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.
It’s amazing how something as simple as days turning into nights and vice-versa can serve to transform a static setting into a living, breathing world. ArtCraft hopes that its new day/night cycle will help to immerse players into Crowfall’s campaign settings when it comes with Patch 5.7. The studio previewed the new tech, showed off hunger crystals, and answered yet more player questions in the May dev video.
Ten Ton Hammer recently caught up with ArtCraft’s J. Todd Coleman to talk about Crowfall’s progress. “We’ve been working hard on filling out our checklist of Races and Classes (plus over 100 Disciplines, which act like sub-classes),” Coleman said, “as well as filling in all of the game systems. We have a full array of powers and power mechanics (mana, stamina, rage, energy, pips, you name it), crafting (with about a thousand unique recipes, I think?), harvesting and group harvesting, territory capture and castle destruction… the game isn’t done, obviously, but there is a LOT of game there.”
Coleman said that ArtCraft’s team is up to around 45 employees and is focused on Patches 5.6, 5.7, and beyond.
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.”
Early this afternoon, ArtCraft Entertainment’s J. Todd Coleman and Gordon Walton answered investor questions about Crowfall’s equity crowdfunding venture, which closes out on Monday. We’ve collected some of the highlights.
Coleman says investors are “making a bet” that there’s an “eventual win” in terms of an IPO or buyout or some other way. In the gaming business, he says, most companies that have a win, “get acquired.” He wouldn’t say that’s even remotely in the works, but it’s a possibility for companies like ArtCraft and is one way investors might profit from their investment.
When asked whether the raise was initiated because the company needed money, Walton explained that the company didn’t realize they’d be able to do a raise like this (because it was enabled by a brand-new law last fall); in fact, ArtCraft ended a different raise to open this one and had run one prior to the Kickstarter as well.
“Do [we] need more money? Yes, we do,” Coleman says, but he stressed that every company needs and wants more money. He said he now believes the game will cost in the $11M-12M range, up from the original $8M estimate, thanks to mistakes, new features, design changes, and the Travian localization partnership, among other things.
In its Q&A session for the month of September, Crowfall Design Lead Thomas Blair and Creative Director Todd Coleman celebrate a whole year of videos and blow their entire special effects budget. OK, they also answer some questions about the game, specifically on fall damage, positional combat, and environmental gravity; technical changes to formerly for sale strongholds and palaces; iteration on skill combo resources; soft-launch campaigns; and Eternal Kingdom building restrictions.
There’s a neat tidbit about iteration and community feedback in there too.
“You ask anyone in the office, you look at the forums, and [opinion on something] could be split half-half, and you’re like, well which way do we go? We gotta pick one,” Blair says, to which Coleman replies, “Half and half is great! Because that means we’re probably OK. When 90% of the players hate something, that’s when we know we have to change it.” Then Coleman turns back to the camera with a laugh. “And yes, we know there’s a lot of stuff that still falls in that category. We’re still working on it! Give us time, please, I’m begging you.”
The Crowfall community has no end of questions for the ArtCraft team, and ArtCraft has no end of time to answer them. Actually, today ArtCraft only has a little under eight minutes, but hey, that still is enough time to cover some ground.
In a new commuity Q&A video, Creative Director J. Todd Coleman and Design Lead Thomas Blair tackle several topics raised by the community, including how campaign locking works and what restrictions will be placed on adding points of interest in one’s Eternal Kingdom. The devs said that the coming big update, Temple War, will be engineering-heavy, so as a result the next archetype released will use as many pre-existing tech tools as possible to keep development time down. This means that we’re more likely to see the Templar than the Assassin or Frostweaver.
Check out the Q&A after the jump!
Some of the criminally unsung heroes of MMOs are the artists who strive to sculpt and design the look of a game to fit the vision that the producers created.
ArtCraft Lead Artist Dave Greco shared Crowfall’s design process from his perspective in a new interview on fan site Crowfall Community. He talked about how he works with the producers to sketch out the world and how establishing a target style is key to keeping the art consistent as development progresses.
“When I first started creating art for the game I knew we wanted a stylized world, but one with a little more grit,” Greco recalled. “Todd [Coleman] had this fantastic idea of vinyl toys for the look of the characters. That was a great jumping off point for me. I wanted the character to look like they could be vinyl sculpts that we artists tend to have cluttering our work desks. From there, it’s just been an evolution of ideas and how detailed we want everything to be.”
Are you a fan of Tetris but wish it were more free-form and connected to an MMO’s world building tool kit? Yeah, neither am I, but apparently someone Artcraft thought it could work in Crowfall. Today we’ve got an exclusive first look at Artcraft’s latest world building video, plus a chat with Creative Director J. Todd Coleman, who discussed with us the world building process and helped to clarify the parcel system and player territories.
Way back when I used to haunt the corridors of Gamestop and had yet to shun the place due to its stinky evil, I remember being enticed with these fancy-pantsy “MMORPG” boxes when I’d see them on the shelf. I must have picked up Shadowbane a dozen or so times to check out the blurbs on the back, mentally weighing whether or not this would be the one to introduce me to online gaming, but ultimately it was not to be.
It’s probably for the best, considering that Shadowbane was primarily PvP and I’m a PvE guy at heart. Plus, the title never really took off the way that publisher Ubisoft had hoped, spending most of its six years of operation lurking in the background of the MMO industry instead of sharing the spotlight.
But still, six years! That’s not the worst run we’ve ever seen from an MMO. Considering that its creator has gone on to make Crowfall with some of the same ideas, it’s as timely as ever to take a look back at Shadowbane and what it brought to the table.
Holding off on backing Crowfall, even though over a million dollars’ worth of players have contributed to the PvP title? J. Todd Coleman says that it’s OK, as following or contributing to any game in development is a “leap of faith.”
Coleman penned a short essay in which he said that the team has a vision but won’t be forcing itself to follow the design document to the letter. “We have a high-level architecture that is a fantastic foundation,” he wrote, “and a design architecture that lends itself to an unprecedented level of flexibility and iteration. We have collected a motley crew that has as much experience as any other team on the planet… but the details aren’t all in focus, yet.”
What do you get when you take a few of the most experienced developers in the MMO industry and give them the freedom to buck the safe trend of copycatting World of Warcraft? And what would you get if you further challenged them to combine the progression from MMOs with the always-fresh strategy genre? You might just end up with something like Crowfall.
As you read this, Crowfall has launched its Kickstarter funding campaign after weeks of speculation, reveals, and an always-ticking countdown timer. ArtCraft has done all it can to prime the pump for community investment, and now we’ll have to see whether it will pay off spectacularly… or be deemed too niche for primetime.
Last week, I chatted with ArtCraft’s J. Todd Coleman and Gordon Walton for a no-holds-barred discussion about Crowfall. Enough with the teases and partial revelation; I wanted the full picture. What is Crowfall, really? And how will it set itself apart from the MMO pack?
Crowfall developer ArtCraft Entertainment has announced today that the game will employ the Voxel Farm technology platform. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Voxel Farm is licensed to several other high-profile MMORPGs, including Landmark and EverQuest Next.
The best part is how the studio leads describe what they’re doing with the tech. “We want to create hundreds of unique worlds, with unique maps — mountains, hills, valleys, rivers, dungeons, ruins — for players to explore and destroy,” says ArtCraft president Gordon Walton. Sounds peaceful, right? Wrong! Creative Director Todd Coleman says ArtCraft is out to subvert that trope: “Most games are using voxel technology for creation — effectively, giving players a sandbox to build things. We’re using them for a very different reason; we are using Voxels for destruction. We’re creating sandcastles for the players to kick over.”