Tobold's Blog
Friday, December 05, 2008
Darkfall Online release date announced

This just in:
Audio Visual Enterprises SA and Aventurine SA in a joint statement today announced that their highly anticipated MMORPG title Darkfall Online will launch across Europe on January 22nd, 2009. North American players are also welcome to participate in the European launch of Darkfall which will precede a North American launch. More details to be announced as they become available.
Take that "highly anticipated" with a large grain of salt, the game *is* highly anticipated, but only by a rather small crowd. A much bigger crowd is extremely sceptical. But naming a precise release date at least seems to move Darkfall from my vaporware list. I wish them good luck, but I would be surprised if Darkfall came even anywhere near 100k subscribers. Hardcore PvP is a niche.
It will be probably between 50 and 100k at first and then dwindle. The same cycle will impact it as has happened in other FFA+loot PvP ruleset games: people play at launch, a hardcore PK crowd develops, other players are "prey", the "prey" get frustrated and leave, and the PKers are left cannibalizing each other and eventually get bored because there is no longer any "prey".
Exactly, wolf vs. sheep games never pan out because the sheep pack their bags and leave, and wolves don't like preying on other wolves who can fight back

I predict Darkfall peaks at UO's current population -- 75k to 100k maximum, then dwindles. But that's probably fine for such a small company and if they're realistic, they will plan on that being the case.
Assuming that they deliver most of what they did promise and if the technical quality of the game is decent, I do not see why the game should not reach EvE numbers (cca 250k now).
About Brendan's comment, I fail to see a proof about FFA+loot pvp ruleset games being doomed; from the more known ones UO can be counted out as it had monopoly during it's prime, Shadowbane was quite shallow and full of bugs half year after release which has certainly taken it's toll and EvE does quite decent, although part of the population lives out of FFA PvP areas. Certainly games like that will not attract as many customers as WoW but the niche is not so small considering 7m MMO players nowadays and close to zero competition in it's niche.
Hardcore PvP is certainly a niche. Yet Eve features similar game mechanics and is sci-fi, which is arguably less popular amongst the RPG crowd. I wouldn't be surprised if Darkfall did better than Eve. So I'm not sure why you'd be surprised if they reached 100k subscribers.

Additionally, the number of subscribers necessary for them to return a profit is less than for other companies since they didn't have a massive development team. Having 100k subscribers, or even less, is also plenty to provide several servers with a very dense population. This is especially true in a game like Darkfall where time spent on the grind treadmill matters less than skill, and so there will be less segregation of players through the world.
Actually looking forward to this game, just to see how it actually pans out. My bet is on 100k if it's half decent, DoA if it's Fury-like. I could use a more open-ended, uncontrolled MMO to play in, even if only part time.

I never understood the wolf/sheep MMO argument, considering all good PvP games have shown otherwise (AC/DT, DAoC, EVE) Only in UO did the wolves love to prey on the sheep, and that was a very different time in MMO land. In the above mentioned games, especailly EVE, the wolves are always seeking the top wolf to go after next.
I am sceptical about Darkfall, too. Regarding PvP in MMOs: I think it is a good addition, but not what keeps the masses playing. They are really going to target a smallish audience this way. Be it GW or EVE, supposed PvP games, or WoW... none of these games thrive because of their pvp aspects. And pure pvp mmos... hmmm... I have a hard time to remember the last ones. You can add pvp to a great pve mmo world, and it will be a great addition. But a specialized pvp mmo is usually just lacking. DAOC might have had the best implementation for a RvR / PvP MMO yet.
I'm sure it will be worth trying at least just for giggles.

Sorry couldn't resists :P
Spelling and grammer! :(
Syncaine, I remember the AC and DAoC FFA PvP servers differently. Darktide was classic wolf vs sheep at first -- they even camped the exit portals for newly created characters -- until it settled down through attrition to a small niche player base. DAoC's Andred and Mordred were hugely popular and bloody ... briefly. Then they had to merge servers and even that didn't keep Mordred from dropping to the lowest pop server. (A look at the Herald now shows it barely above Pendragon, the frickin' ghost town test server.) Another niche.

