PvE in the Dying Worlds

Crowfall - Templar in Graveyard

I recently participated in a thread on the official Crowfall forums polling the community about their hopes for PvE in the game, and while I did share some of my thoughts in that thread, I found the topic interesting enough to bear revisiting in greater detail. Much has been made of Crowfall‘s PvP focus, but very little has been announced or even speculated towards the game’s PvE beyond dubious statements that it doesn’t exist. While PvE certainly won’t be a focus of the game, let’s take a look at what form environmental enemies might end up taking in Crowfall‘s dying worlds.

Disclaimer: the following article is full of wishful thinking and wild-ass guessery.

What We Actually Know

First of all, here’s the official statement encompassing what we already know in regards to the forms PvE will take in Crowfall:

This sounds like there is lots of Player-versus-Player fighting, what about monsters (Player-versus-Environment)?

There will be monsters in Crowfall – lots of them – but they are intended to raise the general “threat level” of the game, not to be the primary focus.

Crowfall will not have any instanced PvE dungeons and raids, for instance. The Worlds WILL be crawling with monsters and former inhabitants of the Dying Worlds, however.

Players will often need to fight NPC monsters near resource nodes, gain access to points of interest, scavenge for food and equipment, and often to simply survive. Many of these creatures are powerful enough that they will be very challenging to defeat – even for groups players working together.

Some activities will require players to seek out monsters – some recipes will require reagents that can only be found by defeating certain monsters, or require the use of rare Thralls (“ghosts” NPCs that must be captured) to bind into an enchantment. Also, remember that the monsters will also become more deadly as Winter approaches, and the Hunger bleeds the warmth from each World. – [Source: General FAQ]

This gives us a few basic facts to work with:

  • PvE is not a primary focus of the game.
  • All monsters will be found in the open-world.
  • Monsters will come at a variety of challenge levels, some of which will require groups to defeat.
  • Resources and crafting reagents will be tied to monsters, either through locality or as direct drops.

With the facts set straight, let’s get to work on the speculation.

On the Importance of PvE in a PvP Game

Before we start, we need to establish why it’s important that ArtCraft Entertainment ensures Crowfall does, in fact, provide a compelling PvE experience in addition to the PvP core that initially attracted everyone’s attention.

The most obvious reason to include meaningful PvE is that it’s extremely risky to put your game in a situation where players have very little to do if other players are not around. PvP should always be the primary focus, but there needs to be a moderately-rewarding combat-focused gameplay option for players who choose to log-in during off-hours or on a slow day. PvE grants the game stability in this regard – it’s a predictable form of play that guarantees players something to do every time they log-in, even if they’re the only ones around.

PvE content can also help to keep players spread out and using the entirety of the campaign world, rather than simply congregating around the borders of contested territory. While players will naturally flock to those borders regardless (as this will be useful in facilitating timely defenses, if nothing else), it can’t hurt for there to be something worth doing when behind their own lines.

Additionally, there’s also the somewhat counter-intuitive argument that not having meaningful PvE at all would lead to a markedly more themepark experience; without it, players would always be set in a PvP mentality in which everyone is in a constant state of preparation for a fight to break out. The opportunity for spontaneous and unexpected combat gets reduced when there isn’t anything for anyone to be doing besides that PvP combat to begin with.

Crowfall - Zombie Wood

Meaningful, emergent gameplay opportunities like one-shotting this poor wounded sap out of stealth and looting his gear will be more common if you give him a reason to be fighting the ‘totally not white walkers’ in the first place.

Think of it this way – you can’t really gank someone in a Call of Duty map, because the PvP is the entire reason they’re there. The more there is to focus on besides PvP, the more opportunity there will be for dynamic, unplanned PvP to propagate.

Hopes for PvE Content in Crowfall

While PvE should be a viable form of play in Crowfall, that statement shouldn’t be misconstrued as meaning that PvE should be implemented in the same way as it is usually found in modern MMOs. The best way to broadly describe the role I see for PvE in Crowfall would be in such a way that the balance of PvE:PvP in the world, when compared to recent MMOs, would be switched. In a game like World of Warcraft you might encounter PvP while questing; in Crowfall, the PvP would be everywhere, with PvE being the more rare form of content that you must specifically seek out – that said, if you seek it out, you should absolutely be able to find it. Importantly, PvP should never be completely avoidable. Meaningful PvE content should not take place in safe zones at all, if the game even has any.

