"And despite how much time I've put into it, my character has barely broken into the tier just above the 'newbie' stage."Now EVE is a lot more carebear than Darkfall, because in EVE you can just stay in high security space. But even there you look at gameplay activities like mining or manufacturing and realize that it would take months to become even remotely competitive. Even buying low and selling high effectively needs skill training in EVE.
"Which just makes me wonder, is it even worth it?"
"Biggest Lie: New players can contribute in PvP"
"I don't want to be a cog in the machine. I want to contribute. I want to win. That's what drives me and motivates me. I'm just realizing now that I can't keep up that motivation when it's going to take a minimum of four more months to get competitive."
"I think I would have an entirely different perspective if I had played Darkfall from launch."
"The overall experience would just be more enjoyable because I wouldn't feel that I'm losing solely based on longevity."
"This is a perspective that I just don't think a long-time Darkfall player would understand."
And that is a principal problem of PvP MMORPGs: MMORPGs by definition have character advancement, in one form or another. Whether it is time played, gear gathered, real time skill training, or skills used, a player of a MMORPG is always getting better with time. Which doesn't matter all that much if he is facing PvE challenges, which can be scaled to his current power level. But if he is facing PvP challenges, the new player is at a fundamental disadvantage versus the veteran player. And even if he is more talented and learns quickly, he might never catch up. The only solution I see that this is systems like Guild Wars, where you quickly reach a cap (and can even create capped characters) and then only grow horizontally into more options, not vertically into more power.
I get extremely suspicious nowadays whenever I hear of a game which allows you to achieve great things, lead an empire, and rule over the masses. Because by definition there are more of the downtrodden masses than there are emperors. And especially new players coming later to the game are highly likely to end up as downtrodden mass, and highly unlikely to end up as emperor. And the worst of that is that existing players have an interest to lie to you about this, because just like every pyramid scheme you need to recruit the next lower level to get higher up in the pyramid.
If I want to lead empires, I play single-player games. Looking forward to Civilization 5 very much, for example. In a single-player game my time to advance isn't depending on whether I start the game at release or much later, and the computer AI doesn't mind playing the downtrodden masses while the humans can all be emperors.