Frequently asked questions
- You call Crowfall a throne war simulator, what is that?
- How is a throne war simulator similar to an MMO?
- What is a ‘restart mechanic’?
- Are reset mechanics typical for an MMO?
- How do you combine these two concepts?
- What is unique about this approach?
- Is it like a MOBA?
- How big do you expect each campaign to be? And how long will they last?
- But since the campaign worlds go away, doesn't that make it less persistent than most MMOs?
- Do I get anything for participating in campaigns?
- What does a typical campaign look like?
- Are any of the worlds permanent?
- Doesn’t that create balance issues? Using the analogy above, isn’t this like uncle bob bringing a bunch of tanks into the next game of risk, after the board reset?
- But what if I choose a campaign that allows for items, but I don’t bring any? That would be unbalanced!
- Why would I choose to play in the different rulesets of campaigns?
- That means I won’t have access to certain resources, if I am unwilling to play on those worlds?
- What is to prevent people from non-stop campaign hopping?
- How many campaigns will be running at once?
- Why would I participate in a long campaign? It seems like I would get more rewards from doing a bunch of shorter ones?
- Are there any victory conditions other than the passage of time?
- How open are you guys to trying new ideas within campaigns?
- How are rewards determined at the conclusion of a campaign?
You call Crowfall a throne war simulator, what is that?
There isn’t a good term that adequately describes what Crowfall is, so we came up with one: throne war simulator. This is a new type of online game. It combines the persistence of an MMO with the ability to win (or lose), like a strategy game. Thousands and thousands of players, vying for control of a virtual throne -- where the only options are: you win, or you die.
How is a throne war simulator similar to an MMO?
In some ways, our game is an MMO. In others, it is very, very different.
Crowfall will support thousands (and thousands, and thousands…) of players in a shared persistent world (well, worlds, actually). In that way, it in MMO.
But it is also a strategy game. The key characteristic of a strategy game — checkers, chess, “Monopoly” and “Risk”, for example —is that it has ‘victory conditions’. Rules by which one individual (or team) can win.
To make the game work for repeated play, there is also a ‘restart mechanic’ after each victory, where the board state is reset to allow players start the game again on (more or less) equal footing.
What is a ‘restart mechanic’?
A ‘restart mechanic’ is exactly that: a way of returning the game to a start-state, so players will remain interested in playing the game. It is a necessary ingredient to making the game work over time.
To illustrate this problem, we like to use the “Uncle Bob” analogy.
Imagine that a family gets together once a year for a game of “Risk”. Only this version of “Risk” has NO restart mechanic. Instead, they cover the board at the end of the evening until the next session begins the following year.. What happens over time?
The beginning of the game is fun. Everyone is having a good time.
Fast forward 2 hours: Uncle Bob starts to win. Conflict is good, so people are still engaged.
Fast forward 5 hours: Uncle Bob presses the advantage. By the end of that session, Bob effectively owns the board.
Fast forward two years: Same game. Uncle Bob is now an unassailable tyrant and has been for as long as anyone can remember.
By this point, the other players (i.e. everyone who ISN’T Uncle Bob) have stopped showing up for the annual “Risk” sessions. Why? Because the game isn’t fun. They know they don’t stand a chance.
If new player was to join the game (assuming that was possible), what would happen? They would lose. Bob would snuff them out instantly. And they would quit, too.
That’s the problem with a strategy game. Without a restart mechanic, once the victory condition is met the game is over. Eventually, even Uncle Bob is bored -- because he hasn’t faced a challenge in over a decade! The idea might sound alluring (and Bob won’t give up by choice; that isn’t human nature) but if he isn’t having fun, he’ll eventually quit as well.
In a persistent world, we call this phenomenon “server stagnation”. The game is incredibly fun – right up until someone wins. Then, unless there is a way to start over again, the game stagnates and everyone quits.
Are reset mechanics typical for an MMO?
No. Most MMOs don’t need one because if you don’t give players the ability to affect the world no one ever “wins”. The downside, of course, is that the game is static. No one wins because winning (and losing) is impossible.
Strategy games are inherently different, because they are dynamic. Player decisions can fundamentally change the state of the game for every other player.
