Source: Taelorn
    Date: 08-29-2007, 11:34 PM

As you probably already heard, we’re launching a new wipe build soon. As with any wipe build, there are some pretty significant changes. This mini-devlog is intended to give you a preview of the new build from design’s perspective (in other words, I have no idea what bugs are fixed!).

Pirate CaptureEdit

Pirate capture is one of the most discussed topics in beta. I have responded to as many threads as possible, indicating that there are changes in the pipeline and that you’ll see how things are shaping up soon. Before I describe the changes, I want to provide some background information.

First of all, game balance is important to design. We discuss various balance issues on a daily basis. Of all these issues, there are two long standing concerns: pirate capture and population balance. We’ve been discussing pirate capture shortly after I started working at Flying Lab. Sometime in January we decided on a course of action for dealing with pirate capture. This was a long-term plan that had several moving pieces, so we knew we had to cope with the old system for a long time in beta. However, we knew we’d have a different capture setup at launch.

I’m telling you this because of the inevitable response that these changes are just a reaction to whining on the forums. That’s not the case. Design has considered this to be a serious balance issue for a long time. We had an outline of how to approach this almost eight months ago. Now, we’re at the point where all the pieces are coming together so we can make the changes. Here’s what has happened since January:

1) Scavenge. This skill helps compensate for increased capture restrictions and gives pirates the ability to get stuff out of derelicts, which is a cool benefit to help offset a nerf. 2) Career missions. These were needed to give out the new scavenge skill. 3) Scavenge deeds. This code support allows us to give you a chance to receive a deed from scavenge based on the derelict you’re scavenging. 4) Liquid durability. This is a huge buff to the Seize as Deed capture system. 5) New spawntables. These tables make the game much more difficult overall. We’ve greatly expanded the number of NPC ships you can encounter. This also means that pirates can easily gain access to almost any ship they want.

There are lots of other, smaller factors but those are the big ones. Based on those, here is how we are changing capture:

1) Seize Ship as Deed is gone. The only way to get deeds is via Scavenge. 2) Take Command of Ship is the new method of ship capture. If you come across a great ship, you’ll need to jump into it immediately. If it’s badly damaged, cross your fingers that you can survive the battle. Besides being better for balance, this is a much more piratey way to do it! 3) Take Command of Ship will have a 2 hour reset timer 4) Scavenge will have a 4% chance (tunable) of getting a capture deed. They are rare loot drops. 5) Capture deeds are unsecured. If you sink, you lose them. 6) Capture deeds can be traded and sold to other players or in auction houses. 7) Capture deeds are flagged pirate-only so nationals can’t use them. 8) Capture deeds continue to have 1 durability. 9) The Pirate career skill gives an extra docking berth so you can have a total of five ships instead of four, to encourage you to keep a dock free at all times so you can take command of a great ship you weren’t expecting to encounter..

We discussed keeping Seize Ship as Deed on a long reset timer, but we came up with too many exploit scenarios that would put us back where we are now. Pirates will be expected to have an easy time getting ships for PvE with Take Command, but they should not have a massive supply of ships for PvP. With the upcoming changes to port battles, you can lose two points of durability in a single port battle if you play all the way to the end. If that element of the new battle works out, then it’ll create a difference between the strength of pirates in AdHoc PvP and port conquest. Captured ships won’t be as effective in port conquest because it’ll be harder to get sufficient durability.

Relying on the Take Command mechanic means that pirates have an advantage in acquiring free ships, but they cannot stock up on a large supply of ships. Scavenge deeds can be added to ships acquireding with Take Command, and they can be traded and used for refit ships. We feel like this adds a nice element to scavenge, because it’s a cool moment when you salvage an intact ship.

PvP Risk DisparityEdit

PvP doesn’t work if there’s a significant risk disparity between the different factions. Trying to find a ship is the biggest obstacle for pirate capture. When the new spawn tables hit, they shwould make that largely obsolete because you will encounter a much greater variety of ships in missions and in the Open Sea. Also, that’s mainly an issue for finding a specific ship. This led to an easily abused mechanic. If we kept it post-launch, there’s no question that we’d see it widely abused.

There are other areas of risk disparity that we are still working on addressing. Default ships are the most obvious concern. We’re taking steps to ensure that default ships cannot be abused in PvP but that will take time to address. For now, default ships are going to be significantly reduced in Build 26.

The changes to pirate capture are not necessarily the end. At this point, we’ll have to evaluate how it all fits together. The new spawn tables, capture timers, pirate scavenge and pirate gold debuff all work together. As with any mechanic, we’ll be responsive to how it works in beta and decide if we need to make further changes. If that happens, the changes won’t be instant, but they’ll be faster now that the key parts are in place.

Aside from risk disparity, there are several other PvP issues that are on our list. These range from AdHoc issues like spawn location and size to PvP rewards, conquest balance and cargo dumping. We’ll continue working on these issues in the future.

The Economy in Build 26Edit

I won’t go into too much depth since this isn’t my area, but Isildur made a set of economic changes for the wipe. We want to see how these changes work out and we’re willing to make more changes as necessary. First of all, France is getting as an additional deep harbor resource outside of the Antilles. There are a few other resource adjustments that make it so that France has pretty much everything it needs for shipbuilding in the Gulf. Some changes were also made to Bridgetown.

We can’t change port ownership, and we can’t physically move ports because of the setting. France has a poor layout for port location that places them more in the mix for PvP compared to England and Spain. As such, we’re looking at France as a PvP-flavored nation and may find ways to incent that gameplay.

This will be the first full test of the economy due tosince the additions of liquid durability and the new auction house, the adjustments for France and England, and the increasing beta population. Economic feedback will be important in helping us fine- tune the economy for launch.

Other ChangesEdit

We’re continuing to work on Avatar Combat. You’ll see some minor bug fixes and changes in build 26, but the big ones are spread across 27 and 28. I don’t know how many AC changes are in build 26, but we have a team of people that spent the past month iterating AC encounters for build 27. The newest build has a mission with random NPC spawns, more varied NPCs, patrols, random objective locations, more challenge and a more involved experience overall. There are new AC skills for group support, commanding NPC allies (probably in build 26) and other AC skill tuning. DrewC is also planning out future additions and improvements to the AC system.A lot is happening there and DrewC will talk about it more in a few weeks. We know full well that AC is our least polished system and it’s getting a lot of attention.

I’ve been working on a wide range of tasks aside other thanfrom ships, so there wasn’t much ship tuning in the past two monthsmonth. I have a long list of ship tuning issues that I’m going to be working on in the near future. Build 26 has a additional 15 or so ships that are all aimed at level 40-50 players. We want to give you a lot more variety in the ships you choose late in the game. These ships will need more tuning, and I already have changes planned to some of them even though they aren’t in the game yet. We’re well over 100 “player ships” now. These are all the ships, including variants, that I consider to be worth sailing.

Thanks to our user content contributors, there are about ten new ship models getting processed right now, and there are a few more models that are close to being completed. Some of those models will act as substitutes, so you’ll see ships like the ‘Destroyer’ Frigate using a new model. When it all comes together and I create more variants, I expected we’ll have around 150 player ships. As we get more ships, we will keep making them more specific. Career based ships (non-refits) are likely additions. The new restriction of the Mordaunt to Navy is an example of this kind of change. It’ll function just like any other SOL (Navy only, no PvE capture) but without a writ requirement. These developments are especially exciting for me when I see us approaching an average of three ships available per level, compared to the 18 level gap we had a year ago.

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