Exclusive: Crowfall’s world building pipeline video and interview

Are you a fan of Tetris but wish it were more free-form and connected to an MMO’s world building tool kit? Yeah, neither am I, but apparently someone Artcraft thought it could work in Crowfall. Today we’ve got an exclusive first look at Artcraft’s latest world building video, plus a chat with Creative Director J. Todd Coleman, who discussed with us the world building process and helped to clarify the parcel system and player territories.

First up: The world building pipeline video.

Like a lot of our readers and writers, I’m a Crowfall backer, but I don’t pay a lot of attention to updates. I did a lot of homework before committing since I’m honestly burned out on buy-to-play alphas and “early access” games that fail. The frequent updates let me know my money hasn’t been wasted, and I dig into some of the headlines, but mostly, I’m waiting for the cake to fully bake.

I’ve also had limited game time. Justin has some great suggestions on getting over this, and one of the ones I’ve learned to embrace is trying to find a game where I can get in small doses of game time. However, I had a hard time ignoring the rat race, and my game time usually comes while I’m eating dinner, so my drug of choice is usually limited to one-handed action. Crowfall, with its promises of crafting, world building, and balance between persistent worlds and ethereal campaigns, seemed like the right investment.

However, one thing that always confused me was the way the “parcel” idea was used.

crowfall_farmparcel

Always seeing the term “parcel” used for the player landmass made me strongly associate the term with “player housing.” In fact, the official FAQ about them defines parcels as “pre-joined land cells that players can place in their Eternal Kingdoms.” However, as you can see in the above video, parcels are also used by the developers to build campaign worlds. In fact, some parcels are unique to campaigns so as to limit the rarer resources from entering player-controlled properties, but your average player has control of about the same toolset the developers have.

For this reason, it might be easier to think of Crowfall’s player housing as the “Eternal Kingdoms (EK),” which every player receives, and “parcels” simply as the building blocks. Despite the name, you don’t have to actually build a kingdom in these areas, which was something that kept confusing me personally (hopefully I’m not the only one!). Each player’s kingdom remains the same size, but it’s simply empty open ocean space until a parcel is dropped to change that.

So, even though you have your own EK, you can keep it undeveloped and private, or give admin rights to other people by choosing subdivisions (or “regions”) in your EK, right from the start. This will begin a monarchy, allowing various levels of control for you and the people you invite to your EK. You can let people drop their own parcels, control spawns, or just rent space to build a house (while taxing them, if you want).

While this may seem a bit scary for those who have experienced other games’ housing systems, Coleman says that placing your items (including parcels and buildings) in another player’s EK, or giving them rights to do so, doesn’t actually transfer ownership. If one of your vassals goes rogue, you can kick them from your EK. The land that was once there becomes ocean, or the building will be returned to them. Everything they physically owned simply goes back to them. In your EK, you only allow people to borrow space. There’s no territory warfare or building destruction in the EK.

Like the Something Awful forums, only probably slightly less cynical? Perhaps.

For me, this is pretty significant because it avoids a lot of drama I’ve experienced in other PvP games. It helps cut out most of the EVElike heists guilds in these games have to worry about. The monarch also retains the ultimate authority, including the ability to change a noble’s rule set within their region, so if a noble goes mad with power and turns on PvP in the market place, the monarch can just turn it back off and maybe demote the noble (for public safety reasons). That being said, if your guild does have a spy from another guild, and you physically give him goods (including parcels, as they are actually physical deeds you need to use, whether crafted or purchased for real money), Artcraft won’t help you get anything back.

There’s still a bit of risk in the world, but at least for me, the current system has reassured me that my general fear of griefing on a social level will be controlled under the proposed plan. Since Coleman mentioned that parcels play no part in the territory conflicts within campaigns, winning or losing a single campaign due to meta-gaming doesn’t have the same sting as losing your guild’s home of 2 years until you can build up the right alliance/weapons cache needed to take it back, if its possible.

This flexibility also means that small guilds can immediately team up and create their own space in the game world from the start, without having to worry about land rushes or losing the whole town because several members went inactive. However, Coleman notes that you really shouldn’t expect to just start grinding in your EK to build it up. If you only want to play within your EK, you won’t get very far without interacting with people who have access to higher level resources. Even as a crafter, you’re probably going to have to venture out of your own space (unless you have a lot of help from friends), but this also ensures that the game remains MMO-ish at the least, rather than allowing for a solo Animal Crossing like experience. In fact, when I asked Coleman if Artcraft wanted players to be able to play only within their personal EK, I was told that:

The world building pipeline is just coming online, and as we find out which of our assumptions work (and which ones don’t) it will certainly impact secondary systems that are built on top of it like taxes and building upkeep. The short answer is that taxes exist to force upkeep on parcels. It’s effectively a giant resource sink to provide a continuous demand on resources. Different players will fulfill that demand in different ways (participating in campaigns, generating wealth by providing goods and services to other players, or recruiting other players to use their EK and then levying taxes from their vassals.)

