Earlier this week, I happened to see a mainstream website refer to ArtCraft as an indie studio, and it jolted me. ArtCraft, as anybody reading MOP knows, is working on Crowfall, which at least in my estimation is a high-quality, graphics-intensive MMORPG from hardcore MMORPG veterans who’ve been in the business as long as anyone alive. The game has raised at least $12M or maybe $15M, at least counting up what we know about.
When I think of indie studios, I think of the tiny outfits working on games like Project Gorgon, Ever, Jane, and Ascent the Space Game. But of course Crowfall is also an indie, right? It’s not running a $500M budget; it’s not ensconced under a cozy AAA publisher umbrella. It crowdfunds.
Then again, aside from the budget/wealth, its profile looks like a bit like Epic Games’ – it even has an engine to vend now. So is it really just about money? Is Star Citizen, with its multiple studios and AAA budget, an indie because of crowdfunding? Camelot Unchained studio CSE has multiple studios – does that factor in?
I’m curious what you folks think. What exactly defines an indie MMO studio? What characteristics must an indie studio have or not have?
The chat system in Crowfall was developed in-house for chatting within the game, and it had only one problem insofar as it didn’t actually provide a solid framework for chatting. It worked well enough, but it had issues with custom channels, zoning, and so forth. So the latest development entry is all about the new Vivox-based system integrated into the game starting with patch 5.7, which provides players with far more robust options for managing channels, contacts, and all manner of discussion.
Players will be able to create new customized chat tabs, along with individual chat filtering and autofilling commands. The team is still working on making the new system as useful as possible, so it’s important to note that the current iteration is just the first and most basic option for chatting across zones and with your faction. Check out the full breakdown if you want to see more of the tools you’ll have at your disposal for conversation with the next patch.
The latest community Q&A video from Crowfall is actually not that at all. It’s supposed to be that, of course, that’s what it claims to be on the tin (or in the video header), but the upcoming test patch 5.7 is the real topic of discussion for this video, and that has overtaken any actual list of questions. And with good cause; there are lots of little things in the patch that seem simple, like having multiple zones in the same world, which have actually been huge technical headaches that take a lot of development work to make functional.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your views), zoning isn’t the only challenging thing going on in the patch. After all, there are other mechanics like crafting changes, new monsters, and of course the infection by the Hunger. You can find out about it in the video just below; just don’t expect to get much in the way of questions answered. Shifting zones works, that’s reason enough to be happy, right?
Yesterday, Crowfall studio ArtCraft announced it was spinning off a brand-new company dubbed ArtCraft Technologies that would basically turn Crowfall’s engine into a marketable product for other studios, “providing game developers with turnkey technology solutions for creating large-scale Massively Multiplayer Online games.” We had opportunity to chat with ArtCraft Creative Director J Todd Coleman about the move and what it means for the studio and genre. Read on!
Massively OP: So to start, we’re curious about the “why” behind the new studio. Is ArtCraft thinking of this venture as an extra revenue stream for the company? Or is it trying to encourage more MMORPGs – or maybe both?
J. Todd Coleman: This wasn’t originally part of our plan. In the last 12 months, we’ve had a few different studios contact us to see if we would consider licensing our technology. The more we looked into it, the more it made sense. The additional revenue stream is great, obviously, but that has to be balanced against the potential distraction. We wouldn’t have done this if we didn’t see it as a great strategic move for the company, and a chance to leverage what we’ve built into something much bigger.
Well now things just got interesting over in the land of Kickstarted Crowfall. ArtCraft announced this morning that it’s spinning off a “new division” called ArtCraft Technologies and specifically positioned for “providing game developers with turnkey technology solutions for creating large-scale Massively Multiplayer Online games” – all based on Crowfall’s underlying tech.
“This technology stack, the Artisan Engine, will include a robust feature set for solving the full spectrum of challenges that emerge when supporting thousands-upon-thousands of concurrent players in a virtual world: networking, persistence, physics, procedural world generation, dynamic world editing and seamless worlds up to 5,120 meters by 5,120 meters in size. In addition, it includes an exhaustive, fully-featured RPG layer, including characters, inventory, equipment, monsters, AI, harvesting, races, classes, sub-classes, powers, banking, secure trading, skills, leveling and more.”
The new division will be headed up by Josef Hall, whom you might remember from his work on Shadowbane as well as the KingsIsle titles (similar to ArtCraft’s J. Todd Coleman’s pedigree). Anybody thinking “SpatialOS competitor”? Because we sure are.
Source: Press release
So yes, we’re all sad that Crowfall is being delayed a little bit longer, but on the plus side one of the reasons for that is making the game more open for customization. That means more concept art, and more concept art means more chances to see time-lapse videos of that concept art being made. Which is exactly what we have here, a time-lapsed painting of concept art for the Wood Elf race.
