Darkfall Interview

It’s been quite some time since we last checked in on Razorwax to see how progress is coming along on Darkfall Online, so last week we sent off a batch of questions for the game’s lead designer, Claus Grovdal.  Here’s what he had to say:

GB: It’s been nearly two years since we talked to you last, so can you give us a quick summary of where you stand in the development of Darkfall?

Claus: We have come a long way since the first GameBanshee interview. Back then we had the four guys in a basement, now we have a team of 20 people working hard on finishing the game. We also moved country,from a basement in Oslo, Norway to modern offices close to the Olympic stadium in Athens, Greece. We all have a nice tan now.

Darkfall is entering closed beta testing in September this year. The closed beta is fully playable, with most core features implemented. We will be adding features and content during closed beta, while we gear up for the next beta stages.

GB: In the past couple of years, have any of your design goals changed? Has anything been cut/added from the development process?

Claus: Very little has changed. We have stayed true to the original design, and kept almost all of the features promised when we launched the Darkfall site two years ago. We sadly had to remove some popular features such as flying mounts, for reasons having to do with game balance issues related to sieges, and deformable terrain, due to possible latency issues. We have tried to make up for it by adding more content than originally planned. We’ll be looking at possibly implementing these features at a later date.

GB: The Features section on your website claims that Darkfall Online will have one of the best quest systems ever seen in a game. Can you describe the quest system and exactly why it bests any before it?

Claus: I’m afraid that the quest engine is one of the game elements we have to keep under wraps for now.

GB: For those who are unfamiliar with Darkfall Online, can you give us a description of how the clan system will work and what goals a clan might strive to achieve?

Claus: Any player can form a new clan, and we have provided excellent tools for the clan leader to organize and run the clan. In-game message boards, donation tracking, assigning and changing member ranks, voting on guild issues, diplomacy interface to other clans, statistics, messages of the day, event scheduling, etc. We have tried to cover everything clan leaders could possibly need to make their life easier.

Clans may strive to achieve different goals. Some clans will be happy building a city, develop it and try to live in peace with their neighboring clans, and defend what they’ve built. Some clans may enjoy being traders and travel the world being merchants. Some clans may be mercenary hiring their combat readiness out to the highest bidder, and obviously some clans will strive to conquer and enslave other clans, building a massive empire with numerous cities.

GB: Can you tell us about the different methods of transportation that you will be implementing?

Claus: Foot, mount, boat, magic. We have tried to balance travel, so that it is not easy to move a huge army across the map. This is something we will fine tune during testing, and try to make sure it’s as balanced as possible.

GB: Will player housing be part of the game at its initial release?

Claus: Absolutely. Players and clans can build complete cities, even empires with all the buildings you can imagine, ranging from small personal cottages, to huge castles, shops and defensive structures. Even boats can be built and owned by the players.

GB: Can you describe the item creator that you will be implementing and how players will be able to utilize it? Will items created in this way have the potential to be better than magic items found while adventuring?

Claus: Almost every item found in the game can be player made. There will be some unique items, obtained by completing epic quests or clan quests (for the entire clan to participate in,) Besides these quest items, player crafters will have the potential to make almost anything.

GB: Your FAQ states that there will be no “safe zones”. How do you plan on addressing issues of severe player-killing or other forms of “griefing”?

Claus: There are almost unlimited new ways of fighting the griefer for other players. If you don’t like someone you have options: Ban him from binding in your town, kill him on sight, have your guards kill him on sight, your NPC vendors refuse to sell him items, or just give him bad prices if you still would like his money. Tell your allies to do the same to him in their cities. Attack his clan, burn their cities, and brag about it. Track, stalk and kill him. Darkfall will let you deal out vengeance any way you like, just keep in mind that it’s a double-edged sword.

GB: Can you tell us about NPC hirelings and what exactly players can use them for?

Claus: NPC hirelings can be shopkeepers or city guards. There are a lot of cool features we’re looking to incorporate in NPC control and AI.

GB: Since the game is entirely skill-based, how do you plan on balancing issues with specific skills being more powerful or over-utilized than others?

Claus: Since every player can – technically speaking – get most skills for their own character, it is pretty much balanced straight out of the box. Having 500 skills and spells on a character is obviously great, but actual player ability determines the outcome of a fight, or how successful a tradesman or blacksmith turn out to be. You certainly can’t use all 500 skills and spells at the same time, so your choices in a combat situation will be the factors that determine success or failure.

Having the biggest toolbox in the world, does not make you the best handyman around. You have to learn how to use every tool in the right way, and know which ones to pick for each job. We think Darkfall will challenge players in a new and exciting way, to depend more on their own abilities as players, than to rely on uber characters with all the levels and equipment available. It is something new, and we think the players of Darkfall will love it.

GB: Will there be multiple phases to the public beta? Have you arrived at a date when you might begin such a beta?

Claus: Starting from Closed Beta in September, we will slowly add more and more testers. We will have an open beta shortly after, for stress testing.

GB: To conclude, what do you feel Darkfall Online has to offer over that of existing MMORPGs to attract both new and veteran players?

Claus: Freedom. Freedom for the players to play the game any way they want, and do whatever they want. We are building an actual online fantasy world, with as few boundaries as possible. There are obvious technical and development time limitations to what we will offer the players on release, but we feel very confident that we are setting a new benchmark for freedom in online games with Darkfall.

We’d like to issue a sincere thank you to Razorwax, especially Claus, for taking the time to answer our questions!

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