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Crowfall: An Analysis of Combat and Crowd Control

We begin this article with a highly cautious note to outside readers unfamiliar with the state of Crowfall development. It typically goes without saying that the game is in Pre-Alpha and nearly all of the content below is likely to be horribly out of date by launch. Its wholly possible that by next week some or all of this data will be partially incorrect. We will try to stick to the trends that our research has shown, and not dive too deeply into individual archetypes too much. Some of them haven’t been touched since they were introduced, beyond minor balancing and scaling changes.

It’s important to stop, despite the ongoing and rapid development of the title, to take a look at where Crowfall’s combat and archetype systems intersect. These meet up in a very interesting way, in the form of Powers (which will ultimately be interchangeable to some degree when the Discipline and Promotion systems come online later this year). I spent a great deal of time creating this nifty infograph (which you’ve probably seen me leak all over the place by now). So much time that this article came out on Saturday and not Friday as is our normal release schedule. Lets take a look at it and go over a few things.

Crowfall Archetypes and the Access to Crowd Control – A Chord Diagram created with credit to http://circos.ca/

The above image is a circular chart called a Chord Diagram, which I absolutely adore for its fantastic ability to showcase relationships. In this case the chart shows off the relationship between archetypes and specific debuffs and crowd control powers. A few tips on how to read this (or any) Chord Diagram. The thicker a “ribbon” is that connects two points, the stronger the relationship. In this case, a thicker ribbon means that archetype has multiple powers that can apply that debuff/status to an opponent. The thicker the “segment” or outside rounded edge of the circle, the more items link to that given node. In this case, it implies that either an archetype has access to lots of CC/debuffs or alternatively that a CC/debuff has tons of archetypes that can apply it.  With this in mind, the things that jump out to me the most are;

  • Templar is either incomplete or outright wrong; our analysis includes only the vague descriptions we received during the recent powers reveal (but we wanted to show Sin because of our last article!)
  • Ranger, Champion, Confessor and Knight (Myrmidon too) have tons of CC and Debuff access. Tons. Tons!
  • Legionnaire looks pretty gimpy at first glance, and Duelist isn’t that far off (considering the current status quo of combat this information isn’t surprising).
  • There is a huge amount of access to Knockdown and Stun. Too much so. We’ll get to this shortly.
  • Surprisingly almost no one has access to; Mortal Strike, Root, Suppress, Blind, or Daze.
  • Expose seems lonely with only a single archetype, but we know from previous tooltip links that it won’t stay that way for long. This will get at least 2 to 3 other archetypes with access.

So what are we to make of these current designs? The first thing leaps to mind is that its clear combat powers haven’t kept up with the changes to overall combat design. What do I mean by this? Crowfall began its journey with a very different vision for how combat would look and feel. When it was first envisioned, much of combat was talked about with terms such as “Slower” and more “Animation Locked” then modern competitors. Much of this took place for the first two years of the games inception.

During this time, multiples of the existing archetypes you can see above were created. To date, almost no powers have been completely redone, so much of the framework for these archetypes pre-dates the now faster more modern combat design. This is likely all going to be redone when the development team starts to go back through and differentiate between base archetype powers and the numerous promotion archetypes each base can turn into. This diagnosis is likely premature, but I still feel like doing it (because that chart looks awesome and what else am I gonna do?).

Problems Identified

We’ve seen the game was designed to slow combat down by introducing tons of powers that remove control from the player. Removed control typically implies that an opponent hit by one of these powers has no options to do anything while they are suffering from its impact. These include; stuns, knockdowns, and suppression (in Crowfall suppress puts all your powers on cooldown). Out of all archetypes only the Myrmidon and Legionnaire lack access to these types of effects. That means everyone else does. This is a problem. In a mobile combat environment, removing the ability for any counter-play is a big issue. It takes a player out of the game, and forces them to rely on a single move that Crowfall gives you as an out; Retaliate. This is a once every X seconds power that lets you potentially break free from Crowd Control. Its not reliable, and it makes being attacked by a group very frustrating.

In a sense, the access we’d like to see in Crowd Control is represented the least currently. One major issue facing pre-alpha testers is how easy it is to stack healing and how powerful it is when you do so. Mortal Strike is a simple solution to mitigate healers, but its only accessible by a single archetype.

Another issue is the ability of players to flee engagements almost on a whim. Travel powers have come down a little, but we’d like to see more Roots, longer duration Snares, and more movement restricting debuffs then outright removing control of a character from an opponent. We don’t see that mentality in the above chart (we see the opposite).

Complicating matters even more is an inconsistent pattern in how debuffs were named. The Confessor has a healing-prevention mechanic on its Meteor Purge, but its not called Mortal Strike (its called “Black Mantle”). Why? Do we really need multiple debuff types that are basically the same end result (healing is reduced)? No. The variety of debuffs was a bit overwhelming and I found many examples of one-offs that I just refused to include in the chart (it would have been enormous and pointless had I included them).

Summary

In general the chart shows a very different approach to powers and CC access then we feel is appropriate considering the shift in slow to mobile combat designs. Removing control of a players character is a very powerful effect and it deserves to be restricted much more than it currently is. On the flip side, there were numerous Crowd Control effects that were completely unrepresented to the degree they should be in a mobile combat design. Those effects (snare, daze, blind, etc) need to be brought to the forefront.

The chart speaks clearly the disconnect between the current combat design and the access to debuffs and CC. Normally I’d try to present solutions, but its a bit early to bang on the war drums. Our only concern is that if this trend continues the implications that poses on combat overall. The above chart is ideal for a zerg-friendly guild; where mass access to crowd control implies that players fighting against them will get to experience little of combat (they’ll be too stunned or knockdown to do anything against greater numbers). I mean… we won’t go there… yet.

What are your thoughts on the style of infographic we used and its larger implications to Crowfall’s combat design?

Scree

Started playing MMORPGs back on AOL in Neverwinter Nights Online around 1996 and has been a passionate advocate for the genre ever since. Currently an admitted Crowfall obsessed-fan; leading a Crowfall-exclusive stealth-first guild Obsidian, managing a web-magazine Stealthed (@stealthedBlog). He is also the project manager of the Malekai Project; a community-driven open-sourced API for sharing Crowfall related content.

Show 2 comments

January 9, 2017
0

I feel that in this current stage where everyone and thier mom has a dash that a lot of hard cc isn’t a bad thing but both should really be toned down.

January 8, 2017
0

If anything, the lack of engagement for testing feedback specifically for combat is discouraging. The CC system is a relic from 10+ years ago when 9 seconds wasn’t an eternity. Players have been playing in systems of 1 second crowd control abilities that rely on timing and situation magnify their potential.

Right now, PVP gets very little attention. The changes they make, for the most part, are nonsensical. I assume it’s because they don’t need to make adjustments right now or they are incompetent. Regardless, when the changes do come, the chart will be a great reference to put evaluation on how well in touch the design staff is with current/changing meta.

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