Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dark Fail?

Hooboy. Darkfall. This is a first first first impressions thing, which could change drastically as I spend more time with the game. But right now, as it stands, I'm pretty underwhelmed. It probably isn't helped by the fact that the game refused to even let me in for a good 12 hours or so, but when I finally DID get in last night (around midnight, I usually go to bed at 10:30), what I found wasn't really that impressive.

Let's start with the "not getting in part", because maybe I'm just pissed at the game in general at this point, and looking for reasons to hate it. I woke up at 1am on a work night a few days back to grab my copy. It seriously feels like they don't WANT people to buy this game. I'm not sure why they don't just open orders, and then fill them out in a queue, but for some reason, the "store" where you buy Darkfall is only open for one hour per day, and what would usually be 4am for me (7pm GMT). That it happened to be 4pm on that particular day was kind of a fluke, and allowed me to actually buy the game.

Again, though, they don't want you to buy it. There are NO links to this "store" on the front page of their website, and I only happened to find a link to it in some random ass forum post by someone trolling. You apparently go to this page here, and make another account, separate from the forum system. Then you can enter your credit card info ahead of time (which I did) to avoid having to enter it during the stampede when the store is open and everyone is spamming F5 on the transaction page. Then you check the forums, and look for dev posts saying "yeah the store will be open for 13 minutes today starting at 7pm GMT". People are even joking that BUYING Darkfall is fucking hardcore!

Whatever. I got my copy.

After you complete the purchase you're directed to a webpage where you DL a torrent file that sets up the full client download. The client is 8.6 GB, so yeah. I get that. Blizzard caught all kinds of internet hell when they switched their patching system from direct downloads to a torrent system until some blue came on and basically did the math to show the amount of bandwidth required, plus user install base, plus shut the fuck and just deal with it. Everyone calmed down, and that's just the way it works now. I can dig it. Set the torrent up to DL at like 1:15am that same night, and went back to sleep. My laptop was the machine getting it, since the next day at school I had ONE 45 minute lesson in an 8 hour day ahead of me (we're getting near graduation, and English is the first 'elective' to get the axe when they need to make room in the day's schedule to practice). Figured I could dick around in Darkfall to pass the time. Got to school with the torrent at like 90%, and finally it finished around 9:30 or so. It wouldn't connect to the lobby, though, and needed a patch. Okay. 126MB, direct DL from Aventurine. Everything seems to be going okay, whatever.

Once patched, the little login window refuses to connect ALL DAY LONG, though. I eventually just gave up around 2pm at school, and just figured maybe it was the firewall system here at school or something...?

Got home, copied the install folder across the LAN to my server, and began installing the game on my main rig. Okay, did the lobby patch, and we're making progress. Now I can actually log in, and it wants to patch the game files themselves. Okay, this is no surprise. It's an MMO. That patch (388 MB) begins to DL, and I see it trucking along at a whopping:

..ugh. Whatever. It's gonna take a while to DL. I try and not stare at the progress bar. I have ridiculously fast internet here in Japan, so that's not really it. I can only imagine a little Pentium III 800 file server hooked up to some DSL line in a closet at Aventurine trying its hardest to serve the rabid masses. Whateverrrrrr.....

Ok! So I finally get patched! I'm ready to log in! I launch the client!

Orly? Creating java VMs, are we? What is this, Puzzle Pirates? I thought I was trying to play Kill Rape Darkfall, not some PopCap Bejeweled clone? Okay. So! Not enough memory. Let's see. I got 2GB of RAM, a video card with 768 MB of memory on it, and over 2TB of hard drive space. Hmm. Well, let's jump on Google, and punch in that error code.

Hmmm, here's a thread on Sun's site...

You don't have enough contigous virtual address space to reserve the desired heap size; that size is pecified via the -Xmx argument to the JVM, and it should exist in one of the server configuration files. However, I don't know which, so check your server's docs, and then change it to something like -Xmx512m as a starting value, and then play with it to see what's the max you can get (depends on your OS).

Uh. Okay. So I actually dig around in my java conf files and find out where to edit this value, retry, nothing. Same error. I dig around some more, reinstall Java. Update my .net frameworks, as that was suggested in some other thread. Blah Blah Blah. It's getting to be around 10pm at this point. I've been trying to get in for around 12 hours now.

I go crawling back to google, and find some random page in Japanese, that's describing the same error, and contains the word "Darkfall" to boot! Japanese folks troubleshooting Darkfall Java VM errors? Hmm, the plot thickens... but I have a secret weapon for just this occasion!

Honey! Can you come in here and tell me what this stupid website says? I can't read the kanji!


"It says... open control panel, and... set... like language? your area? to ... like America? Britain? something English... I dunno so much about computers, gomen nasai yo... "

Set my control panel to English? Like... my region settings? But it says something about Java, right?