Budgetary constraints must, of course, play a major role in the form PvE takes in Crowfall. While, in a perfect world wherein neither monetary concerns nor development time were an issue, I would hope for a truly dynamic roaming AI in line with the kind Everquest: Next is ostensibly purporting to deliver, we don’t live in that world. Crowfall is a PvP-centric MMO, and its budgetary allocations must reflect this.

The best route I can imagine Crowfall going is with worlds that are Skyrim-esque in terms of mob placement. The world, for the most part, would be fairly open and easy to traverse due to the prevalence of areas with low-to-zero mob density, but it would come littered with points of interest that would include spawns of enemy mobs. As Crowfall‘s dying worlds are already being procedurally generated using pre-built point of interest pieces, this implementation seems a natural fit for the game systems we know are already being developed, helping to ensure a minimal impact on the game’s budget.

These points of interest would come in two main categories – capturable and persistent. Those that are capturable would allow for players to completely remove the mobs from the area by use of force, while persistent spawns would be available as reliable PvE locations irrespective of player actions. Here are a few examples of what those points of interest could end up being:

Capturable

  • Keeps, Forts, Etc…
  • Resource Nodes
  • Campaign Objectives (e.g. Bloodstone Trees)

Persistent

  • Ambush points where packs of mobs with a large aggro radius wait to charge players who enter their area
  • Caves and Mini-Dungeons (Non-instanced)
  • Thematic PoIs (Graveyards, Ruins, Shrines – You name it)

The capturable points of interest are already known to be in-game, of course, but it is the persistent points of interest which would lend themselves to a reliable PvE gameplay option within Crowfall‘s worlds.

These persistent points of interest would not feature highly developed or guided PvE content, but would resemble the more simplistic grind and camp based open-world PvE philosophies of the old-guard of MMORPGs.

For the purposes of this article, grind spots are points of interest in which quickly respawning monsters are available in a high-mob density area for what essentially amounts to a constant cycle of killing. These areas should be easily accessible and low difficulty, providing reliable access to PvE content for solo players. That said, easy access is a two-way street, so would-be gankers will find it particularly easy to locate and pick off targets at these points of interest.

Crowfall - Boss Battle Banner

I like to imagine the piles of player corpses around the boss are more true-to-form than simply an art choice.

Camping objectives are, for my purposes, rarer objectives in a point of interest, where boss mobs with lengthy respawns (hours, maybe even days) can be defeated by players. These could be located in harder to access areas, but would ideally be designed in such a way as to encourage opposing groups of players to have to contest each other in order to secure the kill. It goes without saying that these mobs would be significantly more rewarding than the the mobs available for grinding.

In a lot of ways, this content is similar to some of the bare PvE offered in Star Wars: Galaxies and EVE Online – with one notable aspect missing. Both SWG and EVE feature mission boards to help direct players towards their PvE content, with simple randomly generated errands being used to guide players to those areas of the game. While these could make an appearance in Crowfall (perhaps these could be purchasable for player cities?), what exactly they would reward in a game with no fixed currency would be a challenge all on its own. This brings us to the most dangerous part of adding meaningful PvE to Crowfall.

Reward Structure

For PvE in Crowfall to be truly meaningful, the persistent mob spawn points of interest must be used to distribute a reward to players that has importance in the game’s economy, and it must do this without destabilizing or undermining the sandbox crafting system at the game’s core. Star Wars: Galaxies and EVE Online have both done an excellent job of integrating PvE rewards into their crafting economies in the past, and can provide a good reference point for comparison of what Crowfall has in mind. Fortunately, this is one of the few areas of Crowfall‘s PvE that we saw clearly laid out in the game’s FAQ earlier:

Some activities will require players to seek out monsters – some recipes will require reagents that can only be found by defeating certain monsters, or require the use of rare Thralls (“ghosts” NPCs that must be captured) to bind into an enchantment. – [Source: General FAQ]

So there you have it – Crowfall‘s PvE will reward players with crafting materials.

