New Devlog: 1.2 Open Sea Battle Placement
The Ad-Hoc (open sea battle) spawning system is something that’s bothered me for quite some time. We knew it was a problem, as players reported sometimes spawning far, far away from their groupmates even at the start of a battle, but it was set up in a way that meant we couldn’t easily adjust it to make ships spawn where they should. We made a series of changes to reduce the problem but they persisted to a lesser degree. That meant we needed to overhaul the entire Ad-Hoc spawning system to get it functioning the way we want. We started planning for a new system during open beta, and began the work to replace the system just before launch. You’ll see the results of that work in 1.2.
Our current spawning system translates a significant portion of the open sea positioning into the encounter itself. While that seems logical, it’s a broken system because of the huge disparity between the open sea and battles. In a matter of seconds, you can cross a distance that takes minutes to travel inside of the encounter. That makes it too easy to abuse the spawning system by circumventing the in-battle motion in favor of positioning yourself on the open sea. This leads to a whole host of problems, not the least of which is being able to drop your allies right on top of your prey for a guaranteed kill.
On the other side of the spectrum, the current setup makes it possible to spawn thousands of yards away from the battle. We made a series of tweaks to this late in beta to reduce the frequency, but it wasn’t possible to eliminate these spawns. Additionally, the spawn system was horrible for group cohesion because you could easily get split up all over the encounter.
The new system addresses those problems in a variety of ways, and they’re currently undergoing internal testing. Here’s an explanation of the changes:
The old system treats everyone the same. If two players of opposing sides take the same attack approach then they spawn in the same spot. That’s bad. In the new system, we track spawn points per side. Then, we spawn you relative to those group spawn points instead of a central flashpoint. This creates distinct sides on the battle, instead of spreading players out across the radius of a circle.
Angle of Attack
Controlling your angle of attack on the open sea is important, and that’s something we want to keep. It adds strategic importance to the wind and positioning in the open sea. However, there’s one crucial difference in the new system: We only record angle of attack once, based on the first ship on your side to become engaged. All reinforcements are spawned based on that initial angle of attack, and not their independent angle of attack. That prevents the situation where one side spawns reinforcement ships in a circle around the enemy.
When someone joins a battle, we place them behind the group spawn point based on how late in the encounter they join. The biggest difference here is that we added error checking and attempt a series of possible spawns. In the old system, if you landed in an invalid spot we could dump you off to some random (and horrible) spawn location. Now, we incrementally check the possible spawn points along the angle of attack until we find one that’s reasonable.
This is a big one. Auto-join is problematic, but it’s even worse to not have auto-join. What we really wanted is a way for you to control when you join a battle. 1.2 has a preference that allows you to set how you auto-join battles: Always, Prompt (default) or Never.
Always: If you choose to always auto-join battles, you’ll see the same behavior you do now. If you’re close enough to your allies when a battle starts, then you’ll get pulled in automatically.
Prompt: Selecting prompt means we’ll pop up a dialogue box when you’re in a situation that you could auto join. With that box up, you can choose to decline or accept the auto join. This gives you more control, so you can avoid joining a battle where the enemy is just trying to intercept you and tie up your group, but you can still join the real battles. The prompt window stays open for several seconds, and during that window you cannot attack or be attacked by other players. This gives you a short window to make your decision without allowing your enemies to exploit the delay.
Never: With this option set, you’ll have to manually join every battle by targeting a battle marker and attacking.
Cumulatively, these changes should make Ad-Hoc PvP battles much more balanced. There will be a small amount of control lost, but that control was both illogical and exploitable. It’ll be easier to maintain group cohesion. Most importantly, we want PvP battles to be decided by the players and their actions, not Murphy spawns. We think this is a big step towards improving Ad-Hoc PvP.