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Topic: Building Darkfall as a Sandbox and changes needed to keep sandbox players (Read 1283 times) previous topic - next topic

Building Darkfall as a Sandbox and changes needed to keep sandbox players

First post here, but I've been following for a few months and have been thinking about what I wanted to say for quite some time.  I was the leader of a guild that started playing in the first year after Darkfall opened NA servers.  Despite LOVING the concept, we only played for about a year though before most of us just decided that it wasn't the game we were hoping for and that the development wasn't going in the direction that would improve things.  Darkfall had a great opportunity to be an incredible sandbox experience (at a time when MMORPGs were almost all going in the themepark direction), but instead created and promoted an FPS arena with magic that made it closer to a shooter than fantasy combat.  My guild was a group of PvPers who play the role of PK "police" in that we hunt and kill PKers and attempt to protect non-aggressive players.  We are definitely not averse to PvP, and seek out PvP that is meaningful to us.  We were not a large group, or overly powerful or influential, but we were a part of 2 major alliances, helped build and defend 2 cities and 2 hamlets, and participated in multiple sieges.  While Darkfall presented an incredible experience, what we found was a world that was full of wolves, with no sheep.  The sandbox-type players had all left by the time we gained any level of power in game.  We found a world full of wolves, and while we enjoyed the game for a while, it felt dead.  In the interest of the sandbox world that Darkfall New Dawn has stated that it wants to develop into, I would like to present my opinions of what needs to be changed from Darkfall to create an environment that will have sheep, as well as wolves, and promote long-term sandbox play, and not again devolve into a full-loot PvP arena.  These issues focus on combat aspects because I think the non-combat sandbox improvements (like local banking, roads, trade) that have been presented by the development team are great, but also because Darkfall is a game in which combat is so central and crucial to survival.  Players that can't compete in combat don't survive and leave the game.

1) Skill cap - This is already being handled by the Title system, but I want to cover a few things here, because of how important this is any some of the "why" this is so necessary that I haven't seen mentioned.  First, the Title system is a skill cap.  With the specializations of the title system, you can't have every skill at maximum efficiency on one character.  That is a skill cap.  I'm not sure why there's such an aversion to saying this.  This is a GOOD thing, and I think more players will pass a game over for LACK of a skill cap than they will because it has one.  There's the simple idea that most RPG (Role Playing Game) players want to have defined roles that they fulfill, and everyone able to be the best at everything removes any feeling of of a defined role.  Freedom in defining your role is great, but having a role is still desired.  However, I'm going to move past that to talk about why skill caps are so important.  First, I've seen the term "jack of all trades" talked about a lot here, but the second part of that phrase was "master of none".  This is not bad for game design and should be a viable option.  However, this is not what Darkfall had.  It had "MASTER of all trades" characters.  They were great at everything.  They had no weaknesses.  Unless you also leveled everything and USED every combat ability, you weren't going to compete with players that did.  Everyone had to be a "master of all" to be competitive.  This created 2 huge problems that reduced the fun level for all but the most dedicated killers.  First was the time to level all of those skills, which has already been said will be drastically reduced.  However, you could give a new player max level in all skills and this system would still cater to a select few elite players.  The reason is that you then have to be proficient in every role to be effective.  The time commitment to level is one thing, but the amount of time, effort, and raw player skill required to gain full proficiency in a full suite of combat skills is beyond the commitment level of many sandbox players and probably beyond the capability of even more sandbox players.  A combat system with the complexity of Darkfall's where players need to learn to be proficient in so many aspects will result in a game where only the most elite players (skill, time, and effort-wise) will be viable and those are the players that will continue to play, as shown by the eventual Darkfall player-base.  Most casual sandbox players who are looking to be immersed in a fantasy world do not have the time, interest, or skill-level to become "master of all" gamers, but they are the people that will make up the majority of the players in a healthy sandbox game, so a combat system that they feel good about participating in (not necessarily winning even half the fights, but at least having a chance in combat and able to feel like they're contributing in group combat) is a must for a healthy population.  Be mindful of this during the development of New Dawn, or all of the work of creating a sandbox may fall short of the desires and potential of this project if the combat caters primarily to players of the highest skill levels.

2) Remove the ability to swing through players - This is an under-noticed and an under-discussed issue.  Except for a few abilities, a melee swing should stop on the first player hit, especially if that player is blocking.  In DFO, someone could swing and hit everyone around them in reach.  This creates a very big advantage for solo players at the detriment of group players.  The solo player can hit everyone and doesn't have to worry about friendly fire, so he can swing wildly without much skill or thought, while the group fighting against him has to constantly worry about friendly fire.  They're better off fighting a sequence of one-on-one fights (in the style of martial-arts movies) than ganging up because the solo player will be able to hit all of them and they will constantly be worried about hitting each other, even if they hit the enemy first!  This promotes solo fighting over group combat, which I believe is contrary to the design goals and is one of the things that led to DFO playing like a deathmatch arena.  Further, this eliminates any advantage that weaker players have of grouping up against a stronger opponent.  I heard many players in the DFO forums talk about how great DFO was at being "anti-zerg", but the ability for a greatly-skilled solo player to easily defeat a whole group of average-skilled opponents doesn't lead to a healthy game population.  This again contributes to a combat system that caters to highly-skilled players and is exclusionary to average-skilled and/or more casual players, and that's not what's going to give a sandbox game a healthy population, nor retain the type of players that are looking for an immersive sandbox world.

