Interview With Marc Thompson Of Ub3rgames, Developers Of Darkfall: New Dawn

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I recently had the chance to sit down with Marc Thompson of Ub3rgames to discuss his company's upcoming Darkfall reboot, Darkfall: New Dawn. We discussed what inspired them to pick up the license, what changes are being made to the original Darkfall, the Title System, and more.

Me: I saw in the FAQ that there were ten people working on Darkfall: New Dawn. Is that still true?

Thompson: That is still the case. We have a bit more people helping us out here and there but, in general, people that are really involved with the project, we are ten. It’s an equivalent of four or five people that are full-time.

What inspired you to pick up the Darkfall license?

We used to be players and we’ve always wanted to start our own studio. There was a petition about restarting the original Darkfall and we saw that there was quite a bit of demand. We didn’t sign it and nobody we knew signed it, but there were still about 1000 people that signed it, so we figured that this could be something we could do.

We’ve worked with people that work in server hosting and rental and management and we looked at how much it would cost, how much it would take to actually host such a game, and we figured we could do it. And we did it.

And as you move forward, you’re looking to expand the team as well as the game?

Yes.

How do you feel about the fact that the game was also licensed to another company?

It’s just two different approaches and we just let them happen to get more chances of seeing the game come back. I think we are going for two very different objectives so, in the end, we shouldn’t really impact each other—or that’s what we expect. Otherwise, nowadays, the communities—both communities—don’t mix well. There are some people that love the vision of the other side, there are some people that love ours, and there are people that just love Darkfall and they are waiting to see which version will be the most successful.

I think both can survive and be their own thing. It’s like it’s a basic framework that can be expanded in many different directions and we don’t really view them as competition. We are going for the big empire building thing with economy and more, with PvE approach, letting people play the way they want, and I think they are going more for the full PvP and some sandbox elements, but mostly PvP.

With a lot of the grind reduction, you’re trying to really focus on making sure that people get to the part that you want them to see, which is the whole empire building and working together with other people a little more than perhaps they did in the original Darkfall, right?

Exactly. I think that one thing that will be really interesting in our version is that, if you collaborate with other people, you will gain more yourself. That should first reduce the grind, to make it more fun because it’s going to be more challenging and you’re going to gain more if you work as a group. But, at the same time, it’s going to reduce the gankbox effect because Darkfall was like one of the first gankbox. Then there was DayZ, Rust, and all those other games, but Darkfall was initially still alive and “kill whatever moves.” I think it can evolve into something like “make friends, go to the spawn, find some other people, start working together, socialize, form a clan, and just go on adventures all together after a while.”

Can you sum up some of the changes you’re going to be making to the original Darkfall in New Dawn?

First of all, we’re going to make the alignment system much sturdier so it will be harder to kill someone of your same race, but we are going to orient people to kill RvR—race against race. There are three main factions with six races, so it’s asymmetrically balanced. We’re going to really make that aspect fundamental to the gameplay. The first step is to have a proper alignment system so that you don’t kill people that should be your allies.

The next step is going to be reducing the grind. More specifically, reducing the power gap. We will be adding a lot of frontloading of all the power that you would get. So early on, you would get a lot of power with your character. You can continue progressing for less and less advantage, but still some advantage. So with that, a new player that comes into the game can become viable much sooner. That was a real issue back in the day for Darkfall because there was such a mountain when you get into the game that it would take months to just be able to survive against a veteran player. That’s something we’re going to cut down a lot on. We’ve already cut down a lot of it. At least for attributes and most of the skills, it’s now much easier to get to a point where you can compete.

We’re also going to add more specialization. You won’t have to level up everything. You can just select the way you want to play and just play it and pick a perk that will let you focus on what you want your character to be instead of being forced to grind everything.

In the very long term, like one year from now, we are going to add a lot more options to how to manage your territory, how to control it with a different structure that you can place in the world and create your own empire with players, heading and directing them.

So there will be systems in place for an empire-like political structure. Will it have a robust set of management features?

Yes. There’s already a lot of clan management in the holdings in Darkfall that you can own, but they have a static setup. So you already have cities in the world and hamlets, but between them, there’s nothing to really fight over. What we’re going to add is the ability to create outposts, place them wherever you want into the world, and expand them.

For instance, an outpost could have an upgrade to buff the area around it, so when you would go there, monsters and harvesting nodes would provide more resources and you could also tax that area. So if random players that aren’t a part of your alliance come to a mob spawn on your land, a percentage of what they earn will be taxed and you as a clan or as an alliance can recover that and use it for your own purposes.

We want to encourage that sort of land ownership. You’re the landlord of your lands. You protect the cities and civilians on your land because they bring you taxes. If they get killed to often, they will go to someone else’s land, so we hope to have some form of self-regulation organized by clans and each part of the world to have its own history with clans that have their own side of managing their territories.

I saw that there will be new economy features that will make crafters viable. Were crafters not viable in the original Darkfall?

It’s not that they weren’t viable, but there wasn’t really an economy. There was global banking in the original Darkfall. We still haven’t implemented local banking, but we’re going to do it because, in the old days, you pretty much had to travel all around the map and get every item you wanted and then craft everything yourself. There wasn’t really interaction between players and you ended up forced to just do everything on your own. So just to create one of your equipment bags, it would take hours upon hours.

