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PiRhotic

The Danger of Breaking Convention and Crowfall's Future

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Danger of Breaking Convention

 

So recently, I've been watching an old series of videos on game design (and related topics) called Extra Credits. One of the episodes made me worry a little about Crowfall. I hope my fears are misplaced, but by posting this I hope they are not realized.

 

You'd do better to watch the source material, but to summarize it JC Penny's tried to stop marketing practices that preyed on consumers' psychology and sales suffered immensely because of it. Extra Credits made the correlation between World of Warcraft's loot system and how it plays on our psychology to want instantaneous feedback. We kill a monster: we get an item that we equip then and there to boost our stats and thus, feel like we've progressed. A game that tried to break this convention, instead opting for resource drops, was called Firefall.

 

Now, I understand Crowfall is not Firefall and it's not trying to fight WoW. Let me be blatant here and say I’m not comparing it to WoW. In fact, this is why I'm so ready to fall in love with Crowfall. But, it's hard to ignore the traits both Crowfall & Firefall share. Firefall also focused on a player-driven economy in a MMO PvP world aimed at a niche market. I just don’t want Crowfall to meet the same fate Firefall has. According to steam charts, it took 7 months for the Firefall playerbase average to drop below 1000.

 

 

Crowfall's Future

 

Will combat be intrinsically rewarding enough for players to stay when the novelty's worn off, since it won't the conventional loot drop system? I'm personally incredibly excited for the crafting system of this game, and the depths and complexities that come with the planned system, but it will be for naught if no one brings the crafting materials in, or if there are no customers to buy from me. What will happen when all my customers get bored of the combat.

 

If Crowfall wants to have engaging combat, then I don't think it can do combat like traditional MMORPGs. If we are going to break conventions like loot drops, then we need a better combat system. A combat system that can be boiled down to damage-- DPS, mitigation, healing, etc.--is not good enough since everything can ultimately be compared with the question: How will this increase my [team's] DPS. Now you might be wondering, how else would you build a combat system without a focus on damage? Damage is an important tool, but it is not the only tool. One possible solution is focusing more on the incomparables: game mechanics that belong to each archetype. For instance, look at how MOBAs like League of Legends make each of their 100+ characters feel unique. They each have a different feel from their ability kits. Like how assassins have stealth, tanks have pulls, mages have blink etc. As the archetypes are now, I feel like they're all just different ways to deal, mitigate, or heal damage without enough focus on their unique incomparables.

 

I don't want Crowfall to end up like other failed MMOs that broke conventions like loot drops, even though that's the very reason I came here. To do so, Crowfall needs a replacement system for people to continue playing it--something intrinsic. Combat is such a key aspect of Crowfall that I hope it is enjoyable without the need for rewards like loot drops. I very much want Crowfall to succeed. I want to enjoy it’s worlds and systems with everyone else for years after release and not months. I hope by posting this, that in case these thoughts somehow slipped the spectacular minds at Artcraft, they will be reminded of them by the community. Thank you for reading my thoughts.

 

 

TL;DR

 

Breaking longstanding conventions like loot drop systems can kill MMOs, even niche ones. Crowfall needs to make up for that by not using a boring combat system. Combat must be engaging enough for people to enjoy without loot drops, example: League of Legends.

 

Video Source: https://youtu.be/QxfkWZPAUg4

Steam Charts: http://steamcharts.com/app/227700

Edited by PiRhotic

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It's not the breaking of a former convention that causes failure. It's the perceived merit or lack thereof of the former and latter conventions themselves. And a million other things. Lots and lots of games with loot drops suck ass.

 

Maybe Pennies needed a better marketing company?

Edited by coolwaters

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"engaging a different reward system" != "engaging no reward system". Civ games and FPSs both engage different reward systems from WoW but both genres are very successful.


Official "Bad Person" of Crowfall

"I think 1/3rd of my postcount is telling people that we aren't turning into a PvE / casual / broad audience game." -

Tully

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When I look at Crowfall combat system, I see more of a Moba/FPS hybrid rather than a MMO combat system, It's different, it's fresh, I feel as though how a player plays their character will out weight the dps bonus equipment would give.  With as much customization there is in gear... unless some stat is broken/exploited (ex see crit with fire mage in WoW currently) I don't see cookie cutters working as well with others being able to custom build counter stats towards a "known build"


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This is an interesting thought, and I think we should always appreciate the feedback of someone worried about the game not succeeding.

