Aventurine has been quite busy with its social media push and the recent launch of Darkfall's Hellfreeze expansion. We spoke with Tasos Flambouras about these changes and the possibility of Darkfall 2.
ZAM: How much does the input from players affect the design process?
Flambouras: As you may have guessed by the previous question we greatly value player input. We have since we started developing this game. The developers read the forums, and we also have a dedicated team sorting through player feedback and delivering it to the development team so that nothing is missed. The liaisons won’t simply deliver the feedback; their role is to lobby the developers on behalf of the players.
It’s a challenge sometimes because the user perspective is much different than that of the developer. Seemingly simple changes to the game or fixes usually are not and it can be frustrating for the players as they wonder why we’re not addressing certain issues quickly enough. We try to keep players informed of such issues as much as possible and we’re taking many steps to engage them more in the design process.
ZAM: Unlike many MMOs, Darkfall does not have a level system, per se. What benefits and challenges has this presented?
Flambouras: Most games use level systems, we decided to go with skills because we felt this would be better for the players: It allows players to customize their characters any way they want. It doesn’t allow players to completely mess up their characters and to have a way back if they take the wrong turn somewhere based on their gameplay choices. Players in the skill system are not penalized for changes in the game, they can adapt easier than a class-based system. Darkfall characters are pretty viable on day one as they can go anywhere on the map, use any item in the game, be useful to their clan in a variety of situations, and we’re looking to improve on this. It’s our goal to make Darkfall newbie the most viable newbie in any MMO game.
It’s harder for us to do things this way of course. There are hundreds of skills and spells. This requires a lot of work to maintain and expand the system. Things need to be balanced and Darkfall is generally a pretty balanced game, which is a feat in itself. We also don’t believe we have a perfect implementation of the skill system and this has us having to do a lot of work on improving things. We could go on and on about this, and I’m sure our community would have many points to raise on this topic. On our end, the fact is that we’re doing whatever we can to make this the best character development experience for our players.
ZAM: You recently announced that you're incorporating offline skilling for some of the “tedious” tasks. Could you tell us more about this feature and give some examples of which skills might be included?
Flambouras: This will be a work in progress. In a nutshell: players can buy meditation points and use them to raise skills while they’re offline. The skills we’re starting with are the magic schools only. Not the spells, just the schools. We’ll expand on this with frequent updates.
ZAM: Over the summer you switched to a free 14-day trial from the original $1 trial. How has the new trial affected your player base?
Flambouras: The Darkfall free trial has had an effect on player loyalty. Darkfall isn’t for everyone and having to buy the game to find this out wasn’t the perfect situation for our potential customers. The $1 trial was made as to protect the current user experience against free users which might be out to ruin it. We’ve added several mechanisms in place that have been working very well protecting the user experience and these have allowed us to offer a free trial. Now it’s easier than ever for players to determine if this game is for them or not.