Saturday, November 11, 2017

Why You Need a Farm


Good evening, cannon fodders.

This article will be short and sweet.

All good military accounts need a farm account. When you are running 200% troop sov on every city, two things happen very quickly. First, your gold burn soars into the red. A typical military player is running -50000 gold per hour in every city. Second, your advanced resource consumption far exceeds what your cities can produce.


Figure 1: Advanced Resource Production at level 20


Figure 2: Advanced Resource Consumption at 200% sov


Just so you can see the bovine bottleneck, I chose to represent cows for both saddles (2 cows) and leather armor (1 cow). Also keep in mind that you can produce swords OR chain at the Blacksmith, not both simultaneously.

In short, there is no feasible way to run nonstop troop queues without consuming far more advanced resources than your account can produce.

Pointy Ears


Predictably, there are two relative exceptions to the supply problem. The supplies required to produce orc kobolds and elf sentinels are relatively inexpensive. By trading the other supplies produced, it is possible to have sufficient beer, bows, and spears for constant kobold and sentinel production without making gold purchases.

Is that relevant? Probably not. Even though you can supply an orc or elf account by bartering resources (or the Centrum arbitrage equivalent), you would still need gold to maintain upkeep. For that purpose, a serious military player will still require an adequate gold farm.


Misbehave, kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

PvP Roles for Small Players

Good afternoon, cannon fodders.

Today we dispel the myth that you need significant account size to be useful on a PvP combat team.

Can a new player really be a PvP asset? Absolutely. Just to be clear, I am not saying that a small account will deliver the same devastating troop strikes as a full 9-city military account. A powerful war machine has a number of roles, and some of those roles can be filled by even a 1-city account. So let's talk about nine useful tasks that can be accomplished by a new military player.

  • Recon: 10000-20000 t2 scouts in one city.
  • Recon: 2000-3000 t2 spies in one city.
  • Harassment diplomats.
  • Probe runes.
  • Clear runes.
  • Support blockades.
  • Frontline pin blockades.
  • Supply besieged cities via exodus.
  • Scavenge battlefields.

Eye on the Ball


Reconnaissance is the first valuable role for a new player. Field commanders always need players with large t2 scout armies to examine enemy cities. A single specialized scout city can allow anyone to peek at enemy troop counts. Alliances are also looking for active research (to pin cities with saboteurs) and unattended piles of loot. A pack of t2 spies, used consistently, can produce valuable information for your comrades.

Diplomatic harassment is another role that can be accomplished at any size. If a city has no assassin defense, even 5-10 t1 assassins will succeed at killing a commander. Sending 5-10 t2 saboteurs can identify running research queues. Many cities lack even basic scout and spy defense. Never underestimate what 10 t2 scouts might uncover. As part of this harassment process, the player sending diplomats can build up a list of runes at enemy cities. Should their alliance attack a particular target, a smaller player can also assist by purposely detonating runes with various inexpensive techniques, particularly the Ward of Destruction.

Block and Tackle


Blockades are another role where smaller players can shine. Most siege plans call for 1-4 large siege camps, and possibly a large static blockade. The blockade hinders the target's ability to prestige build and artificially hold the city above raze population. For all the plains squares around the target, people often send little support blockades. While easily destroyed, these auxiliary blockades will make things more challenging for the defending player. A 10-troop blockade can intercept supplies as effectively as a 10000-troop blockade. Anyone can build and send 10 t1 cavalry to assist with a siege.

Additionally, even tiny blockades can pin targets when supported with large scale troops. A small player with a fresh capture can move that city directly to the front lines and assist with pinning down enemy cities. Many established players are reluctant to move fully built cities, so a smaller player can serve a key role in trapping and destroying the enemy.

Defeat the Block


That same city mobility can help to save besieged allies. When a city comes under siege, typically a competent enemy mirrors the above process: 1-4 big siege camps, at least one big blockade, and many smaller blockades. Buying more time becomes crucial to defeating the sieges. This is especially true of forest sieges where much slower infantry must be dispatched to remove the siege camps. (Should you have a city with adjacent forest tiles? Probably not. But not everyone follows good City Placement procedures.) A small player can move a town direct adjacent to an allied city. By employing thieves or modifying the diplomatic relationship, the besieged player can bypass blockades and take resources directly from the little town. This technique creates a fresh delivery point for the alliance to provide resources to the besieged city, defeating the enemy blockades. Again, this is not something that established players will want to do with a fully built city, but a newer player with a fresh capture can be a major asset in this situation.

