I have played Crowfall since 5.3, I am a pvper/harvester and have never crafted anything for anyone. I have never played Shadowbane, I never even heard of it until I was about a month into Crowfall. I played Everquest, Everquest 2, and LOTRO for about 5 years each and I have tried SWTOR and Archage. I only mention this because if this game is to be truly commercially successful people like me are at least half of your new audience. While I am not familiar with the Shadowbane player counts my understanding is that they are not enough to be the core audience for this game. This means that a lot people like me who try the game without any prior knowledge of Shadowbane and its mechanics will make up a large portion of your first-time players. With that in mind I am going to give you some thoughts I had about the game from an outsider’s prospective. (The “It is a pre-alpha” excuse will not be applicable here as most of my critiques are around major game systems and not the balancing or lack of detail or something nitpicky like that though there will be a few of those as well. Ill be sure to label them)
TIMEGATING (Major Game System)
For this game to be successful it must capture a new audience and to do that it will need a create a great first time/early game for players and currently the early game is lackluster at best and pointless at worst. When 5.7 launched I was as excited as anyone I got on as it launched but about an hour in I sat there and began to wonder “Why am I doing this again?”. For the first 8.2 days (that is on 3x training too, it will be a month when it launches with the current system) you cannot make advanced armor or weapons. The vessels maybe even longer though I do not know the time to make all the different kinds of vessels. When I have nothing to work toward really there is not much reason to play and while you could say that I should be working toward stockpiling mats for gear there is not much reason to do that either as even if I got crafters good resources (green or above) they have no experimentation points to do anything with it so why waste my time when I can free farm for gold and convert it into white materials of any kind (this method of farming is far superior I alone farmed over 20k gold on day one that’s 44 stacks of whites for people who don’t want to math). All the crafting progression for the game (by which I mean recipes and experimentation points) is locked behind these time gates and there doesn’t even seem to be a real reason why it is done that way other then that’s how we have done it so far. I think that for combat the time gating system may work because I can still PVP but I will PVP better over time (the same thing goes for the harvesting) whereas for crafting I can’t craft anything of use for the first 8 days or a month at launch. This experience will drive away new players in droves because they will be told of all these cool items they can make but then realize they can’t make them for a month and just go play something else. After some discussion with my guild we thought that the best way to minimize this problem would be to remove the recipes from skill training and instead put them on the crafting disciplines when they come out. Make these crafting discs drop off of bosses in the wild, the spider queen for example though you would need to add more, and have players need to get together for some PVE and go kill a boss to get their main crafter the blacksmithing disc or so that they can make armor or weapons. It would drive PVP in those areas and make it so that a new player (or guild as we have seen many gaming groups come over as a whole to try the game) has something to work toward beyond training 6 skills and going AFK for a month. The loop would go something like Load in -> gear up (basics/intermediate) -> group up -> PVE for discs to get recipes -> harvest -> get new gear (advanced/runetools) -> maybe PVE for higher end or more specific recipes (sickle or rapier come to mind) -> use new items to harvest actual motherloads or high ranked nodes -> make high end gear. PVP would naturally occur in at most points in that structure. Under this system I still have something to work toward (gear/items) but the stuff I work toward will get better overtime with the skill training system. If you want to take the recipes you now know you just export that vessel at the end of the campaign and move it to the next one. Its not a perfect idea and has its own problems but I think it would go a long way to improving the first time/early gameplay for new players.
Harvesting (Major Game System)
The harvesting grind is another thing that a lot of people I know have talked about and it is something that will need to be addressed especially given the new durability changes, which are a step in good direction but may need to be toned down a little. The vendors were a great change that will help guilds get large numbers of people geared the first time around without hitting a ton of rocks, that’s good but it does not solve the problem in the late game when I need blue+ mats to be competitive from a gear stand point. People, myself included, do not want to hit rocks all day they want to get the gear they need so they can go PVP (which is why they play). I have heard about the old mine system from shadowbane and think something along those lines would fix the problem nicely as long as they generated higher end mats. If I am going to have 20 people go take and hold a mine I better get some blue+ mats from it. That system also generates PVP which is what makes gathering fun and creates a lot of great memories for the players. Telling new players, they need to go harvest for hours and hours to make a great set of gear and then it will be destroyed fairly quickly in PVP is great way to drive away players. Creating a system to help generate resources for people who do not want to hit rocks would be a step in the right direction for the game and would once again improve the new player experience after all most of the player base is there to PVP.