3) Slow down combat movement speed - This is probably going to be the least popular of the suggestions, but possibly the most important.  This exasperates the first 2 issues that I mentioned.  Only the most skilled players could properly aim and swing against opponents that moved so fast.  Most new players were so outclassed by this one issue that they quit before even experiencing the later issues of DFO that have been discussed here and elsewhere.  Even of those that stayed around, there was such a high "twitch" skill involved in the combat that it greatly separated those who could compete and those who simply could not.  Even within my own guild, most of our "support" players quit or moved to crafting primarily and only those of us with the best reflexes ever contributed in combat.  The fast pace of combat movement in DFO also really cemented the advantage of solo vs. group fighting.  One of the easiest tactics of combat against a group of players was just to spin through them swinging occasionally while facing downward.  Avoiding friendly fire with everyone moving at that speed was extremely difficult, so the solo player could swing unchecked while the group had to either hold most swings or do more damage to each other than the opponent.  When our group first got into combat in DFO, we constantly saw solo players who attacked us running through our whole group with their heads down.  We looked on the forums and read about players doing this just by looking down and spinning their mouse or trackballs, making themselves hard to hit while healing.  We did some testing by having our strongest players do this in a solo attack against a group of us and realized how effective it was.  Additionally, because of the movement speed, AoE attacks gained an extremely large, unintended advantage over non-AoE attacks, which made magic a must-have. because the AoE attacks were so much easier to hit with than non-AoE attacks.  Ground-target magic was extremely useful not as a way to damage multiple players or cut off areas of the battlefield, but just as a way to easily hit players that were moving at ridiculous, unrealistic speeds.  Finally, this aspect almost completely eliminated any tactical advantage in positioning and terrain.  Movement was so fast that planning ahead and having a terrain advantage or positioning advantage were almost meaningless, and the game-world might as well have been a flat arena.

4) Eliminate guard/tower immunity for wars and rework alignment immunity for wars - This aspect made NPC cities un-livable by mid-game, which I think was one of the final death-knells for DFO.  Most players attacked anyone on sight outside of guard protection anyway, so being war-dec'ed against every other guild on the server wasn't really that big a deal.  As a few PK guilds realized this, war-dec'ed literally every guild on the server, and made NPC cities unlivable for new players in a clan.  We would have guild members that entered DFO wait to join the clan until they leveled some skills up and came out to the player city or they'd be attacked constantly in NPC towns.  For guilds without a player city, they had to remain un-clanned or be attacked constantly in a town.  Not only is it not realistic for guards (towers in the case of DFO) to allow people to fight freely in their streets, it creates an environment where new players just have no where to go to for any shelter.  New players can never get started in an environment like this.  Further, any alignment system is completely negated if you can just war-dec everyone and then attack anyone with no consequences.  Either war declarations need to have a major cost or other limitation, or they should not bypass the alignment system.  I also don't think that city guards should allow fighting inside the cities even in the case of a war declaration.  No governmental agency allows other kingdoms or roving bands to fight in their territory unchecked.

5) Fix Alignment Exploits - I think most of this has already been covered, but here are a few issues I want to make sure are recognized:
  • the ability to get yourself hit once and then have all of your friends beat down some poor new player is not good for business
  • the ability to loot a grave/corpse without alignment penalty isn't good as it means that one player can get a kill in an area under tower/guard protection and flee while a blue player loots without anything anyone (or guards/towers) able to stop him.  Even in areas outside of guard protection, friends of the defeated now have to lose alignment to stop the blue looter.

In summary, I think it is to be cautioned that most of the people on these forums talking about Darkfall are the types of players that were skilled enough to compete in DFO's systems.  Most sandbox players that tried Darkfall were not and did not stick around to play.  A number of aspects of the combat system will need to be re-worked to open the game up to a larger sandbox audience.  Not doing so will result in the same small player-base that excelled in DFO, but now the sandbox changes will upset a number of those players that wanted more of a combat arena experience.  I hope that my suggestions aren't dismissed as the desires of unskilled/carebear players.  I speak not for myself or my guild (although we would rather have a combat system that's based more on teamwork and strategy than individual twitch-skill), but for the type of players that I believe Darkfall New Dawn will be trying to attract.  While many posting here remember DFO as a great combat system in an unfinished sandbox, I always saw it as a half-finished sandbox with a combat system that was such a mess that it made more sense to continue the game as a PvP twitch arena than continuing to develop any sandbox features.  It was ultimately a game that couldn't decide between the 2 aspects.  If New Dawn is going to be a successful sandbox, it will need to address these combat issues, or even the best sandbox features will still only be accessible to a smaller audience that can and wants to compete in combat system that is so extremely twitch-reliant.

Re: Building Darkfall as a Sandbox and changes needed to keep sandbox players
Reply #1
First, welcome to the forums and thank you for taking the time to write all of this out.

Regarding your playstyle of patroling the land to defend players, we are actually working our alignment system to make this activity meaningful and develop its own meta game.

The logic is that if killing your own race is ill advised, then world PvP is partly moved towards raiding enemy races since it becomes the path of least resistance. Without instant travel there will be a higher physicality in the world, and watching the borders will have a purpose.
We will add repeatable PvP quests that reward that playstyle, and we hope to see players self organize and create "neighbourhood watch" of sorts. We've witnessed it in other games, and some of the most iconic moments in Darkfall at launch were fighting off raiding parties with other noobs.
The "us vs them" mentality leads to great social hooks and an improved virtual world.

Now on to your points:

1) skill cap:
We don't use the term skill cap because it would technically be wrong. There is a real difference between a skill cap as it is commonly known and our title system.

A skill cap is a locking/unlocking mechanic. It is a "make your own" class system.
Our title system is a boons/banes system with some loadout aspects.

