Evaluating Crowfall’s Recent Siege Concepts

Crowfall has given me plenty of reason to pause and question. Everything from temporary battleground experience to arcade matches, and then the idea of fragmenting communities (the foundation of group pvp) by creating FFA campaigns, guild vs. guild campaigns, etc.

I’m finding a few more issues with Crowfall’s proposed PvP mechanics that were recently shown in a video. Take a look.

Vulnerability Windows – “For the next two hours the city can be attacked.” That’s a mistake.

Scripted Events – (Bloodstone telling players to go here, go there) This essentially states that players should zerg. The bloodstone says to go to X,Y? Okay, everyone go to X,Y.  That’s a mistake.

Expecting true Emergent Gameplay within a ‘Battleground’ – You can’t expect emergent gameplay when you create victory scenarios centered around timed capture the flag mechanics and vulnerability windows. You’ll only create an arcade experience. Basing your entire PvP campaign system around it… That’s a mistake.

There needs to be a long-term drive or a purpose, which I have yet to see explained. There must be a ‘reason’ to keep fighting. PvP for the sake of PvP will not last in 2015+. Games like that are a dime a dozen. This is why when people start to lose, I expect they’ll simply stop playing.

Now I’ll be constructive and offer advice.

Let’s assume they did stick with this. There are a few key points they’ll have to consider. First, to make this scenario work (which I realize is just one example of many “emergent” gameplay opportunities) the map has to be huge. Any map where players can realistically turn back to defend after committing to going after a Bloodstone will fail. Second, the reward for this Bloodstone thing has to be incredible. Third, the Bloodstone reward has to be diametrically opposed to the Keep reward so that players are actually having to choose which reward they want rather than simply choosing to double down. Fourth, they have to remove those vulnerability windows. That keep should be vulnerable 24/7; if it’s worth defending and not designed to fall in 30 seconds to a zerg then it will be defended.

It’s not impossible to make such a system like this fun, but it will be incredibly difficult to make it fun for long.

  • That keep should be vulnerable 24/7; if it’s worth defending and not designed to fall in 30 seconds to a zerg then it will be defended.

    It will still be defended at 4am EST on a Tuesday night when an Australian guild storms the walls? And suppose there are defenders there, but the attack never comes. Are you willing to spend a few hours playing Crowfall staring at nothing from atop the walls?

    While I agree with you that vulnerability windows are likely a bad idea, the flip side is that that is really the only realistic way to generate reasonably balanced fights. Imagine EVE without reinforcement timers – sovereignty in a given system could change every few hours for all but the biggest, most time-zone spanning guilds. It’s appointment gaming at its worst, but the flip side is logging in and finding that someone has destroyed everything you built the night before.

  • I believe the entire problem starts with how long it takes for a castle to fall. It should take hours, days or in some instances weeks for a keep to fall to the attacking force.

    Siege equipment should take considerable time to build and move. Projectiles should be crafted and when you run out, the siege equipment is worthless. It should take considerable effort for an attacking force to even begin a siege, let alone take a keep. Food and water should also be taken into consideration. If you want true realism how long can one man fight without rest, food and water.

    One thing for sure. Having to make an appointment to attack a keep is the wrong way to go.

  • @Azuriel: If it’s worth defending, it’ll be defended. The key here is to also create something that can’t be taken or captured, even with a zerg, quickly. I remember in DAoC we had a phone tree. When Albion was going to do a 3am relic raid and start taking keeps our night crew in our alliances would make phone calls. Everyone called two people. It splintered out fast and we had 300 people on to defend and could arrive while they were still working on the doors.

    Look at GW2, ESO, WAR, etc., where the keeps falls in minutes when undefended or defended by a small team and it’s pointless. Also, look at the penalty for losing one. In DAoC it was the WORST thing EVER to lose those keeps and relics. We did whatever we could to defend. It hurt more. It’s like death in MMOs. Die a wow? Run back. Die in EQ? Lose your stuff and experience. You go to amazing lengths not to die in EQ.

    @Thomas: Read your comment after writing mine to Azuriel. You are absolutely correct. It should take a HUGE planning, prep, and resources. It should be more like real life. And the size of the map also matters. Die during a siege? Ouch.

  • Wait…are you saying people called each other at 3 am to get on the game to defend a keep? Am I misunderstanding something?

    That sounds ludicrous. I mean, yeah, I could do that back when I was a teenager but I am not getting up at 3am when I have to work the next day to play any game, no matter how much I love it. How many of those 300 people were expected to actually get on?

