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Paragus Rants

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

Author: Paragus1

Darkfall: Alliances and War

Posted by Paragus1 Tuesday March 24 2009 at 12:25PM
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Darkfall: Alliances and War

Since the writing of my last entry, massive battles have broken out across Agon, and with these battles, the formation of alliances are starting to shape the political landscape.  In a previous entry, I mentioned the web of guild relations and the possibility of a political map to help everyone understand it.  Apparently the Darkfall community has decided to take matters into their own hands and we are starting to see the community try to understand where the lines are drawn.

When you look at the larger map (Special thanks to Venatar from Societas Daemonica) , you can see the workings of what appears to be geopolitical relationships in some areas of the world.  Specifically, the 4 sub-continents seems to have certain guilds who are working together in alliance to either fully control certain land masses, or who are bent on conquering them by driving off other guilds.

This very situation manifested itself over the weekend when one of the guilds on Nilfheim (Ice Island) became the target of a massive assault that brought hundreds of players to their city looking to retaliate against them for previous attacks.  While the attackers inflicted massive damage to all of the structures, without a formal challenge, the city's ownership remained intact.  The next day a formal challenge was issued, but this time the defenders were able to rally a coalition of their own and managed to hold off onto their city.  Needless to say, the server was pushed to the limits and in some cases beyond leading to some people in the 300 man battle to suffer random disconnects.

 

The Challenge

In order for a city or hamlet to change ownership, and challenge must be issued by one guild to another.  When the challenge is issued, it lasts for a period of 6 hours that is divided into 2 stages.  During the first stage (4 Hours), the guild that issued the challenge will have its own city or hamlet vulnerable and up for grabs.  This adds what can be a substantial risk to picking a fight with another guild as you can rest assured that that they will try to rally their allies to derail the attack at the issuer's city.  Once that stage expires, the challengers will then be able to commence their assault on their target (2 Hours).  If at any time during this entire challenge the guild leader who issues the challenge is killed or goes offline, it is considered a loss and the challenge ends.  There is also a monetary price that I will touch more on later, but guilds issuing challenges who do not own land will need to pony up a large amount of gold to compensate for the risk factor.  If they win they keep the gold, if they lose the enemy keeps it.

 

My Siege Story

I'll try to put some of this into context from my first siege experience which happened over the weekend.  One of our allies decided they wanted to target a specific enemy city on a nearby remote island because one of its resources was a harbor, and they belonged to another alliance of guilds that they have an unfavorable view towards.  The challenge was issued by our ally, and our first order of business was to assist in the defense of their city and protection of the guild leader until we could progress to the attack stage.
 

We all decided to saddle up and put on our Sunday's finest gear because after all, this is the type of situation we play for.  As a hamlet owner, we found the city to be awe striking in both size and complexity.  Upon arrival we saw the walls were lined with people on every side, and this particular city has large cannon towers on each side.  I was able to take control of the cannon for a short period of time just to see what it was like, and it reminded me much like sitting in a turret seat in an FPS game.  The guild leader who issued the challenge was held up in a very large keep, and the entrance leading into it was blocked by rows of people in the event someone breached the outer wall.

Since we showed up to the city in the tail end of the defense stage, we didn't really see any action as the enemy was making their own preparations for the likely assault we were getting ready to mount.  There were probably upwards of around 200 people on our side inside making preparations, and my PC handled it better than I thought, although there were many in my guild who experienced some crashes and had to turn down settings.  I found that I only had to turn down the number of sounds in the audio options, and I was surprised how well the client handled this number of people in such a small geographical area.

As the defense stage came to end, the challenge issuing guild began to hand out siege hammers at their bank to all who could take one.  This was one aspect of the monetary costs I mentioned earlier, as these are the main tool for destroying structures at this stage in the game's life.  Buildings in Darkfall can't be destroyed with normal weapons and magic, only by siege related equipment, so these hammers are the main tool being used since nobody is far enough along to roll out war hulks and large boats.

