Commenting DAoC’s Catacombs

This is a comment I wrote at Q23 about the upcoming expansion for DAoC, “Catacombs”. I’m not in beta and this is just a description about how I “feel” about it. About what is available (like the screenshots) and about my expectations (or “design guidelines I would follow if I was working at Mythic”):

For now I’ll say that I agree with Walt: yes, those zones look *impressive*.

An aspect that in DAoC always sucked was the level design. Aside a few rare exceptions (Darkness Falls is acceptable) the design of dungeons and open-air zones is really plain and uninteresting. Even if the graphic quality is ok the possibilities of the engine are never used. No originality, just generic locations that look more randomly generated than handcrafted. No cohesion, no sense of wonder, no immersion.

The screenshots I’ve seen from Catacombs are impressive, as I said. I can see that the texture artist is the same of ToA and New Frontier and I always *loved* his work. I consider him (whoever he is) one of the best artist available out there. But aside this I noticed an improvement on the design of the zones themselves, and not just the textures.

So, I found myself murmuring “cool”. Never happened before while looking at a zone in DAoC.

Instead I still consider the new characters models disappointing. I don’t like the change from a “fantasy” style to a more realistic style. This beside the tech. The textures seems reused and bad. I don’t like the expressions and I dislike even more the models. The arms and the legs in particular are poor (no elbows). Same for the hands and overall impact of the shape of the body.

So not only I don’t like the art *at all*. But I don’t even appreciate the change of the style and I also expect more lag since the technical quality is increased. Something that DAoC’s generally horrible (as: performance and bugs) engine didn’t need.

The idea to link dungeons and underground zones is cool. Same for the new transportation system. I cannot say anything about the actual content but I have a few hopes:

1- It will offer, finally, a decent PvE, from level 1 to 50. With quests that are *fun* to do and not a PLAGUE and a BURDEN (like they are in DAoC till now, every single one). As a must: I don’t want to be forced to spoil the quest by being FORCED to look at a spoiler site. The objectives of the quests should be precise, I don’t want anymore to spend real hours to find a goddamn NPC, to wait a spawn or to grind something. The quests should pivot around *fun* (and challenging) gameplay elements.

2- The instancing will be used to offer fun and balanced experiences. Challenging and hard for a set number of players and levels. Zerg forbidden.
2a – Buffbots *forbidden* in instances. And so their effectivity. No buff and then enter the instance. The buff effects MUST drop. (this will sell me the game)
3- It’s easy to play and isn’t based solely on timesinks and grind to hide the fact that there isn’t content to offer. (ToA was JUST that)
4- It’s easy to experience, without requiring too many hours of continuous play and various hours of preparation before the start of an event.
5- It’s self-consistent. Without invulnerable monsters that can be killed only in absurd ways that you ARE FORCED to discover on spoiler sites. If there are puzzles the game has to offer DIRECTLY the possibilty to find their solution. And they have to MAKE SENSE.
6- The possibilty to follow and *read* the story with my own pace. I don’t accept a zerg leaders shouting at me “DON’T FUCKING TRY TO SPEAK TO THE NPC OR YOU’LL RUIN THE ENCOUNTER!!”
7- The experience should feel like a possible and viable (yes, even long) *journey*. For everyone. I don’t want to be stuck because I cannot find a zerg under my control to offer me the support. I don’t want to grind for hours or camp a spot forever. I don’t want to see parts of the game that are technically unreachable because I’m not backupped by a whole guild, because I don’t have uber leet equipment and five buffbots.


8- I don’t want to have to drop the game because of technical problems like memory leaks, graphical bugs and incompatibilities that are still completely overlooked.

Okay, perhaps there’s more that now I cannot remember. We’ll see how it will perform at release. Those are my expectations.

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