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You Can Live in Grace and Comfort

For this week's development blog, new Goblin Tork Shaw is going to take a long look at settlement characteristics—specifically, the DI (or development index) system.

Say Hello, Tork

First off, hello! I am super-excited to be working as a designer on Pathfinder Online along with Lee, Rich, and Stephen. I join the team fresh from Greece and the PvP MMO Darkfall Online: Unholy Wars. While the design process at Goblinworks is pretty collaborative, I have been focusing a wee bit on the mass combat/settlement building/settlement warfare stuff. To that end, here is an overview of those often mentioned, rarely clarified tricksters—development indexes!

Development Indexes

Some of this is still in flux, particularly specific bonuses and effects mentioned in the warfare section later on, but this is brief overview of an integral settlement system mentioned occasionally in previous posts but not expanded until now.

Development indexes are a measure of a settlement's power and reflect the composition of its structures, leadership, and hex-holdings. As a settlement claims more land and develops more resources its development indexes rise, allowing the construction of new and more powerful structures within the city walls, and boosting some of the settlement's inherent characteristics. By far the most effective (and indeed the only unlimited) way to increase development indexes is to capture and develop additional hexes. Initially those hexes adjacent to your settlement may prove sufficient, but soon enough a power- hungry settlement will need to muster its warriors and look further afield in order to continue growing.

Development indexes (or DIs) provide settlements with a neat and compact set of management features that indicate growth and expansion without going into too much complex detail. DIs provide a measure of various aspects of settlement life, summed up into three statistics. In addition to improving settlement management, they expand the implications of warfare beyond the bloody battles common in clan-type PvP. Enemies can directly affect each other's development indexes, and therefore their ability to grow and to defend themselves. According to an attacker's taste, successful settlement warfare may be waged as a siege, a blockade, or even a set of harsh sanctions. Cutting off important sources of DI can easily wither an enemy settlement to a miserable hamlet, making it easier for the attacker to demand surrender or simply eliminate the pitiful remaining inhabitants.

The Indexes

There are three development indexes: Security, Morale, and Civilization. Each of these is associated with a pair of ability scores, and each settlement structure is in turn associated with one of these indexes.

Security deals with the physical and spiritual security of a settlement, and covers things like fighter schools, guard towers, and cleric training facilities.

Morale deals with the well-being of the settlement, providing entertainment structures like theaters, buildings that provide bard and sorcerer training, and affecting the efficacy of the workforce.

Finally, Civilization is a reflection of a settlement's commitment to training and its economy. Wizards, rogues, and merchant classes benefit most from this index, and marketplaces, universities, and wizard's towers are purchased using it.

Eventually settlements will seek to maximize all of their indexes, but some will choose to specialize in just one, and indeed most settlements will have one index that is higher than the other. Specialization is efficient and may provide powerful bonuses in some areas, but it also has its weaknesses. Losing a small number of hex-holdings or suffering through a particularly brutal spate of assassinations may quickly suppress high-level specialist buildings, leave a specialist city extremely vulnerable.

Increasing DI

Each index runs from 0 to 1000, giving each settlement a potential total of 3000 combined DI to use towards building structures (see below). Certain settlement locations may grant inherent bonuses to DI, preventing one or more DI from ever dropping to 0, but in order to prosper a settlement must actively increase their development indexes. As mentioned above, capturing additional hexes is one of the most effective ways to increase DIs. Each outlying structure (or point of interest) built in a claimed hex provides a significant bonus to one or more DIs. In addition, settlement leaders grant a bonus to certain DIs based on their highest ability scores, making it valuable to install a ruling council with a varied skill set. Some of the artifacts gathered through the successful completion of escalation cycles also grant bonuses to one or more development indexes, and as the power of the artifact increases, so does its bonus. Questing for more powerful and more numerous settlement artifacts will be an important and valuable role for companies focused on PvE play. Finally, some settlement structures provide straight DI bonuses. While these may be a simple way to improve one index or another, they are also vulnerable and tempting targets for attackers or raiders looking to disrupt your growing power base.

