Darkfall Dev Journal #24: Full Freedom Gameplay and Substance

We’re back! In a brand new developer journal, Darkfall Associate Producer Tasos Flambouras writes about “Full Freedom Gameplay and Substance”. This is a lengthy one boys and girls, so buckle in.

Darkfall Developer Journal
“On Full Freedom Gameplay and Substance”
Article by Tasos Flambouras (Associate Producer, Darkfall)

We’ve been under the radar for a while now working hard on testing the beta among other things. In the meanwhile we unveiled many new screenshots in the official site’s screenshot gallery and as part of the racial descriptions, as well as here on Warcry, for those that missed them. These screenshots show upgrades in our graphics yet again.

The typical reaction to the screenshots has been for people to wonder what kind of beast they’re going to need to play the game. It’s not like that at all. Everything in Darkfall has been optimized for speed since it has been made for massive warfare. To give you an idea, you could get good gameplay displaying graphics like our latest screenshots using an average – above average system and a Geforce 6600 graphics card. The graphics are very scalable, with the difference that you won’t look at the screenshot graphics, and your own scaled-down graphics will look like crap in comparison. I see official screenshots from other games that look amazing, then I see some in-game screens and they’re an insult. We don’t have a ‘screenshot setting only’ to sell you the game – all of Darkfall’s graphics settings are fully useable. Furthermore, the Darkfall engine can be set to auto-scale real-time to maintain your desired framerate. Our number one priority is gameplay, and this is why the graphics have just recently started coming along in a big way. Having said that, the screenshots and videos still do not do the live game justice…your game screen will look far better than anything we’ve shown you so far.

I’ve been reading the official forums and I’ll offer some information here on some of the things the community has been asking about:

The size of the world: From the ones we know about, It’s at least more than twice the land area size of the largest announced or released MMO out there. This world is also seamless and zoneless. You won’t see people popping up everywhere, or camping your zone drop. We feel that this is crucial for a PvP game. To run from one end to another at regular running speed could take more than 8 hours. This is just an estimate: It could take less or more time depending on your route. It’s not the exact size of the world which is that important though, it’s what’s in it. We could conceivably make an endless barren world but what’s the point of that? In Darkfall our world is full of content, we keep adding more every day and it’s all usable: Movement is not restricted, you don’t have to stick to road travel, there are no invisible walls, no impassable mountains. Furthermore, you can go to places we didn’t necessarily mean for you to go to by running, swimming, diving, climbing, using ladders, elevators, get blasted up, boosted up…any way you can get there, we’ve placed no restrictions. The scale of the Darkfall world is closer to realism than any other MMO we’ve seen. In Darkfall snowcaps are earned. This effectively multiplies the size of the world in a much bigger way than in most scaled down MMO worlds.

The crafting system in Darkfall has been designed to be useful first and foremost. It’s not very complicated and we haven’t tried to reinvent the wheel with it. You can craft any and all items in the game. In Darkfall having good gear is one of the elements needed for maximizing your combat potential. Each item you craft bears your name on it for the life of the item and that has a value in itself. The question I’m replying to is variations of “why is the crafting system sophisticated, intuitive, and fun?” I’m not going to describe it more than we have already, but I’ll say again that the value of crafting in Darkfall is that it’s so very important in the game, more so than in any other MMO. Enchanting items is more challenging in that you have to discover the recipes, research, there’s a process which is challenging and fun for those who enjoy that kind of thing.

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On the topic on figurines: mounts which can be summoned using a crafted figurine which can be stored in your backpack. There are a hundred of pseudo-realistic ways to implement mounts in the game of which most are just a pain in the ass of gameplay. We believe that our way is the most gameplay, player, PvP, and crafter friendly approach. Other than that, the mounts are full service, you can do combat on them, move anywhere you like, they can be killed independently or from under you, they don’t magically disappear when you dismount, they can be stolen, abandoned, and looted. Anyone can have a mount in Darkfall, and you don’t need to fulfill a special set of conditions, reach a certain level, save gold for months, win a contest, or preorder the game to own one.

The reason we don’t allow items on the ground is because there’s no reason for items to be on the ground. Darkfall inherently supports this option but we don’t have it enabled as to avoid exploitation and specifically the creation of lag by placing hundreds of items on the deck. Same reason why corpses after a while turn to gravestones.

Our progress with publishers is steady, unfortunately everyone moves at their own speed. Unless something unexpected happens, we are self-publishing in at least one territory so we’ve been working on that and using our time constructively to that end. Our publishing capability allows us to go ahead with public beta if this process looks like it might take much longer. Speaking of public beta, I read someone wished we would give a date, and equated that to professionalism on our part. I won’t disagree with that, however giving a public beta date in order to get preorders, even if that means you have to announce consecutive delays, while professional, is not part of our business model. We’ll announce a public beta date when we know for sure that it’s the right date. Until then, at best, we can give you an idea of our milestones. Darkfall preorders by the way aren’t applicable. Our hope for Darkfall is that you won’t spend a cent on the game until you’ve tried it and decided you want to play it. At the moment, our target for public beta/ playtesting is ASAP, and we’re doing everything we can to get there. We want our public beta to be the full game; we want this period to be a solid gaming experience and not one day here and thirty minutes there. We want it to be fast, fun and stable. This is why at the moment we’re engaged in heavy internal beta testing using professional testers to get the game ready.

