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Open World escaping and Hunting combat dynamics in Crowfall

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Hello, be prepared for a long discussion on open world PvP interaction.


There are 2 opposite goals that need to be balanced in world PvP.
Escaping and Hunting  (E/H mechanics)
Escapers: Escapers are primaryily gatherers and scouts, but weaker hunting parties that want to control what fights they take
Hunters: Hunters are the gank groups and the large zergs trying to control territory or resources.
The balance revolves around gaining the power to decide what fights you want while maintaining the power to actually win those fights.Escapers wanting to never fight while hunters wanting to always fight.
Depending on the rules for the Campaign the degree in which one side of
E/H is weighted should change.
Harsher campaigns with more risk on death should have stronger escaping mechanics
while campaigns with less risk can favor Hunting to find and start conflicts.
Lets take a quick step back and talk about why E/H is so important:
The goal of the game is sieging and taking objectives. but they are the rarer player interaction. Farming and raiding for logistic reasons will take precedence over sieges and will be far more common. Also the start of campaigns will have higher population and this will be the primary means of conflict before leaders emerge and players fall off. I am trying to paint the picture that the interaction between roaming groups and players farming is going to be the bulk of gameplay over sieges, so it is vital that it is enjoyable and players have control over it. War is about the logistics and setting up battles that you can win, it takes time and resources to do that and this will be the gameplay involved in getting those resources.
Before we get into Balance points I also want to mention Zerg/group size:
It's not largely important for this discussion which is why this balance works so well in world vs world style combat, the group size does not matter. This is about the balance between picking and choosing fights, Numbers help you win fights but not necessarily helps you start them. It can help, but the hope is that with proper speed balance it will over extend zergs and thin them out by combat effectiveness. So lets get into it.
Points in imbalance:
1. Speed
In world PvP the faster party will dictate the interaction. Any fight you can run from you don't have to fight, and any prey that can't run needs to fight.
Speed Favor's the Hunters because it gives them full control of every interaction.They are the players that are looking for the fights and are the ones poised to gain the most from a catch.
The balance:
Speed needs to come with the disadvantage of loss in combat effectiveness(mainly damage). Speed should be a tool geared towards escaping with resources and not used as a kiting device. Speed is the Balance point that should have the most flex to it, you should be able to decide on multiple levels of speed paired with reduced combat effectiveness. Roaming Hunters ideally will sacrifice some combat effectiveness to gain some speed advantages while gathers sacrifice most of it to be able to escape.
Speed will be the balance point to decide what fights you take. The more you get to decide the fight(faster you are) the harder the fights should be(less combat effectiveness). 
2. Crowd Control(CC)
In World PvP the party that can control the enemy will be able to both escape and hunt more effectively
CC favors both, CC is pretty broad and gives advantages to stop people from following you and stop their combat effectiveness. because it is so broad we are going to narrow it's scope in the balance section.
The Balance:
Through previous games there is a fairly strong consensus that long CC and Stun locks are a very negative thing to the player experience. This has evolved into Displacement style CCs taking over combat CC. With knock backs favoring the escapers, and pulls favoring the hunters, They should come with the same combat advantages and disadvantages as speed. Knock backs should make you combat weaker(think squishy kiting classes), while pulls allow you to be stronger. But that is in combat CC, we aren't too concerned over it besides the point that long duration CC and Stun locks are unacceptable.
Now that stun locks and long duration CC(sleeps and slows) are unacceptable, we need to look at the escape and hunting CC mechanics because that is what this is all about. I want to point to EvE as a game that does CC right when it comes to the Escape/hunting mechanics. In Eve it's called tackling, they have usually weak and smaller ships whos only combat goal is to keep enemy ships in the fight so they cannot run away, but they usually can still fight back.
The goal of CC should be keeping the opponent in combat not keeping them from being able to fight. Lore wise for a Medieval style game it is very hard to even think of an example of CC that is only made to keep someone in combat.
I can think of a few examples:
1) Roping someone so they are tethered to you and can only move freely within 40m of you:
They can't run but they can fight. The rope would have HP, high mobile characters will have reduced combat effectiveness and will struggle to break the rope. While high combat low speed characters the rope may just be a few attacks and rendered irrelevant.
