Note: This article originally appeared on MMOGames.com.
The Albion Online team recently took to their forums to propose a few changes to the way territorial control and Guild vs Guild works in the upcoming sandbox PvP title. They sought to address several perceived shortcomings in the current system. In the current build, guilds are able to claim territory in the game’s open world. They can attack territories in zones that either share a border with their own or are accessible via a war camp – static neutral structures located around the world. Once territory is owned, guilds can set a vulnerability window during which 5v5 battles can be scheduled by attackers.
The post listed four problems in Albion Online‘s current system:
- Only 5 players take part in the fighting
- Fighting is limited to one 15 minute battle per day
- Guilds are forced to hold territories that they do not need to create attack routes
- Room for gaming/exploiting the timers, defender bonuses and attack mechanics
With the proposed changes, Albion Online‘s developers hope to address these shortcomings by accomplishing the following design goals:
- Incentivize constant conflict between guilds, with the GvG territory fights acting as the “main event”
- Allow all players to take part
- Minimize or remove any exploitability
- Preserve the ability for small guilds to hold territory
To realize these objectives, the team at Sandbox Interactive plans to overhaul the territorial control and Guild vs Guild mechanics in two significant ways: a new system for attacking resource territories separate from the current one, and adding siege towers to the attack system for building territories.
In the current system, resource territories function under effectively the same attack system as building territories, with scheduled attacks culminating in 5v5 instanced battles between guilds. In the proposed system, all of that would change.
Instead of providing a safe gathering space for the controlling guild, these territories would be replaced with open world building plots where guilds can construct relatively inexpensive gathering structures to automatically harvest and store crafting materials. Although there would be some form of delay mechanism to provide a structure’s owners time to respond, these buildings would be attackable in the open world at any time and with any number of players.
This is a really fantastic change for Albion Online. Particularly if the harvesting structures are lootable, the proposed system would provide a form of open-world, non-instanced PvP available without restrictions on group size or time of day for PvP focused players to engage in. Confluences of PvP and crafting materials make for an essential part of the sandbox MMO PvP experience, and providing more opportunities for it to occur meaningfully would prove a positive change for the game’s health and enjoyability.
In the current build, territorial defense is one of the most satisfying elements of Albion Online‘s PvP experience. However, the limitations on group size mean that only a small number of a guild’s players will ever experience it, outside of the joy of meaninglessly killing trespassers in a zone under your guild’s control. As satisfying as that is, the tangible consequences for success or failure brought on by introducing true open world PvP to the game’s resource territories would mean that everyone can take part in one of the game’s most meaningful PvP experiences.
One unanswered question is how the construction rights would be handled for these new resource territories; would anyone be able to build on these territories with the control system thrown out, or would an individual guild own the plot in the same way as the current implementation, only with its harvesters able to be ransacked by roaming aggressors? Either would present interesting gameplay implications.
The mechanics for building territories would see a similarly dramatic change; while the GvG battles themselves would remain more or less unchanged, the method through which attackers initiate battles would be significantly different under the proposed updates.
Building territories would see the addition of siege towers, a new form of open world building that guilds would be able to construct in a new plot placed adjacent to all building territories. Guilds would be able to choose a single two hour vulnerability window for their territories. The first half is reserved for 5v5 GvG fights functioning in their current capacity. During the second hour, anyone would be able to construct a siege tower on the plot in the open world. If the builder is able to defend the constructed siege tower for half an hour after its completion, they would then have exclusive attacker rights for the next day. These contests are not instanced, so as many players would be able to participate as are willing.
Interestingly, guilds would actually be able to construct siege towers on their own plots, blocking access to their territory if the construction is not contested. Would-be attackers would then have destroy the existing structure before attempting to build their own, adding an extra layer of security for the defending forces.
The proposed addition of siege towers to Albion Online‘s territorial control systems raises a lot of questions, many of which remain unanswered. Would this system be accompanied by the removal of the requirement to own territory bordering the one you’re attacking, effectively supplanting the need for war camps? This would prove a great solution to both requiring guilds to hold territories they don’t need for the sake of their attack routes and the disparity in security of zones bordering war camps and those located in more isolated regions.
While the ability for guilds to construct siege towers in their own territory at first struck as me odd, I quickly realized that this was something of a master stroke, solving the exploitative potential for guilds to declare war on their own territories with ‘alt’ guilds and denying real attackers the opportunity to do so. However, it does present an added layer of protection for guilds on the defense – one arguably unneeded with Albion Online‘s already implemented defender bonuses and requirement that an attacker succeed three separate times before they can take claim of a territory. Would this added security supplement or replace those defensive features? It remains to be seen.
In principle, I want to praise this system for putting a greater emphasis on open world PvP in Albion Online’s territorial control. In truth though, a greater emphasis on world PvP invariably empowers zerg guilds at the expense of smaller ones. While the battles themselves remain balanced 5v5 matches, the construction phase itself may prove to be a contest more of size than of skill, disenfranchising smaller guilds when on the offensive and ultimately detracting from the game’s long-term health. Sandbox Interactive did address this concern, and their post mentions of the possibility of adding an “anti-zerg algorithm” if this is found to be a problem.
An interesting avenue to disempower larger guilds I haven’t seen discussed would be for vulnerability windows to be set at the guild level, rather than the territory level. If all of a guild’s territories are vulnerable to siege construction and GvG battles at the same time, it would require them to coordinate and field a greater number of players across multiple territories during that same window, helping to prevent them from grouping up, and enabling smaller guilds to tactically feint, potentially drawing defenders away from their true objective.
I see a lot of potential with the proposed changes to Albion Online‘s territorial control systems. The introduction of always-vulnerable harvesters adds a form of open world PvP that will always be available to those who seek it out, keeping defenders on their toes in preparation for the omnipresent threat of an enemy raid. Players will want to keep a close eye on these, never allowing them to fill up too much, or else they run the risk of losing a lot of resources to an attacking force.
I’m less enthusiastic about the siege towers. While I want to like them, the system would introduce a significant barrier to smaller guilds hoping to gain new territory, heavily rewarding the zerging mega-alliances that already dominate so much of the world’s territory. While the potential for zergs to dominate is more acceptable in the spread-out, impermanent realm of resource territories, the same risk would be unacceptable in something as fundamental to the game as the building territories most guilds call home. If the siege tower system is going to be implemented, it is imperative that it accompanied by systems curbing the ability of large alliances to dominate territorial control through sheer numerical force.
It’s promising to see the team at Sandbox Interactive remaining dedicated to the continual improvement of Albion Online‘s game systems. A renewed focus on the game’s core promise of non-instanced, open world PvP should serve to reassure fans in particular who were put-off by the recent addition of gateway dungeons to the title and to Ultima Online veterans who were never on board with instanced GvG in the first place. Open world content always comes at the cost of empowering the zerg, but that doesn’t mean it should be abandoned in its entirety; hopefully Sandbox Interactive will prove themselves up to the task of balancing a game where small guilds thrive and unrestricted open world PvP still plays a part.
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