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Reshaping Darkfall's Sandbox

Garrett Fuller Posted:
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MMORPG.com: Darkfall has been around for several years now. Tell us what lessons you have learned in the game over the last few years. How it’s shaping your new direction going forward?

Tasos Flambouras: There were many lessons learned, and Darkfall had its share of mistakes. We took into consideration our own findings by the operation of the game, our own internal feedback, and our QA procedures. All these were driven by player activity and community feedback which was very valuable into ultimately working not to just fix them, but address them at their root. This is why we ended up making a new game rather than keep patching the existing game. Some things needed to be rethought.

We also found out that we can do it. Darkfall is an example of extreme dedication and hard work by a very small team backed up by minimal resources. We had to invent new technologies to support our vision of Darkfall and we had faith in what we were doing and enough determination to see it through.

Another thing we learned was our own capacity and capabilities. We were punching way above our weight and it was extremely difficult to keep it up. On the other hand, it became obvious what we needed to do. So we hired people we needed, we improved efficiency and quality at every level, we installed best practices and processes that were missing and this has made us even stronger.

MMORPG.com: So what are your plans for Darkfall: Unholy Wars? How will the game change from the original?

Tasos Flambouras: This is not the same game so it’s not a matter of discussing how it will change; also if we’re called to compare the two games it would take many pages to give a summary. Therefore the best I can do here is touch on a couple of elements that are different in Unholy Wars.

One of the most important elements that differentiate the two games is the user interface. This redefines the Darkfall gameplay experience both on the visual/awareness and also on the gameplay level. The User Interface was one of the more criticized features of Darkfall Online; we believe it will be one of the most preferred features of Unholy Wars.

Other changes are in the audio and visual aspects of the game.  We have upgraded our graphics engine with new technologies, such as dynamic lighting and normal mapping, and introduced new environments and effects for almost everything in the game. Regarding audio, there is a brand new audio engine powering everything you will hear, and there are now new environmental sounds, new music tracks, and more than 70% of the sound effects are new or updated.

The role system is another big differentiating factor as well but we discuss further down the road.

MMORPG.com: You mentioned working with the community on Unholy Wars, how much impact do they have on the design of the game?

Tasos Flambouras: As I mentioned, we took great consideration of the community’s suggestions for Darkfall Unholy Wars, and listened to the problems they had with the old game. Our new GUI and the roles system we implemented were heavily influenced by our community’s remarks, and we will continue listening to them, not only throughout the final stretch before the launch of Darkfall Unholy Wars, but especially after the launch.

We have a process in place for feedback which connects the community and the players with the design process. This process has been upgraded and will play an even bigger role as the feedback loop for Darkfall Unholy Wars.

MMORPG.com: What are you most looking forward to in the new game? What are you least looking forward too?

Tasos Flambouras: We’re looking forward to the launch of the game, the new game dynamics, the excitement and the familiar newness of the experience, using the enhanced character development model, mostly because we’re happy to give our loyal players a game they can love with fewer reservations. We are also looking forward to playing the game ourselves, in the previous version we were so overwhelmed with managing the launch and the game that we didn’t get to enjoy it like we wanted to.

What we are looking forward to the least is the launch again; it’s a very stressful time, where no matter how many times you’ve run your checklist, there’s bound to be something that won’t go perfectly.

MMORPG.com: Can you talk about some of the prime mechanics for Unholy Wars?

Tasos Flambouras: One of the defining properties of Darkfall is its skill system. The concept of not having levels was something that was an integral part of Darkfall, and this system has been upgraded for Darkfall Unholy Wars.

Our new roles system preserves the level-less nature of Darkfall and at the same time it makes role-choosing a strategic element in the game. It also addresses the most popular complaint regarding the old system – that “everyone is the same”.  This is one of the biggest changes regarding the way you now play Darkfall, yet it does it in a way that is not a complete departure from the older system.

Since we mentioned skills and spells, we should point out that the amount of grind in Darkfall Unholy Wars is significantly less than the first game. We feel that in this competitive environment, it’s very important that a player becomes competitive much sooner so that he can take part in and experience massive battles, where the game is at its best.

MMORPG.com: When designing the game what was the hardest part of building the world? Looking back now, what have you changed in UW?

Tasos Flambouras: The new world in Darkfall Unholy Wars is one of the most striking parts of the game. The world was designed taking into consideration the new graphics engine capabilities, such as dynamic lights and ambient occlusion etc.

The world has been streamlined; a lot of previously empty areas have been compacted, and a large amount of the unused water part of the world has been removed from the game, with the intent of bringing the interest points closer to each other. The map still retains its original structure, with the mainland and its 4 subcontinents, but everything is now completely different.

Also, every city in the game has been redesigned, and that includes both NPC and Player Cities. All the cities have a new philosophy incorporated into them, in order to enhance intuitive usage of the city’s resources and crafting stations, and the Player Cities specifically have been customized to enhance the sieging experience, on both sides of the siege. This was probably one of the toughest parts to get right, and we’re very happy with how it has turned out. We believe the players will agree.

MMORPG.com: What is your message to existing and new fans for the new game?

Tasos Flambouras: Darkfall fans are pretty unique, but one thing is for sure, we’re on the same page. If we weren’t on this end we’d probably be part of the Darkfall community as players. We continue to want to make this the game we would love to play ourselves, and this I think is the best guarantee that our players will get the best PvP experience possible. 


Garrett Fuller

Garrett Fuller / Garrett Fuller has been playing MMOs since 1997 and writing about them since 2005. He joined MMORPG.com has a volunteer writer and now handles Industry Relations for the website. He has been gaming since 1979 when his cousin showed him a copy of Dungeons and Dragons. When not spending time with his family, Garrett also Larps and plays Airsoft in his spare time.