) had the foresight to set up a google spreadsheet to track members’ join dates and progress. As of today we have 1,437 names on this list. All non-leadership members have a defined time limit in the clan; so far 1,043 members have graduated.

 

4) What are some of the most common questions and issues that you see get brought up by new arrivals?

White Knight – The most common question of new players is why they can’t fish, lol.

Spewart – "How do I get a mount?", "How do I make gold?", "Where is Hammerdale?" and tons of questions about the alignment system.

Fury – The biggest issue for new players right now is the difference between veteran players HP and beginning players HP. The formula should be changed to 250 + 1*vit + 0.5*str + HpSkills. It’s not the first thing they notice, but when they realize the tremendous gap between the total health of veteran players and new players, I believe it turns some casual players (the base of MMORPGs) away from the game.

 

5) Community support for NEW seems to be very strong on both servers. Do you find that many players or clans give NEW members a pass when it comes to attacking and ganking out in the world?

Buadthan Ludhurst - I think a lot of clans give NEW members a break; for example they will come up on there mounts chasing you and then stop, or start attacking you and then see the tag and stop. Some will send you a tell and say they are sorry and didn't see your tag, others will pk you but revive you because they really don't want to pk new players they are just looking for PvP. But on the other hand, we do have clans that specifically target us for pk'ing and raiding because we are a clan of new players.

 

6) Do you find that the majority of people who join up stay for the entire period, or do most end up leaving for other clans before their time is up?

Mycke - In my short time period many leave early. I believe this says we are doing our job well.

Skarth Manadragon - Most players seem to join another clan when their time is up or almost up.

7) There has been a recent movement by some of the veterans to donate gear and ready bags to help your cause. What is the best way a veteran player can donate and make sure their contribution finds its way to new arrivals to the game?

Spewart - I wouldn't say the movement to donate gear is recent. We've always enjoyed fantastic support from most of the other clans. If you want to donate gear to NEW, the best way is to come to Hammerdale and speak with a clan officer. If your clan lives far from Hammerdale, you can still help the cause of retaining new players by donating to random noobs (not necessarily NEW members) in the racial starter cities. One fun way is to find a group of newbies by a bank, load yourself up with gear, hit one of them and let the towers kill you. They will loot your tomb dry in seconds.


8) With the new trial program and new player protection for Darkfall, a lot of people are starting to give the game a closer look. Do you have any advice to the new players to the game or those sitting on the fence considering jumping in?

White Knight - The advice I give to new players is to just play the game and enjoy what Agon has to offer. It will take you some time to build a character but you can have an impact in the game right off.

Spewart - I recommend that people spend a day or two in their racial cities doing some of the simple goblin quests, etc. just to get familiar with the game. They should pick up the six "title quests" from their racial capital city during that time (just get them, no need to complete them). Then join up with NEW (ideally on Tuesday, since we graduate you on the 5th Monday) and come to Hammerdale. The main thing is to remember that this is a great game with a hard start. If you rage-quit early, you'll miss the good part.

Mycke - Darkfall isn't about always winning it’s about always having excitement. Sometime that excitement is “pwning” your enemy and others times its getting away from someone you know will kill you, or just dying to them giving it your best shot. No one always wins in DF.

Skarth - Get used to the idea of using voice chat programs like Ventrilo, teamspeak, or mumble. It's a requirement for anything group related.

Fury – Go to this website http://newbornonagon.guildplex.com/. Review the hosted training videos, links to guides, install Mumble and apply to NEW. A complete list with all responses to this interview from the NEW Counselors is on the forums.

 

Final Thoughts

If you have been sitting on the fence about trying Darkfall, there really is no excuse for not taking advantage of the trial and the services being offered by NEW.  I'd recommend looking for one of their community publishers be it from a blog you support (No, I am not a community publisher) or shop around for a player offering you extra goodies. If you are already an established player reading this, then I urge you to help donate gear to our new arrivals and help any questions they may have.
 

If your getting worn down by the so-called "AAA" MMOs from huge studios with massive budgets selling you the same linear and shallow gameplay over and over with a new name on the box, then I highly recommend dropping the 1$ to see what the fuss is about.  Darkfall is the only game my guild has played in the last few years that has held us for longer than 60 days, and it's a reminder to me of what this genre used to represent and could become again someday.  Even if you end up hating the game, you won't find a week's worth of entertainment this cheap anywhere else.  If you do decide to check out the trial, I'd love to read your comments here or answer any questions you might have.

