While ArtCraft is busy at work shoring up the fundamental systems that will make up Crowfall’s core gameplay, the studio also has to lay the foundation for future features — some of which might not even be thought of yet. At the core of this month’s developer Q&A video is the debate between what’s needed and what is merely wanted.
“Could we do it? Yes,” said Creative Director J. Todd Coleman of a requested feature. “It’s one of those situations where I’m not convinced that the juice is worth the squeeze. It’s not a thing we have to have for release, and I’m trying to concentrate mostly on stuff that we have to have for release. Once the game is out and, in theory, profitable, that means on an ongoing basis we can add stuff forever.”
Among the topics covered this month are the mechanics behind stealth, race and class skills, vendors, and Crowfall’s death system. Give it a watch after the break!
Let’s talk about money. Specifically, let’s talk about Crowfall’s money. ArtCraft is doing just that in a dev blog out today.
Referencing the $6M cash injection it picked up from investors at the tail end of 2017, the studio says it’s hired 10 new studio members in addition to a pair of contractors, all of whom were apparently “first choice” candidates for their jobs. That’s brought the studio up to 45 bodies.
“As a result, we now have more throw weight in Art, Design and Engineering,” J. Todd Coleman and Gordon Walton write, “and it also means we’ve started our ‘Live team’ hires (beginning with Operations, and continuing over the next few months with additional folks in Customer Service and Marketing.)”
Lest you be dispirited by the fact that Crowfall’s soft launch isn’t going to make 2017 as promised (after also not making 2016), ArtCraft has a post up today outlining all the things the team did accomplish this year. And one of those things happens to involve acquiring another chunk of cash from investors.
“After a lot of discussion over the summer, we decided to do a larger raise to expand our game content, cover all launch expenses and to have enough funds to drive a respectable marketing campaign at launch,” J. Todd Coleman and Gordon Walton write today on the official site. “We believe this is the right approach, so we pitched it to our investors. They agreed. We are delighted to announce that on December 1st, we closed another financing round for an additional $6 million. This money will be used to fund the completion, launch and marketing of Crowfall. This means we’ll be hiring a few more people, we’ll be able to invest more in our live infrastructure and support more players; and we’ll be able to get some real attention once the game is ready.”
Crowfall’s J. Todd Coleman and Billy Garretsen are back for another ACE Q&A – you can pretty much mark the months by these things. December’s edition is all about the user interface.
Garretsen says that the UI’s undergone a “pretty big shift” and now has a weighty side-docked UI element that merges the character’s stats, gear, and inventory, a little bit like the UI design in OARPGs like Path of Exile and Diablo. The idea is to boost visibility of the most important UI elements and clarify the game loop and how each piece of your character interacts (as well as deflect criticism that the game felt like a MOBA, and it really shouldn’t given how much goes into character development).
Don’t panic, however, if you just want to play without fussing too much with the numbers under the hood that are less under the hood with the test build’s latest update. “You don’t have to get into the stats to have a good time in this game,” Garretsen assures watchers. The whole Q&A is below.
It’s a good time to be a Crowfall pre-alpha tester.
The select elite are being treated to a new build today that adds in all of the new class and race combinations that the developers have been discussing for months. As Patch 5.3 wraps up, players can try out the dozens of additional race and class combos in one of the new persistent campaign settings.
Creative Director J. Todd Coleman is happy to see two of the game’s core systems come together: “Now that Campaigns are live, we can start testing the new race, class and discipline systems. Players can now experience an unprecedented level of character building. Dozens of unique race/class combinations and hundreds of weapon styles and subclasses allows for millions of unique character combinations. It will be possible for players to design a character build that has never been tried before.”
The patch also improves visuals across the game, beefs up monster AI, and revamps the character creation and skill training systems.
Source: Press release
Let’s end the week talking about money. What could go wrong?
Chances are that all save but the most architecturally nerdy among you don’t find walls, panels, and sockets a particularly exciting topic. But your opinion on this might change when those elements are put together to form a protective and useful barrier between you and an army attempting to send you back to the spirits.
In a new developer blog, the Crowfall team shares some of the advances that it has made when it comes to castle wall construction. These improvements include allowing players to seemlessly connect parts together and select certain “panels” that can be used as windows, arrow slits, support beams, and doors. This way, not every castle wall you encounter will be the same as all of the others.