 

However, to have played Firefall, and even if it was really good fun, it was also incredibly repetitive, unclear some times, boring as hell for some quests, etc.

 

They actually had good graphics, good mechanics, some sort of back story. But the game had no spine. It was feeling like the player had no impact on the game whatsoever. That we were trying to make sense out of a patchwork of things.

 

IMO, Crowfall is taking it the opposite way. And so far, the application of the ideas, the spine of Crowfall, is actually well respected.

 

What I am afraid of for the game development is the recent noise our community is doing about specific parts of the game, when we still don't have the full vision in our hand yet. So much noise, that I am afraid that ACE starts listening, paying too close attention to it, and start changing the vision they had before they could deliver it as first pitched. Because that is how you end up with a patchwork game.

 

I will end with a quote from John Lennon:

 

“Trying to please everybody is impossible - if you did that, you'd end up in the middle with nobody liking you. You've just got to make the decision about what you think is your best, and do it.”

Edited by Eaden

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What Eaden said of Firefall is quite true, but the game was also stuck in development Hell for years. They went back and forth with being all about the next esport or focusing on an expansive world that you had to fight an enemy faction for. I'd say ultimately a lack of vision and poor management doomed that game.


Hi, I'm moneda.

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There's no special sauce covered magic bullet to make a game do well.

 

CF on paper has a lot going for it.

 

It will come down to how well the devs pull it off and how we receive the result.

 

Regardless, players come and go and most mmo games drop over time. There is always something new to pull people away.

 

If they can make something that a decent amount of core players can latch on to, should be fine.

 

Combat is a huge concern and why they've spend so much time on it.

 

While I wouldn't mind some more "unique" elements to each AT that go beyond the DPS/Mitigate/Heal dynamic, I don't believe you can look at them the same as MOBA characters.

 

They stand out so well because they have so few abilities. They are good at something specific and do well/poorly based on that. For a small scale timed arena match, that's fine, but for a larger mmo where people expect variety, it is quite different.

 

However, hopefully the character building plays well with team comp like MOBAs and trying new things keeps us interested and coming back. Instead of getting the next piece of gear, it will be about trying some crazy build we thought of and gaining all the elements to create it. The "loot gratification" will still exist in a way.

 

Will it work? No idea, but hopefully.

Edited by APE

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At the high level this is great ponder material with good counter-pointing:  Some loot based games haven't succeeded.  So this begs the question . . . why?

 

Generally you could break things into fourhigh-levels (as I see it) that are basic fuel for driving continued participation in a game by players, or contribute to player-loss when things are failing.  Plus #5 as one barometer that could be used:

 

1) Material Reward/Gain (e.g. "follow the money" or progression) - IMO the driver for typical MMOs with cyclic farmvilling cycles for gear/levels/stats,  people who are more comfortable with pre-mapped out routines that can be practiced to effect success.  Also is the principle motivator for gold sellers and IRL money making parasites infesting games.  Also includes in-balance rewards in general.

  • IMO Progression fits here as well, as many games are structured with redirects to game-play time sinking for levels / abilties / stats.  So, gaining that level, or that gear score, or that ability is a core material gain you must work to (in some games).
  • Vested interest.

2)  Challenge - IMO the driver for players that like to figure out how to excel at whatever.  This could be twitch, it could be strategy/tactics, it could be building teams to beat challenges.  You could apply "skill ceilings/floors" here, but generally is broader than twitch alone.  It's the desire to NOT be subject to ez-mode, but rather a testing of your abilities, whatever that is in any given situation.

 

3) Discovery - IMO a huge one at an unconscious level, and one most often stunted in MMOs  because pumping out "content" can't be sustained in the face of the flash-fire rate of content devouring playerbases are capable of.  IMO (someday I greatly hope) when we start seeing true "living / breathing worlds", we'll see something different here.  

  • Repetition deadens the senses at some point.  Boring.  People leave.  DISCOVERY keeps the spark burning.  The wondering "what's around that corner", the "OK, I have some new skills and how does the combo work?", Different maps, landscapes, etc.
  • Needing fresh, new inputs, having the unknown to temp discovery is a strong need in many people.