You Dropped This, Sir


Scavenging battlefields seems like a minor role, but that isn't necessarily true. Sometimes enemies use large amounts of Vanguard Leather and other valuable gear to attempt siege breaking. Just having 20 cotters in a single city can make harvesting gear much faster. In hostile territory, typically you can only scavenge as long as your siege camps are present, and those will leave when the siege succeeds or fails. Rapidly snatching up all the dropped gear is a useful task, even if it isn't particularly glorious.


The Recon Build


Let's assume for a moment that you have selected the reconnaissance build. How do you get there quickly? A few key components and you should be on your way. Note that you can do this layout using your teleport and a Lightning Build strategy. This is a very aggressive build, but it will get you into the action relatively quickly.
  • Consulate 20
  • Scout Lookout x2
  • Foreign Office [Optional]
  • Sov II for Diplomacy

If you teleport and don't want this to be your permanent city build, keep the following technique in mind. You can definitely just construct the resource plots to level 12. For settlement population, all you need is the standard 450, 2000, 5000 thresholds to create 3 auxiliary cotter towns.

These support towns are important. You can run negative basic resources on your main town and ship in the deficit from your support towns. This will allow you to support 20x2 sovereignty for a 200% diplomat building boost on your Consulate 20. It will take about a month to build 20000 t2 scouts with that setup. Your gold burn on the main town will be about -10000/hr for the sovereignty and another -10000/hr for 20000 t2 scouts (assuming 2x Scout Lookout 20). If you are harvesting herbs and minerals with your cotters every day, you should generate twice the gold that you burn. This will help you to pay for your upkeep. If your alliance doesn't just provide supplies directly, you can invest the excess gold there (although if they can't spare saddles and books to get a quality recon player running, you are probably in the wrong PvP alliance).

Is this a stable build? Probably not if you teleport and do it overnight. But it will get you into the action quickly, performing useful military tasks during a war, with a minimum of resources and prestige. I would probably pick a 7 food build for a long term scout city, just because at some point your losses will be minimal and gold generation will become the most important factor.


Small Can Be Mighty


Never underestimate the power of a small PvP gamer focusing on a valuable role. Every successful war machine needs recon and support on the battlefield. Logistics might not seem as glorious as fielding big armies, but it can be every bit as important to winning wars.

Misbehave, kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Military City Buildings

Good morning, cannon fodders.

From time to time, I get asked what's inside a military city.

The short answer is: all the typical city infrastructure, plus 2 military buildings, then some other mundane stuff. Most of a military city layout is setting up sufficient basic resource production to support your troop production sovereignty. You specifically try to avoid creating weak points around food production, and leave yourself some flexibility to raise taxes.

For those who prefer the longer version, read on. All structures are level 20 unless otherwise noted. You would be well advised to read the articles on 5/6/7 food military cities, city placement, and basic military cities.

 

Basic Infrastructure


  • Warehouse
  • Library
  • Barracks
  • Marketplace
  • City Wall

Self explanatory.

  • Storehouse [Optional]

I like a Storehouse 20. It's just more convenient to store 891000 basic resources instead of the warehouse-only 658000. Aside from a few Storehouse levels to complete the City Wall 20, it's purely optional.

 

Mischief


  • Mage Tower
  • Consulate

For Mage Tower, level 20 isn't necessary, but you need magical research completed. Military cities need the Ward of Destruction line, Ward of Intentions line, and you would probably find Blights useful plus the Runemaster's Grounding. At least one of your cities should have the Nature's Bounty geomancy spell to cast on your other towns. That being said, you can often use magic to support siege operations and break hostile spells. Most of my mage towers are 20, with big stockpiles of extra mana. The lowest I'd go is maybe 16, because you still want a significant power multiplier when engaging in magical clashes, and the multiplier is based on mage tower level.