What we want to do is to have our specialization system, which we call the Title System. It’s those perks that you can select to specialize your character. Some of them will be crafting, so you will have to choose “do I want to be better at fighting? Do I want to be better at PvE? Do I want to be better at exploring the world? Or do I want to be better at the industry skills, crafting and harvesting?” If you pick some of those titles, you will be much more time-efficient than another character at getting resources and creating objects.

So it reduces the time to build up items and you can sell them for a profit. If you can sell them for a profit, then another character —another player—can buy it from you. He can gain by doing what he was enjoying.

Back in the day, it was a huge issue. Very few people were trading and they were trading rare items. Not really day-to-day consumables or day-to-day gear.

The Title System: Is it going to be more effective than leveling the relevant skills up even more or is it just going to help you level the skills faster?

It’s going to make the skills better. It’s going to grow over time. You can speed it up by using some meditation points, which is the offline skilling system in Darkfall, but, in general, once you activate one of those titles, it’s going to grow over time and it’s going to double the effect of your bonus skills.

In Darkfall, you’ve got two types of passive skills. You’ve got the unlock skills, which are those you’d earn. You raise your Fire Magic and, every few levels, you get a new spell. That’s an unlock skill. You have the Intensify skill which boosts the damage of your spells. That’s a bonus skill.

The titles will increase the effectiveness of those bonus skills. So you would do more damage, it would use less mana, you would have faster casting, and so on.

So it will be kind of like a talent, but you have to unlock it and you can level it?

Yes. It just levels over time on its own. You can speed it up a bit, but it’s like a pseudo-long-term commitment—”I want to be a fire mage. I want to be a swordsman. I want to be an archer.”—and you commit to it for just a week. It will grow over several weeks to reach its maximum potential. You can unlock, through a commitment, new, unique abilities.

This system is not yet implemented. It’s a long-term goal, but that’s how we want it to work.

I saw that you are going to have system-controlled gold sinks. Is there going to be an upper limit? Say that there are a lot of players that have a lot of money. Will there be very high inflation?

There were some inflation problems in the original Darkfall, so that’s why we want to work on that system—to avoid it. Most of the gold sinks will be set on trading—on the auction house or marketplace. There will be a percentage of each transaction that is taken out of the system and this would mean that the high-end items that high-end players use the most would take out the most gold from the system. We are hoping that this way, there will be less inflation issues and a new player that comes and gets 20 gold or 100 gold from his only quest or from his goblin kills, that that gold will be useful to him and he will not have to pay 100,000 gold because everyone has 20 million.

What is the difference between raids and sieges, other than the fact that raids are smaller?

Many of the PvP encounters back in the day were people just going at someone’s holding. A holding is a hamlet or a city. People would go there and just jump up on the other side of the walls and try to kill people inside of the city, which meant that the walls were kind of useless because, in Darkfall, you have physics-based spells and you can launch yourself upwards or push yourself forward very fast, which is really great in open world combat. But in the context of “you have a city and you want it to be protected,” it made the walls kind of a liability for city owners in some cases. The walls were used against the city owners in some cases.

So what we’re going to do is add pushback protection on the walls. If you try to jump up over a wall, it will push you back a bit. It’s still possible if you start from a higher point of view to jump above the wall, but it’s going to be much harder and you’re going to take some damage or you’re going to have to use ladders. That way we will allow you to disable that protection and it will also make some of the items inside the city vulnerable so you can destroy it and steal some of the loot of the city. It’s kind of disabling the protection of the city and stealing some of its loot if you manage to.

On the other hand, a siege is to actually capture the city. To make it your own.

How long do you expect New Dawn to be in an InDev state?

We expect it to last for six to nine months, but it’s really more of a pre-launch because we are starting out the land grab already. If clans start playing now, they can already fight for the cities and carry on fighting for them after the InDev period. And there will be some kind of seasonal bonus, like if you participate in a season, you get bonuses for the next season. That’s something we’re going to do with this InDev period.

We know game had flaws. It was easy to exploit mobs that could be killed for a lot of gold or a lot of XP. For people that don’t know the game, it’s unfair. We want to clear that out once we have fixed the issues. That’s why we’re having a wipe, but we see it as our initial launch right now.

Thompson also answered a number of questions during a stream I hosted the other day. Here are some of the highlights.

  • Recall will not be making a comeback.
  • Housing will be improved.
  • Local, city-wide marketplaces and local banking are on the way.
  • Marketplaces will not be regulated by the system.
  • Local banks will be made larger.
  • Backpacks will be implemented to increase carry weight and mounts will be able to carry things.
  • The UI will be updated to make it more user-friendly.
  • Spell queueing wasn’t removed. It is simply hidden. They are trying to get rid of the delay between the end of one spell and the time when the game accepts input for the next.
  • “Bubble over head” chat will be introduced in the future.
  • Salvaging won’t be introduced until much later down the road.
  • Weapons and armor will become less effective with durability loss, but they won’t lose more than “one rank and a half.”

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You can download Darkfall: New Dawn right now via the official website. It can be played for free until August 16th.

I've been playing MMOs since back in the day when my only option was to play Clan Lord on the family Mac. Since then, I've played too many MMOs to count. I generally play niche, sometimes even bizarre, MMOs and I've probably logged the most hours in Linkrealms prior to its current iteration. Currently bouncing between a few games.