Crowfall is an upcoming MMORPG that had a successful Kickstarter campaign (to the tune of raising 1.766 million), which can be viewed here. The premise is to remove leveling systems, grinding, and deliver a game that is purely “end-content”. An interesting concept, but how could that possibly work? Well, it sounds quite well actually…
The story revolves around a mysterious force that is devouring worlds called “The Hunger”. The God in charge of the universe went to investigate, and never returned. The remaining Gods of course bicker over next in line, and utilize “crows” to fight their battles for them. Crows are immortal heroes selected by the gods. You are a crow.
The core game-play is based around players participating in campaigns on “dying worlds”. These campaigns rulesets vary and have different difficulties, lengths, and rulesets built in. In these worlds you compete against other players to acquire items and resources and the win conditions will also vary. At the end of the campaign, you are awarded a percentage of the resources/items you collect based on your performance.
These resources are important because they are meant for the other substantial part of the game, your eternal kingdom. This is the part of the game that is persistent. Your eternal kingdom is a place where you can build, set up shops, and share with your guild and friends. You can also all build within the same eternal kingdom. In this case the person whose kingdom you are in would be the “monarch” and assign lords, vassals, and so on and so forth. You can build forts, castles, taverns, homes, and shape your kingdom the way you desire. You can use it as a marketplace and get economic gains.
The worlds are procedural generated, so they are random, and destructible with voxels. To go along with these custom worlds are the avatars. Some archetypes are race and gender based, which could be a disappointing facet, but it’s meant to fall in line with the lore. In creating the characters you can also select their strength and weaknesses. Selecting weaknesses gives you more points to put into strengths you might want your hero to have.
The subscription system is nice and simple. Buy the game, and you’re good to go. There is a subscription service available with some perks for $15 a month. This includes allowing up to 3 characters progress their skills via passive skill learning. The subscription also gets you a discount on the cash shop items (which promise to only be cosmetic or designs for your kingdom), and priority access to servers.
Speaking of passive skill learning, that plays a big role in all of this. Sticking to the “all end game” trend and removing grinding, players are able to train their skills while offline. This keeps everyone relevant and competitive without the feeling of obligation to get on and level.
They have been consisting pushing out updates to the public, seeking additional funding from outside sources, and are in pre-alpha testing. They certainly know how to advertise and communicate with their target audience. I myself pledged at the Amber Patron – Early Bird level at $215. A steep and risky price to pay for something that could be hit or miss, but it included a physical collector’s edition (which they have elected to sell separately for $150-$180 a pop), 6 years of VIP, and several other perks over the current pledge rewards at that price level. It seems that Kickstarter backers got a really sweet deal by putting their faith in ArtCraft. Now let’s see if it actually pays off.
Vanguard SoH was actually the first game I adopted and actually subscribed to between Lineage II and World of Warcraft. It came from the creator of Everquest, and have many innovations that had me excited to officially subscribe to my first MMO.
For the time, the graphics were quite excellent, pushing my system to its limits. Literally. It actually fried my computer. Smoke and everything. Luckily I was able to get my parts repaired under warranty. I had access to the open beta as well as the official launch. One thing that has stuck with my memory is how people developed their avatars. There weren’t limitations on the sliders during beta, so characters could make quite grotesque avatars. They could be extra wide and extra tall and just immediately looked broken. The Elephant Man may give you a slight indication of how they appeared. Upon launch this was fixed, and avatar creation was roped back under control. I found it slightly disappointing, because some people had used the power for good and created truly unique avatars.
As for unique features, the game offered multiple means to progress. You could do it the MMO standard, hack and slash your way through mobs and be a renowned warrior as usual, or you could attempt your hand at diplomacy. There was a unique diplomacy system in place with its own levels. If memory serves, it was done via a card based minigame when interacting with certain NPCs. Me being the tank type, I refrained from using this much. You could also level up via crafting. This too was a multi step process, far from Lineage II’s simple “have items, here’s finished product”.
There were also two more important game features that grabbed my attention more so than the rest. You had the freedom to build yourself a house, as well as boats! This was phenomenal! Sadly, I never came close to participating in this activity. The amount of resources took entire teams of players working together to acquire and then the actual crating was a labor intensive process as well.
