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Has PFO lost its direction?

Quijenoth Starkiller
How are the current large groups feeling about the recent changes to escalations?

It seems to me that many have embraced the changes, posts about claiming territory and control of monster hexes now fill the forums as the game moves in a new direction. But at what cost? Why has the game made this change in the first place? Is it intended design or just a temporary change to keep people happy? it certainly doesn't look to be keeping everyone happy as can be seen by the EBA/HRC confrontations.

Lets take a step back and look at the design of escalations. Initially they where designed to keep the population focused; the tougher escalations would take time to clear and would provide settlements with roles for its members to keep them from spreading across their territory. The intent was to provide evolving content that could be manipulated by the player base. It provided things to do and a reason to remain localized.

Then the player base began to falter. I wont bore you with the history that most of you probably remember. The fact is the escalations went from something to motivate interaction and content to a mix of chores and greed. Then the spreading stopped and greed became all consuming. Escalations became cash cows, the place to obtain T3 recipes. Given their limitations however it became evident that to play the system meant coming to a mutual peace. Escalations became harvesting grounds, fixed and unchanging, used by all to farm T3. Location mattered little as small holdings would pop up all round the T3 hexes.

The latest update now introduces enticements to clear the farms, but all this does is force the shepherds to follow their herds to new pastures. And so we have what we see today, claims to control T3 and people selling access!

PFO has lost its way. Settlements matter less now than they did even before we could make them our own. The community are making the best of what has been offered them but this certainly isn't what I wanted from PFO and I think many will agree.

My hope is that much of what I write below is planned in some near future. News from NewCorp will hopefully arrive soon but if this situation is not addressed within that announcement then I see little reason to continue my support.

As with all my posts, I hate to bring criticism without offering some solution. so if your not interested in my solution you can stop reading now. If not then read on;
Q's ray of hope: For me PFO needs to enliven its communities again. Escalations need to spread again but they also need to start mattering. Settlement buffs and rewards are along way off so I wont mention those, instead I want to focus on what I hope can be offered in the short term to bring back the community I fell in love with in my first few months of PFO. I want to offer members of my company and settlement goals for the settlement not just a regular group spot and a chance for some personal loot. bring back escalation spreading that matters.

Holdings and Outposts: If your controlled hexes are infected by an escalation they suffer increased upkeep and reduced production. T1 reduces by 100% effectively stopping any production and doubling upkeep, T2 by 50% and T3 by 33% this % reduced by the strength of the infestation.

Settlements: A settlements max level is reduced by the infestation also. As your hexes are infested your training level is capped thus providing incentive to keep your local area clear to maintain maximum training for your settlement.

Companies: If all your hexes are infested at 100% each server day there is a small chance that one of your outposts takes damage. Thus losing a level as if conquered by another company. If there are no outposts then the holding is damaged instead. eventually, if left unchecked a hex could be removed from your control.

Multilevel incentives: PFO needs an exchange system. a way to convert T1 into T2 and T2 into T3. Thus giving higher Tier players a personal reason to work any level of escalation. T1 bosses should drop tokens that can be collected up. 1 type per tier per role (T1 smith token, T2 jeweler token, etc). These are used as part of a new recipe to generate a random recipe (or specific if that's more desirable and balanced, but certainly not in small quantities, we are talking 100s or 1000s needed per recipe)

Much of what I suggest is on a settlement level that directly affects bulk. Bulk has been plentiful for many months longer than intended in its initial design so these changes probably wont impact people right away. settlements have a large enough stock to ignore its effects for a few months at least. After that we should have news of investors and a reason to recruit again to maintain the settlement sizes we currently hold. But the mentality the threat will bring on implementation needs to happen soon, otherwise I can see the recent posts spiraling out of control and more people leaving as a result!


