Open Letter to the Devs

Since we have "hit bottom" and most players are claiming the sky is falling I think it's a good idea to talk about what an actual sandbox is and what are reasonable expectations going forward.

I have been following this game for about 4 years and was really excited about getting back to a nostalgic world that is at least loosely based on Ultima Online. The original promise was that even if it wasn't based on UO the "sharded" nature of the world would mean that players could agree on a rule set and build a shard that was similar to UO.

UO is nostalgic for many people because it brought PvE players and PvP players together. This image (posted 20 years ago in UO and 4 years ago in Aria) shows both that players had expectations that Aria would follow in the footsteps of UO and also the problem of "mixing" these two sets of player populations together. https://reddit.com/r/MMORPG/comments/2my6vd/some_things_never_change_ultima_onlineshards/

UO managed to maintain a delicate balance for 3 years before eventually dividing the two player populations. Aria promised to "try again" and give players that feeling that existed where both sets of players exist in the same world. Having a Sandbox doesn't mean there are no rules. It means that the rules of the world are set and then its up to players to create content for each other by living within the rule set. The problem is that doing this requires that there are systemic controls that exist to funnel players into categories that keep the balance. These categories of players also have incentives and rewards that make them want to keep playing. There must also be some form of "punishments" that make them unable to deviate too far from their chosen category. The karma system in Aria has very clearly failed to keep the balance. UO succeeded for a very long time because of several factors including the fact that it was largely a monopoly at the time. The karma system needs to be much more aggressive within Aria if its going to keep the balance. The two major groups and their divisions are below:

The Chaotic/Unlawful Group (Red/Orange): This group has fast travel restrictions. These players are only required to ally together only if they are friends or choose to join the same guild. These players will often act as a (Red) Ally for a (Blue) guild. While it may seem at first glance that they have "more restrictions" many of these restrictions are easily circumvented by keeping "Alt" characters in the (Blue) Group. These players desire PvP as the primary goal end game and are not "Evil" they just simply choose the path with the most targets.

The Lawful PvE/PvP Group (Blue): This is a mixed faction and is not a single group of players working together. Some players will never PvP at all. Some (Blue) players are even actively working against the (Blue) Group. There are several play types listed below. Because of the divisions within this faction the populations of the first two sub-categories (a and b) are very important. If the Blue PvPers (subgroup b) is not at least as large as the (Red) Chaotic/Unlawful Group + Blue Groups (c and d) the game will quickly fall apart.

a) Crafters / PvEers: These players drive the economy when there are many of these players you will find cool looking vendor houses everywhere with low prices due to competition. These players do not fight back and are usually cannot prepare to deal with being ganked due to the requirement that they put points in crafting skills or in some cases they simply do not want to fight other players.

b) Blue PvPers: This is the hardest group to please. They need targets for PvP but they cannot find these targets without a strong Faction system / GvG / and a system that helps them locate Unlawful/Chaotic players. This group has some players who are "True Blue" and would gladly protect a farming player or roam the wilderness hunting (Red) players. These players often get bored or suffer fatigue if the majority of players on the server are in the (Red) Unlawful Category instead of Factions/GvG. The reason for this is that they have no way to locate fights other than to stand at the boarder of (Red) towns. (Red) players are opportunistic and only hit and run against soft targets. Whereas Faction and GvG combat could be found fairly easily in towns you have to roam the whole world to find (Red) players and be very lucky to catch them out. These players will sometimes go (Orange) if they need to kill a (Blue) character who is a (Red) Alt who has been handed loot to hold for protection.

c) Chaotic Blues: These players want to experience all parts of the game. They want to be in normal towns. They want to do dungeons. They want to catch fellow (Blue) players making a mistake and benefit from it. If you die with 6000 copper near this player. He is going to go (Orange) and loot you. He might even train monsters on you and Cloak to make this more likely. In some cases this guy might see you attacking a (Red) Chaotic/Unlawful player and actually choose to heal the (Red) or help them in other ways. Aria tried to punish this by making the player (Orange) but these players make telling who is "on your team" very difficult since they eventually can return to being (Blue) again if they so choose.

d) (Red) Guild Alliance Members: These players are Blue but have an agreement with a (Red) Guild that they will not attack each other. This is the most confusing situation for new players since they can be farming a dungeon with 2-3 other blues and suddenly a gank comes for them and only them while other blues stand by and watch. These players have no intention of helping other (Blue) players and actually report information about their location to the (Red) guild.



