Fight or Kite: Early thoughts on Crowfall’s lively beta, necromancy, and alts

    
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Fight or Kite: Early thoughts on Crowfall’s lively beta, necromancy, and alts

Anyone who’s been following Crowfall over the years since its original Kickstarter has likely at one point or another felt like the game’s development was dragging out to infinity – pre-alpha seemed to have no ending. So a couple weeks ago when ArtCraft pulled the trigger and opened up its beta to the masses (well, to many of its registered players), it felt like finding water in a desert. Yet to the many players who backed the game and have been playing for years already, this was simply the next step towards the game they’ve been ready to experience with the rest of the world.

Let the bodies hit the servers

One of the most important parts of a PvP game is actually having other players to PvP against. It doesn’t matter how great your game is; without a critical mass of players, it’s going to flop. Now, what that critical mass of players is will be different from game to game. When I first began writing about Crowfall, I struggled to find anyone else to fight. However, over the last year and a half, that experience has improved tremendously, up to the point we are at now.

There is a whole new air about the game’s worlds. Compared to the alpha and pre-alpha level of engagement, the game feels so alive. Whether you are rolling a new character in the God’s Reach or joining the Infected or campaign server, there are other players all around. Admittedly, this isn’t WoW Classic newly come online with everybody lined up to level, but it is still fantastic to see.

Even when you are playing through the tutorial, it feels so much more like an actual, live MMORPG with other players around doing similar tasks as you. Seeing players in the map chat asking and answering questions – it’s just a joy. You can honestly see the game that so many players backed years ago, now coming to life.

Grappling with the concept of the crow and vessel

There is one core game aspect of Crowfall that I’ve never put much thought into previously that I would like to discuss: the crow and the vessel. I’ve understood it well enough, but now that the game is really coming together and there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I’ve begun to give it more attention.

The long and short of it is that when you play Crowfall, you are technically a crow, which is some sort of undead spirit. When you create a character, you (the crow) actually inhabit  that body (a vessel). So in parallel with a typical game, you might consider having a dozen alts as a dozen different player characters. Here, however, each is actually just a different body that you, the crow, temporarily control. So far, I can dig it – it seems like any other game with a different coat of paint.

But Crowfall takes this concept a step further with its necromancy system: literally a crafting system for digging up body parts and building a new vessel. When you’ve crafted (or purchased from a crafter) a new vessel you will then be able to use that for your next character. The point of this whole crafting system is that you could create a vessel that is a higher-tier than the starting vessels. In other words, your vessels, your characters, are just like gear. You start with weak ones and later on you’ll be able to upgrade to better ones. Are you seeing where I’m going yet?

This is the point where I begin to grapple mentally with the system. Again, this is all cool and makes a lot of sense. However, I’m not really the type of MMORPG player who keeps a bunch of alts. I create a main, and I play my games 90% with my main. Before I start to dive into a game headfirst, I do research and check out character calculators and any tools that I can find. I look at what class offers the gameplay I like the most. I find which skill tree will be my favorite. And then, after the research is done, I create my main. I play and maximize my main as fast as I can so that I can start to be competitive with it. Only then, after I’ve felt like I’ve mastered this character and this playstyle, will I begin to consider some alts.

I guess you could say my main is the driver of my engagement in the game. Honestly, I still play the main I created with the two- or three-day head start for Guild Wars 2. However, that is not an option with Crowfall. Not practically. Not if I want to be competitive – which I always am.

Playing through the God’s Reach zones, I’ll see players ask in chat, “What’s the best class for stealth?” “If I want to have ranged DPS spells, which is better Frostweaver or a Confessor?” But as a new player, there is almost no reason to care or become invested in your character because it feels rather disposable. I almost want to tell those newbies that it doesn’t matter what they pick because it’s going to be weak as a beginner vessel. That is something I am still struggling with.

I understand what many other long-time players are surely thinking: that I could always do the same routine, then when it comes time to upgrade to a better vessel I could simply make it the same race and class as my original one. I just have to level up again. And levels are just a number, and there isn’t anything stopping me from getting all the same skills. After that, just do the same thing anytime I upgrade my vessel. Level up again, re-learn the skills. This is likely what I will do. Yet it still feels weird. The character I start the game with isn’t going to be the same one I play a year or two down the road. It doesn’t matter what I start with – it’s going to be weak. To me, that is just weird, and I haven’t fully come to terms with it.