Eve, I grant, is an exception, but it's also very different.
I don't think the EVE analogy is a good one. The core of EVE isn't PVP, but the incredibly well-designed economy, which gives the whole game a purpose other than simple combat. PVP combat is simply a means to achieve economic goals, rather than an end in itself. Without that, it's hard to see the draw of Darkfall (or any other "nothing but PVP" MMORPG. Pure PVP works much better in a different format, more like Counterstrike than a conventional MMO.
I liked pre-trammel UO a lot, so i will probably try this one, just out of curiosity. Due to lack of time and a lessened willingness to put up with online grief (which will probably be a major part of the game) it will be limited to a trial run though.
It will flop. That sort of PVP is only fun if the pk'ers have a healthy supply of victims to feast upon, and those days are over for good.
Sven- You don't understand what Eve is about then. It follows the same principles as Darkfall. What makes Eve and Darkfall different from each other is that:

Eve isn't an interactive experience like an FPS.
Eve's gate system strictly defines a lot of how players move around in the game.
Hot dropping and cynos are common in Eve while teleporting in DF would be rare, expensive and limited.
Eve is sci fi where you play as a spaceship (the latter will change)
PVE missions are abysmal.
The AI and physics isn't no where as sophisticated as Darkfall might be.
Eve offers "infinite" space to explore.
The crafting system is light-years ahead of Darkfall with the introduction of tech 3
The economic mechanisms are most likely going to be different.
You can't actively train skills in Eve.
You are threatened with skill loss as well as equipment loss if you aren't careful.
Eve's borders are defined by high sec, low sec, 0.0 while Darkfall's borders will be determined by bindstones.
NPC Factions in Eve have 0 influence. Darkfalll's npcs supposedly form their own cities if left unchecked. Couple that with alignment and faction is clearly something that can influence player behavior.

I'm betting DF will easily sustain 100k players from Western nation players alone.
But after some consideration I have to say it's partially wrong to cite Eve's subscription numbers.
Eve has a few game design issues that forces hardcore gamers to play with multiple accounts.
The Eve team has stated almost 20% of all players are frequently in 0.0 They've also said the average amount of accounts for 0.0 players is ~3. When you take that into mind Eve's actual subscriber base isn't 300k. It's hard tell exactly how much it is but it can't be greater than 250k which is still a respectable number.

The point of my post was that there is much more to do in EVE other than PvP combat. You can, for example (as a friend of mine did), set up what is effectively a truck hire business and progress that way. It's the economy in EVE that makes it very different from Darkfall - it doesn't "follow the same principles" in the most important area.
Hardcore PvP may be a niche market, but let's not forget that 100,000 subs at 15 bucks each is $1.5 million a month, or $18 million a year. That's not exactly peanuts. =)

Of course, whether Darkfall manages to grab 100k remains to be seen.
@Sven: Core of EvE is economy - but it is the same with Darkfall. There is moon mining (auto-mines belonging to towns), normal mining, salvage from missions (special ingredients which are location based); the size of the universe is huge. Maybe the economy is not as mature as EvE after 5 years but it is certainly more than on par with EvE 5 years ago. The only (and also significant) difference is the lack of high-sec, on the other hand the world is not a chain of gates so moving around will probably be much safer than in EvE lowsec/0.0.

I fail to see why people keep saying that the game is only about PvP; in fact the AI of mobs is the most praised treat of beta testers and the crafting (nearly everything is crafted in DF) and trading aspects are very well comparable with EvE.
Could you please point me to links explaining how the economy in Darkfall is similar to that in EVE? I've seen no evidence so far that suggests that "it is the same with Darkfall". The EVE economy has been carefully designed, employing a professional economist to sanity check any decisions. Does Darkfall do this?

Similarly as in EvE, only "basic" quality items are seeded by merchants, all the other goods need to be crafted. There are several "gathering" professions (skills) - you can mine, lumberjack etc, as well as kill mobs for skins/rare ingredients. An alternative is to build "automatic mines" near your clan's town which mine automatically but can be attacked. The resources are spread around the world and not all are available everywhere. Rare bosses (like dragons) drop rare resources.

Then the resources need to be transported to place where your character has access to infrastructure (smithy...) and when having sufficient skill level (more than 20 crafting skills) and know the receipe, the goods can be produced. There is chance of failing based on skills, when some components are lost. Some goods require multiple "parts" being crafted first (multistep crafting). There is a possibility to do further modifications to the equipment, eg. enchanting.

After this is done, the goods need to be transported (on ground or by a ship) to place where there is lack of these and thus prices are high. Selling is being done via hiring NPC to do it. Clans can tax their towns and forbid access to certain services, this may mean that you might not be able to craft or sell things everywhere but you might need to negotiate with the town owners or only sell in NPC towns.