Thank you for reading.
Quijenoth Starkiller Viceroy of Callambea
Company Leader of Beyond the Grave - www.beyond-pfo.com
Crafting Planner
Duffy Swiftshadow
Well for one there is a ton of settlement and faction interaction/conflict going on now, something that didn't really exist until now because the only reasons for their to be conflict had nothing to do with actual game play, it was all clashing personalities and philosophies. These changes have helped bring politics and competition to the front. Using escalations as a stick to keep groups focused only in their little corners decreases the chances of anything but neighbors potentially competing, but as we've shown you're more likely to make friends with neighbors than enemies, at least when it comes to resource competition. This style of change also mitigates a lot of issues of size scaling which helps curb a lot of 'negative' behaviors. Trying to use escalations as a stick already created stagnant and boring gameplay, they have vastly improved them with the alterations to date and with a little work it wouldn't be hard to go back to spreading once the population rebounds.

When spreading is turned back on that isn't going to change the desire to get the rewards and that's good. The rewards are what drive folks to do them and compete for them. If the reward is something annoying/bad doesn't happen then players will just find the minimum effort way to deal with the problem. If it's just a boring chore that takes hours to complete no one will want to do it. Focusing too much time into what boils down to mindless farming just to maintain a status quo is not a good thing, especially when more and more activities get added to the game.

While the details are a little different or even restrained more than they will be in the long run, I believe the recent events are driving the game closer to what was always intended. What came before was lacking the current drive.
Caldeathe Baequiannia
It hasn't found it's way to lose, yet. It is still looking for exactly what niche it can fill. While I happen to be generally in favour of your suggestions, they are sticks, and the devs have repeatedly said they are not prepared to introduce more sticks.

I think I have a carrot. For a few hours after an escalation hex is defeated, the hex adds a bonus to gathering skills. It doesn't add any resources to the hex, and doesn't speed up regeneration, it only increases the speed with which you can gather, emulating a low-scale version of gusher. Perhaps the defeat triggers a one-time regeneration to full, giving an extra incentive to clear it quickly and get your gatherers into it.
To reach me, email d20rpg@gmail.com
Bringslite
Thank Q for a thought provoking read. There are some interesting ideas in there. I disagree that settlements have lost focus in all cases. Some seem to be back in the swing of more aggressive escalation hunting that only really surfaced with "event" escalations. More than I expected to have now laid out Territory claims. Some are stronger and more focused than ever they were. Parts of this I see as positive forward steps. Parts as political mires that threaten the status quo, but I kind of feel these will potentially lead to strife in places and that might be good for the game. It won't if it causes more people to lose heart and quit. I suppose that I am saying here that some communities are actually "sparked" to activity again and not harmed by the new escalations. The Dominion certainly is.

I will say that these damn things are a bit of a time sink and difficult to finish in a reasonable play session. I am not saying that they should be made easier. The rewards are too high for that.

Like to your suggestion that escalation(if it is time they spread again) should affect something about Settlements and/or holdings. I like the idea that a number of holdings should be directly related to rank support somehow. That was always a pretty much "out there" concept for MMOs so I am not sure if NewCorp will try and bring it back.

Wish I had more time now for more feed back to an excellent post.
Virtute et Armis
-Unknown
Quijenoth Starkiller
Duffy Swiftshadow
Well for one there is a ton of settlement and faction interaction/conflict going on now, something that didn't really exist until now because the only reasons for their to be conflict had nothing to do with actual game play, it was all clashing personalities and philosophies. These changes have helped bring politics and competition to the front. Using escalations as a stick to keep groups focused only in their little corners decreases the chances of anything but neighbors potentially competing, but as we've shown you're more likely to make friends with neighbors than enemies, at least when it comes to resource competition. This style of change also mitigates a lot of issues of size scaling which helps curb a lot of 'negative' behaviors. Trying to use escalations as a stick already created stagnant and boring gameplay, they have vastly improved them with the alterations to date and with a little work it wouldn't be hard to go back to spreading once the population rebounds.

When spreading is turned back on that isn't going to change the desire to get the rewards and that's good. The rewards are what drive folks to do them and compete for them. If the reward is something annoying/bad doesn't happen then players will just find the minimum effort way to deal with the problem. If it's just a boring chore that takes hours to complete no one will want to do it. Focusing too much time into what boils down to mindless farming just to maintain a status quo is not a good thing, especially when more and more activities get added to the game.

