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NOTE: We’ve been reading the comments everyone has been making since our EE v4.0 release notes went up and have decided to change our plans in regards to the War of the Towers for v4.0 based on your feedback.
The six closest towers to each settlement are still going to be removed, but we are changing the training levels of the player Settlements. Now all player Settlements will train a base level of 9 instead of 8, and this will increase by one for every 3 towers the Settlement controls. For the duration of the War of Towers we will increase the base training level of the player Settlements over time, but always just behind the power curve of what a character can achieve with a maximum amount of experience points. This will make all player Settlements better than NPC settlements, plus will mean that Settlements will have to capture towers to train to the highest level they can reach, but smaller Settlements can stay close to the larger Settlements without falling completely behind.
People in the forums have suggested other changes that have merit, but this is a change we can do currently without programming resources. Any more in-depth change means taking away time from things like company vaults, improved company searches, fixes to rogues, better grass, etc. We would rather try and build the ground work we need for the full, intended territory control system rather than spend resources patching the War of Towers.
And what is that full intended system? It comes in steps.
The first step is iterating the Company functions. In addition to things like Company vaults, better Company management tools, and better Company searches, we’ll be introducing the concept of Influence. Influence is a currency Companies invest in controlling Holdings and Outposts, plus other functionality to be added later. Influence is gained by Company members earning Achievement points (when this system is deployed we'll retroactively account for the Achievements characters already have earned). The maximum Influence a Company can have is limited by its membership, and the rate at which Achievement points equate to Influence will depend on Company size; smaller Companies convert Achievement points to Influence more efficiently than larger Companies. Big Companies will have a lot of Influence but smaller companies will get more Influence per Achievement earned by their members.
Influence is not spent and lost. It is treated like a pool that is allocated and reallocated based on the Company's needs. If a Company wishes to build a Holding or an Outpost, it must allocate some of its Influence with that structure and the allocated Influence cannot be used for other things as long as it is allocated. If the Company loses members sufficient to lower its Influence below what is allocated, it begins losing the structures it has allocated Influence in. If your Company has allocated a bunch of Influence on building and upgrading a Holding, then loses a lot of people, it may no longer have the Influence to support the upgrades or even retain control of the Holding. The current plans are for Influence to be used in building and upgrading Holdings, Outposts, and Settlements, plus declaring feuds between Settlements, but we have ideas for more options that are not as settled mechanically so we're not ready to discuss them yet.
We used to have a thing called a "Point of Interest". Nobody (including us) likes that term much. Forthwith, we're using the term "Holding" to refer to those structures. Where we may have used "Holding" in another context we'll change that usage to "Dominion".
Holdings will be structures like Taverns, Watchtowers, Trading Posts, etc.
Once we have Companies gaining Influence, we can go to the next step of introducing Outposts and Holdings (these may not come online simultaneously but should be close together). Holdings will take the place of the War of Towers Towers in those hexes where there are Towers currently, plus Holdings locations will be available in additional Hexes as well. Holding placement spaces are claimable by Companies by banking Influence, with further Influence investments along with resources required to upgrade the Holding. Various Holdings will provide functions like limited training (usually of a limited selection of skills and with caps lower than Settlements), limited crafting, vault access, and other functionality dependent on the Holding type. Control of a Holding makes the associated Hex the territory of the controlling Company, and thus any Settlement the company is sworn to. This hex control means that only the controlling Company can build Outposts in the hex.
Our intention is that Holdings can be taken through conflict without destroying them though the mechanics have not been defined yet. Taking a developed Holding will require banking the Influence necessary to purchase all its upgrades, but if the conquering Company cannot or will not do so they can instead choose to destroy the Holding instead. Holding conflict is not intended to be as fluid as Tower control is in the War of Towers - it should require sustained effort over a significant time period for a Company to take a Holding by conflict. (At this time we aren't planning for ways to transfer Holding between Companies outside of the conflict mechanisms but that is a potential future iteration of the design.)
