Posted on June 11th, 2019 by Terry Kim
Jolly cooperation? Pass. Honorable duels? Meh. Noob-hunting? Grab my orb!
Dark souls is a game series about hardship, shared knowledge, benevolence, and malice. Featuring a wide array of human nature – ranging from benevolence and jolly cooperation, chivalrous dueling, to pure malice.
Now, the malice from map designers are infamous, and known by almost all who play the game; The Giant Skeleton Archer & Warrior duo in Tomb of the Giants (DS1), Holy (Barrel)Knight Aurheim of the Eleum Loyce(DS2) being some examples.
However, the subject of this article is malevolence wielded by the users, and specifically, the act of low-level hunting, commonly called “Twinking”.
The Dark Souls Trilogy is one of the biggest skill-focused RPG franchises. It’s much less about the gear, the levels, than it is about skill and strategy. Armor, weapons, and stats definitely help, but by no means are necessary in clearing the game, as witnessed by countless people marching through the game with a level 1 character, or a character without proper equipment.
Now this skill factor, coupled with players of mal intent, allowed for a problematic form of PVP interaction, in all 3 titles of the series. Skilled, but malevolent players would complete the game with a low-level character (often low enough to invade players near the starting area), come back with ‘end-game’ gear and spells tailored specifically to kill new players. Commonly referred to as “Twinking”, this created problems by allowing some “hardcore” users to drive out new userbase. From Software sought to address this in each of its new titles, although not all of its attempts were successful.
In Dark Souls 1, From Software brought over the level-based matchmaking from its previous title, Demon’s Souls. Players would only be matched with players of around the same level range.
This, however, was nowhere near enough. Players would grab end-game loot and upgrades in their first low-level playthrough, and come back to starting areas to invade them with their full arsenal. The low-level limit did not mean much, as certain upgrade paths- namely lightning, offered a very high damage output, while requiring no stat investments for efficiency. A Lightning +5 estoc could kill a new player with 2-3 pokes from behind the shield (little to no risk involved), resulting in very little room for survival for the new players being invaded.
From Software sought to address that in Dark Souls 2, by introducing Soul Memory. Soul Memory kept track of how many souls were gained in total, and limited matchmaking range accordingly. This would prevent the malevolent players from invading new players endlessly, as their Soul Memory would soon overflow beyond the limit. This, however, was not without problems. While the introduction of Soul Memory indeed prevented most twinks from invading early areas, the concept was ill-matched, and became a huge burden for the not-so-skilled players. With this new system, dying twice without being able to retrieve your souls (essentially all of your unspent experience points AND money) meant that the system will still recognize you as being “that much powerful, and fit to fight players of that many more souls”, while providing you with none of its benefits. This was, effectively, adding insult to injury, and kicking them while they’re down. Dark Souls is a game where consecutive deaths in the same spot (or even deaths on the way to your last bloodstain) are not uncommon, and the system effectively punished them twofold. Meanwhile, twinks, on the other hand, would “optimize” their Soul Memory by skipping all non-necessary soul gains and losses, and find their way around the system to invade new players.
Dark souls 3 and Dark Souls: Remastered brought a return from Soul Memory to Soul Levels, albeit with an effective auxiliary system to weed out the twinks. Players now need to have a similar weapon level, in addition to soul level, to invade others. This meant that people could not bring their +15 weapons into the worlds of fresh new players in their starting zones, effectively limiting twinking to a small portion of what it used to be.
However, it should be noted that people found some ways around the limit – such as finding areas where a player would naturally find a certain level weapon, and invading that zone with a character specifically tailored to be at max efficiency within the zone. Picking up the lightning spear (which comes naturally and is also a great arsenal to get you through the next area) in Sen’s Fortress is a good example, as it immediately unlocks invasions from +15 wielding twinks. Lesser versions include +10 invading a “unique weapon drop” zone, and a +5 invading the earliest zones of the game.
A bigger problem, however, were that a select few spells and items that were not affected by this limit. To this day, twinks hunt new characters in the Undead Burg, with either Dark bead or Dragon torso & head Stone. This act essentially leaves the host with only the option of “dodging every single attack” or resorting to the act of pulling the plug.
Perhaps, spells too should have been included in this system. PERHAPS.
Hopefully, the system will be closer to being perfect for the upcoming game, Elden Ring!
Note: It would be among my most sincere wishes that anyone who reads this take a step away from twinking, and enjoy a healthy form of pvp with people in a natural range of you. Have a heart, not-so-unique-but-still-chosen undead.