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Founders' Update: Soft launch strategy


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I can assure you we are going at light speed based on where we at (a bit over a year?) with the team we have. Astounding and incredible are the two most common terms we hear from other game teams look

We had to decide whether we could call combat and movement "done", and move on.   The answer is: they aren't, and we can't.  The ripple effect is that we need to spend more time on them, and that me

I'm good with this.   

Hi, 

Take more time and ask for more fund maybe from big companies like steam or Microsoft and add Vulkan API support, That will improve the game a lot and you can offer more options.

 

http://www.pcgamesn.com/khronos-and-valve-reveal-details-of-vulkan-api-show-dota-2-running-in-source-2-on-intel-integrated-graphics

 

Yes, I'm sure that article will convince them to scrap everything and use Vulkan. Great post!

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Good plan to delay launch until we have a fun, polished, relatively bug-free, and performance-stable core game.

 

Not sure I like the term "soft launch". Who would have access to the "soft launch", as the term implies limited audience? It's easy to confuse this with other industry terms like closed beta, open beta, headstart, and early access. Alot of gamers right now (and fairly, based on some failed projects) might think of this as a money grab and an excuse for releasing a buggy, laggy, poorly-made game that will never be finished.

 

I'd rather think of it as a "Core Launch" - where everyone that chooses to buy gets the fun, polished CF core game with a limited feature set, and can look forward to getting new features added regularly. Also, let us give some feedback on what is included in core, I think there might be some differing opinions on that  :P

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Well yea, video games can have both... it just all depends how high you want the skill-ceiling to be.  I'd prefer it be pretty high for a game that is supposed to be focused on pvp... and at the very least equal to what's currently big out there, but still hopefully a lot higher. 

 

Yea but some people use that argument to advocate for combat that is far too dumbed down than it needs to be.  If you are going to be action combat, be action combat... don't be action-combat lite... We don't need some ESO/GW2 nonsense...

Right. I think that skill and tactics are not inversely related.  There are points where you have more skill and tactics - if you do it right.  In other words, having extremely skillful combat in SB would increase the complexity of the tactics.  Gotta account for those who are bad...

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Gamers have evolved mechanically and devolved tactically on average... Combat is super important because you should always strive to be as strong in every department as you can... the more skillfully demanding you make combat, the more it enhances other aspects of the play. 

 

I don't see how any true pvper could ever want combat to be lame or easy.

 

I see this argument from time to time, that combat has to be demanding or it is "no fun" or "not TRUE PvPer would like it" etc.  Of course, "demanding" equates most usually to ultra twitchy combat with massive lists of abilities specifically relating to mechanics.   

 

I played MUDs, and on the realms I played, at least, there was PvP all the time outside of cities and newbie gardens.  If you were killed /lootall was common, but the really mean bastards would simply /buryall.  So, it was high stakes.  This made PvP feel very dangerous, risky and you had to know how to defend yourself or at least evade your attacker.  You had to know your abilities, class and build; you had to know how to approach different classes in a fight, what to open with, when to use other skills and when to bail--strategy was definitely involved.  Furthermore, because it was a MUD you probably had knowledge of the other player, even an relationship of some kind, because the community was small.  This too you could use to your advantage (and was very important).  MUD combat was nearly twitchless and significantly less complex than many MMO combat systems today.  However, in some ways, this was the must "fun" and "demanding" PvP I've ever had a hand in. 

 

You may argue "but there weren't any alternatives and if you had access to BDO-like combat that would be better."  But, that is precisely my point--PvP combat is not made fun (e.g., risky, exciting) by having 20 skills, 12 combos, animation cancelling and bunny hopping.  Good combat is primarily about relationship, strategy and risk.  These things (relationship, strategy and risk) are why CF's combat will be good because it takes these to a level not found in most MMORPGs.  ACE would do well to double down on these aspects (which, incidentally, is my one fear for a "soft release" because it may open with CF's perceived and relative weaknesses as opposed to its strengths).  Seen through the myopic lens of the current state of SP, CF is off putting to some.  However, with a greater understanding of the game, CF is much more exciting. 

 

Does that mean that CF's combat shouldn't be made more mechanically exciting as well?  No--not at all, but it does mean that the mechanics are actually secondary.  A far distant second, I would argue, and as such it is bewildering to witness the absolute rage and focus it receives from some.  Are we testing combat? Yes.  Should we try to make it better? Yes. Should we rage and claim silly things like CF is all about combat (i.e. combat mechanics) and if it isn't PvP twitch-arena equivalent then the whole game is garbage?  No, and if we do, there are other games that provide what we are looking for.  People seem unable to see the forest for the trees...  