(I can't help picturing mounted players doing cowboy poorly made socks in sieges just lassoing someone and pulling them back to their death.)
The modern MMO action style combat makes this goal very challenging, you cannot slow movement speed without massive combat effectiveness reduction, so it needs to be limited.
2) Magic wise you could do Dome spells that if you reach one side of the dome it just teleports you to the opposite side as if it was a globe it would be a channeled spell and you cannot leave unless the channel is interrupted but people can enter. Again the goal is to keep them in combat but not reduce their ability to fight.
Like Speed, tackling CC should reduce combat strength. It follows the same logic of if it helps you force a fight it should reduce 
your ability to fight. Example: A fast moving tackler should be weaker than just a fast moving gatherer. The reduction should be in both effective HP and damage to make the trade off significant if you pair tackling with other escape/gathering related abilities.
CC should be used to Ensure people stay in combat, but not reducing the target's combat effectiveness. It should be designed as tackling in EvE. (eve reduces movement speed also, but understand the combat mechanics of Crowfall means you cannot do that without massively hurting combat effectiveness)
3. Stealth:
Stealth allows players to start fights without others knowing. When tackling is incorporated then it almost completely eliminates 
the opponent's ability to run from the fight. It also allows the prey to Hide instead of run, completely taking over the role of speed.
Like speed, Stealth favors the hunters. It allows the picking of fights with the opponent having no knowledge that it is about to happen. Unlike speed however it does not guarantee escape for the prey if they attempt to hide from pursuit. It is also much weaker against a large group than simply running.
The Balance:
Long lasting stealth needs to give a large impact to combat effectiveness. This impact should be in the health pool, the ability to engage someone with tools like stealth stacked with tackling should make it so the opponent can quickly destroy you if you don't have back up. 
Gatherers should also have some form of defenses to warn them if a stealther is near. Like some kind of sensor they place on the ground that is visible but will allow them to know that direction is safe. Or a true sight for x distance in the direction you are facing. Having that should sacrifice HP and be more on the stealther's level because you now shouldn't even be caught by a stealther.
Long duration Stealth is for scouting, and trying to get the jump on a gatherer but at great risk to yourself. It can also be used to hide
instead of run from a gank. While not weaker damage wise you will die significantly faster than others. Tackling with the use of stealth should force you to be so weak HP wise you will need back up quickly.
4. Mounts
Mounts are pretty much speed, but they are different enough to talk about them as a special case.
Their design usually means they give all the advantages of speed but without the reduced combat effectiveness.
With the speed advantage they will render speed useless, and putting stealth as the primary defense against them.
Massively favors the hunters just like speed. Usually will have a mounting time and you cannot gather while mounted making them 
detrimental to gatherers.
The balance:
I want to put mounts in a special place depending on the Campaign, in the faction based campaigns they can be everywhere.
Forcing combat when it is low risk is fine. But in the Dregs and Shadow I think Mounts shouldn't even be usable until the later
seasons of the campaign. Mounts should symbolize that the gathering is done, there is no where to run conflict is going to happen 
and hiding is the only thing that will save you but it won't help you win. 
Mounts should be used to ramp up the frequency of combat. They should be non existent or incredibly weak and slow in the early seasons progressively getting stronger to the point where you cannot escape combat if you are not mounted. Mounts should be the primary mechanic to shift power from the Gatherers to the Hunters as the worlds decay.
Balance Summary:
Speed: Lowers damage to gain speed (progressive decrease)
Tackling: Lowers HP and damage (medium decrease)
Long Stealth: Lowers HP (large decrease)
Stealth detection: Lowers Damage (medium to large decrease)
Mounts: Limited access designed to increase conflict
My points on unrestricted World PvP:
World PvP has less to do with how well you can fight, and more to do with deciding when to fight.
The game is about Strong arming resources and working with allies to make a show of force until
you backed the enemy into corners and then you siege. The goal is to make unfair fights
and force the enemy into the fights. The fight is what everyone is trying to get to
but the process in getting there is what makes a game like this different from just GW2 or a 
mount and blade. 
Maybe some discussion points:
Should this be something to balance around?
Should the balance come primarily from Archetypes, or disciplines, or skill training, A combo of some?
Which campaigns should be geared towards one way or the other?
Should seasons impact the effectiveness of E/H?



