It's a busy time for ArtCraft Entertainment and few are busier than founder and executive producer, Gordon Walton. If you don't know him, he's a bit of an industry veteran. Right at the moment that the Crowfall Kickstarter went live, I snagged a few precious minutes of his time for a quick question and answer session. I know I'm excited about Crowfall and you should be too.
Ten Ton Hammer: Its been a busy few weeks for Crowfall. We’ve had Hunger Week, several new archetypes, a pricing FAQ and the announcement that Crowfall will be using Voxels. To start with, how much of a success was Hunger Week and why are you now turning up the heat on reveals?
Gordon: Two reasons, really. One, Hunger Week was really successful -- we saw a significant ramp up in our incoming traffic, as more people in the MMO community noticed us. Second, we only had a small window to drop information before the expiration countdown timer, and a surprising number of assets to drop in that time. We figured better to release the items now, rather than hold off and slam all of it onto the website at the end of the timer.
Ten Ton Hammer: I’m really glad that you’ve chosen to pursue the Buy To Play route with optional subscriptions and a store. How much have you watched the competition in recent months to reach this decision? Was Free To Play ever on the table?
Gordon: We always watch the competition, and how the audience is reacting to different offerings. We thought our choices reflected the best options for a game like Crowfall. When we first started the company we talked a lot about the Free to Play model, where it worked, where it didn't, and what games it is (or isn't) appropriate for. Our feeling is each game needs to be built from the start with a business model firmly in mind, and that model needs to reflect both gameplay and audience. Crowfall clearly needed a Buy-to-Play in our view, because it is competitive and the primary "content" of the game is interaction with other players.
Ten Ton Hammer: The massively multiplayer scene seems to be in a bit of a flux at the moment. WildStar has struggled, Elder Scrolls Online is swapping payment models and EverQuest Next is undergoing serious staff restructures. Looking down the team list at ACE there’s some serious pedigree. How confident are you in what you’re creating and why do you think Crowfall stands above the competition?
We are very confident in the game being able to find an audience and, if we do our jobs correctly, of being able to retain that audience for a long time. True, we aren't following the macro trends of the industry (free to play games and mobile titles) but there is a certain logic to that: the problem with macro-trends is that everyone else is following them. We wanted to do something different. Right now, all of the new activity happening with PC-based MMOs is coming from independent companies, : Shroud of the Avatar, Pantheon, Camelot Unchained, Albion Online.
The games that you mentioned are all going after WoW, the king of MMOs. We knew that directly competing with WoW is a long-shot bet, it's not just a great game, it also has a decade worth of content and polish. How many hundreds of millions of dollars has been invested in WoW, at this point? and we're supposed to compete with that? No thanks!
From the beginning, we knew we needed to focus on doing something completely different to stand out in the minds of the players. We think we have a unique mix that will really appeal to a particular type of player.
Ten Ton Hammer: The Hunger and concept of Eternal Heroes and Dying Worlds fascinates me. I don’t think its ever been done. How much of a risk is this and do you think it’ll put off as many as it attracts?
Gordon: It's hard to say, really. We're blending some new elements from other genres -- those genres are very popular, but they also attract a different type of player. We have elements of large-scale strategy games, political simulators, even some dynamic world sandbox elements similar to Minecraft.
Crowfall is not a game for everyone. Players that are looking for more consequence in their PvP, more intensity in the gameplay, or more depth in their player economy we hope will be drawn to us.
Everything new is a risk, but doing the exact same thing as other titles -- and hoping to stand out -- is a risk, too. All the games that have tried to be "me too" titles have failed to meet expectations over the last several years.
Ten Ton Hammer: The three new Archetypes, Knight, Confessor and Stalker all look and sound excellent. Can you tell us a little bit more about each and what sets them apart from similar archetypes in other games?
Gordon: By the time your readers see this, we will have released all of the initial 12 archetypes. We tried to come up with a good mix that covered a wide spread of gameplay styles, and were narratively and visually interesting. You'll notice that we also go futher than most MMOs in terms of making our avatars unique. Not many MMOs allow you to play Centaurs, or Elk-headed rangers, or talking Guinea Pigs.
Ten Ton Hammer: How are you currently going about designing Archetypes? Is it a case of pulling traditional classes together that you all love and adding your own twist on them? (if you can please implement a melee staff Archetype I’d love you forever!)
Gordon: We tried to make all of the character have a unique and interesting twist -- in the look, the backstory or in the way they are played. Our goal was to go "wide" instead of "deep", opting for more options are character creation and going for armor sets (like leather, chain and plate) with enchantment rather than customized one-of-a-kind pieces (i.e. "kill this particular monster, in this particular zone, to get the rare "Ebony Boots" drop.)
Ten Ton Hammer: Voxel technology is a big deal at the moment. Having been part of Landmark since its Alpha, the potential for a massively multiplayer game are enormous. How long have you been working with this technology? Was it always wanted from day 1?
Gordon: We started working with Voxel Farm last summer. We wanted to have procedural, destructible worlds from the beginning and voxels did the trick! Our emphasis is different, though; most games are using voxels for construction -- creating sandboxes for users to create things, like replicas of the Tardis or modern houses. We allow some building, but it is out of pre-created parts (not bricks). The primary emphasis of Voxels in Crowfall is destruction, not creation.
Ten Ton Hammer: How far do you want to take Voxel use in Crowfall? Are we going to see every building being destructible or is it going to be limited to certain locations/objects?
Gordon: We think the limits, if any, will become clear in our early testing. We’re going to start out very free-form and iterate on the experience as we test. Normally this would be a train-wreck, because the Worlds would be destroyed by the players so quickly -- but remember, our Campaign Worlds are time limited. It becomes less of a problem, when the world is going to disappear in 3 months, anyway.
Ten Ton Hammer: Lastly, A large part of Voxel use is the potential to build. Can players expect tools similar to that of Landmark or are you seeking something a little simpler?
Gordon: We will have building tools for people to build castle walls and towers and place buildings. We won't give you the ability to mold and shape items like Landmark -- that's not really the focus of our game. To draw an analogy with Minecraft: we are aiming for survival mode, not creative.
Ten Ton Hammer would like to thank Gordon for his time and from all the team at Ten Ton Hammer, we wish Artscraft Entertainment the best of luck with their Kickstarter. Looking at the current total however, having reach over $500,000 in less than 24 hours, we don't think they'll need it! Want to back Crowfall? Hit this link.
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