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Unveiling the Skill Trees with ArtCraft Entertainment

Crowfall Interviews - By Tim Eisen on February 09, 2016

Unveiling the Skill Trees with ArtCraft Entertainment

Today we're proud to exclusively present to you the unveiling of Crowfall's skill system. Below you'll find Thomas Blair's extensive video preview of the system, and we caught up with ArtCraft's J. Todd Coleman to discuss a few finer points beyond the reveal video. We hope you enjoy this first look at the skills, skill trees, and how it all comes together in Crowfall.

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This is a fairly new concept to many MMOers so just to clarify for any chicks (that is my slang for MMOers new to Crowfall) that might be coming across this, in Crowfall you aren’t an avatar, but rather your account is attached to your Crow spirit which goes into a game/match and possesses a body (vessel). There are two categories of skills, account/Crow spirit “Universal” skills and “Archetype”- class skills both of which feature many skills with their own skill trees! Do I have that right or am I missing something?

JTC: Yes, that's correct.  We moved skill advancement from the avatar level to the account level so that the skill gains made over time would be available to you across all characters. The universal (or general) skills are things that are used across multiple archetypes (like crafting skills or stealth skills.)  The archetype-specific skills are unique to a particular archetype (or class) -- like Chivalry for Knight, or Zealotry for the Confessor.

Design Lead Thomas Blair outlines the system...

Hopefully that helps get everyone on the same page! Universal skills apply to any vessel you take over; meanwhile, archetype skills are vessel specific. Do you have to be in control of a vessel that matches an archetype in order to level that archetype’s skills? Meaning I would have to possess a tank vessel in order to set tank skills to level, or can I, for example, possess a DPS vessel, but set my Tank skills to level?

JTC: You can to set your account to train whichever skill(s) you like. You don't have to be playing an archetype of that particular type to do so.

Can you switch your skills at any time? If so does it have a cost?

JTC: Switching skill training can be done at any time. There is no cost.

How many universal and archetype skills can we have set to level at one time?

JTC: All players can train one universal and one archetype skill at any one time. VIP players can train one universal skill and three archetype skills at once, but those three must be spread across three different archetypes. We put this rule in place to ensure a level playing field: VIP members can training multiple character types in parallel, giving them more options to play, but not making them train any one archetype faster than a non-VIP member.  In a one-on-one situation, a VIP player and a non-VIP player who started at the same time -- and trained the same skills -- will be perfectly matched. 

Can we master multiple “children” skill trees or are we only allowed to level one child tree per archetype?

JTC: You can master as many child skill trees as you like.  They are not mutually exclusive.

Are all skill gains passive/time based like in EVE?

JTC: Yes, exactly.  We think it's a really novel system, and as Thomas Blair (our lead designer) always says, "I've been waiting for years for something to build that kind of system in a fantasy game!" So, we are doing exactly that.

The great thing about a passive skill training system is that it effectively removes the need for players to "grind" monsters to stay competitive.  I could go on vacation for a month and when I come back not be at a disadvantage to the other players that I will be competing with (or cooperating with).

That armor tree was quite impressive! This is a deep system with a lot of potential for developing a unique skill set. That said I think the elephant sized crow in the room is, how does ACE plan to balance such a broad system featuring what appears to be many thousands of skills?

JTC: Let me start with a baseline assumption: "Perfect balance" isn't one of our goals.  We want to create a system where players have the freedom to make meaningful choices, and you can't make meaningful choices unless some branches of the decision tree are more effective than others.

Instead, we are balancing to remove outliers -- skills that are simply too powerful, in too many situations.  Our goal is to have different skills impact your effectiveness more (or less) in a large variety of different situations.  Part of the skill of mastering the game (and in this case I mean "your skill, as a player" not a numeric value on your account) is going to be exploring those skill trees and figuring out what works best for you and your play-style.  And actively seeking out situations in the game where you are stronger than others who (presumably) made different choices. 

We've also set up all of the skill gains on a diminishing returns curve, so that you can make adjustments quickly if you feel like you're on the wrong track -- and still see a significant benefit from the choice you made, because the early gains are the most impactful.

Legend has it that EVE has so many skills it would take twenty plus years to master all of them! Any idea how many years it will take to master all of the skills in Crowfall?

JTC: We haven't done the math yet (and probably won't, since we're still tweaking these algorithms) but my guess is: mastering every single skill in the game will take quite a long time.

Just for fun any new disciplines you want to tell us about?

JTC: Not yet, we still have a big under construction sign on this portion of the characters.

Speaking of, how will they work with this skill system?

JTC: Disciplines will increase the maximum amount of skill that is applied to a vessel from the crow. All of the archetype skills can train to 200; however, most vessels can only use up to 100 as a maximum. With the use of disciplines you can push skills that you think are key above 100 on the vessel.

This may mean it is more time effective for you to not train every skill to 200, unless you can guarantee acquiring those disciplines.

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.