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Horizontal Harvesting

Crowfall Columns - By Tim Eisen on January 16, 2017

Horizontal Harvesting

ACE is a developer that is very aware of what they are doing, who they are appealing to and how to get the results they want. They seem to have a firm grasp on how they are going to develop Crowfall. That said change is the only constant. As we’ve seen these games don’t just evolve post launch, they evolve pre-launch as well. The latest example of this is adjusting the idea for resource harvesting.

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“In traditional game development when developing a large-scale system there are generally several iterations or even wholesale scrapping of systems that the players never see or know about. In this era of crowdfunded games, our backers get to see, play and offer feedback on systems pretty much right as any system is built. On the positive side, it allows us to eliminate early flaws; on the downside, sometimes those flaws are only flaws because a parallel system hasn’t been built yet. In the case of harvesting, we had some problems we wanted to address now.”

Crowfall will not feature a pyramid of resources where only the top resource is valuable like we’ve seen in so many MMORPGs. Every resource, from the basic ones to the rare ones will be an integral part of their system. The last time I experienced this was Star Wars Galaxies and it added a variety of benefits to the division of labor. Even the lowest level character harvesting the most abundant resources had an important role and could make a living while gaining XP. I knew crafters that based their entire business on those low-level resources. Since all resources were needed to craft all goods there was no such thing as a useless resource and I’ve been pleased to see Crowfall heading in that same direction.

This means all sectors of the game world remain relevant. I’ve never liked how, in many themepark games, once you out level an area it becomes dead to you. I’ve hated how, after hitting max level, 90% of a game gets ignored becoming wasted both in terms of past development and future use. A resource system like the one Crowfall will feature keep all areas of the game world bustling with activity. This has the nice effect of making the entire game feel alive and all areas within that game relevant to the cause; getting things to make things to kill enemies with so you can get more things to make better things to kill said enemies even more efficiently yar!

Unfortunately, the node and tool system ACE was planning on was exactly the opposite of the glory I described above! This created a conflict; if resources were not more or less necessary then why were the nodes and tools used to acquire them? A simple fix was making quality the determining factor in how difficult it was to harvest from a node. This lines up directly with how resources are used in crafting as well.

“Mechanically, what we did was take the armor scaling of the node that was embedded in the tier and moved it into the ranks. (A rank 1 has 0% armor and a rank 10 has 90% armor.) Then we scaled the tools to increase the amount of armor they bypass based on the amount of a key harvesting stat on the tool. Ideally the crafter experiments this stat as high as possible during the crafting process. Since potential stat amounts are linked to experimentation, this creates a scenario where a blue quality tool should bypass more armor than a grey quality tool (unless you had the worst experimentation rolls ever).”

As seen below ACE adjusted the UI to help indicate some nodes take more stamina to harvest than others. It’s no longer about the type of resource node and type of tool required to exploit it (ex. A gold tier node requires a gold tier pick) now it’s about the quality of the node and the crafted quality of the tool. This is a nice, logical evolution of the original idea. Crowfall is such a hardcore PVP game even the resources have armor and the tools have to bypass it!

“By increasing the key harvesting stat during the crafting process (remember higher quality tools experiment higher), the player can reduce the amount of time and stamina used to harvest a node. Ideally a player will use around one stamina bar on a node where their tool is equal or better to the rank of the node. If the node is higher rank than the tool, it will take much more time and many more bars of stamina to destroy the node.”

That said to add some interest to the tools ACE gave them perks like “plethora of dust” or “foraged fruit chance” for example. It’s a small touch but a nice one that adds a lot in terms of value assigned to a tool. Durability and starting tools remain similar as discussed in prior updates – easy to get and easy to break lacking both the key harvesting stat and the exotic stats described prior.

This is a great change and should equate to better low end gameplay relevance for new players or players that prefer to stay in low key areas while not making high end players any less relevant. In many old games level didn't matter, you could meaningfully contribute from day one in a variety of ways beyond just PVPing. In PVP games that concept is paramount. I sorely miss it and I’m glad to see Crowfall calling back to it by utilizing a more horizontal form of resource gathering.

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.