In a perfect world, rare reagents and the most powerful thralls would be gathered by defeating the aforementioned bosses, while the easily accessible mobs available for grinding would drop low quality or broken equipment meant for salvaging basic and mid-tier materials from. Depending on how item crafting is handled, there could be a place for valuable schematics in these loot tables as well.

The Wrap-up

The inclusion of meaningful PvE content in Crowfall proved to be a surprisingly contentious topic on the game’s official forums for something that can clearly provide large benefits to both the health of the game and the enjoyment of its players, all while requiring a fairly minimal amount of development if ArtCraft Entertainment chooses to pursue a more simplistic PvE design philosophy in line with those found in old-school MMORPGs.

Although the system described above is mostly guesswork, I believe it is apparent how well it would fit into the game’s existing systems in a way that would both greatly diversify the available types of content within the game, as well as serve to enrich its central PvP and crafting systems. It may be wishful thinking, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we end up seeing something very similar in Crowfall‘s final iteration.

Have feedback or your own ideas on Crowfall’s PvE content? Let me know in the comments below!

#Crowfall #MMO #PvE

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4 thoughts on “PvE in the Dying Worlds

  1. Good article and I think ACE would be wise to heed your advice. Two points of contention though:

    1. I don’t think there should be any soloable content. Soloable content enables players to ignore the community and makes it much easier to bot.

    2. PVE Bosses shouldn’t be difficult to kill for a raid. Players should earn the kill by claiming the territory from other players, rather than executing a complex PVE fight. When a boss is challenging for a raid, it enables an opposing force to be able to easily block the kill via killing the tank, sabatoging the positioning, killing the healers etc. This is usually difficult to stop and makes the experience less PvP focused and more PvE focused. The boss should take a long enough time to kill such that players can respond to it, but one player shouldn’t be able to block 60 players fighting a boss.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I disagree with point 2, difficulty of a boss fight are important because it forces more than just tank-n-spank to occur. While I agree that PVE fights should facilitate PVP, and that one player stopping 60 is not something that should commonly happen, I think that’s more of an issue with mechanical balance rather than boss balance. For example, in Archeage “Protective Wings” is a horrible mechanic that is necessary for nearly all PVE content. If you’re fighting Rangora, and someone fears the person on the wings rotation, it’s a wipe. This isn’t an issue with the mechanics of the boss (in a way it is, because those mechanics are built around Wings), it’s an issue with Wings.

      As for point one, I’m of two minds. I hope that there is soloable PVE, but that the benefits of it are so severely diminished it forces group content. Those of us who prefer smaller guilds that might not offer people being online and available to go run group content all the time would prefer to have a scaling scale of content, with scaling rewards.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Great discussion so far.

        PvE boss difficulty is a whole can of worms that I didn’t really want to go into. Without the addition of firehose healers and the infinite sustain that brings, the ability for the developers to add traditional lengthy encounters may be limited -or it may not be, if everyone can heal themselves and damage spikes are largely avoidable ala Guild Wars 2. I’m hoping they’re able to find a way to make these fights last long enough for them to be something people can really fight over, and you need for fights to last long enough for even large groups to be wiped by an opposing group before the boss dies.

        I have to agree with Giovanni on the solo content front, both in that it should exist, but that it should be challenging and far from optimal. The game needs to encourage playing together (I’m very much of the “if you want to play alone, get out of my MMO genre” mindset), but there should be legitimate opportunities to play alone if people occasionally want to do it. Plus, people being alone at points of interest helps keep the ganking alive.

        Like

        • Right, I absolutely agree with your assessment on boss fights. From all the research I’ve done, I don’t know much about their plans for healing (or even really the role of The Holy Trinity), but I know that if PVE is going to provide something that is to be contested, the only way to do that is to ensure that there is a mob that won’t die super quick. Maybe there will be “mechanics” to mitigate damage, either built into skill kits, or perhaps available in that specific/all combat itself, or maybe they will figure out a way to make it balanced through other factors (like giving a global notification that X mob has been summoned and will be engaged shortly), but the easiest way I can imagine them doing that with the current state of what’s out there in MMOs is with a traditional, and interuptable, boss fight.

          I’m super excited to see how they handle this aspect of the game.

          Liked by 1 person

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