What is an alpha, really? What’s the dividing line between an alpha and a pre-alpha when both are playable? If a game has had a functional cash shop since the prior presidential administration but is still officially not launched, is it still in beta? These are the questions being addressed in the latest development dispatch from Crowfall‘s development team, and they’re questions with no firm answers. But there’s still plenty of room for discussion.
The short version is that Artcraft believes terms like “pre-alpha” are primarily useful for external conversation; internally, the build that’s being played is much further along than more technical alpha builds. The important point to note is that even in this early build, there are elements that can be changed, but there are also things that cannot be changed or simply will not be changed, despite the early test status. It’s something important to consider for the game’s early testing, as well as any other game you might test, a soft indictment of the very concept of the beta defense.
Crowfall’s latest dev video addresses UI customization, and it features UX Designer Billy Garretsen. “The grand vision,” Garretsen says, “is to really let people completely customize their layouts by position, scaling… maybe even being able to retint and reshape certain HUD elements.”
The vid also talks up Crowfall’s in-game clock and calendar, its map features, and a hint about an upcoming “big reveal.” See for yourself after the cut.
When it launches, Crowfall is going to have to deal with the problem of winning. The most recent Ask Me Anything event for the game on Reddit touched upon the reasons why PvP games have tended to have difficulty holding on to players, but also touched on one of the major issues facing Crowfall with new campaigns and new victory conditions. In order to discourage players from thinking a campaign is won or lost in the first week, the developers are specifically planning on ramping up the volume and quantity of rewards as the campaign goes on, thus ensuring that the struggles remain anyone’s game until the end.
Players can also expect the game to support smaller and mid-sized guilds in competitions, as J. Todd Coleman personally hopes to make mid-sized guilds the de facto norm for the game. Monsters will exist in the game world, but primarily to serve as persistent threats and material sources rather than major opponents. And if you’re not on board with the current iteration of the game’s Hunger Dome, that’s fine; it’s simply an environment for testing the game, not something that will be carried over for launch.
Want something that’s a bit more focused on the game’s lore rather than systems? Check out the details on Malekai, Lord of Shadows. He comes pre-packaged with spiders.
It’s been a while since I wrote a column that comes out on Thursdays, which means that it’s also been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to do my usual holiday nonsense on Thanksgiving. Time was, of course, that I would wish everyone a happy St. Patrick’s Day and call it good, but when I suggested listing several holidays that aren’t being celebrated today, Bree fired back a confused look and a reminder that we are an MMO site, not a place for me to just leave bizarre lists.
This is also why you’re not getting a list of my favorite Transformers, so it might be a mercy.
I could just go with a list of games that I’m thankful for, but I don’t really want to just be doing that every year all over again when it’s really just one list with the names changing. What do I mean? Well, there’s a lot of different actual titles, but the fact is that I think there’s a pretty consistent list of games to be thankful for in terms of reasons.
Crowfall has been in development for eight months now. That sounds like a substantial amount of time until you think about how long games typically take to go from “Kickstarter concept” to “playable game.” A new video from the development team shows off a part of the process by highlighting the development team’s biweekly sprint meetings and how they aid the overall process.
The short version is that sprint meetings are quick opportunities for every developer to jump in, highlight the past weeks of work, and touch base about moving forward. Really, though, the video does an excellent job of showing the process over time. Settle in and watch just below – it’s about half an hour, though, so make sure you don’t have anywhere that requires your urgent presence in five minutes.
Way back when I used to haunt the corridors of Gamestop and had yet to shun the place due to its stinky evil, I remember being enticed with these fancy-pantsy “MMORPG” boxes when I’d see them on the shelf. I must have picked up Shadowbane a dozen or so times to check out the blurbs on the back, mentally weighing whether or not this would be the one to introduce me to online gaming, but ultimately it was not to be.
It’s probably for the best, considering that Shadowbane was primarily PvP and I’m a PvE guy at heart. Plus, the title never really took off the way that publisher Ubisoft had hoped, spending most of its six years of operation lurking in the background of the MMO industry instead of sharing the spotlight.
But still, six years! That’s not the worst run we’ve ever seen from an MMO. Considering that its creator has gone on to make Crowfall with some of the same ideas, it’s as timely as ever to take a look back at Shadowbane and what it brought to the table.
It’s heady times for Crowfall developers and supporters, as ArtCraft announced yesterday that the project is taking a significant step into the next phase of its pre-alpha testing.
