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Can we talk about Events and Hot Zones?


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Reflecting on the recent Q&A, iterating on Events and introducing Hot Zones is a good step towards addressing some of the common, and frequent, criticisms about the available activities in Crowfall. However, I do want to provide some feedback, even prior to seeing a concept in game, to try and avoid what I think are easy traps to fall into.


From a player's perspective, what I'm looking for these features to do is the following:

  • Draw players into a specific locations, at specific times to better control density and promote interaction.
  • Provide a specific competitive objectives, with appropriate rewards, that can be won.
  • Keep players in the location for enough time to allow for interaction and conflict.
  • Reward participation, in addition to winning, in some way that encourages engagement.
  • Provide a minimum level of engagement if uncontested.
  • Have a primary focus that is not just simply grinding.

Why each of these is important:

  • Specific locations, at specific times to control density - The number of available Events and Hot Zones can be used to either spread out the population, or condense the population depending on current pop levels. The need for this, which has been recognized I think, is to provide a knob that controls how large the map feels based on typical population at different times. Caravans kind of has this concept already, if I recall correctly.
  • Specific competitive objectives that can be won - By providing something specific to be fought over, or a specific, visible goal that groups are working to complete promotes direct competition and conflict, and drives player interaction. It also helps provide variety of gameplay, and breaks up the typical grind of the standard activities.
  • Allow enough time for conflict to happen - In addition to increasing player density, Events and Hot Zones need to keep players together long enough to promote conflict and interaction. This is currently the primary failure of events like Chiefs; they can be completed before groups have a chance to contest and interact.
  • Reward participation - If Events and Hot Zones are believed to be winner-take-all, then many groups will choose not to engage if they feel there group is not large enough to win. Ideally, these activities should provide ways that smaller groups, and groups that may not have a chance at winning, can still extract some reward from their effort. This is needed to drive greater and more consistent engagement.
  • Minimum level of engagement - This is, I think, where PvE elements can be used to great effect. Take outposts for example: these objectives require killing guards and controlling an objective for a period of time to take ownership. On paper this works, but in practice, if no one shows up, it leads to a task that can be completed while being practically AFK. Obviously this is not fun. Events and Hot Zones have to be designed so that there is a minimum level of engagement required if only one group shows up.
  • Not be just grinding - If a player wants to farm wartribe mobs or break rocks, they have plenty of spaces to do that. Events and Hot Zones need to break up this already present, and repetitive, gameplay loop. Simply providing 2x the rewards in an area does not do that. MMO's have conditioned players for years to see grinding as something that is done when there isn't a "real" activity to do. Many players will see this, label it as "simply more grinding", and choose to quit because there's "nothing to do". Regardless of how much you tell them that there's pigs, and wartribes, and harvesting, etc., etc. If the event just provides greater rewards for grinding mobs/resource nodes, it creates this unsatisfying scenario where PvP (contesting the parcel) is setup to lead to PvE (farming the parcel). This feels backwards.

An Example:
I've been beating this drum for awhile, but an example of what makes a good Event or Hot Zone objective is a horde-style, wartribe capture point. The objective becomes active on a map, a group goes there, fights wartribe mobs to take the point, controls the point against waves of wartribe mobs (and players), the event ends when the control meter reaches max, and a loot chest spawns with rewards. This hits all of the main points above: specific time and place; specific competitive, winnable objective; holds players at the objective for a period of time; provides a minimum level of engagement; and is different than just grinding. Furthermore, providing increased difficulty of mobs and rewards at the camp during the event would also hit on the reward participation point. The event is set up so that a PvE objective creates a space for, and promotes direct PvP conflict, instead of the other way around.

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3 hours ago, Pystkeebler said:

Not be just grinding - If a player wants to farm wartribe mobs or break rocks, they have plenty of spaces to do that. Events and Hot Zones need to break up this already present, and repetitive, gameplay loop. Simply providing 2x the rewards in an area does not do that. MMO's have conditioned players for years to see grinding as something that is done when there isn't a "real" activity to do.

 

This guy is pointing out one of the core problems with CF and Dregs specifically. It's a lot of grindy work with no guarantee of anything fun happening.

The grindy stuff could be sufferable if the gameplay was meaningful at least, but it's not. 

Things that would make suffering through Dregs more meaningful:

1. Unique rewards that nobody else can get from that campaign. Right now the rewards are mundane, generic, and actually not worth it the effort.