So, crows, have you had a chance to get into the game’s beta yet? I’d be interested in knowing what players who hadn’t played in the alphas thought of it overall, from gameplay to population. I’d also like to get your input on the vessel system. I’m by no means arguing against it, but it is a different concept – for me at least! Let me know in the comments!

Every other week, Massively OP’s Sam Kash delivers Fight or Kite, our trip through the state of PvP across the MMORPG industry. Whether he’s sitting in a queue or rolling with the zerg, Sam’s all about the adrenaline rush of a good battle. Because when you boil it down, the whole reason we PvP (other than to pwn noobs) is to have fun fighting a new and unpredictable enemy!

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Bry Melhuish

You really skimmed over the fact that is been 5+ yrs and this game is still in the state of an alpha. For a pvp game, combat should be fun and responsive. As it stands now, I have no idea what’s going on battle to battle.

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Bruno Brito

In other words, your vessels, your characters, are just like gear. You start with weak ones and later on you’ll be able to upgrade to better ones. Are you seeing where I’m going yet?

Overcomplicated method for what is basically FF14/Skyforge class system. Altho in their case, it’s not just a class change, but a character change. It’s basically an alt.

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Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

Legit never knew about the crow/vessel system and…I quite dig it. I’ll need to look more into the granular mechanics, but it’s a neat as hell concept at the very least.

I will say though that I’ve been seeing some of the game lately and…it doesn’t look good? Like, maybe people are playing on the lowest settings but it looks like…pretty bad. Washed out colors, super low res textures and low poly models, it looks like a low budget MMO from the late 2000’s more often than not. Which is weird, because it’s generally looked quite slick from what I’ve seen of the trailers/screenshots with its stylized art direction. I’m hoping this isn’t how the final product will look, especially given how poor it seems to perform.

Still keeping my eye on this.

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laelgon

I don’t mind the initial leveling process for the first character/vessel as a tutorial, but the idea that I’m going to have to repeat it again and again is just fucking awful. It’s “only” a couple hours for each vessel, but I’ve done it twice and it already feels like a chore i never want to repeat. Combined with the inability to re-spec your talent points, and one screw-up means you’re spending another few hours doing the exact same thing unless you want to keep your broken build. This completely removes the incentive for people to experiment and figure out builds on their own, since you’re basically being punished for making newcomer mistakes.

After the first one, all your vessels should just start at level 30. There’s absolutely nothing challenging or interesting about leveling up multiple vessels through the same content again and again. They might as well just put in a mechanic where you can only create a new max level vessel once every 2 hours, it would have the exact same effect.

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lostkoss

Later in the game most players will level Vessels by making offerings to the gods.
You can only export so many items from a campaign.(Good Vessels probably being a priority.) So whatever gear is left over near the end of the campaign could be used for leveling those Vessels for the next campaign.

It is part of the gear/gold sink, just like everything breaking eventually.

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lostkoss

I love the Crow/Vessel system in theory. The Beta test environment just does a poor job of implementing it at this point.

The players should start the game as a Crow, get to fly around a bit, then be led to a graveyard to pick out a Vessel to use. Then lead to the create character screen. The game should explain this basic poor quality Vessel is temporary and throw away, just like the lousy weapon you start with.
Instead the test environment just starts off like a typical MMO and even has a limit to the number of characters you can make.

Having a good amount of Vessels leveled up and ready to play is going to be an important part of playing on the most dangerous worlds where other players can actually steal your vessel if you die.

I expected a LOT more interaction between hopping from Crow to Vessel to Crow to a different Vessel. Instead there is a much more typical MMO style where you have to log in and out to play different characters.

They talk about “Deep Crafting”, but I don’t see it. Most of the crafting trees are just the same couple upgrades over and over and over. That is not depth.

The crafting itself comes down to an”Experimentation” mini-game where random numbers, modified by the skill trees, determine how good the added bonuses on the item are. It’s all very hands off. That is not depth.

There are only 6 types of Ore, that ain’t really that deep either.

Speaking of the time based skill tree’s, they are way too generic overall and need to be more specific, and broken down into many more categories. It should take time and specific study to make the best swords, mail, shields ect.
Instead anyone who follows the Blacksmithing tree can make all of those items equally well as anyone else that just fills in the generic tree.
I understand there must be an end to skill ups at some point, but it should be a few months to make the best swords, a few months to make the best axes, a few months more to learn to make the best shields ect, to allow some specialization for the populace.