Comments

  • CerynCeryn Japan
    edited April 26
    So how can this be fixed without "screwing over" one side or the other?

    1) Population: We need this game to go F2P and Steam Release as soon as major bugs can be fixed. It should not be listed in the "Early Access" category when it goes live. Instead it should be clearly stated that the game was already released is going Free to Play with the Steam Release. VE population (Low) and AS population (Medium). There are still plenty of places for houses on both servers and its an easy sell that players who were early adopters of the release game took some of the more valuable spots. Ideas for "Premium/Monetization" are addressed going forward and at the end.

    1) Mounted Combat: We want this back. If you really heard us regarding this than at least hotfix this to put "dismissing" mounts back into the game. Even if we can only manually dismiss mounts that is better than losing 20 horses a day until the Ethereal mount market stabilizes. Furthermore, Most players want mounted combat. The problem has never been fighting while mounted it has always been being dismounted! Players should never have been knocked off of a mount just by taking a set amount of damage. It should have required a skill and preferably an item (like a bola) as well. This would reward whatever group crafts the item and solve 90% of the issues discussed regarding being out numbered, etc.

    2) PvE / Crafting
    GM Blacksmithing / Fabrication / Carpentry Equipment:
    Crafted Gear should be the absolute best gear in the game. In cases where gear drops off of monsters it should be based off of an item generated by crafters when completing bulk order deeds. For example if a bulk order deed requires 20 warbows; completing this BOD should actually add a "Magic Warbow" to a Monster Loot Queue AND give a copy of the same Warbow to the crafter to sell. This Warbow would be based off of the crafters skills and would have one magic modifier for example: +24 Accuracy +93% Damage Warbow of Undead Slaying (2x damage). When a monster drops the item it is removed from the Queue. This way the crafter makes money but also one copy of the item is released into the wild to make PvE more fun and lucrative without harming crafters with a flood of broken PvE items.

    In general since crafting BODs drive the loot tables players are more likely to find items being made by "Mid-Level" crafters but with the occasional "High Level" rare loot done by a High-End crafter who is intentionally making strong rare items to sell. Basically crafters would funnel their crafting failures into a BOD and get a rare item to sell occasionally.

    Armor BODs would follow a similar pattern but with stat bonuses like +3-5 will / wisdom and +10-15% Armor Skill bonus on each of the BOD pieces. In addition it might be wise to rework some of the armor types that exist now to have certain bonuses on non-BOD gear as well for example "cloth" types add +1-3 Int bonus on each piece, "leather" types add +1-3 Str on each piece, "heavy" types add +1-3 str and +1-3 Con but cause you to lose some Agility.

    GM Carpentry/Masonry:
    Carpentry now has the following new recipes:
    Rune: 1 Brick + 1 Ether (Old Item removed from Vendor)
    Runic Slate: 10 Escape Scrolls +10 Runes.
    Improved Hearthstone (blessed): Hearthstone + Runic Slate
    Improved Hearthstone: (Blue) Players whose guild is not currently the aggressor in GvG or Faction combat may use this to escape. (2 second cast not interrupted by damage) (1 hour Premium timer, 4 hour Free timer) (separate from Normal Hearthstone timer)

    GM Inscription:
    Add Inscription BODs at GM Inscription: Rewards create Ability books (at random) for the crafter to sell. Ability books will still drop off of Monsters using the Queue system discussed above. T3 ability books will be more likely to drop off of Awakening bosses. (if there are any available in the Queue)
    New Recipe: Runebook (blessed): 1x Completed Atlas +10 Portal Scrolls +10 Escape Scrolls +1 Runic Slate
    New Recipe: Escape Scroll: +1 Fine Scroll +2 Moss (40 manifestation spell - 2 moss - same effect as the current scroll)

    Runebooks hold up to 10 Portal Scrolls and 10 Escape Scrolls. If a Runebook is charged it will never fail to cast the spell selected with the rune selected. (no skill required) If it is not charged it will check the Manifestation of the User and use the appropriate reagents for the cast.