We soon traveled to the coast nearby and started making our way from island to island.  I have to say it was definitely a sight to remember seeing so many people at once moving together as a large mass and some people even brought rafts along to make the trip easier.  Unfortunately during this leg of the journey, some of the minor random disconnects that hit us earlier become a bit more frequent.  Some of the people who ended up being dropped while in the water logged back in to find themselves back at their bindstone miles away from the battle.

It was at this point that tragedy struck.  Among the large group of people who experienced a disconnect, was the challenge issuer.  The current rules state that if that person goes offline at any time during the challenge, it counts at a loss.  Needless to say there was a lot of anger and frustration on the part of the challenger.  The previous 4 hours defending, the organization getting the army together, and the extremely high monetary cost all were wasted.  A source from Aventurine tells me they are aware of the issue and looking at ways to make this aspect easier, so we can only hope that some changes to this part of the mechanic are considered to prevent future unintended forfeits.

Despite the upsetting setback, the remainder of us decided to keep going just to see what happens.  As I was marveling at the sheer number of people we had, I wondered if it was really going to be necessary.  When I finally arrived at the enemy city, I was in amazement at how many people were there waiting for us in a defensive position as the city was located atop a cliff (reports are upwards of 200).  We were greeted by the largest volley of magic that I had ever seen, it reminded me of a scene from Star Wars with all the energy flying through the air, no screenshot or words I can say will ever really do it justice.

The enemy alliance had one of its guilds try to attack from behind, but the accidentally tipped their hand too soon and were discovered.  With our numbers diminished from the disconnects and all the plasma flying at us from the well defended city, we decided to make the most of the situation and turn our focus to the guild trying to flank us.  This led to an initial melee that quickly had them retreating into a chase that went into the ocean and nearby islands.  The result was widespread fighting and chaos that left many of them dead, and quickly stripped naked of their belongings.

Apparently hell bent on getting every last one of these guys, someone on my side dropped a raft into the water where literally a dozen guys packed onto it, effectively chasing down and shooting at anyone who was still left alive.  After we finished them off, most of the force decided to recall home and reflect on the evenings events.  I have to say that despite how much it sucked to lose the challenge, many of us still had an experience that we will remember for a long time to come.  Hopefully Aventurine will continue to evaluate and make changes to help streamline the siege process to prevent future incidents from occurring.

 

Paragus
Co-Leader of Inquisition
www.inqguild.com

 

Darkfall: City Building

Posted by Paragus1 Thursday March 12 2009 at 7:59AM
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City Building

Today I am going to delve a bit into city building and try to explain an aspect of the game that guilds who own land, or seek to own land, will no doubt be investing some time in.  I'm not going to pretend that I know everything, but what I have seen so far I will share with you as the leader of a guild that currently owns real estate in Agon.

The first step to city building is claiming your piece of land.  Darkfall supposedly has somewhere around 97 plots of claimable land that come in assorted varieties, such as hamlets and cities.  In order to claim a piece of land, you will first need to farm up 10,000 gold for a clanstone.  Once you have the stone, you need to take it to an unclaimed piece of land and you will be able to claim it for your guild.

If you are still reeling from that 10,000 gold, then grab your ankles because we are just warming up.  Next you will need to scrape up another 5000 gold to purchase the construction skill for one of your guild members.  With the construction skill, this guild member will be able to start crafting that basic building blocks that comprise all of the structures on your land.  These building blocks are called "modules".

In order to craft a single module, your crafter will need 250 gold, 50 stone, and 20 wood (50 timber).  This often times means that your guild will need to do a great deal of harvesting to gather the stone and wood, but also the farming of gold.  This means that depending on the size of your guild and the dedication of its members, this can become a very time consuming venture.


The very first building that you are forced to build before anything else can be done is the bank, which costs 10 modules to build.  When you do the math with the above numbers, it translates out into 2500 gold, 500 stone, and 200 wood (500 timber).  One annoying part about building the bank is the fact that these 10 modules you need weigh a ton, and we found that one of our members really were unable to carry more than 2 modules per person due to encumbrance.  This can be a frustrating step if the location of your clan city is far from the nearest bank because you will have to carry these all the way to your towns location.  We are fortunate enough to have our city not more than a few minutes from bank access, so 5 of us were able to carry the 10 modules to the building site without any interference from enemy players.  Once the bank is built, you can simply pick up all future modules at the city from your bank without transporting them manually.

