OK, so “minimum viable product” is pretty much the worst thing an MMO dev can say about her game. But how about “minimum viable powers”? That’s the descriptor for the philosophy underpinning Crowfall’s power development, a new dev blog by ArtCraft Design Lead Thomas “Blixtev” Blair explains today.
“We have been building each archetype with what we think would be a ‘minimum viable power’ kit for that archetype to be useful and fun in combat,” he says. “We are leaving ourselves room on the powers tray for the player to eventually slot additional combat powers (i.e., the ones that the player will acquire via disciplines, advantages or class promotions). In other words, don’t freak out about anything at this stage.”
As his chief example, he uses the Fae Assassin, a “stealthy, quick-attacking, stabby-stab type that utilizes poisons and has positional-based attacks,” to assure backers that the team didn’t accidentally forget about stealth and illuminate the game’s wing and poison mechanics. There’s also a dive into the Sin’s UI, which demos passive and active skills, the power bar, and modes like stealth. Definitely worth a look if you’re the type of gamer who prefers stabbing from the shadows (or, y’know, running away from people like that).
An MMORPG with a crappy user interface doesn’t last long in 2017. ArtCraft has this lesson memorized and has put it to good use in Crowfall, if today’s dev update is any measure.
UX Design Lead Billy Garretsen grants game-watchers a tour of the evolution of the PvP MMO’s alpha login screens, kingdom selection screens, heads-up display, and tooltips. The first thing you’re going to notice? It’s very white, reminiscent of the sort of look capitalized on in 2011 by Dragon Age 2 and 2012 by Guild Wars 2. Inside the game, though, the HUD and tooltips are relatively dark and flat — an extremely popular look for everything from World of Warcraft mods to smartphone operating systems.
“Long ago we established a brand guideline that carried us through the Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and development of our website and social media,” Garretsen says. “Over time, the UX presentation in the game has deviated and lost some of its brand identity” — and that’s what the latest revisions are meant to fix.
One of my favorite early MMORPG PvP memories is from Dark Age of Camelot, where I liked to position my Huntress atop my side’s keep battlements to fire down on the Hibbies and Albies swarming below. But of course, we didn’t build that keep; we just claimed it, so losing didn’t hurt much beyond our pride. In Crowfall, however, you’re going to have to rebuild and hold the strongholds you’re fighting over in the game’s Dying Worlds campaigns.
ArtCraft Associate Producer Max Lancaster has a dev blog out today explaining just how it’ll work. “Strongholds will use a capture-and-rebuild mechanic,” he says. “In these worlds, players will fight over the ruins of existing castles and will need to collect resources from neighboring ‘points of interest’ (POIs), specifically mines, mills and quarries, to rebuild the defensive structures in those strongholds. These POIs will be heavily disputed, so be prepared to fight to gain (and maintain) control of them. This is done by ‘feeding’ resources into what we call hungry spawners.”
Now that the Crowfall team has revealed most of the core archetypes that will come in the launch game, the devs are turning their attention to providing more variants and customization for these classes.
In a new dev diary, ArtCraft shows off the male versions of two previously female-only archetypes: the Assassin and the Druid. “Character customization is crucial for players to create an identity that they can connect with in-game. It’s been very important to us here on the Crowfall team to give you all a sense of choice when creating yours,” the studio wrote.
The team obviously put some thought into the differences between the gender variants. For example, as the male Assassin wasn’t brought up among a sisterhood of killers, his outfit reflects being more of an outcast that wants to blend in with the shadows. Likewise, the Druid’s armor works in more bone and other organic material to reflect the class’ nature heritage.
Thanks to a new update, Crowfall is giving its players more freedom than before in customizing their own playstyle. The focus here is on an adjustable user interface that allows a player to drag whichever skill they prefer into the hotbar slot of choice.
The discussion of this new UI feature involves a look at Crowfall’s three types of skills: active, passive, and retaliatory. These can be mapped to the number keys, letter keys, and mouse buttons as desired.
“It may seem a pretty mundane thing to talk about, but the arrival of this system portents so many things coming on the horizon (like Disciplines),” said Design Lead Thomas Blair. “No one has really needed to think about loading out their character’s powers in the past as each archetype was built to have a very specific loadout of powers, but now it will be vital to ensure you have the powers loaded out into their proper slots.”
The latest video Q&A from the Crowfall team answers a whole lot of questions about things that don’t exist in the game at this point. For example, one of the first questions is why backers with the very largest houses can’t test their houses yet. The answer? Those houses are still being worked on and don’t exist yet, so you can’t test them because there’s nothing to test. Once they do exist, players can test them. Which is a bit of a needling answer, but it also does nicely cover things that aren’t finished in a developing game.
The same disclaimers apply for some of the skill descriptions currently in the game and some of the Eternal Kingdom server management technologies; “in development” does not mean “this stuff is ready to test but we’re not letting you.” Of course, there’s also discussions of the way that the game’s locational armor works, and that is most definitely in the game even if the UI could use refinement to clarify that fact. Check out the full Q&A just below.
Quantic Foundry, the games research group we’ve been tracking ever since it posted its original Gamer Motivation Model, has a new piece out this month on competition and community.
