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Ub3rgames Aiming to Bring Back Old School Fun

Garrett Fuller Posted:
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This past week Ub3rgames has been successful in finalizing a contract for the rights to DarkFall. This hardcore MMO has been a fan favorite on the site for years. So, we thought to chat with Marc Thompson from Ub3rgames about some of the upcoming changes and features we will see. DarkFall New Dawn is set to re-launch the game and bring back some of the old school fun of the original. There are a lot of updates the team is working on as well. Let’s hear what Marc had to say.

Give us some background on how Ub3r acquired the DarkFall license?

We are a group composed of developers that have always wanted to make the switch from traditional IT to game development. We've been working and playing together for over a decade now, and this is something we've had in mind for a long time and made career choices relevant to our end goal.

We kept notes throughout the course of Darkfall's original run of what the community found to be problematic and brainstormed potential solutions as a thought exercise. So when the servers went down in 2012, we naturally inquired about licensing, without success, and just let it go.

Or at least, we let it go until last May. After seeing the petition, we prepared a business plan, saw that it would be sustainable for us to run DarkFall and contacted Aventurine again but this time with a proposition. The rest is history. After over 6 months of talks and work redacting the contract with them, we arrived at a point where both agreed on the contract and we signed.

Fans are excited for "New Dawn" can you give an update on where the project is in development?

At this point, we are very early in the project. Signing the contract was only the first step. We will have to audit the source code and make some modifications in order to launch a server. We cannot make accurate estimates for now, but we expect to have a vanilla server of DarkFall setup in a couple months.

On the other hand, we took the time to brush up our notes and were hard at work on our design documents. We've been presenting our progress every week to our potential players in order to gather feedback and make the end result better. We are pretty confident we saved a lot of development time going that route rather than waiting to do it later or do it behind closed doors.

PvP is one of the critical elements to DarkFall, what updates do you see coming for this area?

For PvP, we have two main paths of development we want to follow. The racial warfare and the clan warfare. The racial warfare aspect would be our entry level PvP, with less rewards but also less risks of losses. Players should be able to enjoy large scale PvP within those systems without significant time investment. We will expand the existing Racial Wars to have warfronts with capturable objectives, but also expand the alignment system to incorporate open world aspects. The end goal being that players choosing to PvP in these manners should be able to raise their characters exclusively through PvP.

Then we have clan warfare, which will be the PvP endgame for organized groups. We will expand the territory ownership aspect of the game by adding player placed structures called Watchtowers. Through placing watchtowers and upgrading them, players will be able to control territory, improve it and tax it. But the upfront investment will be significant and joining the territory control meta game will be the riskiest activity in the game.

There will be other smaller additions, like expanding on trade routes, the village capture system and adding wild nodes in the world.

What will your business model be? Are they going to do a monthly subscription to play or is it free-to-play with Micro-Transactions?

Darkfall: New Dawn will be a subscription based game.

We feel this is the only viable choice for a niche game like ours, but it is also the only sustainable way of providing a quality product.

We are trying to emulate successful indie releases by offering a reduced initial box price offering 2 months of subscription for 20€, and as more and more players purchase, we will increase the price by small steps to represent the quality of the end product and reward our early adopters. Similarly, we will also have two phases of subscription prices, early on at 10€, then 14.50€ once our  "strict minimum" features, like watchtowers, are implemented. The goal being to provide a premium and quality service that is worth the cost.

Do you plan on improving the graphics and game world?

Yes, we have plans to improve the graphics and the game world. But this will depend on our early success and come over time. Obviously Darkfall's graphic engine and assets are quite dated by now, but we have so much more to fix first that we will try to make it an up to date game before making it pretty. For the game world, we will be doing improvements too since many of our features will depend on altering the world, especially the racial war fronts.

How has the community responded and what kind of changes has the community voiced to U3ber, in terms of issues, new features, or changes?

The response of the community has actually be amazing. We did not expect this much positive feedback this early. But it confirms that our endeavor is justified.

The most common concern we've heard is that some former players are afraid that we are changing too much of the game, but is is understandable, DarkFall is a very fragile formula. On the other hand, some feel we may be doing a game that is still too hardcore. For that, only time will tell, but we believe we've moved away from the hardcore for the sake of hardcore and are trying to add new features increasing the depth of the game instead.

We've had a lot of great discussions on our forums and our community members are eager to suggest things. We try to address all of them, but it is getting increasingly hard to reply. But that is not the worst problem to have.You talk about the empire building mechanics of the game, how will players be able to get involved and grow in this area?

We briefly touched on watchtowers earlier, let us expand: In our opinion, empire building means that gameplay is supported by a feedback loop composed of PvP, PvE and Industry. In other words, players want to PvP to gain access to PvE to obtain mats to Craft gear in order to PvP. For an empire building system to work, all three parts need to be equally represented and that is something the original DarkFall failed to do.

With our watchtowers, clan will be able to manage their lands however they wish. Add a simple one to just control and monitor territory, or start upgrading one that buffs how many resources are in a node, or how much a monster loots to help your PvE players acquires materials, or simply add a tax collector to a watchtower to passively gain from people doing peaceful activities in your territory. This means a sort of feudal relationship where a PvP clan that owns territory will want to defend its civilians because having them feel safe means more taxes collected and more funds to pay Crafters.

The first watchtower can be freely placed in the world, but the successive ones will need to overlap with the "watchtower network", and the more you place watchtowers, the more expensive they become. Individual watchtowers can be sieged and be destroyed, and the content of their tax collectors can be looted. And finally, as long as a holding overlaps with a non-destroyed watchtower, it cannot be sieged. This means that territory will need to be contiguous and a well administered one is harder to take over but much more expensive to setup.

This will add some physicality to the world map, with neighbors fighting over watchtower borders instead of going straight for the capital city. We believe this will result in longer lasting and more interesting wars, letting everyone involved a chance to have fun.

Lastly, what is an update you want to give directly to fans? 

A lot of our features will take time to implement. What we present is what the end product will be like, but initially, it will just be vanilla DarkFall as it was when it got shutdown. It was in a much better state than in 2009, but it still is very flawed and players will need to be patient. This is why we start at a lower price.

Our first 3 updates will be:

1. To reduce the power gap by having stats, skills and abilities have a form of diminishing returns. The first few points giving more advantages than the last few points.

2. PvE spawn scaling, fixing the alignment and the Infamy system. It is important for us that DarkFall becomes much more than a gankbox and that positive player interactions becomes the norm among racial allies.

3. Our title system, which is what we believe to be a superior alternative to a skill cap which should drastically reduce the grind.

With these three updates implemented, we'll have solved many of DarkFall's most glaring issues and we'll have more room to breathe. We will then be able to implement more time consuming systems like watchtowers or warfronts, and improving the in game economy.

Thank you for your questions, and have a nice day.


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.