 

Paragus
Co-Leader of Inquisition
www.inqguild.com

Darkfall: Progression and Sieging

Posted by Paragus1 Wednesday February 10 2010 at 9:52AM
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Darkfall: Progression and Sieging

It's been a little over 2 months since I have rerolled fresh on Darkfall's NA server, and almost a year since the game's initial launch.  Today I want to just give my thoughts on character progression, take a more in-depth look at how the new siege mechanics are playing out from the last expansion.

Character Progression

At the time of my last write-up, I was about 2 weeks into playing my new character.  Now that I am past the 2 month mark, I want to talk about the progression my character has made to help give people a rough idea on rate of character development.  Let me preface this by saying that everyone develops at different speeds, and even in my own guild there are wild differences in some of these areas between my friends.  Since everything you do in Darkfall seems to raise something, results are bound to vary based how time was spent in game, as well as the amount of time played.  I've played pretty actively, logging in pretty much daily for several hours at a time.  Your results may vary depending on how much you play and how your time is spent in-game, this is just a snapshot of where I am personally at this stage to help give a general idea.

Let's start off by taking a look at where my stats are currently after about 10 weeks of playing, and compare it to where I was at my second week of playing.  The 10 week stats factor in me having a +4 Vitality quest title enabled.  I decided to focus on my archery skills and magic skills pretty heavily over my melee.  This path combined with the fact that I did not spend nearly as much time harvesting as my guildmates shows why my Strength and Wisdom are dragging behind.  Some of my friends who took a more melee oriented approach have much higher strength and vitality, and as a result more HP than me.


My heavy focus on Archery initially has made Dexterity one of my higher stats, and since shooting bows also seems to raise Vitality to a lesser degree, there is a substantial gap between my Vitality and Strength.  Archery has been an extremely useful tool for PvE, and seems to be the fastest path to doing damage in PvP for a newer player.  Compared to magic, archery is relatively cheap skill to work on with the cost of arrows being low, and many of the lower end monsters dropping arrows.  All of these factors made me want to get maxed out here early on, and it has been a boon for my ability to farm cash from some harder monsters as well as being more useful on the battlefield.

I decided early on that magic was going to be another priority for me because of the utility of tools it gives you in terms of buffs, damage, and healing.  The problem I had initially was trying to decide on which schools to focus on.  This indecision on my part led to me leveling up some of the elemental schools to mid range while I tried to decide what exactly I wanted to do, and as a result my Intelligence climbed to being my highest stat.  Ultimately I ended up focusing my efforts on Necromancy just because I wanted try a school of magic the rest of my friends hadn't really delved into.

The speed at which skills raise above 50 slows down a fair amount, and even more so at 75. This can make reaching some of your skills goals pretty grindy in some cases. The good news is that skills raise substantially faster when used on monsters, but for a magic school like spell chanting (focusing heavily buffs) you really aren't able to take advantage of this in a practical way since it makes little sense to buff a monster.  I wouldn't mind seeing some of the skills get a slight increase in leveling speed in the 50+ range.

Overall in terms of feedback in this area, I think I'd still like to see stats raise a bit faster up until around 40 to help newer player catch up a little bit, although I recognize there are many who would argue that it is fine the way it is.  One of the main concerns expressed from potential and newer players is the amount of time it takes to become "viable", and I think increasing the stat gain at the lower end will help curtail those concerns to a degree.  That being said, my guild of mostly rerolled characters has our fair share of wins when we travel together as a group.  I'd definitely recommend new players take the time to watch the "Accelerated Character Development"  videos that outline a path to getting key skills as efficiently as possible.

 

Siege Mechanic Feedback

I glossed over the new siege mechanics in my previous article because at the time I had not experienced it enough first-hand to feel confident enough to be able to talk about it.  During my time playing, I have had a front row seat in the Mercenary Wars that have been taking place on the NA server, which some would argue is the server's first world war.

In a lot of ways I think I like the overall direction of the new system compared to the old one.  Specifically the new system doesn't allow for a siege to hinge on a single person's connection, an issue which was responsible for a lot of sieges being completely wasted under the old system.  The new system also gives people enough time to make preparations inside and outside of the game to prevent a holding being ninja'ed in off-hours.  As someone who used to own a hamlet when the game first released, I was constantly nervous that I could wake up on any given morning to find us not owning it anymore.  These key changes are definitely a step in the right direction, but there is always room for improvement.

To help broaden my perspective on areas of the new system that could use improvement, I turned to players in the alliance leadership of the opposing sides in the recent world war.  Since the bulk of the sieges under the new system have been in some way related to their conflict, and considering they have been hired to get involved in sieges outside of their own war, they seemed like a good source for extra feedback in this area.

