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The River Kingdoms Go To War

The next update to the Alpha, 10.0, will begin the War of Towers. This is a key feature of the early part of Early Enrollment. It provides a variety of important features that closes a number of critical game loops. It is the most significant game system update to the Alpha yet.

We will begin this test by adding the functionality of capturable Tower locations, Settlement management, Companies and a Settlement/Company managment console. The next update which will follow in approximately a week from 10.0 will add the adjustments to Feat Trainers as described in this blog as well as other iterations on this feature. In this blog we refer to that update as 10.1.

PvP With Context

Our fundamental design goal for Pathfinder Online is maximizing meaningful human interaction. PvP is a form of interaction unlike any other. It challenges players in ways that no NPC AI can. PvP is one of many ways that we we enable the the players to become their own content.

PvP is also a dangerous aspect of the project. Many people have serious reservations about PvP. They've been burned before in other games where PvP degenerated into a toxic brew of bad behavior and no-fun experiences.

We think that the solution to this problem is to work hard to add context to PvP. When people struggle over something meaningful they behave differently than when PvP is just random fight.

The War of Towers provides meaningful context for PvP in Alpha 10.0 (and of course into Early Enrollment!) This feature will slowly morph into the full fledged territorial control system and Settlement conquest over time.

Increasing Character Power

If you've tried to see how powerful you can make a character in Alpha you've discovered that you can get 8 ranks of the Role achievements (Cleric, Fighter, Rogue and Wizard) if you learn Feats from the Trainers in NPC Settlements. PC Settlement trainers know Feats up to the 5th rank. There are no Trainers who can teach you the Feats you need to progress beyond that point.

War of Towers provides the mechanism to unlock even more powerful characters.

NPC Settlements will not upgrade their facilities. NPC Settlements are designed as a place for characters to begin their adventures and for players to have a safe place to learn how to play the game. But eventually we want people to move out of the NPC Settlements and form player-driven communities.

We added 33 Player Settlements to the map with Alpha 9.1. These 33 Settlements were earned by groups who succeeded in the Guild Land Rush.

Those Settlements have the potential to attract Trainers who know Feats the NPC Trainers don't. Those Trainers don't just appear. The Settlements have to earn them.

Across the Crusader Road a number of mysterious green crystals have appeared. Our art team would categorize these crystals' color as "Emerald". The common folk of the area have quickly built small structures at each of these sites, and the heroes of the Settlements are moving in to those Towers to try and discover the unique properties of the crystals. The more of these Towers a Settlement controls, the more attractive it is to Trainers who know how to unlock previously unavailable Feats.

Beginning with the 10.1 update about a week after 10.0 is deployed, every two Towers a Settlement controls increments the maximum rank of the Feats its trainers can teach. There are 6 Towers in the Hexes adjacent to each Settlement Hex. Controlling those Towers will provide +3 Ranks of Training to that Settlement's Trainers, making them equal to the NPC Settlements.

But after we deploy the 10.1 update after the 10.0 update they can go further.

Settlements can keep capturing Towers and incrementing the max rank of the Feats their Trainers know. At 8 Towers, the Settlement will unlock the 9th Rank of Feats and the characters in that Settlement can become more powerful than characters trained in NPC Settlements for the first time. (Practically speaking capturing 30 Towers will max out the training benefits because the time required to train Rank 15 Feats will be longer than the time we expect the War of Towers to run during Early Enrollment.)

(In Alpha 10.x there's no real definition of "characters in a Settlement". That is a top priority feature the team is still working on. In Alpha 10.x, all characters (with the necessary Reputation) will be able to access Trainers in any Settlement but that's a temporary condition.)

Increasing Crafting Capabilities

We know that Crafting is an incredibly popular aspect of the game. The "Crafting Settlement" option was selected by more Land Rush winners than any other category.

Capturing Towers gives your Settlement upgraded Crafting facilities. Each Tower a Settlement controls adds +10 to the Facility Rating of the Crafting structures in that Settlement (the default is 15). This value increases the speed that your crafting facilities can operate. The function is ([Item Quality]^2 / ([Skill Total] x [Facility Rating])) x [Multiples of Recipe] x [Base Time of Recipe]. 

Faster rates of production mean that the items your Settlement can craft become more efficient and efficiency translates into a cost advantage.

(The same caveat applies. In Alpha 10.x there's no exclusion of characters from Settlement structures, but there will be eventually.)

Organizational Management

You know why your Settlement will want to control Towers. Now you need to know how to do that.

Settlements do not directly compete for Towers. With Alpha 10.0, we're adding another core game system - Companies. Companies are the proxies of the Settlements - but not all of them. Some Companies will choose to remain unaligned or to work for their own agendas.

The Company You Keep

Companies are different from the ad hoc parties you can create in previous versions of Alpha. Companies are persistent. 

Each character can join only 1 Company in Alpha 10.x. This system will become more flexible in time.

Companies have a management control panel which is accessible by Company Managers. By default the Company manager is the character that created the Company. Adjusting management roles will come in future updates.

