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BioWare Mythic
MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Cancelled  (est.rel 09/18/08)  | Pub:Electronic Arts
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Warhammer Online: Zone Control Overview and Interview

MMORPG.com Managing Editor Jon Wood gets behind the zone control feature in Mythic's Warhammer Online both in its current state and in terms of what's to come through an interview with two of the game's dervelopers.

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As pretty much anyone who might be interested is already aware, Warhammer Online is a game based on an RvR (or Realm vs. Realm) system. It’s a form of PvP that allows for more than just the standard “my guy against your guy” fight to the death style combat. Instead, it implies a larger purpose for the PvP as my faction fights your faction.

In Warhammer Online, these lines are pretty obvious. On the one side, you have Order, on the other side, you have Destruction. The two factions battle it out for zone control, indicated by a blue and red bar on the top right hand side of the default UI aptly named the Zone Control Bar. If your side is winning, more of your color is visible. It’s a pretty good system, designed to make all players feel as though they are contributing to the overall war effort. There’s only one problem: Many players find it confusing.

It’s not that the concept itself is confusing, but up until now it just hasn’t been clear as to what actions contribute to the overall zone control and to what degree. This issue of non-transparency has left some players feeling as though they have no impact on the overall war whatsoever, and that the zone control bar seems to be just a randomly moving instrument. This, of course, is not the case.

In a recent conversation with some of the developers, we were told that five different realm actions contribute to the overall control of a zone. Each of these actions is differently weighted, meaning that some actions are more valuable to zone control than others. While they couldn’t tell us exactly what the breakdown was percentage-wise in terms of contribution to overall zone control, they did give us each of the actions in their order of importance:

  1. Keeps and Battlefield Objectives
  2. Scenarios
  3. Player Kills
  4. Quests and Public Quests Completed
  5. Previous Tier Zone Control (Who controls the tier below yours)

Fortunately, the developers are planning a small upgrade to the existing zone control bar aimed at making the zone control process a little bit more transparent. This new upgrade will see a breakdown given (when players mouse over the existing bar in the UI), of smaller bars representing each element that contributes to overall zone control. This should give players a wider view of the overall zone control mechanic.

Warhammer Online Sorceress Screenshot

This change should be coming in the next major patch, 1.1.1.

Still on the topic of zone control, Paul Barnett and Jeff Hickman recently released information about another change that’s coming to the Zone Control system. Senior Designer Brian Wheeler and producer Jeff Skalski brought me up to speed on what is known as the Zone Domination system.

“What we’ve noticed since launch,” Skalski began, “is that there is a lot of fighting going on in the [RvR] lakes and sometimes the zone control bar will just kind of be stuck. One team will be dominating greatly in scenarios while the other is dominating in RvR lakes and the zone never flips. So we came up with this domination system where players, if they capture all of the battlefield objectives and all of the keeps in the zone and hold them for a set amount of time, they will immediately override the zone control bar and capture the zone.”

“Moving forward, what we’re looking at doing is - battlefield objectives: once you capture them, you’ll have to defend them for 30 minutes and keeps: once you capture them they will have to be claimed by a guild and then held for two hours.” I was then told that these numbers are working numbers at the moment and may be tweaked before launch.

This new feature will change the look of the zone control bar as well, adding six new blocks to the top and bottom. As Zone Domination criteria are met, the block begin to light up with the appropriate color.

Basically, your side has to hold all six of their blocks in order to flip the zone.

Further to this, I asked if this didn’t somehow stomp on the importance of all of the other aspects of zone control.

I was told that this isn’t the fastest way to turn a zone, and that this change was meant as a supplement to the existing system.

“We wanted to put in a mechanic,” we were told, “where if guilds claim the keep, they are investing their gold to claim this keep and make sure it’s defended, they should be rewarded as a realm.”

Another of the issues that people have had with the zone control system revolves around rewards. Some go so far as to claim that there are none (you can see that there are by mousing over the zone control bar in-game) and other say that the rewards that are there, are rather insignificant.

Warhammer Online Screenshot

“The biggest challenge about the zone control benefits and bonuses,” said Wheeler, “is one, you don’t want to penalize the losers too heavily and two, you don’t want to make the other guys so combat effective that the other side has no chance at fighting them off and getting it back. So, when we’re looking at what bonuses or penalties we’re going to implement, we have to weigh all of those things. It’s tricky to find a balance between nice pat on the back and not curb stomping the losers.”

“I think it’s safe to say,” Skalski continued, “that we’re looking to reward individual players, as well as guilds more effectively with zone control.”

In any case, these recent changes and announcements show that the team at Mythic is working on making their game not only better in terms of gameplay features, but also easier to understand in terms of the transparency of their systems. We look forward to hearing more about upcoming releases for this game.

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