Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Howdy, everyone!

Thomas Blixtev Blair here, and I’m here to chat with y’all today about one of the exciting features we have been working on for the 5.7 milestone: Seasons!

For most games in the MMORPG genre, seasons are associated with some type of seasonal content event or perhaps a cosmetic change to the environment (such as Christmas lights and snow on the trees during winter). While we could do that at some point, that’s not what “seasonality” means to us!

Crowfall® is unique in the aspect that the passage of the time causes dramatic, fundamental changes to the gameplay in our universe. The weather effects aren’t just a “seasons switch”, they are dynamic effects that spread across the continent like a contagion, blanketing the world in snow, altering global resource amounts changing zone content and of course, culminating in an end of world event that ends each campaign and sends the player Crows back to the Eternal Kingdoms to lick their wounds or enjoy their spoils of war!

With 5.7, we’ll see our first implementation of seasons in Crowfall. So what exactly does that mean?

It starts with the beginning of a new Campaign, and each world starts in the spring. The overall goal during the “season of plenty” is to gather strength for the coming campaign; to amass as many resources as possible before winter comes and when only the strong will survive.

To accomplish this, we created a Seasons Manager; a game system that will track the passage of time and allow us to stack an assortment rules and variables that govern the behavior of everything in the world: from monster spawners to harvesting loot tables to the effectiveness of various powers, and to the spread of the Hunger contagion throughout the land.

Each campaign is divided into four seasons, which are further subdivided into days and nights within that season. Objects and players in the world can have game-effects placed on them based on both the season and/or the time of day within that seasons.

seasons watermarked

Each season has a unique buff that is automatically applied to the player on login, which aides or hinders their in-game activities.

• Grants player +2 Plentiful Harvest: All
• Increase apple drop rate 30%
• Plethora of Dust: All +10%
• Grants player +1 Plentiful Harvest: All
• Increase apple drop rate 20%
• Plethora of Dust: All +5%
• Grants player -1 Plentiful Harvest: All
• Decrease apple drop rate -5%
• Plethora of Dust: All -5%
• Grants player -2 Plentiful Harvest: All
• Decrease apple drop rate -20%
• Plethora of Dust: All -10%

I’m sure you will recognize the central theme of these effects: GET ALL YOUR FOOD EARLY! Aesop’s fable of “The Ant and the Grasshopper” applies. Gather and horde during the spring and summer (like the ant) or starve during the winter (like the grasshopper). With our current methods of harvesting trees and animals for apples and meat, a player should be able to amass enough food to last the campaign. Forward-thinking guilds should stockpile extra rations to cover under-supplied guildmates. Clever merchants will charge a pretty penny selling food to the under-prepared.

Eventually, once the baseline system is established, we intend to add more systems to support this central idea…. dedicated features for hunting and foraging, traps and farming, and the ability to raid (or destroy) the opposing teams’ crop fields. Our hope is that this will add more strategy to the campaign – and more moment-to-moment activities where the collection (or denial) of food becomes a valid tactic for guilds and factions.

To track the progress of each Campaign as it moves from the start to the (inevitable, bloody) end, we’ve added a Time Clock indicator in the lower right hand of the game interface.

seasonsclock watermarked

Picture the black horizontal line as your horizon – it dome of the heavens spins clockwise above you. The blue hemisphere represents daylight. The black canopy is the nighttime sky. When either of these peek over that horizon on the left, you know that the game world is about to change with the arrival of dusk or dawn.
Above this, you’ll find bars that show the overall progress of this Campaign through each seasons (spring, summer, fall, winter) and a countdown timer until this campaign is over, after the final night of winter.
And remember, the affects of time (both daily and seasonal) are much more than cosmetic. (What happens at night will be the future of another update, in the near future!)

Each season also has random environment events which periodically happen: light showers, dense morning fog, thunderstorms or heavy snow. As with the seasonal modifiers, we have the capacity to add effects based on these events, but we haven’t added them … yet. But we certainly could make players more susceptible to lightning damage in a rainstorm, or cold damage when it snows.

5.7 also marks the first time players will have a chance to use Runegates – multi-world connection points that allow players to travel from one ‘floating island continent’ to the next. One of the more recent developments that we enabled is the ability to turn on (or turn off) these Runegates based on seasonal or weather events – so we could open up new worlds as the Campaign progresses.

(Like the weather modifers listed above, we have the capacity to do this, but we haven’t turn it on yet because 5.7 is already huge and, as you guys have seen, introducing too many changes at once will destabilize the build But remember, one of the core promises of Crowfall is the ability to make unique campaign rules, and these are great examples of things we can play with later to keep each campaign fresh and to make the gameplay feel very, very different. This gives us an incredible amount of flexibility. If we want to only have a handful of keeps, forts or resource types available during spring and then add more as each season happens, we can do it. If we want to have high-ranking, super-dense resource zones close off after summer, we can do it. If we want to open special adventure zones in winter, we can do it. The design flexibility and options are limitless!)

Our first cut of Seasons are coming!

The promise of Crowfall has always been that it is the first dynamic virtual world, where the world changes based on the passage of time and the actions of our players. With the introduction of Seasons, and the day/night cycle, we begin to see that promise realized.

As always, please feel free to leave comments on the forums, and we’ll see you in game!

Thomas “Blixtev” Blair
Design Director, ArtCraft Entertainment

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