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Reflections on MMO's

This is just a minor reflection on MMO's in general

Author: Ciano

Dark Fail!

Posted by Ciano Thursday January 15 2009 at 12:57PM
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Darkfall...., it is a game that has been whispered in the shadowy underbelly of the MMO commnity for over 6 years now. Many have speculated that it is a myth and like many myths is simply and old wives tale to scale poor carebears in to going to bed at night. Others speculate that Dark Fall is real and will one day rise up and crush the MMO community under it's evil tread.

Dramatics aside I don't think any MMO to date has ever been quite as controversial as the upcoming game Darkfall. Recently the developer Tasos announced that Jan 22nd will open a trial for several thousand players and they extended the release to the 25th of Febuary. He stated that several systems required testing based on the feedback of beta testors. They also announced that there would be a pre order beta disc. Now, if I remember my history then Darkfall wasn't originally going to be anything other than digital download. My instincts tell me that this delay is because Tasos picked up a last minute publisher and worked out a deal for distribution.  Now I think there is nothing wrong with delaying a game to make sure that it is as polished as it can get. However,  the circumstances of this extension are questionable. They are already beginning to speculate that they will have far more subcribers than they anticipated and want to make room for more people. This is a mistake because it's a sandbox MMO. The death nail for a sandbox MMO is an empty world. If Tasos makes the same mistake as so many other MMO's recently, he will release too many servers and the worlds will be empty. It is much better to NOT have enough capacity and add more as the servers fill, than to spread out the player base too much in the initial release.


Now, Darkfall is the most controversial MMO of our time. The nay sayers believe that it will never release and that we are following vaporware. The elitists claim that it's graphics and systems are sub par and will never attract the numbers to maintain it's success. The carebears decry the full loot system and vow never to even try the game.

Well to that I say on to you "NUTS". If Darkfall releases it will probably be the most polished MMO release in the last 10 years. I think if the systems are all done correctly then it's PVP will be the most polished and well rounded in any MMO is the last few years. It's crafting will be the most expansive and least tedious of any MMO.

If the game doesn't release then they will have all been right. I do think that a game that has been delayed over and over can be nothing but win IF and ONLY IF, it released before the MMO community gets sucked in to another game.

Right now we are in a lull for MMO's. AOC, WAR, even WOW to a certain extent is starting to lose the interests of longtime MMO gamers. IF Darkfall releases before another new game, it stands a good chance of stealing players and retaining them for a while. If another game releases before Darkfall, I think that Darkfall will fail. Players only have so much time and money and most of us won't split it between two MMO's.


Surving Darkfall

Posted by Ciano Tuesday January 13 2009 at 1:06PM
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This BLOG is going to center around Darkfall and how to survive it's world. Most of you will not have played a game such as Darkfall and will be surprised when you end up with your head on a stick in the middle of an orc Town. Darkfall is not going to be your normal world. There isn't any real safety out of town and you should be extremely careful who you trust. Based on my previous experiance in games such as Ultima Online, Shadowbane, Age of Conan, and other games with survivalist aspects in pvp, I'll lay down a few suggestions.



I say this as a rule because in a world where survival is prime, people will be a bit more unscrupulous in their dealings with each other. Consider trust a commodity not to be given away lightly. Once you give somone your trust they can do anything to you. Usually anything amounts to you dieing and them running off with your stuff. The orders of precedence of trust should go like this in a survival game. Yourself, your close freinds, your guild, your city, your race, other races. Essentially in a survival setting like DarkFall you would be wise not to trust much past your guild.


While traveling the work of Darkfall you should never go out alone if you can avoid it. Death can lurk around every corner and there is no off switch for pvp. By walking softly you should try to avoid main roads and open area. Look for cover whenever possible and try to make sure that you are truly alone if you decide to wander on your own. Always be wary of a strange player especially if you are in combat with an NPC or out gathering resources. By carrying a big stick I mean that you should always be prepared for combat. If you are not a combat oriented individual your big stick should be lots of friends, either NPC guards or fellow players who are willing to whatch your back. If you have niether of the above then you should carry the best gear you can and always be outfitted for a fight. HP healing items should never be far from your reach and if there is some sort of magical escape or teleportation item, you probably want one of those as well.


Darkfall is essentially a game for the socially minded. Players who like to play it alone all the time will quickly find themselves spitted on the end of a pike in front of somone's city gates. It is highly reccomended that you either join a guild or at least take up residence in a player city that doesn't mind you being there. You will find that people in a survivalist setting will not be so quick to refrain from devious actions when they outnumber thier helpless pray. Common psychological issues arise from the MOB "MOB as in large gather of dim witted people not as in NPC create" mentality is that people will very quickly turn violent they feel safety an anonymity in numbers. The only thing to prevent meeting an untimely demise is to have a group of friends that could persuade them the effort and loss of life isn't worth it or to rely on the good graces of fellow man and hope that everyone is essentially good inside. Persnally I would rather rely on force of arms to keep people on the straight and narrow.