The advantage of our system is that it is "à la carte". Not only in what to level (like a skill cap) but also each character can set its own "end of progression" cap.
It will be "play as you want" a lot more than traditional systems.

That said, we agree in spirit: The master of all was a huge issue, and this is why we are creating the title system.
Freedom of choice is extremely important, and we are certain that our title system will be a big selling point for people that loved Darkfall's original concept.

It is not revolutionary by any means, pen and paper RPGs have been doing it for decades, but in the MMO world it will be fairly unique.

2) Ability to swing through enemies:
We hear were you are coming from but we disagree. Here is why:

- the amount of targets a melee hit can reach is the targets' responsability. The issue you raise is invalidated by basic tactics and positionning. Many fighting against one should surround and poke, not swarm.

- changing it would make the overhead swing obsolete. As it is now, it offers a good tradeoff being harder to hit but more control.

- the one vs many mentality will always exist because players are egocentric and wish to be the hero. This is something we should capitalize on rather than limit.
All these 1vMany videos improved the hype of the game because it showed that skill was a decisive factor in Darkfall and that there is room for growth. It created heroes and role models.
Long term engagement depends on believing that you can progress and relies on the same human reasoning that makes loteries a thing.
"Some day, I will do that too!"

- in a full loot game, and one that wants to have tactical depth, we should try to reproduce the real life advantages of fighting outnumbered.
Player collision and vulnerability to aoes, the use of chokepoint and creating sub contextes where the small group outnumbers part of the larger ones. All those things are a necessity for a stable and deep game.
It is not only about depth but also about "hope". Smaller groups should have a chance to make an impact in Darkfall or we will only have room for large organizations "playing to crush".
This is compounded by the fact that Darkfall is full loot, which means that we need to somewhat balance the risk vs reward ratio with the open world aspect in mind.

We went a bit further than your point, but it gave us the opportunity to state our position on many vs few engagements.

3) Slowing down combat movement speed
This is a tricky one, and it seems like it is more an issue of perception where the problem is. Please hear us out:

Movement and time to kill(ttk) in Darkfall were in reality quite slow in comparison to other games. Even many tab targetting games have faster movement speed. However, the difference is the travel time of projectiles and the need to aim ahead of target. In other words, characters did not move fast, projectiles moved slowly.

We are addressing this point by rebalancing single target abilities, offering more non magic utilities, implementing more shared cooldowns, adding more melee tools and adding depth to the kiting sub-meta game.

We are confident that the issue you have noticed will be addressed without ever touching movement speed.

4) war declarations:
We agree there is a need to protect newer players, provide shelter and to make the war status meaningful. We have already planned solutions to these issues.

Our solution is to have a war status cost an on going gold fee proportional to the overall amount of players involved in the war.

This means that a 1 man clan declaring war to a 30 man clan will have to pay 31 times more per capita than the other clan. It makes whatever city ganks would net outclassed by the fee, making random war declarations unsustainable.

This will also come with various changes like a longer delay before effective war status and warning when coming online that a new war has started.

The lore friendly reasoning is that these fees are an abstract way of paying a "war tax" paid to local governments to allow fighting in their territory.

5) alignment exploits:
Both issues you raised are not only recognized but already addressed.
Making the blue status meaningful will eliminate many problems, and it is one of our primary focus.

-The engagment system will have a built in tolerance to accidental friendly fire.
- We will have grace periods for a portion of the loot where it can only be looted without consequences by characters engaged in the fight.
The first step will be an equal split based on the binary engaged status, but we'll refine the system to incorporate effort into the split. This will take a bit longer as we need to register suporting tasks like healing or body blocking/soaking damage first.

We strongly believe that Darkfall can appeal to both types of players at the same time. Sandbox and twitch/arena players are not at opposite ends of a single spectrum, and Darkfall appeals to both.

And really, most of the issues you have raised regarding combat are skill floor related, but the solutions you have suggested were aimed at skill ceiling reduction. Which again are two independent values on separate scales. I many ways this shows that both "sandbox" and "arena" players share the same misconceptions that they are in opposition when they are not.

We try to only implement changes that both reduce the skill floor but also raise the skill ceiling. The finality is to create a game easy to learn but hard to master.

For example, our goal with the title system, the power gap reduction, the addition of new utilities on shared cooldowns and fixing the racial alignment systems are to reduce the barrier of entry of the game. It will effectively be easier to start playing Darkfall and become viable.

But some of the consequences will be: a more varied meta game increasing depth, and inherently, the skill ceiling. More opponents will put up a fight and there will be less easy victories. While some playstyles will be less complex to learn,  mastering them will shift execution skills from doing easy aoe rotation towards harder to aim single target damage. And finaly, a working alignment system will reward better organization and a racial war meta game to emerge.

These are only a few of our changes, but all follow a similar pattern: Both player types are gaining from them.

Thank you again for the time you spent on this post, and we hope we addressed everything you wished us to.
We are always looking for constructive feedback like this and, even when we disagree, we try to always take the time to listen and then explain our position to further the discussion.
The Darkfall: New Dawn Dev Team.

Re: Building Darkfall as a Sandbox and changes needed to keep sandbox players
Reply #2
I actually took the time to read all of this but what you did not realize is PVP was not broken. The missing sandbox your talking about was the PVE content in the game. Darkfall was amazing because of the FPS RPG arena that you refer to. Its what made the game fun. All the limitations your talking about limit the game. They limit the amount of things you can accomplish. They dumb down the game so that anyone regardless of skill or time spent can be good. PVP is something you need to work hard to master. It should remain as such free and with a high skill ceiling. Don't focus on changing pvp focus on changing the PVE aspects of the game. Better dungeons better mobs more reasons to protect or destroy people in the game. Then the amazing pvp that already existed will have more not LESS. Your proposing LESS thats never a good way to start making a better game.

