The number one term applied to the development of Crowfall so far seems to be the H-word. Yes, folks, the hype train has left the station and it has a long journey ahead of it, but that's part of the fun of being an MMO fan, right? Many of us enjoy the excitement that comes from seeing a new MMO peek its head up over the horizon, as we hope and pray that it will fill the hole in our heart that was left after the last dozen games promised us the world.
One major tool in that hype campaign is the big honkin' countdown timer on the game's main website. According to our superior math skills, it looks like we're going to see something big from J. Todd Coleman, Gordon Walton, Raph Koster, and the rest of the ArtCraft team on the morning of February 24. But what could it be?
ArtCraft has already made two very important points about this countdown: it is not to announce a beta, and it will reveal more stuff. "By the time the countdown hits zero, we'll have presented you the full vision for Crowfall. You'll either love it, or hate it," teases Crowfall dev Tully Ackland on the official forums. "We're hoping love! (please love?) To set the expectation though, beta will NOT be going live at this time. We're a while away from this milestone - but we can't wait to get there!"
So with that in mind, I thought I'd have a little speculative fun with this and try to figure out the top five possibilities for this countdown.
5. A crowdfunding campaign
This seems to be the most popular topic of speculation, and I wouldn't be surprised if that's what it ended up being. Everyone and their grandmother is starting a crowdfunding campaign (Ed note: announced but not “official” yet) to raise money the not-so old-fashioned way, and it would certainly make sense considering the fact that ArtCraft is an independent studio with triple-A ambitions on Crowfall.
But not all crowdfunding campaigns are created equal, and so much will ride on the success of a potential fundraising campaign and how the team fulfils the goals set in the outline.
4. Another all-star addition to the team
When the ArtCraft founders revealed their collaboration with legendary MMO designer Raph Koster on January 21, it was as if millions of skeptical voices suddenly cried out in joy and were suddenly silenced.
The addition of Raph was an exciting surprise, but where could they go from there? Looking back at former colleagues of Coleman, we see some heavy hitters that we wouldn't mind having on our dream team like Josef Hall who worked with Coleman on both Shadowbane and Pirate101.
Or from Walton's impressive co-worker portfolio, we have a host of big names who worked on Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, or Star Wars: The Old Republic. Seriously, take your pick. While Richard Garriott, Starr Long, and a few other greats from Ultima Online are currently busy with Shroud of the Avatar, there's still plenty of talent available.
3. Another countdown timer!
Of course, I'm not literally talking about another countdown timer because that would make us all crazy, but I'm talking about the revelation of a schedule. Maybe we'll learn when alpha will start, or what kind of development window we can expect from the game through 2015 and into 2016.
2. A teaser video/trailer with gameplay
You can talk all day about glorified game mechanics and veteran designers, but until potential players see a bit of the game in action, not much else matters. My hope is that ArtCraft skips the hokey cinematic marketing ploy that was big when these guys started out to show off what really makes the game pop: gameplay action.
1. Another major game mechanic that will blow our minds
This idea is fun because it's so open-ended. I think it's safe to say that ArtCraft won't show us every little aspect of the game from now until the timer runs down, so there has to be some big surprise lying in wait until the very end.
Maybe we'll find out the business model (Ed. Note: We did after this article was written!), or more about the lore, or some crazy multiplayer mechanic that no one has tried before. So far we've heard a whole lot about PvP, and a few classes, and the server specifics, but there really is a lot more to learn if you think about it. This game has to be much more than simply cutting and pasting together cool ideas from older games like Star Wars Galaxies or Shadowbane; it needs to be its own thing.
As Coleman said in a recent dev post, "[T]his game won't be for everyone[,] and we're OK with that. We've done big, mass-market games before. With Crowfall, we wanted to make something different. Something smaller, with a team that is willing and able to take some big design risks."
Bring on the risks!