Seems play 2 Crush is being generous this week so we are going to be getting info every day! At least I think.
Here is the info that dropped yesterday –
02/02/15 – Hunger Week… It’s About Time.
Welcome to Hunger Week!
Until now, we’ve been describing the game in general terms. The real differences between Crowfall and other MMORPGs have been “creeping around the edges” of our weekly updates.
Today is the turning point – where we start to separate away from the herd. Unfortunately (but inevitably) that means we’re going to turn some people off today. But hopefully those of you who stick around will be here for the long haul.
About a decade ago, I was the creative director on a game called “Shadowbane.” Shadowbane had a lot of flaws, but the vision is still something that I am very proud of. The Wolfpack founders (of which I am one) came up with something innovative – really innovative. It’s surprising how rare that is, even in the game space.
Unfortunately, the vision was also flawed. SB had tons of technical and operational issues, yes, but that’s not what I am talking about. I’m talking about the crack in the foundation of the design:
At its heart, SB was a strategy game. And strategy games can’t last forever.
To illustrate this point, let me use an analogy. Every Thanksgiving, my family gets together for a game of RISK. Only it’s not “let’s play Risk every thanksgiving” – it’s “let’s pick up from where we left last year, in the SAME game of Risk.”
The same game. The same conflict. Year after year after year:
Imagine that, in year 2, Uncle Bob starts winning.
In year 3, Uncle Bob presses the advantage. By the end of this game session, Bob basically owns the board.
Fast forward 10 years. We’re still playing that same game. Uncle Bob is now an unassailable tyrant.
The other players (i.e. everyone other than Uncle Bob) all wander away from the board to watch football or something – because they know they don’t stand a chance. If a new player joins the game, Bob snuffs them out in their infancy, and they quit immediately.
Everyone is bored. Even Uncle Bob is bored – because he hasn’t faced a challenge in over a decade. But he won’t give up by choice. That isn’t human nature.
In Shadowbane, I called this phenomenon server stagnation. The game is incredibly fun – right up until someone wins. Then, without a server reset, the game stagnates and everyone quits.
One of the key elements of strategy games is they have a win condition followed by a board reset. You start the game, you play the game, someone wins. You reset the board and start a new game.
One of the key elements of MMOs is that they are persistent. Actually, that’s not the right word, is it? They’re permanent. Players expect to play them over years, and the game world is (generally) static.
These two design goals seem diametrically opposed: the game must reset and the game must last forever.
Can they be married together? I think they can.
Eternal Heroes, Dying Worlds
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.
So, how do you explain this?
The Hunger. The Hunger is a mysterious, destructive force that spreads from one world to the next, like an infection – twisting and corrupting everything it touches. Eventually, the Hunger consumes the World itself, and it is destroyed.
Players take the roles of Divine Champions, immortal participants in the War of the Gods. They join the Campaigns to scavenge the Dying Worlds for relics, resources and glory.
A Campaign might look like this:
Phase 1 is Spring. The Campaign map is hidden by fog of war. You are dropped (typically naked) into an unknown, deadly environment. This world is filled with the ruins of ancient castles, abandoned mines and haunted villages – which you have to explore to scavenge for weapons, tools and the resources to start building fortifications.
Phase 2 is Summer. The Hunger starts to infect the creatures. Resources become scarce. Your team claims an abandoned quarry and must fight to keep it. You use the stone to build an ancient keep, to use it as staging areas to attack their neighbors.
Phase 3 is Fall. The creatures become more deadly as the Hunger takes hold. Resources are heavily contested and transporting them is fraught with peril. Your guild frantically builds a wall around your city, as the nature of conflict shifts from smaller skirmishes to siege warfare.
Phase 4 is Winter. The environment is brutal. Warmth is hard to come by. Your kingdoms grows in strength; your neighbors falter and you demand that they swear fealty or face complete loss of the Campaign. Instead, a handful of smaller kingdoms choose to band together against you.
Phase 5 is Victory and Defeat. The World is destroyed in a cataclysmic event as the Campaign comes to an end. Your Kingdom emerges victorious, and you return to the Eternal Kingdoms to enjoy the spoils of war. Your adversaries head home, too — to lick their wounds.
No one quits. Instead, both groups strategize on how to dominate the next Campaign.
This is the experience we are trying to create. Even if I lose, it won’t feel hollow.
We saw a similar pattern emerge during the SB beta… by accident, not design. Occasionally, changes to the game design would require us to wipe the world. Every time it happened, I was worried that players would quit the game. Instead, we saw incredibly high peak concurrency numbers after each wipe. Every time. The “land rush” to grab the key positions in the new world was incredibly alluring. If the world map was unique, I expect it would have been even more popular.
The downside of this approach is that we don’t want the universe to feel too transitory. That’s why we added the Eternal Kingdoms: super-sized player and guild housing Worlds. Trophy rooms that you can use as a “lobby” between matches/campaigns.
(To make sure these Worlds don’t compete with the “main” game, i.e. the Campaign Worlds, we’ve completely stripped them of resource factories and anything but common reagents. If you want to fill your trophy room, you have to go out and earn it.)
This is the foundational change that we’ve made. Crowfall isn’t an MMO with a “battle ground” strapped to the end of the level treadmill. Crowfall isn’t a three-way tug of war that never resets. It’s a real blend of a strategy game and an MMO.
There’s more (a LOT more) to come, but it all starts with this basic idea:
Eternal Heroes, Dying Worlds.
And here is the Info Drop from today –
02/03/15 – Day 2 – Hunger Week Rages On!
Hunger week continues. In light of yesterday’s announcement, some of these items will have a LOT more context:
First up, we’ve got the Templar archetype page. This one is interesting because it shows a few elements that you haven’t seen before:
- Most notably, a screenshot showing combat against some monsters (we said no raids, guys — OF COURSE there will be PvE!),
- a first look at what a Hunger-infected creature look like in-game,
- a bit of narrative about how the Hunger is viewed by the Immortals,
- a side-by-side concept of the Templar in both genders.
Additionally, just to illustrate the point, we’re dropping you a lineup of that same undead warrior as he looks through the course of a Campaign: spring, summer, fall, and winter.
And another screenshot of a Templar in combat!
That’s it for today!