In the latest edition of his periodic developer journals here on WarCry, Darkfall Associate Producer Tasos Flambouras talks about his company’s philosophy on a range of issues, including: announcing a release date, the beta testing process and playtesting. He also reacts to some of the reaction to his last journal.
Article by Tasos Flambouras (Associate Producer, Darkfall)
In this journal we’ll talk a little about our beta testing process, about playtesting, our philosophy on announcing a release date, and I also have some comments on the reactions to the last journal.
Darkfall is feature complete and we’re doing beta testing using professional testers as we’ve said before. Our policy on testing has always been that it’s to aid the developers in making Darkfall as stable as possible, and not to aid some artificial goal like investor relations, or public relations. We don’t care about that and the effectiveness of testing based on these goals is very questionable judging by the beta leaks everyone is accustomed to and which have been hurting the games in question. It’s also not good for the players because they usually don’t enjoy the experience. We don’t expect playtesting to sort out major problems, other than getting reports on hardware configurations and further testing out some gameplay features.
We prefer to do our testing this way so by the time we get to the playtesting, we’ll have as close to the actual game as possible. We would like to let the playtesting carry on for a while uninterrupted just like the actual game would be instead of allowing access for a few days here and there. That’s the best way to decide if the game is fun, something you really can’t have an opinion on when it’s not near-complete. In the playtesting phase, we’re not looking for testers, we’re looking for players, the same way most people enter a beta: to try out and play the game rather than help the developer with quality assurance.
Darkfall testing put simply consists of testing each and every feature of the game and all associated features in a pyramid structure. It’s not the same as testing a railroad, linear game. There’s no path to follow, Darkfall is a sandbox game and we have to make allowances for numerous combinations of occurrences. Take the closest Darkfall comes to anything scripted: even in quests there is no instancing and there are more than one ways to complete it including PvP ways. There is no single set of actions and the end justifies the means.
Something that Darkfall has that other games may lack during testing is help from the AI. In Darkfall the game doesn’t really distinguish between a player and the AI. The AI are bots actually living their life and skilling up within the game. The AI has been helping us test a large part of the game almost as if players were in it.
Our tools allow us to test features locally, we can run servers on any operating system and we run multiple clients per machine to which anyone in the office can connect to, in order to assist with what’s being tested. At the moment we’re testing clans and conquest and we’re continuing the terrain testing which has been a long process.
Based on the above, it’s conceivable that we may be further along in development than several games in beta, or with announced release dates. So why don’t we announce a date already? It’s because there’s no way we’ll miss a release date and we’re not going to just set a date as a goal, and either postpone or be forced to release something unfinished. We resolve to stick with our release date because we know how people tend to plan around this as far as organization, time and hardware goes when they’re looking to make a commitment to an MMORPG, especially a competitive one like Darkfall.
In the last update, several people took exception having recognized a game they’re playing, or a game they’re waiting for in what I wrote. Different people identified different games and felt they had to defend them. The truth is that I wasn’t referring to a single game and that definitely wasn’t the point of that journal.
The point of the previous journal was that Darkfall is completely different, that we’re putting so much into delivering gameplay and to giving players all the freedom to make the world anything they want without guiding them one way or another. We’re not known for our graphics, because as with everything else we’ve been honest with them showing you the game’s progression (who does that?), and yet today they’re as good as anything out there. The bottom line is that, even if the feeling isn’t mutual, we don’t feel competitive towards other games because Darkfall is indeed a totally different game.
We welcome the “too good to be true” or the “Darkfall promises everything” ranting about Darkfall because we’re in a position to know that we’ll offer more than we promise. If we’re going to be called anything right before we come out, “too good to be true” is about as good as it gets. We dismiss this kind of ranting though because it’s almost never well-intentioned, and often created in a negative effort to boost other games, or they’re stunts trying to use the active Darkfall community to fire up their own. It’s easy to be cynical: Why should Darkfall work if nobody’s ever tried this before? I would think however that this should be a compelling reason to root for it, as many of you do.
Either way, you’ll be the final judge of this game by playing it and that’s all that matters to us.
Thank you for reading.