  • “That keep should be vulnerable 24/7”

    I don’t agree with this, but perhaps the window of vulnerability could be sensible to accommodate the general, albeit minimal, sleep cycle typical for the server?

    While the window of vulnerability concept does break immersion, so does getting your entire hold sacked while your guild mates made the unfortunate decision to sleep for 8 hours, which is functionally analogous to teleporting away extradimensionally as your character isn’t present to hear the sounds of battle and wake up to defend.

    So between the two immersion breaking events, I know which I feel is less fun; certainly losing all of the hard work put in during in game hours, so I choose windows of vulnerability as the lesser of two problems.

    Of course there are always creative solutions to problems that could be implemented, such as having NPC simulacrums present to defend during a character’s out of game time, which likely would need to be buffed to make up for the lack of actual human intelligence and logistics.

    I don’t like the counter-arguments about recruiting players from different time zones to cover out of game time, as this starts to push mega-guild recruitment as a prerequisite to playing such games effectively, an issue which I feel destroys enjoyment of RvRvR types of MMO’s for me. I can elaborate when I have more free time, but the concept revolves around the difference between mom and pop shop versus mega-corporation play strategies and differential resource (content) consumption. 😉

  • “If it’s worth defending, it’ll be defended.”

    Only in a mega-guild situation, which kills enjoyment for someone like me, and likely leads to 3 month phenomenon as gameplay starts feeling like holding down a second job, …one with shit hours.

  • “Are you willing to spend a few hours playing Crowfall staring at nothing from atop the walls?” Azuriel.

    I just thought I’d mention that this is what people do every day in GW2’s WvW on my server, Yak’s Bend, and have done for almost as long as I’ve been playing. We have scouts in towers and keeps across our borderland. They routinely sit in a tower for anything from 30 minutes to several hours. When they have to leave they call for replacements ad replacements volunteer.

    I’m not saying this happens for every tower, all day, every day, but most structures ARE manned by someone keeping watch most of the time. For hours at a time those people may not be fighting anyone or earning experience or gold. There’s no reward for doing it other than the understanding that it’s part of being a WvW player on a server that wants to hold on to its structures.

    I don’t doubt for a moment that, if Crowfall attracts an audience that sees it as “their” game, there will be people willing to sit in structures staring at nothing for hours on end day after day. It’s actually quite relaxing.

  • “I don’t doubt for a moment that, if Crowfall attracts an audience that sees it as “their” game, there will be people willing to sit in structures staring at nothing for hours on end day after day. It’s actually quite relaxing.”

    I don’t doubt that, and moreover I won’t negatively judge players who enjoy doing so, but I’ll bet that most players on this blog are looking for some other type of experience than what GW2 is currently doing, or I suppose we would be talking about how awesome it is as opposed to wistfully looking for some upcoming MMO that might keep our interest for more than 3 months.

  • @Bhagpuss: I would be on wall duty all the time in DAoC. We volunteered to take turns when we felt like RvRing. People would go on scouting duty who could stealth. You’re right — when it feels like ‘your game’ you care.

    @Gankatron: Heck no it doesn’t have to be mega-guilds. We had alliances in DAoC where most of us were in small family-style guilds. We banded together into large alliances. It was awesome that we could have that old school small family-style guild yet be effective in PvP vs even zergs. Heck, 8-mans in DAoC were where it was at. I was in 8-man guilds too.

    @SineNomine: You obviously voluntarily gave out your number. No one was ‘expected’ to get on in our alliance, but we typically had 200-300 respond. Keep in mind, the raids usually only happened on weekends when the other realms would even be willing to go that early.

  • I would probably feel the same way some of you guys do about vulnerability windows being necessary if I had not played DAoC. It really wasn’t a big deal.

    I don’t recall getting calls at 3 AM to come out and defend when I played DAoC. I am sure that stuff happened though as people were pretty serious about the realm wars. When it was obvious the other side was setting up a relic raid everyone stopped what they were doing. When a relic was captured and in enemy hands the thinking about how and when to get it back was always in the forefront of everyone’s mind.