The mechanic for "bind kicking" players bound at a holding has been a heated topic of conversations lately.  The current mechanic for kicking a clan member off your holding bindstone can be used as a fast means of transportation.  A clan leader can kick a member off of one holding, and retroactively bind them at another holding owned by their clan across the world.  I believe this to go against one of the game's basic principals in regards to the difficulty of travel, and it also allows clans with multiple holdings to have a massive advantage that I am not sure was intended.  As a result of this, some of the more active clans are able to meddle in the affairs of others across the world with relative ease and without the risk and time of traveling. Instead of being able to be kicked from one holding to another, players who are kicked from a clan's bindstone should instead be retroactively bound to the closest chaos stone in order to prevent it being used as a means of super transportation.  This will also help conflicts stay more localized and regional in my opinion.

On the topic of localized conflict, one of the changes in the new siege system is that notifications regarding attack windows are broadcasted server-wide.  This tends to turn sieges into a magnet for third-party forces to come interfere knowing that they will likely find lots of geared people on the battlefield.  It could easily be argued that this may not necessarily be a bad thing, and it may be the intention of the broadcast, but combined with the bindkicking abuse, it can really empower certain clans to get involved in literally everything with minimal risk and time invested.  If the bind kick gets fixed this probably wouldn't be as much of an issue, but right now it makes the stronger clans with multiple holdings across the world able to cause gridlock in the conquest system by constantly being able to easily interfere in everything no matter how far from home it is.

One of the features of the new system is that one of the methods for declaring a siege involves dropping a stone on the ground within a certain radius of the holding being contested.  These stones replace the previous mechanic that had sieges hinging on a single person's connection, and in addition they can act as bindstones for the attackers to set up a forward base of operations.  The problem is that if an attacking player opts to bind at these stones and is killed in the field, they are pretty much screwed when they respawn at these stones because there is no bank for them to be able to regear.  Respawning near the battle naked doesn't really do a lot of good considering the odds are that your body is unrecoverable or looted.  I would suggest adding some sort of mobile siege bank that could be destroyed to make these more viable as binds (maybe can only be dropped within a few meters of a siege stone, but not right outside of the holding).  Since these are often time viewed useless as a bind, it can make it overly tough for an attacking force to overwhelm a massive defending force who has the luxury of a bank to regear.   Allowing allies of the attacking guild to bind at these stones would add some value as well, especially considering all of the defender's allies are able to bind in the city.

This leads me to the next issue.  One beef relayed to me by the alliance leaders was the fact that once a siege has been declared, the defender can ally up anyone they want to jam pack their holdings bindstone with upwards of 200 people.  Combined with the above current siegestone mechanic, this can put the attackers in an almost impossible position when trying to take a city.  If that holding all of a sudden has 200 active people bound there because the owners allied half the server, it can be near impossible to fight against such a large number of newly bound outsiders who can regear and respawn on site.  A suggestion to curtail this would be to not allow a clans to ally up while under a siege. This enables them to still use diplomacy to get assistance without giving an unfair advantage to a defender who already has innate benefits in a siege situation.

Another minor issued brought up to me was the in regards to the usefulness of cannons given the cost it takes to construct them.  Cannons only have a very limited number of shots before they become rendered useless, and once they are dropped they are effectively gone forever.  Given the cost of making cannons, the alliance leaders suggest that the amount of ammo in the cannons be considered for an increase (doubled or tripled) to make their value more in line with the cost to build them.

The final suggestion from the alliance leaders would be to implement some sort of mechanic for a clan to transfer ownership of a holding to another without having to go through a fake siege.  With all the wheeling and dealing in Darkfall, it has become a common for clans to want to pass ownership or sell one of their holdings.  It would be nice for everyone involved if there was some kind of mechanic in place for a clan leader to transfer ownership to another without going through the hassle of the current system.

 

Final Thoughts

The increased rate of character development make Darkfall much more appealing now than it was back when it launched almost a year ago. Aventurine seems to be making strides to improve the new player experience, and seems to have a lot planned for it's second year. The character advancement speed could be a bit better in some areas, but a unique and rewarding experience awaits the new players who have the courage to take the plunge.  The new siege system is a step in the right direction, and recent patches has squashed a lot of the virtual memory errors that plagued some users during the more epic battles. As long as Aventurine listens to feedback from its players, I see no reason why Darkfall won't continue to grow as it is continues to offer a unique gaming experience that has been lost in a sea of copycat theme park titles.

 

Paragus Rant
Co-Leader of Inquisition
www.inqguild.com