Now that you have all your modules at the build site, you need to have your city mayor erect the structure.  This person can be selected via the guild interface, and does not need to be the same person who has the construction skill.  The mayor has access to build menu at the bindstone that puts him in an aerial view with a menu detailing all of the various types of structures types.  Each of the buttons opens up a new screen showing the structures relating to that type, although for some reason the palisades (walls) icon looked bugged to me.

 

Palisades

These are the basic wall structures that surround your city.  If you have ever played Age of Conan, the building of walls is done in a similar fashion.  The wall is chopped up into segments which must be built individually. My guild has a hamlet, and in our situation the wall was chopped into 13 segments.  The number below each item in the building menu represents the number of modules needed to construct the item, so with each wall costing 1 module, you are looking at 13 modules to complete all walls . Again we can put this into a cost perspective and it comes up to 3250 gold, 650 stone, and 260 wood (650 timber).

The walls themselves are pretty impressive in the fact that they come complete with an inner hallway with ramps leading to a second level.  We did not see any option for a gate or door, which has us concerned that the usefulness of the walls themselves in our particular situation could be questionable.  Another issue to us is that after building all of the wall segments, there are still several openings.  We are hoping that some of the other structures we have not built will fill in these holes, but since we are not that far along I can't say for sure if that will be the case.  Also since we own a hamlet, I do not know if these issues also apply to those with cities or other locations.  I think we all would like to see a door like Age of Conan's cities had that could only be accessed by the guild and our friends.
 

Housing

Housing involves the creation of structures with an interior for your guild to hang out. In addition to the fluff value, adding these structures is supposed to increase the number of people in your guild who are allowed to bind themselves to the guild's bindstone.  Initially, only 10 members can bind to the city, but with the addition of housing structures the number goes up by a certain number per building.  The bad news is that the number of these buildings you can erect is predetermined to your city type or piece of land.  The hamlet seems to allow 2 of these buildings, and they cost 10 modules each (5000 gold for both).

The houses themselves are quite impressive looking, and I can only assume that each race will have a different style to them given the label of the building when you target over it says "Clan House Mahirim". While we haven't built our houses yet, I was able to take a walk into the houses from the Exodus Syndicate guild, which has opted to build the buildings before the walls.  The first floor of the clan house was a large room with assorted tables and decorations, and a flight of stairs leading up to second level.  The second level is more of a balcony level, and has another flight of stairs leading to a very small 3rd floor area.  One final note about houses that I find annoying, is that while inside you are always targeting it, so you have the label with the life bar in the way often as can bee seen in the screenshots.

 

Resources

Resources are one of the main reasons players are supposed to want to have a city and control a certain piece of land.  Every location seems to have access to one resource that can be built.  The game does not tell you what that resource is before you claim your plot of land, but by looking at the general area where your city is, it is usually pretty easy to figure out.  For example, if your city is located in a mountainous or cave area, then you would expect there to be a mine.  These resources are supposed to act a source to obtaining rare materials that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to get by other means.

Developing these resources into something tangible that can be used by your city is costly.  The plot of land Inquisition has at the moment has a farm as its special resource.  For us to develop this would cost our guild 50 modules!  That's right, 50. That means 12,500 gold in modules alone just for the farm, and this does not even factor in the massive amounts of stone and wood.  As much as I was blown away by this, I suddenly felt a lot better when I found out how much Exodus Syndicate's harbor is going to cost them upwards of 250 modules (62,500 gold not counting materials).

 

Trade and Extras

Trade seems to be pretty self explanatory.  When you click on the structures for this option you are shown a general store with a cost of 10 modules.  I can only assume this place a merchant who can sell crafting supplies and hopefully some of the work stations certain crafts require to be used, although I can't confirm this personally.

The extras are the thing that I really don't understand at this point.  These consist of various things like barrels, crates, and scaffhold.  The good news is that they are relatively inexpensive at only 2 modules each, but at this point I don't really know what purpose they serve.  It is possible that they could just be fluff to decorate the town and make it look built up and alive, or there could possibly be some sort of bonus associated with it.  At this stage however, nobody is willing to blow modules on these when other things clearly take priority.

