Even Crowfall, as progressive as it is with its racial choices, must bow to the ironclad law of MMOs that state, “Every fantasy game must contain, at the bare minimum, a human and Elf playable race.” So it is written, so it is obeyed.
That doesn’t mean that Crowfall’s take on these races is quite so stereotypical. This week’s dev blog outlines the history and lore behind these two species and their sub-races. Humans and Nethtari are quite similar, although the latter’s fire runes and superiority complex sets them apart. Likewise, a true nerd will learn and memorize the variations between High Elves, Sun Elves, Moon Elves, and Wood Elves. Together, they form the great houses of Hogwarts, right?
Crowfall’s racial picks aren’t just cosmetic; each species has its own inherent passive and active perks. For example, Humans toggle on a damage boost, Nethtari sport a fire DoT, High Elves have greater intellect, and Wood Elves can camouflage. Which will you choose?
The man who pretty much wrote the book on many MMORPG systems shared another piece of keen insight about a pitfall in many competitive systems. In a short blog post, veteran MMO designer Raph Koster explains why competitive structures end up stagnating and faltering as “winners” gain rewards, become untouchable, and gradually choke out any competition and growth.
“Systems that don’t destroy their kings on a regular basis end up destroying the kings and the citizenry. And life under a king is never advantageous to the citizens, either,” he writes. “This is game design: set up your system to cause ferment, not stability and inevitability.”
Perhaps this is why Koster was attracted to the Crowfall project, as this PvP-centric MMO is devoted to knocking over the board and resetting its pieces on a regular basis.
The Stoneborn of Crowfall are not dwarves. They sometimes get referred to as dwarves, but it’s a ridiculous name because they’re as large as normal people. They’re also not a normal race, either, as they’re less “living creatures” and more “elemental creatures created at the dawn of time.” Also, every time one of them dies, that’s one less member of the race; again, they’re not living creatures and can’t reproduce. Oh, and they’re also a playable race, so this should work out well.
In-game, the Stoneborn are all male (because that’s apparently the default the gods chose to create) and boast increased strength, durability, and resistance to knockdown. They can also slot a special racial skill to make themselves more durable for a short span of time, one of the benefits of being literally made from the ground. So while they’ve got elements of dwarves, you can rest assured that they are not dwarves. They’re not even small enough to be called dwarves.
The folks at Procedural Worlds have a new interview-slash-testimonial from Crowfall Lead Environment Artist Jon O’Neal, in which he talks up that company’s enviromental design tools as employed in the service of building the Crowfall world, but he also talks a bit about the game’s 2015 Kickstarter and the point of the platform. O’Neal opines that the game’s Kickstarter was not about getting money and then making a game. “That’s not really what Kickstarter’s about; it’s to show interest to the real investors,” he says, since whatever Kickstarter brings in presumably won’t actually cover the game, just a “proof of concept.”
We reached out to ArtCraft about the statements for clarification, as we were unaware that the Kickstarter was intended to fund a proof-of-concept. That’s because it wasn’t. ArtCraft’s J. Todd Coleman told us that O’Neal simply misspoke on camera.
“The goal of the Kickstarter wasn’t a ‘proof-of-concept’,” he told us. “We already had a proof of concept: That is what we showed in the campaign’s video. The stated goal of our Kickstarter campaign was to build a ‘core module’ of the game. A proof-of-concept usually includes a fair amount of throw-away work, whereas the core module is the foundation of the actual game. It was created using parts of the PoC + a ton of new systems and content.”
Instead of looking back at MMORPGs this week, the crew of Battle Bards launches forward into early access! What would a show about music from MMOs that aren’t even officially out yet be like? We’re going to find out in this wild and woolly episode!
Battle Bards is a bi-weekly podcast that alternates between examining a single MMO’s soundtrack and exploring music tracks revolving around a theme. MOP’s Justin co-hosts with bloggers Steff and Syl. The cast is available on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, and Player.FM.
Listen to Episode 106: Early access themes (or download it) now:
Remember this lovely ranger lady from Crowfall’s original concept art? We sure do, since we’re pretty fond of using it. Turns out in the new split archetypes system, she’s a half elf, a race that’s the subject of the game’s latest dev diary. ArtCraft Design Lead Thomas “Blixtev” Blair describes a race familiar to most fans of fantasy RPGs.
“Half-Elf children are different than their Human counterparts, and these differences become increasingly apparent as they mature into adulthood. In terms of facial features, they age more slowly, but make quick gains in terms of height, strength and agility. Among Human settlements, stories abound of Half-Elves who live in forests as animals, stealing children and livestock and reverting to savage ways. This causes them to be looked on with suspicion and sometimes outright hostility. It is not uncommon for a Half-Elf to be outcast from certain conservative communities – which often leads them into a life of banditry and crime, further perpetuating the cycle of distrust and enmity.”
Just about 20 years ago, my boyfriend and I were wandering through Media Play (heh) when he picked up this box for some new online subscription video game with a cheesy Hildebrandt cover. I was skeptical. He bought it anyway. The next morning, after I’d played all night and totally bogarted his new game, we figured we should probably get a second account. And so we did, in spite of being clueless teenagers who could barely afford one sub, let alone two.
