At PAX East this past weekend, Carbine Studios unveiled more information about the much-anticipated PVP feature known as Warplots. Lead PVP Designer Jen Gordy took us through an overview of how the system would work and showed us some of the customization options available for the plots. She called it a teamcentric system, 40 on 40 PVP featuring fortresses that are prepared for battle whilst aloft and then plopped down hard onto the ground to duke it out with an opposing Warplot.
Players would begin by forming what are called war parties, more permanent groupings similar to guilds or circles with a bank and communication channels available to them to organize and strategize their efforts to build up an appropriate Warplot to take on all comers. Just like in guilds, there are various ranks within a war party, and permissions to customize the Warplot or utilize the war bank can be adjusted by the leader(s) as necessary.
Even though the Warplots system requires a 40-person team, Carbine seemed to recognize that sometimes, all 40 members of a war party might not be online at any given time. Mercenaries who queue solo can backfill empty spaces if a war party is queued and is missing some people. Matchmaking for Warplots is done based on the team's overall rating, not by any individual's rating within that group.
The currency for the Warplots system is called war coins. They are awarded for matches, and each war party gets 500 coins to start with. The big thing that makes Warplots different from regular PVP aside from the size of the parties is the simple fact that each team can customize their Warplot, unlike most instanced battlegrounds in other games. Gordy revealed that each Warplot will have seven major areas to customize with both offensive and defensive items settled into specific plugs or some free-placed in certain areas. One of the game's objectives is to destroy the items in the enemy Warplot's seven matching zones, and another is to take out their power generators... sort of reminds me of the Imperial attack upon the Rebel base on Hoth.
Each Warplot has a deployment station where the leader can select which specific zone the Warplot will drop down into, and as a war party progresses, they can get upgrades to unlock two more travel locations on the deployment map. When a team wants to customize their Warplot, they pull up their build map, setting things up with no time limit while the Warplot is still flying around.
When it comes to the actual zones within a Warplot that can be customized, there are two smaller ones toward the rear of the structure that Gordy referred to as 'smalls'. They're located on either side of the middle zones and give a passive bonus to the construct or the party itself depending on what item(s) were used in those zones. For example, if silos were placed there, the Warplot would get a bonus for defensive mitigation. Humanoid guards can also be selected, or there might be turrets that players can man and use against enemy players.
'Larges', on the other hand, were the zones furthest from the center and could either be defensive with battle bots and guards that could call for reinforcements, or they could be what were called hazard plugs, where a team could place obstacles such as forcefields that damage an enemy until they were destroyed or mobile damage-dealers. Hazard plugs also featured a bar that counted up, much like an enrage timer on a raid boss. As soon as the hazard bar gets full, damage is significantly increased, so an opposing team would want to get past the obstacles as quickly as possible. And another thing, the forcefields are team-specific, so while the away team gets fried in a forcefield, the home team can run through them like they've got an IPass on Chicago's toll roads. The game's crafting system comes into play because some of the items to be used in both hazard and guard plugs involve FABKits, and thus Architects can get in on that action.
The main plug in the back of the Warplot is for a superweapon of some kind such as a massive missile rack or laser or the like. This superweapon adds an additional skill to a player's hotbar for the duration of the match.
The final plug in the middle is a boss summoner. If a guild or a war party defeats a boss in a dungeon or a raid, they get a chance to loot a token for that boss and they can summon a 20-person version of that boss with that token in a Warplot. The tokens can stack in the war bank so players can farm bosses for Warplots goodness later on, and a limited number of boss tokens can be purchased with war coins. One of the cool things you can do is summon a boss into the middle of the enemy Warplot to wreak some havoc if you so choose. These bosses get retuned for Warplots to provide a more balanced and even match. There are also free-placed items around the Warplots such as turrets, traps, and mines, and they're normally stored in a crate when not in use (and thus the infamous Crate lives on).
All plugs have a maintenance cost associated with them as well, and all boss tokens and free-standing items are consumed upon use, so if you want to spawn a boss again, you have to have a member run through the dungeon or raid where that boss is again to get a new token or buy one with war coins.
Both sides start with an energy meter based on which sockets or plugs are filled. As the battle rages on, that meter depletes itself. There's also another meter called the nano pack meter. Nano packs are items discovered during a match, and if a team captures that nano pack node, they can use it to repair bits of their Warplot mid-battle or power up their superweapon or summon a boss. If a team controls the nano pack nodes, then they will also adversely affect the enemy war party's generators. What's also important about doing repairs is that they're free via nano packs mid-match. Damage carries over from match to match, so if a war party wants to repair their Warplot outside of a match, it will cost them war coins.
As we were told, there are two main paths to winning a Warplots match. The first is to win by energy attrition, damaging enough of the enemy's plot and people to deplete their energy meter. The other is to invade their base and destroy both of their generators, take them down like General Veers did to the Rebels on Hoth, boom! Rewards for winning a match include an increase to the team's rating and each member of the team gets a personal war party rating increase as well. The personal war party rating doesn't decrease or disappear if a player isn't formally invited to a specific war party and simply filled an empty slot, however. The team also gets war coins to use on upgrades and other goodies, but those goodies weren't specified in this particular session.
Warplots are a cross-realm and cross-faction system, so we won't see Exile-on-Exile fighting of this nature, for example. At launch, guilds will not be able to challenge each other, but there is a possibility that it might come about post launch. Also post launch, there might be a spectator mode. Jen Gordy did state that it's something Carbine wanted to have, but it wasn't currently prioritized.