Re: Building Darkfall as a Sandbox and changes needed to keep sandbox players
Reply #3
We are actually offering multiple times more than what Darkfall offered.

There is a very important distinction between game mechanics and game balance/meta game.
Darkfall has amazing PvP due to the mechanics, but an unbalanced and broken meta game.

There is also a difference between illusion of choice and meaningful choice. In Darkfall you may have had a large complexity, the amount of viable options was limited to two playstyles: hybrid or destroyer.
As humans are naturally compelled to min-max, an unbalanced game is equal to a hard limited game.

We are not changing core mechanics but trying to fix the lack of choices.
By offering no hard limitations but ways to improve some aspects over others, we can have a meta game allowing a multitude of playstyles, which increases choice, thus offers more.

Another thing is that there is a difference between skill ceilling and skill floor. They are not correlated. One can increase when the other lowers. In our case, offering more choice also increases the skill ceiling because players will have to learn and adapt to new tactics and situations.

In conclusion:
Darkfall's combat was amazing and was held back by its unbalanced meta. If we fix the meta, we'll make Darkfall's PvP multiple times better than it was.

Actually, a character in New Dawn will have access to much more abilities than in DF2012.
Both due to us implementing new features, but also due to tweaks reintroducing existing abilities in the viable pool.
  • Last Edit: January 19, 2016, 08:44:12 am by Ub3rgames
The Darkfall: New Dawn Dev Team.

Re: Building Darkfall as a Sandbox and changes needed to keep sandbox players
Reply #4
In the end, it's your money, your time, your company, and Darkfall New Dawn will be developed into the game you want it to be.  It's obvious that you're a skilled, competitive gamer who enjoys combat based on twitch skill and has the time and desire to work endlessly on improving your skill in such a system.  I will simply caution you that most sandbox MMORPG players do not share that same enjoyment factor and that by developing a game that caters to such gameplay, you're limiting your audience significantly.  Again, I'm not telling you that you should change the design if you don't want to, but that not doing so will limit the number of players who are interested in playing.  This forum and the Darkfall community after the first year or 2 are not good indicators of the desires of a wider audience, as most of the people active in these places were people who enjoyed the game systems enough to remain active.

Of the hundreds of players that I talked to (and the 30 in my own guild), the 2 reasons people stopped playing were:

1) Easily exploited alignment system that made NPC towns un-livable and made it very difficult for new players to get started until they were living in a play-run city where you weren't frequently sharing space with potential enemies.

2) A high-speed, twitch-based combat system with such a "high ceiling" (as you like to refer to it) that they were not able to participate in a meaningful manner.  Most players don't look at this and say "if I work really hard for really long, someday I can be like them".  Average players look at this and say either a) I'm not a skilled enough gamer to ever play like that or b) I just don't have the time or energy to devote to this.  In both of those cases, they move on to other games.

About 1/3 of our guild of experienced PvPers really got to the point where they were competitive in Darkfall.  They didn't have their stats and skills maxed, but they had the "moves" and could challenge top-end players.  None of them enjoyed the gameplay.  Even those players quit due to gameplay that they felt was "spastic" and an overuse of blast AoE magic everywhere.

I'm not sure if you've ever heard of a game called Mount & Blade: Warband, but if you are not, I'd highly suggest that you look into it.  It is a medieval FPS (just an FPS combat game, no world aspect) that all FPS-based combat medieval/fantasy MMORPGs since Darkfall have attempted to emulate.  The swing control is MUCH higher, with directional swings and blocking, feinting, and many other features, resulting in a combat system that actually takes as much or more skill than Darkfall's did; just in a different manner.  The movement speed is much slower, so positioning is much more deliberate and important.  The skill floor is very low, and the ceiling is near infinite.  If you've never played it, you should.  If you have, I'm interested to hear what you thought of it.  If you'd like to try it out, it's usually about $20 on Steam, but occasionally goes on sale for about $5.  The game is about 5-6 years old now, so it's community isn't as active as it once was, but there are still enough people playing to fill a few game servers.  I would be happy to demonstrate the combat system's capabilities if you were interesting in seeing what it has to offer.  I was primarily an archer and never even came close to mastering melee combat, but I have a few guild members that were some of the best swordsmen in the community at it's peak who are always happy to duel and teach the mechanics.

Re: Building Darkfall as a Sandbox and changes needed to keep sandbox players
Reply #5
Maybe we have not been clear enough:
- the alignment exploits will be fixed. They are one of our 3 top priorities of what we consider primary flaws.
- the aoe spam will be reduced and more streamlined playstyles will be made viable by shared cooldowns and the title system.

It is weird that you bring up Mount and Blade because it is a game that is inherently much more fast paced than Darkfall.
We bought that game when it was $10 and it brought us to play Darkfall when Razorwax said they took inspiration from it. We are even basing our box price model on it and we've played it hundreds of hours.

Twitch skill is usually related to reaction time needed. By that definition, M&B is more twitch skill reliant.
The movement speed is only slightly slower but the required reaction time is more straining due to attack cancelling and short animation build up.
Darkfall is a lot more predictable and the TTK so much longer (by minutes in some cases) that it is slow and non-twitch by comparison.

But this narrows down the issue you may have with Darkfall: complexity.

M&B is more twitch but simpler. There are less attacks and less to take into account. Darkfall had dozens of skills, resource pools and rotations to master. This is fixed with our title system, if one choses to, they could do the same and even have less to worry about than M&B.

