The Active Passive Training Bottleneck
Characters are Persistent, but Campaign Worlds are not, this is the tagline for Crowfall. As an Immortal Champion in an eternal War of the Gods, we have to choose our path after rebirth, actively and passively training towards our desired skillset. However, are there enough training options to the paths we pick that are flexible enough to maintain a sense of progress, or is character progress just a smokescreen to choice? In a MOBA you expect to be invested in overall development of your playstyles but no investment in your characters as they can change every match. Artcraft is leading us to believe that we can have an investment in our characters due to Active and Passive Training and an Eternal Kingdom to call home; are they right?
As you step into the world of Crowfall, you have to choose an Archetype which is a race/class combo that defines your base skills and their caps. You can further modify these through an advantages and disadvantages system, allowing you to raise or lower some of your base skills. For example a Legionnaire could raise his Polearm Skill cap by 10 points with the advantage of Military Training. Taking a disadvantage gives you more points to spend on advantages, but there is a limit to how many of each you can choose. It still is too early to tell how diverse and effective the advantages and disadvantages will be, but this is the first area of concern I have towards character development and the flavor of the month builds. Will those 10 extra points in Polearm become a required selection in Legionnaire character creation? Assuming your promotion class of choice still uses Polearms.
Through gameplay you will need to advance your base skills actively, possibly passively also, to qualify for a promotion class which set you only your final path of individualism. Your promotion class will differentiate yourself from your base Archetype fairly well but not necessarily from others of the same Promotion Class. Be careful in selecting your Promotion Class as there is no changing once selected. Unlike EVE where you can branch out a bit and try new things, a Promotion Class is the only ship you will be flying from here on out. Though once chosen, you do get another opportunity to adjust your advantages and disadvantages choices which is nice to fix a previous mistake or better define your character. Promotion Class choice is my second concern in character investment, it seems regardless of any active or passive training system, I am nearing the end of progression and will cap out with nothing new to work on.
We are not done though. Disciplines (up to three) are Runes that can be slotted and are what will separate Promotion Classes from each other as sub-classes. Since Promotion Classes can’t be changed, you need change a Disciple if you want to adjust a skill cap or gain a new base skill. Changing the Discipline Rune destroys the old one in the process so all progress you gain with the old one it is lost. So even if you switch back you have to relearn, through active or passive training, the skills they provide. The incentive to experiment is gone, the desire to try a build that seems wild and crazy is truncated, you have to decide from the very start your path and stick with it or reroll. And while this can be appealing for some, the lack of emotional investment in a character is disconcerting for most. MOBA players will probably disagree with my take on this but they don’t have a persistent character to progress as Artcraft is saying we have.
Remember that Characters are assigned skills based on their archetype, advantages, promotion class and disciplines. Active training is limited to a base amount, “only to get proficiency”. But what does this really mean? Assuming that the active skill gets you to be half as good as a veteran player in a short amount of time and the passive training you dedicate gets you the other 50%. While you're at a minor disadvantage in skill it is not crippling one, keeping the the skill gap flatter but giving you a reason to specialize. So in Artcrafts example, the Polearm Skill for a Legionnaire which has a base skill of 100, assuming 50 points of it would be actively training, but the question is, does active training only really only affect 50% of the initial base skill or is it the total skill cap from all sources. Continuing their example, if you take the advantage Military training which raises the cap by 10 points, then select the promotion class of Centurion which gives 40 and finally a Discipline Executioner which raises by 25 for a max Polearm skill cap of 175. I would assume that since you can’t use a disciple without a promotion, those would be excluded, leaving on 60 points (half of 110) as active training. How long will it take to actively train those skills. My main concern here would be the lack of options of skills to train where every base Archetype is essentially the same.
The rest of the skill cap points will be gained through passive training. Just like EvE, this passive training happens in Real Time. You queue up which skills you wish to raise to the next level of cap. You can set up to three skills to train at the same time. Each skill will advance at a different rate of time. You set a primary that skills at a normal rate, a secondary that takes twice as long and a third that takes three times as long. The training system does allow you to switch the priorities at any time. Seems fairly simple, but comparing the skill system to EVE is problematic. While on the surface the passive system seems similar, where it differs dramatically is the lack of flexibility. In EVE you can switch your training to match your next ship or crafting goal and there is NO limit to what you can learn. In Crowfall however you are locked down: once you proceed down a path you are stuck on it. Your Promotion Class will cap out in skills and you will need no for further training. You can change a Discipline Rune if you like to allow you to continue training something, but again that isn’t flexibility since you will have to retrain if you return to a past Discipline.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of the active and passive training system that Crowfall is pursuing. It is a nice blend to prevent grind and tap into the parts of the EVE system training that was nice without taking the bad. I just see a number of issues here with the limited amount of information we have. Manly is seems that it will lead to Builds of the Week based on best performing combinations and lack of options in character development. Sure it will take a long time to find the best combos, but eventually people will reroll to make them and new players will start with the favorite builds that match their play style rather than experiment.
Since your training opportunites end at a point of progression and there are only so many ways to build a Sentinel (for example), character investment will suffer and it will become a game of alts. And before those come in with the argument of say World of Warcraft classes, keep in mind, you can respec, essentially changing your play style and then there are also levels. My point here is that in EVE, passive training works so well because you always have something to work on and can be invested in a single character if you choose. I worry that Crowfall will suffer with passive training because you can and will cap in skills due to the lack of variety in progress in your Persistent Character.