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Going to War

Red Thomas Posted:
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The drums of war fill the air at the ArtCraft Entertainment facilities on the Western side of Austin, Texas.  Developers bend to their terminals with a more serious demeanor, and reports are delivered with sharp fists to heart as team members report to the co-consuls of Crowfall.

I may be exaggerating a small amount for dramatic effect, but there was an undeniable air of intent as I visited the ACE studio during this last trip to Austin.  The game is quickly reaching that point in development when all the main systems have been defined, if not actually put into place, and new content should start rolling out with increased speed.

As we take a look at what content backers can expect to see delivered over the next month or so, Campaigns and combat are the big watchwords of the day.  Eternal Kingdoms will certainly be getting some great attention, and personal versions should be coming online soon after this article posts, if they’re not up already.  The last month of development saw some cool additions, and even better stuff is in the pipe, so let’s dig in.

The Eternal Hearth

While the campaigns are the titular component of Crowfall, it’s the Eternal Kingdoms that drive much of the lore and depth of the game.  I suspect that these private preserves of personal properties will also be the major driving force for revenue.  Besides that, I just think it’s a cool implementation of a fairly established concept, the standard opportunity for players to have their own housing in a game.  Though, I don’t know that a game has ever allowed players to claim private territory on quite the same level as Crowfall.

Walls of stone and wood are mostly cosmetic in the EKs, but will serve very practical purposes while campaigning in the Dying Worlds.

The next few weeks should go a long way towards giving backers a sense of the scale Todd, Gordon, and their team of hard-charging developers are working towards.  During my trip to Austin a couple weeks ago, Todd showed off his personal realm, named “Colemania” in a move that involved absolutely no ego at all.  Todd was showing me around the buildings he’d dropped, while Gordon busily tried to encircle his temple (where you resurrect and select between vessels) with keep walls.

The keep walls were pretty cool, placed with a UI that’s already very functional and a snap feature that actually reminded me a lot of the system used in Kerbal Space Program, and a fairly decent selection of parts for a really early system.  The bits snapped together well and didn’t have the odd look of mismatched building blocks that I’d feared.

The custom walls should be available in personal Eternal Kingdoms, and in the lowest Dregs of the campaign worlds.  Not to fear, though.  Keeps and fortresses will still exist in the less hardcore campaigns, but will just be pre-formed and already exist in the world for players to repair and make use of.  Gordon noted that it was planned that way in order to ensure teams of players couldn’t be trolled in a ruleset where they had no recourse.

As the Eternal Kingdoms come online, backers should soon be able to start spinning up their own, and will have access to the parcels and buildings they hold in their account.  That was a particularly important point, because it means the systems linking the game with accounts is coming online, making à carte purchases more palatable.  Games that let you purchase something not implemented yet, or that’s not expected to be in within the next few weeks, makes me a little nervous.  It’s good to see Crowfall making a conscious effort not to fall into that camp.

Going to War

The campaigns in Crowfall are such a fundamental aspect of the game’s design, that the title is literally a euphemism for the act of players, called Crows in the local lingo, falling upon the dying worlds and stripping them for their resources and entertainment value.  While buzzards wait for their meals to succumb to the inevitability of nature, their more stygian cousins take active part in acquiring their desired results, and thus the campaigns are born.

The Assassin archetype will be in the game soon, bring new stealth and damage mechanics when it gets there.

A lot of the work to make campaigns function has already been done.  An early form of the faction system was actually implemented last month, a little earlier than had been expected.  Siege equipment exists, as does walls and terrain that can be affected by said devices.  Todd and Gordon tell me they still need some optimization passes on these systems, but initial optimization passes can make big gains this early in development.  The difference between completely unoptimized and even that first look can be dramatic.  Even so, players perhaps should expect a few issues in early campaigns while the team nails down issues, certainly more problems than we’ve seen out of the last several weeks of playing on non-campaign servers.

No campaign can happen without victory conditions, though.  That’s another thing coming over the next month or so of development.  Victory is the difference between a few odd items making it from the campaign’s chest to your soul bank in the Eternal Kingdoms, and a war chest worthy of calling a feast of Crows in celebration.  Sensing that the victory conditions have been met and finding a good way to explain to players how to achieve them are critical parts of the coming campaigns.

Wars are most often fought over resources, and that’s a big push in support of the coming campaigns that another segment of the Crowfall team has been working on.  Crafting stations, factory recipes, and zones of concentrated resources are all pieces of the economic puzzle that are starting to fall into place.  It takes industrial efforts to win a campaign, and many of the components that support those efforts are currently in the pipe.  Crafting and transport of material will also be crucial to restoring damaged keeps and fortifications after attacks in the Dying Worlds, which means crafters in general will start finding themselves even more in demand.

Disciplines will be a system similar to multiclassing, granting a wide range in bonuses, skills, and benefits.

It’s a really exciting time to be following Crowfall, and I expect that excitement to build over the next several months as major systems finish coming online, are tested, and tweaked after initial contact with the ever-creative player-base.  The final archetypes will be making their way into the game, allowing us to get a much better feel for how large-scale combat will eventually work.  Plus, sneaking a peak through an internal briefing deck noted several other campaign promises are working forward from the backlog.

I think that’ll be all from me for now, though.  Turns out the beat of those war drums that I’d been hearing may actually just be my stomach reminding me that the Noble Pig is not too far from here, and I have an important date with certain exceptional pork products.  In the meantime, what are you excited about when it comes to Crowfall?  Let me know down in the comments below, and if there are particular aspects of the game you’re excited to learn more about, that’d also be great to post.  If I can answer reader questions (and usually I can, except the information is just occasionally embargoed), I’ll start trying to include it in my articles.  Until then… happy feeding, Crows!


Red Thomas

A veteran of the US Army, raging geek, and avid gamer, Red Thomas is that cool uncle all the kids in the family like to spend their summers with. Red lives in San Antonio with his wife where he runs his company and works with the city government to promote geek culture.