As anyone who has played online games for any length of time will know, the territory comes with its ups and downs. One common issue, especially with resource-based open-world games that allow for PvP, is when players form into large groups and trample their respective countrysides (or space stations), obliterating everything in their path. Whether you know it as 'blobbing,' 'zerging' or by some other name, you're sure to have run into it in one form or another.
Zerging, if left unchecked, can cause extensive damage to the social fibre of a multiplayer game. Since it generally encourages players to form up in huge groups of low-level unskilled players with basic equipment, bypassing all equipment balance and combat strategy in favor of sheer numbers, it has the potential to erode the foundation of fun necessary for an MMO to thrive. This is in addition to the obvious sense of discouraging injustice felt by new players who run into these uncounterable blobs.
This kind of manuevering may be satisfying for the zerging party for a small time (overwhelming smaller forces through sheer numbers provides an illicit sense of thrill at first) but eventually even the zerglords get tired of rolling through without resistance. Players begin to leave in droves, and a game that may be carefully crafted and thought out in other ways is essentially left a graveyard of broken mechanics.
Several games have attempted to discourage zerging through game design measures, to varying degrees of success. In Albion Online, in an effort to promote and encourage fairer match-ups between smaller groups of opponents, we're implementing several mechanics to make zerging as ineffective as possible. Please note, though: this does not mean there won't be large-scale battles happening. It just means we don't want to see 50 guys killing 3 guys.
Let's take a moment to clarify slightly, because this is a key cornerstone of our philosophy for Albion Online and an issue we feel strongly about. Our intent here, as before, is not to stop large-scale battles from happening, but rather to give players the option of choosing the size of their battles, enabling large groups to easily find each other while allowing smaller groups to evade them. We also engineer our design towards, for example, creating scenarios where it is more economical to run around in smaller groups as opposed to a giant zerg.
Here are the 8 mechanics we have built into Albion Online:
- Guild vs Guild: GvG fights are the only way to conquer territories. Battles are limited to 5vs.5 players and have to be scheduled in advance, putting the emphasis much more on skill and quality than on pure quantity. At the same time, we also have fights over cities which are 20vs.20 battles.
- Map Alerts: Large groups will be clearly visible on the minimap, making it easy for smaller groups to avoid them.
- AoE Damage: We will be adding special anti-zerg abilities that will punish the clustering of many players on one spot, such as damage scaling with amount of enemies in an area.
- AoE Healing: Conversely, healing is capped and only affects a limited number in the respective area.
- Focus Fire Debuff: If more than one person is doing damage to a player he will begin to receive a buff increasing his armor. This buff increases significantly with every person who joins in on attacking him. This mechanic makes focus fire less valuable and will therefore be a boon to smaller groups against larger groups.
- Events: Certain events will happen in the world of Albion on a regular basis and at the same time. So your big Zerg can now easily secure one of these Events and share a loot supposed to be for 5 people amongst them. Or they split up in a group and are much more economical and effective.
- Hellgates: Hellgates work similar to the Events, with the addition that the group is in hell for a certain period and fighting what is far more likely to be a fair 5vs5. A key part of Hellgates is that it‘s instance Arena PvP without taking the people out of the world. We explicitly did decide against Instanced Arena PvP where people sit in safe cities and queue up. You should go out there with your small group and look for these Hellgates.
- Zerg Algorithm: We are currently working on an algorithm that can detect who belongs to which side in a big battle. This is because one of the first things enterprising zerg-inclined guilds would do to circumvent anti-zerg measures would be to split up into different, seemingly unconnected guilds. We intend to be smart in spotting them, even if they do not belong together on the surface.
As you can see, all of these fall into one (or both) categories: i) discouraging the formation of large groups on the one hand and ii) encouraging players to adventure Albion in smaller groups by creating specific incentives on the other. The above is also not a complete list by any means, and these features may be subject to small adjustments since they are still in development.
It is a major focus of ours to encourage and increase small scale PvP while at the same time having enough opprtunities and places for large PvP clashes.
If you want to test how the measures above work, join our upcoming Summer Alpha from 29th of June and see you on the battlefield!
Your Stefan „Bercilak“ Wiezorek
CEO & Founder Sandbox Interactive
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is not sponsored content. It's an exclusive given to us by the devs, and no money changed hands. Just keeping you in the loop!