The game was designed with open combat, anyone could attack anyone anywhere, even in town (at least when I played). One memory I hold dear was when I came to a large dam that also acted as a bridge into the next territory. As I proceeded across it I was stopped by two players. They demanded payment for my passage. They out leveled me by quite a bit, so I simply turned around. They had slain many players, the bones still on the ground marking their deaths. I the other part of the problem was I needed to speak to an NPC on the dam itself, so simply going around the dam wasn’t an option. I waited for a couple of other players to go to the dam and be confronted. I was hoping greater numbers would give us a chance, but they engaged in combat and were quickly killed by the two players on the dam. They sent out a cry for help however, and a single high level character appeared and quickly dispatched of both of the highwaymen. We were free to use the crossing again, at least until those players respawned and came back. This was a moment I wasn’t able to relive for many years to come.
I again only made it a couple months with this MMO. I was a lonely tank, guildless, and the leveling was a real pain. The questing wasn’t all that inspiring and the level system required lengthy grinds. It was also plagued with bugs such as elevators killing people and mobs not dying or respawning too quickly. I decided I didn’t want to pay $15 a month and wanted to hold out for private servers to crop out. They never came.
On August 14, 2012, Vanguard went free to play. On July 31st, 2014 Sony Online Entertainment shut down the game servers.
While I was unable to experience much of the game, it had planted a seed within me, a desire for greater expectations out of an MMORPG. What one could do and how one could affect others play. It took nearly 7 years, but I was able to find this later in my virtual journey.
So picking up where part 1 left off, we’ll start part 2 with the discussion of the criminal system in ArcheAge.
The act of murdering your fellow Nuians (or Harayans if you’re of that faction) would result in crime points being accrued if the crime was reported. Attacking another player would create blood spatters on the ground. If a player clicked on them, they could see who was attacked, who did the attacking, and could chose to report the crime and add a comment to the box. A similar option was in place if someone harvested crops that were not there’s (though this could only be done off of farm land, farm land was protected). Instead of blood stains, there would be footprints. Once a player reached 50 crime points, if they died, they would be sent to trial. The court room for Nuians was located in Marinople. Players level 25 and above could enter the juror’s queue as long as they had no crime points. For each trial, 5 players next in the queue would have the option to attend court and judge their peer. While on trial, the defendant has a couple minutes to state his case, and the jurors are able to review his criminal record, which consists of all the crimes that have been reported, as well as how many times this player has been brought to trial and convicted. Other players are also free to witness the trials, as the court room is readily accessible to anyone, but only the 5 jurors get to pass judgement. The jurors decide on a time amount for the punishment, or a verdict of not guilty, and the computer average out the results. The more crimes you’ve committed and been convicted, the longer your jail time (and you were literally confined to a jail for real time, logging out didn’t decrease the time). Despite going to jail for committing “crimes”, players were often found innocent based on the severity of their crimes, the circumstances, or politics. If a player targeted specific members of a hated guild and murdered them, the juror would often condone their actions. Likewise, if they killed allies of the jurors, they would likely received the highest punishment. I found myself behind bars once. Oops.
Piracy was a viable option in ArcheAge. You could become a pirate by going to jail, and then escaping. This labels you as a pirate, and makes your name appear red to other players. This means they can kill you without punishment. Pirates also had their own island where they could venture to, as they were always at risk no matter who was around in the general lands. Piracy also stayed true to its namesake as sea travels played a large part in ArcheAge. Every player is given a rowboat for free via an intro quest, but most never use it as it’s slow and cumbersome. The Clipper is the next ship you can build. It requires designs, lumber, and cloth. It also requires a space to setup a building dock while you’re gathering the materials. I was able to build mine near my house. The clipper was much faster and great for a small group to travel on. Traveling the open seas also proves treacherous however, as literal pirates could attack you and take your precious cargo.
This made traveling with friends and guildmates all the more important. More people and cargo required larger ships, which ArcheAge also offered. You could construct trade ships, or galleys. Trade ships carried a lot of cargo and were quick, but were sparse on defenses. Galleys provided cannons, were much larger and had more HP and were meant for fighting. They also served another purpose, and that was for taking on the world raid boss the Kraken.