We apologize if you were looking for some deep insight about the game’s lore or points related, but it is a nice painting and you can see it come together in the video down below. If you’d rather find out more about mechanics, it shan’t do much to entertain you. If you’d like to watch a 20-minute video about a much longer art process, though? It’s here for you.
Set aside your castles in the air: Crowfall’s castles are built on solid ground. ArtCraft’s most recent dev blog is all about them, or rather, about the battlements, walls, and gatehouses that will make your in-game castle an actual fortification instead of just a place to stash your prettiest loot.
“The deeper we dig into Eternal Kingdom construction and the quest for Castle customization, the more modular this feature becomes,” ArtCraft says. “We want to deliver the maximum amount of options with the minimum number of assets and deeds. This way, we save you inventory space and save ourselves some overhead (or more like over-headache amirite?)! With all that being said (brace yourselves): MEGA DEEDS are coming!”
So what the heck is a mega deed? It’s a deed grouping, essentially: “Let’s say you’re building with 1×1 stone wall pieces. With the correct deed, you can place a 1×1 stone wall OR a 1×1 sloped stone wall or even a 1×1 half-sloped wall! Multiple options but one deed to rule them all!” Moreover, players will be able to use panels to trick out an existing structure and “alter it for any aesthetic or practical purpose.” I’m gonna turn all mine into stockades for the trolls!
The Hunger is going to destroy everything in Crowfall. That’s how the story ends. You can stave it off for a time, and the latest development post is all about how you can do that. But the point is that as the seasons change, you will lose the fight. Only a few hunger crystals might appear at night during the summer, and you can hopefully find and eliminate them. And creatures mutated by the Hunger can’t survive during the day, so they’ll be dealt with that way. You can take the land back!
But as time goes by the nights get longer. The seasons change and more crystals emerge every night. Cutting away the crystals is treating the symptom, not the disease. Eventually the place where you are will succumb to the frost and stillness of the Hunger, there are no two ways about it. The official entry goes into more detail, but that’s the short version right there. Have fun!
Forget oohing and ahhing over day/night cycles in MMORPGs — Crowfall is bringing whole seasons to its campaign worlds, and they’re going to be nothing like you’ve seen before in online RPGs.
Crowfall’s dev team is concerned with both showing the “passage of time” in the universe, rotating through spring, summer, fall, and winter seasons. Each game world begins in spring and concludes in winter, giving players an easy way of figuring out roughly how much time is left in a campaign.
With a fully dynamic world that involves varied spawns, parcels that are moved around, and generated terrain, the Crowfall team had a tougher challenge than most to create good-looking lighting that was carefully placed by hand. Instead, the art team had to come up with fully-dynamic lighting, and Art Director Melissa Preston is more than happy to talk about that and more on this month’s Q&A video.
The lighting keeps changing, too, as Crowfall just instituted a day/night cycle with Patch 5.7. The devs talk about all of this, fiddling with the various sliders to show the complexity of lighting in this MMO. If nothing else, it’s an eye-opener about an aspect of these games that you may have never considered!
The video also shows off the Stoneborn and female Half-Giant characters, so there’s a lot to absorb before all is said and done!
On this week’s show, Bree and Justin get a little bit crazy and weird as they date MMO NPCs, throw themselves into the middle of studio fights, take a ride on the delay/launch whiplash train, and more!
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Here’s a slight damper for your weekend: Crowfall has decided to delay its soft launch into 2019 due to the additional work that the studio believes should to be done. ArtCraft said that between “getting it right” and “calling it done,” it would much rather do the former.
“The game experience is paramount,” ArtCraft stated. “We firmly believe is the right path forward. These changes aren’t free, however, so we should recognize that more changes to core systems means more time before launch. As a result, I think it’s clear that our soft launch is not going to happen by the end of the year.”
The delay isn’t the first for the studio; by our count, it delayed major functionality as well as a soft launch last year too.
Now that you’re past the crushing disappointment of development schedules, here’s some good news. Alpha testing is on track to start later this summer and the studio is in a strong financial position after receiving an additional $6 million investment at the start of 2018. Other deals that have been made to help the PvP MMO include a partnership to bring Crowfall to Russia and an agreement to license its MMO technology base to an unnamed company.
This week, Crowfall’s testing phase moved into Pre-Alpha 5 — but you wouldn’t know that to listen to the developers. The team seems much more interested in what’s coming with Patch 5.7, which is why it spends to much time sharing the advance patch notes from this build.
So what’s coming that’s so exciting? Well how about the addition of the final two races to the game’s roster: the Stoneborn and female Half-Giant. There’s plenty of other features being baked into this build, including harvestable hunger crystals, the day/night cycle, a bereavement map, more animal variety, and a much easier way to interact with other players while on the go.
ArtCraft said that the “first round of zoning has been implemented” as well, which points to bright days ahead for this PvP game. Get the full scoop after the break, but be warned, it’s going to take you an hour to listen through!