Interview: Crowfall’s Global Conquest update brings ‘mega’ changes to the world

We interview Gordon Walton on today's big update

    
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Today we are being treated to the latest and greatest Crowfall has to offer with Update 7.100, better known as Global Conquest. We’re expecting a slew of new features coming fresh out of the oven, including improved rewards, reduced downtime between fights, and even an expanded recruit-a-friend program. The tentpole feature this time around, though, is the game’s mega servers.

Fortunately for you (and me) I got to sit down last week with ArtCraft co-founder and Executive Producer Gordon Walton to discuss the new features and dig a little bit deeper into what we can expect out of the studio’s latest offering. Read on as we discuss the patch, the campaign distribution, tournaments, latency, and even what’s coming after this update.

MassivelyOP: From the patch notes posted on the Crowfall Test Server, it appears there are going to be quite a few enhancements and updates coming to the game. Can you tell me a little about the new features coming in the “Global Conquest” (7.100) update?

ArtCraft’s Gordon Walton: The most exciting part of the new global cross-server Dregs and Shadow campaign maps is the benefit it offers players — the promise of great PvP battles and siege wars every time they login to play! The goal is to give our players access to exciting, competitive PvP battles whenever they login that are always accessible – regardless of where they are erupting around the world. That ensures we live up to our promise of PvP your way, every day!

In addition to the expanded global access, this update is full of great new features. One of these is Alliance scoring. This adds value for alliances by offering more incentive for them to join forces! Additionally, we’ve added more rewards to all the campaigns. We’ve also added more Hot Zones. Hot Zones are areas that show up on the map periodically and they are promoted via the events schedule page in-game. These Hot Zones offer players the opportunity to engage in emergent battles with enemy NPCs that drop high-value loot (and lots of it), along with high value experience gains — if you can take these enemies down before someone else takes you down! The Hot Zones create a “hotly” contested battle zone inside the campaign worlds.

Finally, we’ve also added several highly anticipated quality of life improvements that will be exciting for our players. These include shorter death penalties (less down time), faster log-off in safe spaces and more robust campaign rewards. Together, these features add up to a lot of great gameplay and more fun fights to get into wherever you go when you are in the campaign worlds. We are looking forward to seeing the battles that emerge once the update goes live.

Mega servers sounds like a very big change to what players have had access to so far. What are some of the features or gameplay improvements we can expect to see with these new servers?

The mega servers or global cross-server access delivers one key benefit that is very exciting, it brings our community together to fight in the campaigns of their choice (Guild vs Guild battles in “The Dregs” or 3-Faction fights in The Shadow) – anytime they login. For players, the benefit is competing in a worldwide PvP competition where there are always objectives to acquire, territory to conquer, Strongholds to conquest, or enemies to defeat and all of these activities can affect the outcome of the campaign. Ultimately, the players have more choices in what they do to win, and that is what Crowfall is about, giving players choices that matter – the outcomes of these battles and campaigns are all determined by player choices. Attack a city, capture a caravan and control all the movement of resources and supplies along the main trade routes; ally with a larger force or sell your services as mercenaries for hire. In Crowfall players control how the story unfolds and this is what keeps the game exciting every time you login.

Now, from a player’s perspective, my experience on the Test Server showed that players would connect to a campaign that contained many more zones than the ones we’ve had up to now. Should we think of these more as mega campaigns than mega servers?

I think you’re right regarding the differentiation between mega campaigns and mega servers; the terminology “mega campaigns” better describes the expansive zones to which players now have access. These campaigns are now larger than any we’ve done before, a benefit of creating the “Global Conquest” approach  which invites players into a single campaign that is globally accessible.   We wanted to foster a  broader level of competition with the benefit of making it easy for players to login at their convenience and jump right into a battle. This approach delivers on that more flexible level of access.