Our server was a bit unique, at least I think so, maybe not. There were to main guilds vying for power. Us on the West, the infamous “Mischievious”, and the leading guild in the East, The Crows. The world boss the Kraken dropped unique items that everyone desired, though because ArcheAge had open PVP, anyone could attack anyone, even during boss fights. And the Kraken was no ordinary boss. It took a minimum of 8 galleons, which needed to be manned by at least 5 people each. The ideal group was 12+ galleons with about 80 players or more. Organizing that many players is quite a task. The slightest miscommunication could lead to the entire formation (a giant circle of ships encapsuling the beast) crumbling, and it would only take about 10 players to do so. Both guilds would keep a lookout just in case the other guild decided to attempt the Kraken, which only respawned once every 3 days. Focusing on killing the games hardest boss while also watching your back was an extremely difficult task, one neither guild could handle, so for weeks they stood at a stalemate, the Kraken left undefeated. So the guilds held a meeting, and made an agreement, they would take turns, alternating kills. It was best that they at least split the skills rather than get none. The rest of the server was out of luck, the Kraken was taken indefinitely.
This agreement only protected the guilds from conflict in regard to the Kraken itself. Everything else was still fair. This was especially true for the upcoming launch of Auroria. Auroria was the Northern territory of the game. The entire continent was a PVP zone, and it was the area where guilds could stake claim to entire territories and build their castles. Another excerpt from my thesis…
“The first couple of months Mischievous had one ultimate goal in mind. ArcheAge featured the ability for players to own castles and be lords over entire territories. However, just like land, these were limited. In fact, there was only four. The game developers intentionally cut off access to this area for a couple months so that no one guild could rush and take them before everyone was equipped for it. Thus they announced they would open it post-launch so everyone would have a fair shot. After the two months had passed, they announced they would be launching a new patch for the game that would open access to the castle lands, providing the opportunity for four guild leaders to become lords, and opening up much more land to occupy. The leaders of Mischievous kept very quiet about their plans, only disclosing a couple days before the launch what groups we would be in. We all met up in an area and waited for the servers to go down. When they would go back up, the land would be open and we had to immediately be ready to log in and go. This was an all hands on deck situation and disobedience and laziness would not be tolerated. Once a territory was taken, it could only be taken by another guild if they successfully conquered the castle of whatever guild had won the territory to begin with, and this could only be attempted once every two weeks. This initial capturing of a territory and castle was a onetime event, and the winner would be able to accrue a fortune in taxes from the imminent land rush that would occur as players were desperate for land.
We all sat in our teamspeak channel, anxious for the servers to go up. We were pre-divided into our groups, as each group had a separate mission we weren’t quite sure about. I was part of the assault force. My job was to follow commands and kill anyone who did not wear the Mischievous guild name. In order to claim a castle territory, you had to gather specific stones and craft a pack and then use it on a lodestone, and if you completed this you would be granted the territory and the castle space. There were four vast territories, and we didn’t even know which one we were going for. Only the Officers did. They didn’t want to risk other guilds finding out our target and griefing us. The servers went up, and the mad clicking to login to the servers began. I popped in and was immediately thrown a party invite. I swam to shore, got on my horse, and began running with the 50 other players in our group. We were given our first directive, group up and defend the entrance to the caves that held the stones our crafters needed to collect. The 50 of us held the area, but against little resistance. The second group of 50 players consisted of miners, crafters, and a few body guards. We were given the order to head into the cave and clear out all enemy players so that our second group could have a monopoly on gathering. We did as we were told, and then our third group (which I didn’t even know we had) reported of difficulty in combat and we were ordered back to the cave entrance. With both assault teams combined, I realized we had 150 players all logged on and participating in this event. And we were just one guild. At this point the Crows were furiously pressing against us, attempting to break through our lines and gain access to the caves. Their spawn was inconveniently at the entrance of this cave, while ours was a bit of a distance to the West, so we dove back deeper into the cave and took our stand. “Here they come!” was shouted over our headsets from our leading officer, and it was an understatement. We stood at around 50 strong with our suffered casualties, our fallen comrades blocked off from rejoining us as they stood on the opposite side of the cave now. Having a very high-end PC, I found myself stunned as it struggled to render the scene on my monitor. It was not only the Crows, but dozens of guilds all from that faction. They had united to drive us out, and there were hundreds of them. We fought the best we could, but sometimes a zerg is just too powerful. We respawned and regrouped, now roughly 100 strong again. We had lost the battle, but they were too late and the war was set to end in our favor.
