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The Good, the Bad, the Obvious: A November Crowfall Week

By Jacob Semmes on November 16, 2017 | Columns | Comments

The Good, the Bad, the Obvious: A November Crowfall Week

It can’t be all good news all the time in the mire of MMO development. Crowfall is no different, especially given its crowdfunding roots. Yesterday, J. Todd Coleman and Gordon Walton announced to no one’s surprise that Crowfall would not release on their sort-of deadline at the end of this year. They instead moved that date back another year, hoping for a “soft launch” in 2018. By “soft launch” I can only assume that this means backers and early adopters will be getting in around that time. Those details are still a long time coming so there isn’t much point in speculation.

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However, there was good news this week for Crowfans. There is an extensive, and I mean extensive, patch note review for the 5.3 patch which hit the Test servers this week. The video for the review runs over an hour long, the majority of which is Thomas Blair and Mark Halash reading all 14 pages of patch notes (see what I mean by extensive?) and explaining their thought process behind some of the changes in 5.3, both small and large. Here’s the video if you’re interested in listening to the whole thing. Fair warning, much of what they cover are bug fixes. Also, fair warning, it’s 14 pages of patch notes.

One big takeaway from the patch note review is actually very small: campaign maps no longer reset fog of war after dying or logging out. This probably seem insignificant to a lot of players, but I think maps have a much larger role in our MMO lives than some of us really think.  I don’t know if anyone else remembers the pretty indepth dev blog by Damien Shubert from Star Wars: The Old Republic about maps and minimaps. It’s one of the few developer posts that has had a lasting impact on how I look at maps in games, most especially how much I appreciate the work that goes into creating a useful map. I still remember first reading it during the SWTOR hype before the game released. You can, and should, read that developer blog post here.

Crowfall will use plots randomly pieced together to create a campaign map without any real PvE content while SWTOR used nothing random with maps designed for story and quests. While Crowfall is almost entirely different than SWTOR, I think the core philosophy about maps can be carried over and may well help with how campaign worlds piece themselves together randomly with plots and their associate landmarks. If you read the article, it details how important detailed landmarks are. These landmarks could create opportunities for player made stories focusing around these specific areas, all defined by how these details arrange themselves distinctly on the map. I believe the map will play a crucial part in Crowfall and even though the development team hasn’t shared much detail about the future of their map system, I believe it’s an important and fun discussion to be had, and one I’ll revisit probably far in the future.

Action harvesting comes with 5.3, which we covered a few weeks ago here. I’ll have a hands on with harvesting once it reaches the Live server. One mechanic that Blair discussed was that the position of the targeting reticle is dependant on power tray, meaning it adjusts as players move between stealth, combat, and survival trays. Without an actual hands on with 5.3, I don’t know how to feel about these reticle transitions. How intrusive will  transitioning between trays be? Or will the view change help players visually identify their current tray? Much like how a Magic: The Gathering card combines art, text, and numbers to create some kind of super memory link. Will it have that kind of effect on Crowfall power trays?

I’ll be looking into these questions and more when 5.3 hits the Live server. I’ll also look at the dozens of new disciplines focused around harvesting specifically. I look forward to diving headfirst into the new harvesting changes and seeing if these innovations are as fun they sound.

Hype-level
7.73