Today’s Friday Feature is our first look at the upcoming GCW system. All features are subject to change in testing and due to community feedback.
The Galactic Civil War system in SWG was always a bit of a bust. Due to technical limitations, the SWG team was always nervous about too many people congregating in an area – players from live will recall massive lag and slowdowns in areas when large numbers of players gathered. (Think 100+. Yes, I broke Rori during Pex’s farewell tour. It was hilarious, and I’d do it again.)
The technical limitations imposed limitations on design as well – one of the worst being the Galactic Civil War.
A Civil War Without Battles
“Not all battles are fought with lightsabers. Some battles are fought in back-alleys with vibroblades.”
The GCW went through several iterations over the lifespan of SWG. The original implementation was all based on player bases, acquirable from faction recruiters. Planet control was determined by GCW score, in turn determined by the number and type of player bases owned by each faction.
PvP bases were worth more than PvE bases, with larger bases being more valuable than small ones. (Costs scaled appropriately.) PvE bases were always vulnerable to enemy player attacks; PvP bases only had windows of opportunity.
Out of this system arose a weird cat-and-mouse game, with bases dropped at weird hours to limit their vulnerability windows and skirmishes seldom exceeding 10 v 10 or 20 v 20. Rather than epic battles between opposing armies, the GCW was more akin to backalley fights between gangs.
During the NGE, the dev team implemented “zone control” – active factional players in a zone would slowly “take control” of an area and it would align more strongly with a given faction. Instead of concentrating combat, it spread it out even further, with PvP players looking for fights seldom exceeding 1v1 or 2v2.
Finally, the devs did implement a few control elements that encouraged grouping up – namely, the city invasions. At first, players heavily participated in these invasions, with crafters building up defenses and combatants taking the line to defend or attack. Quickly, though, the charm was lost – with battles running every couple hours, it was impossible for players to keep up with the demand.
“Hand them a problem without directions and they solve it in some strange fashion.”
The player base rose to each challenge, but also wasn’t content with the unfocused approach SOE had provided. Players tried differing ways of providing that focused combat that the player base (or at least the PvPers) wanted.
The most successful and famous approach was one that the EiF devs participated in (and, at various times, planned and led): Starsider’s famous pilot events.
Events were held weekly on Saturday evenings at the same set time every week. Players who weren’t much into piloting still joined up and filled gun turrets on freighters and gunships. Non-PvP pilots would set aside that hour or two for time to group up and engage in team combat. And PvPers planned and prepared for it with strategies that ranged from basically unplanned to intricate details that didn’t survive contact.
An interesting aspect emerged from the space events – the planned PvP events led to more activity during the week. Pilots spent more time planning, practicing, and grinding equipment. General activity in the Deep Space PvP zone climbed as well. The planned events led to a spike of unplanned activity as players spent the week doing support activity to maximize their chances of victory during the planned times.
The Empire in Flames GCW system is heavily based on using old game mechanics in new ways, as well as learning lessons from the past. We can also take advantage of a smaller population to create content that might not be feasible with 1000+ players online and participating.
And with that, we bring you: invasions.
“Wars are won by boots on the ground.”
Planetary control is always a key element of the GCW system – the difference has always been in how is control determined. As has been traditional, players will determine control of a planet, but passive activities won’t help here – this is all about boots on the ground.
Invasions are regularly-scheduled combat events – an invasion happens every three days, with offense and defense flipped each time. In other words, every six days your faction will be invading an enemy-held world; and every six days, you will be defending one of your worlds from an enemy invasion.
The system is setup to run on US-friendly times (exact kick off times to be determined, but we’re looking at 9 PM EST as very likely). Sorry, European players, but this is designed for when the most players are available.
Controlling given planets will provide various perks to your faction – crafting, combat, travel. Those perks have not yet been implemented on test and the list has not been finalized.
Anatomy of an Invasion
“Control the skies, control the world.”
Invasions take place simultaneously at each NPC starport city on a target planet. An invasion of Corellia, for example (which I suspect will be a common offensive target) will have battles taking place in Coronet, Tyrena, Kor Vella, and Doaba Guerful. It will not have combat in Bela Vistal and Vreni Island.
Defending forces will rally inside the cities at the starports. Attackers will have a beachhead camp nearby but outside city limits.
Attacking forces have the objective of advancing to the starport, breaching the defenses there, and performing a base bust on the target starport. If they succeed, the starport flips to the attackers’ faction.
However, those gains are only temporary. To maintain control of the starport at the end of the invasion, the attacking faction must seize all starports on the planet during the invasion window (currently being tested at 60 and 90 minutes). As a result, more heavily traveled planets, like Corellia, are harder to flip than, say, a little-visited world like Dathomir with a mere two outposts to seize.
Players Make the Difference
“It’s the tipping point.”
Invasions are designed intentionally with lopsided forces and objectives. Defenders boast turrets, walls, and NPC defenders capable of holding the line against players. They also have the advantage of the clock – if the attackers don’t move fast enough, the defenders win by default.
Invaders have a larger NPC army at their backs to offset the challenges of invasion. In a striaght fight, invading NPCs will eventually overwhelm the defenders, but they will do so slowly, and without player intervention, cannot seize the starports via base busting mechanics. They will also struggle with defensive turrets, which are vulnerable to blast damage but deal out extraordinary firepower.
Invaders also get the unique perk of assault walkers – mobile siege weapons with extraordinary firepower, but only at a player’s command. These mighty weapons will be the subject of their own Friday Feature further down the line.
Control the Galaxy
“We’re about evenly gunned, and our people are better-trained and better-motivated.”
While each faction will maintain an un-attackable “fortress world”, a determined faction can seize control of the civilized galaxy with teamwork and superior firepower…and superior strategic decisions. The Galactic Civil War will be player-driven, not just because players are required for invasions to succeed, but because players will select invasion worlds.
We’re not quite ready to pull the cover off those secrets yet. Look for it soon!
Will you fight for the fledgling New Republic? Or will you crush all resistance under your heel as a proud fighting member of the Empire? The fate of the galaxy may very well be in your hands!