Since the production of World of Warcraft last 2004 (right feel old, now?), the MMO genre is trapped in a funk. Numerous MMOs have risen to challenge the behemoth and then inevitably fail when players discover nothing more than imitations with the items has already been polished and perfected. Little in the form of interesting news has emerged in the genre in years.
Enter ArtCraft Entertainment and Crowfall, a radical new MMO that seeks to breathe new life in to the genre and break the endless cycle of copycats. With Crowfall, ArtCraft takes the concept of persistence and throwing it to get a loop. Rather than being tied to one class, players are essentially spirits such as crows, capable to possess different bodies and different archetypes (classes). Though you can possess different archetypes, the skill-sets for your character remain intact with your spiritual form. Not only is player persistence fluid, even so the world is constructed of campaigns which have certain win conditions as well as end when those conditions are met. Campaigns last anywhere from days to a few months or longer, each new campaign may be adjusted from the developer to be the cause of different player strategies.
The exception for this lack of persistence is surely an area they call the Eternal Kingdoms, where you can a robust player housing system which includes large castles and modifiable terrain. There, players are in a position to set the principles and determine whether PvP or building destruction, with all the game’s voxel-based graphics, are allowed.
I was sufficiently fortunate to get spend 1 hour on Skype with ArtCraft founders J. Todd Coleman and Gordon Walton. Todd established fact for creating Shadowbane and his work with the more youth-oriented Wizard101 and Pirate101, while Gordon served as executive producer on such titles as Ultima Online, The Sims Online, Star Wars Galaxies, and Star Wars The Old Republic. They are industry veterans with encyclopedic information about the MMO genre and I desired to take advantage of that knowledge with a few higher level industry questions along with some specific queries about Crowfall itself.
The Escapist: Gordon, you gave a famous talk at GDC, “Ten Great Reasons You Don’t Want To Make an MMO” and here all of you are making an MMO.
J. Todd Coleman: Gordon never follows his very own advice. He knows what he shouldn’t do but he does it anyway.
Gordon Walton: There’s something to to be a contrarian you realize.
TE: Not only do you think you’re making an MMO, that’s quite a risk by itself, however are adopting game systems that any of us haven’t really seen before. What made you’re taking the jump again with Crowfall?
Gordon: I think how the key thing we’re looking to do we have found we are wanting to innovate inside the space therefore we felt like when Todd and I first got together and started speaking about doing something together, we discovered pretty quickly we have a common vision with the items was going on from the business. Our assessment with the items was wrong with your business was congruent. We both checked out it as super stagnant, basically WoW has sucked all of the oxygen from the room. Everybody is seeking to be WoW and simply WoW could be WoW. It was taken us backwards instead of forwards because nobody was doing something to try to innovate from the genre. They were all basically saying, “how could we copy WoW and in actual fact make becoming big as WoW and win many of WoW’s customers?” causing all of those just weren’t that successful. You want to study every new game and discover what’s worthwhile within it. but where is the modern stuff? Because the clients are desperate for Innovation given that it’s not to ever radical.
Todd: Yeah, I think that’s area of the key. It’s one thing to recognize problems, step 2 beyond which is to recognize that a challenge represents the opportunity. By recognizing that is a, our genre specifically, had grown very stagnant, another kind of other side to which is that all the people who funded these games have already been burned seeking to recreate World of Warcraft. So they form of took their own and went elsewhere. They all traveled to mobile. Now it’s VR but right at that moment it was mobile. So that managed to make it really interesting for the reason that assumption from each of the big players is the fact that they felt forex wasn’t cool anymore, they shouldn’t play there, which made a gulf of no upcoming exciting products to the playerbase, that’s still significant. It’s huge. We’re dealing with millions of players who choose this type of game.
Gordon: Over 20% from the total take of games worldwide is MMOs.
Todd: The numbers are huge so major players took their funds and went elsewhere. Now go through the upcoming slate of games and it is really fascinating. All the games folks are excited about are from independent studios. You’ve got Camelot Unchained, us, Shroud from the Avatar, Star Citizen. They’re all basically super-sized indie projects; most of them via developers that contain experience and history doing exactly this sort of stuff and intensely wanted the opportunity go back and revisit several of the original ideas that got snuffed in what is style of the burning fire of World of Warcraft (laughs).
TE: This leads to my next question. Is it riskier to innovate in the MMO or perhaps is a riskier to never innovate?
Gordon: I think that history shows pretty clearly it is riskier not to ever. I mean the quantity of MMO launches have we seen inside the last 5 Years. when a million plus people pile in and they are mostly gone after three months because they go, “oh I played farmville before”? They pattern match it right away and it’s as being a shittier version of WoW that has a different cover into it, that has a different sort of facade.
TE: Is that so what happened with The Old Republic?
Gordon: Well the Old Republic was really successful that is the license. Once you possess a religion for ones license that’s really helpful. That’s each of the Star Wars is, can be a religion really. Did you want it to be easier? Absolutely.
Todd: And more successful out from the gate. It really took a while for that game to acquire its legs under it and be successful and I think industry expectation was so it would come out and immediately tackle World of Warcraft. That is often a tall order. How much money is sunk just into straight-on rise in WoW?
Gordon: The team always thought there was a 2.5 million [subscriber] type of game.
Todd: Which is still ridiculous right? That’s still huge.
Gordon: But the way large companies measure themselves is beating industry leader.