 

TL;DR:  strategy, relationship and risk (things CF will have) trump combat mechanics (things CF doesn't have nailed down yet)

The Artist Formerly Known as Regulus

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I already said my peace about the soft launch on page 4 so, I won't restate that but, I think I speak for a lot of people when I say...we just want more information. Part of the fun of being a daily forum goer is being the first to see and comment on new game info. I for one could wait another year for release as long as I could get the details of new game features on a regular basis. Even if it's just "This is our design philosophy for this archetype we just started on" we'd like to see it. A huge portion of us are waiting to hear details on the mechanics of crafting or harvesting or exploring the mini-map. What early design differences does Crowfall employ for its Blacksmithing skill? Throw us your ideas, even if you're afraid they'll get shot down.

 

Hire some part time internal QA to speed up the process.

 

Feed me and pay my rent for the month and I'll sleep in a potato sack and test your game 24/7 haha

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I'm not opposed to the "delays" but in an effort to reduce some of these really silly and pointless contributors to the delay, I'd request more "transparent" updates as to where the devs SPECIFICALLY think things are at...lets take Combat for an example. The example in this post was that it didn't "flow" nicely enough, what the heck does that mean? Do you want more movement in combat? Or are you talking about animations?

 

Its clear development is taking longer then originally forecasted, but that's fine, no one here was going to hold you to the release date. The idea that you were holding off on telling us the date was fubar in the hope that you'd have nailed down combat... goes against everything you've said to date. Combat isn't going to be nailed down and moved on from, it was supposed be a constantly ongoing developed aspect to the game.

 

As a whole, while the original press release sounds dandy and everyone seems to rally around the message, I unfortunately am the darker rain cloud wondering how you didn't see this coming. Lets take a brief look at some of the items I've found questionable to date. Keeping in mind the goal of Crowfall so far has always been to "soft launch" or as I prefer to call it ... "achieve a minimally viable product". 

  1. You haven't laid out conceptually your ideas for anything. Every time you do release information, it only takes a few days of tossing it around on the forums to obliterate your plans. Take for example your original stance on not having a currency in this game, and then having to backtrack as you developed further into the systems. Several people pointed this out on the forums (myself included) without even knowing what other stuff was being worked on in the background. You wasted time, a small amount perhaps, but one the community would have gladly wrestled around for you.
  2. Combat design; I have always wondered why combat started out in your Kickstarter as a Wild-Star esque video, which shifted during very early development to some abomination of jerky animation lock start-stop combat that many people who backed this game early on found different from the original pitch videos and more importantly a stark and out of date combat model. Later, you back tracked stating that combat was getting poor reviews based on this early design direction change and that you weren't happy with it. You then went back and stated that you were still working on combat, but specifics are sort of vague and difficult for those of us who can't make testing windows to experience it ourselves. Needless to say, I have no idea what your actual perfect combat system should look like, let alone know if the tests resemble anything like your vision (I.E: WHAT IS YOUR VISION RIGHT NOW? ).
  3. Archetype design: Rangers are probably the best example of this one. It was stated that the Ranger archetype being tested is not representative of what it might look like at launch. No stealth was introduced because of programming issues (isn't that what you should work on when trying to implement an archetype with stealth?) Regardless, a new Ranger was introduced and the old original proposed one tossed aside temporarily so that testers could have fun. Let me be clear, you sacrificed time and effort designing an archetype stand-in so that players could have "fun" during the pre-alpha test. No mention of testing tech, or testing was ever mentioned in regards to this change. What this means is you now have to later go back, spending more development time and money to redo the archetype the way you want it to be at "soft launch".

I'm willing to ignore all of this and put it into the "we are all human and make mistakes column". I'm sure I could come up with countless other examples but my point boils down to this. You want to delay the game? Fine, no problems here. You want to "soft launch" your Minimally Viable Product (MVP) with us? No big deal, you have my money already.

 

But don't try to tell me you are flying through development with 20 people, that combat was going to be iterated on throughout product development (but is somehow the root of the reason for this delay), and yet somehow you didn't see any of your above design choices impacting the release delay. "Because Combat" is becoming a tired fallback excuse for this game. I don't even know what you want combat to look like. How are we ever suppose to measure up your vision of combat versus what it plays like right now. How are we ever going to be able to call you on this excuse if you don't have a clear vision explained to your backers of what you want combat to look like. But that's the point isn't it? As long as we don't know what you want it to look like, you can keep using "Because Combat". 

