The founders of ArtCraft had a Reddit AMA session on Wednesday evening to celebrate the final hours of the successfully funded Kickstarter campaign, and they threw themselves out there for the potential playerbase to ask them... well, anything about CrowFall. With the hype of the game at an all-time high after the success of that campaign, it's time to get serious about what exactly J. Todd Coleman and Gordon Walton plan to do with CrowFall.
While every single question didn't get answered, I wanted to showcase and explain the ones that did. That mostly means skipping the "we're not discussing that at this time" answers (although there were surprisingly few of those) and focusing on the meat of the Q&A.
There is no date yet on the alpha or beta test for Crowfall, but we do know that there will be no NDA at all, and full streaming of the client is allowed.
But the Alpha testing won't be a continuous thing. Walton says that these early tests will be focused on "particular aspects of the game" and won't be something you can sit down and play for hours. "Most early alpha tests will only last an hour or two at a time is my expectation," he explains.
When asked specifically about beta, Walton said, "Sometime mid-next year is the best estimate we have now."
While the Kickstarter videos showed off what looked like a finished product already, one fan asked why we still have to wait two more years for the game to release. "Games take time to build, we've only been working on this with a team for a year and it's an MMO," Walton answered. "We think we're building it in record time in fact. :) The videos were a playable prototype in a very pre-alpha state. We're in the process of doing our first full combat iteration now from that version, and I'd bet we'll do that a few times as we go for the right feel."
As you know, CrowFall is a primarily PvP game with a heavy emphasis on crafting and hardly any on questing. Walton points out that you can solo in the game, but it's "probably one of the most difficult ways to play."
He goes on to explain in another question that the team has "PvE as an environmental threat to ramp up the danger of the worlds, much the same as the Zombies in Walking Dead make the world dangerous, but the other humans are the real threat."
Regarding the old "risk vs. reward" focus of the game, Walton describes that everything will depend on that risk and not rewarding players for simply showing up, as is found in many games. "Almost everything we have talked about and added to the game really comes down to risk versus reward [...] We want the bold souls that are willing to risk real adversity in their gameplay for the sake of satisfying accomplishments. And we've got an array of risk/reward rulesets so that players can find the sweet spot for their own personal risk/reward predisposition."
But one concern of players is the redesign of the tank/healer/DPS structure that some other games have already claimed to remove. As Coleman describes, it's not about "everyone can do everything," but more about "I'm not ONLY a tank or DPS."
"We're not killing the idea of support classes, we just don't have firehose healers, because the game isn't being made with the goal of having parties fight monsters with 40,000 health," he says. "It's a different mindset, so we changed the roles to fit the new paradigm."
The guild system has yet to be detailed, but Coleman says that they won't be doing anything "contentious" with guilds and that managing guilds is understandably important. "Guild management IS intended to be a different system from Eternal Kingdom management, btw -- though the two will often be intertwined," he says. "We aren't forcing guilds to use our EK structure."
Coleman acknowledges that combat is key in Crowfall. "If we don't get the feel of combat right, our game is dead," he admits.
Walton describes the combat as a mix between TERA (with the action combat element) and WildStar (in movement).
Walton also breaks down a few very specific questions about combat, including the fact that there won't be downed states like in DarkFall, you won't be able to attack multiple attributes like in Star Wars Galaxies, warmth and hunger won't be incorporated into a battle fatigue system like in SWG, and there might be a way to combine buffs or debuffs into new effects like in Guild Wars 2. That last one would be particularly interesting because the ArenaNet team really pushed that mechanic during GW2's launch. Sadly, the idea of tandem casting was shot down later in the AMA, but there's hope. "...No tandem casting at this time. It does take multiple characters/archetypes to accomplish some tactical tasks like breaching fortifications though."
This brings us to the player-built siege weapons for the core module that were revealed in this AMA, as Walton addressed the question of destroying fortification walls as we saw in the promotional video. "The wall you saw busted through had been attacked by spells before the hammer or shield bash finished it off. It takes a team to get through fortifications!"
One of the running themes of this AMA is a comparison to Shadowbane and just how alike CrowFall will be to Coleman's first creation. While he mentions that this isn't going to essentally be Shadowbane 2, there will be some shared features and mechanics... "Without the sb.exe problems," he jokes.
When asked specifically about a peek and steal ability found on Shadowbane's Thief class, Coleman mentions a friend of his who constantly tells war stories about how much he loved to hide and corpse loot with his Aracoix. "He will kill me if we don't put that kind of mechanic in Crowfall," he says.
"My goal was to make it similar to the SB stealth game; there were two different play styles, one geared towards stealth (infiltration, information retrieval, assassination) and one geared towards anti-stealth (seeking out and eliminating the former)," he explains.
"In SB, a lot of this was focused on troop movement and city infiltration -- which was awesome, but in Crowfall we have opportunities to expand on that foundation, thanks to resource collection and caravans. That should add a new layer of cool gameplay to reconnaissance."
The developers admit that communication from now until release will dwindle a bit as they focus completely on development, but some fans are concerned about ArtCraft dropping off the face of the Earth.
Walton says that backers will continue to be accepted now that the Kickstarter campaign is over, and there will continue to be stretch goals with any unfulfilled stretch goals moving to the game's website.
And if a promised feature is found to not work out, Coleman says that they won't struggle with it. "We're occasionally going to go back to something we already announced and say 'we tried this idea, and it didn't work, so now we are trying this, instead'... so please be patient with us."
As for promoting the game through various conventions, Walton says that they "intend right now to spend more time building the game than attending conventions." But as the game progresses, they will focus more on consumer conventions to get the word out.
And now that the core game is funded and stretch goals are being hit, Walton says that the continued funding will help them get closer to that complete vision for the game.
"Next we plan to license the game to some of the key overseas territories (Asia, anyone?), and most likely we'll raise some more money through equity too," he said. "We'll deliver the core module and stretch goals though even if these new money options don't work, we just want to go faster and deliver more of our game vision, which is what the additional money would help us do."
Some of my favorite from this AMA include:
"'Perfect balance' isn't actually fun, either, btw. Rock Paper Scissors is pretty balanced! and terribly boring."
"I feel like we had more innovation before WOW, because no one knew what was possible (and therefore, what wasn't.) Crowdfunding has really changed this equation, quite frankly because the people with the money (you) are better at picking visions that will be appealing to a large audience."
"The Pantheon of Gods, and their relationship to the Hunger, is one of the coolest parts of the CF universe IMO. We haven't quite gotten to the part where the players (and guilds) know them well enough to start building their own stories around them. That's coming."
"Man, I hate swimming."