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Crowfall Interview: The Power of Players

Gareth Harmer Posted:
Interviews 0

MMORPG: Getting back to the update, there’s lots more than just the day night cycle in patch 5.7 though.

Coleman: There’s so much in it. 5.7 is the first time we’ve done a procedural world. So we create all of our zones out of land parcels - mountain ranges, valleys, rivers, hills, canyons, all that sort of stuff. We’ve had those parcels for a while, but up until 5.6, we’ve had a designer dragging and dropping those parcels together to create a world. This is the first time the world is actually procedurally created, and it includes these black areas right here - these are mountain ranges. Over here, this is a canyon. It dropped this city over here, and this fort over here, and then it strung a road between the two.

It’s a significant jump forward in terms of technology. And yep, we did do a round of optimisation as well, but we’re not done there yet - we’ve still got a lot of optimisation left to do. In fact, I think we’ll be optimising right up to launch. The further you go, the more things get locked, the more it becomes viable to really optimise.

MMORPG: What’s your mission from this event at Gamescom? Are you looking to recruit more people into that process?

Coleman: I think just rising above the noise is the biggest thing, because what we’re creating is so different from anything else that’s out there, that it actually makes it hard to in a single soundbite.

“It’s kinda like WoW. Well actually, it’s more like EVE. But it’s completely dynamic. Well really it’s stories that are driven by the players, not by us. You’re not on rails. You can take over territory. The maps are completely procedurally generated. Players can cut down trees. You can win a campaign. It feels more like you’re playing a season of Game of Thrones.” I mean, it’s a lot, right?

In so many areas, we have strayed off the traditional WoW model of design for an MMO, so just trying to get that out there and expose it to people is challenging.

DebySue Wolfcale: I think that being at a show like Gamescom is important for a game like this. We’re coming up on the alpha milestone and this is a gamers show - it’s not really a press show. And if there’s one place where you can bring a game at this point, it’s very authentic, and it’s part of who we are as a brand to say “we’re exposing the game every day to 50 thousand people, why not expose it to these other people.”

People who go to that booth are probably our people. We’re in a hall with other games that aren’t that dissimilar. And so, it’s a great opportunity for us to hear what they have to say, and see a little test case of what happens after this event. What kind of feedback do we get, what kind of growth do we get, what kind of buzz do we get.

MMORPG: I noticed there’s a special pack people can get that’s tied to the event, so they can jump in if they want.

Coleman: That’s right. We’re coming up on 50,000 backers and 300,000 registered, and we still haven’t bought ads. That’s all purely viral. So it’s an interesting mix, it’s not every player in the world is a potential Crowfall player. We’ll even see how hard it is to find them - they’ve been finding us. So this is just another extension of that, it’s putting us out there so people can find us.

Wolfcale: I think what’s interesting is the people down there hosting the demo. We have a couple from our team [ArtCraft], and they’re really there to answer questions on things that go a little deeper, but the majority of people hosting the demo are volunteers who play the game. So again, as a gamer’s show, these are gamers who just like the game, that are excited about it, and they’re the best people to get to create some of that excitement in others.

Coleman: They really are. Having a player say “I love this game, let me tell you why” is way better than having a developer tell you that.

MMORPG: One of the criticisms levelled at all PvP games like these is that they’re difficult to stream. What’s your take on that?

Gordon Walton: I find that surprising, because the streams that are done are easily 20 to 50 times what we stream. There are streamers on every night. We actually don’t stream gameplay - we stream dev updates, but we never stream gameplay.

Coleman: That said, I think that to the extent that we are streamable now, that’s going to go up dramatically once we have a game with a win condition. With 5.7, that’s the one thing it didn’t have. We have all the capture points, we have the factions in, they can fight over the capture points, they can take them over, but they can’t actually win.

So it’s kinda like a soccer match where it all works, except there’s no goals and there’s no scoreboard. 5.8, our next version, will have that for the first time. We’ll have that for our next campaign, and that’s a significant jump forwards.

It’s a tough one. Sniping is a thing. And it’s a kind of thing in all of these games. Certainly we can give them ways to block the UI, but they can do that themselves, to make sure they’re not giving away easily identifiable information about where they’re at.

Walton: Just to talk about how we’re different, we’ve been streaming since the moment we put it up. We’ve never had an NDA, we’re willing to take the bumps from the players because the streams help us make a better game. When players play they send us snippets to say ‘hey, there’s a bug here, fix it’.

We took a different model. Why have an NDA you can’t really enforce? People always break it, and then they get caught, and then you have a customer turn into an enemy for no apparent reason other than you want to be secret. And since we were crowdfunded we said “why don’t we just be open? Why don’t we just be contrarian about almost everything? Since we’re going to break a bunch of the rules about MMO tropes, why not break more of the rules?”

Coleman: What I would love to see is [...] the players get together knowing that sniping is a behaviour, and adapt to it, and do false-flag operations where they send a single small party out, and right around the corner of that hill is 50 guys. And they send them out with a very recognisable landmark in the distance, just knowing that they’re going to pull some people in like a honeypot and crush ‘em.

Wolfcale:  That is what makes social media fun. That’s why people stream to have that crazy emergent behaviour. That is what it’s all about.

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Gareth Harmer

Gareth Harmer / Gareth “Gazimoff” Harmer has been blasting and fireballing his way through MMOs for over ten years. When he's not exploring an online world, he can usually be found enthusiastically dissecting and debating them. Follow him on Twitter at @Gazimoff.