Wakaranai, yo... gomen... (I dunno, sorry)


Sure, why the hell not, right? Lol.

So I go into my regional settings, and set "ENGRISH!" as my default language. I live in Japan, and have a Japanese keyboard. Most of the time, I'm typing in English anyway, but my keyboard layout is Japanese. I have a 109-key keyboard that has extra buttons to switch to kanji input or whatever. Also, hitting something like "Shift 2" gives me the double quotation marks (") instead of an American keyboard having the "@" symbol there. So if I tell my computer I have an English keyboard, it makes typing a huge pain in the ass, since things like "\" and "$" and ">" and "[" are all jumbled around.


Apparently it will make Darkfall fucking launch! Are you fucking kidding me?! WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH HAVING MEMORY AT ALL? ...JAVA VM?! YOU NEED MY SHIFT-TWO TO BE AN "@" SYMBOL? WOW.... fucking ridiculous.

I'm FINALLY able to see the game window launch, like for real. The window pops up, and it's trying to give me a loading screen, but instead my screen flickers black and red, and then just shits itself. Everything goes all wonky big, and my mouse cursor is fucking huge. Apparently my nvidia driver just died a horrible death, and windows is running in like 640x480 on my 22 inch monitor and really wants to restart, but I can't even see my start menu or anything, so I just hit the reset button on the front of my system. This happens three or four times, even after updating my nvidia drivers, and I finally decide to give up running it in full screen on my main (i have two) monitor. I run it windowed, and OH MY FUCKING CHRIST, YOU MEAN I CAN REALLY MAKE A CHARACTER NOW? REALLY?


Ixo Belle gets made, and off I go into Darkfall!

Wow! I'm finally in the game, and these flowers on the ground are ugly as fuck! And what's with the Lego blocks passing for shadows? You're kidding, right? I fiddle with the graphics settings a bit, crank up anti aliasing, and everything finally calms down and I'm doing well enough to FINALLY run around town for a few minutes. The control scheme takes some real getting used to. Right clicking opens "UI" mode, where your character stops moving, and your cursor becomes active. This is where you can view your character page, adjust your settings, rebind keys, move windows around, whatever. Right click again goes to 'walk around mode' where you actually steer and walk. Trying to right click and strafe puts you (surprise!) back into cursor mode. OMG it's already 11:30, and I'm staying awake for this? Gah. Let's rebind that key to something out of the way... Like Num-Pad Decimal, which I have bound on my Nostromo to be accessible, but not right fucking click. Okay, that works... oh wait... no it doesn't. I can hit it once to enter UI mode, but hitting it again decides I'm trying to type "......." to the world around me. Ok, fine. You win. It's right click. Whatever.

I run around the countryside for a bit, and actually start to shake the drama of the fiasco I spent trying to get in the game at all. The world isn't half bad. There's stuff in the distance I can see that looks interesting, but I feel like running over there is asking for it. The world is harsh and scary! I better be careful, etc etc.

I run around for a good five minutes (You gain proficiency in Running!) before I come across my first 'mob'. It's a Dire Spider, and there's zero indication of whether it's a good 'first mob' or some hyper elite level 80 death awaiting me. So I run over and hit it. Yeah, not level 80 death, but probably about level 8 or so. I'm still effectively level one. It's a losing struggle, so I run away (You gain proficiency in Running!). It follows me. Like, forever. I die. Ok. That actually isn't so bad, because I have nothing to lose yet, and it's actually kind of cool realizing that my character's body gets all bloody as the fight wears on.

Back at the spawn point, I respawn (still bloody), and need to rest to regain my lost health (You gain proficiency in Resting!). This takes a good 1 or 2 minutes. I never played EQ, but I'm thinking of how people said after you cast spells you needed to sit down and stare at some book interface to regen mana. This feels like that, BUT(!), I won't dismiss it out of hand, as I essentially have no food, and in terms of WoW, am basically regenning based on spirit alone. Whatever.

I run around some more, and find another player that looks to be a beginner as well. He has a weapon in one hand, and is otherwise naked, just like me. I take a swing on him. Full PvP, right? Oh jeez. Now I've flagged myself as "rogue" and suddenly people in full suits of armor are running up to me out of the blue and bashing my face in with huge maces. This time, as I "die" I lay on the ground for 60 seconds squirming about, shouting HELP ME or whatever. I've heard of this. This is the moment where someone can 'help you up' or 'gank' you (the key bind is actually called the 'gank skill'). The guy with this oversized mallet seems to be doing neither, and I can imagine him somewhere in a dimly lit apartment, just savoring his leet PvP skillz as he stands over my helpless body. Perhaps he has a boner? This goes by for about 40 seconds, and I really just want to 'release' and get on with the 1 minute of healing. He finally winds up some big swing (whose animation misses me completely), and I hear some 'glurp' noise that I assume is supposed to be the sound of my head being flattened. The screen goes red and I scream as I die. Ok. I rez again, wait a minute to regen. Go off in another direction, across a river (You gain proficiency in Swimming!). A broadcast is sent that the server is coming down in 30 minutes for maintenance.