Someone asked for a description of a typical PvP and a PvE encounter: To this I’ll answer that there is no typical encounter in Darkfall. There are too many variables and you never know what you’re getting into. Here’s a quick PvE encounter for you nevertheless:

You ride up to a seemingly abandoned village and you get off your mount to explore it. As you enter through a gate, you hear a sound just as a mob jumps on you from above and connects with its weapon. You back up trying to mess up its range while you pull out your battleaxe. You rush the mob which circle-strafes you and you miss in your initial attacks. You manage to trade a couple of blows with it and it turns and runs. You pull out your bow and you notice it’s doing the same as it’s running off. You aim for its back and right as you release, your aim is thrown off by the explosion of a fireball which knocks you back and you miss. By the time you recover, the initial mob starts landing arrows on you and its friends are shooting spells while a couple are closing in to engage you with melee weapons. You run to your mount under fire and you try to get away but it gets killed from under you and you have to run away zigzagging because your character is in bad shape. Just as you think you’re safe, an arrow, fired by another player you haven’t seen in all the commotion, finishes you off and you’re summarily stripped of your belongings. The End.

Conquest is something we’re going to demonstrate, rather than talk about again. I’ll say this however: You may recall a couple of screenshots we showed of a siege, and the size of the clan cities in that, and in our latest video. There are 44 unique massive clan city sites like that one in Darkfall and 53 unique clan villages and hamlets. Global and local bonuses are associated with the development of cities. There will also be several world wonders clans can build to gain permanent bonuses. The game has been designed from day one for city and empire building and conquest, and this is at a massive scale.

I’m going to continue with some random thoughts that have to do with our realization that very few people understand that Darkfall is a completely different game than what you’re used to. Many of the questions we’re asked are in the context of other games and they almost don’t apply, so our answers to these questions are often mistaken as evasive:

More than anything else, Darkfall is selling full freedom gameplay. The game and the technology have been designed and implemented from the ground up for to be a full sandbox PvP game. When we were talking about this concept and about full PvP, about a dark and realistic world, about blood splatter, decapitation etc. a few years ago, everyone else was playing it safe and using terms like “Quakefest” and “dudefest” to describe our concept while simultaneously discounting the PvP community as a whole. Now everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and suddenly it’s all good because they found out there’s a market there. They’ve hacked in the PvP but that doesn’t even come close to offering freedom, so they have to sell the byproducts of PvP. We never tried to exploit the M rating, and we never felt there was a need to tease our players with promises of ultra violence or sexist sexual innuendo. For us, it’s all about the features that come from offering full freedom gameplay with accountability. We’ve remained true to our original vision to this day.

Let’s talk about real-time: You can’t have a true real-time game when you can select your targets, and ‘set up’ your attacks allowing the system to attack for you. You lose control of your character by default even if you’ve set up your options. When you enter into an action, the result is already determined no matter what crazy thing happens in between. In Darkfall between the time you swing a sword, launch a spell, an arrow and the time it connects, a million things could happen. You can duck, someone could run in front of you and take the hit, you can put up your shield etc. Nobody knows what’s going to happen until it does. It’s true real-time, in fact the only true real-time MMO out there. Other games may try to imitate real-time action by giving you the illusion of control through options. There’s a world of difference and in the end it affects the gameplay in a big way.

As a result Darkfall is more action packed than anything out there and this is supported by its features as well as by the lack of gameplay restrictive features: no target selection, aimed attacks, full physics, no radar, no floating names, no floating damage, no fuchsia, or chartreuse colored circles at your feet, no invisibility, ‘true stealth’, visual and audio cues, full mounted combat, naval combat etc.

Darkfall is a sandbox game, the storyline connects everything without being overbearing. It’s about substance and it’s not bogged down by franchise or license requirements. You won’t be buried under tomes of lore just to know what you’re doing in the world. The players in Darkfall start fresh and will ultimately write their own stories and shape the world. In Darkfall the lore supports the gameplay, and not the other way around. There will be many of you that never read a single line of lore in this or any other game they play. In this game, this won’t hold you back.

When you hear character development, most other MMOs start talking character creation. Character development is the substance however. Darkfall’s skill system means you can’t mess up your character and it makes for the most versatile character development system out there. How many times have you rerolled your character after choosing some weird class you knew very little about? If a game has levels it’s going to be a grind plain and simple and you can’t sugar-coat that. If a PvP game has levels, the higher levels typically have an impossible advantage so you have to get to maximum level just to be viable and to hope for an even playing field. In Darkfall everyone is viable and can PvP from day one.

We vehemently resist the notion that too much player freedom is a bad thing so we’re pushing the envelope wherever we can on that, despite popular opinion.

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the community for their patience, their continued feedback, their initiative, and support.

Thank you for reading.

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Read Article Darkfall Dev Journal #26: Questions Answered
Read Article Darkfall Dev Journal #25: Philosophy
Read Article Darkfall Dev Journal #23: Tasos Answers 29 Fan Questions