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What Gaming Should Be

As an avid lifelong gamer, I try to describe what has worked well and poorly in games I've played, and in any given gaming scenario, to define how it could best be handled as a result.

Author: reillan

Reillan's Guide to the Darkfall UI

Posted by reillan Thursday February 19 2009 at 8:41AM
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DFUI is one of the most confusing and frustrating aspects of the game, purely because it is a completely different animal from every major MMO before it. In most MMOs, the mouse performs a function similar to that of a Windows or Mac desktop – that is, it is used to click on various things on the UI – but the mouse is barely involved in controlling the character. MMOs typically allow the player to swing the camera view wildly about, without turning the character, so that there is a disconnect between mouse activity and character activity. However, for the sake of laziness, it is usually possible to also control the character by using the mouse and holding down a button – for instance, holding down the right mouse button might allow the mouse to control character facing, and holding down both buttons might cause the character to move forward.

DFUI works differently, however, because of a different mindset in the creation of the game. First, the creators of Darkfall do not apparently believe that free camera movement is conducive to PvP, so the free mouse look feature is taken away. As a result, moving the mouse causes the character to move. But, this creates an additional dilemma – when the mouse and character weren’t directly tied together in other games, it was easy to click on various elements of the UI, such as icons for skills, but because the mouse is now tied to movement, it becomes impossible to move the mouse anywhere other than the center of the screen.

There is still a need to use the mouse, however, for some things such as resizing windows or moving icons. As a result, the DFUI utilizes a toggle system – you can toggle the mouse to be actively controlling the character, or you can toggle the mouse to be controlling the UI – but never both at the same time. And here’s where the frustration can come in – while toggled for controlling the UI, nothing (mouse, keyboard, etc) can be used to control the character. Either you’re controlling the character, or you’re manipulating your interface, but never both at the same time.

This means that you can’t move the mouse to click on an icon to, for instance, cast a spell or change equipment, because you have ceased to be controlling the character, and making those changes would be changing the character (there is a point where this blends slightly – you can drag stuff to or from your character while toggled for controlling the DFUI, meaning it is possible to equip swords, bows, and so on, but it is not the fastest method of switching).

Moving your character
You switch between character movement and UI manipulation by clicking the right mouse button. Simply click it to gain control of the UI if needed, or click it again to take over character movement. You can move straight while in UI manipulation mode by simply pressing numlock (as with most games). You won’t be able to look around you, but you will be able to, for instance, look at your world map or

Character movement is driven by similar mechanics to other MMOs – W moves forward, S moves backward, and A and D strafe left and right. As I said, this will only work while you’re in character movement mode, and will do nothing in UI mode.

Using skills and spells
One difficult aspect of this is “how do I use my skills?” This problem is two-fold, but I’ll explain why shortly. The first obvious answer is – “Press numbers” – the skill bar utilizes number presses, just like with most other MMOs. So, let’s say you put your sword and shield on numbers 2 and 3 respectively. You’ve been using another item – perhaps your bow – and you need to switch to your melee weapons. While in character movement mode (it won’t work in UI mode), simply press 2 and 3, and you’ll equip both sword and shield.

It becomes complicated, however, because of a mindset of “Equipping” vs. “Using.” When you press 2 to equip your sword, you’re not actively using your sword – you’re simply putting it in your hand. You have to draw the sword by pressing R before you can use them at all. Then, once it’s draw, click with the left mouse button (all of this must be done while in character movement mode) to swing the sword, and it swings in the direction that you’re pointing with your mouse at the time you click it. So, if you’re clicking somewhere other than your target, you won’t hit it. A bow works similarly – clicking while the mouse is aimed on a target causes the arrow to fire at that target (although there is an arc that the arrow takes as it flies, so it might hit the ground before it reaches the target). For both of these things, the equipping and using system seems fairly intuitive.

Where that intuition breaks down is on every other skill. When you want to rest, you have to use the “Rest” skill – but to use it, you have to first “equip” the skill by pressing the hotkey for it, and then left-click to initiate it. Just pressing the hotkey for the Rest skill will leave you standing around looking stupid.

This is slightly more complex when it comes to spellcasting. To cast a spell, you have to first equip your mage staff, then draw your staff by pressing R, then equip the spell to cast, then left-click to actually cast it. This is a fairly lengthy process when you’re first learning, but spells like Mana Missile can be cast quickly at this point by simply continuing to click with the left mouse button.

I want my loots
Loot is also a function of UI manipulation mode. This means that to loot bodies, you have to walk up to their tombstone, drop into UI, open your bag (if it’s not already open), click on the tombstone, and drag the items one at a time from the tombstone to your bag. This can be difficult if you’re in the middle of combat, since you’ll be unable to move your character while looting.

On a side note – nothing marks the loot as “yours,” even having the window open. If someone else runs up and starts looting as well, they could grab items you’re trying to grab. Grab what’s most important to you first.

Whereas looting is a function of the UI, harvesting is a function of character. This means that when you harvest, you have to be in character movement mode. Simply equip your harvesting tool (preferably by using a skill bar button), draw it (since it works just like a weapon) and attack with it when you’re facing the harvesting node. Your character will begin harvesting the node. Fortunately, there is no looting when you’re done harvesting – the resource is immediately transferred to your bag if you’re successful.

There is a small amount of confusion that arises from looting and skinning. Skinning is done on the tombstone just like looting is, but like the rest of the harvesting skills, it takes place in character movement via the use of a skinning knife. If you want to loot and skin, loot first, then toggle to character mode, equip the knife, draw the knife, and attack the tombstone. (Note: You can only skin a given tombstone once. Other resource nodes can be used multiple times, and will give you a message when they’re expired).

Selecting a target
Don't. Seriously, you can't - the DFUI doesn't work that way. In traditional MMOs, you click on an enemy, and then you can click on a spell or a skill and that ability will automatically go off toward the target. So if you want to heal someone, you select a member of your party, press "HEAL" - and boom, they're healed.

Adventurine seems to think that kind of gaming takes away from a person's skill, so in the DFUI, you never simply click on a target and begin using your abilities. Clicks don't "lock on" to a target as they do in other games - if I click on an enemy target, nothing seems to happen, and nothing will.

Darkfall is all about AIM. You aim at a target and use your skill - if you're reasonably close, your skill affects the target. This is easy when the target is stationary - resource nodes, tombstones, and talkative NPCs will all stay put, waiting anxiously for you to act. Where this gets very difficult, of course, is combat. Because combat is very tied to character placement, distance and movement are critical. Weapons that give longer reach, regardless of their damage, will mean that you have a greater ability to hit an enemy that's trying to stay outside your range, or one that's dancing around you. Additionally, strafing and moving rapidly around your target could make them face a different direction when they finally swing, keeping you outside of their attack arc. writes:
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