This topic is so vast and it touches on so many related topics that we cannot possibly cover all bases in just one post. What we’re attempting here is to get the discussion started by giving some background, explaining our intentions, what we’ve identified as problems, what we’ve been doing to date, and what we intend to do short and long-term.
In a nutshell: Our first goal was to give you a starting character which was useful on day one, and after a couple of months of having fun and learning to play the game, your character would become “viable”. After that, more character development, specialization, and high level content, but please allow us to save most of this last part for a subsequent discussion.
The starting character: These are things we have talked about time and time again but they’re extremely important in order to understand the big picture, so please bear with us one more time:
In Darkfall a starting character can attack and hit a veteran character and inflict enough damage to kill him after a few minutes if not challenged. In almost any other MMO this is impossible even for players that have played for a couple of months.
In Darkfall a starting character can use any item in the game without restrictions. No level, ability, or quest restrictions. A starting character can access any area on the map, join a clan, group with any player he wants without penalties, participate in group PvE against any MOB in the game. A group of starting characters could fend off or even bring down a veteran character. A character straight out of the box can man a cannon, a warhulk, sail a ship, ride a mount, rez, loot, harvest, craft, destroy and repair buildings, capture a village, capture a city, capture a sea tower, can own a house – among many other things. A starting character can participate in all activities the game has to offer and he can be useful in many supporting roles.
Which brings us to why we’re mentioning all this again: We start out with a grind-free philosophy. Everything we mention above, any other game would make you grind, claw, and fight for. Just the privilege of using various weapons could lead to months of effort. We could have easily done the same thing. We’re not trying to compare apples and oranges, but the point we’re trying to make here is that in Darkfall we can take these freedoms for granted, and they do carry over throughout your character’s lifespan.
Let’s define what we mean by “viable” today: Timeframe: Approximately two months of a moderate time invested playing the game. Your character has most of the skills required for basic PvP combat, a decent supply of equipment in your bank, and you have approximately doubled your starting stats.
After launch we identified several problems early on, on the way to becoming “viable” which we addressed by dramatically raising the gains while fighting monsters in both magic and melee, introducing changes in PvE, introducing auto-harvesting, added the Industry skill which reduces crafting time across the board, skill books and scrolls, attribute consumables, and last but not least we added newbie protection. We also added various time-saving measures including bag naming, auto stacking of items, and increasing ship speed. We feel that all these together help significantly improve the transition from starting to viable. There are several other things we’re working on which will help this even further. It made sense to us to focus on this first, it being the starting experience.
Another concern for us is the transition from “viable” to “advanced”. By “advanced” we mean a character with high skills necessary for his preferred style of combat, a large supply of basic and intermediate gear, a fair amount of high end gear, and about triple his starting stats. Timeframe: 4-6 months of a moderate time invested playing the game. We believe that this is also a very important stage for a player. Most of the changes we implemented mentioned above during the starting to viable character transition also apply in this stage. One of our next measures will be implemented in our next patch: We are significantly changing the progression of hitpoints in a diminishing returns fashion. This is done to improve a character’s viability in PvP situations and to make players of all levels more competitive.
Besides the hitpoint progression measure, we have been studying many other aspects of character development in our ongoing effort to address possible imbalances. We should also mention that we have decided to introduce temporary stat potion boosts in our next expansion scheduled for June 2010.
While we’ve been addressing the starting and intermediate experience, we didn’t want to neglect the veteran players. We’ve been adding a lot of end-game content and a lot of new features in both our expansions and various patches in between. This is a topic for another discussion coming soon, during which you will discover that nothing is being done in a random fashion, and that everything we’ve been adding makes up a platform on which to build and improve on. We have been doing a lot of work on revamping many of these features and systems so that they can begin reaching their potential.
A major feature on the way are the Prestige Classes. This is not a minor change, it will actually change the way Darkfall is played. They will take your preferred play-style to a new level and set you apart. These have been a long-term project that we’ve been working on for a while now. They will be a part of Darkfall 2010 launching sometime during Q4 2010.
We are aware that there are many things to be said about the topic at hand and many arguments that can be raised. We do not pretend to have addressed the issue fully but we have the best intentions to do so over time. We are processing player feedback on this at a very high priority, and you deserve a lot of credit for it. It has taken over a year for us to get a handle on this massive system and during this time we have adjusted our thinking considerably. It's not our intention to sell you anything here, rather to give you a glimpse at the big picture as we see it. Our hope is that this can become the start of an on-going discussion on character progression issues. It may take a little time to process but we expect that we will come back with more food for thought based on the feedback we receive. In order for us to do this effectively, we will kindly ask you to please approach this subject with a spirit of good-will and cooperation, as we hope we have.