4)  Home/Persistence - An opinion on my part, and varies person to person wildly.  Generally speaking this talks to how you want yourself to be seen in game by others.  Your "recognized place" in the virtual world.  Displays of wealth or accomplishment (ties to 1, 2, and 3).  Big home vs tiny.  Trophies on display or not.  Epic gear that looks cool and shows accomplishment vs basic leathers.  Reputation: How are you known, good guy or "bad", ganker vs protector, smack talker or reasoned on chat?

  • In games that have supported it, I've seen excessive amounts of attention and effort put into Homes, including rabid "PvP Bunnies".  What style, what size, how it's decorated, what's on display outside and inside.
  • Playing with your Friends fits here as well, IMO.
  • Vested interest.

EDIT:  Whelp, forgot a few I think:  IS IT FUN? Is it Stable? Is it prone to bugs/exploits?  How is performance?

  • Any of these things, if a large problem, will erode the entire experience.

5)  Fluff/Social - More a barometer, not so much a cause/effect.  However, in games that supported basic party or social fluff capabilities, these have been quick pings that something is healthy or amiss with the population (not being seen anymore).  Examples:

  • LOTROs Music System (coolest social / fluff feature EVER):  They implemented a "ABC" music file player in-game.  Some players were capable of converting songs to ABC format, then tweaking results so it actually played "right".  You could equip any musical instrument in the game and play said file, and that song would play in game.  In it's day you'd have musicians regularly playing in Bree, if not full groups syncing up, and sometimes round-robin circles of players each playing a solo then the next guy.  Two of my favorites were Suzie-Q by Creedence and Maria-Maria by Santana, both guitar solos and sounded awesome.
  • Dancing - Seen in many games.  But in GW 1 they had some good dancing routines, some more like belly dancing or acrobatics, and you'd have groups in-sync at the tops of steps.  Actually quite awesome as a Social visual when you went through Lion's Arch.  Signs Of Life.
  • Fireworks and Publicly Available Fluff - Fireworks in many games, some more impressive than others.  Also, in GW2 they had an Item that was basically a "Surprise Box" you could drop on the ground, had a life span, and anyone could use it. Public-open ground drop.  It would apply a random Morph of some kind to a player (goblin, bat, whatever) for a time.

You don't stay in a game because of Fluff and parties like this.  However, NOT seeing that anymore when it had been in evidence tells you something.  And for "in between time", people like to hang for a bit, and they like hanging for a bit even more when it's fun.

 

Signs of LIfe.

Edited by Bramble

“Letting your customers set your standards is a dangerous game, because the race to the bottom is pretty easy to win. Setting your own standards--and living up to them--is a better way to profit. Not to mention a better way to make your day worth all the effort you put into it." - Seth Godin

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Nodes drop loot, animals drop loot, and they put the best loot drop mechanic imaginable right in the players hands, crafting. Don't tell me you don't get that positive reinforcement rush every time you see "Amazing Success".

 

In the game you won't even have to brave the wild to get your skinner box fix.  Purchase chances from players with real money in the form of VIP tokens/currency, load up on quarters/resources, and spin the loot wheel to your hearts content.

 

The real trick is going to be for harvesters keeping up with the chances supply/demand.

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Game developers would be well advised to take a good look at all of these Extra Credits videos, instead of being busy making crappy, unenjoyable games over and over again.

But they wont, because they dont care about making good games, as long as they get paid anyway.

Edited by Urahara

After EverQuest Next is gone, its Star Citizen for me.

 

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Yah I agree with coolwaters on this. There are a lot of games that failed with standard loot-drop, etc. It's more about breaking the standard poorly rather than just braking the standard that makes games fail.

 

In terms of combat, we don't even have all AT in yet. We don't have advantages/disadvantages, or discplines. All of which will add to or enhance the feel of AT making them feel unique to suit your needs so...I'm not worried. I think some improvements could be made sure, but we have plenty of time.

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Yeah theres an even bigger danger IMO if try to play it too safe and adhere to cookie cutter ideas. This genre is stagnant and needs these type of games and Devs to bring life back to it.

