Friday, April 23, 2010

Character Progression Discussion

Yesterday, Tasos the Almighty, created a forum thread where he exposed Aventurine thoughts on the CPD, aka the Grind. Whoever reads this humble blog knows I think the grind is a critical issue so I've red it very carefully and this is what I think about it. First of all I want to say that the "improving player-dev communication" is a great step in the good direction.

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.
While it's true that noob players can still do a lot more things, most if not all of this things require you to be able to defend yourself, so you need to be viable and more likely you'll need some support. That's for another day but if you are not in clan, most of this activities won't be possible either. So...
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.
The definition of viable is not very clear but well, I consider myself a viable character. I've got 260 HP, 34 Sharpshooter, 70 knives (no mastery) and my Greater Magic is close to 50 now. I play as a Mahirim, and my stats are STR 40, VIT 44 (+4 Vit Title), DEX 29, QUI 38, INT 28 and WIS 47. The thing is I've been playing for 4 months aprox. and I only doubled half of them. I also don't know what "moderate time" means but I should cover that one. Moreover, anything below my current level is not viable. So in this 4 months I've made some of the things this game has to offer but I've died A LOT.
 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.
Newbie protection, bag naming, auto stacking of items, increasing ship speed, changes in PvE and raising gains are really good and needed. On the other hand, skill books and scrolls and attribute consumables are really really rare and only those noobs who enter a friendly clan will be able to use them. I haven't got Industry yet and don't make me talk about auto-harvesting.
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.
My opinion is that it hasn't improved enough but I'm happy to know that they are still working on it.
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.
Well, I'm pretty sure that it will take me more time than he says. Anyway I'm very happy about the HP fix and I think it was a very needed thing that will decrease the really huge gap between vets and noobs. But, this gap needs a lot more fixes than only HP. Darkfall needs a very little gap between vets and noobs. THAT will favour player skill.
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.
I hope that these other aspects include melee, magic and crafting progression, making the non-linear skill gain steeper til 50 or even 60. Many people has suggested very good ways to implement this. The temporary stat potion boosts needs to work as skill scrolls and only be useful to newbs and not to vets. Pretty obvious, right?
I'm not gonna comment on end-game stuff but I seriously hope they are planning a more engaging, diverse and fun ClanVsClan system.
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.
Finally, the Prestige Classes. Well, I gotta admit I'm not really interested because I don't think I'll find the class or specialization that suits my gameplay. I'd rather like to see a good skill decay system that improves variety and allow the player to get the specific things he wants. Sooner, really, a lot sooner.
Overall, I think the thread didn't have enough info on Dev's perspective but it surely is a good step in the right direction. I, as many other players, feel that these changes don't come fast enough but I guess they are working as hard as they can.

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