Veterans of sandbox MMO gaming will quickly find that there are those who will enjoy subjecting others to thier will. Players who enjoy tormenting others and killing them to relieve stress or what have you. Unfortunately in an MMO enviroment such as this Evil will become the norm. Very seldomly does a gang of players build that can enforce standards of decency and keep the evil players at bay. In fact, normally evil players outnumber the goody players by a margin of 2 to 1 in sandbox games. However, it's not essentially about being good or evil. Essentially it's about being one of the guys or being an outsider. In a game like Darkfall, everyone is an outsider for a while. If you are an outsider you are essentially the an infidel and you will be very quickly killed. It's nothing personal. The only way to survive is to humble yourself before your enemies and join them until such time as you can destroy them from the inside, join them entirely, or leave the area and come back with an army later on. The only way to force decency on people is to ensure that you have enough weapons and armor to make them think twice about thier actions.


Being a non combat character is entirely possible in a world such as Darkfall. Indeed, in a world where everything is made by players, this puts a particular value on somone who makes items. It would be very easy to find a group of players that will shelter you and protect you while you slave away at the forges. It is merely a trade off of skills for protection. You will find that the better gear your can provide a group of people, the more they will be willing to ensure your safety. If you find yourself constantly getting killed while out gathering resources, ask for an escort and offer to keep a small guild outfitted. You will probably find that they will protect you and offer you a spot in their city if they have one.


If you didn't play Ultima Online you wouldn't understand the above statement. One other survival trait that would be valuable in Darkfall is to ensure that you carry the absolute minimum needed on you at all times. In game there will be both housing and banks of some sort. It is essential that you throw anything that is not immediately useful in to some kind of secure storage. Part of the reason people get upset over open looting is because they are pack rats and feel they need to carry everything they own on thier person. Player killers love to see that type of people and enjoy taking all thier belongings. I'm sorry to be insulting but those people are complete idiots. During the 13th century the Knight's Templar understood the need for a banking system and made it much less important to carry large sums of gold when you travel. I do not believe that 13th century peons are smarter than 21st century human beings so I would reccomend that you do the same and store everything you don't need in a bank. It will significantly lower death stress and it will ensure an easy way back on your feet when you die.


Please be aware that in the world of Darkfall you can only claim to own what you can keep with force of arms. Going back to rules from above you will notice that trust is a commoity not to be given out just because somone is the same race as you. Claiming a piece of land only works if you can protect it. You WILL have to protect it from bandits from your own race as much as other races. Additionally, placing a city down does not guarentee ownership of land either. Your city is not worth a hoot if you do not have the manpower to maintain control of the land around it. You will quickly find that your city is deserted 3/4 of the time because bandits and murders haunt the approaches to your land. If you wish to have a thriving successful territory for your guild or band of friends then you must follow these simply rules.

1. Hire NPC guards to fortify and defend your buildings

2. Make alliances or agreements with other guilds to help secure your territory.

3. Make regular patrols around your territory to ensure the survival of your crafters and traders while they are out conducting their business. Additionally you must protect the travelers that will apporach your city to buy items while they are out adventuring. If you can not ensure the safety of business, your crafters can not earn money, you can not pay your NPC guards or make equipment, you can not defend your holdings. You will quickly find yourself out on your bum watching your city being pillaged from the afterlife.



We all understand the frustration that a person feels when somone comes along and metaphorically kicks over your sand castle. It's annoying to see your hard work go down the drain in 3.5 seconds. The one thing you have to realize in a sand box game is that it's just as easy to rebuild as it is to lose. It's far more satisfying to learn from your mistakes and come back bigger and stronger than it is to quit the game and move to somthing where loss doesn't matter. We all have jobs and social lives. We all can't afford to spend 10 hours a day playing a game. You don't need to spend 10 hours a day playing to have fun. Exacting revenge on your enemies is a matter of preparation over time. If you can only play 2 hours a day then you need to prepare for a week before making your move instead of spending 10 hours a day for 2 days making your move. We as players need to step back and be patient when playing these games. I can't tell you the number of time I have played a game and gotten my butt stomped by a particular player only to find him and maybe or week or so later and catch him with his pants down. It happens, revenge is sweet but you MUST have patience. I think we are gamer's are stuck in a loop of instant gratification that is causing us to not enjoy the challenges MMO's present. A perfect example is EVE Online. I believe there is a story where a guild called the Guiding Hand Social Club or some such nonsense spend over a year penetrating an enemy guild. When the time to strike arrived, they decimated that guild's fleet, stole quit a bit of thier gear, and destroyed thier guild's Titan in a massive show of ingenuity and force. Preperation over time will beat the grind monky mentality any day. Superior planning is all it takes.