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Welcome to crowfall,


first i have to say "thumps up" for your first post beeing constructive and no whining keep it up. ;)


Most of your points are allready in the game or will be in some way in the game.


They allready said that they can change the rulesets of campains as they like for example how effectiv magic will be. With that i could see them doing a lot of things.


Most of your concerns regarding the balance of E/H are allready set.

It is your archtype + disziplin and promotion that will make you good at hunting or escaping. Some may even chose to do neither of those 2 and go a complet different route.


Stealth: There is the anti stealth archtype stalker. I can see other archtypes using the disziplin for more anti stealth.


Mounts are fine if they dont screw it up.

First There is a profession dedicated to pets , mounts and caravan animals.

With that i dont think we will start in any campain with mounts but rather we have to wait until mounts are tames / breed( maybe breeding will be in too)

The devs are not stupid, i think they know that they have to balance out the mount escaping / chasing but thats pretty easy.

Mounts need to have HP so you can kill them.

No mounting while in combat with 20 sec timer ( like the logout.)

Dismount if hit by knockdown. ( as you can only mount out of combat 2 hits of any attack will make you knockdown.)


While i wouldnt mind mounted combat its usally a real pain in the ass to balance it out, so i rather have it as only out of combat means of fast travel.

Mounts need ofcourse to make noise as they galop so you can hear them aproching.

With the mounted while out of combat mechanic would come a large risk of riding. If you get ambushed then you start the fight with a knockdown whithout the enemy even using any CC abilitys.


I find that a low more interesting then just banning mounts with server magic. That in itself would make the animal husbandry porfession meaningless in that campain.




So rather then forcing set E/H rules i find the current system of choices a lot better. I might be a harvester but i put skill points into max HP and perception ( anti stealth) for survival while having the anti stealth and movement disciplins. Or i take only skills and disciplins that are usefull for harvesting and trust the people around me with my protection.

The choice should be mine.



To answer your points:

Should this be something to balance around?
No need to over complicate it. There will be balance and i trust the devs will handle it just right.
Should the balance come primarily from Archetypes, or disciplines, or skill training, A combo of some?
It will be everything your skills+ your archtype + your disciplins and promotions + your number of people vs the enemys + your equipment vs the enemys + your player skill vs the enemys + your ability to work as a team vs the enemys + your ability to bring reinforcments vs the enemys.
Which campaigns should be geared towards one way or the other?
I belive that the outer ring campains ( the more casual frindly) will gear the inner ring campains ( like the dregs) It wouldnt make any other sense.
However import will allways be regulated in some way.
Rules will change and the devs allready sayed thats the great thing about the system. We try a ruleset out and if its poorly made socks then we change it.
Should seasons impact the effectiveness of E/H?
Now this is something that i hope they will but unshure if the devs can pull it off.
Not just seasons but weather too.
I would like to have a movement speed debuff on snow and other terain.
Going uphill should also slow you down and you should move faster downhill.
Roads should also make you faster but at a risk of ambushes.
They allready have fog ( from the hunger dome) That fog without the killing mechanic would make a nice weather effect. No one can see anything that is futher then X meters.
The nights need to be a lot darker. I can see everything in the current night while i would like to see nearly nothing without a torch. ( again risk of being spoted vs reward of beeing able to see. Maybe even skill points that let you see beter in the dark.


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Thanks for the welcome. 


About forcing the E/H rules,

"So rather then forcing set E/H rules i find the current system of choices a lot better. I might be a harvester but i put skill points into max HP and perception ( anti stealth) for survival while having the anti stealth and movement disciplins. Or i take only skills and disciplins that are usefull for harvesting and trust the people around me with my protection."



I feel this is a slight misunderstanding. This game is all about the E/H mechanics, the bulk of gameplay outside of sieges/objectives is going to be farming/crafting/building and raiding other people doing that. E/H is the balance associated with that type of gameplay. What you described in the quote is the E/H balance, I personally hope a significant amount of balance is in the archetypes and disciplines IE: the duelist has perma stealth and should have the lowest max HP out of all the archetypes.



My Concerns with the E/H balance is not covered in the game at the moment.


The bulk of this game is going to be centered around E/H, E/H is the logistics of war. You will need to farm materials, and when you farm you are venerable to attack. The actual mechanics of the combat literally doesn't matter because group size will not be locked in. No fight will be fair and numbers will usually be the largest deciding factor in a fight. This falls back to the idea that being able to control the fights you get into is the engaging combat mechanic when zergs form the bulk of the forces. Also when you are out in the world you are not out there looking for a fight all the time, you are out there for logistic reasons to prepare for the major siege. The Sieges and throne warfare mechanics are why we play the game, but the logistics raiding E/H balance is the gameplay that we will see every day and it can't be completely one sided or given to the players that have the biggest zerg.


So right now in crowfall this is my largest concern. It's made worse by the action combat system the game is going with, some classes will be very dependent on movement speed and movement abilities to be able to fight effectively. While those skills can be useful and balanced for combat they will cause issues in the open world E/H mechanics. 


There also needs to be a balance between the sheep and the wolves per say. And I think mounts can pull this off, at the start of campaigns it's the reign of the sheep, everyone is fairly strong at running away and getting back to their defenses to bank loot and what not. but then when mounts come out raiding parties now have significant advantages to stopping gatherers and the whole world gets smaller and more dangerous. 


