Mountains or Molehills?
Greetings fellow Crusaders, we're back for a look at what's new in the world of Eternal Crusade, and boy do we have some juicy stories this week! The two things we are going to look at are both recent revelations: first, we learned that there is currently a target lock being considered for melee combat, and this has long been a bone of contention amongst the community, with opinions sharply divided. Secondly, the concept of Arkhona being a seamless open-world, where all players would be battling together on the same server has been called into question, creating, perhaps the largest uproar that the community has yet seen. As usual, we have taken the position of waiting to see what the devs had to say, rather than knee-jerking with our reactions as many in the community have done. Let's take a look at what we know now, and see if these mountains aren't perhaps molehills after all.
Looking first at the melee target lock, first we must understand what it is and how it works. As to what it is: when you approach someone for melee you can “lock on” to them, which keeps your aiming reticle over them automatically, which allows you to fire your pistol while maneuvering in melee to get a solid strike in. The pistol is ONLY used in melee, and Brent has stated that pistols will be tuned with melee use in mind, meaning the number of shots per clip will be tuned so as to not give them too much advantage, while allowing them to still be useful, and not outdone by all the other firearms.
The reason this system is being looked at (and I stress that this is by no means final. As usual, everything is subject to testing), is that, in their internal testing, Behaviour noticed that two players that were closing on melee would tend to hesitate, waiting to see how the other would react. By enabling players to switch to melee mode, but still be able to fire effectively at short ranges, the devs discovered that the action would move faster, and players would act more decisively. As these are all good things, I can certainly understand why Behaviour would want to implement something of this nature and do further testing with it, to try and get gameplay to where they want it to be.
Many members of the community have voiced an outcry, however, as they claim that the “lock on” system removes a measure of player skill from the game, in the pursuit of making things easier. I also can see this point of view, and in many cases I might agree with it. Knowing that the dev team only wants to create as fun and immersive game as possible, I am willing to watch this experiment closely and see how it pans out; it's all part of the development process.
Now for the “big issue”, the change in plans from having a single server solution for all platforms and regions. Well, I hate to say it, but this was undoable from the start, at least in terms of a single server for all platforms. Sony and Microsoft do not share. There was no way on earth they were going to agree to allow all platforms to play together on a single server. You will never get a satisfactory, non-BS explanation from them, but personally, I think it's because once they get all platforms playing the same game competitively, they are fearful that one platform will prove to be superior, and that formerly loyal players would abandon their platform to move to the superior one.
Having put paid to that dream, we now turn our attention to the idea that one server could provide for all regions. Well, in this instance I believe that both Behaviour and the community were done a disservice. Pikkoservers were the technology that was supposed to make this possible, but, in reality, the Pikkoserver technology, while promising, is still years and years away from being feasible. This is something that Nathan Richardsson got wise to, soon after he came aboard. Nathan has tons of experience with the issues involved in trying to bring massive numbers of players together on as few servers as possible; after all he worked on EVE, Defiance, etc. He knows what is needed, and he didn't see it in Pikkoserver technology.
Rather than continue to string us along, Nathan chose to explore the options for what could be accomplished, and let the rest of the community in on the bad news. And is it all that bad?
What we want: huge, open, multi-continent world upon which all players can gather and fight for territory and objectives. Is this possible, given today’s monetary and technological limitations? No, sadly, it is not.
New plan: start with smaller numbers of players and smaller territories and increase both the population limits and the zone size over time, until we start getting closer to where we wanted to be in the first place. Seems like an acceptable alternative to me, particularly if the other alternative is to not have a 40K battle game at all. We still get four factions, lots of classes, tons of weapon variation and impressive customization options; we get to fight large (if not HUGE) battles, using squad-based tactics. Essentially, we get to play the game while it grows into what we dream it can someday be.
Above all else the game needs to succeed and to succeed it needs to be FUN, as Nathan has told us several times already. So let’s start with that as our mandate and worry later about numbers and new features.
As always, if you want to get involved in the many discussions about the development of the game, we encourage you to head over to the official forums and join up. Let your opinion be known on these and many other topics related to Eternal Crusade.
Late update: right as I was set to deliver this article to Bill for publishing, I discovered that Steven Lumpkin, Eternal Crusade’s Lead Level Designer is leaving us. Steven has been an awesome member of the dev team and the general Eternal Crusade community, sharing his thoughts with us on many occasions. While we will certainly miss his contributions on the development level, we hope he will continue to hang out and join us when we finally get to play Eternal Crusade. Good luck in your future endeavors, Steven, we can’t wait to hear what your next adventure will be.