    The thing about 3 AM is it is likely that there as few from your realm on at that time as the opposing realm has on and therefore, it would take a concerted effort to get enough people on at that time to mount a credible relic raid. Keeps were guarded by NPCs and alerts went out whenever keep guards were killed and there was even a web page that showed the status of the frontiers/relics that you could check without logging in. There were several strategies employed in trying to capture a relic of course, but typically you tried to capture a number of keeps to make the relic keep more vulnerable to your siege. So, after a while based on the numbers and how many keeps were being taken it was pretty obvious what was happening and often defenders had enough time to rally and get in a position to defend or at least slow the advance. Of course, the difficulty for the attackers was that while taking more keeps would make the relic keep easier to breach, it made actually holding those keeps long enough more difficult. So, that even if the defenders couldn’t get enough out to stop your zerg they could try to get the attackers to split up to prevent keeps being taken back.

    Losing keeps in DAoC really wasn’t that big of a deal although strong efforts were made to defend them. When the realm war was heated a keep might flip several times over a weekend. However, losing a relic was a big deal and it took a long, concerted effort to capture one, even when there was a relatively small defensive force in opposition. Just having someone repairing a gate and PBAoEing the attackers at the gate could significantly delay a keep take. The loss might be inevitable, but it might make it take long enough to give defenders a chance to rally and reinforce or meet the opposition at the next keep they tried to take.

    This is all according to my recollection when I played most heavily from 2001-2003. I only briefly played after new frontiers came out and not much but very off and on after that so I am not sure how much things changed after that.

  • Have they talked about population balancing/scaling? How difficult a keep is to take really depends on how many attackers and how many defenders. Lopsided is bad, but an even fight can lead to stalemates. Thats a problem when you concentrate the fighting.

  • “We had alliances in DAoC where most of us were in small family-style guilds.”

    I wish I had played DAoC and SWG back when you guys did because you all have such fond memories of the communities that were present.

    As it is having no direct experience with those times there always is a seed of skeptical doubt regarding the “rose colored glasses” aspect, but I do believe there must have been something unique, something greater than just mass revisionist delusion surrounding your experiences.

    But where does this seed of doubt come from? Specifically from all of the lousy community experiences I have experienced in every game since TBC in WoW.

    Why is this an important point? Specifically I suspect the gaming communities of old that fostered such great experiences in DAoC are things of the past, or at least dwarfed by mega-guild dominance and zerg mentality of casual players.

    In GW2 I was part of a mega-guild as it became apparent to me the PvP aspects of the game were being carved out into territories way before launch. So as it was we were extremely efficient in taking holds, military-like in our execution, right down to having detailed maps pre-release of exactly where to place catapults and so on.

    I felt that we were so objective focused that individual play style was overshadowed, and it is difficult in this context for me to envision your family-style guilds having much of an impact; conversely I would expect that if such people showed up into a zone they would be publicly admonished for causing a decrease in the number of mega-guild players that could be present, and accused of selfishly working against the server’s best interests.

    In short I felt we efficiently accomplished goals, but I did not perceive a sense of on the ground community as you have described it.

    So my question is how do you envision a modern RvRvR type of MMO recreating such community based positive experiences of DAoC as you describe, when I perceive current community demographics to be the primary obstacle, or to restate, what difference can overall game mechanics design exert if the player base mentality is no longer conducive to fostering a sense of old-school community?

    Realize that my concern isn’t focused on whether the readers of this blog would support such a community, as I think we could agree they would, but how the new majority would as their influence will predominant. 😉

  • Warhammer tried to make RVR gimmicky…it simply is a horrible idea…

    How to avoid After Hour Raids?

    Smart Designer:

    – Make Raids tough
    – Make the reward of a raid or the penalty of being raided something that matters
    – Make it worthwhile to participate
    – Try and design a game in a way where people generally care

    Dumb Designer:

    – Lets make a 2 hour raid window

  • I share most of the concerns as they are very valid. Hopefully this was only one example of possible gameplay scenarios using the bloodstones. I fully expect Crowfall designers to basically throw shit at the wall and see what sticks with the playerbase. That’s one of the advantages of non-persistent world, there’s a lot of room to experiment and if it bombs, you can pull the plug quickly. Possible outlier case : the world is set to live only 7 days. Having a crap ton of small events with very limited windows of opportunity like this 2 hour example may work…. or it may not and the playerbase never hear of this again. Hopefully, the team is building a set of robust tools that will allow them this kind of flexibility and experimentation.

  • with a 2h raid window the server will go down as happened with wintergrasp, tol barad, etc…
    unless you limit the amount of people that can join but if you do this then the raid system will be useless.

  • Your rose glasses for DAoC are blinding you. Relic raids at 3am that went until 6am (if not longer) sucked, and that was 100% a design flaw. Bringing up a phone chain as a benefit is insane, and I hope you can see that. You weren’t in a ‘family’ guild if you called each other at 4am to defend pixels; that’s as hardcore as you can get, and any game that rewards such design is instantly going to fail in todays market or cap out at a few hundred players.