While the details are a little different or even restrained more than they will be in the long run, I believe the recent events are driving the game closer to what was always intended. What came before was lacking the current drive.

Conflicts are happening in localized areas, in a handful of hexes across the map. People in game right now don't flinch at the idea of traveling the length and breadth of the map just to get a few hours grind in because there's nothing else to do and nothing closer. The map is too large and too empty, the community too small. conflicts are personal, this could happen on this forums without any game to play, what we need is community level conflicts, settlement warfare and territory claims that actually mean something! This is the heart of what Xeilias wanted to bring to PFO. the good and evil battle was meaningful, it created content for the game. They left and the farming of escalations and agreeable personalities meant there was no conflict left. People didn't care who they grouped with, as long as they where getting loot. Now we have competition again, and while that's good, its implementation is misguided and meaningless.

There are plenty of people who consider the boring chores of "grinding T3 recipes" mindless farming. While I agree, adding deter-ants and penalties can be detrimental, to offer more carrots to an already heavily reward-based system (recipes are permanent) will not make it more appealing to do. This game already offers far too much reward for minimal effort, and they continue to make it easier. Why? because its easier to code. We know bob cant make this game on his own but that doesn't mean we should lose sight of the games goals just to keep the small population here happy.

With enough players clearing the escalations, the length of "enjoyment" you can get from the current setup will only grow shorter and I use the term enjoyment lightly. I do not find grinding the same mobs day-in, day-out enjoyable in the slightest but right now there is nothing else to do in-game except fill the odd crafting queue, do some gathering, or antagonize others. All valid endeavors but lacking in community spirit.
Quijenoth Starkiller Viceroy of Callambea
Company Leader of Beyond the Grave - www.beyond-pfo.com
Crafting Planner
harneloot
Quijenoth Starkiller
what we need is community level conflicts, settlement warfare and territory claims that actually mean something! This is the heart of what Xeilias wanted to bring to PFO. the good and evil battle was meaningful, it created content for the game.

Except what they actually brought was juvenile bully tactics against people/a settlement they decided they didn't like because they couldn't get the best of in the Forum wars. Don't lets paint them and their threats to follow certain players out of PFO and into other games just to continue to harass them as anything less that sociopathic, ok?
Xyzzy - gatherer, yeoman archer, swamp monster.
Tyncale
Great post, Q. While I am usually more in favor of using Carrots to create incentives to spur people into (competitive) action, I do think that currently there are nothing *but* carrots in the game, and very little sticks or danger of losing anything. I guess people have to share the occasional carrot here and there and may bicker about it a little, but basically the entire population is indulging in abundant wealth, be it recipes, Bulk goods, raw materials and places to farm.

In my opinion the most important theme of PFO was, that settlements could provide both Wealth(vs Poverty) and character power(vs the Funnel of Suck), *and* were constantly at risk for providing this. That's basically the premisse that should validate pretty much any other game-mechanic: trade, banditry, harvesting, politics, travel.

Right now:

  • Wealth is abundant everywhere, there simply is no scarcity of items, or funds to train/replenish goods;
  • Characterpower is a non-factor due to the fact that you can train in any settlement that you manage to sneak into, and the huge mistake of adding level 20 support to all settlements;
  • The risk for settlements is non-existant. There is risk for Holdings but at this moment, Holdings are quickly becoming a redundant feature due to humongous stockpiles of Bulk Goods, and the fact that they offer *very* little else to be interesting, other then being Bulk Goods faucets for a settlement

A lot needs to change for Settlements to become relevant again, and we do not have the playerpopulation, nor all the features yet that can accomplish this. Or the development team. smile That will have to make some pretty harsh decisions like getting rid of the ubiquitous level 20 support and think of a better system.

