First, the basics:
Most of you know this, but I’ll repeat it for the benefit of our readers. The foundation of Crowfall is time-limited, competitive world servers. Each of these is servers unique — a sprawling Throne War that covers a handful of game worlds. When we say each Campaign is unique we mean it: the maps are unique, the rules are unique and the outcomes are unique.
Since last December, we’ve been running these in pairs: we launch one campaign in the US with a start and end time generally centered on CST and one in the EU with a start and end time generally centered on CEST. We start and end these on the same day, and because we allow U.S. and E.U. players to play together we must keep them both running the exact same version of the software.
This staggered scheduling effort is by design so that the most important moments (the early land rush, the nightly siege windows and the inevitable end-of-campaign carnage) will coincide with the work and RL schedules of most of that campaign’s participants. We also run the campaigns linearly; we start new campaigns as soon as the old ones come to an end.
Here’s the unique challenge: What happens when we need to change the rules between versions?
The next game update version in the pipe (5.8.2) includes significant balance changes related to scoring of victory points. These changes are the result of feedback from our players, including an insightful review of The Strategy Game by veteran MMO player, and early Crowfall supporter Blazzen. Blazzen’s assessment highlighted some of the challenges that can arise if the capture bonus jeopardizes the strategy game rather than enhances it. He points out that it is important not to “overly incentivize “flipping” or “trading” capture locations” and that “holding and defending your capture points should always be the best option.”
Blazzen’s feedback combined with our own tracking and analysis lead us to initiate further changes. This evaluation was done by our own Thomas “Hanseshadow” Eidson. His goal was to analyze the scoring data generated post-release of the catch-up bonus. His analysis led to further refinements to ensure that, “while a faction can pull ahead, a campaign is not predictably won and abandoned.” You can check out his update offering a look at the latest balance changes to the scoring and bonus system.
Since US and EU campaigns are on the same version that means, by definition, we can’t change the scoring without doing so in the middle of one of those campaigns. The same thing goes for all our design data: crafting recipes, skills, powers, items, you name it. Eventually we’ll try to move some of this stuff to versioning and maintain multiple data repositories for different versions, but that’s a significant undertaking and not worth doing when the underlying data structures are still in flux.
The upshot of this is, in order to be able to move as quickly as possible, and to be responsive to your feedback, we need to be able to change the rules out of from under you in mid-campaign. I know it’s a bit strange, but it’s the quickest way to iterate — and as we move to longer and longer campaigns, that becomes even more important.
So, here is my proposal:
- Right now, while we are in pre-alpha running non-sanctioned campaigns, we change stuff when we need to. It may result in some scoring issues, but that’s the lesser of the evils if it helps the overall development of the game move forward.
- When we run sanctioned campaigns, we try to avoid this at all costs. We limit these changes only to issues that are game breaking or that everyone agrees are fundamental (i.e. the problem is bad enough to warrant “putting our finger on the scale”).
- Once we get to launch (and beyond), we try to minimize this — and by that point, the versioning should be in place to make it easier to support multiple scenarios at once.
To this end, we’ll be making the changes to the scoring today as part of the 5.8.2 update. We’ll be doing it this morning before the EU and US campaigns complete.
Edited by Shiro