In the grand scheme of things, Darkfall is more simplistic than other MMOs in the sense that cooldowns are short, most attacks can be spammed for a lesser amount of the resource pools and movement speed is slower. Which means less to keep track off, and if it weren't for the aiming aspect and the fixed fps/close third person camera, Darkfall would be a shallow game.

We appreciate that you are being constructive, and a lot of the issues you raise are valid points.
However, we will try to address the root causes rather than the symptoms.
The Darkfall: New Dawn Dev Team.

Re: Building Darkfall as a Sandbox and changes needed to keep sandbox players
Reply #6
I do realize that you're fixing all of the alignment exploits.  I posted about it simply because it was the only thing that rivaled the combat as a reason people I spoke to left (both within my guild and outside of it).  The AoE spam was an issue partly because of cooldown issues and AoE spells that did too much damage compared to single-target attacks, but also because with movement speed so fast, you were just SO much more likely to hit a speeding player with AoE than you were with an arrow, single-target spell, or even a sword swing.  Just blast an area big enough that your enemy is likely to be in that area.

M&B has a lot of twitch in aiming and blocking, but it's not nearly as fast-paced.  I'm not sure how you could play Darkfall and M&B and come to the conclusion that M&B is faster-paced.  Watch some combat videos and compare.  Sure, the TTK in M&B is extremely short (it's an FPS and not an MMORPG) and the TTK/TTL in Darkfall is much more reasonable for an MMORPG, but the players don't zoom around in "fast-forward" in M&B.  The swing speeds are about the same, and I'm pretty sure the loading time in archery is actually faster in Darkfall.  Positioning is key in M&B and if you fall out of position with your teammates, you're singled out and killed even if you are the best skilled player in the game.  It's a lot more team-based because of this and the fighting resembles medieval combat whereas Darkfall combat resembles Quake or Unreal Tournament.  Because of that slower movement speed, new players have a much better chance to land a hit and block an attack.  Sure, they'll still never win a duel against an experienced player as almost every attack they attempt will be dodged or blocked and they'll probably only block a few hits by luck, but they'll at least see what happened and have a chance to respond.  I've played both with the same people and new players had a vastly better experience in M&B combat than they did in Darkfall.  Retention was much higher, and many of us played M&B for 3-4 years.  Yes, it was a shallower game that didn't have the depth of Darkfall's MMORPG and magic/abilities, but M&B as a base with magic added on top of it would yield a combat system with the same depth but easier access for more players.

I do think that you've fixed a LOT with your title system.  You are correct that this will reduce the amount of things that a player has to master.  Yes, a player can still be a "jack-of-all-trades" and be extremely powerful by having so many combat options available to them, but by having other options that give equal power without having to master dozens of skill, resources pools, and rotations, you've opened the game up to a much larger audience who may not have the skill, time, or even desire to master such that gameplay style.  These are good, much needed improvements.  I do not think that this fully addresses the issue though.  I find M&B infinitely more enjoyable because it's focused more on strategy and terrain positioning and  not just on how fast a player can spin and attempt keep a target in front of them.  Every new player that I've brought into both games has found M&B to be much easier to get into and be useful in for the same reason.  By slowing down the combat movement speed, they can at least help keep a formation and defend someone's flank, or get a swing in when an opponent's back is turned.  This is very different from overall complexity, which I think you've already resolved with the title system.

Re: Building Darkfall as a Sandbox and changes needed to keep sandbox players
Reply #7
I'm not going to claim that I am some elite gamer, but I generally am able to ascend to the top tier of fighters in any gaming environment I am in and I tend to agree with Leithlen on some of this.  Here's why.

The combat in DFO doesn't need necessarily "made easy", what it needs is to be made more sensible and team oriented.  Although the ability to run through a group of mediocre players is fun, it should have its limits, and in original DFO the combat system allowed simply too much of this.  I do think it led to a big population drop early in the game's history, and even later on it resulted in very small clans dominating others and not at all rewarding the OTHER side of mmos which is building up an organizing and leading a larger force.

I have played a LOT of Mount and Blade and although the combat system is very different from DFO's, I think there is something that can be taken from it (and many newer sandbox mmos are drawing heavily from it).    In DFO, the movement and action speed is so fast that any group tactics and formations simple have no place - it's like a bunch of fighter jets instead of a medieval fighting unit.  Slowing down movement speed would allow for group coordination to be more useful.  Time to die would also go down if this were the case because players could not simply bound away at 80 mph and heal themselves instantly.  The combat in DFO often felt like a Benny Hill chase, and finally became just silly enough to not want to do anymore.  I got in with a couple players that were very good at the combat style of DFO - bounding, leaping, slicing, healing, fireball blasting, jumping, plate wearing, spasm fest - and I learned from them and we did rather well together running around beating up on mediocre players.  It wasn't fun.  I eventually left because when I learned how to become effective in DFO combat it was so silly it made me disinterested.  In a sandbox mmo you have resource competition, politics, etc that drive wars, and those wars should be more than 5 guys chasing around another 5 guys in a Benny Hill showe-esque fight scene that looks like its been sped up.

DFO is a medieval fantasy sandbox mmo, correct?
Except that if you play DFO as such you will suck at it.  It is not a game for swordsmen and shielders and pikemen and archers, etc.  It is a game for plate wearing fire mages with healing and halberd spinning and jumping and bounding 50 ft in the air.  I always felt more like a Space Marine than a medieval fantasy combatant.  Maybe just re-skin the game to be like Warhammer 40K? :)

The issue of swings not stopping on blocks *AND* friendly fire is that together they are the PERFECT STORM of one is better than many.  Sure, one guy should be able to take out a couple mediocre players, but not 10.  That's a broken system, and its why there were a couple hundred people in DFO and not a couple thousand.  Think about it - those two features working together makes it so that the one guy has a target rich environment and non of his swings are stopped by anything, even a successful block.  Meanwhile his opponents have to be careful about hitting each other.  This is why Darkfall combat videos (of good players) are just Benny Hilly show chases that look sped up and there is NO sense of teams or combat fronts or group tactics or anything. 