That game was Ultima Online, and it’s the game that birthed the term MMORPG and quite literally dragged me into the realm of virtual worlds. Without it, I wouldn’t be right here where I am talking to you today, having married that dude in the interim. And as of yesterday, that game is 20 years old.
Last autumn, when the game was turning 19, I did a fairly in-depth video on the coolest parts of UO, the parts you can still play today, as I do frequently dive back in and am playing this month too! It’s Massively OP’s best-performing video to date, proving that the game is very much not dead and done. Pretty much everything in the video is still accurate, except for the part on the business model (spoiler: UO is kinda going free-to-play), so I’m going to include it below, but then I’ll recap some of the important bits from the last year and answer a few questions anybody reading is sure to have.
Yesterday, ArtCraft posted a live Crowfall Q&A video showing off what the devs are calling “action harvesting” – and it caused a surprising amount of uproar in our comments. Essentially, the game will simply put players into a harvesting mode with a special skill bar. Instead of clicking, grabbing, and darting off, you’ll be finger-dancing skills on the node.
Incidentally, it’ll also leave you exposed to enemy attack, but the chief complaint was actually that it’ll be a boring timewaster, the sort of things other MMOs have tried in crafting and rejected because they’re fun a few times and then, a chore.
Today, the studio’s gone into more depth on the system, explaining that the changes “mesh” with the game’s action combat and were actually inspired by the game’s ongoing power tray redesign as the devs played around with trying to build harvesting that wasn’t just a click to get stuff.
With Patch 5.3 on the horizon, Crowfall is striving to add more than just race and class options. One feature that’s going to be worked into this newest alpha build is what the team is calling “action harvesting.”
Basically, this means that harvesting will become a lot more involved than running up to a node and jamming on the F key. Instead, players have a new survival tray — a dedicated hotbar — that stores all of a player’s harvest-related items and skills. When players switch into harvesting mode, this bar will pop up and they will “attack” nodes by left-clicking, a process that is augmented by the abilities and items they use.
Check out the hour-long development team Q&A on this revised system after the break!
Probably my greatest and most constant gripe about fantasy MMORPGs is that for all of the freedom and imagination that this genre supposedly boasts, game designers keep going to the same boring well of tropes and limit themselves instead of exploring possibilities.
Nowhere do you see this more than in races. Dwarves and Elves? We’ve got bushels and barrels of them, all on sale at discount prices. There are regular humans, of course, and Slightly Bigger Humans, and Half-Sized Humans, and Blue Humans. But what about getting outside of this been-there-played-that cookie cutter design to offer some interesting playable choices?
Like fairies, perhaps?
I could never understand why we don’t see fairies more in MMOs. They are widely recognized in the fantasy genre, they seem to have popularity, and they even share some cross-over with Elves. But the poor fae have been unrepresented, so much so that it took a lot of digging to come up with a mere 10 MMOs that allow you to play as one, whether it be as a race or class. Let’s take a look!
Now that Crowfall has split with the whole fixed-archetype thing, it’s a world of possibilities over at this PvP title. And while there will be plenty of possible class and race combinations available to choose at launch, it won’t be anything goes.
The team said that it had to make decisions on which combos to include: “Our initial list was derived based on a number of factors. It took into account the cost to support this combination, the balance of races for each class and classes for each race, and of course the cool factor of each particular combination.”
One brand-new combination that Artcraft announced this week was the Elken Cleric, or “Holydeer” as we are now calling it. When you roll one, you don’t become celibate… you go stag.
We’ve got the full chart for you after the break. The team said that black cells are currently implemented combinations, white are ones that are planned but not finished, half-and-half are ones that only have a single gender so far, and blank won’t be there at launch but perhaps afterward.
September looks to be busy for the Crowfall team, as it continues to expand the campaign world and its related testing process. This week, it triggered a small patch that should assist players in getting right to the fun: “Along with bug fixes, we added armor racks to streamline the process of getting geared up so you can jump right in.”
But that’s not all! Coming soonish to the game are several improvements and additions to the environment, including a new beachhead, ground vegetation, rocks, trees, and the like. Also moss! And better snow!
There are plenty of other changes coming, such as some spring cleaning for forts and eventual damage to enemies who spend too long hanging about their foe’s beachhead. The game’s environmental artist previewed these changes and took some questions from fans, all of which you can see below.
As an MMO enthusiast, I have this tendency to cheer games on and be interested in all sorts of titles — even the ones that I know deep down to my bones are not for me. For example, I am not a great fan of PvP-centric MMOs. I don’t resent their existence, but that gameplay is too stressful and fraught with drama for my taste.
Yet I can’t help but be attracted to some of these games because I like the art, the passion, or some of the non-PvP mechanics involved. Crowfall looks gorgeous and I’m all about its eternal kingdoms housing system. Camelot Unchained has such a great team and talent behind it that I feel wistful they aren’t making a PvE game. And I’ve even gone on record as saying that Albion Online’s art style and cross-platform accessibility is pretty cool. What is wrong with me?
Are you ever attracted to MMOs that you know you’ll hate? What do you do with that?