Group Size (Game system/mechanic)
The reduction of group size from 6 to 5 simply put is a mistake. In a group OF ANY SIZE I need two healers if I am going to survive. As I have been told by a number of people, other healers included, a healer is not supposed to be able to heal themselves very well. While I disagree with that principle that is fine on its own the problem is that a healer outside of group has minimal healing for you as well. I play a druid so I can only give you my end but the clerics appear to have just as many problems with this as I do. As a healer trying to heal another healer or just another player outside of my group there is not much I can really do. As a druid my left click cannot heal people outside of the group and that is most of my healing when you really think about it (more about why that is when I discuss assassin poison next). With no left click I am left with five ways to save someone, soothing winds (in advanced gear 100 point HoT, yea that’s not saving anyone), healing rain (It is a good heal but it requires the guy being focused to stand still in the puddle and I have to wait the full animation which is way to long), Will O’ Wisps (Actually a good heal finally, but with a 25 second CD), and then disc heals. Standard bearer does not stack making it minimal value add as the large group fights get larger (that 200 - 300 point heal is not saving anyone when they are plague lorded disease toxined and attacked by 6 people), Rescue is a good heal with a forever CD though that maybe actually fine for that skill specifically, other healing discs are used rarely at best and are used for filling in after we have the necessary standard bearers and pixies for the raid. So in summary a druid has one good heal, a small hot, and rescue to save a guy outside of their group plus someone’s standard bearer. There just not enough HPS from outside the group to allow a healer to be in a group with 4 other DPS. The healer NEEDS another healer in group for their druid orbs, cleric illuminate, and their Qs. But this is not a complaint about where healing is at as a whole it was strong last patch and I think it will be decent this patch. The point is simply a healer needs another healing buddy in group to have a consistent stream of healing. This means regardless of group size there will be 2 in a group from experienced players. If anything, we needed to make the groups bigger maybe 8. The way it is now 40% of my player base must be healers to be competitive. There is no game in existence where 40% of the base are support players. Its far closer to maybe 25% or lower. Many of the current healers are people who were dps but realized we are going to need more healers to be competitive. People want to play what they like so we should model the ideal group for PVP to be a fairly accurate representation of the player base demographic. A change of group size to 8 or even just back to 6 would be greatly appreciated.
Assassin Toxic (Balancing, flame me because it’s a pre alpha its ok)
The entire meta of 5.7 on test was based around the assassin toxin and for good reason it is really strong at all points of the game. 2500 points per assassin that STACKS INFINATELY. While I am not against this type of mechanic in the game, in fact the 5.7 fights on test with full epic gear were a lot of fun and were a prime example of why people want to play Crowfall, the toxin is simply too strong early game. It will take 8 days for the toxins to be made on live (or so I’m told again, not a crafter but I trust my guys math skills) when that happens the game will be unplayable from a healing prospective. Right now as an intermediate geared druid if I could put out 2500 healing in total from all my skills outside of Q (and even then that’s only going to help med for about ½ of a disease toxin one time) I would be surprised and then I have cooldowns where as the toxin will stack far faster than my save skills will come back. The amount it absorbs healing needs to scale with weapon damage or something because in 8 days when people get this toxin you may as well have no healers because not a single heal will get through to your guy who’s dying. On test in full epic gear we were having trouble with this and the only counter we found to this meta are defensive druid bomb heals which worked fairly well (this is the reason we need 2 healers per group you really need a druid per group to save people with these defensive druid bombs and we need clerics as well for illuminate and their Q) but that was because we actually had gear. This all stacks with plague lord/mortal strike from champions. Simply put this needs a nerf bat or there’s going to be a lot of problems.
Also as a side note that mechanic is really not fun to play against especially for new players you need to add some feedback for people to know their healing got absorbed because they will be confused and think there’s a bug or they missed or something. I know, its pre-alpha but it would be nice to get in at some point.
Food (Game system)
Food consumption is a joke, the vendors saved players from the massive food grind but come on, I need 10 whole briskets to fill my stomach for maybe 20 minutes of PVP. There has been a lot of talk about this already but I figured I would toss it in quick.
Crowd controls as a whole are really strong right now, as of live test yesterday it was taking over half of my stamina bar to retaliate just one time. And after that I was just stuck there at the mercy of endless CCs with nearly 0 diminishing return. This is something that has been a problem for several patches and as the game gets larger the problem will only grow. Most classes have a CC, a few usually, and right now there seems to be no way to escape an endless CC chain. There is escape artist but with the 5-man group size how many people can I really have running that disc before there’s a major hit to my raids DPS or healing. Also, it does not work on knockdowns I am told. There needs to be a better way to handle the endless CC because right now you can be knocked down retaliate it and then get knocked down again almost instantly, then you are stuck and will likely die. It is one of those mechanics where people feel like they really didn’t have a chance to even play the game because they were chain CCed so long. I don’t have a solution to this really, but it is something that should be addressed at some point.
While there were several critiques for the game here I think its important to note that I think the game is a lot of fun and has a lot of potential but there are somethings that need to be addressed if the game is going to really gather a large player base.