I recently exchanged some questions in an exclusive interview with Gordon Walton, Executive Producer of the upcoming fantasy sandbox MMO Crowfall. These questions ranged from how a passive training “EVE-like” skill system might be realized in a fantasy universe to specifics on stealth and anti-stealth mechanics within the worlds they are creating.
This is an exciting amount of insight into some of the lesser known specifics of the upcoming title. It should be stated for the record that Crowfall is currently in a pre-alpha stage and all of the below answers could, might, and likely will change before release. We tried to stick to more of the generalized “vision” questions as we could to avoid cornering the developers on any given specifics this early in development.
Hope you enjoy!
TMC: We’ve seen just a little about the EVE-like skill system you guys are planning on implementing in Crowfall. With this being a solid building block for character customization, can you elaborate a little in how your system might differ from its originator? Do you plan on implementing EVE-like “prerequisite” skills for further depth in character customization?
Gordon: The EVE skill system uses a rank 1-5 structure for every skill, with certain skills acting as prerequisites for more advanced skills. There are so many skills in EVE at this point, last I read it was over 40 real life years to max them all.
While using a system similar to this we are making a few changes with the Crowfall skill system. One of the first aspects we want to try a differently is to approach how fast the player gains skills. To this end, Crowfall skills have a value from 1-250 with a specific maximum for a character based on a combination of the players archetype, promotion class, disciplines and advantages. I think the example we have given in our advancement FAQ was the Legionnaire maxing his potential polearm skill at 175.
We think that by using a large number scale the player can feel skill gains even on the longest skills. It is nice to always log in to a 1 or 2 point gain in a skill!
Additionally, we allow all of our players to train multiple skills in parallel, not just one. And one of the benefits of being a VIP member is that we extend that, allowing you the ability to train even more skills at one time.
We are definitely considering adding prerequisites to the skill tree. We’re working on our combat milestone right now, and we want to let that system settle a bit before we lock down skill advancement.
TMC: We know that how well you do something (to an extent) in Crowfall is based off of your training in that skill. Are abilities merely impacted by the skill? Or do you unlock abilities based on the achieved skill %? For example; Stealth Skill at X% grants players the “Backstab” ability or merely makes “Backstab” Y% better.
Gordon: First: we make a distinction between “skills” and “powers.” Skills are passive; they affect how well you do things (or react to things) in game. Powers are active; you kick them off to make something happen.
Currently, powers are being granted by the archetype, promotion class, and disciplines. Skills are impacting the way those powers function in various ways (mainly through damage right now, since that is our focus for the first combat deliverable). In the future, advancing a skill will impact specific powers in other ways, or affect the impact that other player’s powers will have on you, when you are the target.
TMC: You’ve implied that many of Crowfalls skills (but perhaps not Powers?) are interchangeable between Archetypes. Are there certain Archetypes you don’t envision having access to say Stealth (or Tradeskills like Alchemy for that matter)? Is this a thematic decision at this point, or is it based off of balancing access to specific abilities/combos.
Gordon: Generally, there should be disciplines that allow for some skill crossover – the biggest challenge being animation pipeline. We can’t afford to create every power for every archetype, so we’ll have to be selective. Powers that aren’t synchronized to a particular animation (such as a 3-step attack chain) are easier, because we can use generic animations for those.
Our goal is to provide as much cross-over as possible; if we can make it work from an animation standpoint, we’ll probably do it. The list of archetypes that have access to any particular disciplines will, of course, expand over time as we add animations to races that lack them.
TMC: Can you describe your vision for Disciplines/Promotion Classes and their potential to grant access to a skill tree (like Stealth for lack of a better skill to pick from *wink*) to Archetypes that normally don’t have access to it?
Gordon: Stealth is a tough one, because it requires a lot of animation work to make it look good. Not all archetypes will have access to it – so instead, we’ll likely give some archetypes access to hunting (anti-stealth) as a viable alternative.
As we said, though: animations are a larger limiter than design vision at this point, when it comes to which disciplines an archetype has available. We may start with a more limited set of archetype/disciplines at launch, and continue to “unlock” those combinations over time.
TMC: Seeing as how abilities potentially get “better” with higher skill, are you planning on implementing disciplines/promotion classes that can push a character’s skill percentage cap above 100%? What advantages might a player experience by getting above the standard normal skill cap?
