A Child Born of Two Mothers
I am extremely excited to be covering Crowfall but before we get too far into it I feel that it’s important for readers to understand where I’m coming from. Ahem, I’m a sandbox PVP MMORPGer from the old days when choices mattered and messing up meant a re-roll-progress be damned-and I’m not afraid to let my columns reflect that! For better or worse when I cover news about Crowfall I’ll try to capture my reactions BEFORE they get put through a filter. That said I’m open minded and more than happy to change my point of view once I’ve been humbled by people that are smarter than me, in fact I think it’s a great way to learn-say dumb thing-get corrected by smart person-knowledge XP gained.
It’s no secret that I also write a bi-weekly column about Camelot Unchained. While it’s common for writers to cover multiple games, the loyal old schooler in me can’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable with it. Fortunately discomfort forces you to grow-which is a lesson current games have forgotten. Not to mention neither game is even a game yet! It’s as strange as it is exciting. Ever since we revolted from the “AAA” theme park, got off the loot treadmill, cancelled our subs and said “fine, if you won’t build it we will pay for it ourselves!” we’ve been making MMO history. That path has led to new uncomfortable scenarios that have yet to be answered, but like I said, a little discomfort is good for the soul!
Just as I do with CU I will try my best to be unbiased about CF-except when it comes to the hauling of goods, I am a sucker for hauling and will go full fanboy any time I see it mentioned anywhere. As I’ve said in the past I hope every new PVP mmo does well because we’ve been “tacked on” for too long! Some MMOers see these games as directly competing with one another. As someone with experience in both games my firm opinion is that they are different enough to attract two entirely different PVP audiences with some overlap via casual PVPers floating between them. At its simplest its tab vs twitch, Elias vs Barnes, wine vs whiskey-all great in their own ways, and while similar, different enough to be desired individually.
Is there a friendly competition between both studios to make a great PVP MMO? I have no doubt, but that isn’t a bad thing, the winner of that competition is the entire MMO genre. We are a niche in a niche. With such a small slice of the gaming world it’s better to work together to achieve something great than to allow infighting to bring all of us down (hurm, scale that up to little Earth in the entire Universe and I might just be onto something, nah, probably not). Enough about peace, let’s talk war, let’s talk Crowfall!
The greatest trick EVE ever did was convincing their players leveling didn’t exist. The seemingly simply adjustment of making skills time based rather than XP based changed the fundamental way players approached the game. It was no longer about grinding, it was about playing first and foremost. That trick combined with a shared universe and an infinite pvp endgame based on the capture and utilization of resources made playing EVE “feel” special.
ArtCraft Entertainment (ACE) is more than aware of what EVE accomplished, the question is can they come close to duplicating it? With a time based skill system they are off to a good start. Right from the beginning the focus will be on PVPing not grinding out XP. It creates a motivator for players to go “VIP” (subscribe) and allows for the Crow/Account to progress multiple archetypes (classes) without traditionally creating another character. As a self-diagnosed Altaholic I was quite relieved to be able to have multiples archetypes (via their skill sets) on my single account.
The sheer volume of skills in the early screens is staggering. This will keep the game fresh while keeping us playing, a win for both ACE and us. The fact that real time goes into unlocking those skills also makes it harder to walk away from our characters. Leveling in other games takes time, but there is a big difference between going from level 1-85 in 48 hours in WOW and leveling 48 skills up to level 1 in the same amount of time in a game live EVE. At times its maddening. At times it feels like you aren’t progressing, but I believe in the end you get a sense of real accomplishment that makes it hard to log out and excited to log in every day.
Like all things MMO it’s not perfect. In EVE the system made it unappealing for some new players to try the game. They worried they were too far behind the vets to ever be useful. Just recently EVE has taken steps to fix this, I have to wonder what tricks ACE has up their sleeves. I know their slow power creep is already on the table but I wonder if that is enough? It’s a question all MMOs face at some point, unfortunately it’s a dire one for PVP based games.
To add another layer to the skill system we will have “Disciplines” which stack on top of your skills. From what I understand, at their most basic, they are like putting nitrous on a Geo Metro. They push the maximum power your vessel can hold. I have to wonder, much like the nitrous would do to the Geo, does using a discipline to push a vessel make it wear out faster? It would make sense wouldn’t it?
As is often the case when it comes to crowd funded games, every bit of new information answers a few questions and creates many more. It too early to know if ACE can pull this system off, but I know I’ve been waiting years for someone to try.