The order came in “Ok, now we keep them here”. Our mission was to now trap them in this cave. Our miners had finished gathering the stones and had left to go and craft the necessary items, so now it became a game of simply stalling the enemy. We mounted on our horses, and on our officer’s command set out as one unit. Running through the cave we came to that massive blob of bodies, but with our numbers doubled, the outcome was much different this time. No longer needing to secure the cave and the mines below, we were able to concentrate our strength and once again obtain the upper hand. After a short period, word came in and we were in possession of the item we needed to capture a territory. Our target was finally revealed to us, and we made haste to it by land. As we arrived to the shores our second group arrived by sea. “Everyone surround the leader! Kill anything that isn’t Mischievous!” Our leader had the item on his back and was surrounded by several dozen of us. The others had fanned out and formed a perimeter. A few moments later, the territory was ours. We were the first guild on the server to obtain a territory and become lords. After a quick celebration, the order came in “Ok, now let’s stop the Crows from getting a castle”.
This was a remarkable experience, again born out of human economics, politics, and power. Sure, this kind of experience could be scripted and programmed into a game, but then it wouldn’t be an organic experience. This was players battling, supporting, loving, and hating other players. Players affecting one another’s play with high stakes and consequences for failure. Players actually changing the way the world would be viewed, equipped with agency. Players creating a reality and bringing the virtual to life.”
Truly a marvelous experience. Best yet, I recorded all the footage! I condensed it into a video and added some music for your viewing pleasure.
In my final segment for ArcheAge I will address the problems with ArcheAge, despite the wonderful experiences it provided.
Well this release was no surprise as I had already written several posts on what it stood to offer and how excited I was for it. I even utilized it for my Graduate thesis project. Needless to say, I have a lot to say about it.
ArcheAge was officially launched September 16th in the US by publisher Trion. It was initially released in Korea on January 15th, 2013 by the games developer XL Games, led by Lineage’s former developer. Prior to launch, Trion offered “founder Packs” that featured bonus items, such as alpha and beta access and various goodies that provided boosts or equipment. These packs also featured access to the 3 day head start, a crucial element of the founder packs that many didn’t carefully consider enough.
Having played in alpha and beta, I knew exactly what to do come launch day. This was also largely due to the guild that I had joined, referred to as “Mischievous” in my thesis. The moment the servers went live, we were already in action. We had preformed level/questing groups to efficiently progress as fast as possible. The very first goal was to hit level ten, set up our small farms, and to acquire land for houses in our desired spots. I was able to get a house plotted down within minutes and my small farm setup next to it. I then progressed to about level 20, but then I received an invite to watch a movie with someone in real life, and in poor gamer fashion, I opted to pursue that endeavor instead of continuing on in the game at that moment. Luckily, this did not cripple me nearly as much as other players who completely missed the 3 day head start.
Taking a step back though, ArcheAge featured 4 races distributed across two factions. While this would normally be a point of contention for me, ArcheAge kept it interesting by allowing open PVP and the option to attack those in your own faction. The factions were divided by their two confinements. The Western Nuia and the Eastern Haranya. Nuia is home to the Nuians and elves, while Haranya is home to the Firran and Harani. While the Western races need no explanation (Nuians=Humans), the Firran are catlike humanoids, and the Harani are basically humans as well with an Asian influence.
The character customization was in depth and allowed for some great facial customization. Despite the graphics for the game being rather well done, I couldn’t help but feel they were dated a bit. I can’t even quite explain it. The game looked good, but it had a sort of… stiffness that I couldn’t shake. I never let it bother me however. I created a Nuian just as I did in Alpha.
As for the gameplay, I described a lot of it in my post about the Alpha, so I’ll refrain from those details I covered there. Some additional things I got to experience were player housing, the world boss fight with the Kraken, the opening of Auroria and claiming land for a guild castle, farming, the crime system, and, wow, that’s a lot.
Let’s start with the player housing and farming as they are linked to one of the tasks I already mentioned, claiming land. ArcheAge featured non-instanced land. This meant all then land was openly viewable by all players, and it occupied physical space in the game world, unlike many games that do it “instanced” (like Rift) where the player housing is off in a separate universe only accessible by players your grant access to it. Because this land was non-instanced, this meant there was a finite amount. This is why our goal right out of the gate was to claim land. After the initial 3 day head-start, all of the land was claimed on my server. That meant, everything was taken before the game even official launched. I had been lucky and grabbed 7 16×16 plots and 5 8×8 plots. This meant I had 6 large farms, 5 small farms, and a house. Many players were lucky to have more than 1 16×16, many didn’t even have a 16×16. This caused an uproar among the players as the game was advertising “stake your claim” and the subscriptions were saying you could have land if you were a subscriber, so players were subscribing, but there was no more land to be had. There was a couple reasons for this, but I will address this later in my “issues with ArcheAge” section.
