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How Agon Is Rising to the Challenge

Robert Lashley Posted:
Interviews 0

As the official launch of Big Picture Games' Darkfall: Rise of Agon nears, we wanted to touch base with the team to find out how things are going and what they believe will make players want to return to the Darkfall universe. See what they had to say in our exclusive interview.

MMORPG: I think it's safe to say for the majority of the MMORPG community the name "Darkfall" doesn't resonate with the term dependable. What kind of assurances can you provide players that this is a stable game and will be around 6 months from now? MMO players are expected to build tight knit communities. That's hard to do if they are uncertain if the game will last more than a handful of months.

Michael Taylor: This is a very good question, and one that we are happy to answer.

The majority of us on the team at Big Picture Games were around in 2012 when Darkfall Online was shut down. We all felt the heartbreak and sorrow of losing, for many of us, our favorite MMORPG of all time. We formed Big Picture Games to not only bring back the Darkfall franchise, but to do everything in our power to release the full potential the game has always had.

We believe that if we stay diligent on consistently adding new sandbox content and enhancing all areas of the game, fostering a positive and supportive community where our lines of communication are always open, and staying in-tune to the feedback and desires of our player base that we will be given the opportunity to develop Darkfall: Rise of Agon for many, many years to come.

MMORPG: Where can you succeed that the original development team failed?

Michael Taylor: The team has an immense amount of in-game experience with the Darkfall franchise as we used to be players of the previous iterations ourselves. This means that we are aware, from the perspective of an actual player, as to what works extremely well already and the areas that need improvements and enhancements.

Throughout Alpha and Early Access we have focused on many of those key pain points that were not previously addressed; the need for macros, the gap between veterans and new players, user interface deficiencies, a steep learning curve, etc.

On top of that we believe in open communication and transparency with our community, as it is something we had always wanted during the previous Darkfall games. We want to engage in as many ways as we can with our community members (our upcoming live Twitch Q&A this Saturday is an example of this) as we know as gamers ourselves the importance of being a development team that consistently interacts and communicates with their players.

MMORPG: What makes Rise of Agon superior to any version of Darkfall that came before?

Michael Taylor: To start off with we have addressed a lot of the core issues that plagued the original Darkfall Online during Alpha and Early Access development. We eliminated the perceived need for out-of-game macros and in-game AFK macroing with many changes to our hotbar functionality and how skills are leveled up. There have been enhancements to our User Interface and the initial gaming experience for new players to help ease their transition into the harsh world of Agon, and we will continuously expand upon these areas to ensure that the game is as intuitive and easy to jump into as possible.

Outside of that we have already added in some new sandbox features such as our scroll crafting system, our brand new Champion Spawn and Unique Rare Mob mechanics, and a variety of other features that have hit the live servers since we started development.

But what lies in store for the future is where we will really be able to differentiate ourselves from previous versions of the game. Our ultimate goal is to be able to provide all walks of life from PvPers, PvEers, roleplayers, crafters, and everything in between a place to call home and implement in-game content and mechanics that those kind of players would enjoy. We want Darkfall: Rise of Agon to be the best modern day sandbox MMORPG out there and we take a lot of inspiration from the oldschool games our team grew up on; Ultima Online, Asheron’s Call, Shadowbane, and many others.

MMORPG: For those unfamiliar with Darkfall and its history, what's your elevator pitch to get new players in and not just lure vets to return?

Michael Taylor: Darkfall: Rise of Agon provides players with a massive open-world with no instances where they can play the game as they see fit. The combat system is extremely unique to the MMORPG market as it encompasses twitch based first person combat, full loot mechanics which drive the foundation of risk vs reward, and a classless system where players can assume the playstyle that they desire. There are numerous dungeons and many types of monsters and enemies to fight out in the world, as well as an in-depth crafting system where all items in the game can be created by the players. To top it all off, Darkfall: Rise of Agon has a siege and naval combat system unlike no other where clans and alliances can shape the political landscape of the game.

MMORPG: What are your plans post launch, 3 months, 6 months, even a year from now?

Michael Taylor: Launch is the point in time where we will be shifting our focus from addressing some of the core areas of the game that needed attention, particularly those involving the new player experience and some of the foundational systems we needed to overhaul, to expanding on the content of the game and adding in new systems.

The first three months we will focus on adding in our Control Tower mechanics, revamping the Siege System, and implementing our overhaul to the Armorsmithing, Tailoring and Shieldcrafting professions. The changes to the crafting professions mentioned above will coincide with a patch cycle more focused on the combat mechanics and specializations that the game currently has.

After we tackle those key areas we will be working on an overhaul to the PvE artificial intelligence of the game, a complete redesign of the in-game Journal system, a fully customizable User Interface, and expansion on the first iteration of our Task System we are implementing at launch.

From there our goals are to consistently add in new sandbox mechanics to provide our players with the tools needed to create their own kind of content. We take inspiration from games like Ultima Online and Asheron’s Call which provided content and things to do for all kinds of players whether they enjoy PvP, PvE, crafting or even roleplaying. We want to add in table top games that players can engage in with their friends and enemies, customizable tabards, banners and ship sails, and many other types of sandbox features for our players.

MMORPG: The game is set to launch on May 5th. What's going on during these last 30 days before launch?

Michael Taylor: We have a lot of projects that we are working on in preparation for launch. The big one is finalizing our go-live patch that will include our Wilderness Portal Network, the first iteration of our Task System and our complete economy overhaul. We also are aiming to have our Deployable Vendor system ready for launch, but if we have to hold off its implementation for the first patch cycle afterwards it will enter the game at that point in time.

Our updated website along with the launch store packages are scheduled to go live in the coming days and we are in the process of setting up the enhanced server hardware and infrastructure that will be used for the live game. Another important task for us is to get a public test server set up for launch so that we can have an intermediary place for us to get more focused and public testing on things we plan to patch to the live servers. This public test server will allow us to receive the feedback from community members we need to ensure that all systems getting patched into the live server are not only as bug free as possible, but also to the liking of our community.

Outside of the previously mentioned tasks, we have numerous marketing campaigns that are scheduled over the coming weeks as well. We will be hosting events like our first live Twitch Q&A scheduled for Saturday, April 15th at 2 p.m. EST (https://www.twitch.tv/bigpicturegames) where we will be answering questions from our community, as well as having developer livestreams and other events to be able to engage with those looking to find out more about Darkfall: Rise of Agon.

Thank you for the questions and we look forward to seeing everyone on May 5th!


Robert Lashley

Rob Lashley / Rob Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com and RTSGuru.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can chase him down on twitter @rant_on_rob.