I come across a graveyard full of goblins, and everyone going nuts basically farming them. I join the fray. Killing a goblin leaves a tombstone, and everyone is scrambling to click the stone and loot the crap. I get a better sword off one, and a shield off another. I realize it's better to just leave your sword tucked away (it needs to be sheathed to loot, which takes about a GCD), let someone else kill them, then ninja their shit. It all feels very silly, and finally I just want to swing my sword a bit to skill up my combat proficiency. I swing wide, hit another player, and proceed to get raped again. Hoo boy.

Head off in another direction. The server is going down in ten minutes now, and that's fine with me. It will give me a sense of closure to play until it goes down for the night's maintenance. I manage to find a goblin off in the distance, away from everyone else. I kill it, and have the full loot to myself. I get a bow, some arrows, 5 gold, and another shield. I log for the night. It's 12:35am.

I don't have screenshots of the fray, or the shadow quality I mentioned. I can get some up when I get home tonight, since now I'm back at work, and the game won't connect again. I think it has to do with my laptop running Vista? I've tried connecting through the Vidalia network using Tor and Sockscap32 just to make sure it isn't the firewall or anything kooky on the school network, but everything else here works just fine. WoW, Steam, FTP, www... the firewall here seems to be wide open. It's a mystery.

I'm pretty unimpressed with combat in general, but I only have the ability to swing horizontally or vertically at this point. As I skill up and gain spells or abilities this will probably change. I recognize that. For now, though, I pull out my sword, and play circle-strafe-jerk with whatever I'm fighting, while just spamming left click to swing. It isn't very compelling. The interface and movement system takes getting used to. I can appreciate that. Once it sinks in, and becomes second nature, maybe it won't feel so intrusive when I right click and stop running, and my cursor becomes active. For now it just seems like a wonky setup. Like EVE's control system, but we aren't piloting frigates in space. We're running around with swords. I know they're trying to make it so you can't run in one direction while looking in another, but I do that every day in real life. They should make the right click look mechanic work your neck... like, you can't look 180 degrees behind you, but why should I be constrained to only look dead center ahead of me? Did I get in a nasty car accident? Do I have whiplash? Hitting Esc should bring up the interface that right clicking does now... it just seems weird.

Anyway. That's my first impression, and I realize that 70% of this column is how pissed I was that it didn't just launch after downloading it. But that was my first impression. I bought the game, I expect to be able to get in without getting some retarded errors about Java VM that have to do with my fucking keyboard layout. That just makes no sense, and if I hadn't stumbled across that random Japanese page (and had a Japanese wife to read it to me) I'd probably STILL be dicking around with Java Heap Size Allocation or some shit. For all I know, the reason my laptop won't connect and patch is because I keep my fly zipped up, or I didn't shave this morning.

I'll give it another go tonight when I get home, and maybe some time this weekend, but yeah... not sure if this is the game for me. As I read more stuff on it now, after having seen it live, I keep getting the feeling that people are trying to "justify" it, instead of actually praising it. People don't like WoW. I get it. People want diversity in the MMO market. I feel ya. It was the same thing with Warhammer. People want something new, but Warhammer just isn't as good a game as WoW. The dungeons in Warhammer were pathetic. Yes, it has some PvP / RvR, but even that aspect (which I fully gave a chance) just wasn't very good.

People are doing the same for Darkfall. It has this PvP system in place, but the game itself just feels... sub par. Maybe as I get further into it, these problems will fall away, to reveal an honest to god fun experience underneath. Or maybe it will just suck, and I'll shrug and 'meh' as I uninstall it. I think 'the idea' of Darkfall is an interesting one. Full looting. A complete lack of security or bound items. Those are points that deserve merit. But if the game itself just sucks, then I'll happily wait for another company to come along and 'do it right' rather than suffer through a poor implementation.

I'll give it more time. We'll see.


Anonymous said...

That's depressing, I thought the game looked like it might be pretty fun.

On the other hand, the PvP videos out (we all know your opinion on those) make that seem pretty meh as well.

Oh well, back to sitting at 1400 in arenas.

Vads said...

Damn. Dark Fail just about sums it up, I mean I was sceptical to this rumoured vapourware game for many years running but I was actually happy to see something so different make it out to the market.

This though your intial review though is nothing short of depressing, as commenter above says. Gonna sit on fence a bit longer and see what other reviews this game gets..

