Monday, February 02, 2015

Crowfall: Eternal Heroes, Dying Worlds

Apropos of the last post [1], Crowfall offers their first look at how they propose to make PvP work:
What if characters are persistent/permanent – but the Worlds are not? 
What if your character exists outside of any given Campaign, and can join new matches once a match is over? 
This opens up a whole new world of design possibilities.
  • Characters are permanent, and advance over the course of many Campaigns.  This gives you the feeling of persistence that we’ve come to expect from MMOs. 
  • Campaigns, though, aren’t permanent.  They still be “persistent” between game sessions – but they don’t last forever. 
  • How long should the last?  As long as the game is still fun!  And they don’t all have to be the same duration.  Some Campaigns could last 1 week, or 1 month.  or 6 months.  or 1 year.
  • These Campaigns aren’t just “instances”, though -- they are fully populated, continent-sized, seamless zone MMO servers.  The only thing they have in common with an “instance” is that they are time-limited.
  • Because each Campaign is marching towards an end condition, this means that the World doesn’t have to be static anymore. We can break the Campaign into different “phases”, and adjust the rules of the game change during each phase.  We can allow the players to fundamentally change the world, without fear of the long term problems this might create.
  • Why not make each Campaign unique?  Why can’t each one have a completely unique world map (mountains, forests, lakes, castles, villages, quarries, mines, mills – you name it)?  The “exploration” phase of the game can be different in each Campaign.  The world will never be stale.
  • To that point: since each game is a stand-alone event, we can even change the rules (and win conditions) of each Campaign.  We can experiment with different rules, to see which ones are more popular – and keep the game continually fresh.
This is really interesting. In some ways, it's in-between lobby games, and fully persistent MMOs. It's not transient gameplay, because the "Campaigns" last for a long time, maybe even months or years. But it's not fully permanent, either.

The universe is persistent as a whole, but not individual worlds.

In particular, it also gives the devs a lot of leeway to experiment with rulesets and conditions. This part might prove to be unexpectedly powerful. It's entirely possible that the devs could randomly hit upon a new ruleset that becomes very popular and the format for future MMOs.

However, the problem might still be that people will flock to the winning teams. They'll just do so before each Campaign starts. You might be able to do something where people commit to Campaigns at the guild level. I.e. The guild chooses a world, and that's the campaign that people in the guild are committed to until the end. Since it's on a long timescale, new Campaigns can start while previous ones are still in progress, creating new boards where none of the existing "winning" teams can participate. Which will in turn create new winning teams.

Honestly, I have no idea how successful this will be. But it is really exciting to see someone trying something bold. I strongly hope that the Crowfall devs pay as much attention to responsiveness and technical quality as they are to design quality. It would be a terrible waste if this game ended up failing because combat was sluggish or an abundance of bugs.

1. The comments on the last post were just excellent. Well worth reading if you haven't.


  1. These campaigns look instanced in the sense that they don't interact with other campaigns and players can choose to participate or not.

  2. It's good to see that they at least have an understanding of the concept of timelines and the necessity for board resets. Having a bunch of different parallel campaigns won't really help with snowballing, though, other then reducing the frustration for being on the "losing" side. In fact, this design SPEEDS UP snowballing because it gives the losing a players an "out"; instead of suffering through being routed, they just migrate to a new world and dominate there, leaving the old world to be conquered faster.

    That said, though, the parallel campaigns does help in that it lets them prototype and test various rules to see which work best. If they follow through, that kind of constant testing and experimentation can be very healthy not only for the game, but for other empire PvP games in general.

  3. Sounds very similar to Path of Exile Races and Seasons, just in an MMO instead of an ARPG. I'm generally not a fan of PvP in MMOs, but I'm intrigued by this.

  4. I actually signed for for info on the Crowfall website. Now that I learn it is to be a PvP game, I am no longer interested in this game.