 

Final Thoughts

I think at this point my biggest concern as a hamlet owner is a lack of defenses or defendability for our plot of land.  We have walls that don't seem to encase the perimeter of our property, which sort of defeats the purpose of having a wall if someone can just walk around it.  Perhaps the missing buildings will fill in the holes, but the fact remains that even if they do, there does not seem to be a gate.  In the event of an attack, enemies would be able to easily enter the property unless there was some sort of door with a friendly switch to set who is allowed to come and go.

Hamlets do not seem to have guard towers either, at least mine doesn't.  This only makes it that much easier for unwanted visitors to travel into our land, hell I got ganked while I was taking the screenshots for this article right in the center of my guilds property.  There does seem to be some sort of guard tower control for people who are lucky enough to have them, it would be nice is they could do something like that with a door to set access.  I have also heard some of the cities have cannons that are not positioned as well as they could be to make them useful.  Some people may be put off by the fact that you can't build anywhere you want, or place your buildings where you want.  I think the fact that there are a limited number of set locations does increase the value of having one and gives people a reason to fight, and the fact that there is a money sink here is probably a good thing for the game's economy.  Having gone back over the article and added up just the gold needed in modules to build our hamlet (not counting the extras), the total comes to around 40,000+ gold, and that isn't counting the stone and wood (or the guilds that have more expensive resources like harbors).  This definitely is one of those MMOs where your money is always worth something.

The good thing about the entire concept of city building in this game compared to other MMOs is that there is a real sense of satisfaction when you start putting up structures because it is not instanced.  Everyone in the world who comes by your spot will be able to see the work you have done, unlike in AoC where everything was instanced.  They definitely have a solid and interesting foundation for their city building system, despite the fact that I think some tweaks would go a long ways.  This aspect of the game really adds another layer to the gameplay, and reinforces what I originally said about being in a guild to fully experience all that Darkfall has to offer.

 

Paragus
Co-Leader of Inquisition
www.inqguild.com

Darkfall: Mounts and Politics

Posted by Paragus1 Friday March 6 2009 at 2:30PM
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Darkfall: Mounts and Politics

After being one of the lucky few to get a copy of the game, I have decided to write about two aspects of the game that I have been introduced to in the first few days.  While mounts and in-game politics have little to do with each other, these features are the ones I have been able to experience at length in my first few days.  A lot of people responded to my beta review wondering more about the mounts, so hopefully this should give you a bit more insight.  After the write-up about the guild functionality, I was finally able to put it to the test when I soon found myself up to my eyes in political wheeling and dealing.

Mounts

Mounts in Darkfall are much more a privilege than a right unlike what we have seen in a lot of the MMOs in the last few years.  Instead of going to your local mount vendor and buying one, mounts are created via a form of crafting called "taming".  The way my guild has approached this is that we have a few select members who are the official mount makers, much like you would have a designated armor crafter.

 

 

I logged in the other day to find out that my guild tamers had successfully cranked out a bunch of mounts for us to take for a test drive.  The mount is an item that can be traded like any other item, and goes into your backpack with the rest of your items.  In order to call the mount, you hotkey the mount statuette into your bar and press the assigned button.


 

The mount will appear wherever your crosshair is pointing.  This caused a great deal of confusion at first because if you are looking across town, that's where the mount will appear.  This means that if your sights are not pointed at the ground very close by, you could accidentally summon your mount 50 yards away.  The issue with this is that once your mount is summoned, anyone can jump on top of it and ride off.  This makes it very important to be aware of your surroundings to avoid having some random stranger jack your ride and ride off into the sunset.

Movement

Once your mount is summoned, you can climb up by pressing the "F" key (default for "use"), and to despawn the mount back to your backpack, you press the "G" key.  We held a small guild drivers class, and all went out for a ride.  The mount controls were surprisingly tight and it handled well, and I found that my death pig was able to turn on a dime.  The mount travel speed is faster than a player can sprint, but riding it does use stamina very slowly . Riding a mount like almost everything in Darkfall is a skill that can be raised, we are under the impression at this point that a higher riding skill reduces the stamina drain.  It is also worth mentioning that mounts in this game can swim as opposed to other MMOs that despawn your mount as soon as they touch water.  We were surprised and amused to watch our death pig doggy paddle across a river.