    Alchemy Changes:
    NPC vendors no longer sell potions. Monsters no longer drop potions.

    3) Rework being (Red):
    Wall off Oasis and Black Forest Outpost (no more fighting at guard lines). Red players have a blessed Chaos Talisman that allows them to enter and exit the town freely from outside of the wall. There is also now a fast travel portal in Oasis and BFO that allows teleportation to the other town or your Bindstone location if you have a Chaos Talisman.

    On death, (Red) players are sent to Oasis or BFO but their Chaos Talisman shatters. You can talk to a "Cultist NPC" next to where you spawn to get a new Chaos Talisman. F2P players can only get a new Chaos Talisman that every 24 hours. Premium players can get a new blessed Chaos Talisman once every 1-4 hours. (based on number of kills since last death)

    Once outside of town you may (optionally) choose to shatter your own Chaos Talisman and doing so will cause you to immediately gain 1000 karma and 100 karma every 15 minutes you are alive until you become (Blue). You will temporarily become (Orange) while your Talisman is shattered and cannot aggressively attack any (Blue) players unless you are in a Faction or GvG. (Although you can still defend yourself as normal). Dying will send you back to Oasis / BFO and turn you red again. (If you are still negative karma) You may still get a new Talisman and exit, you will also remain a member of your chosen faction. If you wish to continue being (Orange) you would need to shatter your Talisman again. (to continue gaining Karma and become able to enter towns)

    4) Changes to being (Blue):
    New: Items may no longer be dropped on the ground for trading. Dropping an item on the ground in any location other than inside of player housing will cause the item to decay instantly. This includes resources that would place you over your weight limit.
    New: Trading with Red or Orange players will temporarily cause you to take the color of their affiliation for 10 minutes.
    New: Logging out while flagged a different color will result in your character "napping" in the location until the timer expires. (This is not adding "red napping" its just so to make it hard to keep invulnerable (Blue) storage mules to dump loot as a (Red) Player)
    New: (Blue) Players who do not have a combat flag in GvG or Factions can now use an Improved Hearthstone see Carpentry changes above for details.

    The changes above are important since they allow players more agency in choosing the play style that is right for them. If the majority of the player base wants to stay (Red) than they can. They can even fast travel (to some extent). They also face some consequences if players rally to punish them. If they change their mind and want to go blue again there is a "road back" that doesn't force them to be hard stuck grinding with no PvP. They can immediately jump into GvG and Factions by using the Chaos Talisman system.
  • CerynCeryn Japan
    Now as for Monetization. Some players might disagree with me on these issues but I think that Point Release 5 changes to taxes and housing costs were fantastic. The high cost of entry and low cost of maintenance means that you can open the game up to being F2P without worrying about all of the land instantly disappearing. Players will need to "stick it out" a bit to own land. Once they have their land though they don't have to keep a huge grind to hold it. I think the models for the game going forward.

    Premium Players: (~$10 USD Month)
    1 Extra Character Slot the first time you join.
    1 Power Hour Potion per character per week. (Max 5)
    20 Loyalty Points each day you log in. (Max 300 per Month)
    Weekly "Kill Quests" that reward 50 Loyalty Points (Max 200 per Month)
    Access to a special monthly quest that rewards 1 of 3 unique housing decorations.
    The current tax rate / ability to pay an extra month in advance. (additional balance removed if your premium time expires)
    The ability to keep 1 item in your inventory blessed per character (Most players would probably choose Ethereal horse)
    Shortened access to Chaos Talismans (2-4 hours based on kills) for (Red) players
    Faster improved hearthstone for (Blue) characters. (1 hour)
    No logon queue even if server is at high capacity.