Whether you play in a faction, want to form a group or join an existing guild, or if you are already  in an existing guild — there is a place for you to compete in Crowfall (on your schedule).  Crow Recruits (our buddy program), started in August and has been very successful. Anyone who has purchased Crowfall can invite their buddies to join them in-game for a 10 day free trial. There is no doubt that Crowfall is about group PvP — it’s better with friends! This week, alongside the release of the new update, we are extending the Crow Recruits program through September 30 and adding rewards for the friends whose buddies convert to purchasing Crowfall (while the friends get a 25% discount, courtesy of the Buddy code!).

When we first envisioned what the unique value proposition was going to be for Crowfall, this is what we imagined — groups of players coming together in team-based PvP battles, large and small, organized or surprise attacks, with total empowerment; and we hoped that this would be a game that would bring groups of people together.  We built the game to foster the fun of playing with others, and good old-fashioned PvP competition.  We will continue to work hard to deliver features and services that add increased benefit to that core value.

What was the driving force behind this change to the Dregs and Shadow campaigns?

Ensuring that we live up to our brand value proposition, PvP your way, every day. That means every time you log in there is great, competitive, team-based PvP erupting somewhere in the world waiting for you. The “Global Conquest” update delivers that experience and it is what sets Crowfall apart from other games. Now when you log in, regardless of the time, whether it is 10 am on the East Coast of North America or 10 am in Germany, there are great PvP battles for you to join. This is the spirit of the massive PvP sieges and it is what delivers the fun of this type of open-world PvP gameplay.

Should players expect this to be the primary campaign type moving forward or is this just another example of the way Crowfall is able to create different campaigns with different rulesets at any given time?

I believe we’ll stick with these large worldwide campaigns for a couple of months but being able to have different campaigns with distinctly different rulesets, and win conditions is a key part of what Crowfall offers.  We are working on several features that will facilitate more diversity of rulesets in future campaigns. This is about both of those values, initially we are offering larger campaigns that are more available. Then down the road you will see us start to experiment with differentiated campaigns of all types and we believe we can have a lot of fun with that unique feature of the game – we cannot wait to start experimenting with crazy campaign rules and rewards to make this even more fun for players.

I found that at almost any time there were several contested areas across many of the zones. It was actually very cool because it would help me in scheduling game time since I wouldn’t be locked down to only a few specific siege windows. How do you expect this to impact coordination and player population in these zones?

One of the driving forces behind this global campaign feature was to ensure even more meaningful competition would be available to our players at any time they were available to play. By having a worldwide campaign there are more chances to participate in the Keep and Fort sieges whenever you log in, whether you choose The Dregs, Guild vs. Guild battles or factional fights in The Shadow worlds. No matter your playstyle, in Crowfall we want to offer more opportunities to compete your way.

With respect to the Dregs campaigns, do you expect this to snowball the win conditions towards the larger guilds or might this offer smaller guilds more opportunity for claiming territory? How about the Divine Favor system – do you expect it to shift the way players attempt to earn these points?

Victory Cards, which make up the rewards in the Divine Favor system (rewards for completing requests from the Gods), were implemented in Crowfall to give players who enjoy different styles of gameplay an opportunity to win at the style of gameplay they enjoy most, be it siege, conquest, combat, harvesting, or crafting. This is why we have  Victory Cards that offer the ability to earn rewards across a variety of different challenges through the use of Glory, Wealth and Power cards, in addition to the Conquest category. Each of the three cards focuses on a specific style of gameplay and incentivizes those who are most engaged in that type of gameplay to compete for campaign rewards. For example, cards that are based around harvesting reward use of special harvesting tools and skills which are beneficial to teams and are critical to winning a campaign war. This type of reward system ensures that Crowfall delivers value to a variety of player types, not just combatants, and reinforces the value of diverse skills within a team. This approach ensures that within campaigns there are activities perfectly suited to specialized skills and smaller guilds. In every campaign, there are a few victory conditions outside of claiming territory and Conquest Points that can qualify a team to win.

Ensuring that there are more opportunities for smaller guilds to have greater participation and investment in campaigns is our priority. We recognize that in this type of PvP game there will be a significant population that will prefer the small or medium sized guild or group and we want to support those choices as valued and viable options along with the large guilds and groups.

