In the early weeks of 2009, a lot of online gamers (aka MMO tourists) are thrashing about for their next fix of New MMO to play. Unfortunately, there are few titles on the immediate horizon, which has caused quite a few people to — in my opinion — force excitement over a title that wouldn’t get the time of day during a busier MMO launch season. In this case, Darkfall Online.
Darkfall’s one of those indie MMOs that’s been in development nearly forever — in this case, mid-2001. Almost eight years later, this Europe-based title is nearing launch, bolstered by a million promises with few substantial proofs. Some bloggers are trying to “catch the excitement”, some amused by what they see as “overhyping”, some proclaiming it an “old school revolution”, and some, like myself, are giving it an apathetic shrug and moving on.
Why am I not inclined to give Darkfall a proper shakedown? Six reasons off the top of my head:
1. It’s sharing the same “players must be craving ultra-hardcore MMO play after all these new sissy MMOs have taken over” mentality that Vanguard held onto so strongly, with little proof to back it up. Yes, there’s always going to be a contingent of hardcore gamers who sneer at “accessible” titles like WoW and WAR, but appealing to the hardcore means that you’re deliberately limiting your game to a very narrow, unforgiving demographic.
2. Among its more hardcore aspects is true world-wide PvP with no safe zones and the potential to have another player loot everything off your corpse. Like many things in Darkfall, this isn’t new and has been done before — in MUDs and Ultima Online — and it’s proven to be poison to growing the game past that hardcore ganker population to a wider range of players. People, as a whole, don’t like to be unfairly ganked or have hard-earned items taken away from them. You, personally, might find this more “fun” than I, but I see it as making a game more unforgiving just because they can, not because it’s enjoyable.
3. Although some writers have claimed that this is a “AAA” MMO, it really is anything but. Adventurine SA (a Greek/Norwegian company) doesn’t have the deep pockets of a developer to fund a AAA title. My every instinct tells me that Darkfall will most likely be a very niche title to go aside other indie studio MMOs like Ryzom, Pirates of the Burning Seas or Jumpgate. Its greatest hope isn’t that it can compete against other AAA titles, but merely that it’ll make a name for itself, turn a profit and hope to grow along the lines of Eve Online.
4. How many times has an overly long and rocky development history translated into a smash game vs. a dud? I mean, before a month or so ago, Darkfall was equated with “vaporware” among most of the internet — now they make bluster about launching, and everyone’s quick to forget that it hasn’t proven anything yet.
5. They’re promising the moon and more. It’s one thing to be ambitious, but Darkfall’s feature list is completely laughable when you consider how much better funded MMOs have had a very hard time getting some of their “innovative” features to work properly. Push the hype-goggles aside and really look at that list — naval combat? Player built cities that can be sieged? Real-time combat? Weather affecting combat? Super-intelligent monsters? Please. This isn’t ambition, it’s a pure flight of fancy. If half of this stuff is present and functioning properly on day one, I’ll eat my shorts.
6. The whole game is practically a giant billboard designed to attract the scum of the gaming world to gather together and create street gangs to pick on the weak. It isn’t the lofty epic clash of armies in WAR, the carefully structured fisticuffs in WoW, or the guild-bound efforts of AoC — this promises to be a game full of soccer hooligans roaming around looking to ruin someone else’s day. How can I say no to that?