Crowfall’s Ui Is Getting Less Survival-y And More Mmo-y With February’s Test Patch
Welcome to our inaugural post of Dev Diaries, where we offer you a casual preview of some of the features or content that we’re working on that we think our backer community will find cool.
That’s right, Crowfall Dev Diaries! Sort of like Red Shoe Diaries but a lot less sexy.
We are reaching the end of our development phase for the beta milestone of Crowfall, which internally we refer to as 5.110 and externally (because a string of numbers isn’t particularly interesting) we call the War of the Gods.
This version includes a collection of massive changes that will dramatically affect the way the game feels: Guild-vs-Guild support, City Building and Strategy Elements (which we call Divine Favor) being the largest of these. These are the “big ticket” items that are going to get the most attention at launch and justifiably so — they are features unique to Crowfall, that push the boundaries of what an online, persistent universe can be.
In addition to these tent pole features, there are a handful of other features that are really impactful to gameplay — and our fear is that these improvements might be so overshadowed that they almost go without mention. And that’s unfortunate because some of them are really great changes that warrant your attention.
So, to ensure full coverage, we’re going to start posting Dev Diaries to put some focus on these impactful-but-less-showy features.
GOODBYE, SURVIVAL TRAY
One of the changes you’ll notice immediately is the removal of the survival tray. Our original thought was to offer two different interface modes, catering to different Crowfall activities: active trays, that function like traditional MMO power bars (melee, ranged, stealth), and a survival tray for loading out tools, that functioned more like a survival game.
What we found over time is that this distinction caused more trouble than it was worth. Player feedback was universally in agreement that the system was non-intuitive (“I picked up an axe, ran over to the spider and left-clicked and none of my attacks did damage! Next thing I know I’m the ground being attacked, wth?!”) and awkward. It also led to a host of under-the-covers problems from a design standpoint as we had to constantly think about everything with the consideration that the player was in two distinct “states”.
Our team had VERY mixed feelings about changing this system, given that it has been in place for a long time. Was this really a problem that needed to be fixed? Would a different model feel better or worse? We weren’t sure but decided to run an experiment. We removed the survival tray to see how the game felt without it.
Now that the team has played around with it, the answer is clear: everyone who tries the new system, even the doubters, agree that the new system feels MUCH better.
MORE POWER AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
We still have melee, ranged, stealth and the Druid life/death trays; that hasn’t changed, but the survival tray is no more. So, how exactly does this new model work? Let’s take a look.
A few things jump out immediately.
In the old model, players had to manually shift out of combat mode and into survival mode to use a tool. In the new model, tools are equipped on your character, not loaded out on your bar. There is a separate equipment slot for each tool type (wood axe, hammer, pick, knife and optional shovel for graves).
In the new model, the question of what-happens-when-I-left-click is now context-sensitive to your situation. If you walk up to a tree and left-click, the game is smart enough to recognize you are trying to chop a tree and it automatically sheaths your weapon and pulls out your axe. If the situation is questionable at all (and from what we’ve seen, there rarely is a situation where the game has to decide if you intended to harvest something or engage in combat), the system assumes that you intended combat.
It took a while to play with the timing — how long do we keep them in combat? Do we settle on a single-camera system or have the camera behavior change based on behavior? After a fair amount of polish, we landed on something that feels really good. The game seems to intuitively know what you were intending and it responds appropriately. As a result, the player no longer has to think about it.
You might be asking, what about consumables? Great question! We added them to a new area on the power tray design. In the upper left, you will now see three consumable item slots that can be triggered (some any time, some outside of combat) for consumables like bandages, food, etc.
We also added dedicated slots to summon your mount and cast Recall, as well as taking this opportunity to incorporate the Class-specific energy mechanics (pip, rage, whatever) into this bar as a unified whole. (Previously they were floating elements, which was kind of odd and ungainly.)
Obviously we’d love your feedback as well, so sometime in February we’ll put this up on the TEST server and let you kick the tires. We put a high priority on the feedback of our most dedicated testers and we hope you’ll 1) agree that the change is a huge improvement and 2) help us find and sand down those rough edges to make it a clean and polished experience.
Next time on Dev Diaries, we’ll talk about the implications this has on the power loadout screen and how we’ve streamlined that interface to accommodate these changes.