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A Preview of Characters and Warfare

Red Thomas Posted:
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While I’m a big fan of a well done in-game industry, crafting isn’t worth a lot without a reason to do it.  In Crowfall that reason comes in the form of campaigns to the Dying Worlds, with all the copious flavors of PvP that come with them.  Gear and fortress building are the merest part of a much more complex system that revolves around giving players the choice of what game they want to play.

Warfare in Crowfall is looking pretty stellar.  It promises to give the player freedom to fight however they choose, whether through Sun Tzu-inspired grand strategies and employment of spies, through the application von Clausewitz’s precepts of total war, or by applying Machiavellian tactics to undermine the enemy’s desire to even engage in war.  However you choose to fight, you start by building a character.

Characters and Advancement

Not all races and classes have been announced yet, and this might be one of the more confusing aspects of the game.  It was for me, anyway.  Walking into ArtCraft’s Austin offices, I immediately noted the wall-o-character-stuff.  Seven feet from the floor to the top index card and spanning a solid five feet across, the wall listed perks, skills, and classes (many of which have yet to be announced).

What had me scratching my head was that some classes seemed to have racial traits, and what I would have thought of as races where listed as skills.  Yeah, I was confused.  Basically, there are races in Crowfall, but it doesn’t look like you chose them.  You chose a class, or archetype as ArtCraft calls them, and the race comes along with it.  Electing to play as a Duelist will mean that your race is Guinecean, for instance.

You’ll select an archetype, which will give you certain innate abilities, stats, and bonuses.  The aforementioned duelist would be able to use gunpowder and borrow, both due to being Guinecean, rather than because of being a duelist.

Each archetype will also be able to promote into more specialized classes later, three options seems standard right now.

In hindsight, that was sort of obvious from the game’s website, but it just never clicked until Thomas Blair, formerly of SOE and known for his work on EverQuest and Star Wars: Galaxies, took a few minutes to go over how skills would work in the game.  Further conversations with Todd Coleman clarified it even more, and I’m now very excited about what they’re doing.

The system reminds me a lot of some of the tabletop White Wolf character creation systems I once played.  After selecting their archetype, players will have a chance to choose between various advantages and disadvantages.  Taking one might diminish intelligence while giving points to purchase another perk that increases strength and a bonus to harvesting wood.

Todd says they know there’ll be options that allow players to gimp themselves, but that’s part of the game, and I’m really glad to hear that.  If you want to be a chef, you probably shouldn’t go for that computer science degree.  Most games would prevent you from doing something that silly, but then they also would prevent you from finding a cool way to use that computer science degree to make your chef completely unique from every other one out there.  The freedom to fail is an incredibly powerful, and often overlooked, tool.  I’m really glad to see these guys are taking advantage of it.

Once the character is created, abilities and how well you use them are defined by sets of skills.  It’s not set completely in stone yet, but the current thought for how these’ll work will be something like a hybrid of the system EVE Online uses.

Coleman says they want to have some sort of train over time mode, but are kicking around the idea of having the player work to skill up the first several points through use.  There are a couple things I really like about this.  First, being able to increase my skills while offline is one of the things I really like about EVE.  I work a lot, so it allows me to keep up with my friends, even while I’m offline.

The second reason I like this system is that it doesn’t really prevent you from doing weird things.  Maybe cloth weaving doesn’t really help my tank as much as it would some caster class, but I can learn it if I want.  All I’ve lost out of it is time, but I gain a lot of flexibility to try different things and see what might unexpectedly work.

Skills are expected to work similar to other sandbox games, which is one difference from EVE.  You’ll get better at something as your skill increases, and you don’t have to max it out before you can use it.  More flexibility, and I love it.  Though, I should also point out that Todd says they hope to keep the power curve far more level than in EVE.  Skill counts, but not so much so that you’ll be forever behind if you start a few weeks later than your friends.  Think of skills as offering flexibility more than power.  You can’t use a bow at all until you have the skill, and then you can’t use it well until you’ve trained a bit.

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Red Thomas

A veteran of the US Army, raging geek, and avid gamer, Red Thomas is that cool uncle all the kids in the family like to spend their summers with. Red lives in San Antonio with his wife where he runs his company and works with the city government to promote geek culture.