Whatever happened to sandbox Bitcraft? It’s rewriting MMORPG progression


MOP readers will recall Bitcraft emerged only last autumn as a procedurally generated sandbox MMORPG from Clockwork Labs with the financial backing of a long list of big games industry names, including CCP Games’ Hilmar Petursson. But while the game hasn’t been making headlines, it has been making progress.

Following a pre-alpha phase last November, the studio has been trickling out teasers; the game is up to six lore journals now, along with a recent Discord Q&A that discusses customizable avatars (“you will be able to look unpleasant if you so desire, just not right from the start”), soloing (it’s a multiplayer game, but “two of the major aspects forcing players into cooperating in other MMORPGs will however be less relevant” and some playstyles are aimed at solo play), PvP (you can’t be attacked by other players), the upcoming open alpha, building styles (template-driven), climate and biomes, gathering, vehicles and boats, accessibility features, terraforming (with an eye toward avoiding griefing), trading (“a central aspect” of the game), player group systems, maps, and more.

Back in March, the devs penned a longer blog about progression and experience inflation and how Bitcraft aims to approach these eternal MMORPG problems. Clockwork notes that MMOs run into issues when character progression amounts to “infinite accumulation,” which is both the reward for play and a challenge for the game’s health as disparities between players emerge. “Many existing and popular MMOs choose to try to eliminate this disparity and in so doing compromise the very foundation of the player experience they originally sought to create,” Clockwork argues.

“The whole point of an end-game is to make it so players eventually achieve similar levels of progression, (i.e. eliminate progress disparity), but the fun of the genre is derived from players continuing to make meaningful progression (i.e. not eliminate progress disparity). This is an inherent unresolvable contradiction. Instead of recognizing this unresolvable contradiction, MMORPGs have attempted to have their cake and eat it too. They give players progression, but at the same time leech all meaning out of it by putting players on the Experience Hyperinflation Treadmill.”

Clockwork’s plan is to avoid that problem by creating long-term meaningful progression, allowing players at different stages of progression to play together, adding content not just to the endgame but the midgame, and not requiring players to complete all content. It’s a noble goal, anyhow.

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