Is Crowfall an MMO at all?

It seems like a simple enough question, but few people seem intent on asking it. Hell, even I had trouble describing my feelings on the matter until Bhagpuss came right out in the comments last time and proclaimed the emperor nude:

[Crowfall] might turn out to be a good game. In no way will it be anything I would recognize as an MMORPG.

In the Kickstarter video, the devs state that Crowfall is a marriage between a strategy game with a defined end-state and an MMO. However, most of the MMO community seems fine in describing it as a straight-up MMO. An MMO with… non-persistent worlds. Divided into servers. That end via victory conditions. Which sends you back to the Lobby, cough, Eternal Kingdoms.

Let’s call a spade a spade: Crowfall is Alterac Valley. With Landmark bolted on.

PvP focused gameplay? Check. Victory conditions? Check. Gather resources? Check. Instanced worlds? Check. Persistent characters that progress in levels? Check. Defined beginning, middle, and end? Check, check, and check.

    Competition for the Dregs space was fierce.

Competition for the Dregs space was fierce.

The analogy isn’t perfect, of course. You don’t bring out your Gnome bones or whatever outside the individual AV match… unless you count Honor and/or Reputation as resources (which they are). But my point is that Crowfall isn’t an MMO unless you happen to extend that definition to encompass a lot of lobby-based games. Such as, I dunno, League of Legends. Or Clash of Clans, even. Or, you know, every other lobby-based online game out there.

I’m not suggesting that Crowfall will be bad because it’s not an MMO. In fact, it might precisely be because it’s not an MMO that Crowfall avoids all the traditional pitfalls of the genre. As SynCaine points out though, there are all sorts of other problems that can occur once you start dealing with defined, close-to-zero sum competitions. What motivation is there to continue fighting a losing battle when another server is a click away? Hell, if the devs aren’t careful, the whole “multiple passively trained alts” thing could resemble P2W considering you could swap your losing alts for one on the winning team. Then again, everyone already has experience with these sort of issues in, you know, battlegrounds in other MMOs. So perhaps it won’t be that big a deal.

If you enjoyed old-school Alterac Valley though, Crowfall seems like the MMO game for you.

Posted on March 3, 2015, in Commentary, MMO and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Well, if the “lifetime” of an instance is months as opposed minutes or hours, it could still qualify as “MMO”. Or more exactly, like a series of MMOs which share the same rules and characters.


  2. As I understood the kickstarter pitch, the Eternal Kingdoms is more than just a Landmark Lobby. I’m not sure exactly how far it goes into being a world in which you travel around and do stuff, but if my impressions are right then it most certainly is an MMO in a more traditional, recognisable form.

    Politics and economy were mentioned, iirc. That implies something of substance, no?


    • Right, but it doesn’t actually sound like the place where you’re spending most of your time. There are no resources there (beyond basic reagents?). You come back to build your base, some “politics” that occur despite everyone having their own private Kingdom, and to use the AH. Sort of like… a lobby.

      Granted, none of this really exists at this point, so it’s mostly conjecture. Still, my impression based on the video and documentation is that the bulk of the gameplay occurs in instanced, temporary, procedurally-generated worlds. Like a roguelike.


  3. First I’d say lets wait and see just how extensive that home ‘lobby’ really is, and lets see how much time players spend in it on average. Maybe it will just be a glorified chat lobby you spend a few minutes in between campaigns, or maybe it will be closer to what high-sec is for PvE or crafting-focused EVE players (a mostly not PvP aspect in a PvP MMO).

    Also the AV comparison breaks down on a few points. One, the number of players, AV was rather limited in scope, while Crowfall will feel more like being in a world with thousands than in an instance with dozens. It should feel bigger and more MMO than ever something like GW2 PvP side-game. Two is obviously the length; a 30 minute AV match vs a couple months of a campaign isn’t a footnote of a difference, especially if during that few months you do a lot more than run into each other to earn PvP points (gathering, building settlements, PvE, etc).

    Ultimately though who cares other than as a debate topic on blogs (as important as that is!) MMO sites will cover the game, people will call it an MMO, the devs call it an MMO, it will hopefully get supported and updated like an MMO, etc.


