Tobold's Blog
Friday, January 16, 2009
Darkfall delayed to February 25th

It is very hard to decide whether Darkfall is a very elaborate and cruel joke of vaporware, or whether it is just a game from a small company struggling to get everything right. Thus the announcement that the release of Darkfall is delayed from January 22nd to February 25th is greeted with various responses from laughter to concern. I still think that Darkfall might be released this year, but I also think it will be an extreme niche product, with less players than Age of Conan. Your opinion might differ on that.
We're never going back to Felucca. The genre has moved forward, and part of that progress was removing the Lord of the Flies element of unrestricted PVP. This new game will be about as successful as Shadowbane was.
I made a post about this game to put this announcement into perspective. The first rumblings of this game and development began in 2001.

As a side note, in 2005 Tasos announced a 1 month delay in release. They then disappeared for a year with no updates or news.

Will this be a Deja Vu?
I'd have a lot more confidence in Darkfall if it hadn't been in development for so long.

There's demand for UO 2.0, and if can deliver on those promises it'll find its audience. That said, open PvP is one of those things that a lot easier to get wrong than right, and a lot of people won't deal with it regardless.

But.. Darkfall isn't trying to be the next WoW. The devs seem to genuinely care about making a quality game that appeals to people who want a skill-based, sandboxy, hardcore pvp fantasy MMO. If they do it right I can see them maintaining a couple hundred thousand subs pretty easily. If it turns out to be a gankfest with little or no ability (or incentive) for the populace to police themselves it'll fall on its face. Either way there will be a big surge of interest, but open pvp games will never appeal to the mainstream crowd. But the devs seem to realize this and aren't really trying to market it to those people.
I'd be more supportive if they actually showed some of the game.
I think that they underestimated the desire for something "new" in the mmo community. You can almost bet that any new mmo will pull about 200k subscribers the first month just because we are all so tired of everything out there. This is why I bought AoC and Warhammer, didn't really think I would like either but wanted to try something new, also why I will buy DF (if it ever comes out ;).
When I say Darkfall will get less subscribers than Age of Conan, I deliberately include the possibility that the subscription numbers will develop in a similar manner: High interest at the start, with lots of people buying the box, but a significant number of players not prolonging their subscription beyond the free month that comes with the box.

Unlimited PvP isn't something that hurts a game in the first week, it is something that gets more and more painful the older the game is. Imagine WoW had unlimited PvP, you are a new player now, log on in a newbie zone, and some bored level 80 insta-kills you repeatedly, making you lose the little equipment you have. How long would you play that game?
Happens all the time in software dev. It's the old Project Management strategy - "move it out a month"!

If you are a little over a week from launch, and delay it a month - the Project Managers & Game Producer(s)...uh...EPIC FAIL..:)
I second the very first "Felucca" comment: Open PvP has a tendency to go awfully wrong and scare people away. I personally prefer PvE and usually moan about the wishes of people to have PvP in some MMOs that are clearly next to impossible to balance for open PvP and not suited for it by basic design. So I really dig the idea of a specialized pvp mmo, but there is much more about MMORPGs than PvP. Open PvP worked on the small free Ultima Online shards, but for the masses? I seriously doubt that.
The larger problem for Darkfall seems to be its almost total lack of publicity or marketing. Both Age of Conan and Warhammer were derived from existing IP, had large marketing campaigns, and released glitzy trailers to attract the uninitiated to give these titles a try. Outside of a small subset of fans who have already coalesced around the game and those who actively read blogs like this, Darkfall is unknown. While the player base may grow slowly like Eve Online, I wonder if the developer has the remaining capital to survive that long after sinking nearly 9 years in development into an as yet unreleased title.
Darkfall's niche is very well defined. Players that are going to make up the core gamers have been following it for years. Many of these players are probably parts of multi-game PVP guilds/clans.

I highly doubt that they aren't talking this up on relevant blogs and forums. Heck, Tobold doesn't even plan on playing it but it gets posted about here.
I think this is a small, first-time company struggling to get it right. I think they've probably bitten off more than they can chew and so the game is going to be extremely unfinished and unbalanced in places. I agree that Darkfall's subscription numbers are likely to track somewhere on the order of AoC or Vanguard, probably in between. There is a determined following out there that seems like it is going to buy the game regardless of polish, whether it's because they like the basic design or because they just want something new to play.
As a player who played UO from it's release for 8 years and participated heavily in open PvP, honestly UO's success was as much thanks to it's non-instanced player housing and open-'virtual world' as anything.

This really made players heavily invested in their environment, their neighbors, and the world as hasn't been seen before or since.

Never underestimate the desire of players to own a little piece of their world. That's one of the major flaws in WoW right now, where do we go to retreat between adventures? The bustling bank, auction house, and city. Theirs no feeling of relaxation or down-time with friends between adventures.
I wish them luck.

I have the faint hope that DF may be a classic. AoC left me with the strong view that putting production values before gameplay makes for a very disappointing game. Going into DF with low expectations leaves me open to being pleasantly surprised.
I have no doubt that if the game ever releases, The Goons will pick a server (god help you if there is only one server) and flood it. Open PvP games are like a beacon for that type of player. Mass numbers + some actual organization (ie: they tend to roam in packs) = likely domination of a server if it doesn't have any large groups to balance them out.
I think its just a very particular game from a very particular company. I hope they can achieve what CCP has achieved with Eve. Pushing the realease back a month seems like a good idea to me if it allows a better launch and a stress test / open beta. The way i see it, the message from Tsaos show that they know what they are doing, where they stand in the current MMO market. There is hype, but lot of players have no idea what the game is like and won't like it because its not a modern MMO (wow, eq2, lotro...). Adding servers for these people would just mean that you will have empty servers after one/two months like some other games.
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