The very first plot I claimed was for my house. A simple single room cottage, I placed it in a splendid lot in Marinople on the corner of the path, across from the workstations. A waterway just off to the left I had easy access to the sea. I also had space to setup my little 8×8 farm. I used this to grow the early requirements for the trade route turn in quests, and eventually used it to raise sheep, geese, and polar bears. My 6 large farms were located in various areas of the world. I had 2 large farms and 3 small farms in Hellswamp, a PVP enabled (and thus slightly dangerous) zone. I also had 2 large farms and a small farm in Two Crowns, one of which I purchased from a guildmate. They were on the beach and had a splendid view. The fifth and sixth were in Auroria by our guild castle. In hellswamp I harvested mushrooms to do trade runs to earn cash on the large farms. On the small farms I raised sheep for wool. I would then process this wool into cloth and sell on the auction house. In Auroria I grew trees to sell lumber. In Two Crowns I also grew trees, as well as materials to feed my various farm animals on the other farms. I could easily spend 2 hours a day farming/harvesting and planting on my farms. And the harvesting cycles ranged from 48 minutes to 3 days (real time) depending on what you were planting.
I actually had a real life friend (and veteran of my WoW days) join me in the ArcheAge venture. He was one of the ones unable to acquire land, however ArcheAge allowed you to designate who could use your land. So I allowed him to make use of my space. This allowed him to gain materials for his trade runs despite owning no land.
I LOVED this aspect of the game. It was fun keeping track of it and earning income doing this. I also enjoyed having my own home displayed where everyone could see it. I was able to put my collectibles and trophies on display in/on my house. And there was always the prospect of earning more money to buy more expensive houses, but these required larger plots of land. My goal was to apply 4 16×16 plots in Two Crowns and use them to build a mansion there, but that goal never came to fruition.
With these farms I was able to process materials, craft gear, and make money on the auction house. ArcheAge actually allows you to level up through fighting OR farming/crafting. My alt character leveled from 10-50 simply by processing the wool from my sheeps into cloth. Awesome! The crafting system itself was simple like Lineage 2 where you simple have the materials, are required to have so many labor points to craft the item, hit the button and get it.
These labor points were required to do almost anything in the game. If you wanted to harvest materials on your farm, or plant, or mine rocks at the query, or craft, it all took labor points. These points were accrued over time if you were logged in, and if you were a subscriber while you were logged off. They were also required for constructing houses or turning in trade packs. I will discuss them further in my “issues with archeage” section.
A major point of the farming was for trade runs, but I already described this in the alpha post, so I’ll skip over it here, except for a little story. If you read my Vanguard: Sage of Heroes post, there was a moment when two players were acting as highwaymen and charging a toll for people. I loved the interactivity the open PVP allowed players. I was able to experience a similar issue in Archeage. I am going to just pull a paragraph from my thesis for this.
“One of the main sources of income was creating trade packs and then moving them from one territory to another to exchange them for gold. These packs could be picked up by other players, and your character would dropped them if you died or your wagon you were using to transport them was destroyed. This of course made thievery/piracy a real possibility and threat. Players also found another way to exploit their follow players however. ArcheAge featured collision mechanics, and some particularly rude players were not afraid to utilize them to their benefit. They would gather at areas (usually bridges) on their tractors and block the path. This would make it impossible, or extremely difficult for players to pass through the area. They often did this at prime trade times that were dictated by “peace timers” between the PvP zones which made combat impossible for a certain duration of time (otherwise players would simply kill them, destroy their carts and carry on their way). They would then demand payment from the players, and only let those who paid a toll pass by. As this was a clear form of griefing, only guilds who did not fear their guilds reputation being damaged would conduct such operations. They would also have to be a guild that could withstand retaliation from the guilds they were upsetting. Often Goon Squad would conduct those “toll road” operations. Mischievous was often granted free passage, as the consequences for upsetting the guild were known to all those in the server.”
In Part 2 I will discuss the crime system, sailing, Kraken, and guild castles.