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A Year Under the Wing

By Tim Eisen on March 01, 2016 | Columns | Comments

A Year Under the Wing

Roughly one year one month and a week ago I found myself in a place I never thought I’d be again, searching my soul to decide if I wanted to pay for words and ideas. From the start Crowfall was going to have an uphill battle to convince me to become a backer. I don’t trust easy and I’m not afraid to admit I’m a “damaged goods” MMO veteran. After Star Wars the Old Republic disappointed me I was stepping away from the genre then along came Mark Jacobs. Camelot Unchained was my last chance for the genre. If it failed, I was done. Besides, why would I need a second PVP MMO? I loaded up my proton pack with some concentrated skepticism and headed off to see what the “countdown timer” was all about.

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I soon found myself googling “Play2Crush” and J Todd Coleman. Rumors were the timer would count down and unveil a crowd funded sequel to Shadowbane, a game I never played but still hear stories about from MMO friends that did. That was certainly interesting. Based on my research I saw Todd as an extremely energetic creative type that loved PVP but spent the last several years making the kind of MMOs I despise. I wasn’t sure he had the creative restraint to pull of such a massive PVP task.

Then I read about the tyrannical old sheriff getting saddled up for one more ride. Gordon Walton of Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies fame got CF my full attention. I saw him as a perfect balance to Todd. Together they would either kill one another or form a yin yang of MMO development. I decided betting on a second PVP horse couldn’t hurt.

I kept an eye on the countdown to what would predictably be a Kickstarter. I would go in low and hope for the best. History once again repeated itself as I was spamming refresh on the Kickstarter page to snag the tier I’d carefully metagamed would be the best buy for what I could afford! Early bird catches the worm never rang truer! Worst case scenario I would be playing a PVP MMORPG. Best case scenario, I’d be playing two! After waiting 10 years PVP wasn’t being tacked onto the game anymore, it was the whole game as it always deserved to be! I still wasn’t going easily. ACE would have to earn my trust before their slick Kickstarter campaign lost it along with my investment.

From “Natalie” (oh where art thou) to the broad definition of the game I felt like it was typical MMO marketing BS. The original catch phrase was pandering like a politician, or so I thought. (JTodd later disproved my snarky theory when he was called out for pandering on the forums, he responded openly, explained the tag line and asked for ideas. He earned a lot of respect that day.)

As a fan of the Play2Crush concept we suddenly had entirely safe Eternal Kingdoms! Voxels were unproven in PVP. The KS was only for the Dregs but I felt that was glazed over in the presentation. They spent 1 million on preparation for the KS campaign which asked for 800,000k which made their bet even more risky. “Was the entire KS just a marketing campaign to attract major investors?” I was asking myself. (Again that would be disproven when fellow forum fighters asked, and ACE responded.) On top of all that I still wasn’t convinced CF was my type of game!

I’m a tab based MMORPGer, CF would likely be aim based and I lack the twitch reflexes to compete! Was CF a scaled up MOBA? An arena PVP game? Instanced PVP matches? How much of a “world” would it have? What the heck is a Guinecean and what’s the issue with female centaur? “I’m falling for it again!” I thought. I nearly canceled my purchase. Then one day came the image below.

Just when I thought I was out, it pulled me back in! Not only did they plan for hauling, but they made it a stretch goal which meant they thought it was valuable enough to attract buys! Up until the hauling reveal I wasn’t sure how much “EVE” influence ACE was planning for. After it I felt sense of justification. I’ve campaigned as much as any forum warrior for MMOs to embrace hauling. Simply enough hauling makes the PVP world go round!

It also meant CF would likely have to support it with a fair sized world, regional valuable resources, desire to control those resources and a need to transport them. The PVP ecosystem was forged and my confidence in the project grew. Heck, I decided I might even have to roll a Guinecean named Guin Solo just to live out my “smuggling” fantasies! Look at the image, it screams “Han”!

Hauling was the first element of Crowfall that I felt appealed directly to me, what I did in MMOs in the past and what I wanted to do in them again. I decided to wait and watch. One more big “offense” and I was out-hauling be damned…but it never came.

Instead I saw Todd and Gordon interacting with their fans many of whom were asking tough questions. They didn’t shy away and their answers seemed honest. I started to understand their decisions even if I didn’t agree with them. With millions of dollars and more importantly people’s jobs on the line they meta gamed the crowd funding process and they won. It was organized, calculated business and they felt it was necessary to accomplish their goal.

After a year of following Crowfall I still don’t always agree with ACE but I’ve tested their early results in The Hunger Dome and it’s developing into exactly what they said it would. Come launch, that’s all the matters.

Tim Eisen / In my columns I walk the line between fan and critic as I document the development of Camelot Unchained, Crowfall, and Chronicles of Elyria.
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