Gordon: 100% is the “theoretical maximum” of a human hero. As a point of reference: if your character has a 100% sword skill, then they could compete as an Olympic-level fencer.
Since our players are immortal champions, chosen by the Gods at the time of their death, they often have skills above the “theoretical maximum” that a human mortal can achieve. Anything above 100% is heroic level; bards wrote poems that tell of your prowess in this area. Your achievements are the stuff of legends.
How the skills exactly relate to any given activity is impossible to say: one, because we don’t know yet, and two, because it will be different for each power. As a general rule, they are all set up on a diminishing returns curve so encourage players not to invest all of their time and energy into one area, and to allow new players to be competitive with veteran players who started the game sooner.
TMC: Having (me personally) put together a group of players highly interested in stealth mechanics within Crowfall, would you share with us your general vision for how Stealth might work in the game? Are we talking Guild Wars 2 type stealth that is short, and intended primarily for combat situations? Or are you leaning towards World of Warcraft and permanent stealth that breaks on combat?
Gordon: The model we are looking at first is the more permanent stealth model – this model works great for both for scouting and assassinations — that breaks on combat. Of course we’ll include the (fairly standard at this point) movement reductions. On top of this, we plan to add some interesting elements (such as armor modifiers and visibility).
One note about armor: we’re breaking the traditional trope of “heavy armor is only for tanks, light armor for rogues, and robes are for mages”. This is a holdover from traditional tabletop gaming (and AD&D, specifically) and was done for both thematic and balance reasons. We’re going with a different approach: different types of armor have different strengths and weaknesses. If you want to wear plate mail as a Fae Assassin, expect to make more noise… (but, on the other hand, you will have much more armor if they do get popped, so it might be worth it.)
That’s probably about all I can say about stealth, for now. I can say that stealth is a critical area of gameplay for Crowfall – stealth in a traditional PvE game is going to feel very artificial compared to stealth against players, where scouting and infiltration and assassination can turn the tide of an entire Campaign.
(We do have one crazy idea that we REALLY want to try, that would be a new mechanic between the stealth/anti-stealthers – but we’ll probably have to save that for a future stretch goal. After all, experimentation is always expensive. How’s that for a teaser?)
TMC: Do you envision allowing stealth-capable characters to re-enter stealth once exposed in combat (to potentially escape or re-activate some attack that keys off of stealth) or are you leaning more towards making stealth a one-and-done ambush tool?
Gordon: It’s a balance: we are talking large scale fights in Crowfall, it is very conceivable a player could get “trapped” in combat unable to reactivate stealth. In some situations, this makes sense: if you appear in a crowd of enemies and assassination someone, you really should have to break away from the crowd to be able to engage stealth again.
That said, it does need to be possibility, otherwise it would really suck for stealth players.
This is an area that we’ll have to play with, to find the right balance. We want to allow the possibility, but not make it too easy (and therefore prone to abuse).
TMC: A favorite aspect of Shadowbane (which we know you guys are using for a template/base for some of the Crowfall systems) for me was the Stealth system and how players arranged themselves around the emergent play that it led to. I recall thieves running around pickpocketing farming groups and bounty hunters with tracking (and reveal skills!) freely running around trying to thwart/kill them. As much as Stealth is clearly going to be a part of the Crowfall vision, what are your thoughts on anti-stealth mechanics?
Gordon: We definitely see the “anti-stealth” character as a valid playstyle. I remember playing an Aracoix in SB whose job was to watch out for the stealthers, pop them out of stealth and put a bleed and a snare on them! The archetype we have tentatively identified to cover this role at launch is the Stalker – and we want to mirror this skill set across one or more disciplines, as well. (I’m sure bounty hunter would be one of them.)
That’s all we had for this interview. I want to thank Gordon Walton for sharing these answers with TM and the extended Crowfall audience who will likely make their way over here to read this!
If you haven’t check out Crowfall, this is the perfect time to do so. There is a lot of exciting potential with this title, and the first Alpha test could start as early as the end of summer. Crowfall will not have an NDA of any kind as it enters Alpha. Prepare to see lots of this game as this title develops!
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Scree.