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As my adventures in Darkfall continue, so does the analyzing of its design concepts. Part 1 will venture into the systems which make players attempt to have fun, in Darkfall and World of Warcraft.

David Sahlin, Blogger

April 16, 2009

4 Min Read

As my adventures in PC MMO Darkfall Online continue, so does the analyzing of its design concepts. Part 1 will venture into the systems which make players attempt to have fun, in Darkfall Online and World of Warcraft. Part 2 will contrast the risk and reward circuits between both games. 

Despite Aventurine's self-destructive attitude towards its community, they are in fact continuing to make Darkfall Online a functioning game. Cities finally have gates to go with their gatehouses. They've balanced out more pseudo-exploits that take advantage of the macro mindset.

More people have successfully purchased it. However, they still don't give warning before server restarts, even though players can lose their mounts or rafts when that happens. They say they're working on a fix for that, but in the meantime they give the cold shoulder to unfortunate players. Apparently, a clan managed to bring the entire server down just by building a guard tower, which was glitched to the point it attacked its makers. Two steps forward, one step backward, apparently.

They may not know what they're doing on a Public Relations level, but Aventurine did pretty well for themselves by designing a world system that empowers its playerbase to make their own fun. Experienced players are self-guided in their playspace, as they don't need missions or quests in order to procure a productive experience. Instead, other players and player-driven situations provide opportunities.

Darkfall, simply stated, relies heavily on players being responsible for their own immersion.

A game like World of Warcraft, however, makes the player into a tourist.  They're shuffled from one location to the next activity, towards bigger and cooler locations, to more awesome drinks and fireworks.  They can give themselves up, and go with the flow.  The sweet, turn-off-your-brain river of repetition and reward.

Residents of Agon are left to their own devices, with little guidance outside of other players. They become engaged beyond the aesthetics and simple mechanics, quickly joining the rain of pebbles descending on the pond, each attempting to push back the waves from enemy players.  In Darkfall, even a newbie can help influence the world stage, if they're at the right spot at the right time.  That's pretty exhilirating. 

For example, you start off in one of the racial starting cities - one of three surrounding fortresses per race Capitol.  Quickly getting ordered to kill goblins, you run out with your newbie weapon and start the difficult fight, slowly collecting crappy armor as you watch your skill go up with the weapon.  


Passing by the city is a small patrol of a large clan, who you strike up a conversation with.  Impressed with your outlook, they give you a mount so you can follow them to their home city.  Along the way, you manage to spot a large enemy force stalking your party, and you alert your new allies.  They quickly alert their clan on Ventrilo, and set up an ambush. 

Because of you, 10 players lost everything on their characters. And it's your first day.

By limiting the game-driven influence on a player, they allow the user to take a larger ownership - and investment - in the game experience itself. 

Contrast this with something like World of Warcraft, which is designed around holding the player's hand as their character simply follows the giant glowing exclamation marks to their next activity. Naturally more options become available to a player later on the game, concerning what they want to do in Azeroth, just as return visitors know what rides to attend or avoid when they go to Disneyworld.

This isn't inherently bad design, as WoW's success can attest.  I do wonder, however, if people in Azeroth become more mesmerized than immersed in the world.  I've heard somewhere that the human brain easily goes into auto-pilot when in a sensory-collection mode, as if in a grocery store.  I'm sure that joining a guild in WoW, however, can alleviate the autonomy and enrich the experience.

Due to the ever-changing conditions that lie just under the surface of Darkfall, though, I find myself almost always engaged on a higher level.

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