After someone buys the goods, be it weapon, armour, bricks for town walls, part of ship, siege engine, he can use them. Armor and weapons decay when using, thus eventually breaking. All the other things are destructible. Eventually, replacements will be needed.

Unlike in EvE, there is a cap on number of skills on a character, so combat characters will mostly not be able to craft things for themself, and being a crafter seems like a viable occupation. Of course alt accounts will be used so the sky is not so blue...

It seems to me that the mechanics are quite similar to EvE and since the size of the world is also similar, I dare to compare the two systems. Of course, the lack of highsec will impact both crafters and traders, on the other hand the mechanics seem to imply that the crafting is not an appendix of the game but an integral part of it.

For few dev quotes please see following link (start from the bottom):

I appologise for my poor English and for spamming Tobold's blog in general :)
@previous post:
Of course mobs also drop equipment of different quality and possibly in various state of wear down.

Thanks for that information. It sounds like the designers of Darkfall are at least trying to achieve that EVE-type economy. Now we just have to wait and see if they succeed.
The sheep/wolf description that evolves into a server with no more sheep is false. True PvP gaming ie;UO pre Trammel is about Guild vs Guild warfare. That is why hardcore mmo players want Darkfall.

FFA loot and PvP brings a sense of realism to the game. You could log off losing everything.
The fact that all items are craftable is huge!

Carebears can stay in WoW, competitive guilds that want real time attrition and warfare will play DF.
I have to agree that Darkfall will most likely not reach a peak in player base and then dwindle to obscurity, but precisely the reverse, for several reasons:

1. The game is a radical departure from other MMOs that make life so easy for the player that the gameplay very quickly becomes boring because the players are 'spoonfed' rather than having to learn to be fully alert, observant, learn to actually swing a weapon, block, employ real-life stealth tactics, careful with what you wear so that you don't give yourself away from a distance, gather intel by what you see and hear, etc.

2. A wolf may try to prey on a sheep, but if the sheep knows what he/she is doing and plays smart, may be able to defeat a wolf by timing his/her attacks and blocks well. Also, a group of sheep can band together for protection against the wolves. Collision detection and friendly fire means people must learn to be smart and not just mindlessly hitting buttons at a target until it dies. A well-geared and high-skilled wolf could be humiliatingly defeated and sent packing by a small group of poorly-geared and relatively low-skilled sheep working together to bring a wolf down. The victory will be tremendously fun... and not to mention the full loot of items that the wolf might be carrying going to the sheep ;)

3. The economy will be dynamic and most likely resemble the real world, with almost all the in-game items only craftable by players. Prices will be determined by demand and supply. Where there is a demand, there is a profit to be made. Where there is profit to be made, entrepreneurs will fill the void. Too much people making the same thing, supply will outstrip demand and prices will fall.

4. The dynamic and living world that reacts and changes based on player actions will add an important layer to the realism and incentive for serious mmo players, even the sheep, to take part in shaping the world. That is something you cannot do in many mmo games in the market today, but in Darkfall could be possible.

To be continued...
Good points....

I believe if Aventurine wanted numbers they would design a game around an instanced PVE or levels.

This game is designed to provide intense Guild v Guild pvp.

There are no sheep in GvG. Sure some guilds will not be very good and lose.

Look at the Clan section on the forums. DF designed this game to cator to them not the guildless noob that is learning how to survive in a FFA pvp game. Of, course they are going to perish.
I am somewhat intered in the game for the economy and crafting components that seem interesting. However they would have to release a PVE(or at least the equivalent of WoW PVP servers) in order to get me to even try it.
I think interesting you compare Darkfall to EVE, but say that Darkfall don't have secure places like the systems 1.0

Interesting, because at EVE there is no place REALLY safe. Systems 1.0 are patrolled by NPC ships, but if anyone want to take the risk of attacking other player and try escape the patrol, she is free for try it. I was attacked at a system 0.9 other day, luckly I was fast enough to get to a portal. And I had otehr ships targeting me at 1.0 systems, but the patrol ships were near, so maybe the guy thought was not a good idea. So safety is relative at EVE. Everyone need be carefull, mostly the ships that transport stuff. That ships are slow and any pirate know taht it transport something valuable. The merchants need be protected by corporations if cross teh 0.0 space. If independent, tehy never go to systems bellow 0.8, taking long routes for cross from system A to system C, because system B at the middle is not safe.

