MMORPG: Another game in development, Chronicles of Elyria, is using a somewhat similar system. Except, in their game, players age and die, and they draw new souls from a Library to create new lives and new characters. Did you ever think of including aging as a mechanic? Or does the action of Crowfall kind of keep life expectancy naturally short enough?
JTC: Aging was a mechanic that was pretty common back in the text-based MUD days: your character would age, and in doing so, their attributes would change (strength and dexterity would go down, wisdom would go up). It wasn't a particularly expensive system, since it was just a number on a screen.
It has largely fallen out of favor in graphical games, for two reasons IMO. One, many players don't like their attributes to go down based on nothing more than the passage of time (it feels like an unwarranted and unavoidable penalty for playing), and two, it's incredibly expensive from an art standpoint (look at Fable, for example, they had to create weathered/aged versions of every variation of face/skin color/hair... that’s dozens and dozens of new art assets. To make it look right, you really need to adjust animations, as well. In an MMO, multiply that cost times every race in your game.)
It’s a cool idea, but when you place it up against what you're giving up (those same artists could have spent that time making hundreds of new items, dozens of monsters or a handful of new races or classes) and you'll see why most designers elect to spend that coin elsewhere.
…but is that always the right answer? Maybe not! I absolutely applaud the trend that we are seeing in this next generation of MMOs. We are revisiting a LOT of the old-school MUD ideas, many of which were left on the cutting room floor in our collective rush to replicate World of Warcraft.
In the early MMO days, we had this grand sense of design exploration. We tried crazy and interesting ideas, even at the risk of alienating some players, because no one was sure what would or wouldn't work.
We lost that as an industry. As budgets went up, the capacity for risk went down.
That's changing, and it's largely thanks to crowdfunding. I know a lot of people are down on early access, but the impact on our collective level of risk tolerance is undeniable. People are willing to take a risk on us, which allows us to take risks on ideas that otherwise wouldn't get financing (and wouldn't happen).
MMORPG: Will players have to re-customize their character each time they enter a new vessel? (Hoping for saved templates here)
JTC: Yes, but remember that you don't have to move to a new vessel, you can use parts from acquired vessels to upgrade your current one.
MMORPG: We know that vessels will be subject to decay, like weapons and armor. Is your vision that most players repair them or replace them regularly?
JTC: I think this will vary from one player to the next. Some players will collect a lot of them, and treat them as disposable assets. Others will become very attached to one (or a few) and repair and upgrade those avatars forever. We tried to make the system flexible enough to accommodate both play styles.
MMORPG: Will players always have access to their favorite archetypes in this system?
JTC: The use of the word "always" makes that question hard to answer. Will they have access? Yes. Will it always be free, instantaneous and easy on every world? No.
If you want to play a centaur, you’ll have to find an appropriate graveyard. How challenging (and dangerous) that will be will depend on which campaign world you are on and your ability to navigate the ongoing thronewar at that time.
MMORPG: How will this system with the VIP perk of having early access to new archetypes?
JTC: We haven’t exactly settled this, yet. As with all of our VIP rewards, the goal is to find that delicate balance point where VIP feels valuable but isn’t given an advantage (in terms of power) over non-VIP players.
One thing to remember, though: you can trade VIP tickets to other players for in-game goods and services. So these benefits aren’t only for “people who pay us”, they are for “people who contribute to the game” – that could be with a monthly subscription or it could be by establishing yourself as a master crafter, or a mercenary, or a broker of rare artifacts… or as a necromancer! … and trading that service to other players.
MMORPG: Can players flip back and forth at will from vessel to vessel during a campaign?
JTC: At will, no. Can they change within a campaign? Absolutely.
MMORPG: How much of an advantage will a legendary vessel be compared to a common vessel?
JTC: Our power curve is much more flat than most MMOs. Even a veteran player in full gear should be worried if they get caught in an alley by four mid-level guys.
Vessels are set up on a diminishing returns curve, just like items and skills (and practically everything else).
MMORPG: Since players are able to import vessels into a campaign, how are these safe from player looting upon death? What about the discipline stones to rebuild the character?
JTC: It depends on the campaign rules. Vessels are converted back into items when you die, and therefore they follow the looting rules of that campaign. On one side of the spectrum you have no loot campaigns (so they are completely safe and you can pray to the gods to get them back), and on the other end they are dropped to the ground and it’s up to you, or your friends, to retrieve them.
MMORPG: Can vessels obtained during a campaign (via crafting, looting or scavenging) be stored safely for use later in the campaign or are they at the same risk as other items/materials?
JTC: Items that are brought in (via your import) are safe until you pull them out your import and into the campaign. Items (including vessels) that are collected can be stored, but you have to transport them somewhere safe first. Until that happens, they are at risk – just like a tonne of stone, an elven blade or a recovered artifact.