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Interview: Crowfall Goes Freemium, Lowers Base Price With Major Update

Joseph Bradford Updated: Posted:
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Crowfall launched in July, bringing the long awaited throne war PvP MMO to the market. However, since launch its felt like it's been hard for the PvP MMO to keep pace with the other releases this year. Well, ArtCraft Entertainment is hoping its latest update, as well as its new free trial model will help draw in players who have been interested in seeing what its all about, but hesitant to drop in.

The major news of the update is that Crowfall is going freemium. This means players will be able to try out the PvP MMO for ten days for free before deciding whether or not to purchase. If they choose to do so, the freemium plan lowers the cost of the MMO to $14.99. 

One of the major criticisms among the players of Crowfall is its seeming focus on larger guilds, leaving the smaller groups of players on the sideline. This major update, alongside the new payment model to help draw in MMO players interested in trying it out, seeks to rectify that, focusing on initiatives that will focus squarely on smaller guilds.

With the update, smaller scaled PvP modes are added, with the ability for guilds of 20-50 people being able to seige and hold forts in Crowfall's PvP. Additionally, even smaller guilds can still effect the outcome of a fight, but holding smaller forts, mine and outposts, denying the area to other players. Finally, the alliance system itself has been updated to allow smaller guilds to form in Alliances to take on the larger guilds on an equal basis.

Crowfall also is featuring a fast pass for those players who just want to jump into the PvP. This will allow them to effectively bypass the PvE leveling grind and just jump right into the action. Crowfall is also improving the chat experience and utility, new map features to help with performance and navigation, campaign rewards for guilds are now more valuable and much more.

We had the chance to chat via email with the executive producer of Crowfall Gordon Walton about the update and how he sees the state of Crowfall right now.

MMORPG.com: I guess first things first: Why the shift to Freemium so soon after launch in July? And is there a reason for going freemium versus a free-to-play model?

Gordon Walton, ArtCraft Entertainment: Many games shift from pay to play to a freemium or a free to play model after launching.  This is a natural evolution to encourage more players to try the game. The marketplace has certainly changed a lot since we did our Kickstarter back in 2015! We added a buddy trial program right after launch and learned a lot from that experience and it was clear from that data that moving to free trial would be positive for our game and community. Our game avoids any pay-to-win mechanics for the PvP competition so free-to-try fits Crowfall best.

MMORPG.com: How did you decide on the ten day trial, instead of doing a level-based trial period to allow players to explore the game up to a specific point?

Gordon: Our game is focused on PvP action, not on the grind of leveling up so having the trial linked to the level limit is not ideal for Crowfall. Our players have told us they want to get to the fight as fast as possible, and so we’ve designed an experience that gets them to the PvP fight within a few hours at most, and within an hour with the FastPass experience. Our “end game” is participating in a campaign and most new players will be ready for that by their second day of play.  Campaigns require characters to be level 25 for Shadow and 30 for Dregs, and most new players will hit that between 1 and 4 hours depending on which new player experience they choose.   Players are competitive at level 30 and leveling up from 31 to 35 does take more time.  Our power differentials are very minimal in these higher levels to ensure good competition.   We do limit trial players to level 31.

MMORPG.com: Can you update fans with accurate population numbers of Crowfall, especially since vibrant PvP and a healthy population are so integral to the end-game success of its players?

Gordon: Per policy, we do not release server population/account numbers. 

MMORPG.com: As far as changes, how do you envision the tweaks being made to help along smaller guilds will change the grand scheme of PvP wars in Crowfall? How important are the smaller guilds to Crowfall’s overall success?

Gordon: We want to better serve smaller guilds/groups  as we know not everyone is part of a huge organization.   Our latest update includes zones designed for guilds of 15+, guilds of 35+ and for our traditional large (100+) guilds.  We limit guild (or alliance) concurrency in these zones to 25, 50 and 100 respectively so that guilds can ensure that they know what they could be playing against.

One major option for smaller groups we already have is they can join a Shadow Campaign, which places players onto one of 3 existing factions automatically.  Alternatively small guilds can focus their player in one of the new Dreg zones with a lower alliance limit, which is geared for smaller guilds and prevents larger guilds from flooding the zone. 