    Free Players
    Higher old tax rate
    1 character slot per account
    Pay to unlock character slots ~$5 USD per slot.
    Logon queue if server is at high capacity.

    Final Note: I also think that CS should consider letting "Founders" and "Early Adopters" keep the old housing cost rate as a "non-tradable" one time rate since some people lost their houses due to not knowing when auctions were being enabled / disabled. Some people who might have actually come back now probably won't give the game a chance if it means grinding 3 plat to get a 30 x 30 they used to have but stopped paying for due to no progress on the Steam release.
  • Everything except the monetization part...is really well thought out and I agree with.
  • I'm old school, buy it once, play forever, with a cash shop doesnt bother me, extra revenue doesnt bother me.
    Dont nickel and fine me to death forever instead with the cash shop. Subscription I dont mind paying but keep it reasonable.
  • SherdSherd Québec
    +1
    Everything here is worth considering, except the "premium" model and free to play access.
  • CerynCeryn Japan
    edited April 26
    Sherd said:

    +1
    Everything here is worth considering, except the "premium" model and free to play access.

    I actually felt that way as well until I tried Albion Online after it went F2P. I was shocked to see how they have hundreds of players in every town and still hundreds more on every map running around. I just don't enjoy the actual gameplay of Albion as much as I enjoy this game. (Don't get me wrong its not a bad game; Its just closer to a 3rd person Isometric Version of WoW than it is to classic UO.)

    I feel like the Devs will eventually cave to some variation of a F2P as a model since I haven't seen one long lasting MMO that has gone without either Subscription or F2P monetization. If they are eventually going that route I hope that they do it in a controlled way rather than selling blacksmithing anvils that upgrade your skill when placed in your house, etc.

    Personally I would also prefer subscriptions over a "cash shop" so I tried to make a "Premium" system that rewards players with special monthly cosmetic items (in the form of loyalty points and quests). I'm hoping some system like this could bring in money similar to a subscription model but while still allowing the benefit of having tons of "new blood" in the form of F2P players. It also had the added benefit of saying that F2P players cannot just all roll (Red) characters and drive PvEers off the server unless they are confident that they are going to die less than once every 24 hours.

    I totally see where you are coming from though in your disagreement. I just wonder how long Aria can survive with just a 1 time sale of $25. They would need to pump out expansions very very often if they wanna keep the lights on in the server room.
  • CerynCeryn Japan
    edited April 26
    Nice seems they allowed dismissing horses again! At least there is one thing we can check off the list.

    Nevermind... It seems they go back to the stable leaving you stranded.
  • SherdSherd Québec
    I guess it will depend on steam sales. I think the sandbox/freedom aspects of the game would be diluted if you have some players that have it easier than other, and at the same time, I don't know if many players would pay monthly for merely cosmetic bonuses if they have no real IG advantages for them.
    But you're right: money is an issue, and if that's what we need to keep the game alive and interesting, so be it.

    I just hope that it won't come to this^^
  • Ceryn is a genius.

    Almost 90% of his ideas I would welcome here. That all seems reasonable and a hell of a lot more fun then the systems currently in place. HEY DEVS THERE IS A DAMN ROAD MAP SIR

    Thank you for that post I enjoyed it

    Ceryn = 3) Rework being (Red):
    Wall off Oasis and Black Forest Outpost (no more fighting at guard lines). Red players have a blessed Chaos Talisman that allows them to enter and exit the town freely from outside of the wall. There is also now a fast travel portal in Oasis and BFO that allows teleportation to the other town or your Bindstone location if you have a Chaos Talisman.

