Author’s Note: Beware, moderate amounts of speculation incoming!
Darkfall is an MMO that many thought, and some still think, will never see a true release. It’s been in production for seven years now and has only recently moved into beta testing. It’s not unreasonable for people to have their doubts. Others feel that even if it does hit the shelves, that it will fail due to its hardcore PVP nature. This also may be true; however, it may also be its strongest selling point and the reason why you and I should give it a try.
Many criticisms have been levied at the game about the nature of its PVP system. Unlike nearly all mainstream MMOs, Darkfall features a full player looting system. That means that if you die, everything that you’ve earned is up for grabs to your PKer. “PKer”… there’s a term I hadn’t heard for a long time. Until I checked out the game’s forums, that is. PK stands for “Player Kill” and has its roots in MUDs and MUSHes. Most of the current MMO crowd will have never even seen a MUD, which is probably why the concept behind Darkfall scares them so.
When I first got into the fantasy gaming genre, it was with a MUD called The Final Challenge. In its early days, TFC was known as the game where “PKers are born”. Did that scare people away? Some maybe. I really can’t say. What I can say though, is that the open PK atmosphere enhanced the gaming experience immensely.
The usual reason why people say they enjoy PVP servers is that there’s a sense of danger when they’re out exploring or questing. This is true in most cases and it certainly applied to TFC. Certain players built names for themselves and their notoriety spread throughout the game. Players had a direct and meaningful impact on one another because, they knew, at any moment they could lose their whole gear set and have to start all over again.
TFC never had a raiding game, similar to most MUDs at the time, so losing everything didn’t mean that you would have to grind for hours on end to get back on your feet. It was significant enough, however, to be a little frustrating.
Since full looting is a primary feature of Darkfall, this sense of danger will be present and I can promise, you’ll feel far more excitement when you’re soloing than you’ve ever felt on games such as WAR and WoW. Is that guy on, just invis? And if he is, can I make it to the zone I need to get to? When the inevitable happens and someone does attack you, the adrenaline rush you’ll experience will be more than you’ve felt in PVP encounters ever before. In Darkfall, you’ll have something to lose, not just a repair bill or a resurrection debuff.
Now, all of this is dependent on how Aventurine decides to work with their PVP system. I’ll admit, this game has been under my radar for a while, so I’m still in the dark on a lot. There’s a lot of things I’m still wondering about.
For example, how hard is it to acquire a passable set? On TFC, to be the best, you had to put a decent amount of time into getting all the pieces of gear you needed to shine. For a passable set though, if you had a couple of other people to help you, or some gold for the auction system, you could get going again in a day or so, even if you were low on the player ladder. You wouldn’t be the best but you could go out leveling again. By itself, this re-gearability (yes, I’m making up words now) allowed your death to become a cause for retribution and not an ultimate roadblock.
On top of that, sometimes it was even inspirational. I can remember thinking, “Wow, I didn’t expect that!” and wanted to become the “bad guy” myself. One of the biggest killers on the game at that time happened to live a few hours from my house. We met at a get together at one point, and I can quote him as saying “There’s something really neat about knowing I can make some guy on the other side of the world punch his keyboard in frustration”. Yeah, he was a little over the top but the sentiment is true: sometimes it’s fun to be the bad guy.
There were far less people on TFC than we can expect on Darkfall, however, so Aventurine will have to do something to prevent higher level players from repeatedly griefing those weaker than them. This may well be the make or break characteristic of the game, so I’m reserving true judgment until I can see how this is handled. It’s a balancing act between allowing players murderous freedom and driving new players away.
The full PVP system can also lend itself wonderfully to RP, as well. Again, I’m not incredibly familiar with the title but I’m hoping they have alignments available to players (good, evil, neutral, etc). As one would imagine, the evil aligned guilds on TFC (called “followings” which were lead by “immortal” leaders) were the bigger killers. The good followings were more about helping one another. Consequently, a deep seeded rivalry was born between the two sides. RP flourished in this atmosphere.
For those of you who aren’t into RP at all, there were also epic battles. Players were able to literally knock the other side back, so they had to rebuild their forces. Even if they don’t have an alignment system, you can expect this in Darkfall. Players will have a direct impact on one another and the world as a whole, which is fitting with the game’s sandbox nature.
I’m not going to get into all of the game’s faults here. Or the fact that how well the game does is wholly dependent on so many factors that the fun-factor is really yet to be seen. What I’m going to do though, is implore you to keep an eye on the game and give it a fair shake. It’s late getting out of the gate, it’s niche, it’s hardcore, it’s a lot of things. It also presents something we haven’t seen in MMOs in a long time. And that’s true risk, which means excitement, and, yes, as you’re feeling all of those things, you’re going to be immersed in the game because, if you’re not, you may find yourself dead on the ground. And naked as a jay bird.
It sounds hardcore and it is. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just not what we’re used to anymore. The game won’t be for everyone – but try it. You might find that you enjoy this look back to the older days of MMOs, when it wasn’t raid bosses you had to fear, but your fellow players. When death wasn’t meaningless and vengeance was born into your blood.
Update: I looked around a little bit and it turns out that Darkfall also features on of the biggest MMO worlds to date. According to Wikipedia, one of the developers has said that it would take a human character approximately 8 hours to run from one side to the other. This is intriguing but it makes me wonder, if the world is so huge will players be too spread out? If so, how likely is PvP to happen?