    • Supposedly the old-school AV matches lasted for more than a day, which is what I’m mainly referring to here.

      It’s true that the MMO distinctions here are mostly academic. Still, there are plenty of bloggers out there that have not considered lobby-based games as MMOs, but are considering this particular one.


      • Original AV could (and would when I lead it) be finished in 30min or so. It was only when both sides contained mostly derps that it would result in a standstill. Much like a lot of WoW post-TBC, the stuff that made AV great was gutted to make it more ‘accessible’, and ultimately forgettable. The original AV was pretty great.


  4. But my point is that Crowfall isn’t an MMO unless you happen to extend that definition to encompass a lot of lobby-based games.

    That’s been the case for a few years now, and the fault lies with both the “media” and the players. Any game that comes out with more than one player and a cash shop is labeled an “MMO.” The acronym now stands for Monetized Multiplayer Online.

    That being said, once “MMOs” started branching out from the sweeping RPG genre here and there, any “persistent world” requirement went by the wayside as well. Not to mention the fact that the word “persistent” has a few meanings, and players tend to attribute the wrong one to virtual worlds anyway. MMORPGs are “persistent” in the sense they are static and unchanging (expansions being the only change, then it’s static til the next). Oh, there’s “persistence” in terms of character progression, too, but Activision’s servers save my Call of Duty status and I don’t think anyone is seriously going to call CoD an MMO.


  5. I quite specifically said “MMORPG” not “MMO” in that quote because they are two completely different things and we’ve all become very blase about using them as though they were interchangeable. Crowfall is an MMO. It might even be an RPG, since it has persistent characters whose stats progress, although as Scott says about CoD that’s really not a definition of RPG I’m happy to endorse.

    What it isn’t is an “MMORPG”, a statement which I then have to qualify immediately by adding “as I understand the term”. This is the real problem: we don’t have clear and widely-understood definitions for some of the most basic terminology we all throw about. I’m not a big booster of dictionary definitions but for what it’s worth has “any story-driven online video game in which a player, taking on the persona of a character in a virtual or fantasy world, interacts with a large number of other players.”

    I’d take that for now, although there will be quibbles over both “story-driven” and “virtual or fantasy world”. We won’t really know for sure until Crowfall is both released and has bee running for several cycles. It might possibly turn out to have more to it than is apparent from the publicity materials so far. Based on what we know, though, I agree with you that it looks like a fancied-up lobby-based arena game. And I agree with SynCaine that if it ends up being popular no-one who plays it will care how it’s categorized.


    • One note here: an MMORPG story to me isn’t written by the devs, its written by the players. UO had a ton of awesome stories (Rainz in beta for starters) that had nothing to do with the devs (other than Lord British dying). All of the best EVE stories are player-based. Crowfall, if it works out, will be the same; the stories will be great because they will be determined by the players/guilds playing, not by some dev.


  6. If you don’t think Crowfall is an MMO, then I’m not sure quite what you are doing playing video games.

    Trying to make every game fit into some narrow preconception about a genre that you made up on a tuesday night, is a far cry from being productive. The problem with people saying shit like this is cumulative; Gamers expect X, developers deliver X.

    Guess what happens? We get shitty MMO releases, year after year, because developers try to live up to some made up standard that just doesn’t work anymore.

    Just because Crowfall resets the worlds once in awhile, doesn’t make it a Call of Duty like replacement for WoW. As I see it each of these “worlds” basically operate like servers in WoW. They can hold (lets hope) a thousand players. The only difference is they have a set start and ending point (or an ending condition).

    For someone who has seen what happens (Shadowbane) when worlds DO NOT reset… let me tell you…. Your missing the bigger picture of why Crowfall has some enormous potential.

    Further, players aren’t going to “give up” as the world draws to a close. In fact, your likely to see just the opposite based on Crowfalls Kickstarter Update #6 which indicates the materials you’ve gathered during the campaign… only a percentage of these transfer over to your Eternal Kingdom. That percentage is based on how you did during the campaign. You want to give up because 3 days are left? No problem, I’ll be happy to move up in the rankings and get more loot.

    The problem with people nitpicking at this early stage is people who have preconceptions about a genre or style of game and stick their fingers in their ears muttering incoherently to the internet.