I would just consider the fact that a more group based combat system would be good for your overall population numbers, AND that THAT DOES NOT REQUIRE MAKING THE COMBAT EASY in any way...just shifting it a bit so that it's not entirely focused on small elite groups. 

Re: Building Darkfall as a Sandbox and changes needed to keep sandbox players
Reply #8
Animation cancelling and non predictible releases make M&B require a better reaction time. At least in our opinion, M&B is faster paced because of this.

Darkfall attacks are mostly telegraphed by cast time or they are simple swings.
We'll try to improve on that though by adding more melee abilities and make that aspect of combat deeper. Reworking block/parry to be timed, adding lunges, small pushes and other variations on the normal attack would solve the root cause of the 8 figures: It was the only way to make a difference in melee.
Providing alternatives would encourage a more stable melee vs melee combat.

However, positionning is just as essential in Darkfall than in M&B.
There were distinct front lines forming between two groups with pushing and falling back, flank attempts and disruption.
However, getting out of position is less punishing in Darkfall due to the displacement effects allowing newer players to be saved by team mates.

Displacement effects is also why veteran players could jump in and out of fighting range this easily. But we are addressing this too by fixing and rebalancing them.

Movement speed itself is not an issue.
Look at videos of other games of similar scope, movement speed is usually much faster.
Darkfall is at a good middle ground between a fps (slow) and an mmo (fast).

For melee attacks hiting multiple targets, this is a situation so rare that it is non factor and deserves to be rewarded. Over head swings are in the game to balance hit difficulty with friendly fire potential.
However, whirlwind will be changed to have a build up animation rather than being an instant aoe attack.

Regarding aim, single target damage needs to be buffed to compete with aoes. That is a given. For now we plan to increase projectile speed mainly, to make it easier to hit, but also mana/stamina wise slightly.

In short, the issues you raise do exist but are not related to movement speed or the amount of targets a single attack can hit.

Actually, slowing movement speed would most likely buff small elite groups dramatically.
  • Last Edit: January 23, 2016, 03:53:31 pm by Ub3rgames
The Darkfall: New Dawn Dev Team.

Re: Building Darkfall as a Sandbox and changes needed to keep sandbox players
Reply #9
First, thanks to Ub3rgames for helping to keep hope alive. I played DFO from NA startup to shutdown. It was, without question, the most compelling MMO experience that I have ever had, and I have been around. I was not a solo player and was part of several large, influential clans. I am an older player and (on a good day) one of those "mediocre" PVPers that you have been discussing, so let me try to add that perspective to this thread.

I expect that PVP skill will always be tied to some degree to innate, untrainable abilities like twitch reflexes and cognitive processing speed, all of which favor the young. I am never getting those skills back and I am just fine with that. I spent a lot of time in DFO naked, bald, and huddling around our spawn point clutching my leaf blade. I knew when someone like Itwas Luck or Umberto jumped over the wall, I was probably going to die, no matter how many people we had in game at that moment. That was a big part of the allure of DFO for me - that constant state of tension and risk. I also appreciated the player skill demonstrated by others and I was not bothered by the level of asshatery, shit talking, teabagging, or even griefing. Early on, our hatred of the Goblin Preservation Society defined and motivated us as a clan. Knowing that baddies were out there is one thing that made the game exciting for me. Another thing was the belief that, if we prepared well enough, trained hard enough, and worked together as a team, we could participate in and create the player-generated content that made Agon interesting.

We have plenty of twitch kiddies in our clan who could give anyone in this forum a run for their money in any FPS, but who eventually got frustrated with the unrealistic, bunny-hopping, knock-up crazy, physics-defying, completely frenetic pace of DFO combat and left. You all know exactly what Elindor and Leithlen are talking about. In any game, you reach a point where you are no longer playing the actual game, you are playing the metagame, and there were components of DFO's metagame that were just plain silly and need to be addressed as these guys and others have suggested. If you create a game where "elite" means mastering combat that could just as easily be migrated to Star Citizen where the laws of Newtonian physics don't apply, you are going end up with a world filled with the people who enjoy space combat in a Medieval setting - that's a pretty niche group indeed. 

You also need to pay attention to players like me. It was never the PVE content that attracted me to DFO - it was always the player-generated content: the politics, the drama, the back and forth between the clans, the cries of injustice from the oppressed, preparing for battle, riding out with dozens of allies to meet an uncertain fate and possibly lose everything - that's the shit. I will endure all the teabagging in the world for that experience. Being an elite solo fighter means nothing to me, but I play with people who do care about that sort of thing and if they go, I go. In the end, people left because of the insane combat experience, the player-generated content evaporated, and Agon died. My advice is: don't be so quick to dismiss suggestions like those from Leithlen and Elindor. They are the tip of a much larger iceberg that will make or break the resurrection of DFO. 


Re: Building Darkfall as a Sandbox and changes needed to keep sandbox players
Reply #10
"Regarding aim, single target damage needs to be buffed to compete with aoes. That is a given. For now we plan to increase projectile speed mainly, to make it easier to hit, but also mana/stamina wise slightly."

This was definitely an issue - archery seemed pointless compared to magic (same with melee).  I think magic aoe blasting has to be anyone was able to just send blaster shots across long distances which resulted in an aoe blast at their end location...this far outdid archery and melee usefulness, and created a more sci-fi environment than medieval fantasy.