    On death, (Red) players are sent to Oasis or BFO but their Chaos Talisman shatters. You can talk to a "Cultist NPC" next to where you spawn to get a new Chaos Talisman. F2P players can only get a new Chaos Talisman that every 24 hours. Premium players can get a new blessed Chaos Talisman once every 1-4 hours. (based on number of kills since last death)

    Once outside of town you may (optionally) choose to shatter your own Chaos Talisman and doing so will cause you to immediately gain 1000 karma and 100 karma every 15 minutes you are alive until you become (Blue). You will temporarily become (Orange) while your Talisman is shattered and cannot aggressively attack any (Blue) players unless you are in a Faction or GvG. (Although you can still defend yourself as normal). Dying will send you back to Oasis / BFO and turn you red again. (If you are still negative karma) You may still get a new Talisman and exit, you will also remain a member of your chosen faction. If you wish to continue being (Orange) you would need to shatter your Talisman again. (to continue gaining Karma and become able to enter towns)
  • Implement just his Red Talisman idea and his 1100 karma gains, problem solved - sign me up

    The other changes would be graduated in there every week.

    The sad part is it would take 2 months before ANY of that is adjusted.

    Hey Supreem - what are YOUR thoughts on just that change about the red idea in itself ?
  • krusad'erkrusad'er Montreal
    edited April 27
    Just great & positive ideas for the well being of the game, and I do not think such changes would be really long to make tbh.
  • OuijaOuija Canada
    im more for the cosmetic cash shop and subscription fees myself , aswell as changing the Karma system to the uo style and giving back fast travel and mounts.
  • CerynCeryn Japan
    Well it looks as if they are gonna create new servers when the game launches on steam. I guess that ends the existing servers in terms of population.

    I feel like its almost like it was false advertising to sell pre-release packs (Lord pack, etc) that give the cosmetic items on only one server with the promise of releasing to Steam within a month. When they failed to deliver on the steam release they basically condemned the existing servers to death now by saying they will go ahead with new servers. The first Steam release was supposed to be December, then it was pushed back to be January, then "Spring" and now? Expect Steam to be full of existing players writing less than flattering reviews on launch. >_>
  • The existing servers will die anyway, after the new players see the advantages that were given to existing players and made harder for them. Slower death, but still a death.

    Why not just start fresh on the new servers...where everyone gets the same rule set and opportunities?

    But, think we all know the answers to that...
  • CerynCeryn Japan
    1coldone said:

    The existing servers will die anyway, after the new players see the advantages that were given to existing players and made harder for them. Slower death, but still a death.

    Its so easy to undo the "damages" from existing players. Just add skill books back to the normal world drop loot tables. Every other skill in the game takes about 3-5 days. (24 hour days)

    I know at least a few people "taking a break" from the game. If they didn't move to AS from VE than they aren't likely to just start over with the promise that there will be new people. If CS was smart they would just link all 3 servers via the Death Gate but have server local bank boxes and an inability to bring coin. Maybe even charge 20-50s every time you move shards. That way people could move some goods if they wanna go hunting on another server but they can't really destroy the economy.

    If they are worried that people will "stomp" new players they could always make it something that starts 1-2 months after a server goes live. Its absolutely crazy that people who followed the game for 3-4 years with the understanding that these were the "release" servers basically paid to be Beta testers on servers that will slowly die out. Its a pretty weak argument to say that people can't build skills on the current servers and to arbitrarily add servers when the current ones aren't even nearly at high population.
  • Agree, the books should drop from anywhere in the world and off of anything. The best chances should be dungeons. However, those chokepoints are already controlled.

    Either way, it going to be low populations, for different reasons. But, the existing players are for changes that will run off new players. Because, they are have theirs and some of these drastic changes are a direct profit to them.

    No more wipes should have never been promised with the changes they made already...but they did. Now, I am all for a new fresh server.

    If I had known and been in since the start, i would probably feel the same, as the existing players do. But, i can step back and see it from a new player perspective, as well.