  • The Company manager can review applicants to join the Company and approve or reject them
  • The Company manager can review existing members of the Company and kick them out of the Company
  • Companies can ally with a Settlement even before they have captured a Tower.
  • When they capture a Tower it is automatically pledged to their allied Settlement (but the new Tower will not affect the Settlement until the resumption of server operations the following day).
  • An allied Company can withdraw their fealty from a Settlement. The broken alliance persists until the next normally scheduled daily server downtime.
  • A Company may not apply to another Settlement until their current alliance has ended.

Settlement Management

War of Towers introduces the Settlement Management tools. This is the mechanism by which the actions of Companies become beneficial to Settlements.

Settlement Management characters need to be assigned by a Goblinworks staff member. To become a Settlement Manager, please email customer.support@goblinworks.com, use "Assign Settlement Manager" in the subject of the email, send it from the email address associated with your goblinworks.com account, include your account name and the name of the character that you wish to have assigned as a Settlement Manager. We have an internal list of the people who have authority to make these requests based on the contact we've had with the groups in the Guild Land Rush. If we have any questions about your application, we'll contact you or the accounts we have on file to clarify. For now of course the only people who should be using this channel of contact are the existing 33 Settlement reps. This is not a process to ask for a new Settlement.

Changes to Settlement Management will usually be implemented around the start of daily server operations (approximately 10am Pacific Time) on week days but we'll do our best to expedite when we can. (This is a manual process for now. Once it is automated it will be smoother and more predictable.)

Managers can access the Settlement Management control panel and three functions.

  • Outstanding Pledge Management:  Companies who have pledged fealty to a settlement are listed and can be accepted for an alliance.
    • Accepting the Company creates an immediate alliance with that Company. The Settlement does not gain the benefit of any Towers controlled by the Company until the resumption of server operations following the normally schedule downtime the following day.
  • Fealty Management:  This lists Companies who are currently allied with the Settlement. An ‘End Alliance’ button allows the Settlement to cancel alliances with Companies.
  • PvP Window:  The Settlement can determine the start time of its PvP window and view the total length of their PvP window.
    • A Settlement can shift their PvP window to a new time. Once they shift their window they cannot do so again for 48 hours.

(With Alpha 10.x there is no mechanism to exclude characters from a Settlement (other than Reputation). Characters are not members of Settlements in the way they are members of Companies in Alpha 10.x. These are both features which are a high priority for the team to implement.)

The Company/Settlement UI

For 10.0 we are implementing the user interface for Company and Settlement Management as one system. Over time these functions will be further developed and the UI will be improved. This is a "minimum viable product" iteration of the UI.

This example shows the Search function on the left which has been expanded by clicking on the Goblinworks company. The "Reputation" column in the Search function and the "Indifferent" notion under the Goblinworks company name in the profile on the left are related to an upcoming feature that allows Companies and Settlements to declare wars and alliances.

The Leadership of this Company is the character Goblinworks Screenshooter.  There are currently no members.

The character being played when this screen shot was taken was a member of this Company. If the "Leave" button were clicked that character would exit the Company. In this case, if Goblinworks Screenshooter leaves, the Company itself would also be removed because it would have no other members.

The "Edit" control allows the Leadership to set a short description of the Company that will be visible when users are browsing the Company listings.

If this Company had claimed any Towers, they would appear on the Holdings tab.  The Alliances tab is not used for Company management.

Look at the Search Results. The Company "jen company" is associated with the Settlement named "aragon". If this character was a Settlement Manager for aragon, the character would be able to set the start of the PvP window in the Holdings tab, and would be able to accept or reject alliances with Companies in the Alliances tab.

PvP Windows

Conflict over the Towers is not unlimited.

Settlements have a PvP window, which affects all the Tower Hexes controlled by their aligned Companies. This window as yet has no effect on the Settlement Hex itself.

This image shows enhancements we have made to the UI that indicates information related to the War of Towers. The green Hex Type icon now also indicates that the Tower in this Hex is Unclaimed. If the Tower is claimed the name of the controlling Company will appear instead.  The crossed sword icon indicates that the PvP window is open in this Hex and that it will remain open for the next 27 minutes.

Each Settlement has a PvP window and all Towers controlled by allied Companies adhere to that window.

A Settlement’s PvP window is determined by the number of Towers held at the time the server enters daily operation after downtime (approximately 10am Pacific) as follows:

Number of Towers

PvP Window

Total (for max towers in bracket)

1

25 mins

25mins

2-6

+1 min per tower

30mins

7-9

+ 10 mins per tower

1 hour

10-12

+20 mins per tower

2 hours

13+

+30 mins per tower

-

While the Settlement’s PvP window is open ALL affiliated Towers are vulnerable to attack/capture.

While the PvP window is open ALL PvP within affected Tower Hexes is has no Reputation penalties.

An unclaimed Hex has a 24 hour PvP window.

Between pledging a Tower to a Settlement and the following server downtime the PvP window for that Hex is closed.

A Tower Hex with an owner but no affiliation to a Settlement has no PvP window until the first server downtime after its capture. It then has a 24 hour PvP window.

