Thomas “Blixtev” Blair (with J. Todd Coleman) here, and we’re here to chat with y'all today about one of the exciting features we have been working on for the 5.7 milestone: day and night cycles!
That’s right, soon you will be able to see the sun racing across the sky and see the moon hanging among the stars. As with all Crowfall® features, we tend to focus on gameplay first (and fill in the cosmetics as we go) so you can expect a variety of things to change in the world during the various times of the day.
Let’s dive in!
THE NIGHT IS DARK AND FULL OF… HUNGER
Some of our earliest concept images (from Kickstarter, in fact!) focused on the idea of the Hunger as a corrupting force in the Crowfall universe. Normal creatures would become twisted and nightmarish as a precursor to the Hunger destroying every world.
From the early days of Crowfall, we had always planned to have multiple versions of each NPC based on the season, a specific model for spring/summer and a different model for fall/winter. The models would shift to reflect the Hunger affecting everything in the world as the seasons progressed. For example, a Sabretooth cat in spring/summer, and a Hellcat in fall/winter.
Originally, we planned on staging these changes ONLY driven by the passing seasons. Although that would be cool, and certainly thematic, it also had a downside: namely, that the players wouldn’t experience this effect (or see these creatures) until the latter end of each campaign. And, since seasons have discrete “breaks”, it also meant that — as originally planned — the population of creatures would “shift” at these season breaks which didn’t feel particularly organic.
To address that, we came up with a slight variation on that original concept while still putting the emphasis on seasons. Instead of transitioning creatures only at seasonal breaks, we are instead going to morph them during the night cycle WITHIN each season.
Because days shorten (and nights lengthen) with each passing season, this means we can use the night to “hide” these transitions, and to stage them over time. The net effect should also mean more dynamic gameplay sessions – the world will change at a faster pace, get more deadly as the campaign progresses, and players will need to keep an eye on the day/night cycle because the worlds become more dangerous at night.
Most games tend to take the easy route and simply alter their lighting model during the day and night. It’s basically just a cosmetic change to make the world feel more alive. Instead, our goal was to make the day and night actually feel different – more like the day/night cycle in Ark or Minecraft. The best way to do this is to tie into existing systems, adjusting things like monster spawners, harvestables and the rules relating to visibility (actual visibility, not just cosmetics).
As one might expect, the nighttime Hunger-infected NPCs not only look fearsome, they have more stats and additional combat powers in comparison to their daytime counterparts. The nighttime NPCs also have different item loot tables that enable us to make specific item drops only available during a specified time of day.
At sunset, all of the NPC’s in-game will transition into their appropriate form. (If they have one, that is. Guards and other humanoids, for example, currently have only a non-infected version.) At dawn, the infected NPCs will shatter and turn to dust, replaced by new (un-infected) variants that will respawn at their home location. (We will stage the timing a bit, of course, so that not all of this happens at once.)
For this first round of testing, we are setting the starting day/night cycle to roughly 40 minutes (meaning that in Season 1 a new day will start every 40 minutes of real world time.) Each season, we will shift the balance of day and night per day... the campaign will start to lean more heavily on night. In the first iteration of the system, we plan on long days/short nights in the spring/summer and short days/long nights as the season progresses into fall/winter.
That said, as with everything else we do, these values are very likely to change based on testing and player feedback. They might even change on a campaign-by-campaign basis. We’ll try it and see what happens.
THE HUNGER COMES...
In addition to the NPCs of the world changing as the sun sets, a new type of node can appear in the world, hunger shards! These points of interest represent the corruption of the world when the ground itself is being infected as the Hunger spreads from one area to the next.
These hunger shards aren’t just cosmetic, either; they affect the world by draining life and warmth from the area around them and rendering resources (i.e. harvesting nodes) unusable. The cosmetic effect here is one of creeping frost – both on the ground around the shard and on top of the assets affected.
These hunger shards can be destroyed using harvesting tools at which point the resources can be recovered, but the appearance of these shards – which also happens at night – will get worse with each passing season. As resources become increasingly scarce through the campaign, destroying these nodes (and keeping other players from destroying them!) becomes a facet of strategic gameplay.
There will also be special skill nodes in the Excavation tree that give the player a chance to get crafting additives when destroying hunger shards. These additives can be used in crafting recipes to add specific qualities to enchanted items. (Generally, our plan is that Hunger additives will be used to make weapons more diabolical by adding dots, drains, and the like.)
The hunger shards will not disintegrate in the day like the nighttime NPCs; however, new shards will only spawn at sunset.
We referenced it above, but didn’t call it out: both the seasons and the day/night cycles will have the ability to fire triggers in the Crowfall Powers system that can apply global effects on all players. We can use these triggers to create additional, interesting gameplay modifications such as giving particular Races increased statistical bonuses at nighttime, increasing the efficacy of certain powers during daylight, or adding seasonal harvesting buffs like “Season of Plenty” during spring.
The great part is that once this system is in place, there are a ton of cool things we can do with it. We already have plans to tie in hooks for weather events (everything from rain to blizzards to fog), we have some really cool ideas to affect visibility (night vision, torches, etc.), and we’re already planning to tie into the Runestone system to allow us to build disciplines like Lycanthropy and Vampirism. (In another nod to Shadowbane, we all agree that we need both Werewolves and Vampires!) These systems become much cooler when you have to take the environment into consideration.
When we announced Crowfall, we made a bold claim that we were going to do something that is virtually unknown in MMOs: we intend to make a dynamic world in which the game was constantly changing based on the passage of time and on player actions. We’ve made a lot of progress on the latter, but most of the former has yet to surface in our testing – until now!
Adding both seasons and a day/night cycle will make the world of Crowfall start to come to life. They are the heartbeat of the universe and once we have them working we will have laid the foundation for the idea of time-limited campaigns and a universe that is constantly changing.
This is where it starts to get interesting. We’ve been chipping away at some of these systems (dynamic time, procedural worlds) for a few years now and we are absolutely delighted to finally start to show you the fruits of that labor.
As always, thank you for being patient, and we look forward to hearing your feedback as the promise of Crowfall starts to take form.
See you in-game!
Thomas Blair, Design Director
J. Todd Coleman, Founder/Creative Director