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Linchpin Harvesting

Tim Eisen Posted:
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The latest Crowfall news was brought to you exclusively by the fantastic people at MMORPG.com. My entire column this week will be based on that we learned from that (conveniently linked) Dev Blog about Harvesting. While I have a thousand words to address it I wish I had thousands more. Combat might be what most of us are interested in but it will be the harvesting/crafting systems that will make Crowfall feel like a virtual world. The reality is almost every game has combat, but creating a living player driven world is unique to MMORPGs. Believe it or not harvesting is a linchpin to that world. The problem is it’s been so mundane for so long most of us have forgotten that fact. Artcraft (ACE) hopes to fix that.

With two SWG developers (Design Lead Thomas Blair and Design Consultant/all around MMORPG Grand Wizard Raph Koster) working on harvesting expectations are naturally high. Considering I’m an unapologetic SWG fanboy (warts and all) I’m naturally going to consider it while critiquing Crowfall’s concept. The system as I read it sounds fairly familiar. I fight rocks and get things from them. Sounds good. My harvesting tools are force ghosty in nature, I can get behind that.

I’m excited to experience “slot machine” harvesting (basically hitting a rock and getting random resource quality in return) as I believe it adds some excitement to fighting those rocks. “In fact, since I mentioned at the beginning that we want to facilitate the idea of mining-and-caravan expeditions as an emergent behavior that we want to foster, we are even experimenting with having more powerful nodes that require multiple players to destroy.” Group harvesting? Glorious! Best of all every resource is valuable, no trash resources that people ignore a month into the game, I absolutely adore that decision.

So what don’t I admire? I didn’t hear anything about a division of labor, resource rotation or permanent depletion all of which I believe result in a more robust and exciting harvesting experience (and a better MMORPG world). I read groups might harvest faster than a solo player. That makes sense but does that lead to zerg harvesting? Does it also drive away the solo harvester? Let’s be honest, the players that currently prefer the life of harvester aren’t usually those most attracted to group play. I wonder if some of them might view this as “their” playstyle being compromised?

I wonder how they plan to facilitate caravans? For the life of me I’ll never understand why PVP MMORPGs don’t make it a point to have a player driven caravan system. In ancient times caravans were the result of, as well as a generator of real life PVP. Surely the same could happen in a MMORPG. I’d like to hear more about distance traveled, terrain and strongholds working with a caravan system.

Lastly I’d also like to see resources take on some more danger. Maybe NPC animals live in/under some of them? Maybe they can be rigged with traps or spells? Maybe players can build forts around them? Maybe as in real life obtaining some resources is more dangerous than others? A mine collapsing or some toxic AOE gas from a node might add another layer of excitement, especially if it’s more likely to happen when you are group harvesting. (Ducks rotten fruit from harvesting purists.)

Was there anything I feared? “Since the player is limited to 1 generic skill training at a time, these skills compete directly with combat and crafting skills for player attention, forcing the player to make meaningful choices as to how they want their characters to advance.” Oh boy. Unless I’m mistaken that means if you want to be really good at harvesting, you will have to be less good at fighting! I didn’t have a problem with that when we had alts to train. Now that we only have the Crow spirit that flies between vessels I’m less thrilled. I’m old school enough to want my choices to matter but I’m not sure how I feel about my combat choices competing with my harvesting choices. In a game like SWG I was fine with it because there was enough role diversity to get a well-rounded fleshed out play experience if you were all combat, half combat or even no combat. I’m not yet convinced Crowfall will offer that much diversity. If I knew it would I’d be thrilled, unfortunately at this point I don’t even think ACE can be sure.

Speaking of being sure, the last thing I’m taking away from this developer blog is something I hoped ACE would do but wasn’t sure about until now. I always knew we would have the main archetypes. I always knew we would be able to make our character more unique via skills. What I wasn’t sure about was how much they would alter our character. If the harvesting blog is an indicator, then skills will be quite substantial. Less than an archetype but more than a small percentage increase-at least once we get deeper into them.

I’ve rarely been a resource harvester in my MMORPG career. That said as I age I find myself opening up to the concept. What it would take to nudge me in that direction is more excitement, more random chaos and more group integration-especially when it comes to transporting said resources. I have no idea if I’m a demographic ACE is creating this system to target but if I am the good news is I like most of what I see. You’ve harvested my curiosity but, as is often the case with MMORPGs, I need to know more before you earn my full attention. 


Tim Eisen

I roleplay a wordsmith that writes about the technological and social evolution within the game industry