Dr Nick Yee (yes that Nick Yee) explains that one of the things his team’s survey and resulting model have demonstrated is that commonly held assumptions about the “spectrum” of MMO players — that is, “warm, fuzzy, social care bears on one end” and “cold, anti-social, competitive griefers” on the other — are wrong. In fact, he argues, the model shows that competition is not the opposite of community; on the contrary, “there is a strong positive correlation between competition and community,” disassociated from the gender and age of the respondents. This is the kind of stuff a lot of our readers are going to love, especially since the researchers are smashing related assumptions (like that ganking is PvP or that competition necessitates conflict).
So for this week’s Overthinking, I sent the summary of the research to our writers and asked them to discuss whether Yee’s results match their experiences when it comes to community and competition.
We’re just going to put this out there: Crowfall’s Eternal Kingdoms are more than just the “social backbone” of the game; they’re one of the core mechanics of persistence that make Crowfall a true MMO. So it’s worth paying attention when the devs at ArtCraft spill more info on just how the EKs work, which is exactly what they’ve done in a new video today.
The Kingdoms are basically persistent player-controlled groups of parcels that are placed and then built up by guilds, separate from the constantly changing, multi-ruleset battleground areas. The bigger and richer the guild, the better-equipped its Kingdom will be.
Within the Eternal Kingdoms update, players can expect the following content:
- The ability to plan and reshape their Eternal Kingdoms by placing mountains, valleys, rivers and forests, constructing buildings and strongholds and creating the greatest cities.
- The power to dictate the law of their land as a true king and ruler, including a wide range of PvP rules.
- Dedicated servers to host their own kingdoms, complete with the ability to control access and admin rights for other players.
- The ability to invite others to visit or join the kingdoms and become permanent vassals there, fostering alliances and social interplay.
- In order to build up their Eternal Kingdoms to their fullest potential, players will have to gather and use a wide range of resources, the best of them which can only be found in the dangerous environments of the Campaign Worlds.”
It’s a little hard to believe, but we’ve now been watching Crowfall develop since late 2014, going from a teaser announcement through a successful Kickstarter and arriving at the current pre-alpha testing. For this week’s founder’s update, the dev team decided that it deserved a moment to reflect upon all of its accomplishments and progress to date.
The team pointed to an interactive timeline chart from German fan site Crowfall Community that marked all of the major (and minor) milestones of the project from 2014 through 2017. It’s a pretty handy resource if you want to get a big-picture view of the game’s progress.
ArtCraft provided a pep talk, free of charge: “Obviously, this chart shows how much we have accomplished, and that’s great to see! … but it also shows something MUCH more important: It shows a cadence, an unrelenting series of updates that make the game a little better every month […] If that cadence proves anything, it’s that these challenges will also be tackled in due time. This game will emerge, and when it does, it’s going to be awesome.”
We’ve finished rolling out all of our PAX East content this year, and we’ve put our MMORPG-addled noggins together to try to choose our favorites out of what we got to see in person and from afar. Read on, then vote for your own best-in-show!
Crowfall’s campaign worlds won’t exist merely to be shot, burned, and sliced to ribbons. There’s going to be a healthy building component as well, which is something that ArtCraft is (pun intended) constructing as of late.
Last weekend, the studio allowed players to test drive out these tools in its “BuilderWorld.” From the looks of the video taken of the test, players were able to create some interesting villages, keeps, and even castle-mazes.
ArtCraft’s cautiously positive mood was ruined by a “major” exploit that some of the community was abusing, saying that this “raises a good question about how we want to handle the use of exploits during testing. We’re pleased when people find and report exploits of any kind. This helps make the game more robust and ready for our eventual launch. That said, we’re less pleased when people repeatedly use exploits not for testing but simply as a way to ruin the test for other people.”
Get an early glimpse of what player buildings might look like in Crowfall below!
I was pretty well taken by multiplayer survival sandbox Rend as soon as I saw it at this year’s PAX East 2017, as I wrote yesterday. The concept immediately spoke to me as taking a lot of the cool ideas from other survival games while making the game as a whole into something very different. But I also entirely understand that sometimes you can look at the game and wonder what makes it so different. After all, it’s hardly the first time that we’ve had a game using a lot of the building blocks. So why am I over the moon about Rend but not its obvious inspirations and close cousins?
The answer is that in some cases, I am over the moon about its close cousins. But it’s also important to understand the distinction and the fact that Rend is not, say, Crowfall or Conan Exiles or any other game. So what makes Rend different? Not necessarily better, but how does it stack up to the obvious points of comparison?
ArtCraft is about to take a little piece of tape and put it down over Crowfall’s “on” button.
“We plan to transition the game servers to 24×7 uptime within a couple of months,” the studio announced last night. “When that happens, we’ll also bring up a new ‘Testing Environment’ that will be separate from the current game universe. The purpose of this Test Environment will be to give us a way to stage new changes for our testing audience (which is now over 15,000 invited players) without interrupting the 24×7 service.”
Basically, the stable “live” alpha servers will be up all the time, while the test servers will not. How do you get in?