The weapon and armor options are way too limited as well. Many classes have only ONE usable weapon and ONE armor choice. Barely any have a choice to use shields. Hardly the “Deep Systems” I was expecting from a PVP game that isn’t creating PVE content.

It’s nice that they have things in a testable/playable form, but the game still needs a very large amount of fleshing out. All of the major systems need a quality/content pass.

It needs more time in the oven, it’s not done yet. If they are planning on launching soon, it will not end well.

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Kickstarter Donor
Vunak

The crafting is decently deep with tons of stats. You are actually on the wrong track with CF. It takes months to make the best of anything in CF. This is the major barrier that hinders CF the most. Its a very time gated thing with the passives. You can’t actively train yourself to be better at any harvesting or crafting. This is the biggest downfall of CF.

Example. New player to the game joins a guild and wants to be a weaponsmith. The guild already has a weaponsmith. The new player has zero benefit to the guild until their passives are trained and on par with the veteran player because they will never make anything even close to as valuable as the veteran. It takes months for those passives to be trained to be on par. Giving any materials to the new crafter even white or green materials is a net loss for that guild.

Then you think okay, well they can make white or green gear to sell or join a newer guild. Not gonna work. Veteran players are already going to be doing that with their lower quality materials and selling them because there is no use for those materials in a guild. Even if they join a new guild those materials are wasted on them because that guild will get better gear from wartribes and stockpiling the materials they have for crafting later on makes more sense.

This is even worse for harvesting.

In CF atm you can’t even harvest any materials on the campaign worlds because the harvesting nodes are to high level. Nobody can do any damage to them.

As far as specialization on crafting in the blacksmith tree, its partially true. But not exactly. If you are a weaponsmith you will never make the best armor and vice versa. If you are an Armorsmith you will never make the best weapons without significant gold investment. There are specific items that crafters have to slot that gives them access to new parts of specific recipes, opening up new customization options. They are rare and hard to come by unless you have a decent sized guild that knows how to get those items and where to get them from.

Also, your vessel can never be stolen. The only time it could potentially be stolen is right after you craft it and you haven’t created that vessel in character creation and it was in your inventory and you died. If you have made the character it can not be stolen, ever.

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styopa

I like the creativity of the crow/vessel idea, it’s truly novel….but maybe I’m missing something, but especially in a PVP game doesn’t this just cement early-player advantages even MORESO than say, EVE (where’s it’s vast amounts of wealth)?

EVE is already fairly prohibitive for nubs, you leave the station in your snazzy frigate looking for another frigate to fight mano a mano … just to get ROASTED by the guy sweeping past with a tech2 Frigate and faction fit, etc?

Will CF end up the same? *sproing* new fresh server starts and I jump into my new body …and get ROASTED by the guy who’s been playing for a year who starts the game with a vastly more powerful body?

Or am I totally misunderstanding?

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lostkoss

When a new server (campaign world) launches, everyone will have the same entry restrictions. The wealthy player will have more choices to make.

A player with more time in and more wealth should and will be at an advantage, but it will not be an insurmountable advantage. Depending on the danger level of the new campaign, that player risks losing everything he brings in.
While a newer player will have less to risk, they can potentially gain more too. It will just start out as an uphill fight.

They claim there will be a catch up mechanic for new players added at some point, so that they don’t fall too far behind the power curve. Time will tell on that.

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Brown Jenkin

On the question of the crow/vessel, frankly I’m loving it so far! Its different and deeply enjoyable for one who has a long history of alt-itis. Also it does a great job narratively of addressing Crowfall as an MMO rather than just an RPG, a regular rubbing point for me in most MMOs of the post-WoW era.

Sadly I have never played on anything but a basic vessel, but also really love the idea that via my guild’s necromancers I’ll eventually have access to a stronger “vessel” its a really clever alternative approach to progress.

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Brown Jenkin

I’m super-impressed with the improvements to Crowfall over the last few months. From the addition of the New Player Experience, to the volume of new players hitting the Infected and Dregs campaigns. Interestingly I think that in many ways the game has already achieved its original vision/goal of producing an updated version of Shadowbane, a game with living and dying worlds represented through the campaigns and a PvP experience that can differ significantly from day to day or month to month. Certainly it isn’t a game for everyone, but for the PvP crowd (not even just the “hardcore” crowd) Crowfall is very clearly not a game to miss at this point :)