This is the problem we set out to solve. Can we marry the idea of a “persistent” world with “dynamic” rules? We believe so
How do you combine these two concepts?
“Eternal Heroes, Dying Worlds.”
What if characters are persistent (i.e. they never reset), but the worlds are not? Consider each world (or server) as a separate campaign. It has a distinct beginning, middle and end – like a game of “Risk”, or “Civilization”. These worlds last only until a victor is declared.
The characters, however, are persistent! When a campaign ends, you take your character (and potentially some of the spoils of war from that campaign) and move on to the next campaign. This gives the game a sense of permanence. Additionally, we have “home worlds” (Eternal Kingdoms) that are player run and not time-limited, like traditional MMO servers. The idea is that players can participate in a series of campaigns over the life of the character, and use these kingdoms as a staging area between campaigns.
What is unique about this approach?
This idea 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 themselves aren’t permanent. They will still be persistent between game sessions, but don’t last forever.
- How long will they last? As long as the game is still fun! And they don’t all have to be the same duration. Some campaigns will be time-limited (lasting one month, three months, six months, even a year) and others could end based on a triggered event (one faction or guild takes over the entire map).
- These campaigns aren’t just “instances”. They are fully populated -- our goal is 2000 concurrent players -- and continent-sized. These are MMO servers with one huge, contiguous map. In other words: no instances.
- Because each campaign is marching towards an end-condition, the world doesn’t have to be static anymore. We can break the campaign into different phases, and adjust the rules of the game during each phase.
- We can also allow the players to fundamentally change the world without fear of the long-term problems. (So, hey! go ahead and wreck the place!)
Is it like a MOBA?
No, not really. MOBAs are typically played on a single map (one zone), the characters start over at 1st level every time you play, the combat is limited to two teams, each team has a small number of combatants, and the duration is very short (20 minutes to an hour.)
Campaign worlds are large scale, with thousands of players in the same environment – just like a traditional MMO. The zones are seamless, and the scale of the map is huge (i.e. the size of a virtual continent.) The maps are also unique; each one has a different layout that is unknown to the players at the beginning of the map. In this way, the beginning of each Campaign is more like the first turn of a game of “Civilization” than the start of a “League of Legends” match. Lastly, the duration is much longer – Campaign durations are measured in months, not minutes.
How big do you expect each campaign to be? And how long will they last?
In terms of number of players, it’s a seamless-world MMO server, so the goal is to support thousands of players. It’s not a “50 versus 50 match”, or anything like that. The only limit that will be placed on the user population for each Campaign World will be the technical limitations of the hardware, i.e. how many players can a server handle? We won’t know that until testing, but we expect it to be similar to other seamless world MMOs.
In terms of duration, we expect them to last anywhere from a month to a year. Technically, they can last any duration – so we’ll probably put up a handful of options, and see which are most popular.
But since the campaign worlds go away, doesn't that make it less persistent than most MMOs?
Actually, no – because, remember, most MMOs don’t allow you to modify the world at all. The only persistent data they store IS your character data. Since your character data is permanent in Crowfall, too, it’s technically accurate to say that Crowfall is “just as persistent as most MMOs.”
The difference is that our maps aren’t static. Campaign Worlds will constantly be created and destroyed, which means the Universe is continually in flux. As a result, the game will feel a LOT less static.
Do I get anything for participating in campaigns?
Yes. First of all, Campaigns are the primary method of collecting materials and rare resources for use in the Eternal Kingdoms.
Second, Campaigns are also the source of Artifacts and Relics. These are items players can earn by participating in Campaigns.
What does a typical campaign look like?
Here is an example of what a Campaign might look like:
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 a staging area to attack your 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 kingdom 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.
Are any of the worlds permanent?
Yes. The Crowfall universe is divided into “rings” or “bands” of Worlds. Each band contains multiple worlds that have a common ruleset, running in parallel. Within each Band, new worlds will be constantly appearing (and disappearing, whenever a Campaign ends).
The outer ring is called “The Eternal Kingdoms” and these Worlds are permanent. They are also player owned and player-managed. Typically, we expect them to act as places for players to gather between Campaigns. They are still dynamic – meaning that you can build fortifications and structures on these worlds -- but they don’t have a victory condition and they never go away. They are more like traditional MMO servers.
