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E3 2006 Preview

Michael Hampden Posted:
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The associate producer and lead programmer of Darkfall explain their vision

Preview based on an interview and video by Michael Hampden

Today we sat down with Tasos Flambouras (Associate Producer) and Kjetil Helland (Lead Programmer) from Adventurine, to discuss their upcoming MMO project, Darkfall. We learned that for those of you looking for something different in an MMO – Darfkall could be the game for you.

“We took it out because it wasn’t fun” says Tasos Flambouras, when questioned about a game mechanic related to simulating real-world conditions. This is a refreshing point of view in an industry where too often developers fail to realize where to draw the line between creating virtual worlds

Darkfall isn’t just generic Fantasy-themed WoW-clone number 852. The game will feature a robust PvP system that unlike the majority of current MMO titles, will be very fast paced. Also unlike many current MMOs with PvP, player skill will often be the determining factor in combat. “You have the character skill” says Lead Programmer Kjetil Helland, “but what will matter as much is the player’s skill”. And you’d better have some skill, because in Darkfall, you won’t find things like safezones to protect you. You can attack, or be attacked at any time, in any place.

Of course, with this freedom comes responsibility, killing members of your own race will have a huge impact on your character’s alignment. Soon enough he’ll be known to all as evil, and will be unable to trade in most cities, and may even be attacked on-sight by town guards. This alignment also extends to all characters on your server, so players will have to be accountable for their actions, regardless of which character they are currently playing. You had better watch where you aim that fireball too, because Darkfall doesn’t feature any form of friendly-fire protection.

Another way in which Darkfall differs from the majority of the competition is a skill-based character advancement system. That’s right folks – no levels. Darkfall’s system that will likely feature upwards of 500 individual skills that your character can use upon release. Darkfall will also have a similar number of spells to choose from – meaning a remarkable number of possible character customization options.

The skill system is also a great fit for an MMO rich in PvP. In many MMOs a level 50 player would dominate a level 1 player in combat. In Darkfall, the skill system allows for a much more realistic encounter. It’s possible that 4 or 5 new players could team up and kill an experienced veteran. “[In Darkfall] you’re a hero” Tasos explains, “not some farm boy”. This means that for you grief players out there, sitting in a public place and “ganking noobs” all day won’t be a easy task in Darkfall.

The PvP itself is focused on creating a fun experience. Aiming in PvP is done with something of a crosshair, “You have to aim… and you have to click to attack.” explains Kjetil. This will provide a different, more intense experience for players who are used to sitting back, watching their character auto-attack and clicking on a spell every now and then. What else could we expect from developers who admit, “We’re all huge fans of FPS games”.

The PvP system also includes collision, meaning you won’t be simply “running through” your opponents in Darkfall. This will allow players to create meaningful formations and tactics for large-scale battles, something of a revolution in the world of MMOs. Of course, what would PvP be without a meaningful death penalty? Darkfall allows full looting of defeated enemies. Some may wince when reading that, but it’s not quite as harsh as it may seem. All items in Darkfall can be crafted by players, so a quick trip to your local bank vault, or to a clan-mate who’s handy with a smith’s hammer will have you back in business in no time.

Darkfall will also feature something never seen in MMOs, full-scale naval PvP combat. This will include ship to ship attacks, using ship-based weaponry. You scurvy dawgs out there can finally blast away with cannons, just like you’ve always dreamed. Ships in Darkfall will come in variety of sizes, and a large number of players are required to effectively crew the larger classes of ship. Ships are also not limited to attacking other ships, and can also attack land based targets, such as player-made settlements. Of course, these settlements aren’t defenseless; they can use cannons of their own to return the favor. One can imagine this could create some awe-inspiring battles.

Land-based cannons aren’t the only thing would-be attacking ships need to be concerned about. The world of Darkfall will feature a dynamic weather system, that will affect things like wind direction. Sailing your ship into an opposing wind will slow it down, making it considerably less maneuverable. Would-be pillagers will have to plan their strategies in advance and luckily enough, Darkfall includes the means to forecast upcoming weather conditions – and they’ll probably be more accurate that Phil, your local guy at Channel 6.

Land lovers will also have to concern themselves with the weather, as foggy days will decrease visibility, which could be a negative, or a positive, depending on your strategy. Besides having dynamic weather, Darkfall’s game world has such notable perks as: no instancing, entirely hand-crafted environments, and an important one for you technical folks, the complete absence of height maps.

By now you’re probably thinking, sounds like fun – When can I try it out? Unfortunately we can’t give you an answer to that just yet. Suffice it to say, a beta will probably happen at some point in fairly the near future. We’ll leave to you to decide if Darkfall was worth the wait.

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Michael Hampden