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Of Voxels and Upgrades

Red Thomas Posted:
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Another month in the book, and Crowfall continues on their track as one of the more interesting and unique games to watch over the next year.  Their concept of dynamic worlds with a multitude of rulesets and limited life spans is absolutely one of the more exciting concepts that I’ve covered.  There are a lot of aspects that go into making a game a hit, but I can’t think of many game mechanics that have struck me as impressively innovative as their implementation of that single concept.

That’s why I’m always excited to get time with the team and to learn more about what they’re working on over a given month.  I find the process of fitting each game system and concept into that Dying Worlds mechanic absolutely fascinating.

It takes a robust network of systems to make a game successful, though.  Let’s dive into some of the work the team’s been doing over the last month and also talk about what new pieces of the game backers can expect to see over the next few weeks.  After that, we’ll cover the answers for a couple reader questions from the last article.

More EK

Some backers have already had the chance to create their own new Eternal Kingdoms, and others will continue getting access in batches.  Those with access will have a button at the bottom of their server selection menu to launch their kingdom.  Once it’s been spun up you’ll see it appear in the server list on the right and will be able to log in (if you’re not logged in automatically).  From there, the new personal kingdom can be managed.

Exploded a bit for easier viewing, the interface for placing land plots in your Kingdom is just drag and drop.

I did find the process a little cumbersome, but hardly unexpected for a first-run system and brand-new UI.  I had the game client crash out on me while trying to load my EK once, but otherwise it seemed pretty stable.  I logged in and out several times throughout the weekend without any problems, so it was likely just a fluke.

Once in your personal Eternal Kingdom, hit B to open your spirit bank and select assets that you want to transfer into your inventory.  This process does take a bit, and you’ll see the items in your inventory with a red X in the corner until the asset has transferred over.  These are the assets that you chose to import into your account when you launched the game, so check your account from the Crowfall website if you don’t see something.  If you see what you expect on the website, relaunch the client and look for the initial dialogue asking you to import buildings, plots, and such.

Once those plots have loaded in your inventory, hit ESC and click on the option to edit your kingdom.  You can now drag and drop parcels of land into the editor and arrange them around your sanctuary however you see fit.  You can leave spaces, but all parcels must share at least one side boundary with another. 

Eventually, I believe you’ll be able to leave spaces between parcels, which will become water.  I tried it, and it did leave the gap in terrain as I expected.  Though, it didn’t show as water.  Rather, it looked like that strange no-space you find at the edge of all the maps currently in the game.  Again, not much of a surprise, though.  Of the things that really matter with respect to development in order to not hold up other teams, filling gaps with water has to be pretty low on the list.

What’s Inbound

The rollout of the Eternal Kingdoms is a major milestone for Crowfall, and nearly as important as the campaigns in the Dying Worlds, which should be rolling out over the next month, or so.  Lessons learned from the semi-dynamic nature of the Eternal Kingdoms are already making their way into the systems that will make up the competitive portions of the game. 

Buildings can be placed in your EK from your inventory, just wait for them to transition fully from your spirit bank.

It may not seem overly important at first glance, but the ability to spin up and shutdown servers on demand and then tie that to an automated system is critical.  Imagine a scenario where resource demand escalates due to a bug and the game, and the system starts spinning up servers to compensate.  The runaway impact of a problem like that could easily end up costing the project thousands, even tens of thousands, of dollars if it occurred over a weekend without anyone catching it.  Thus the seemingly sluggish rollout of EKs, and how they’re also working to support the coming campaigns.

It’s a bit more than a month out, but the next archetype will be going into the game soon.  Backers will have the Assassin added to their stable of possible vessels, and that required some work on hit boxes.  Stealth and ambush-type attacks, as well as skills that specifically work when attacking from the flank or from behind, require a directionality to hit boxes that didn’t exist before.

There are already a number of attacks in the game now that require a more complex hitbox.  The Legionnaire’s rear kick is a good example of an existing skill in that vein.  When attacked from behind, the Legionnaire has a skill that automatically strikes backwards at the attacker.  Up to now, that attack has been a little overpowered in that it worked against anyone attacking from any direction.  The new system will allow skills like the Legionnaire’s Rear Kick ability to function correctly.

Crafting stations should be making their way into the game pretty soon, as well.  Apparently, it’s still a race to see whether the Eternal Kingdoms or the Dying Worlds get their stations first.  Todd said during our conversation that the lead has changed a few times over the last several weeks.  In the end, they’re both making good progress, and both should be out before long.  Personally, I kind of feel like the campaign versions would be more interesting and would like to see them sooner.  The first ones done will be the first ones seen, though.

In the end, Crowfall still looks to be in solid shape and on pace to be very playable by the end of the year.  I’m not sure the word “done” really applies to any game these days, but it should be about as close as you could expect.

Another of the many miscellaneous improvements in recent patches is the option to customize your action bar with skills.

This is any interesting game to cover, in that the team is very careful to do things the way they think is best.  That means multiple teams working on several things at one time, and no specific release schedule month-to-month.  It does make the game a little harder to cover, but I think there’s something to be said about getting things out the door when they’re ready and not trying to meet an artificial schedule by rushing or delaying a specific component.

Reader Questions

I had a few questions after last month’s article, and I had a chance to ask Todd and Gordon for some answers.

JamesGoblin asked about voxels.  He’d heard that Todd didn’t like voxels anymore and wanted to know more information about his take on the technology…

Todd said that he doesn’t specifically hate voxels, but mentioned when asked that he’s not certain about the technology in the game.  For one, “voxel” has sort of become one of those industry buzzwords and is probably used too broadly.  As far as using the technology most people mean when they use the word, it’s been a bit of a pain, but it’s not really a matter of whether Todd likes it or not.  What matters is meeting the design goal of having destructible assets that appear to react correctly to physics and contribute to the intended feel of the game.

Placing walls in your EK, or in the Dregs, is getting easier with each UI improvement. It’s not Voxels, but it’s still pretty cool.

It’s not set in stone, but it sounds to me like the idea of Crowfall having Everquest Next!-like voxels most likely isn’t going to happen.  Probably a good thing, too.  Voxels are hard on graphics cards and CPUs, while not really being as game breaking as you might think.  There are other ways of doing things that appear visually the same, and it sounds like the team is exploring all options to pick the best one.

Another question was from from time007, who wanted to know about when the game was supposed to come out.  Well, he was asking about the game or the Eternal Kingdoms.  Since EKs are out, I assumed the former and asked that.  The short answer is that the team is targeting end of year.  Judging from their history of rolling things out when they were ready, I’d take that with a grain of salt until we get an official release date.  I don’t see anything that suggests they’ll miss their goal, but just would not be surprised to see them delay it by a month or two if they feel it’s necessary.

Hopefully these articles are helping fans stay current on the mad dash through the early access phase of the game.  I’ve certainly appreciated the questions, and hope you guys keep throwing them out.  If you have a question for the Crowfall developers, leave a comment below and I’ll try to work it in to the next interview.  Until then, my fellow antagonistic avians!


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.