It’s not a yes or a no answer, but does mean that, if it’s possible, it needs to be balanced out with other game systems, which makes sense. At least for me personally, after having experienced Star Wars Galaxies about a year and a half before its closure when many of the players had enough max level characters to take care of themselves and exit the market, having a fully self-sufficient player base makes the game feel quite dead.

In terms of developer use though, the parcel system will be seeing some improvements. Coleman told me that the team is currently “building the campaign worlds by hand, meaning that every parcel is made by an artist and he is using a tool to procedurally add rocks and trees and whatever else to it. Then a designer assembles the parcels on to the world grid to create a new campaign map. Eventually that process will be procedural, too.”

Parcels themselves are also still being worked on. The team’s still not sure yet how much variation we’ll see in terms of parcel shapes, but ideally, Coleman says, there’d be a variety of “shapes and sizes to support each of the stronghold types (forts, keeps, castles, citadels, etc.) and to provide a wide variety of natural features. The procedural tools are working well so far.” So we may get that, but he is “not quite ready to make that promise yet.” It’s why there’s still no news on how the shapes and sizes of starter parcels or parcels from Kickstarter rewards will be distributed.

crowfall_parcel_header

That being said, distribution is something the team’s talked about. Coleman said that Artcraft will probably “allow some mechanism for [players] to ‘try before you buy’ different parcel types… but honestly, aren’t quite there yet in our tool development.” There’s been a few options discussed so far, such as “maybe letting players drop transparent (or shaded) versions of the parcel onto the map, but not letting you commit them to the world until you acquire them,” or letting players “create ‘blue prints’ that give you can ‘pay into’ with resources over time.” The latter’s certainly an interesting idea the team wants to offer, but it says it’s “not just quite there yet.”

Naturally, with parcels being purchasable, I had to ask about what the difference between player created parcels and store-bought parcels would be. Coleman said that, “The parcels and buildings that you buy are to be used in the EKs (not the Campaign Worlds),” and that “Anything you can get in the shop can ALSO be created or collected in the game (i.e. we don’t require you to spend real world currency.),” though services and VIP tickets are two exceptions and players can trade VIP tickets in game.

Many thanks to the Artcraft team and Todd Coleman for answering our questions!

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9 comments
JoJoMoMo
JoJoMoMo

Good stuff as always  really loving what I see so far


TimothyTierless
TimothyTierless

I'm a backer but I firmly believe they need to add a open PVP motivator to the EK concept in order for the game to have the EVE feel they desire. I know they have the PVP toggle, but I'm talking about something that motivates people to allow risk driven EK pvp. The kind where loss matters, but its worth it for when you win. If all of the EKs are safe and only feature optional care free PVP I dont think CF will capture the EVE vibe. 

TBKiro
TBKiro

If they don't have it for when it gets introduced(the EK builder tool testing, whenever that is) it will surely be requested by many others...

Full loot EKS should be an optional thing per parcel imo.

TehAcidBaron
TehAcidBaron

@TimothyTierless


I believe a safe heaven for each player is a good thing, a place they can build something up. I believe structures that should offer greater benefits should be under guild control and those should be things you can conquer and lose and are limited. 

Archebius
Archebius

Every week, I wait for more news about this game. Can't wait to see the March tests!

Nerdslayer
Nerdslayer

So is this essentially just instanced housing? Just on steroids? Are the only point of these things to provide social forums and trading to the game? For example, why build a stronghold if you can't PVP there.

Archebius
Archebius

@Nerdslayer They provide social areas, trading areas (notably, the only dedicated trading areas in the game, there won't be an auction house), player housing, and crafting facilities, as well as access to some low-tier resources. You can also turn on PvP if you so choose. 

Basically, they want you to create a little mini-kingdom. They just don't want it to be a self-sufficient kingdom; they want players to get out in the campaign worlds to bring back loot to improve their kingdom.

Samizdat
Samizdat

Looks pretty cool. Not especially relevant to how I plan on playing the game though to be honest. I expect to spend 99% of my time in a campaign world rather than the EK.

Canth
Canth

If you all remember correctly the total EK size will be 4km by 4km. This puts 'player housing' on a totally different level than we've ever seen before. Awesome video and great to finally see something about the building tools! Happy backer here! :)