Crowfall Developer Interview with J Todd Coleman on Kickstarter and Beyond

As the Kickstarter campaign for Crowfall is in the final hours we sat down with the Creative Director J. Todd Coleman to find out more about the future of the game and learn a little bit more about some of the features that have been revealed so far. As of writing this the campaign just passed the 15,000 subscriber mark meaning that VR support will be added. We asked about Kickstarter, future possible mount options for Centaurs, the use of voxel farm technology and so much more.

 

Please start with a brief introduction, what you do on Crowfall, and what your favorite feature in Crowfall is so far.

My name is J. Todd Coleman.  I’m the creative director of Crowfall and one of the Founders of ArtCraft Entertainment, Inc.  I also served as the creative director and executive producer of ShadowbaneWizard 101, and Pirate 101. My co-founder, Gordon Walton was the Executive Producer of Ultima Online, The Sims OnlineStar Wars Galaxies, and Star Wars: the Old Republic.

My favorite feature of the game comes from the “a-ha!” moment that led to Crowfall’s creation: the fact that our Campaign worlds are structured more like a strategy game than a traditional MMO, with a set beginning, middle and end.  I think the idea of mixing permanent characters, that advance across the course of the play experience, with limited worlds opens up a huge array of new design opportunities.

I am overwhelmed and ecstatic that the players have supported us to this degree, because this is an idea that hasn’t really been tried before.  And now, we get to try it!

 

With just a few days left Crowfall is nearing the point of being 200% funded, what do you think it is that is driving this massive popularity?

We think a large portion of the gaming audience (and the MMO audience, specifically) is ready for something different.  We’ve seen a lot of incremental change over the last 10 years, and that’s cool – but, for the most part, the experiences can be defined as “Wow, with a twist”.

Most of the large MMO’s we have seen since the mid-2000s are all extensions of the World of Warcraft theme-park experience.  Even games where the genre is much different, like space games…. in one way or another, they all start to fall into similar patterns in terms of combat, progression, storytelling and endgame.

The recent crowdfunding successes of Camelot Unchained, Shroud of the Avatar and now Crowfall show that there is an audience for MMO’s that take risks.  It’s really about finding a personality (and design vision) that resonates with enough people that you can start to build a community.

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There’s not long left in the campaign and VR support is a stretch goal for 15,000 backers. How would Crowfall work, broadly, with VR support?

The idea behind the backer goals – since they aren’t directly tied to new funding – was to find things that we thought could be interesting to our players but would not “break the bank” in terms of new development.  Since Unity 5 includes Oculus support natively, this seemed an interesting area to do some experimentation.

That said, it’s a very new area of technology – so we’re reluctant to make any claims now about how exactly it’s going to work.  Trion has shown some promising things using VR with their MMO Rift. It looks pretty good! Since our combat is a bit more action-based focused, though, we’ll be forging new ground.  Hopefully it will be an experiment that pays off!

 

Funding is already set up on the official Crowfall site, will this continue after the campaign? Will anything new be added in the future?

Yes, the shop on our webpage should go up with a day or so of the Kickstarter campaign ending. We will be selling similar packages to the ones available in the Kickstarter, however they will have all their KS exclusive items removed from them and the deals won’t be as good as what we are offering to our earliest backers.  Our philosophy is that earlier you back Crowfall, the better your value proposition.

We will be adding new items as they make sense and as more features come online.

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Poor, poor Centaurs. Yes they’ll get some sort of mount….effect… But can Guineacans ride them?

Ha!  I don’t think anyone who played Shadowbane would agree with that assessment.  Centaurs are quite powerful, and really fun to play.  I don’t expect the lack of mounts is going to make them any less popular.

No, we aren’t going to let anyone ride Centaurs!  At least, not with a saddle.  Maybe someday, when we’ve run out of stretch goals, we will add a multi-player chariot so that Centaurs can drive other characters around.

 

In terms of the technologies being used for Crowfall, which do you think will have the most innovative or disruptive effect on the MMO market going forward?

We’re seeing huge benefits out of Unity 5, and we’re also an early adopter of the Voxel Farm engine… I think we might also be the first major title to bring those two technology engines together with PhysX.  The fusion took a bit of work, but the result is going to be well worth it: the power of fully-voxelized, destructible terrain plus physics-based combat and movement, both of which are enhanced by the quick learning curve and fast iteration cycle of Unity 5.  We’re looking forward to how this technological fusion enhances our emergent gameplay.

 

Something I have to ask because of Voxel Farm. Will the world be deep? Not lore or story-wise. Can we dig down under walls? Is this something we should worry about when out on campaign or just getting ahead of things?

Yes, absolutely.  We are anticipating digging playing a large role in castle sieges and resource gathering! Some of our archetypes specialize in tunneling, so this becomes an interesting new tactical consideration for the siege mechanics.

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With the Kickstarter campaign coming to an end it’s time to start looking to the future. What comes next?

Kickstarter is interesting, because it consumes a LOT of your attention, leading into and throughout your campaign.  We’re pulling a few more people in (like Val Massey, ex-community director of Eve Online) to make sure that we keep the communication strong with our backers, as we transition out of Kickstarter and into full-time production.

 

March has been the month of Crowfall with more than 20 updates since the launch of the campaign at the end of February. Will there still be regular updates after the campaign ends?

Yes, we fully intend to keep the frequency up — though the pitch and tenor of the communication will change.  First it was: “Guess our vision!”  Then it was: “Join our community!”  Now it will be: “Here’s what we are building, and here is how it is coming along — what do you think?”  We’ll be doing this communication constantly, with daily interaction on our forums and official updates in a predictable cadence.

 

Will you be returning to Kickstarter for other modules in the future?

We have no plans to return to Kickstarter for Crowfall.  That could change, but we’d rather just transition to the same model as Shroud of the Avatar and Star Citizen have pioneered: make crowdfunding and community interaction a core part of our business, and evolve it constantly to make the game better and our players more invested.

 

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

We are very grateful for all the support we have seen from the community and people who are willing to help us get this project off the ground. We hope that, as the game comes online, the community will be a strong voice in the process.  We’d like to thank everyone, for giving us a chance to make Crowfall and see this vision come to life.

And of course, we hope to see you all in the game!

 

I’d like to once again thank J. Todd Coleman for taking time out of the last few hours of the Kickstarter campaign to talk with us. If you’re interested there is still time for you to chip in to the campaign. We wish the entire Crowfall team the best of luck and will of course be watching the game very closely.

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About Shannon Doyle

Shannon first discovered MMOs in 1999 when she picked up the newly launched Everquest. This started a lifelong love affair with online gaming that has taken her around the world and brought her to MMOGames.com. While she still pines for the streets of Paragon, the City of Heroes, today she spends most of her gaming time walking across Tyria in Guild Wars 2, roleplaying with anyone who says hello.