J. Todd Coleman also gave an update on what’s happening with the next big patch: “I want to say that I know you guys are waiting for 5.3. Obviously, it’s taking longer than we would like […] The version still isn’t quite ready, but it’s getting closer on a day-by-day basis and we’re hopeful that soon we can get a version onto the TEST environment, which of course is a pre-cursor to bringing it to LIVE.”
Crowfall isn’t content to make gathering as dull and repetitive as in other MMOs, which is why the team is putting great stock in its so-called “action harvesting.” This system has come under further refinement following its introduction a few weeks back, and the devs were on hand this week to demonstrate why you’ll need to be on your toes when you’re cutting down that tree or scrounging through that bush.
One of these refinements is the addition of “energetic harvesting,” a skill that uses the new action pips to trigger buffs during the process. Players were also shown several of the optional disciplines that a character can equip, such as Logger, Quarryman, Lookout, Hoarder, and Survivalist.
ArtCraft informed the community yesterday that it has started to send out instructions for guilds to reserve their names. “Hey, Crowfall Kickstarter backers: Watch your inbox for guild name reservation info. Newer backers can reserve guild names in November,” the studio posted.
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.”
ArtCraft Creative Director J Todd Coleman and Senior Animator Eric Doggett are back for another lengthy Crowfall Q&A, discussing upcoming cons and and getting the campaign test server up. “We are rapidly approaching the point where we can actually run a real campaign,” Coleman notes.
The duo also touch on the 5.3 race and class update and the extensive animation and rigging work required to make the team’s relatively new plan to more or less map most classes to most races. This is a big deal, Coleman says, as a lot of money and time is going into the animation efforts.
“Take a character – let’s say, the human knight – it took us two man months to make,” Doggett explains. “Just for the animation part” — not the models, textures, power design, or the testing itself. The studio’s current tool, however, can cut that process down to five to ten days, speeding up the process.
The whole episode is below.
Last month, we included Crowfall among the games discussed in a Massively Overthinking roundtable that focused on MMO monetization running amok. Why? Because Crowfall has one of the spendiest cash shops in the genre, and it’s not even out yet; indeed, one of its palaces is $7000.
That subject is one ArtCraft has addressed today in a new dev blog, which argues that the price is fine because it’s intended for large guilds.
“The price is high because when 100+ players work together to buy something, the total adds up quickly,” J. Todd Coleman and Gordon Walton jointly explain. “That last part is key. These strongholds are WAY, WAY overkill for use by a single player. Much like in real life, purchasing a giant Imperial Palace doesn’t make a lot of sense if you intend to live alone. The purpose of these larger strongholds is to support large player groups. They provide a mechanism to centralize buildings and exist so that guilds, streamer audiences, or even a loose-knit collection of merchants and crafters can work together, pool resources and create social spaces.”
When it comes to text-based MMOs created in the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s, the sheer number of them would blot out the sky. There are certainly more multi-user dungeons (MUDs) than I’ve ever been able to get a handle on when I’ve tried creating lists of the most important to know, but I will say that there are a few that seem to pop up more than others. The original MUD1, created by Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw, was certainly a watershed moment for online roleplaying games. Learning about DikuMUD is pretty essential, considering its impact on graphical MMORPGs that we still play today.
But there’s another title that often goes unnoticed, unless you keep an eye out for it. It’s a MUD that keeps popping up when you look into the history of the MMORPG genre, one with ties to key players and design concepts that are still active today.
It’s the MUD that shaped the MMO industry, and it was called Sceptre of Goth.
Last week, Crowfall studio ArtCraft posted a teaser that it would be posting more teasers this week on the road to a something “massive” — a “big splash” — only the fourth such event the studio’s ever carried out. While the actual announcement isn’t coming until May 16th, today we’re getting the first (actually the second?) one, which appears to feature the Frostweaver archetype with (gorgeous) new concept art and a lore bit on ice and fire magic. Oh! I’ve got it. Winter is coming, right?
Speculation on Reddit seems to center on a big adjustment for the archetype system in general — like increased customization through race/class mixing. What do you think?