It's very frustrating to see PFO in such limbo: I hope NewCorp can see beyond the current iteration of what has become of it, and will make some welcome decisions.

NB: I do sorely miss the spreading escalations. I always found the Escalations a very unique feature of PFO and saw a great future for it. It should definately be brought back and make relevant to Settlements somehow again.
Regalo Harnoncourt, Leader of the River Kingdoms Trading Company, High Council of Callambea.
This is the character that I am playing almost 100% of the time. (Tyncale is my Sage/Mage)
Duffy Swiftshadow
I don't understand what your advocating then, your proposition would require such difficulty to beat that it squashes the far reaching conflict, which in turn means it needs to beat out group scaling, which means some groups will never succeed and will be overrun. Which will require them to seek help and create another cooperative environment, fold into someone else, or quit.

We actually have people caring about territory right now, we're literally fighting over it both in and out of game. No one cared that much for the last 1.4 years. Now every active group is headbutting over it to some degree and talking to each other in some capacity or another. That is a drastic improvement.

I guess the crux of my problem with the suggestion is that it doesn't seem to add anything, it just seems to dampen down and tries to restrict us by what boils down to fiddling with arbitrary numbers, something that is far from foolproof and can have other far reaching effects as we've seen in the past. As for too many rewards? Add 1000 players and the rewards we have are barely a drop in the bucket, and when those sort of numbers start appearing it'll be trivial to adjust rewards if need be. The sheer amount of T1 recipes we'll need to upgrade our settlement structures is something I dread, and we're curating almost 15 lion hexes regularly!

Right now I don't have enough time to do all the activities in game I need/want to do and we have one of the larger active groups right now and I rarely play less than 4 hours a day.

So when someone says it's too easy, nothing important is going on, and it's too rewarding I dunno what the hell you're talking about.
Tyncale
Duffy Swiftshadow
As for too many rewards? Add 1000 players and the rewards we have are barely a drop in the bucket, and when those sort of numbers start appearing it'll be trivial to adjust rewards if need be. The sheer amount of T1 recipes we'll need to upgrade our settlement structures is something I dread, and we're curating almost 15 lion hexes regularly!

Right now I don't have enough time to do all the activities in game I need/want to do and we have one of the larger active groups right now and I rarely play less than 4 hours a day.

So when someone says it's too easy, nothing important is going on, and it's too rewarding I dunno what the hell you're talking about.
That seems a perceived scarcity to me because every settlement has T3/level 20/+5 buildings aspirations currently. That whole system needs to get a realitycheck. I am amazed that we as a settlement can actually support each and every Craft there is in the game, let alone the level 20 support.
Regalo Harnoncourt, Leader of the River Kingdoms Trading Company, High Council of Callambea.
This is the character that I am playing almost 100% of the time. (Tyncale is my Sage/Mage)
Duffy Swiftshadow
I'm budgeting for +3 buildings, maybe one +4 or +5. That's still a few thousand T1 recipes for just 2 settlements, much less expanding out the others, and building up the empty ones. Sure a lot of that latter part hinges on building up via an influx of new players, but it's still pretty daunting.

As for settlement diversity:

We have 4 of 10 base classes? In the future we will have double the number of class specific buildings, maybe add half again as many 'weapon' buildings, not sure yet.

Add in faction buildings that have their own feat lines and perks.

Add at least 2-3 planned but unimplemented profession/crafting roles that we're not sure where they will go in the long run or get their own buildings.

Additionally it's already been talked about by at least Bob relatively recently that some sort of controls need to be put into place to limit training access and make things interesting. It's gonna happen eventually.

Bulk resources are a bit of a sticking point, but the amount we have is still small compared to what could have existed if the map was covered in holdings top to bottom. I'm sure they'll think of ways to mitigate the issue, whether it's more things they are used for, building/settlement destruction removing them from the game, or even just adding raiding and unlocking the extra settlement spots once the map starts getting crowded could have lots of effects on bulk resources.

Drastically more settlement diversity is literally right around the corner just in the known plans, much less brand new things that could come up.
 
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