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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.

Suggestions:

  • 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.
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11 comments

  1. This is where population balance makes things difficult for Mythic. Sure, players should care objectively about zone control, but there isn’t that much players can DO about it. Even on a server with a significant population imbalance, it’s possible for a well organized warband to seize a keep before the defending faction realizes what’s going on. Regardless of how transparent the formula becomes, there is very little a single player, or even a group of players, can do to alter the balance of zone control. Either there are enough of you online to outweigh the contribution being produced by the enemy who are online anyway doing whatever it is they would normally be doing, or there are not.

    I suppose it might technically be possible for the undermanned side to all zerg into the less popular racial pairings (i.e. one of the ones that is NOT the host of the most popular scenario in the tier), but now you’re asking players to ignore the incentives that make the popular pairing the popular one in the first place.

    It’s like Mark Jacobs described the refugee camps for when your city gets sieged; they walk a fine line because they want players to notice that their side is losing, but they don’t want to tell players that there’s no point in being online until the attackers’ siege window goes away.


  2. I can honestly say that I would totally run into oRVR and burn houses, kill mobs, take keeps, steal babies, slander, spit and swear if it made an obvious difference to zone control. I like the idea of having a seperate INF bar to my personal contribution to zone control, I would totally max that sucker out if it meant for much fist shaking from Destro.


  3. “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.”

    I like that very much! This is like the concept of the main city being poor or rich, depending how much quests players did initially (well now it just stays at 5 stars).
    I would love dangerous mobs on the streets, so you can’t any longer run the street without taking care. This would annoy a lot of players and bring the zone control thing in their mind.


  4. Long time reader, first time poster… but I felt the need to post to this entry because I am pretty confused about this aspect of the game. This is my first ‘PvP’ type MMOG and I have found the joy of beating the snot out of other players instead of stoopid compter mobs. I was intrigued by the concept of zone control and the possibility of having big battles with fun rewards for participating. But I don’t see their current rewards as beneficial to most players.

    So are there more benefits to controlling a zone if you are in guild? Or is there only the bragging rights benefit? It seems that there needs to be more noticeable benefits to doing oRvR. It’s fun to be invovled for the most part, but after two hours of defending or attacking, I came away with a sense of “And why did I spend all that time defending/attacking?” I feel I could have gotten more XP, RP or gear doing quests, public quests and scenarios. Maybe I need to find an active guild if the RvR benefits guilds, but the couple guilds I have spent limited time in have never amounted to anything other than paying taxes to the guild.

    I just don’t see any strong reasons to do oRvR, especially for the guildless folk out there. I think even upping the XP and RP bonus would help people run oRvR more, at least it would for me. But now, I just see it as a diversion to grinding quests, scenarios and PQs.

    -Ess


  5. Renoun gear merchants are only in keeps T2-4? That alone is a good reason for maintaining control of a keep IMO.


  6. If your SUMMARY of Zone Control is 1,500 words long, I think they may have a hard time selling the concept! 😛


  7. In Planetside, you could level up in xp as well as command rank. when your command rank got up to CR5 then you could access that special chat system with other commanders around the expanse of the world and cordinate attacks, alert others when attacks happened, and get better responses from multiple guilds. WAR should impliment something like this. It wasn’t easy to attain as you had to be the party leader and you only gained CR credit when you and your team accomplished take overs of certain areas together. It took time and you also gained abilities based on your CR ranking as well.


  8. Also in Planetside, you couldn’t even attack a continent easily unless you had a linked contentent unlocked and open for battle. This helped to “herd” the war to concentrated areas, which made RvR/PvP even more prevelant.


  9. Love this site for all my WAR information! Figured I’d finally contribute in the form of a blog comment. I liked your suggestion on bullet #6, but wanted to take it one step further that ties back into Warhammer fluff…

    Keeps seem to be the focus of oRvR due to the strategic placement of Renown Merchants and Trainers, but what if each zone also had race-based “strategic locations” that contributed to the entire campaign of that race? Examples include:

    – a White Lion strategic location in Charce which, while held, grants campaign-wide bonuses to all the lion pets of High Elf WL toons (a Squig Herder equivalent could be located elsewhere, perhaps as a Night Goblin Squig Farm or something along those lines)
    – Bugman’s Brewery could become a strategic location that could be captured in Blackfire Pass which, while held, grants campaign-wide morale bonuses to all Dwarf toons
    – a Sigmarite temple somewhere in Ostland (famous for it’s devout worship of Sigmar) which, while held, grants campaign-wide bonuses to all WP toons
    – a set of Dark Elf ruins that could be captured in the Shadowlands which, while held, grants campaign-wide morale bonuses to all Dark Elf toons
    – a trading outpost of Nuln that could be catpured in Reikland which, while held, allows all Empire renown merchants campaign-wide to stock specialized weapons and armour

    And so on and so forth.
    I suppose it would be similar to the oRvR objectives in each zone that get captured and lead up to the sacking of a keep, but in the case of these “strategic locations” they would have campaign-wide reprecussions. Also, because those “strategic locations” are are zone / tier based, it really makes the higher-level tier players depend on those in the lower levels, as lower level players are the only ones who can enter the RvR lakes in that tier and fight to capture them.

    Also liked the idea of the roaming hostile mobs when one side controls a zone… forces players to break away from their regular grinding to capture some zone objectives or keeps. However, probably only a good idea to have those wandering mobs when one side completely dominates a zone, else it could become cumbersome for players trying to do their questing.


  10. DaPoets: The chat channels that you were asking about are already in the game.
    Groups of guilds can form a guild alliance. When this is complete all of the participating guilds can speak in /alliance, and the officers of the guilds can speak in /allianceofficer.

    This is a great help to smaller guild who want to keep their guild system in place but want to be involved with larger battles across the server.

    If you are not in an alliance ask your guild leader about making one!


  11. Zone control should work like this:

    – only BOs and keeps contribute to zone control.

    – once a BOs/keep is captured, it begins to earn/generate victory points for the conquering realm

    – As these points accumulate, each realm would see info similar to ‘900 VP earned / 100 VP remaining until zone locks / estimate time to zone flip is: 12 min 18 seconds…

    – As keeps/BOs generate VP, players who were involved in its capture would also generate XP/renown over time

    Benefits: puts focus on RVR where it belongs, makes zone control dead-simple to understand, makes defending and capturing points deadly important…

    Downsides: minimizes importannce of PQs and PVEs, may cause bad feelings between RVR players and those who would rather PVE farm

    Whataya think?



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