Combat

Darkfall does seem to support mounted combat.  The one issue I have with it is that in order to fight with your mount, you need to have a 1 handed weapon equipped.  As someone who has opted for a 2-handed weapon approach to melee, this is a minor annoyance to me because I have to keep a 1-hander stashed.  I suppose I can somewhat understand the realism side of it trying to balance yourself on a horse while swinging down with both hands, but it is something you want to keep in mind if you plan on putting yourself in mount combat situations.  Mounts also have their own life bar, meaning they can be killed and also healed.

The mounts themselves have 2 different attacks from what I have seen.  The first type is the basic forward attack to try to hit someone directly in front of you.  The death pig I was riding would try to bite or gore whatever was in front of me by clicking the mouse with my weapon drawn and running forward.  The second type is a rear attack that can be done by pressing backwards and attacking.  This resulted in my pig performing a sort of mule kick to anyone who would be directly behind me.  The "Q" and "E" keys can be used to lean side to side to swipe at people.  Combat damage from being on a mount is substantially more damaging than if you were on foot.  I remember seeing a patch note at the end of beta where they raised it, and it is definitely noticeable.  People who are the victim of a mule kick or being gored are often times knocked back or forward.  Yesterday I was chased by a guy riding a dwarf ram that kept butting me down the road over and over as I fled for my life.

Anyone can ride any races mount as can be seen in the above screenshot, and we actually met a wolf riding a ram he looted from a dwarf he had killed.

 

Politics

From my very limited time in the game so far, I can say that Darkfall has had more political dealings than any other MMO I have played.  The people who have cities want to keep them, and the guilds who don't have them want one.  Aside from that, there are people who just want revenge on other guilds who have attacked their members which often times leads to a declaration of war.  Being at war with another guild allows you to attack their members without receiving an alignment hit (even if they are your race), and guard towers will not intervene if a brawl breaks out in town.

This leads to a very complex web of relationships between guilds who are at war and in alliance with each other.  My first night in game I literally found myself in a ventrilo meeting with the leaders of about 4 other guilds.  We all sat down and decided we were going to try to be friendly with each other for a variety of reasons.  Everyone disclosed to the others who each guild was at war with, and who they were viewing as friendly.  Much like a game of Civ 4, we formed various forms of pacts and treaties and decided we would work together against our common enemies.

One thing that I think hasn't been mentioned in regards to the politics and city conquest is that there is no way to know the location of your enemy's city.  This means that finding out where they live is actually a key step because there is no political map in the game at this stage to tell you where the cities are located, let alone who controls them.  When you enter a guild controlled city area, it does give you a message as to who is in control of it, so in this regard scouting and information is very useful in this game.  Whether the absence of a political map at this point is a good or a bad thing, I will leave that up to you to decide.  I think a lot of people may actually prefer the fact that gathering information is as important as it is, while others would rather have the game disclose it.

One interesting aspect about declaring wars and alliances in Darkfall, besides the massive pop-up, is that the game discloses some information about the other guild in the system chat.  The information tells you the clan's size, the number of cities they own, alignment score, and some other data which I have not yet quite figured out.  Just a side note about the clan size, I find this to be very interesting because you know just how large or small the threat is, something in other MMOs that seems to be misleading.  An example of this was my guild alliance in Warhammer Online that showed the other guilds having a roster of well over 100, but after factoring out alts the true size was somewhere near 40.  Since Darkfall only allows 1 character per server, you know the number reflected here is probably very accurate.

I just want to add one final thing about guilds before I wrap this up.  Darkfall allows multiple people to share the highest rank in the guild, which is called Supreme General.  This has been an issue in some other MMOs because my guild has 2 leaders, and previously we have been forced to make one of us a lesser rank with limited power.  Since the game displays your guild rank under your name for all other players to see, you have to be careful because everyone likes to target the guild leader for a good old-fashion looting.

 

Paragus

Co-Leader of Inquisition

www.inqguild.com