Balance wise I hope they do a lot of it with archetypes, I see the Archetypes somewhat like EvE's ships they don't all need to be combat focused if they have strengths in other areas, that's why you can switch them maybe there will only be a solid half of them that are good in sieges while the rest are better at gathering or crafting or scouting. 



The main point is the game is setup at the moment with a very challenging balance because of action combat and high mobility along with mounts. This combined with the broad scope of depth in the class system paint a picture of the only balance in E/H is bring a big enough zerg so you don't die, and hope they can't kite you. Those two outcomes are the death of fun in these games.



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Great analysis, and good first post :) 
I don't know whether you notice, but most (if not all) what you are mentioning, are odds stacked against already weaker party. And they are already weaker, because of chosen specialisation. While most of hunters are speccing into being more lethal, harvesters put their time into harvesting, which is not combat oriented stuff. It is gatherers, which you called 'escapers' are the ones who are receiving shorter end here. While on that, I'm proposing for skipping nice names, and call them how it should be from start - prey. And all things you said, are stacked against them in favour of hunters.

Hunters don't need to be fast in combat. They need only to engage (gap can be closed by additional speed from mounts or short-time stealth), and they need just enough CC, to resolve combat as fast as possible, ideally in alpha-strike. Long, drawn combats, with high pursue rate (kiting and hiding) is what is direct counter to hunter mentality and it's most frustrating to them. Speed is needed only for repositioning from fight to fight, not in combat, because it should be close and personal.
That's why the most favourable forms of CC for hunters are short term, ideally with short cooldown. "GETOVERHERE!" grabs, charges, nets, armor piercing, are most favoured. Stuns, Knock-downs and crippling slows are right behind. Long, sleep-style CC are also least regarded - but it's worst type of nightmare for them if they're on receiving end, because it creates gap in combat, and often are considered "too weak" to "waste" their anti-cc ability/item. 

If it's possible, prey wants to avoid combat. If it's not possible to avoid combat entirely (that's why you want to be fast, and have long stealth), they want to avoid direct combat at least, and use any openings to run. That's why they prefer range combat with kiting, and why disengages, vanishes, tarpits, bear traps, knock-backs are most favoured forms of CC. They put more emphasis on longevity of effect, rather it's strength (most of times 9 sec 33% slow is better than 3 sec of root). Stuns, roots are great too, but usually last for too short. Armor-piercing, damage reduction or other CC like that is usually are not favourable, since to benefit from them, you have to actively participate in combat. And that is why, grabs/pulls etc. are considered as very situational (grab someone into trap in front of you) or even waste for them.

And I agree with you on summary, because this subject is element of discussion since, well beginning of RPG let alone MMO. That's why we have for such long time designed archetypes builds like glass-cannon, tank, bruiser etc. let's not forget one thing: it assumes here competitive balance between fighters.

Crowfall adds additional dimensions here: crafters and gatherers are not on same footing if it comes of fighting potential, by design. Also, their equipment is also not for fighting -> it will be maximize for crafting/gathering. After some time, I'm more than sure, power gap here will be so large, that 1 hunter will be enough to kill 2,3 or even more gatherers at same time. Of course, anti-measures like bodyguards, deep scouting and so on would be taken, but coming to bare design choices: Where should be 1-1 equilibrium (spring/summer/autumn/winter)? What have bigger impact skills or gear? If skills, what would be measures for cutting domination in later than 1st campaign? If gear, how big gear gaps would be?  And what about population? In nature, prey always outnumbers predators for big margins like 10:1 or even more. I'm more than sure, that in Crowfall there would be much more close to 1:1 if not predators will outnumber prey.

There are so many deep balance questions out here tied directly to design, that realistically, until there is nothing proposed to discuss, any discussion will be much closer to guesswork. And I'm sure, all of that and more are already discussed/prototyped inside, because it's core that would decide what this game would be like. 

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Great analysis, and good first post :) 


I don't know whether you notice, but most (if not all) what you are mentioning, are odds stacked against already weaker party. And they are already weaker, because of chosen specialisation. 


yes, this is why I am referring to it as escape and hunting mechanics and not combat mechanics. It's already known that the prey is weaker, there is not much combat depth you can get into with that. 


We are talking about the decisions to engage in combat, not the actual combat. The combat is simplified because we know the prey will lose most of the time. So the conversation goes to who should have the power when choosing what conflict to enter into. This is a vital balance question for open world games, we have seem this already in other games and are now experience it in the big world test. 