Doesn’t that create balance issues? Using the analogy above, isn’t this like uncle bob bringing a bunch of tanks into the next game of risk, after the board reset?
It could, except that everyone coming into a Campaign is dealing with the same Import rules. The key to the reset mechanic isn’t “the board must be clean,” the goal is “everyone needs to start on roughly equal footing, to make the game fun.”
If everyone is allowed to bring the same number of assets into a Campaign (i.e. if we can ALL bring in a few tanks) then the starting condition is still balanced.
But what if I choose a campaign that allows for items, but I don’t bring any? That would be unbalanced!
Well, yeah, it would be. But that’s your choice.
Remember, our design goal is to ensure that players have the OPPORTUNITY to start each Campaign on roughly equal footing. We aren’t going to protect players from making bad decisions.
Why would I choose to play in the different rulesets of campaigns?
As they say: different strokes for different folks.
The various rules sets were also designed to balance risk vs. reward. The more difficult the ruleset, the higher the potential reward.
We also expect that players will be able to sell the rewards they bring back from the Campaigns to other players, further driving both social interaction and the world-to-world economy.
That means I won’t have access to certain resources, if I am unwilling to play on those worlds?
You won’t have direct access, but you can buy those resources from other players.
We’re hoping that you might even step out of your comfort zone and try the more difficult worlds. But that’s your choice.
Again, it’s all about balancing risk and reward.
What is to prevent people from non-stop campaign hopping?
Campaigns are not intended to be transitory. Our design goal is for players to pick a Campaign and stick with it until the end.
We have a number of ideas to enforce or encourage this, from hard rules (i.e. characters are locked to a Campaign) to soft rules (if you quit a Campaign early, you lose all rewards and pay a penalty.)
This is one that we’re still debating, though – and we’d love to hear your thoughts! On the good side, it’s also a decision that we can easily change, if we try something and we don’t like it.
How many campaigns will be running at once?
As many as we need, to support our player base!
The universe map shows ruleset bands; at any given time, each band will host a number of Campaigns, in various stages of completion. There should always be new Campaigns starting, and old Campaigns come to completion.
Why would I participate in a long campaign? It seems like I would get more rewards from doing a bunch of shorter ones?
Rewards scale up based on the difficulty of the Campaign and the duration. In effect, you can earn more rewards by making the longer-term commitment – and, of course, by winning.
Again, it’s all about risk and reward.
Are there any victory conditions other than the passage of time?
There certainly can be!
Our system allows us to make any number of Worlds, and any number of rules sets. The amazing thing about this design is that it allows for a huge degree of experimentation! Most MMOs get one chance – at launch – to find a mix of rules that appeals to the players. The great thing about the Campaign architecture is that we can be trying dozens of ideas in parallel, all the time. It’s like a generic algorithm for MMO design: the good ideas can be replicated (and riffed on), the bad ideas can be filtered out.
How open are you guys to trying new ideas within campaigns?
Our intention is to make this a community-driven process. We’ll come up with ideas, you guys will come up with ideas – and we’ll take the best ideas we find, wherever they come from, and we’ll give them a shot.
If an idea gains enough traction – meaning we like it, and you guys like it – we’ll try it**.
(**so long as it fits within the architecture. We just have to be careful that we don’t break the game at the meta-level.)
- You want to try a world with no magic? Cool.
- You want to try a world where we introduce gun power? Sounds interesting.
- You want to try a world where each character only has one life – meaning that if you die once, you are permanently banned from the World? (I call this idea “Campaign Permadeath”)… Sure, let’s try it.
- That’s the cool thing about this approach. We’re turning our game community into a massive, game-designing hivemind.
- We’re game, if you are.
How are rewards determined at the conclusion of a campaign?
Players can place items, resources, and materials into Embargo – basically, this is a way of “uploading” items to your Account Bank inside a Campaign. This can only be done at certain specific locations inside a Campaign, and items placed there are basically “in quarantine” until the Campaign is over.
When the world is destroyed at the end of a Campaign, some portion of the player’s winnings (i.e. the contents they have placed inside their Embargo vault) will be transferred into that player’s Account Bank. The number of items transferred depends on how well that player fared within the Campaign.