MMOs (should) add lots of content over time. What is added and what it accomplishes varies. Sometimes you get more of the same (not a bad thing if ‘the same’ is still good), sometimes you get a revamp/upgrade, and sometimes you get something that not only adds content, but changes player behavior. Changing behavior is hard, risky, and underappreciated, but ultimately has the biggest impact. This post is about that kind of change.
When AV first added the Trawler, a ship that collects fish/lobsters/seaweed (mats for high-end food), it was a nice-enough addition. When AV added the Sea Scrapper, a ship that collects things off the sea floor (stone, broken items, ship cannons/mods, building mods, maps), the biggest buzz was that it pulled put a crazy amount of stuff and that it was ‘breaking’ the economy. (In reality it fixed the economy by reducing the cost of building mods, making city building/repair doable, reducing ship costs so more players can use/lose them, while not crushing the price of gear or other crafting, and creating a major gold sink from all of the broken items that need to be salvaged.)
Both ships gather materials and place them in a holding container on board so long as someone is sailing the ship and the sea ‘node’ is not empty. Additionally, the fish gathered by the Trawler earns you prowess, and if everyone on the ship is in a group, that prowess is split. Other than the captain, everyone on the ship can also use fishing rods off the deck, further gaining fish and prowess.
This weekend I took a group of new (5k or less prowess) players out on a Trawler, and while our trip ultimately ended in a fun PvP disaster, they gained a ton of prowess while also getting to experience one of the more unique and interesting aspects of DF. Again, the fact that you can do what would normally be a ‘high end’ activity with completely new players is a major, major strength of the game, but I’ve covered that aspect before.
Along with the above two ships, AV also changed how resource nodes in general work by adding danger levels to the world. Safe zones are level 0, player holdings are level 1, the areas just around that are level 2, a bit further you hit level 3, then 4, and the most dangers areas (red dragon, kraken, etc) are level 5. The higher the danger level, the higher the chance for a rare resource drop (essences, treasure maps, etc) from a node while harvesting.
On its own, the danger level added incentives to leave the safe zones to harvest (a notable issue until that point, as harvesting in the safe zone could be done afk without risk), and created ‘hotspots’ for killing harvesters in the level 5 areas. Those looking for harvesters might also run into others looking for them, and PvP happens. On its own it’s a great change that influences player behavior without FORCING people out of the safe zones or destroying a players ability to gather/craft in the safe zone to get started (essences are only used in mastery-level crafting).
Now combine the new gathering ships and danger zones, and you get something really great. The level 5 sea areas are MAJOR pirate magnets, but if harvested successfully bring in a crazy profit. The result is not only a white-hot PvP spot, but a spot of interest to both PvP’ers AND crafters/PvE’ers (the ice dragon and kraken spots are the level 5 areas). It’s a great risk/reward system all around. You can bring a fleet of ships and lots of players to enhance your chances of success, or you can venture out solo on a Scrapper and hopefully not run into anyone. If you do, you are likely dead and down a ship, but if you gather for a bit and get away with it, you just made some serious bank. Likewise, a fleet can contain both harvesting ships and PvP ships, so you potentially could not only bring home what you gathered, but someone else’s ship/loot as well. Or you run into a bigger/better fleet and win/lose a blowout fight in the ocean, which represents one of those rare but ultra-memorable sandbox ‘peaks’.
The last and hopefully biggest piece of this ocean puzzle will be the addition of Sea Fortresses ‘soon’. In DF1 these were large structures out in the ocean that would go live every 3 days (if I remember correctly), and whoever got the final cannon shot to reduce it to zero HP would gain a huge amount of wealth. This resulted in a timed, pre-planned spot to bring a navy and engage in sea combat. The fortress also had powerful cannons that could be used against ships, resulting in some tense ground fighting along with the action in the water. In addition to the general excitement of these coming back, I wonder what if any changes AV will make to how they function in DF:UW. I also suspect they will be level 5 danger zones, created yet another hot spot for PvP/gathering.
Side-note about the gathering ships; I love that they are a high risk, high reward, ‘better in a group but not forced grouping’ version of gathering. We so often talk about how to make gathering better or more interesting, and this is EXACTLY how I want it done. No stupid mini-game, no instanced garbage, no ‘end-game’ switch. Just a new tool (the ship), a small twist (resources in the box as you sail vs your character hitting a node), and emergent gameplay (pirating). More of this please, all around.