Outposts produce bulk resources, which are special resources used in the upgrading and maintenance of Holdings and Settlements. They tend to be heavy and are generally moved in small quantities compared to normal resources, but they only come in five varieties: Bulk Stone, Bulk Food, Bulk Ore, Bulk Wood, and Trade Goods.
Bulk resources are produced by Outposts depending on the resource ratings of the hex the Outpost is in, the type of Outpost constructed, and the skills of the characters working the Outpost. These work as follows:
Using these three inputs Settlements will be able to try and either make their Outposts as efficient as possible but less self-sufficient, producing a large number of a limited selection of goods, or less efficiently but more self-sufficiently produce a smaller quantity of a larger selection of goods.
Outposts are built by a Company that controls the Holding in the hex. Upgrades to Outposts increase the bulk resources produced. Outposts can be raided (and their contents looted) relatively easily during PvP windows, so their owners best be on the ball in making sure the goods they produce are quickly moved to a safer location.
Once we have Outposts, we have the components needed for interesting economic warfare. Holding and Settlement upkeep is largely based on bulk resources, so control of those will be a major component of PvP conflict. Characters will have to worry about transporting resources, trading for those they cannot produce internally, etc, creating more possibilities for interactions and things to go horribly wrong. Also it allows smaller Settlements of highly skilled workers in well placed Outposts to produce far more bulk resources than a less skilled, less well placed Settlement could, giving more economic leverage for the smaller Settlements if they work smart and hard.
Once we have Companies spending Influence to control Holdings and Outposts to collect bulk resources, we begin to make interesting iterations for Settlement systems. Settlements will be founded by a Company allocating Influence to claim a Settlement hex. From there the Settlement will have to use resources to build a mixture of structures to advance their Settlement’s Development Indexes, which are effectively Influence for a Settlement but are gained through building certain structures in a Settlement as opposed to affiliated characters earning Achievements. Settlements will need to be fed by many hexes worth of bulk resources to keep growing, and the more hexes they need to draw from the more vulnerable the economic web supporting them becomes. The resource requirements of Settlements increase geometrically, so as a Settlement grows in power it will require an ever-increasing supply of resources to sustain its highest level functions. Small Settlements may be able to operate more efficiently, but will only offer a fraction of the services the larger Settlements do (thus Alliances between Settlements become interesting).
One of the big problems with the War of Towers currently is all the Settlements are effectively the same within a given type: all crafting Settlements are the same aside from their level. Once Settlements are built based on player choices they will not suffer from this as players will be able to choose each structure they build, allowing the Settlements to focus on the roles, crafting skills, factions, etc. that the characters choose. A smaller Settlement can make themselves useful beyond their size if they choose to specialize in a badly in demand crafting skill that others have ignored. By eliminating the interchangeable nature of Settlements under the War of Towers, we can give Settlements more options to find their place in the game.
That said, while small Settlements can find their own places, once real upkeep becomes a part of Settlement management, smaller Settlements could face economic starvation if they aren’t careful. If a Settlement gets in the way of a larger rival they could see their Outposts raided or their Holdings taken, leading to the resource starvation of the Settlement. While there is a place for smaller Settlements to carve out a niche for themselves, they will need to do so using every tool at hand including Alliances with larger Settlements, making themselves economically indispensable, etc.
Now that we’ve laid all this out, what can players do right now when so much of this is in the future?
These are the Features that we're allocating 1/3rd of our resources to develop in the near term (the other 2/3rds are being allocated to bug fixes, polish, and improving existing features already in the game). Expect to see significant progress towards this end state with each new game update. Because many of these systems interconnect and rely on foundational technology we may be integrating some of the necessary work in ways that doesn't have an immediate impact on gameplay, but we'll keep you informed about those incremental improvements even when you can't see them yet. And on a regular basis you'll get cool new features to start using as well.