    Lets all just take a step back and acknowledge whats unique about Crowfall, and why its introducing some very unique ideas into a genre that is clearly stagnant. IF you need further evidence of this; please tell me what unique ideas Camelot Unchained introduced with their Kickstarter.


    • The problem with people saying shit like this is cumulative; Gamers expect X, developers deliver X.

      We actually have the same underlying point here, from different angles. I’m bringing this issue up precisely because the more Crowfall is referred to as an MMO, the more expectation people will have for it to be like GW2, or WoW, or whatever. I don’t think many people refer to Diablo 3 as an MMO, and thus they have a different mindset when they log-in. As a player, you will likely be better off looking at Crowfall as an extra-long WvWvW fight or old-school AV battle that takes months and then be pleasantly surprised at the Landmark-esque bits. Instead of, you know, comparing it to the rest of the MMO lineup and finding it lacking in certain (hitherto standard) areas.

      Expanding the MMO definition itself isn’t particularly useful, IMO. We already have marketing analysis companies like Superdata which consider League of Legends and World of Tanks as MMOs. Which really just makes MMO synonymous with “multiplayer,” and thus redundant.

      Further, players aren’t going to “give up” as the world draws to a close. In fact, your likely to see just the opposite based on Crowfalls Kickstarter Update #6 which indicates the materials you’ve gathered during the campaign… only a percentage of these transfer over to your Eternal Kingdom.

      Right. And according to the Kickstarter, the most generous losing map type allows you to keep 30% of your scavenged goods. In the next best world-type, there are 6-12 factions with only one winner; the rest are stuck with 25% goods, at best. You’re going to fight tooth-n-nail to the bitter end to maximize your 25% share? Really? Okay… meanwhile I’m on another server that I could possibly win either on that same character or an alt.

      Your goods are Account-bound per the Kickstarter explanation, so there is zero reason to stay on any losing side. How much could I half-ass on the winning team and still get more out of a fraction of the 70% purse than 1st place 30% on the losing team? It’s a simple opportunity cost calculation and one players will eventually (if not immediately) be running, subconsciously or overtly. You can’t play two characters simultaneously, so why play an obviously losing match?

      As for “nitpicking,” welcome to In An Age! It’s kind of what I do.

      I’m not here to be mean for no reason nor do I even have a dog in this fight either way – I couldn’t care less about Camelot Unchained, for example. I’m just calling things as I see them in an effort to tease out better game design, even if I can’t precisely say what that entails. This looting system has issues though, as explained above. If you feel I’m wrong, by all means present your arguments. I’ve been wrong before.


      • First, superdata being wrong with labels is consistent with superdata being wrong about everything, so lets not use them as an example of ‘the industry’, please.

        Second, the rewards could easily be balanced that you can’t win a lot by jumping in late to the winning team, but you could lose a lot if you leave a world early. If worlds run 3-6 months at a time, when you are two months into a world that isn’t a winner, sticking around and fighting it out might be more beneficial than jumping ship, giving all/most of that progress up, and starting from scratch on another 3-6 cycle. Especially if on the first world you already banked some great stuff you are hoping to keep (rare item drop, upper-tier crafting mats, etc).

        The big thing Crowfall has going for it is they are making the game with full knowledge that worlds are going to close, so they should be smart enough to cover these kind of loopholes. We’ll see if they actually do of course, but they are in a better spot than some MMO retroactively going with such a system.


      • Well to be honest, you can’t just pick up and leave a campaign either. From what I gather they planned on locking you to that campaign. You can join, but not leave a campaign. An argument is to be had on what you do with Alts at that point, but lets be honest, none of this indicates that this game is more Guild Wars 1/CoD Lobby-like then a World of Warcraft title is.


  7. Does World of Warcraft cease to be a MMO when all I do is bounce between capitals (lobbies) and my Garrison (personal space) while waiting for a queue to visit a “world” (instance/battleground/raid) with a clear “win condition” (kill everything/win the round) that isn’t permanent (resets instantly or on a timer)?

    It’s not like I strike up chats when I am in the massively multiplayer, online, persistent portions of the game. Those other people gathering could just as well be NPCs!


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