2. The ability to make a castle/town that is unique, and your actual home. Like choose where and how to built it from the ground up. The generic keeps that are all identifical are really not worth fighting over.

All that aside, Dregs could be less suffering of boredom and wasted time if there was more of a guarantee that you'll find people to fight, somewhat on your terms.

The hotzones may help a little, but just like sieges people could choose to not show up because they don't need the stuff, and a negative feedback loop causes more and more people to just not bother.

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Posted (edited)

Hot Zone. Is a hot new phrase with the same old meaning. POI was the original hot zone designed to funnel players into pvp. Then Forts were added to give us something to pvp over at a specified location, later castles were added to bring guilds into conflict during sieges.Then we put it all on a timer so everyone could be online at the same time and not have to hunt pvp. And still the most used strategy is disengagement and avoidance to starve the strong of pvp, this will not change because we added another POI and called it a Hot Zone. Even though the OP’s solutions are elegant and JTodds heart is in the right place. And of course I always welcome any addition to the game whether it addresses a specific problem or not.

Let me put a few more lashes on my dead horse. We need more campaigns/game modes/rule-sets. There has to be a reason I choose to play the dregs Alamar campaign over the Biscotelli and Flamabian campaigns. Maybe it’s guild size requirements, maybe it’s resource differential between the campaigns, maybe it’s specialized rewards unique to the campaign, or a specific win condition.

If there is something I want or need out of a dregs campaign, I’m more likely to fight over it.

Edited by corvax
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Posted (edited)
On 5/8/2021 at 3:42 PM, DocHollidaze said:

 

This guy is pointing out one of the core problems with CF and Dregs specifically. It's a lot of grindy work with no guarantee of anything fun happening.

The grindy stuff could be sufferable if the gameplay was meaningful at least, but it's not. 

Things that would make suffering through Dregs more meaningful:

1. Unique rewards that nobody else can get from that campaign. Right now the rewards are mundane, generic, and actually not worth it the effort.

2. The ability to make a castle/town that is unique, and your actual home. Like choose where and how to built it from the ground up. The generic keeps that are all identifical are really not worth fighting over.

All that aside, Dregs could be less suffering of boredom and wasted time if there was more of a guarantee that you'll find people to fight, somewhat on your terms.

The hotzones may help a little, but just like sieges people could choose to not show up because they don't need the stuff, and a negative feedback loop causes more and more people to just not bother.

This is real.  In Infected Sun were initially either kicking Moon's butt or on even keel but a handful of folks in Moon committed to the boring stuff like building walls and upgrading forts/keeps and Moon ended up in dominant position in Skypoint.  Moon doesn't have more engaged PVPers, in fact possibly the opposite, Sun has regularly been able to camp and gank Moon right at it's runegate even.  But camping and ganking and group PVP is not what actually wins the map.

I want big fights, I want group combat, I want the PVP to be more than just ganking or one side (doesn't matter who, moon has done it too) to have 5-6 people together and just ramrod over all the harvesters and farmers because they are not PVPers.  *sigh* I miss larger scale PVP.  My Myrmidon is literally built for this.  Here's the domains and abilities.  But in the last month I've gotten to leverage my AOE CC build once.  Because that's the only time there has been a 5 vs 5 or more scrap...and that only happened because we pushed into the last minutes of a ninja cap aiming to avoid all conflict.  So all my build really does for me is give me crap 1 vs 1 damage for no reason because PVP basically doesn't exist.  There is ganking and there is little else.

So for at least infected the smarter options is just to avoid PVP or keep the gankers away from your allies and farm and build and secure.  Outposts are temporary, they will flip and they will flip back again.

Edited by Ralathar44
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11 hours ago, corvax said:

Hot Zone. Is a hot new phrase with the same old meaning. POI was the original hot zone designed to funnel players into pvp. Then Forts were added to give us something to pvp over at a specified location, later castles were added to bring guilds into conflict during sieges.Then we put it all on a timer so everyone could be online at the same time and not have to hunt pvp. And still the most used strategy is disengagement and avoidance to starve the strong of pvp, this will not change because we added another POI and called it a Hot Zone. Even though the OP’s solutions are elegant and JTodds heart is in the right place. And of course I always welcome any addition to the game whether it addresses a specific problem or not.