I'd say maybe magic needs to be shorter range or add variance to it the farther it goes so that it can veer off unpredictably or something (instead of just straight on forever).

Another thing that broke the medieval fantasy mold and made it sci-fi was wall leaping.  Basically, castles in DFO were almost pointless and in medieval fantasy defenses meant something.  Now of course in a game you dont want it so no one can be attacked.  But in DFO, Space Marine soldiers would jump pack over your walls in 2 seconds, slay everyone with giant aoe blasts and power halberd swings and then deposit YOUR stuff, in YOUR bank (cause banks were not local) and take off leaping down a 700 ft cliff (no injuries incurred).

Just saying :)
I dont think anyone here is saying this stuff to make your life miserable or to shit talk on DFO, I think we're saying it because we loved what DFO could have been, and almost was, and so much of what you're planning to do could SAVE DFO and we are hoping that this side of things gets addressed.  The common theme from your team so far is "DFO had issues but combat was fine, lets leave that alone".

I assure you....DFO combat was in no way fine by any standard. In its implementation and practical usage, it was chaotic and non sensical, it was "skilled" in some ways but mostly in just mastering macros and skilling up every freaking skill cause no skill caps, and it was twitch but not like MB is twitch (fast reflexes as you mentioned), but like .... too much redbull twitch.  "DFO Combat was fine leave it alone" I think will yield you a much smaller player base than you desire....some because it will be too hard, others because they were good at it but they just still didnt LIKE IT. 

But its your game, and I wish you luck - Im sure you guys will improve on original DFO in many ways.
  • Last Edit: January 23, 2016, 09:22:12 pm by Elindor

Re: Building Darkfall as a Sandbox and changes needed to keep sandbox players
Reply #11
Rest assured we are not dismissing any suggestions. Quite the contrary, we've had a lot of internal discussions around this thread over the last couple days and we have spent a lot of time thinking our answers thoroughly.

What is to take away from this is that we agree in the spirit of the discussion, not the suggested solutions.
One thing is certain, we are targeting players that wanted Darkfall to be a meaningful empire building virtual world, and all our planned changes are aimed towards that as a coherent whole.

Well, aoes with slower travel speed would inherently be shorter range or require more skill to use. Randomness isn't necessary and shouldn't enter the equation.
However, Darkfall being a high fantasy setting, it is fine by us that magic can be so "shinny", as long as it is not mandatory. That is where we're trying to add more meaningful choices.

For the walls, we've already announced that we would make holdings' walls non scaleable outside of raids or using special equipment. On the other hand, city nodes will be setup outside of the walls to still be raidable and be a source of daily pvp.

Either side, whether it be that "combat is fine" or "combat is broken" are both limited views.
Our point about the combat is that Darkfall's combat mechanics were amazing, but the meta game was broken.
This is a very important distinction to us, because we are convinced that a balanced and corrected version of the Darkfall meta game will be a selling point for both sides of the coin.
The Darkfall: New Dawn Dev Team.

Re: Building Darkfall as a Sandbox and changes needed to keep sandbox players
Reply #12
I am pleased that this posting has initiated many internal discussions, but the following comment says that you're either not really hearing what myself and others on this thread are posting, or that you've already made up your minds based on your own personal preferences:

"Our point about the combat is that Darkfall's combat mechanics were amazing, but the meta game was broken.  This is a very important distinction to us, because we are convinced that a balanced and corrected version of the Darkfall meta game will be a selling point for both sides of the coin."

This statement simply doesn't match up AT ALL to the experiences of myself and literally anyone else that I played with in Darkfall.  The meta game was incomplete and had major issues, and heavy exploitable alignment mechanics (which you are correcting) were a major issue in the new player experience, but everyone that I played with for any length of time left not because of issues with the meta game, but because they simply didn't enjoy the combat system.  You and others on this forum obviously did.  That's fine, and as I said earlier, this is your project run by your time and money, so you can make whatever game you like in the end.  However, I do not personally think simply fixing and completing the meta aspects will bring a lot of "sandbox" players back.  Mortal, Life is Feudal, and Gloria Victus have all slowed down combat movement speed, increased stamina costs, and decreased magic strength in response to the reaction most players had to Darkfall's combat system.  If the game retains the "Quake arena" style of combat, I would not be able to get any of the people that I played with to return to the game.

I appreciate the opportunity to have had this discussion and I fully understand now that you liked the combat system the way it is, but saying that we are all just misidentifying fundamental underlying mechanic as symptoms of something else is rather dismissive and suggests that your own preferences have clouded your views on this issue.  It's fine if you just prefer this combat system.  No one else has ever made an MMORPG with this type of combat system, so I can see why you'd want to resurrect it with that intact.  However, part of that reason is that most people didn't enjoy it - including the people who had the ability to be good at it.
  • Last Edit: January 23, 2016, 11:49:42 pm by Leithlen

Re: Building Darkfall as a Sandbox and changes needed to keep sandbox players
Reply #13
You must be clear when you say that your group or who ever you played with disliked the combat aspect and left. When did they left?

DFO's combat wasn't always good for everyone, not just you and your group. Do you at-least know that?
AOE was only a dominant play-style by all when splash damage used to deal 100% damage and the splash was also calculated as a back-hit.

During the beta of DFO and a little after when everyone was still a newb, everyone enjoyed the combat. When the AOE splash damage finally got nerfed to a point where good Melee-Archer oriented players could shine, good players liked it.
The only ones who didn't enjoyed it at that point are those who simply can't get any better and this is not your typical Tab-Target game.