Going back to the zones within a campaign – are these zones each located on a different server or is there some sort of backend system that will always make a contested one the server you zone into? Is there any way to know whether you are on a US, EU, AUS, or other server?

The map and event schedule information always informs players of the best places to go right now to engage in competitive action within the campaign. Players can freely move across worlds as they choose.  We ensure that players know the location of each server with respect to the region it is in and have a clear view of what is happening there now and in the future in terms of Campaigns and battles.

In terms of latency and game performance, I know that the ArtCraft team has continued to work on improving the overall performance of the game. But typically there will be some amount of lag or rubber-banding when a player from say the US is connecting to an Australian or even EU server. Have you found this to be much of an issue with the mega server system?

We have not found latency or performance to be a huge issue so far. Clearly, we can’t fix the internet but we do everything in our power to ensure the best experience for our players.  The vast majority of players won’t see any difference connecting between the US and EU servers, but Australia is more of a wildcard due to both the distances and the way Australia is connected to the rest of the internet world.  We’ve done our best to optimize access  by being aware of the challenges, and ensuring the experience will be the best it can be given the built-in constraints.

More generally speaking, since release we’ve now had both a Dregs campaign and the new Shadow campaigns to fight over, are there any other variations queued up beyond the mega servers? Do you have any plan on hosting additional Hunger Dome tournaments?

We’d like to bring back Hunger Dome in the next few months. We have received a variety of different requests from players with respect to what they would like to see. For those that are not familiar with Crowfall’s Hunger Dome it is an arena map where twelve teams of five players each enter to compete in a battle that lasts approximately 30-minutes; the winner is the last team/member standing, before the world is consumed by the Hunger in this battle for world domination.

Hunger Dome was live earlier in the year for testing but it is not accessible in the game now.  One of the best ideas we’ve heard from players is to make Hunger Dome into an arena that could be placed in an Eternal Kingdom (personal and guild player housing in Crowfall is known as Eternal Kingdoms) offering an option for players or guilds to run arena style competitions. We would like to do that and hope to have it available in the next few months.

Right now we are prioritizing the fun of  highly competitive massive siege wars and campaign battles that are always available, offering a diverse set of options for players to compete in compelling PvP experiences whenever they login. Once we have completed the current enhancements we are working on and maximize the fun of these battles, we will turn our attention to other opportunities like Hunger Dome. That fits perfectly within our value proposition of PvP your way, every day.

Since I started watching Crowfall closely, the game has consistently been improving with new updates and features around the corner. With the Global Conquest (update 7.100) out the door, what can the players look out for in the next update? Are there any other big features that fell just shy of this update?

We have a lot of great features in the pipeline.  We have been sharing the design documents with and soliciting feedback from our community for most of those features as they are identified and we draft an initial design (many are already getting reviewed by players). We did a lot of design work during the development of the features for Global Conquest (7.100) much of which is in the set of designs under review on our forums.  Those features are at the top of the priority list and will be in development over the next couple of milestones. All the priority features came from player feedback and reflect the priorities our players set for us.  This includes handshake sieges, chat and map interface refinements as well as updates to the campaign scoring system along with other quality of life improvements.  We’ll also continue to deliver on client and server performance improvements which is always a focus with large-scale PvP games.  Our goal is to continue to increase the fun of PvP in Crowfall.

We are excited by the support we have gotten from players and we are continuing to deliver on the features that make Crowfall uniquely competitive and fun to play. After all, that’s what it’s all about!

A big thank you to Gordon Walton for taking the time to answer all our questions! The patch is expected this morning around 10 a.m. EDT, so players won’t have long to wait. More information can be found on the game’s official site and social media. In the meantime, check out our Fight or Kite column’s Crowfall coverage from before and after this summer’s big launch:
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!
Update
It appears the patch has been rolled back following issues with the update this afternoon.

“The Live Service will be entering Maintenance, and we’ll be reverting back to Update 7.000. The Campaigns will be delayed until the current issues seen on Live are resolved.”

Thanks, Ark!

Aaaaand it’s back up, with the patch in and fixed again, apparently.
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