Let me put a few more lashes on my dead horse. We need more campaigns/game modes/rule-sets. There has to be a reason I choose to play the dregs Alamar campaign over the Biscotelli and Flamabian campaigns. Maybe it’s guild size requirements, maybe it’s resource differential between the campaigns, maybe it’s specialized rewards unique to the campaign, or a specific win condition.

If there is something I want or need out of a dregs campaign, I’m more likely to fight over it.

Ya, it's not a single point problem for sure. Keep sieges still have issues, and hopefully handshake will help a little. Forts do drive fights, but it's still mostly just at the end of the window. Outpost POIs rarely lead to anything interesting. All of it likely needs different things to 'fix'.

I think you could make some minor changes to the conquest game to help make it a little more interesting and maybe drive a little more conflict: Have only groups of outposts come active on a rolling basis. Have outposts and forts provided more conquest points on a faster tick rate during their active windows. Allow investment of resources in forts to increase the conquest rewards. Focus pig spawns around siege windows; even more than they are now. More likely requires caravan revamps and parcel-to-parcel interactions.

Spoiler

 

But one of the primary issues, I think, is that the rewards systems are pretty lackluster, and aren't setup correctly to drive engagement. Top X ranked is fine for conquest, but the goal of Divine Favor, now that it's not a victory condition, should be to drive broader engagement in the campaign. These really need to be a tiered reward structure that pays out rewards based on meeting some milestones of effort. Maybe you still rank it at the very very tippy top end, but the bulk of rewards should be achievable by anyone actively playing in Dregs. I mean, if my guild can't win Dregs, the only reason I have to go there is to farm stuff, and that means I'm not looking to get into fights. This also means victory cards have to be reworked to drive conflict in activities that anyone in Dregs can participate in. If you have cards that only land-owning guilds can participate in, you've potentially cut out a large part of the population from being able to participate. Personal rewards for contribution are also terrible right now. Individuals need something flashy to drive them to be engaged.

Spoiler

 

It largely feels like the systems are in place, they're just not all pulling together to get people engaged and actively fighting. Most of the time, it actually feels like the systems are actively discouraging engagement and conflict.

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9 hours ago, Ralathar44 said:

 Outposts are temporary, they will flip and they will flip back again.

 

I think we have all learned, hopefully ACE will as well, that if you don't need stuff, and if you have already won Dregs before for the "experience", there is no real reason to draw you into this stuff except for fights. And yet, to get fights, it either requires other people to have the same mindset at the same time or they have to need/want stuff from the campaign.

Outposts aren't worth fighting over if you don't care about winning. The points are meaningless.

Forts aren't worth fighting over if you don't need stuff.

Generic pre-placed Keeps that you don't even get to name aren't worth the effort to build up and defend if you don't care about the outcome of the dregs campaign, especially if you show up to 2-3 sieges to defend and no enemies come.

At this point, the only reason to play is for fights, and there are many other games out there where you can get the PvP experience with less effort. 

I hate to say it, but the game loop for Dregs is still broken.

Either give rewards that nobody else can get, or make it easier to be sure you have fights coming, or something. 

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2 minutes ago, DocHollidaze said:

I hate to say it, but the game loop for Dregs is still broken.

I was really hoping to hear great news about free-building in dregs from the last Q&A. This at least would give a more throne war style of driving interaction in the game. 

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39 minutes ago, mystafyi said:

I was really hoping to hear great news about free-building in dregs from the last Q&A. This at least would give a more throne war style of driving interaction in the game. 

 

So, what I'm about to say will probably be something you and I will never agree on, and I think that is OK - but I think ACE needs to seriously reconsider the concept of this Throne War phenomenon. It occurred to me that most people DGAF about a throne war. That can be fixed by adding perks to winning the throne war that people do care about. But I wonder if the idea that people would like the throne war was a neat hypothesis but is not panning out.

There is another route which is giving people more agency in choosing what they want to fight over or farm for. Like take the Divine Favor concept and tie it user/guild selected focus of effort and dynamically personalized individual quests or guild challenges. Maybe this would be more appropriate for a Faction Campaign. 

Example:

Let individuals choose a god to favor for the campaign(Gaea, Chronos, etc.)

Let guilds choose a category to focus on for the campaign (Wealth, Power, Glory)

Then, each day the individual gets an auto-generated quest with flavor related to the God. 

For the guild, they might get a campaign specific tier set of challenges that they try to accomplish which unlocks the next for greater rewards.