 

I just don't accept the premise that combat will ever measure up to every single backers vision of what they want Crowfall combat to look like. So at this point I'm willing to settle for a clear and concise vision of what ACE wants combat to look and feel like and we can all measure their progress ourselves against it.  That would be transparency, this press release is not.

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I'm not opposed to the "delays" but I'd request more "transparent" updates as to where the devs SPECIFICALLY think things are at...lets take Combat for an example. The example in this post was that it didn't "flow" nicely enough, what the heck does that mean? Do you want more movement in combat? Or are you talking about animations?

 

Its clear development is taking longer then originally forecasted, but that's fine, no one here was going to hold you to the release date. The idea that you were holding off on telling us the date was fubar in the hope that you'd have nailed down combat... goes against everything you've said to date. Combat isn't going to be nailed down and moved on from, it was supposed be a constantly ongoing developed aspect to the game.

 

As a whole, while the original press release sounds dandy and everyone seems to rally around the message, I unfortunately am the darker rain cloud wondering how you didn't see this coming. Lets take a brief look at some of the items I've found questionable to date. Keeping in mind the goal of Crowfall so far has always been to "soft launch" or as I prefer to call it ... "achieve a minimally viable product". 

  1. You haven't laid out conceptually your ideas for anything. Every time you do release information, it only takes a few days of tossing it around on the forums to obliterate your plans. Take for example your original stance on not having a currency in this game, and then having to backtrack as you developed further into the systems. Several people pointed this out on the forums (myself included) without even knowing what other stuff was being worked on in the background. You wasted time, a small amount perhaps, but one the community would have gladly wrestled around for you.
  2. Combat design; I have always wondered why combat started out in your Kickstarter as a Wild-Star esque video, which shifted during very early development to some abomination of jerky animation lock start-stop combat that many people who backed this game early on found different from the original pitch videos and more importantly a stark and out of date combat model. Later, you back tracked stating that combat was getting poor reviews based on this early design direction change and that you weren't happy with it. You then went back and stated that you were still working on combat, but specifics are sort of vague and difficult for those of us who can't make testing windows to experience it ourselves. Needless to say, I have no idea what your actual perfect combat system should look like, let alone know if the tests resemble anything like your vision (I.E: WHAT IS YOUR VISION RIGHT NOW? ).
  3. Archetype design: Rangers are probably the best example of this one. It was stated that the Ranger archetype being tested is not representative of what it might look like at launch. No stealth was introduced because of programming issues (isn't that what you should work on when trying to implement an archetype with stealth?) Regardless, a new Ranger was introduced and the old original proposed one tossed aside temporarily so that testers could have fun. Let me be clear, you sacrificed time and effort designing an archetype stand-in so that players could have "fun" during the pre-alpha test. No mention of testing tech, or testing was ever mentioned in regards to this change. What this means is you now have to later go back, spending more development time and money to redo the archetype the way you want it to be at "soft launch".

I'm willing to ignore all of this and put it into the "we are all human and make mistakes column". I'm sure I could come up with countless other examples but my point boils down to this. You want to delay the game? Fine, no problems here. You want to "soft launch" your Minimally Viable Product (MVP) with us? No big deal, you have my money already.

 

But don't try to tell me you are flying through development with 20 people, that combat was going to be iterated on throughout product development (but is somehow the root of the reason for this delay), and yet somehow you didn't see any of your above design choices impacting the release delay. "Because Combat" is becoming a tired fallback excuse for this game. I don't even know what you want combat to look like. How are we ever suppose to measure up your vision of combat versus what it plays like right now. How are we ever going to be able to call you on this excuse if you don't have a clear vision explained to your backers of what you want combat to look like. But that's the point isn't it? As long as we don't know what you want it to look like, you can keep using "Because Combat". 

 

I just don't accept the premise that combat will ever measure up to every single backers vision of what they want Crowfall combat to look like. So at this point I'm willing to settle for a clear and concise vision of what ACE wants combat to look and feel like and we can all measure their progress ourselves against it.  That would be transparency, this press release is not.

 

I agree with this, but we do know some things. We know need to optimize servers so the FPS isn't horrible and can handle siege battles of 100+ players. This is I think where they are at with combat at the moment. It would be nice for them to come out and say exactly what is wrong with combat as is like you stated.

Check out my youtube channel for testing gameplay https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp-AgZ6mHOVObusemDVEXoA

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That data is open to interpretation. I disagree with the interpretation given by the author of that article.

 

I am not surprised that few people interested enough in Crowfall to fill out a lengthy survey agreed with the phrase "The focus of the game should be exclusively PvP combat tactics and strategy. Everything else detracts from the experience." 

