Thursday, January 4, 2018

Hey, Crows!

AP Max Lancaster here with a first look at one of the ways we’ll bring spice to the dynamically-generated maps of Crowfall®. Today’s topic is: adventure parcels.

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Before we can dig into the adventure parcels themselves, we need to cover the basics. For those new to Crowfall, you should know that our realms are constructed by unconventional means; instead of prebaked “zones” that are linked together with fixed connect points, worlds in Crowfall are assembled out of parcels. Parcels are massive chunks of land that are stitched together to create a seamless world. This means that you don’t have to enter and exit each area at fixed points,and there are no load screens when you move between zones.

So far, most of the parcels that you’ve seen fall into one of two categories: stronghold parcels and wildland parcels. Stronghold parcels are meant for player construction (and destruction); you can build a village or a castle or a citadel on these. Wildland parcels are the vast stretches between that offer natural resources to harvest, such as trees for lumber and rock deposits for both stone and ore. These are often rolling hills or grasslands, occasionally broken up by forests or mountains.

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Parcels can also contain customized points of interest (POIs) that offer uncommon/rare harvestable resource nodes and unique monster spawners. These POIs are circular in shape and vary in size, and we refer to them internally as dioramas. If you think of a parcel like a stencil with round holes, the dioramas are sized to fit perfectly in those holes. The POIs are sprinkled throughout the parcel and are intended to feel organic and natural, even though they are placed procedurally (meaning programmatically, not by hand). This design gives players a sense of exploration as they traverse each Campaign World and it also legitimizes Cartography as a specialization.

After months of testing, we are now to the point where we are ready to add adventure parcels to the mix!

Adventure parcels are designed to provide players with a more dynamic, high-stakes experience than normal parcels. In these new areas, players will face rugged terrain (such as caverns, dungeons or ruined villages) and a collection of more powerful monsters (including some that you won’t find anywhere else). While PvE isn’t the focus of the Crowfall experience, it was always intended to provide a level of threat to the game and to provide a baseline activity to engage players.

Adventure parcels are created in sets, and each set should allow us to create unique areas (mazes, dungeons, labyrinths) for each world. Pictured below is an example of the canyon set. We can mix and match tiles from this set to create unique areas for each world.

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From the ground level, these are still seamless; so while we get a ton of reuse, the areas still look custom-crafted (because the tiles are!).

In addition, we can add cosmetic layers of props and effects to create variation themes for each set.

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These layers allow us to control the dioramas, props and decor of these parcels when we build the maps. We can use them to quickly toggle between different enemy themes, like spider-infested or zombified. The terrain itself doesn’t change, but the placement and style of objects within the parcel can change drastically (as can the loot).

For example, a spider-infested canyon might be covered in webbing and egg sacks, and, of course, would have spiders as the primary NPC. The spiders might drop silk or hide that is useful for crafting as baseline resources or as recipe additives.

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If that same canyon is zombified, the walls might be glazed with Hunger shards and have zombies as the primary NPCs. The zombies could drop body parts that can be used as additives to create powerful vessels. Both monster sets guard POIs and harvestable resources, but the aesthetics, combat and loot implications will change from world-to-world.

The monsters that spawn in these areas will drop premium resources and materials. The mazes will provide a location for mines, mills and quarries, giving players a reason to hunt here… or to hunt each other here!

We expect these areas to quickly become hives of activity, as factions will benefit immensely from the capital they provide, and player action (and interaction) naturally drives player conflict.

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Adventure parcels are essential to bringing the worlds of Crowfall to life, and we’re confident that they will quickly become some of your favorite battlegrounds.

Questions? Comments? Got an idea for a parcel? As always, let us know in the forums!

Until next time,
Max Lancaster
Associate Producer, ArtCraft Entertainment

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