As noted over at Keen & Graev’s, Darkfall is in the news again having announced they are accepting applications for beta testers and having released some game play videos that say “Coming 2008” near the end, apparently indicating that they are shooting for a release this year.
You can find the six game play videos here on YouTube.
Announced almost exactly seven years ago, Darkfall has promised a very ambitious feature set (from Wikipedia), which a friend of mine described as the merging of the best of EverQuest and Ultima Online (pre-Trammel).
- Unrestricted PvP, with no safe zones, only protection by NPC guards in racially controlled cities.
- Indiscriminate player killing results in changes in alignment (see alignment section below), which in turn has severe in-game consequences.
- A character advancement system devoid of player levels and classes. The majority of player capabilities are determined by the possession of skills, which improve in response to in-game use. For example, all weapon proficiencies, the ability to swim, cast spells, ride mounts, and climb various obstacles are all skills that can be learned and improved through in-game use.
- A real-time combat system that includes FPS-style manual aiming & blocking. Ranged combat and general play will be viewed from the first person perspective, while melee combat will be third person perspective. There will also be no ‘player radar’ or floating names with which to identify players or NPCs, and inflicted damage and the health status of actors are indicated through visible damage, blood-spray, and audio cues.
- Furthermore, friendly fire is always in effect, so missed melee attacks, misfired arrows, as well as area of effect offensive and healing spells affect both friends and enemies.
- Complete looting. All of a player’s items become world lootable on death (see looting section below), and virtually all props and items in the game will be player-craftable.
- Cities that can be built, sieged, captured and destroyed by players, as well as individual player housing.
- Player mounts and mounted combat, which can be captured and killed by players.
- Naval warfare, with the ability to create, board, capture and sink player controlled ships, including player-mediated ship-ship and land-ship combat.
- Real-world physics, including inter-character and projectile-character collision detection. Projectiles (spells, arrows, cannonballs etc.) can be evaded or blocked in real time. Players can be pushed or blocked by other players, NPCs and/or explosions.
- Dynamic, physical weather, including variable, directional winds. For example, foggy or rainy weather can severely limit sight range and high winds greatly influence tidal wave amplitude and ship movement. Day and night cycles are based on a realistic planetary system of 2 orbiting moons, producing dramatic sunrises and sunsets.
- Enhanced monster behavior and AI. Monsters do not simply stand and swing at players until dead; they may employ sophisticated combat tactics based on their capabilities, social behaviour, and intelligence level. For example, intelligent monsters will preferentially target healers, casters, and/or weakened players. Monsters do not have fixed spawn locations or sizes – monsters form their own communities, may construct buildings and/or may relocate to new areas in response to being hunted by players. Monsters may also fight other monsters in their region.
- A zoneless game world capable of supporting over 10,000 concurrent players per game instance,including explicit and dedicated support for large-scale (> 200 player) battles at playable frame-rates.
Seven years is a long time for a game to be in development.
To put that in date in context, in August 2001 Dark Age of Camelot was readying for release. I was still playing EverQuest, which was on its second expansion (count now: 14), on my 400 MHz Pentium II system with a hot TNT2 based video card, having finally ditched the 3Dfx Voodoo2 configuration. And Duke Nukem Forever was only approachings its fifth year of not being available yet.
The game has a dedicated following that rivals the ferocity of the followers of Derek Smart during the height of his fame on Usenet, and who write things like:
Darkfall is going to be one of the biggest subscription-based MMORPGs over the next decade. It will rival and surpass EVE. Mark my words, you heard it from me first.
with complete belief and conviction.
But is there really a sizable market for such a game?
Didn’t UO end up with Trammel because such a ruthless, winner-take-all world threatened to chase off a big chunk of their subscriber base? Does not a game like that almost require a substantial subscriber base willing to be on the losing side, stripped of everything, yet willing to start over again?
Somebody will mention EVE Online naturally, but CCP is tightening down on high security killing with the Empyrean Age 1.1 release and they have published statistics that show that most players not only never venture into 0.0 space, what the hard core declare to be “the real game,” but they never even venture into low security space. And EVE has its own crutches to take the sting out of loss such as the insurance system, which pays out a good 40% of the price of your ship even if you never bother to insure it.
I have often heard the opinion that the World of Warcraft playerbase will eventually seek to graduate to harder, more challenging games, but have yet to see any proof of that.
And doesn’t the PvP MMORPG community have a standard bearer coming up in the form of Warhammer Online? Doesn’t that make the balance of 2008 something of a risky time to be launching Darkfall?
So with all that in mind, I just want to ask…
I am undecided, myself.