If I understood the Darkfall FAQ, the starting cities will have NPC guards patroling it. And if you attack a player from same race, you lose faction with the NPC guards from that race, eventually turning KOS. So, IMHO, the starting cities at Darkfall will work like the systems 1.0 at EVE.

The economy too will be player driven. Pratically everything is player made, including the mobs loot (mobs will loot players...).

So my guess is that if EVE can live as a niche game, Darkfall too.
All players start out in their chosen race's capital city and, like EVE, it is protected by NPC guards against evil-aligned players. Of course, evil players can still attack and kill any other player if they wish. Darkfall appears to offer total player freedom in what people want to do and how to do it.

Players will be able to interact with the natural environment and use it to their advantage. For example, they can chop trees, gather herbs and other resources and, if I'm not mistaken, you can even grow crops and live a passive life as a farmer if that is your inclination. Though most players will probably take up some form of combat or defensive skill set, the freedom of choice is provided by the game's 500 different skills and 500 spells which the developers say will be available at release.

When employing stealth, there is no button to press that will make you invisible instantly. Instead, you have to think realistically just as if you were trying to be stealthy in real life. If you wear metallic armor, you will make a lot of noise when moving and people will be able to see you from a long distance due to your armor reflecting light. So you may want to wear non-reflective armor like leather instead and only move in the open under the cover of night. If you stand on a hill with the sun to your back, people can also see your silhouette from a distance. If you want to sneak up behind someone to do a backstab or some assassin-style attacks, you can't just walk up behind them and not expect to be seen. People can still hear your footsteps unless you move slowly and move from cover to cover, in the shadows and blend in with your surroundings.

Guilds can build player cities on many selected areas on land, in underwater caves, underground and so on. Siege warfare will be accomplished by the use of siege engines like catapults, ballista, trebuchets, naval warships, cannons, etc. You can build walls to stop advancing players from entering your city, but bear in mind they can knock your walls down and then from there it will escalate into close quarter combat between players themselves.

Food will become an essential part of the game, unlike in most other games where food is just a novelty or a means to gain some bonuses to stats. In Darkfall, you have to eat to maintain peak physical condition. If you are hungry, your stats will take a small penalty. On long marches to distant battlegrounds, keeping your troops well-fed will come into play, and insta-travel to distant places of the world will be a rare phenomenon rather than a common thing in so many mmo games like WoW, EVE, UO, etc. On the other hand, if you are besieging a city, a clever tactic would be to starve the people inside the city by depriving them of food source. Blockade a city long enough and watch the people cry out for surrender.

These are just what I think will be possible in Darkfall, but we'll have to wait until the game comes out in a month or so time to find out if it's as good as what the developers say it is. But I'm looking forward to it, it may possibly be the answer many serious hardcore mmo players have been looking for ever since UO's Trammel/Felucca ruleset ruined the game for me in my humble opinion.
Let's not forget the special appeal of FPS that keeps people coming back to games with zero progression.
Wolves do enjoy preying on other Wolves... check UO freeshards.. lots of people "faction" which is just that
Eve is a great game but the two things that let it down for me was the boring combat and the way you learn skills with a timer. Darkfall has real time fps style combat and you learn skills by using them like in Oblivion. For me Darkfall is everything I wished Eve could have been.
A lot of people seem to think that just because a game offers FFA PVP, it can't make strides in PVE as well. DF is one of the few games around that features boss mobs that don't respwan. As such, the PVE crowd gets to race to try and be the ones that hold the honor of defeating these. Also, with dynamic mob spawns and a powerful AI (there are quotes about the AI being too powerful in the beta report), the regular PVE will be quite a plus in and of itself.
If mob AI really is as sophisticated as they claim, PvE in Darkfall can easily surpass most MMo's out there.
Darkfall will be a PHRESH new to mmorg genre!
@all of the Anonymous comments - well, you're certainly getting me curious, even if all the other hype is rather negative. Thanks for sharing the info. Maybe I'll give it a try!
At all comments and op.

You are wrong about Darkfall.