In a mmorpg, i don't know how anyone can call DFO's combat bad when most mmo's combat is honestly not really the selling point when all you usually do is righ-clicking on an enemy and composing a number on each one of them. 
A lot of ppl enjoyed DFO's combat because it brought something new in the mmo genera: Aim and shoot, slash your enemies and watch out, Friendly-fire is On. In DFO, everyone feel real, not just a DOT on the battlefield. That really was the appeal and the selling-point. There's nothing like DFO on the market(You can arguably say Mortal Online).
Who ever think DFO's combat is not good is coming from those who don't win or those who refuse to adapt. It's like those who think a Boxing match is cool on TV, but on the other hand, they would think Fighting sux as soon as they, themselves, get into a fight and lose. Losing sux and if you lose in something, you certainly won't like it.

Most ppl left because of the grind and let's leave it at that pls. How can one complain about the combat when they're not yet at the level to judge it? I recall, i had to macro, grind, swim and after all that, my character was good enough to a point where i could get on to Dueling, PVP, enjoying combat. How can you enjoy combat when you haven't done all of that?
How can you enjoy Boxing when you haven't completed your everyday list of work-out and nutrition before you can finally earn your right to do some sparring on the ring?

I first left DFO because i was a player from wow and a complete newb in a sandbox.
I never complained about the combat(In fact, as soon as you try archery, you can't say that combat is bad). I complained about the grind and the alignment system. I left 3 days later because of full loot. I died when i had some shit on me and it was a Shock; i thought i was ready to play a sandbox, but i wasn't.
I came back months later and i never left after. I had to join some clans, i had to get my mind right for the type of game.
This is what i ended up becoming on my old PC(I now own a gaming PC).
  • Last Edit: January 25, 2016, 07:02:52 am by Bloodymurderer

Re: Building Darkfall as a Sandbox and changes needed to keep sandbox players
Reply #14
@Bloodymurderer has a good point, many people tried Darkfall when it was really at a bad state. The damage drop off on the AOE was a big improvement. Same for the spin jumping getting changed to have drawbacks.
In many ways, Darkfall never had balanced PvP as the various eras always had one dominant playstyle, we're hoping to fix this very early so that it doesn't push players away.

@Leithlen The issue here is that while movement speed can be a matter of personal preferences, in this case you are attributing consequences to what we believe to be the wrong cause.

Correct us if we misunderstood but your issues with Darkfall's combat were:
- Squirreling.
- Spamming/rotation/complexity.
- Positioning.
- Few vs Many balance.

- Squirreling in melee, also called the "8 figures", was caused by melee combat being extremely shallow. As the only way of making a difference with your adversary was to move in and out of range, it made high end gameplay rely on squirreling. With more abilities needing to pay attention to the adversary and its attack cues and build up animations, squirreling in melee would become ineffective, and even dangerous.

Squirreling at range to evade single target attacks had drawbacks and was a self inflicted slow. Evade ranged attacks, and let them catch up, keep going straight and get damaged. The high end players wouldn't squirrel non stop but only when anticipating/predicting an attack.
For that we will increase single target projectile speed, to make hitting easier. We will also add a slowing arrow to serve the same utility than Wall of Force and counter bunny hop. There will also be a reworked bunny jumping mechanics with some ways to prevent/reduce displacement and slow effects.
So we're not removing control from players, but improving the existing counters to squirreling.

For both, the changes to the kiting/escape meta game we are planning should make it an overall deeper experience.

- For complexity, better character progression and specialization will cover most of it, you seem to agree. But also a more stable melee combat and improved blocking/parry mechanics will switch some of the player skill to paying attention to telegraphing cues and reaction time rather than just spamming without thinking.

- Positioning, this one is hard to consider an issue. Darkfall is the only game we've experienced where positioning was this meaningful.
With player collision and the limited view screen, getting off position is punishing and frontlines organically formed. Perhaps the "formations" in Darkfall are wider and the situations change more dynamically than M&B, but positioning and planing ahead is just as important, if not more.
That said, we're going to build up on that aspect of the game by changing some abilities to rely on potent channeling/rooting effects. this should encourage some risky static tactics and create recognizable push/fallback situations for high risk/high reward scenarios. For example, field aoes will all receive a channeling version, or we'll have a pbaoe "grounded"state buff that can be channeled while moving to support a push without disruption.

- On Few vs Many balance, the way the game is set up, few vs many has the same advantages/disadvantages than real life combat and should be pretty intuitive. The many have more accumulated damage/regen/health but get in the way of each other while the few have more mobility but need to be more organized. We believe it to be necessary to allow smaller groups to stand a chance against zergs. Darkfall is a full loot openworld game after all, it cannot be a numbers game.

And in addition, suggestions like attacks hitting only the first target or slowing down movement will both advantage the few.
Especially regarding the examples you gave. Slower movement would allow for easier focus fire both aoe and single target and would decrease TTK dramatically, favoring organized elite groups more. This is not desirable in a full loot open world PvP game as we need TTK to be longer to give players a chance to fight back.
Regarding having only the first target being hit in melee, it would not only invalidate the overhead swings, but in the situation you described of swarming one opponent in melee, any friendly fire would void any damage on the target reducing the damage done. But that's a moot discussion to have any way since the preferred tactic was to spread, surround, and range down the target and having multiple target in range was rare and generally a mistake from the many rather than a proof of skill from the few.

In conclusion, yes there were issues,but we believe we've addressed all of your points.
If you dislike the movement speed, that is a fair point of view. But if you disliked it only because you believe it was the source of other problems, then please pay attention to our previous points and let us know where you disagree.
The Darkfall: New Dawn Dev Team.