 

That does not mean people are here for "everything except PvP" as the author states, or that EKs are the main attraction. It just means that people are not here exclusively for PvP. They want other RPG/sandbox elements as well.

 

Exactly but the data shows that PvP is not the main selling component of the game IMO. PvP is the sugar on top of the Sunday.

Check out my youtube channel for testing gameplay https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp-AgZ6mHOVObusemDVEXoA

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The argument is pointless. Forum posters represent a minority and biased population in every game. For the success of the game as a whole, ACE needs to find ways to get feedback from the testers who don't post that that likely means ways outside the forum, such as via email or in game means. Patting the backs of those who are posting doesn't do anything towards helping make this game awesome. 

 

For those too stubborn to provide feedback on the forums, I would like to suggest to ArtCraft to try waterboarding, this enhanced interrogation technique has a proven track record of providing reliable and detailed information, it's non-invasive, nonlethal, and provides plausible deniability. 

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The biggest problem with the game right now in its current state is its just unplayable because the UI is too small, text is too small, and hopefully in the future there is an option to re-scale and customize the UI itself to be like a class game rather than tapping a skill then another letter on the keyboard to use it rather like being able to fully customize keybindings and such.

 

The biggest complaint about the combat itself is the way it works pressing E for example or a number or whatever it was to use the skill then having to press another and choose to launch another personally I am more a fan of the way traditional MMO's have worked all these years being able to have keybinds setup for skills, perhaps a meter you fill up then choose an ability you want to use rather than the current way they worked.

 

The other problem is LAG and the game itself being unplayable unpolished, and of course the content still needs to be developed and put in obviously...

 

A Soft release isn't a bad idea but I don't expect the game to carry over to the main release of the game?? And still constant testing on a soft release?

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Exactly but the data shows that PvP is not the main selling component of the game IMO. PvP is the sugar on top of the Sunday.

 

No. I think most of the people who responded to that poll took for granted that PvP would be at core of this game. The data indicates they want a sandbox MMORPG to PvP in-- not that PvP is a low priority.

 

People want the PvP to have consequences.

Edited by Jah

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But don't try to tell me you are flying through development with 20 people, that combat was going to be iterated on throughout product development (but is somehow the root of the reason for this delay), and yet somehow you didn't see any of your above design choices impacting the release delay. "Because Combat" is becoming a tired fallback excuse for this game. I don't even know what you want combat to look like. How are we ever suppose to measure up your vision of combat versus what it plays like right now. How are we ever going to be able to call you on this excuse if you don't have a clear vision explained to your backers of what you want combat to look like. But that's the point isn't it? As long as we don't know what you want it to look like, you can keep using "Because Combat". 

 

I just don't accept the premise that combat will ever measure up to every single backers vision of what they want Crowfall combat to look like. So at this point I'm willing to settle for a clear and concise vision of what ACE wants combat to look and feel like and we can all measure their progress ourselves against it.  That would be transparency, this press release is not.

 

I can assure you we are going at light speed based on where we at (a bit over a year?) with the team we have. Astounding and incredible are the two most common terms we hear from other game teams looking at our project. 

 

"Because Combat" is actually a much deeper phrase than you realize. Combat is a lens into the entire game. Observing the combat in any game you can tell pretty much everything about that particular game. Think of combat as digital Tea Leaves because you can observe;

the quality of the concept, character, environment, animators, UI, and FX artists,

the netcode architecture, (client server or trusted client?)

server architechture, (how does the server handle under load?)

the character controller, (kinematic or physics)

the optimization of assets / fancy environments + skys, (fps)

the creativity and execution of class powers, (just basic damage/healing or powers that are fun and interact with each other / world?)

etc,etc.

 

Unfortunately any or all of those aspects not working right is instantly felt in Combat and makes everyone feel pretty much how they currently about combat. No matter what combat design you have a 500ms power input delay when you press a power is going to make it feel rotten. The same could be said of sub 20 FPS, clogged message queues, forced stops instead of blended stops on power execution, and or hitching as you rotate because assets are being loaded.  All of these things we are working on right now because we pushed features around to make them happen now. It really sucks knowing what you need to fix but not having people free to fix it at that moment in time because other issues are more important at that moment in time. That however is the nature of game development. 

 

I have a feeling once we have powers animating the second you press the key, proper mass to mass interactions, great fps, no more hitching, solid server perf when lots of players in area, hit events in the animations, sound hit events based on material types, counter slash hit fx, and region based clients so we can turn the blood fx back on, combat will feel fluid, responsive and satisfying.

