Greetings and salutations, everyone!
Thomas “Blixtev” Blair here, and I’m going to chat with you today about the various ins and outs of the Vessel system that just went live in Crowfall®. This system is so intertwined with the character death and respawn loop (something that happens a whole lot in Crowfall) that I thought it would be a great topic for an update. For those who haven’t been following Crowfall for very long and may have missed some previous updates, here’s some of the vocabulary of the system:
Crow form: The base level character to which all skill training is applied (and therefore usable across all avatars). You will have one crow form per account. In your crow form, you will be able to enter multiple worlds and must possess a body once there. (It looks like a blue ghostly ‘spirit crow’.)
Vessel: A body that can be possessed by a Crow. Entering a vessel enables the soul to move about the world and be seen by (and interact with) other players and the physical world.
Archetype: The class of the vessel (i.e. Knight, Confessor, Legionnaire).
Avatar: A playable character (i.e. a vessel that is currently embodied by a Crow).
The avatar is the representative of the player as they move around the world while playing. The only time the player really sees a spirit crow is when their avatar has died or when they first enter a world and haven’t yet selected a vessel/body to inhabit. Each vessel has an archetype (class) that dictates any number of things such as the powers it can use and caps on various skill levels. Since character progression happens to the Crow (not the avatar), skills gains are applied to whatever vessel is currently inhabiting, to the degree possible for that vessel.
In narrative terms: You are a Crow, an eternal champion of the gods, and possess the skills and memories gained over countless lifetimes. Some Crows choose a single body (or type of body) to inhabit, while others cast vessels aside and choose new ones as the situation dictates. Where you fall on this spectrum is a personal choice.
Ok! Summary done.
Death happens in Crowfall fairly often. If you have played other MMOs, the baseline sequence of events is pretty straight-forward:
- Immediately upon death, the spirit crow will disconnect from the vessel and float above it. This allows you the chance to observe the area from the corpse’s perspective for a brief period of time.
- During that time, other players will have a chance to resurrect you and bring this avatar back to life.
- At the end of the time – or any time prior, if the player elects to click the “Release” button – the spirit crow can be untethered from this vessel and will be automatically summoned to the nearest temple.
(The timer was deemed necessary because while we want players to have a chance at resurrection by their allies, we don’t want anyone to use the tethered spirit crow as an invulnerable “spy” watching enemy activities.)
Beyond resurrection, this “tethered” period is also helpful because players sometimes like to see how a fight end(s) for the rest of the party or group even if they have already been removed from the action.
During this time, the opposing team can loot the corpse. The degree to which they can be looted, of course, will vary based on the campaign rules for that particular campaign. (Some worlds allow full looting, some are more limited).
The victors should perform any looting quickly because when the dead player summons that corpse to a temple, the opportunity to loot will be lost.
Once a dead player releases the Crow from the fallen avatar, the spirit crow will appear at the nearby temple. (Temples are now being used for respawn points while graveyards are now being used by gravediggers to harvest body parts for use in the Necromancy crafting profession.)
When a Crow respawns at a temple, they will have the following respawn options.
Pray to summon vessel
Players can pray to the gods for the retrieval of their current corpse and none/some/all of their lost equipment (minus, of course, any items that were looted). As stated earlier, how many items will be returned depends on the looting rules of the campaign. The “Prayer” interaction occurs in the center of the temple. There is a minimum timer necessary to perform the prayer, during which time the body can still be looted by other players. (The duration of this timer can be set by campaign rules. It is currently set to 10 seconds.) All returned items will take a decay hit in addition to the decay that was imposed when the player died.
Swap to a different vessel
Additionally, there are a series of archetype statues located around the outer edge of the temple. These can be used to enter character creation and create a new vessel – or to pull an existing vessel out of your Spirit Bank. In this case, no items will be retrieved so the only way to get your equipment back is to run back your fallen corpse to retrieve gear or have an ally bring it to you. The benefit of this (obviously) more risky option is that it avoids the secondary decay cost associated with the pray-to-summon activity.
We expect that, in most cases, players will choose to pray to the gods to respawn. This option is quick, easy to use, and (for players who care) allows them to keep the emotional attachment to that character. The downside is it has a cost of additional decay to the equipment and vessel.
Note that until they possess a vessel (old or new), spirit crows are limited in terms of mobility. Any attempt to fly away from the Temple will result in them being warped back.
In additional to acting as a respawn location, temples also serve as a mechanism for players to change avatars. Entering a temple in physical form (e.g. as an avatar), the player can approach any of the archetype statues and use it to swap vessels.
"For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil…" - Hamlet
The narrative wrapper for this is that Crows may drink holy water at the base of these statues to release their spirit crow from its current corporeal form. This will cause the soul to hover over the body momentarily and then the player will enter the character creation process (as if they had died) and can create a new vessel of this type.
Doing this will avoid the decay of items (and the vessel) they were previously using, and automatically transfer the inventory and equipment from the old avatar to the new. (Hitting “Cancel” will abort the process and return them to the old avatar.)
If the vessel the player vacated was of green item quality or better (meaning it was a player-crafted vessel, not a default one that can be created for free), that vessel will also be placed into the new avatar’s inventory as an inventory object.
Some frequently asked questions
OK, so there is some complexity in this system (death and respawning rules are incredibly impactful on your game loop!), so let’s tackle a few potential questions.
Why respawn at the temple?
In most MMOs, when you respawn after death, you pay a “time penalty”. Sometimes this is a simple countdown timer, but it often involves a timer plus some amount of travel time, either to or from your corpse.
An early iteration of this system involved forcing players to travel either from the corpse to a temple, or respawning the Crow at a temple and forcing them to fly back to their corpse.
The challenge with both of these options was that allowing the spirit crow to fly around the game world was in direct opposition to our exploration game; if we allowed players to explore the world without risk, then this would become the standard way to scout and explore any new world map. This is not the behavior we wanted to see at the beginning of each new campaign. (As an interesting side note, we tried to allow it by slowing the movement speed of the spirit crow to make it less effective, but that didn’t work; it was just more frustrating.)
Respawning at a temple will no doubt lead to an issue with enemies camping that temple to kill players who spawn/respawn there. As a quick-fix, any player who dies near temple grounds will find their Crow appears at a different temple. This won’t stop temple camping, but it will reduce the pain associated with it (as you won’t be repeatedly killed at the same temple.)
As our player numbers increase, we will have to engage other countermeasures as well, such as increasing the radius of the temple area and potentially hanging short-term FX (such as stealth) to spawning players, so that they have a chance to get away before being killed again (and again, and again…)
Is this the final system?
Probably not. Inevitably, as with every other system, we discussed it internally and came up with a baseline for our design. The first step is to talk through all of the potential benefits and issues and then try to pick the solution that we think is the “best bet” for balancing those pros and cons. We build it. We fix it. We play it – and have you guys play it – and adjust it from there.
This is one of those fundamental systems that takes a lot of time and energy although most people really don’t think about it that much because death and respawn isn’t usually very sexy. In this case, it is tied to any number of different areas: death, respawn, character creation, vessels (and because of that) even gravedigging and necromancy!
Please give these systems a shot and let us know what’s working and (more importantly) what isn’t! We will be watching and listening to how everyone is playing, and we’ll adjust things over time to make sure everything is working correctly and feels good to play.
As always, please feel free to leave comments on the forums, and we’ll see you in Crowfall!
Thomas “Blixtev” Blair Design Lead, ArtCraft Entertainment