-

This is different from the idea we currently have which is only the top guilds get something, and everybody funneled to doing the exact same thing.

I don't know, sure the idea has flaws, but I'd like to see a different gameplay loop like I've described that lets people emphasize where they like to play regardless of the throne war thing, because many don't seem to care about the throne war concept.

 

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1 hour ago, DocHollidaze said:

So, what I'm about to say will probably be something you and I will never agree on, and I think that is OK - but I think ACE needs to seriously reconsider the concept of this Throne War phenomenon. It occurred to me that most people DGAF about a throne war. That can be fixed by adding perks to winning the throne war that people do care about. But I wonder if the idea that people would like the throne war was a neat hypothesis but is not panning out.

I do agree that they need to rethink game concept and that is ok, sometimes stuff happens. But I think the throne war aspect wasnt given a chance without any mechanics in game to support it. Ofc players remaining dont care about something that wasnt put into the game. Most of the ones that cared stopped playing. You know those 300k+ backers everyone mentions. 

1 hour ago, DocHollidaze said:

I don't know, sure the idea has flaws, but I'd like to see a different gameplay loop like I've described that lets people emphasize where they like to play regardless of the throne war thing, because many don't seem to care about the throne war concept.

Without all the supporting systems I think your right a different loop is needed. 

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2 hours ago, mystafyi said:

But I think the throne war aspect wasnt given a chance without any mechanics in game to support it.

 

And that's probably the toughest thing - I wonder how much it would be working better with all the stuff in place that we thought would be in originally with Dregs release. There was so much activity an excitement with the Dregs/Beta release, and its sad how much it has faded.

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, DocHollidaze said:

It occurred to me that most people DGAF about a throne war. That can be fixed by adding perks to winning the throne war that people do care about. But I wonder if the idea that people would like the throne war was a neat hypothesis but is not panning out.

I think this is broadly true in games these days. The drive of winning is fun for a little while, but the drive eventually wears off without something else, even if the gameplay is pretty addictive. That something else can be cosmetics, working towards something (progression or ranking), introducing new features, maps, classes, etc. This is the reason BRs have been so successful, they do all of this on top of really fast-paced, addicting gameplay.

Crowfall, on the other hand, seems to be struggling on several accounts. Gameplay tends to feel extremely grindy, Dregs is a lot of work, and I don't think they've really nailed the core 'fun' loop yet. More cosmetics are planned, but as of yet it's hard to say how this will go. The progression system hasn't really come into focus yet, and it's not clear, to me at least, how to have a satisfying progression system with a long time horizon that doesn't lead to large imbalances in the competitive PvP aspects of the game. There's plenty of new stuff planned and talked about, but with it currently feeling like the core features aren't really delivering, it's hard to see this as a saving grace.

Engagement in Dregs is suffering for all of these reasons, summarized as: too much work, nothing really satisfying to work towards, and not great rewards to justify the work.

12 hours ago, DocHollidaze said:

Let individuals choose a god to favor for the campaign(Gaea, Chronos, etc.)

I think you're right that the best path forward for driving engagement is probably to lean into the pantheon of gods and the Divine Favor system. If they could find a way to work some kind of progression and more satisfying player rewards into the Divine Favor system while using it as a way to drive engagement through variety of gameplay objectives, then that might give individual players more reasons to engage with Campaigns/Dregs. I could see a temporary, within campaign, progression system tied to gaining favor with a god that would unlock boons like new Majors/Minors. That way you're not greatly upsetting the power curve. Riffing on some things that were said in the last Q&A, you could then pay out this Divine Favor at the end of a campaign as a currency that you use to pay for cosmetics and other rewards, though I do wonder if ACE fully appreciates the windmill of content creation they're likely getting themselves into.

They also need to do something to give the top conquest winners some more impact in the world. Like put statues of the scoreboard leader from the top 3 guilds in the free city with guild heraldry and everything. Give them unique guild shields for the next campaign, or unique character VFX. Let them free build on parcels within the free city, or have direct portals to their EK, so they can put their guild hall on display. Let them design a castle, keep, or some other parcel for future campaigns. Being able to modify the world is maybe the biggest appeal of the temporary worlds of Crowfall. Clearly this is all pie in the sky, but this is the kind of stuff that would make winning a fun and unique experience.

Edited by Pystkeebler
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