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Freeish Building & the Dregs

Crowfall Columns - By Tim Eisen on September 13, 2016

Freeish Building & the Dregs

We’ve already had 1 whole year of Artcraft (ACE) QnA’s! My how time flies when you are anticipating a new PVP MMORPG…no, not really. Rather it grueling drags itself with its front limbs, because its back limbs aren’t functional, over seemingly never ending rocky mountains… Anticipation is a sadistic foe! I’ve always said MMORPGs are demons. I’ve said being a hardcore MMORPG fan is masochistic. I’m now comfortable saying crowd funding MMORPGs and following their development is downright Sisyphean! If it makes you feel better, I’m sure developers suffer many of the same plights.

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In the September QnA I noted two items of great importance. The first of which is the question about (mostly) fee building. Can we build (almost) anywhere? J. Todd Coleman (Crowfall Creative Director) was honest in saying currently no. In fact, it isn’t even planned but dry your eye because it is something he would like to revisit and implement should they end up having the time and ability. This Star Wars Galaxies veteran hopes so and I bet many a Shadowbane fan does as well.

In the days of yore freeish building helped make MMORPG worlds feel real. It created near infinite potential for exploration and strategic structures. From Ultima Online forward freeish building created content physically in game and psychologically in the memories it left us with. I still fondly recall hiking (as mounts weren’t in yet) for what felt like hours across the vast desert of Tatooine to find the “best weaponsmith on the server”. Like many people that achieved greatness the guy must have had a screw loose because his shop was in the middle of absolutely no where! Then again at that time we weren’t sure how PVP worked so maybe he was just protecting his interests.

Arriving at his small house, going in, shopping and having a chat was surreal. From that moment on I knew I could never go back to FPS’s. Many other journeys to far off places, hidden towns and secret shops further cemented my passion for this diabolical genre. I find it hard to believe any player with a similar experience wouldn’t be moved, especially if at the end of that long arduous journey we got to gank that merchant and burn his shop to the ground-after looting it of course!

(puts on Dev cap and hops on barstool) From a barstool developer point of view enabling such a feature creates one more item on the list that your game can brag about because so few others can offer it-especially in a PVP environment. There are thousands of games to PVP in if you count FPS’s. MMORPGs should utilize the mechanics that are unique to themselves (like freeish building) to attract and retain their players. (takes off Dev cap and slides back into ancient cheeto stained computer chair) Let us make an official offering to the Sandbox MMORPG God’s. Hear me O’ cruel and wicked guardians of the Sanbox! I will give you two, no three themepark games to sacrifice if you grant us freeish housing in Crowfall! So it is said, so let us hope it shall be done!

The other item I noted was the always contentious Dregs campaign. For those that don’t know or can’t remember the Dregs is the core module we all funded during the Crowfall Kickstarter. It also happens to be the roughest toughest PVP battleground! An all vs all full loot free for all! Why are they making The Dregs first? Because if they can make the Dregs work the other rule sets should be considerably easier to implement. Logical design strategy.

My question is if the Dregs is all we have at (soft) launch, does it hurt Crowfall or help it? I predict it hurts it. While I believe the majority of hardcore Crowfans like myself are highly anticipating the Dregs I wonder if casual fans and especially the PVErs (the resource gathering, crafting, content creating kind not the quest chasers) will be terrified of it? If it comes out alone it brands Crowfall as another PVP gank box in a climate packed full of them. (I’m counting the dime a dozen PVP survival games when considering this.) I worry that reputation then sticks preventing Crowfall from attracting enough player variety to fill in the PVP ecosystem. I’ve theorized it’s the PVP ecosystem that creates the kind of long term sustainability Crowfall needs to stay a healthy evolving PVP MMORPG. I also believe ACE is aware of this and will push hard to get another campaign out for (soft) launch. After all, with each campaign type a new type of PVPer is attracted.

Many of you and my younger self are possibly saying “GOOD! We don’t need casuals and PVErs!” But as I’ve tried making a point of in prior columns we begrudgingly do. They are one of the important factors in creating a virtual PVP world instead of a glorified MOBA. They emergently create the icing on our PVP cake! Without them we are left with a loaf of sweet bread. While still tasty it’s not nearly as satiating as a fully frosted cake!

Maybe MOBAs have changed what retains PVPers in MMORPGs? Maybe we don’t need a pvp ecosystem? Then again much like freeish building, with thousands of games to PVP in I’d think MMORPG developers are looking at what makes their games unique and trying to exploit those concepts. I’d put a PVP ecosystem at the top of that list.

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.