The important question to ask of every mechanic is, "Why is this the current standard", then based on the answer decide if that is an idea that should be challenged, or embraced.

 

Just changing everything for the sake of changing everything would discount years of valuable lessons, while just following the existing tropes would make just another cookie cutter game.

 

There should be room in CF for many of the standards that people are comfortable with, provided the core experience is different and engaging enough to keep people interested.

 

Crowfall should focus on differences in kind as a way to deal with usual MMO power creep.  

 

Fortunately CF has full game resets built in with the campaign worlds.  So old systems can be retired for better ones.

Edited by KrakkenSmacken

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It isn't about loot drops. It's about a game loop that gives players a consistent (and even if stupid and small) sense of reward. Even if you are losing, the little "wins" keep people coming back to casinos. You need that in games, especially games meant to be played over and over again.

 

Wildstar has consistently messed this up and proven that having super fun content isn't good enough. Long periods of activity with no rewards is demoralizing.

 

I'm not sure what that looks like in this game. One thing I fear is that death can be so punishing and deliberate that people will be reluctant to just jump into the action. Which is fine and cool; deliberate and strategic combat sounds way more fun than queueing for another battleground. However, CF is gonna need more rewards along the way to keep people hooked, and loot drops from co bat may not be enough. Or maybe it will be!

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Although its been stated that the CW rewards will be from the Embargo Bank at the end of the Campaign. If these could also be done at the end of each season (spring, summer, autumn, winter) then that would provide a more immediate reward, especially for longer campaigns.


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It isn't about loot drops. It's about a game loop that gives players a consistent (and even if stupid and small) sense of reward. Even if you are losing, the little "wins" keep people coming back to casinos. You need that in games, especially games meant to be played over and over again.

 

Wildstar has consistently messed this up and proven that having super fun content isn't good enough. Long periods of activity with no rewards is demoralizing.

 

I'm not sure what that looks like in this game. One thing I fear is that death can be so punishing and deliberate that people will be reluctant to just jump into the action. Which is fine and cool; deliberate and strategic combat sounds way more fun than queueing for another battleground. However, CF is gonna need more rewards along the way to keep people hooked, and loot drops from co bat may not be enough. Or maybe it will be!

 

Very good analysis here.

 

I think they could solve this by making the embargo transfer periodic rather than purely at end of world.

 

 If players were on a non-fixed timer as opposed to the current fixed timer used in the spirit bank test, that spanned days/weeks rather than minutes, and was reduced both by in game performance and proximity to worlds end, players would be able to "save" small victories in embargo, and use those resources more steadily in the EK worlds.

 

I think the brief and infrequent transit of resources to the EK is one mechanic that could exasperate the proposed all or little nature of winning as a negative reinforcement tool.  Spreading it out, and allowing constant little wins that have lasting value could go along way to enticing people to return.

 

The best part is that the current spirit bank mechanics already enforce a transfer time by individual items.  That times duration is really the only thing that needs to be messed with.

Edited by KrakkenSmacken

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I think periodic embargo could be good- depending on the band.

 

The main thing for me is to just know that ACE is watching the "game loop" carefully and make sure it's something that works to keep people interested. People will only do content for contents sake a few time- after that, it needs to feel rewarding.

 

PvP can really be about having those unique, really fun encounters, and less about the rewards. You know, those matches you tell stories about. Since there is that kind of variation, CF might not need as many rewards along the way. But this hinges on unique combat situations being frequent and accessible.

 

The safe route is to do both things well- small rewards that grant positive feelings, but the big payoff really being player made situstions that are unique and satisfying.

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I somewhat agree and disagree with the OP. The part I agree is that CF needs great combat to keep interest.

 

Where I disagree is your cookie cutter formula for making a good game. How many WoW clones did we see and how many MMORPGs that copied WoW are still relevant? People like change and don't want to keep playing the same thing over and over. Most of us are here because we are tired of WoW clones. I support indie games because they take risks AAA developers won't take.

 

There is definitely a market for trying something new and I will throw money to that person for coming up with unique ideas. This is the most I have ever pledged into a game that I couldn't really even play. I do this because I like the initial idea of CF and I hope they pull it off. No more cookie cutters, real gamers are bored.

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