Although the standard cap to each development index is 1000, there are a couple of factors that affect an individual settlement's maximum DIs. The first, and most significant, is the settlement's PvP window. This is the period of each day during which it is open to settlement warfare. Smaller PvP windows reduce the maximum DI cap significantly, and only those cities who open themselves up to trouble can reach their maximum potential. (Buying the protection of patron powers such as the Hellknights or the Knights of Iomedae to keep rival settlements at bay is costly, after all.) You need to take risks to achieve your maximum growth!

Spending DI

Each settlement structure and structure upgrade has both material construction costs and a development index value. Development Indexes are not spent, per se; instead an appropriate portion is set aside to allow the building of a particular structure. That invested DI is no longer available to the settlement for additional construction, but continues to contribute to any bonuses gained from having a high DI. Settlements can only build structures or add upgrades whose combined DI values do not exceed their current available DI, and should this DI drop at any stage, the settlement loses access to the upgrades or structures that they can no longer afford. If DI is not restored promptly these structures begin to decay, eventually collapsing to leave a vacant plot.

In Warfare

Individual development indexes affect mass combat and settlement warfare in unique ways, with each feeding into a specific style of settlement defense. If these indexes are affected by structure destruction, assassination, or the loss of related hex-holdings, the benefits they grant will be reduced, directly hampering war-time efforts by the defenders. This ensures that military campaigns are much more likely to succeed when combined with tactics that eliminate or penalize development indexes, turning sieges into actual sieges, instead of pure human-wave assaults. Zerging may still be a valid tactic in some cases, but deliberate and intelligent warfare utilizing assignations, quick strikes, and finally strength in numbers is a much more efficient way to fell your foes.

Security boosts the settlement's own automatic defenses, such as town guards and structure saves, but also affects the settlement's ability to police itself, reducing corruption. Developing a high security index works best for settlements who enjoy a lot of defensive support from programmed systems.

Morale boosts a settlement's ability to field large units in mass combat, granting bonuses to formations. Morale also boosts the defender's ability to make a "last stand", affecting the time it takes to capture a settlement's hall and therefore claim it as your own* (see Capturing a Hall, below). Developing a high morale index suits settlements who wish to make best use of their formations in combat, and who prefer to rely on safety in numbers.

Civilization reflects more of an emphasis on individuals within in a settlement. A high civilization DI reduces the delay between player respawns during warfare, improves the speed of actively repairing structures in combat, and makes skills more readily available for training. A high civilization benefits a settlement where heroic individuals rely on skill and personal power to combat invaders.

DI Damage

As well as rising and falling along with a settlement's holdings and fortunes, development indexes can also suffer damage. Damage affects DIs in the same way as loss, but the effects are temporary and the damage is restored (up to the current maximum) over time. Damage is inflicted by PvP events such as assassination or sabotage—tactics that allow small numbers of players to infiltrate and wreak havoc in a settlement in support of, or in the prelude to, an all-out attack. DI damage also allows an attacker to reduce a settlement's defenses and DI without having to actively destroy the very structures they are hoping to capture.

Bonus Topic! Capturing a Hall

Since it comes up briefly in this post and there has been some forum speculation around the topic, I thought I'd take a moment to clarify how a hall is captured. This is not finalized yet, but the principal is that capturing the hall should win the war and change ownership of the settlement. This action will usually take place at a late stage in settlement combat, after first weakening the settlement's defenses in order to make it easier. There may indeed even be a DI damage/reduction level that has to be achieved before the hall even becomes available for capture.

Capture will be a single, time-consuming action, such as planting a flag directly outside the hall, and will take about 1 minute. This can be interrupted by defenders, resetting the timer. This action must be executed by a single, unstealthed player who will be unable to take other actions while planting the flag and so will rely on his allies for defense. For attackers it therefore becomes extremely meaningful to reduce the required duration of this operation, increase spawn time for defending PCs, and increase spawn time for NPC guards (or any of these things in combination) in order to increase the chances of successfully defending the flag for the necessary duration.

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