Zone Control: Does It Matter?November 9, 2008
In the recent Grab Bag post on the Herald, Missy Hatch tackled a subject that I’m sure was burning on no-one’s mind: Zone Control Overview. Zone Control was one of those features that was much-lauded in the beta previews, because it is a pretty nifty idea that plays into the concept of a dynamic, changing battlefield. Theoretically, Order and Destruction would vie for control of each zone, pushing their respective blue or red meters to a sweet spot that would trigger a takeover of the zone and make the opposing faction shake their fists and go “curses!” like a moustache-twirling villain.
Yet here we are a month and a half into the game, and zone control is all but forgotten in the mad rush for keeps, BOs, scenarios and PQs. Most people I know, myself included, only have a fuzzy idea what zone control does for us or how we can directly affect it through our actions. So Mythic has an uphill battle here: to educate us on Zone Control, to make us care about it, and to show that we can make a difference collectively while still feeling useful individually. Let’s see how they’re doing:
1. Educating us on Zone Control.
Missy’s article is a clear indicator that Mythic knows how few players are cognizant or caring about the Zone Control system — they even refer to it as “the mysteries of Zone Control”. Mysterious? Ooh! If you’re not up for reading the whole article, here’s the gist:
- Zone Control is based on a percentage pool that is affected by players killed, quests completed, scenarios completed, and BOs and Keeps taken. If you’re doing more than the enemy in these collective areas, then your side’s meter will fill and theirs will shrink, and vice-versa.
- Owning all the BOs and Keeps in the zone does not necessarily give you Zone Control, just contributes toward it.
- You can get points for your zone if your side is queuing up for scenarios and the enemy is not (like forfeiting).
- There’s something called “Prior Zone Control” that, as far as we can understand it from an incredibly confusing paragraph, looks to give your side a boost in control points if your side is dominating lower tiers in the same pairing. Or something. Seriously, there’s a lot of math involved in this and we’re sure it’s not explained as well as it should be.
- Points degrade over time.
It’s sort of straight-forward and sort of not. What most players will take away from this — if I may make an assumption here — is that “if we do more stuff in a zone than the enemy, we’ll eventually take the zone.” The math behind it is pretty much invisible except for the red/blue bar above the map.
This is, I’ll grant, a good start to furthering player understanding of Zone Control — but does it go far enough? How do people learn about this in game? What about rewards? How do I easily see how each side is doing in that tier?
* A thought — the Tome of Knowledge should have a section that holds all of the information released in the Grab Bags (Q&As, articles, etc.).
2. Making us care about Zone Control.
Unfortunately, this is where Missy’s article ends, before telling us why we should care in the least about who controls what zone. Unless you’re the most idealistic player who fights for the glory of your side on principle, most people just won’t care. Why should they? They need a carrot to get motivated.
So let’s dig a bit deeper and figure out what rewards or punishments are meted out if your side or their side controls a zone. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
- When your side flips a zone to your control, all players on your side in that zone receive a renown boost and a buff.
- Hover your mouse over the Zone Control bar to see what buffs your side gets as long as you control the zone —
- If you lose control of that zone, you no longer are able to fly into the zone from other flight masters, but may fly out of the zone.
- Tier 4 is where Zone Control really matters: to take an enemy’s fortress, you have to flip Zone Control in different zones to push the fight to the doorsteps of the fortress, at which point it may be attacked. Take two out of the three enemy fortresses, and their capital city becomes available for siege.
- Because of “Prior Zone Control”, players in lower tiers can contribute to the tier 4 battlefront in an indirect fashion.
Is this enough to make people care? In tiers 1-3, I’d have to say “no”. Why should they? For a buff and to avoid a travel penalty? That’s not going to make any gamers pee their pantsuits in excitement, I’d wager. For tier 4, it’s a system that helps to define a back-and-forth battlefield struggle, and since it is necessary to proceed to city sieges, people will have to care or simply not progress any further.
I’d like to see Mythic explore more “carrots” to entice players to care about that little Zone Control meter, especially in lower tiers. Another unique influence bar perhaps?
3. Show that we can make a difference collectively while still feeling useful individually.
The general feeling of apathy surrounding Zone Control by the population probably stems from this point. Players are going to do what they’re already doing, and if it helps their side out, then great — yet if their side is losing control, what can they really be expected to do about it? I’d imagine the only real answer to that is to get control of the BOs or Keeps, as that’s the most visual indicator of what your side is currently doing. If I’m already queuing up for scenarios, or doing quests, or fighting in open RvR, what more can I be expected to do? Raze a few houses?
Some have suggested that the entire focus of Zone Control be boiled down to BOs, Keeps and oRvR kills. Period. Others worry that defending RvR players actually feed more victory points to the dominating side, thus giving them incentive NOT to fight. I’ve even heard that players try to stay away from certain zones if they’re highly contested, because by showing up and not contributing enough to the plus points, they’re actually leeching points away from their side (“defending by not defending”, etc.).
Also, in a time where players are concerned that there’s too much focus on scenarios and not enough on oRvR, scenario contribution to Zone Control gives little incentive for players to stop queuing up and head out to the world battlefield.
- Simplify Zone Control, especially how points are tallied. This is Mythic’s vision and I’m not here to say they have to hone it down to just oRvR, but the entire system needs to be easy and intuitive for players to understand.
- Holding BOs or Keeps should give your side a steady stream of victory points, not just a one-time boost. Kind of like holding on to a murderball.
- Using scenarios for Zone Control points should be seriously looked at, addressed or outright eliminated, especially with players queuing up for cross-pairing scenarios. They’re not realistically fighting for any one zone when they do that — even if it happens in the game, it’s not happening in their minds.
- Give us more detailed numbers on how Zone Control is being tabulated.
- Clear up the world map to help visually indicate how Zone Control is working along different tiers and zones.
- Give players more incentives to contribute to Zone Control and care about the status of a zone — perhaps if your side “flips” a zone, special quest givers, vendors or areas are unlocked for your side alone (sort of how Halaa in WoW’s Burning Crusade functioned). In a limited fashion we have this, such as certain Sergeants that give you healing or crafting buffs if your side controls that BO and you talk to them.
- Along that line of thought, Battlefield Objectives should offer players rewards for attaining and holding it past just a renown/XP bump — much like how Keeps have loot bags, renown trainers and renown vendors.
- For punishment, why not increase the number of roaming mobs hostile to the losing faction in that zone? For instance, if Order loses control to Destro, then there’s more mobs hostile solely to Order that start showing up everywhere, making it a more difficult place to traverse and quest for a time.
- If a zone flips to one side’s control, there should be visual indicators across that zone — perhaps dead Destruction bodies litering the ground if Order wins, or Order buildings burnt down if Destruction wins.