If a Settlement loses a Tower its PvP window is shortened by the appropriate amount at the next server downtime.

PvP windows cannot include 9am to 10am Pacific, when server downtime occurs in their PvP window.

How To Capture a Tower

Each Tower Hex has two Shrines of Pharasma. One is located inside the Tower encounter area and the other is located at the edge of the Hex. The former is used by defenders and the latter is used by attackers.

The two shrines in Tower Hexes new additional rules while the PvP window is open.

  • If your character is a member of the Company that controls a Tower when you are in the Hex with that Tower and your character dies it will respawn at the Shrine inside the Tower premises.
  • All other characters will respawn at the Shrine on the edge of the Hex.
  • When the PvP window is closed, the Shrines behave normally.

(The team has additional planned enhancements to this feature which are a top priority.)

The Towers are designed with a "Capture Zone" centered on the Tower itself.

When the PvP window opens all Companies have 0 Capture Points in the vulnerable Hex. When a character stands in this Capture Zone while the PvP window is open:

  • Companies that have captured a Tower are assumed to be in control unless control is taken away by another Company.
  • Every 5 seconds the system checks to see which characters are in the Capture Zone. Each character that is a member of a Company other than the Company that currently controls the Tower increases that Company's Capture score by 1.
  • Any Company can only gain a maximum of 30 points per 5 second interval, regardless of number of characters in the capture area (this value may be capped at 5 and then it will be increased to 30).
  • The first Company to 1,000 points captures the Tower for that day.
  • Each 5 second interval when a Company does not have a character in the Capture Zone causes that Company to lose Capture Points equal to (1 + 1 for each member of the defending Company in the Capture Zone).
  • If the PvP window closes with no Company reaching 1,000 points the Tower remains under the control of the Company that started the day with possession.
  • Mousing over the crossed swords icon to show the status of the Capture Attempt will show the name of the company that currently controls the Tower and up to 5 Companies accumulating points to attempt to capture it. This display also shows how much time is remaining in the PvP window for that Tower.
This image shows changes to the UI while the PvP window is open. The PvP indicator has moved to the top of the icon stack. No control is indicated for the Hex. Mousing over the PvP icon shows that the Hex is currently unclaimed by any Company, that the Goblinworks company has 2 Capture Points and that the PvP window will close in 29 minutes.

User Commands

The War of Towers functions that we're delivering in Alpha 10 have not yet all been connected to a complete user interface. Until they are, you will access several core functions using commands you type into the chat system.

Of course these features will all be revised and will eventually have a consistent UI.

These commands are always in the format "/command parameter, parameter, ..." (without the quote marks).

Some functions do not properly process parameters with capitalization so please use lower case characters for all parameters.

Company Management

/vccreate companyname

This command will create the companyname company and make your active character it's leader. You can use spaces in the name.

/vcinvite companyname, charactername

This command will invite the charactername character to join the company. Currently, unlike the ad hoc party system, the recipient will not receive an on-screen notification of the invitation. You will have to convey the notice of the invitation directly to the recipient.

/vcaccept

This command will cause the active character to accept a Company invitation.

/companysearch

This command will open the Company search control. When opened it will be empty. Clicking in the search string control and pressing enter will bring up a list of all Companies in the system. You can narrow you search by typing all or part of the Company name you are seeking into this control and pressing enter.

When the Company search controls are open and you have located a Company you wish to join, click its name and the Company information panel will open and you will see a "Join" button on that panel. This will submit an application on your character's behalf to that Company for review and approval by the Company leader. At this time there is no notification that applications have been transmitted so the Company leader needs to check this queue regularly.

Settlement Management

/settlementapply settlementname, companyname

This command will send an application to Settlement settlementname on behalf of Company companyname. The Settlement leader will need to review these applications on the Alliance tab of the Settlement information panel that opens when the name of a Company in the Settlement is clicked in the Company search control. No notifications are delivered of these applications so the Settlement leader will need to check this queue regularly.

Becoming a Settlement leader requires a manual step performed by the Goblinworks staff as described earlier in this blog.

Warnings

If you are the Leader of a Company and you click the "Leave" button, the Company will be left without a Leader to approve applications. You will need to contact customer.support@goblinworks.com for assistance. If you were the only member of the Company, the Company will be dissolved.

If you are a Leader of a Settlement and you click the Leave button, the Settlement may also become leaderless and you'll need to contact customer service.

If you use a capitalized character, Company or Settlement name the command may fail. Just use all lowercase to avoid problems.

Because this system is so new we may revise it rapidly. We may need to reset Tower control regularly. In Alpha we won't try to recreate existing Tower control assignments, and possibly will need you to recreate Companies as well. In Early Enrollment, we'll preserve all that info and if a change needs to be made, we'll rebuild the necessary linkages.

Schedule for Alpha 10

The team is evaluating release windows for Alpha 10 and we will have a follow-up blog with the schedule for release shortly.

Feedback & Commentary

Please use this thread on the fourms for all your comments about this feature!