I decided to take up Aventurine on their $1 for 7 days offer and created a Darkfall account for the US server. After all, I have wanted to give that game a try for a long time and it seemed like a good way of doing it without having to pony up the ridiculous amount of money they charge for it.
Most Darkfall-fans often point out that you will hate the game at first, because the UI and controls are so different from other MMOs. I would like to second that. The UI and controls are not only bad, they are both a piece of stinking dung. They are completely and utterly worthless, like they have been created for the sole purpose of driving new players insane by just being stupid.
I haven’t played much more than one hour of Darkfall in total, rerolling three times because my character looked too silly when I finally got in the game. The one I have now looks pretty cool, a wolf-man pirate ready for some sandbox action. But the game is such a hassle to play, there’s nothing intuitive about it at all. Fighting goblins, looting, harvesting…all a pain to everything my gamer self has learned about design over the course of my gaming career.
I can’t help feeling that the UI is a prototype, that it was built this way to get the game up and running so it could be shown to investors. Then Aventurine ran out of money and didn’t have time to replace it, instead the game kept being designed around that mess. Darkfall-fans, including SynCaine, often say that it is like that for design reasons. I don’t buy it. If it is, it’s at least not good design.
While I will keep playing Darkfall for a bit, for despite the glaring flaws of the new player experience and the insane babble in the chat channels the world is quite inviting, I was reminded of my first time in EVE. Three years ago, EVE Online was hardly a very nice place to start out in. The introduction to the game was, just like in Darkfall, a mess. But the cluster was inviting enough for me to hang around, and slowly the designers at CCP have created a better way for new players to get a feel for its potential.
Perhaps Darkfall will go down the same route, perhaps with future patches or expansions Aventurine can dig deep into their own designs and rethink certain aspects of their game. Because seriously, just because it is a full PVP, full loot, warfare-focused MMO doesn’t mean that it has to be designed in a way that would give most intelligent people a headache (I am sure Darkfall has many intelligent players, they just seem to stay away from the chat channels – like in most MMOs, come to think of it…). Or does it? Ryzom can also be quite hard for people to learn. Do “sandbox” and “convoluted controls and game mechanics” go hand in hand? Do you think that a MMO with mechanics similar to World of Warcraft or Allods Online ever could be the foundation of a good sandbox game?