Crowfall: Raph Koster Collaborating With ArtCraft Entertainment (Updated)

Raph Koster

Those of you who were/are fans of Ultima Online, and who have not yet been looking at Crowfall with any significant degree of interest, may want to give ArtCraft Entertainment’s upcoming MMORPG a bit more consideration…at least based on this press release I received this morning:

ArtCraft Entertainment, Inc. Announces CrowfallCollaboration with Renowned MMO Designer Raph Koster

AUSTIN, Texas, Jan. 22, 2015 — Independent game developer ArtCraft Entertainment, Inc. revealed today an ongoing collaboration with renowned MMO designer Raph Koster on the company’s recently announced game, Crowfall.

“Raph and I have been working together for about a year on the design architecture for Crowfall,” explained J. Todd Coleman, CEO and game director. “At the heart of this game, we have two core systems: dynamic territorial conquest and a player-driven economy.  Marrying these two concepts is the holy grail of MMO development, and Raph is arguably the best person in the world to help us solve this puzzle.”

Prior to his role as a formal advisor and design consultant for ArtCraft Entertainment, Inc., Koster served as the lead designer for Ultima Online and Star Wars: Galaxies, was the founder of Metaplace (acquired as part of Disney / Playdom studio) and authored the book A Theory of Fun. Koster is widely recognized as an industry leader in game design, and was honored by the Game Developer Conference Online as an “Online Game Legend” in the industry.

Gordon Walton, ArtCraft president and executive producer said, “Raph and Todd are two of the most amazing designers in the history of the MMO genre.  Seeing the two of them work together, for the first time, is unprecedented and absolutely fascinating.”

Koster adds, “There isn’t anything on the market like Crowfall, and it has been a long time since some of these design ideas were explored. There’s a very specific audience out there waiting for a game like this – the conflict, the real economy – that has been looking for new steps beyond the games of ten years ago.”

Founded by two of the most experienced executives in the history of online gaming, ArtCraft Entertainment is the combined effort of J. Todd Coleman (director, Shadowbane, Wizard101, Pirate101)and Gordon Walton (executive producer, Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, Star Wars: the Old Republic).  The stated goal of ArtCraft Entertainment is to “push the design of Massively Multiplayer Online games in bold new directions.”

So that’s…interesting, to say the least. Raph Koster was the brains behind the Artificial Life engine concept that was planned for Ultima Online. Taken to its fullest extent, it would have made for a truly living, breathing world, one in which depopulating a forest of its deer could have had far-reaching repercussions that would dynamically alter the gameplay experience (e.g. a hungry dragon wandering into a nearby town to grab an evening meal).

According to this forum post at the Crowfall website, Designer Dragon (as Koster is also known, at least to us Ultima fans) will be working on the game’s economic systems. As such, a couple images pertaining to those systems were released today. Here, for example, is the current version of Crowfall’s crafting interface:


Fun fact: the crafting system in Crowfall is, fittingly, building upon ideas from Star Wars: Galaxies’ crafting system.

Also released was an image of some metallurgical crafting recipes:


As well, ArtCraft Entertainment — in the same forum thread — explained how the world and server architecture for Crowfall will work:

In a traditional MMO, the game service is broken up into discrete “servers” or “realms”. Each server is either completely (or mostly) the same — often, the only difference is which players are sharing your virtual environment.

On Crowfall, we changed this model. We still have distinct servers — but and the worlds are unique. How unique? VERY unique. In fact, the the maps are different from one world to the next. Mountains, forests, rivers, lakes. And these worlds are dynamic; they’re made to change based on player actions. We’ll cover more about that later.

The result is a universe of unique WORLDs, not just a list of instanced servers.

Oh, and another banner image was also released. Fittingly, this one depicts a caravan hauling stone:


The First Age of Update: Raph Koster has written a blog post about his involvement with Crowfall. He also released this video:

This, evidently, is how the Crowfall design process often goes.

(Image credit: Cory Doctorow)

1 Response

  1. Sanctimonia Sanctimonia says:

    I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more runic circles. After seeing that first screenshot there I’m feeling much better.