    Any open-world PvP game is going to have zergs. Trying to design around not having zergs is a waste of time. No matter what you do, people will zerg. If you have friendly fire, they will zerg (DF). If you introduce anti-zerg weapons/mechanics (doomsday in EVE), players will find a way to turn it into a zerg tool anyway.

    Smart design today isn’t about preventing a zerg, its about giving the non-zerg an option while realizing that ‘bring more’ is not only viable, it SHOULD work, both for your players (zerglings are casuals) and for your company (zergs = more people = more money = more development = more people).

    The long-term driver in Crowfall has been explained, its wealth. The better you and your guild perform across campaigns (which includes fighting until the end even in a ‘losing’ effort as thats still more rewarding than fully dropping out), the more/faster you acquire wealth, which helps you going forward.

  • @SynCaine: Waking up early to defend our keeps and relics sucked. No one was like, “WOOHOO I need to get up and defend!” We were all like, “FFS are you serious?” But do you know why we did it? Because losing Darkness Falls or our Relics was much, much worse. That’s not rose colored glasses — that’s good design. You can’t call something a design flaw when the system worked extremely well for years. Not liking something doesn’t make it flawed.

    They’re going to need a better long-term drive than “wealth.”

  • But do you know why we did it? Because losing Darkness Falls or our Relics was much, much worse.

    Losing Darkness Falls was worse than waking up at 3am to be forced to defend a MMO castle? You say the system “worked for years” but it sounds like two entire factions were stuck in the “much, much worse” non-Darkness Falls state because the third faction had more college students (or those in more favorable time zones).

    You can’t call something a design flaw when the system worked extremely well for years. Not liking something doesn’t make it flawed.

    The reverse is also true: liking something doesn’t mean it isn’t/wasn’t flawed.

  • Relics had nothing to do with DF, and DF could be opened during prime time in 2-3 hours of concentrated work. That is why DF was what it was, because during prime time another faction would get access and the PvP clear waves happened. Without PvP invasions DF was mediocre PvE in a game that was very mediocre at PvE.

    Also those not able to wake up at 4am or who had access to Aussie guilds (basically anyone who wasn’t a student) hated off-hours relic raiding and it was ALWAYS a topic of discussion. Again, rose glasses here because during DAoC you were able to do it. Imagine if DAoC came out now, and you had to explain to your wife why you are getting up in the middle of the night, and after a 2 hour defense/raid, head into work tired because of pixels? Assuming you even did it, you wouldn’t love the mechanic for long.

    It wasn’t good design. It ‘worked’ (assuming calling something that was the end-game focus of the game being only an option for a tiny fraction of the entire population) because PvP options were few at the time, and non-relic PvP in DAoC was still decent (roaming 8s anyway).

  • Also, ‘wealth’ is the driver in EVE, and that’s work out pretty well for them. Actually, its worked out better than any other idea in the MMO space when talking long-term retention.

  • “Imagine if DAoC came out now, and you had to explain to your wife why you are getting up in the middle of the night, and after a 2 hour defense/raid, head into work tired because of pixels?”

    ^ Truth.

    I remember a long time ago playing WoW and getting drawn into late night raids on a consistent basis; now of course in theory we didn’t have to raid then, so it wasn’t any any fault in WoW design, but as it was we did and it had untoward effects on my personal life.

    I had a reality check moment when after months of this occurring my gf came into the office and flatly stated “If you don’t come to bed now you can forget about having sex.”

    I looked at the pixels, I looked at her gorgeousness, nodded my head, and went to bed; moreover in a few more months I had stopped altogether.

    Games that foster unhealthy real life experiences are not well designed.

  • …I should specify by “not well designed” I mean from a player’s perspective, developer’s profitability issues aside.

  • As an Australian I hate time windowed game design since the window is rarely in our prime time, unless the game is locally hosted.

    For those that complain about Australian’s taking your stuff, we have an active PvP community down here too and the well known guilds typically contact each other in every new release to ensure an even(ish) spread of guilds that love “gud fites”. An uncontested win is just as boring to us as it is you.

    Whilst I’m a backer of Crowfall I’m getting more and more concerned that the design decisions such as latency dependent combat, and time windows are going to focus purely for a NA audience and leave internationals out in the Winter Cold.

  • One thing to note, the Bloodstone Ruleset is just that, one ruleset out of many possibilities for siege warfare/rules.