These are simply some suggestions based on my experiance in sandbox MMO's. The best thing to do is find a group of players and have fun. I have simply warned you that in a game where anything can happen, usually death is the number one cause of player frustration. Treat your trust like a valuable commity and treat everything like a survival situation. If you do that, you will most likely come out on top or dead even most of the time.


Good luck

When are we going to get MMO's that don't suck?

Posted by Ciano Monday January 12 2009 at 5:23PM
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This is my first post and I don't have long to write it but essentially I'm going to cram my main gripe about MMO's in to a 20 minute write up.


When are we going to get MMO's that don't suck?

Essentially I am asking this because for the past 5 years I have seen clone after clone of the same horribly designed mmo's. These MMO's usually clone the ideas of previous mmo's but fail to include the features that made those MMO's good. For example, Warhammer was a good idea for an MMO. I'm not trashing it because I think it has excellent lore and a wonderful tool for exploring that lore as you play IE "Tome of Knowledge". Unfortunately Warhammer Online fails to deliver on the pvp aspect of RvR. Many of the open RvR areas are poorly designed and the Keeps that you take over and often clones of each other. The primary feature of Warhammer Online is RvR but instead of developing a unique realm vs realm they seemed to have took Warcraft's shoddy pvp system and built on it instead of developing somthing truly unique.

Here is another example involving Warhammer and Warcraft. Right after Warhammer Online released, Blizzard had an inspiration from the Muse and suddenly Warcraft had a Tome of Achievement...... Lets me see here. Warhammer Online does an innovative Tome of Knowedge that is the sum of all your experiance in Warhammer Online. This tome is very well thought out and quite innovative with tons of lore. Suddenly Warcraft has a tome of achievements that is shoddily done and exists as simply a poorly done record of achievements and titles for the Gerbils and treadmill sadists to work on. It contains little to no in game lore and really exists only for bragging rights.

Do you see my problem here? MMO's always copy a unique feature of a previous game and then gut it down to it's most basic elements.


I remember when MMO's were first coming out and games were truly unique. Call me biased but I am a big fan of Ultima Online before EA took it over and began copying things from Everquest and newer games coming out. Ultima Online in it's most basic form was a truly innovative game. Richard Garriott strove for a true sandbox game where the developers built the world and the players created the story. You can interact with any object, craft dozens of usable items, kill other players at will, adventure in dungeons, fight wars between guilds, or run around thieving from people and hope you escaped. The tools were in the hands of the players and all was well. All was well until Richard Garriot and Origin abandoned Ultima Online to the corporate dictators at EA. Suddenly Ultima Online began to change and adapt things for newer games. Suddenly you had all kinds of special abilities, special weapons, new races, extreme distortions of lore that never had anything to do with the Ultima Series. Interestingly enough, many of these changes came about as games such as Everquest, Dark Age of Camolot, and Asheron's call became popular. The greedy managers in charge of EA and Ultima Online realized that games that relied of human's obsessive natural tendency to grind and achieve required much less affort to maintain players than a game that relied on community involvement and live content. Thus began the age of adding grindable content. Skill scrolls, Stat Scrolls, Special weapons.


My point is, EA took the Gerbil wheel feature of non-sandbox games like Everquest and introduced them into a Sandbox game that didn't need it. It threw all of Richard Garriot's and his fellow designer's work and careful balance horrible out of whack. The result is that a game that was essentually very good, was destroyed for a dedicated player base and is now a horrible pervesion of it's former self. Almost every former Ultima Online player I have met, has remarked that they left the game as a result of the introduction of all the Age of Shadows and special items, and other such nonsense. The popularity of Free shards containing the original ruleset is a testiment to how much the pre 2003 Ultima Online was.


All these seem like rambling but essentially it boils down to one fundamental truth as I see it. Games are no longer innovative and that is result we are the consumers and gamers are constantly disappointed by half finished trash we are always getting. Games are relying on obsessive compulsive treadmill climbers to stray afloat instead of fleshing out truly unique features that enhance a game and make it FUN! Why can't we rely on fun to maintain a playerbase instead of treadmill? I'd rather spend a few hours relaxing to mine some ore and fashion some armor or go out to open area and pvp with people than spend my time running the same instance for the 50th time in order to get my final peice of +20 boots of uberness so I can show off my armor and die happy.

You can all disagree with me and state your opinions. I am open minded. Nobody can deny the trend of MMO failures recently though.