Rich said...

yeah, as I'm saying in the thing, though... don't let this one thing sway you. I still need to give it a bigger chunk of time, but initial reactions are pretty underwhelming.

Maybe it gets good as my toon gets stronger, but I'm not the type to endlessly suffer through bad gameplay hoping it gets better.

I'll give it a solid weekend, and re-evaluate it again based on that. I haven't even had a chance to party with anyone, and have seen about 50 yards in each direction from the starting area. Mostly just the bullshit of getting in the game at all was a huge turnoff last night.

Melf_Himself said...

Lol, awesome post.

I can't believe I haven't actually seen the witty "Dark Fail" phrase until now, I'm sure that will catch on :p

Waiting patiently for further impressions before I bother to go through all this hassle as well.

Glad to see you're not of the "omg does this means all teh pvp games fail" tobold-esque mindset ^^

Anonymous said...

WTB MMO-RPG from Bethesda. Most of their games are real high quality and don't have the clunky control schemes other games do. Bad controls turn me off from a game faster than bad graphics. I could have enjoyed Eve if it wasn't for the fact that it took 4+ hours to learn the basic-basic-basics and even then the controls were still completely shit-tastic.

If the next elder scrolls game has online play, you'll see and hear very little from me. Hell, I miss Oblivion just thinking about it.

Longasc said...

You know, many people hope for a great, new MMO, bored by World of WoWcrap... and then we get stuff with bad gameplay, bad mechanics that actually often does not run at all.

I wonder why Keen & Graev are still playing this game, I see a deep yearning for something new, but I think it is more of a wish than about what Darkfall actually delivers.

Bonedead said...

The Darkfail phrase is not new, in fact, I believe DFs followers invented it in the IRC channel while waiting for the shop to open.

You definitely need to spend more time in the game. You need a guild, a guild city, and some enemies before you really get to see it shine.

See here:

Hatch said...

I would have just given up on the game at around your 4th paragraph, ixo.

Brian W. Smith said...

Ehh too bad that the initial opinion of this game is so low. Yeah like you said there is a lot of anti-WoW sentiment out there, to me rooting against WoW is like rooting against US Steal. Its huge, and it not only dominates market share, it is the market. So there will be those out there that make DarkFall out too be more then it is, just like the AoC apologists on the Funcom forums, and the Warhammer fans on their forums.

Sadly, it looks like the MMORPG industry right now is thinking more about time to market, and trying to break the mold with their UIs so they are un-WoW-like, even though WoW borrowed many of its UI elements from previous games. It seems that all of these MMORPGs come out very incomplete, with the basic things that we take for granted in the matured WoW missing from their games. Remember how AoC offered no real guild interface, or a chat system that was very clunky, the fact that you could not bind mouse buttons to game actions, all of those were things that we're so used to with WoW.

Dark Fall, from your descriptions, just looks like another AoC. A game that looks great on paper, but fails on implementation. Sorry you wasted the money on it, as it looks like it'll just take up shelf space next to your AoC box, and just one more thing you'll have to stick in a box in a couple months when you head "home".

Anonymous said...

I'll probably never play Darkfall, being such a sad crafting carebear, but the post was a marvellous read all the same. I *detest* (a mild euphemism) download/patching/logging in issues, and crappy UIs make me froth at the mouth, so everything you wrote I've said and experienced under different circumstances.

Hope your blood pressure has gone back to normal! ;)

Bonedead said...

Some information that may be useful to you Ixo:

One hit = gray for 10 secs
Two hits = gray for 2 mins

Stay in the goblin areas. Get the goblin quests from the NPC closest to the entrance/exit. Go to the other newb towns in your area and do those same goblin quests there too.

Bank bank bank, but as a guildy of mine said to me: "Don't cry when you lose your stuff, however good it was. Don't get sentimentally attached to anything, and most certainly don't save "your best" for a day that never comes. If you can, get a spare set of "your best" so that you can be wearing it all the time."

You definitely need friends in this game, soloing is not going to be an interesting option unless you're just a badass mothafugga.

The newb towns are a lot crazier now than they were when I was in them over a week ago. I recently returned to harvest steedgrass so I could sell it for more than I could get from guildies. During this time I got attacked by 1 guy and got up and ran away successfully. However though, when I was real comfortable and feeling safe the same guy attacked me while I was resting. This time he had 2 friends and they boxed me in. I was so ready to run back out there and kick some ass but, I respawned at my clan city in the middle of the map, a good 45 minute run away. But stuff like that didn't happen when I was in there (unless it was me doing it lol).

Rich said...

bone: yeah, I'm actually coming around. got a new article up on the front page with more playtime under my belt.

Muckbeast said...


That is one of the most brutal stories I've heard about Darkfall yet.

I love PvP, and I love small developers, but I just can't make myself try this game.

Too many horror stories.

Muckbeast - Game Design and Online Worlds