Darkfall will win. Just wait and see. Darkfall will win so big you are gonna see it for the next 10 years.
Darkfall isnt "only" a PvP game. Its a 100% player based economy with almost everything player created, there are 100s of PvE quests and dungeons, there is player housing and player cities, city siege and naval warfare. It is also factionally themed, its not an everyone against everyone enviroment.
Sure, there will be PKs, but these will not be that much of a problem, considering the consequences of becoming an enemy of own faction/race.
The selling point in the game is freedom. You can do just about whatever you want to do. Your actions will have consequences, but there will be no artificial barriers to prevent you from doing them.
I played EVE on and off for a few years, and I think Darkfall will be a breath of fresh air to the MMORPG genre. Judging from what the closed beta players have been saying, this game looks to be well-polished and very stable at release.

EVE was fun and innovative in many ways, it was one of the few sandbox games that was open-ended and non-linear, you could do what you want, when you want, if you were willing to accept the consequences of those actions. But one thing that got me a little disappointed was its combat system where fitting the right weapons/equipment modules and hitting the right buttons at the right time was all that was required on your part. The game's chance calculations decided whether or not you hit/miss, crit, get hit/missed, etc.

Darkfall's combat system gives the power and decision-making back to the player by requiring players to actually aim at the enemy's body parts when attacking with a weapon/spell/bow & arrow. If you're using a sword, you have to take into account that your opponent could raise their shield at the right moment and block your attacks. Friendly fire means you will have to aim carefully or you risk injuring/killing a friendly player, and likewise your healing/beneficial spells need to be aimed carefully or you might heal/augment the enemy rather than a friendly. At last, battle formations and real life tactics will really make a difference in the outcome of a battle.

By the way, I hear that wind speed and direction will be a factor when you're using a bow and arrow. You will probably have to think realistically and judge how high/low your aim should be, based on the wind, to actually make your arrows hit the mark.

This also means items will no longer play the deciding factor in the outcome of a fight, in contrast to WoW's item-centric gameplay where if you had better gear than your opponent, everything else being equal, your chances of winning would be higher. In Darkfall, your skills (not the in-game skills, but how well you as a player know how to play the game) will play the major part in winning or losing a fight.
watch all the fanbois QQ when DF does not launch as promised on Jan all the fanbois make excuses when DF does not launch at all in 2009...LMAO
How do you know that DF will not launch in Jan 09? I guess we'll be the ones laughing at all the naysayers then ;P
i know because history is on my side...there will be no release, no open beta and guess what, the nda will still be in effect on the supposed release date LMAO...get ready to QQ've been duped, and duped HARD...
Okay you all deserve an extremely large middle finger. THE PLAYER BASE RIGHT NOW IS 150K SUBSCRIBERS, NOT INCLUDING THE PEOPLE THAT HAVEN'T REGISTERED. I wouldn't be surprised if it took damn near half of WoW's playerbase. Ask just about anyone, and they'll say WoW is old and they want a new game. I give those people the link to the darkfall website and they're highly anticipating it, and wish they were in beta. I know a couple beta testers and they say it's great and the only drawback they think is the fact that they wipe the servers quite a bit, but other than that it's a great game and they don't even wish to stop playing.

What I'm trying to say is Darkfall isn't gonna be a fail. It's gonna be a game that in about a year or two you'll say "Damn... I'm a f*cking a hole for even thinking this." Well, you're stuck up so I guess you'll be saying "OH MY! I guess they were quite successful. I STILL THINK IT'S TEH FAIL EVEN THOUGH TH3IR PLAYER BASE IS LIIIEKK A MILLION!" Really you're all too rediculous, call me rediculous if you like but... nah, you're the rediculous one.
@Luce: (is that short for Loser? LMAO)

DARKFAIL WILL BE THE MOST EPIC FAIL IN MMO HISTORY EVER! 150K player base??? WTF are you talking about??? How did your delusional, incompetent mind come up with that number (you probably pulled it out of your arse), considering that DARKFAIL HAS NOT EVEN RELEASED, not to mention that with 10 days to the supposed launch date, THERE'S NO OFFICIAL INFO ON HOW YOU CAN BUY THIS VAPORWARE HAHAHA...

i'd like to see how hard you QQ on jan 22nd...that would be a classic, epic fanboi FAIL!!!
Darkfall Online has all the problems of an early first person shooter. Too much data is handled client side, allowing for massive cheating. In a full loot, FFA PVP environment, this is a game breaker. Cheat to compete or get owned by people with aimbots, radars, speed hacks, you name it they are already out there.
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