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Overview Part II, Looking at the Down Side

Andy Cormier Posted:
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In my initial overview of Darkfall, I went over the game in very broad strokes. Now I'm going to kick off this overview a bit differently than most. Instead of peppering in the good with the bad like most other articles, we are going to delve exclusively into the negative. I wanted to do things this way since there is such an over abundance of misinformation floating around, leaving many undecided people that have no idea if many of the alleged problems in Darkfall actually exist, or not.

To start, I would like to touch on the most obvious... buying the game. This can feel like an "epic quest" in and of itself. Aventurine is what you call an "Indie" company (small company, not much experience, not a lot of cash, etc). Sadly, there are no boxed versions of this game available. You can't go to your local retailer and pick up a copy. The game is purchased via digital download exclusively. So the first logical step would be to go to the Darkfall website, and press the "Order Now" button. That is, if you could find the "Order Now" button. In fact, if you go to the Darkfall website one would be led to believe that the game is still undergoing beta testing. The website is so outdated that the second newest article in the news section talks about the "first wave of beta invites" that were recently sent out. So, as a potential customer, you are left with no choice but to fish through the official message forums just to find the link to their store, which then appears to be closed 24/7.

This is because while the game is indeed released, it was done via a "limited" release. What they intended to do was allow small numbers of players in at a time to bring the server to optimum capacity, before opening another. However, with the massive demand for this game, the daily sales quotas were being consumed in under 5 minutes. This made it extremely infuriating for players waiting to purchase Darkfall with cash in hand. They attempted to increase their daily quotas, which caused queue times of two hours or more that lasted several days. Shortly after however, Tasos stated sales would halt and a fix would be coming that Monday, fixing the queues for good. Monday came and what did I find... no queue times at all, seemingly for good. Keep in mind that this game was developed with architecture to allow for 10,000 simultaneous players online at the same time. So while Aventurine seems to do things in a very eclectic manner, I must commend them for their dedication in fixing major issues so quickly.

To be honest, the rest of the "problems" you will see discussed on the message forums are non issues. The most talked about topic is obviously regarding rampant cheating. I can confirm that cheating does in fact exist in this game, but it's the equivalent of seeing a hundred thousand dollar sports car smoke you on the highway. You may see this from time to time, but for all intents and purposes it's a rare occurrence. Most of the claims of cheating revolve around speed hacking. For instance, I had a player that continued to attack me with melee weapons while running alongside my mount, eventually killing me. This was before I had even heard about the speed hacking so I wasn't exactly sure what had happened. Later on, I heard several other players making claims against this same individual. I then realized what had happened. Recently Aventurine has made some strong statements toward banning cheaters without warning, and I must say many of the people that had become known for this no longer appear to be in the game world. So in my opinion cheating appears to be a fairly rare occurrence with fairly hefty consequences, at least until it's patched out of the game completely.

The other huge complaint is macroing. I again have to say that this is a non-issue as well. This game primarily has two scenarios where you will see people macro: magic and harvesting. You get a free school of magic to start with called "Lesser Magic". A few of these spells do not take reagents to cast, and they slowly get better as your skill increases through use of the spell(s). So the prevailing logic is that if players cast spells overnight, they will be kick ass mages by morning. While you would certainly be skilled at the lowest form of magic, you won't really be skilled in anything overly useful. Once you reach a certain skill level in Lesser Magic, it opens up Greater Magic, which in turn opens up a slew of other magic schools. All other magic schools require reagents to cast and reagents cost money, a lot of money. So while it's still possible to macro magic, it simply doesn't make sense to do so since the process would be costing you your hard earned gold all night long. It makes more sense to use the spells on monsters (or players) for loot and gold, which you can later be spent to replenish your resources. Also, it is possible to kill another player in town, especially if they are not physically at the keyboard. So anyone who attempts in-town macros are usually killed and looted on sight. So you rarely if ever see players attempting to macro any legitimate spells for this very reason. Harvesting is even worse to macro since anyone caught macroing a resource is usually instantly killed and their resources stolen. In fact, hunting harvesters is a sole profession for some, and can be downright lucrative. So macroers seem to do nothing more than fill the pockets of those that hunt them, and play little to no significance in the game whatsoever.

The last remaining hang-up I have is with the so called "Alignment System". This is the game's form of crime and punishment if you will, very similar to that of Ultima Online. The basic premise is that all characters start with +10 alignment on a scale of -50 to +100. Anyone with a positive alignment will show as blue, or lawful. If a blue player strikes another blue player, the offending player will turn "grey" for a length of ten seconds. During this time they can be freely attacked by any player without repercussion. If during this time the grey player attacks any blue player again, he will stay grey for a full two minutes. If you kill a player of the same alliance (races are aligned between the good and evil races) you lose eight alignment for dropping a player (where they remain incapacitated for a minute or two) and another four for ganking the player, which is like a finishing blow. If your alignment goes negative, you turn red wherein anyone can freely kill and loot you without penalty. Your alignment must become positive again before your character returns to being blue. This can be done by killing other reds, or by killing players from an enemy race. This system actually works well for the most part, with a few glaring issues. The largest being the fact that clans can easily exploit the alignment system. Clans will often have "red" players bound to their clan stone where clanmates will repeatedly kill (and gain alignment) over and over all night long. This farmed alignment is usually taken and used on their own race, many times in the form of griefing. Clanmates can essentially just replenish their alignment within 30 minutes or so using this method, completely invalidating the penalty accrued for killing friendly races. There are a few other methods of reproducing the same scenario. To make matters worse, you can kill the same player over and over and continuously gain alignment. While I have no doubt both of these issues will be fixed in the near future, it's hard to leave them out at this point since they currently play such integral roles in the game world.


Andy Cormier