ArtCraft said that the 1.1 playtest is significantly improved from what was seen before, with a fleshed-out environment, the new Champion archetype, the ability to form custom teams, and zombies and hellcats to fight. The 1.1 pre-alpha forum is also up for participants to use and everyone else to read.
“As a reminder, testing invites will be sent in waves to all backers with the pre-alpha, alpha 1 and alpha 2 reward tiers, in that order — and, within each group, in waves based on the date that you first backed the project,” ArtCraft posted. The studio also teased the reveal of a new game system in December.
Who the heck is funding Crowfall? The game is obviously funded, but who is spending money on it? Is it you? The results of the backer survey posted by the development team doesn’t list names, but it does compile and analyze the demographics of who’s been funding the game and for how much money.
The answer to the leading question, apparently, is “married dudes without kids.”
Results for the survey are being published in multiple parts, with this particular slice of data concerned with demographics such as employment status, living location, gender, income, and so forth. It’s an interesting look at who fronted the cash to get the project rolling; check it out if noodling over those statistics sounds like a fun activity.
Who is the First Crow? He is a figure of some notoriety in Crowfall. He is eternal. He is unchanging. He is nothing. He is a man reduced to a single overriding impulse to fight, and yet he is a man who fights for nothing. And if there’s a better lore figure to summarize the cyclical nature of the game, it’s hard to think of one. Hence today’s lore entry on Hero, the First Crow.
Even the lore about the First Crow is unclear, but it is known that he was once mortal. He was a man who fought for a reason. But the gods cursed him with their greatest burden, and that is immortality. You can read all about it in the lore entry – it might not be hard system data, but it’s interesting worldbuilding.
Roads can deteriorate, statues crumble, castles collapse, and books are lost. But legacies persist. A redesign for Crowfall‘s website plays up the idea that each player of the game will need to choose a legacy, not in the sense of a mechanical decision but in pursuit of the game’s major design goals. The idea is explained in more depth in a news post on the official site outlining the three categories of glory, wealth, and power.
Glory is all about defeating enemies, taking control of territory, and making use of the fact that the non-eternal part of the game can be won before things reset once again. Wealth, of course, is about acquiring items, driving the economy, and hoarding resources. Power, last but not least, is all about acquiring allies over time, being feared and respected, and having oaths of fealty allowing you to direct armies in the game. Major design revelations are promised in December, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to give some thought to your own legacy before you start playing the game.
You are not your weapon in Crowfall. Just because two archetypes use a bow in the game doesn’t mean that they play the same. The most recent video Q&A session with the development team goes into a bit more depth on this point discussing the Ranger and the Stalker. In short: The former makes use of traps and knocks people out of stealth, while the latter sneaks around and snipes. Same fundamental weapon, but the core archetype is very different, even with the options of disciplines to bring in some similarities.
The November set of answers also covers the question of formations on the battlefield, bodies of water, post-combat development focus, and fast travel options. Why take our word for all of it, though? You can watch the video just below and see an assortment of wigs along with the cold, hard data. Who doesn’t like wigs?
With October coming to a close, Crowfall is gearing up for a big November, with more frequent news updates and the next phase of pre-alpha testing. The studio promised to post at least three articles a week next month and will be talking about Hunger Dome 1.1 more next week.
ArtCraft’s recent “Cawstume” contest was plagued by some sketchy actions by a few parties, causing the studio to expand the pool of winners in order to be fair to as many people as possible. The winning costumes created are pretty good considering that the game isn’t out yet!
Crowfall recently passed 23,000 backers and has a few limited-time sales going on right now.
Everyone has preferences about classes and playstyles in MMOs, and if you’re the sort of player who plays only characters built like trucks wielding separate, smaller trucks as weapons, you’ll be quite happy with the new preview of Crowfall‘s Champion. Yes, that’s the Champion’s deal: being enormous with an enormous weapon, and crushing everything. Several elements of design combine to emphasize the feeling of slow power ; the archetype has a three-hit combat sequence and moves slower than normal but deals massive damage once it gets into range.
The Champion can also jump directly to its target, lest you think you can avoid it. It’s a real monster, in other words. Also on the monster block is creative director J. Todd Coleman, who underwent something of a transformation as detailed in the video below. That one isn’t about the Champion; it’s more of a cautionary tale about the best-laid plans of mice and men.