 

I know you would prefer an answer that would let you sit back and debate the merits of how skillful it is, or how this or that encourages the zerg, but design decisions are not what is holding us up. It really boils down to time to build all the pieces I listed above that make combat (and thus the game) have all the elements it requires to just make moving around the world feel fun.

 

Sidenote: Most gameplay systems like crafting, skills, disciplines are much easier because they are mainly handled as stand alone elements in UI's.

Second Sidenote: The kinds of powers we can build for the Archetypes is pretty awesome at this point. 

Thomas Blair
ArtCraft Entertainment, Inc.
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@CrowfallGame | Like us on Facebook
 

 

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I think all attacks need to be able to be done "on the move" whether that's at strafe speed if charging up an attack or full speed like a standard left click attack. The animation locking just has to go. It HAS to go. 

I see this dislike for animation locking quite often. I don't think animation locking by itself is the problem though, it's the implementation of the animation locking combined with certain other design decisions.

 

The game seems to lack flinches/staggers, animation canceling, and it seems that many of the abilities do not have all that much movement incorporated into their animations. Combine this with a somewhat slow animation speed and it feels like people are either standing in place hitting one another (since if you're locked in an animation you can't react to enemy attacks) or standing in place watching their attack animation play out only to hit air (since their opponent just walked out of their range after the first hit in their combo, maybe, hit).

 

If combat is going to stay like this then, yeah, I think I'd prefer no animation locking at all. On the other hand if the animation locking is done correctly you can certainly obtain an awesome combat system. If the devs want to keep animation locking then I think they should really go play (or play some more if they already have) a few games with animation locking that also have amazing combat, e.g. Tera, Dark souls, Street Fighter IV.

Edited by Aguise
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The game ACE has put forth so far... with the size of their team... and the proposed plans for the future are always logical and it shows the veteran experience they have behind the decisions. 

 

I don't agree with all the decisions made for the game, but I don't think I've ever looked at one and just outright said, "omg that is so silly I have no idea why they would ever think to do that!"

 

It's unfortunate seeing some of the games "supporters" turn bitter and pessimistic in the manner that they have because developing this game isn't a sprint, it's a marathon.  Sometimes things are going to go better than expected, and sometimes in game development (pretty much all of the time in MMO development) there are delays?  How can anyone be shocked by that? 

 

Just believe in the vision, try to understand what they are heading towards... don't freak out so much.

Skeggold, Skalmold, Skildir ro Klofnir

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If combat was as paramount as you seem to be describing, then why are we sitting around here debating it and not playing BDO or B&S?  Apparently, as important as combat is, the strategy, character development, economy, setting, crafting, guild systems, sandbox elements and other features CF has advertised seem to be decisive factors in attracting backers and supporters. 

 

How many looked at the original trailer for CF and said, "Wow, that Wildstar-esque combat looks AMAZING!  I'm sold..."??? 

 

No one.    

Everything you say this game has to offer...involves combat.

 

Strategy..what strategy will you have that doesnt involve comat?

 

Character development...oh , you mean fighting the other side for access to graveyards, for access to materials to build your bodies, in shadowbane you used combat to acquire the token things that gave you skills..in short, character development was focused on combat.

 

Economy...who has the strongest fighting force controls the economy. Everything has to be fought over from mining nodes to protecting the pack mule as it transports goods from point A to point B.

 

Setting..I dont even know what this means. The game doesnt have any setting other than a couple paragraphs about lore. The terrain will be randomly generated for every campaign.

 

Crafting...totally all about combat. Necromancy materials come from the battlefield, their graveyards are fought over in the battlefield and the crafters of all types are expected to be fighting out in the campaigns. All materials are reported to have to be fought for as well as having to fight to protect the created goods/materials while they are transported.

 

Everything you listed is heavily steeped in combat. Because at its foundation, that is all this game is. It isnt star wars galaxies where you have a performer class that spends 100% of its time in a cantina playing songs for people and dancing.

 

As far as why im not playing BDO or blade and soul, its because im playing another game that I enjoy. My plan was Fully switch over to Crowfall when Alpha 2 came around (the stage I payed for) but the combat is so horrible that I cant do that. If the self-rooting combat stays, I will never play this game. Had I seen that type of combat when I spent 175$...well I never would have given this game a dime.

 

Also, you seem to have no idea about anything Wildstar. That game had 101 problems, but combat wasnt one. Wildstar's combat is said by the vast majority of people to be very good and the highlight of the game. Ill grant you not everyone like the telegraph system it incorporated, but to say that the majority of people didnt care for the combat is a falsehood.

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