Darkfall Unholy Wars: The Delay...
Last night the Darkfall community broke out into a virtual prison riot after the announcement from Tasos that once again the launch of the new Darkfall has yet again been delayed. While people who follow Darkfall and are familiar with Aventurine in general are no strangers to delays, this one stung particularly bad given the timing in relation to the expected launch of the game. When I sat down at my computer last night after work, I read the news as it was posted and all my various instant messaging programs became to go into fits as rage literally spewed all over my desktop and I watched Forumfall go into a complete meltdown.
As I sat there in my chair face-palming, I began to wrestle with my own disappointment. I had a launch editorial for the site here already written and submitted that the staff asked me to do. I had a few friends who had taken off for work, probably foolishly, prepared to hunker down. I had already had meetings with other clans about launch plans, as well as my own guild members explaining to them what Inquisition's plans would be on launch. Irate friends began to pile in vent looking for me, as is often the case when AV makes them mad, and an instant message from Tasos himself... "change in plans :( ".
After chatting for a while and expressing my disappointment in the news with him, especially considering the fact it came literally at the 11th hour before launch, I truly believe that AV is doing ultimately what they believe will be the best course of action for the game over the long-term. After some time processing the news and our conversation, I calmed down and started to really think about whether or not there was some truth to what he said and began to ponder the benefits of the delay.
Obviously finding out at the last possible hour about the delay was an absolutely horrible communication blunder on AV's part. Any sane and rational person has to admit this, and AV certainly realizes this by their own admission. It was justifiably received by the community as a slap in the face. But by the same account, I think any sane and rational person would agree that had the game launched at this time, the likelihood of a repeat of the original Darkfall's launch debacle would have been very high.
The article that I wrote that was to be published on MMORPG.com today talked about what a new Darkfall needs to do in order to be successful. In light of recent news, it seemed unfitting to publish it today (perhaps it will be published at a later time), but one of my main points is that the launch needs to be better than it was last time. The launch of your game is the critical moment when you have to make your case to the marketplace as a developer that your game is worth a purchase, and another debacle akin to what happened before could cripple Unholy Wars right out of the gate.
The silver-lining I see in all the madness and rage is that Darkfall: Unholy Wars will be beta tested. Does anyone out there really think that if this game had launched without any real beta test that it would have went well? Darkfall in its scope is a massive project being handled by a studio that is reaching farther than many of the large developer houses out there. Those of you who remember the original should also remember the staggering amount of issues and exploits that emerged. Those of you who remember all of those issues should also remember the damage it did to the game as a whole in terms of population. Having a real beta test should hopefully help mitigate the chances of these issues crippling the new game out of the gate, because this time AV is going to be hitting a much much larger crowd on launch.
The delay also means that Darkfall's launch day will make a much larger splash because now it will coincide with the game actually being available on Steam the day it goes live. This is important that people attracted by Steam have the chance to play on day one because the initial days will dictate who the power players are politically in the game moving forward. I like to think of the initial rush to secure holdings at launch as a setting of the political chess board, and having players join from steam weeks or months after launch could diminish the initial splash as those players enter the game with the political gears already set in stone and being powerless to become their own cog in the machine.
Yes AV's handling of the situation was poor. Neither us as gamers or they as developers are in denial about this. Yes, they need to vastly improve aspects of their communication with their loyal community. But once the rage subsides, I would urge the community to take a step back for a moment and realize how important it is to the MMO genre as a while that this game reaches it's maximum potential. The MMO landscape for me shows nothing of any real interest on the horizon or even the immediate future. As we sit here, big MMO developers are in the process of churning out the next big hype train MMO that looks just like the last 5 that came through and burned out in a month. AV needs this game to succeed because it is their dream, but we as disgruntled MMO players also need this to succeed because we want other companies to know that there is a market worth pursuing in deviating from linear MMOs. If waiting another few weeks increases the odds, then I think it's probably worth it, because the alternative means more of the same and a floundering genre that looks increasingly boring to me as a veteran gamer.
Co-Leader of Inquisition