The big world test is actually primarily the addition of E/H gameplay, combat testing was done and it's still being done with the big world testing but E/H is the new thing. The big world testing is the actual testing that brought me to spend the money and start this topic of discussion. So there is something proposed and there is something to discuss about. 


Right now it is set up simply based off the combat mechanics, which is more or less what many games have done before(darkfall or survival games) but it leads to the situation where usually the hunters always catch the prey. I think this is a problem, because E/H should have a chance for the prey to escape, the cat and mouse game is the interesting part here, not getting wrecked in combat. If two gank groups fight that is all about the combat, but for gatherers and crafters the dangerous and interesting part of the open world is being hunted and getting away with your spoils.


I think this brings the discussion of do we need to have archetypes or disciplines designed to make you significantly combat weaker, something you would never bring to a siege, but will allow you to gather with more comfort. I believe we should have things like that because it is what makes EvE's pirating mechanics and stuff engaging for both sides. If you are out gathering you are not going out to fight, so do we give the players the option to have ways out of combat.  


So, it is being tested right now. There are plenty of examples such as eve or darkfall to talk about how these things worked out.


Darkfall pretty much used what is going on right now in the big world test, there was no mechanics for gatherers to escape other than be better at fighting, or be better at running away. The best players were the best bunny hopers and the best fights, you couldn't escape and farming usually amounted to can I gather enough stuff before someone shows up and kills me. Your success in crafting and gathering was based on how good of a fighter or when you choose to bank. 


In contrast to EvE where you outfit your ship to run from hunters, you hold a lot more decisions as to how much risk you are taking when mining or trading. Your gameplay is getting through the dangerous zones, and getting the loot back to safety. This is the gameplay of harvesting and gathering, this is the sense of danger or the explorer that avoids the dragon to get the gold instead of fighting it. Your reward is not getting caught and getting your harvest back, if simply seeing an enemy means you already lost because the deck is stacked towards them it cuts 90% of this gameplay out.



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Now THIS is what i was talking about.


I was just saying in another thread that i wanted to play solo gatherer/explorer with plans on avoiding most fights. But for that i would need a bigger world than i am stimating the launch game plans to be...


Your points shows that it is not because this is a PvP game that all we have to do in game is kill or be killed. There is so much more to a MMO game, there is so much more that makes the world feels alive and not only a fighting ring.


Really good post man...

Edited by BarriaKarl

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There is a lot of good stuff here, and it's a quality first post, but most of the stuff like this is in the works still.


Actually my concern is they are not working on this.




In this conversation about Harvesting, they don't bring up the gameplay of danger and the cat and mouse of the exploration type playing. They mention there are other players but they then assume well you just lose if someone finds you. 


I see it with this game along with other open world games like Darkfall and Albion, where Harvesting is a secondary thing that just supports crafting and requires combat help to protect them. It's more of a secondary style of gameplay, but when you open up the skill tree for Crowfall you see three categories, Crafting, combat, and exploration. 


Exploration is the harvesters, the thief's, and the explorers. They are the ones that risk themselves to get the reward whether it is harvesting in dangerous places, stealing materials from an opposing guild's POI or scouting the enemies movements. The general idea is putting yourself in a dangerous position to get a reward and try to survive.


It's been missed too much, EvE really is the only game that has it to a certain extent and there is no reason why Crowfall should pass up the opportunity, Most of the developers know something is missing, they put in the exploration skill tree, they put in harvesting they know it's there but they never quite find what the goal is, there is no FAQ for exploration, or harvesting. It's lumped in with crafting or combat always as a secondary or the social activity. It needs to be it's own goal and playstyle, the goal is to survive and the reward is what you bring back items or knowledge. It's only really possible in a full PvP and crafting game like Crowfall or EvE. 


I really believe that if they nail it, it's the thing that will make the game.



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theres some indication that the explorer path will have things like stealth and tracking, which could certainly help with evading roving gank groups.  But since those arent implemented yet its really hard to say how it will work out.


I do like the idea of individual and small groups of players being able to have a fun time in game with things like this.  Sure they wont be winning any combat campaigns but if its fun and it helps the world be more fleshed out then its great all around IMO.

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I'm with you Jezvin. An exploration FAQ should/needs to be made soon. As things are Big World is fairly small and really is for continued combat testing, crafting, and persistence. Apart from missing a number of Achetypes, we also don't have any mounts, which there is an FAQ for, or disciplines. Both of those things I expect will have a large impact on player interaction. Even though it's called big world, the exploration milestone is yet to come.

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