Crowfall has made over $US400,000 on Kickstarter in a day, and with good reason: it aims to break the wild, player-driven antics of MMOs like EVE Online into time-based "campaigns" while combining them with complete world destructibility. It's an attempt at reinventing the genre, and a much-needed one. Crowfall combines combat and EVE/Game of Thrones-style political manoeuvring with Minecraft-style building and destruction, and a dash of strategy for good measure. All of that sounds nice enough, but the campaign system is, in my eyes, the real game-changer. Here's how it works, fusing PVP and PVE into one frequently changing whole:
" Each Campaign World is a server or 'realm.' It exists for a limited time — typically 1 to 3 months — or until some win condition is met. During this time, the World will change. Each Campaign has four stages: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. With each passing season, the World grows more deadly as the land is consumed by an unstoppable legion of undead — The Hunger."
"At the end of Winter, the Campaign is over. A victor is declared, the map is wiped and that World goes offline forever... but the characters are NEVER wiped. Instead, the participants take their winnings back home to the Eternal Kingdoms, to prepare and strategize for the next Campaign."
Worlds begin, according to the developers (themselves veterans of games like Star Wars Galaxies and Shadowbane) like unexplored Civilisation maps. New environments are harsh, full of nasty enemies and shrouded in a fog of war. Slowly but surely, players will be able to claim lands and gain political power. Worlds will also be randomly generated and have different sorts of rules and goals based on what the developers decide to cook up. Factors that might change between worlds and campaigns include:
- Which races can participate in this Campaign?
- What is this Campaign's duration or end-condition?
- How are the teams broken up? Is this a War of the Gods? Guild-versus-Guild? Free-for-All?
- What resources can be scavenged? How abundant are they? How harsh is the game of survival?
- What are the rules for death and respawning? Do items decay on death? Can I loot the corpses of other players?
The way I see it, this system has the potential to solve some major problems that make MMOs pretty tedious in the long run. First off, there's the obvious issue of the traditional MMO end game: raid or PVP until you're sick of it/a new expansion comes out and presses the rest button on the whole process. Here, at least, the end game will likely be mercifully brief, if there's even anything resembling an end game at all. I'm sure Crowfall will (crow) fall into patterns of its own, but there seems to be more room for variety in this series of systems.
Second, MMOs like EVE Online (and even WoW)can be downright intimidating when you stroll into the figurative saloon as a new player, only to receive judgmental glares from longtime regulars emboldened by social clout and, of course, massive piles of loot. Again, I'm not suggesting Crowfall will necessarily fix that problem (characters and some rewards are persistent, after all), but each fresh start will at least bring down the barrier to entry a little.
Also — and again, I can't emphasise this enough — everything goes kaboom real nice. That's always a plus.
If nothing else, the ideas behind Crowfall are tantalising. They could, of course, come together less like fruit in a blender and more like eviscerated cattle in a tornado, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the former. I haven't really lost myself in an MMO in years. It'd be nice to be part of something like that again.