Get off my lawn!
When the Frontier System was first proposed and PvP was announced as a part of the housing system, I was not the only person who envisioned ducking around buildings and having battles on other people's lawns. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you were dreading going hoarse from screaming "Get off my lawn!"), that is not what the system is about.
As demonstrated in the dev tour, the PvP system starts off on the housing islands and does impact them, but the major battles take place in a special instanced area. Here is how it works: A giant egg-shaped crystal will spawn on the housing islands periodically; its destruction will open up the ability for alliances to travel to this special PvP instance. Whoever controls the PvP instance is considered the owner of the crystal and is the defender. Destruction of or defense of this crystal is really the only part of the battle that wages outside of the instance.
During this testing period, the devs have retained control of the instance between events, but once the Frontier System is finally deployed, the conquering alliance on the battlefield will become the defender and owner of the egg-crystal. When it respawns, the defenders can protect it and fight to drive the enemies away (to prevent the PvP instance from even popping and hence protecting their ownership interests). However, as soon as the attacking alliances destroy this crystal, the PvP zone is enabled and the real battles can begin.
In the zone
Once the crystal is destroyed, players will be ported into the PvP battle zone via a special NPC. When the system is fully implemented, the battle will not commence immediately but will actually start at a prescribed time the next day giving all parties the chance to muster their forces. To be eligible to enter, players must be in an alliance, which consists of two to five guilds. As it stands, there is only one NPC, and he gets so thoroughly mobs by players that getting in the instance quickly -- and therefore getting a chance to spread out and find a good position on the battlefield -- is nigh impossible for most players. Even Haza wasn't able to jostle his way in enough to get an actual lock on the NPC to teleport us inside. Carson stated that he has asked Runewaker
to add more of these porters so there isn't such a bottleneck.
Once inside, the defending alliance is teleported straight to the citadel for defensive purposes. Other alliances can fan out and strategize their assault. And this is where the fun really begins. You see, this PvP zone is more than just a face-to-face battle between players, and it is more than just a capture-the-point/king-of-the-mountain type of scenario. There are actually a number of different elements built into the battlefield. Carson explained, "We put some balancing factors in to make it a little more strategic." Strategy, in fact, can play a very important role.
The winner of the battle is actually the alliance that accumulates the most points throughout the battle. The scoreboard for the alliances and a personal leaderboard can be seen at any time on a special UI. (Players will also individually earn a special PvP currency that can be used for things like PvP armor and consumables.) Points are awarded for capturing various strongholds in the region and citadel as well as controlling them over time; the longer a point is held, the more points build up. Points are also awarded for every PvP and for every PC guard kill. Although the PvP kills all award the same chunk of points, there are differing point values for the various guards. (To give an idea about the strength of these stronghold guardians, Carson noted that a single group should be able to take out a guardian if no players intervene.)
But victory does not always go to the one with the most kills or most holdings. Players can nab additional points by finding crystals throughout the zone and depositing them at any stronghold they own. Carrying one of these crystals also gives the player a special buff, so anyone who mouses over the player will notice that he is carrying a crystal and can then attack to make him drop it. This adds a whole capture-the-flag element to the game.
Additionally, there are other elements that will affect the balance of power. Each alliance can buy and control a siege weapon that any alliance member can move and operate. While some alliances are running to capture strongholds, some may be running to spawn a special powerful dragon that will fight for that side until destroyed. Randomly, a Doom Dragon can spawn and target whichever alliance is currently in the lead. And of course, alliances ranking lower in points can band together and attack the leader. If timed right, second place could actually be the most be most advantageous position to be in!
The battle concludes and a victor is announced at either 8,000 points or after two hours. If the two-hour timer expires, the alliance with the highest number of points wins and becomes the defender for the next go-round. There will be a grace period before the crystal pops again (giving the victors time to fortify), and then the cycle starts again.
Off the field
Although I didn't get to see it in action, there is another aspect still incoming to the Frontier System. Called the High Lord System, this is what really melds the housing system together with the PvP. Besides allowing the winning alliance to build up more defenses by gathering materials and such, the High Lord System allows the victor to establish taxes on the residents of the housing island.
High Lords will also be able to run events for the residents of the islands they control. This is where the player-generated content will really shine. Carson speculated that this aspect will be implemented next month.
Odds and ends
We finished off the tour by discussing a few odds and ends about the system. For instance, you may wonder at what level you can participate in PvP through the Frontier System. While Carson said that you can enter as of level 30 (about the time players normally access the housing islands), players under level 60 will probably have significant difficulty surviving.
Additionally, there are special things in place to help make the PvP experience run more smoothly. Players have a special menu with a checklist specifically to improve framerate in the battle zone. Players can choose to prevent friendly dragons from rendering as well as make all player character render the same (so that the frame-rate isn't bogged down loading myriad individual armors).
Currently, the system is available only via special dev-hosted events, but it won't be too long before players will begin their push to become the High Lords of Auratia.
Every two weeks, Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie take a break from their themepark day jobs to delve into the world of player-generated content. Comments, suggestions, and coverage ideas are welcome, and Some Assembly Required is always looking for players who'd like to show off their MMO creativity. Contact us!