    But, i was that new player that didn't have toon to farm the ability books (or kill anything) in the noob graveyard, as 6x gmed players were and now have books i can not afford. Or, a house...but, at least my plot is only 3s a week, so i do not have to log in as much.
  • GrungeGrunge Mountains
    No subscriptions for the love of God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Also, this game needs a smoother combat, better visual effects and polish, and combat skills rates need to be way easier!! For the lord of God, see in UO how easy to raise combats is. Why? Because you can test, change, feel what combat skill you want to use!
    And no wipes too! People play a lot to get what they have, if you want to start fresh there could be a new server, but dont erase other people's work.
  • Now, those players are whining about a fresh server, as they know that new players will not want to walk into that much of a disadvantage, so the option must be taken away from them...

    I am for the new server option and let the players decide what and how they choose to play. After all, thats what we keep hearing...let the players decide.
  • CerynCeryn Japan
    1coldone said:

    Now, those players are whining about a fresh server, as they know that new players will not want to walk into that much of a disadvantage, so the option must be taken away from them...

    I am for the new server option and let the players decide what and how they choose to play. After all, thats what we keep hearing...let the players decide.

    I think there is a pretty big difference between let players decide and totally breaking promises to people who have followed the development of the game. It is totally possible to make good on the promises that they made to players who were early adopters and still protect players joining at steam release.

    If they think they *need* to allow players a new server to have a "fresh start" they could follow the games original roadmap back when it was called "Shards Online" and allow players to move between servers freely using a system of gates. They could do this and still give players on "head start" on the new server by not enabling the gates until after a few months, etc.

    It is absolutely ridiculous that they did the following:

    1) CS Promised players who were early adopters/kickstarter supporters "founders items" and unique rares that would available on the official servers once they are permanently live.
    2) CS Promised players that the servers going live during "head start" would be the same servers used for the steam release and that it was "safe" to accept these items because these (VE/AS) were the only servers for the steam release (which would be coming a few weeks later).
    3) Delayed the steam release so significantly that they have no choice but to take a 180 degree turn on statement 1 and 2.

    This is basically false advertising and worthy of a charge back for anyone who bought one or more accounts. I'm not saying that the sky is falling or anything but it makes it much more likely that the existing servers with *never* be populated. The big appeal of this game is to people who "loved UO" style games if you keep kicking those people in the balls, forcing them to play a "paid" beta test and a forced reroll of their characters, (without their promised rare items) its only natural that they are going to lose confidence in the Devs and CS. If the main group who supports your game ends up totally disillusioned by the steam release itself that's how you get "Mixed" steam reviews and a dead game.
  • edited May 11
    I agree, that there needs to be a compromise.

    The gate system would need to many months after, though. These players already got cheap houses, now cheap taxes, able to farm ability books from low level mobs (even more increasing the gold disparity). Is one house per server or account? These things matter. How about the ethereal mounts, that a GM alchemist make? I mean, there is no real option to not have one (or carry multiple 10 lbs statues) as regular mounts go directly to the stables, no choices. Another gold mine. Not to mention every resource, dungeon and skill advancing areas (or chokepoints) have death grip on them, from player who have those once easy to farm, must ability books...

    The fresh start server alleviates some of these WTF mechanics.

    Lets be honest, we all know most players coming in, are not going to play under those circumstances. But, the short term gain for these players outweighs the health of the overall game.

    This whole thing still should be under founder's edition BETA. But due to premature promises, CS finds themselves between a rock and a hard place.
  • CerynCeryn Japan
    edited May 12
    1coldone said:

    I agree, that there needs to be a compromise.

    The gate system would need to many months after, though. These players already got cheap houses, now cheap taxes, able to farm ability books from low level mobs (even more increasing the gold disparity). Is one house per server or account?

    This is a really good point. It should probably be 1 house per account if they ever link the servers. I guess they would need to grandfather that in if some people were already playing on VE / AS at the same time. I honestly don't think its that big of an issue when it comes to "time" since the end game is reached in 3-4 months anyway and you would theoretically be able to link VE and AS right now. (solving some of the problems of low population)

    Its also worth noting that linking servers actually makes it easier to gain skills. For example you can send your miner to a low population server for skilling up and you wont have to fight people for mining nodes. A group can't guard the same chokepoint on every server at once so linking only makes it easier for gatherers.
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