MMORPG.com: One of the changes noted that the Alliance system specifically is being expanded to allow for smaller guilds to band together to take on larger guilds – how do you envision encouraging this type of gameplay in practice? Is there an advantage to banding together as individual guilds, or would it be more of an advantage to consolidate at that point?

Gordon: We like to let players decide how they want to play the game. If guilds want to combine guilds by disbanding one guild and joining another they always can, but they can also choose to keep their identity and just ally with other guilds. These alliances can last for an hour or months, that’s up the participants. We’ve seen alliances that were only for a single campaign, those that are ongoing and even a few that were done for treacherous reasons. The Alliance system is one way that mercenary guilds can sell their services to other guilds for example. This is all part of Crowfall gameplay.

MMORPG.com: How will the new small scale PvP work – you mention that smaller guilds can now hold forts without being overrun – can you explain a bit more about how that will work in practice?

Gordon: In an open world game one of the more challenging aspects is to ensure that there are similar numbers of players in an area. In the past we really had no way to govern this, so it was possible for a smaller group to get absolutely swamped from a numbers perspective. In the 7.300 update we now have zone player caps which at least puts a ceiling on how many members from a particular Alliance can be in the zone. This should promote fights where the numbers are much closer in number.

MMORPG.com: Fastpassing the PvE – how do you respond to those who feel like this could impact the PvP, and are there restrictions to keep new players from jumping on this and then getting into a war where they don’t really know how to play their character?

Gordon: We believe players best learn to play their character in PvP by playing their character in PvP.  And yes, the learning curve is exciting and steep, but that is the challenge and the fun of the game. We offer incredible flexibility in how players construct their characters, and hope that once they have a feel for their “first draft” FastPass character, they will go back and continue tweaking their character choices, trying out different character builds until they find the build that works for their playstyle. We think players should build their skills in combat with other players, not by killing endless NPC’s.

MMORPG.com: Can you explain a bit about the new design leadership and how that will affect Crowfall’s development moving forward? You mention that Gordon is leading the way on this new initiative – how does Gordon envision this new team impacting the player experience long term/short term?

Gordon: We have the same design director, Thomas “Blixdev” Blair who has been with us since we started Crowfall. I’ve also been here since the beginning.   Our “new direction” is really just ensuring we have a competitive game for more than the large 100+ person guilds and listening to all our customers. Our 100x100 Keep sieges are a proven part of Crowfall's fun and certainly a peak experience within our game, but our players tell us they want competitive fights all the time with a guild/group size of their choosing. So we are working on making sure we offer more of these experiences in ways where the largest guilds can’t dominate the entire game landscape.

MMORPG.com: Feedback is king in any game, regardless of its size and scope. Yet in Crowfall there has been a feeling that larger guilds take precedence. With the inclusion of smaller scale PvP activities as well as ways for smaller guilds to make an impact, how do you see that feeling shift?

Gordon: We are now offering and will be doing more for smaller guilds to have not only specific content to create constant opportunities for these smaller competitive battles, we’ll be adding more to our Victory Card system and leaderboards so these smaller guilds can compete, win and be recognized within the game. We also have started releasing our design documentation of upcoming features on the forums for feedback before we start building a feature. We enjoy getting the customers to weigh in on our designs before we start implementing them. Recently we expanded our Official Crowfall Discord server where our customers are welcome to participate in feedback and talk with the Devs in real time.

MMORPG.com: A few months removed from launch, do you feel Crowfall has met expectations? How do you see Crowfall growing from here, and what can you do to assure worried fans that the MMO will be around for a long while?

Gordon: No game meets everyone's expectations and we are certainly no exception. We were overly ambitious by innovating in several areas of gameplay which makes our game unlike other MMOs. I’m proud that we have stuck to the majority of our original project goals. That said, we still have a lot left to do to meet all our customers' expectations and they certainly aren’t shy about telling us what they want improved! Our team is committed to improving the game with every update and I believe we are achieving that based on their feedback. We work for the customers, so as long as they support


Joseph Bradford

Joseph has been writing or podcasting about games in some form since about 2012. Having written for multiple major outlets such as IGN, Playboy, and more, Joseph started writing for MMORPG in 2015. When he's not writing or talking about games, you can typically find him hanging out with his 10-year old or playing Magic: The Gathering with his family. Also, don't get him started on why Balrogs *don't* have wings. You can find him on Twitter @LotrLore