Consulate is similar to Mage Tower. You will want all Diplomacy research completed. Even if you don't build all diplomats in all towns, you will always want a small number of every t1 type in your city to deflect casual pokes and diplomatic spam. Tink wrote a great basic tutorial called Diplomatic Units in Illy (Part I and Part II) that describes how to use diplomats, which by reflection is how they will be used against you as well.

The Consulate level also limits the number of diplomatic missions you can send at a given time. I engage in a lot of diplomatic mischief during wars, so all of my Consulates are 19 or 20.

 

Military Cost Reduction


  • 2x military buildings

My article on 5/6/7 builds reviews military buildings in detail. A typical military city will have 2 cost reduction buildings. If armies are large, up to 2.5 (20, 20, 10). For tournament players or long periods of peace, 3 full (20, 20, 20) isn't out of the question. You tend to level up military buildings sequentially. It's a bang-for-buck thing. Each additional building is half as effective as the previous one, but they all consume the same amount of basic resources per level. First one to 18-20, then next one to 18-20, and then third one 1-10. I do keep the third one at 1, just so I don't forget its location in the layout and accidentally build something else in that spot.

 

Basic Resources


  • Basic resource plots
  • Basic resource boosters
    • Kiln
    • Stonemason
    • Carpentry
    • Foundry

Your basic resource profile will determine how much military sovereignty you can support without running negative basics. All basic resource plots are built to 20. The 5/6/7 article describes which booster buildings are needed, and approximately what levels. Each booster is 2% per level, so if you see a (+30%) boost that means the resource booster is at level 15.

 

Filler


  • Supply Buildings
    • Brewery
    • Blacksmith
    • Spearmaker
    • Fletcher
    • Forge
    • Common Ground
    • Paddock
    • Saddlemaker
    • Tanner
    • Siege Workshop
    • Book Binder
  • Crafting Buildings
  • Other Random Stuff

It doesn't much matter what filler you add to the city. The one rule I have for filler is that it should never compromise your basic resource production in a way that forces you to lower military sovereignty levels.

I generally prefer supply to 20. Brewery, always. Everyone needs beer, especially orcs and elves. Blacksmith, spear maker, forge, fletcher, common ground, all 20. Same reason, you can never have too many swords, chain, plate, bows, cows. What you don't need, you can swap with your allies to get the correct supplies. Humans and elves often want saddles; dwarves consume a lot of swords, chain, plate; orcs and elves always need beer; orcs always want more spears; elves can always use more bows.

Now we get to more optional supply buildings. I usually have a paddock 20. If population requirements are tight, this is the last supply building I cut, just because horses are cheap in Centrum. Occasionally I build the saddle maker, tanner, siege workshop. You don't need these in every city, because you can't produce enough cows to supply them all. I have a couple Book Makers, but military cities are often running close to balanced on Research Points, so this building is the lowest supply priority. You can always trade swords or saddles for books.

 

Food


  • Farms
  • Flourmill
  • Nature's Bounty [8%]
  • Geomancer's Retreat [Delete]

Build farms and the flourmill to 20, obviously.

I always have excess food production in troop building mode. The reason is the Farm Slide. To keep bigger peacetime armies, as your armies fill out, you want to raise taxes. To accomplish this, you convert military sovereignty to Farmstead and slide up your taxes. Having excess food at low taxes gives you more room to raise taxes to 65-75% without going negative food. This concept is important for managing gold burn in mature military cities.

I want to say a few words about running negative food. Lots of people do it, especially tournament players. One big thief strike can knock out your warehouse, and if you are negative food, your buildings will implode until population is balanced again. Just understand that it's a risk. If you are running negative food (or really any negative basics) in a military city that gets exposed to enemy fire, you should seriously consider a Vault. The Vault will delay population collapse by several hours: 47000 / (negative food). You should have already learned from Discipline Never Sleeps that your odds of spotting an incoming thief attack are quite low. If you are running negative without using a Vault, you are making a calculated roll of the dice.

Cities with considerable excess food are also more resistant to siege damage. Food implosion does happen, especially if a city is cleared of troops and then emptied of resources while under blockade. Your farms, flourmill, and warehouse can take unlucky hits from siege engines. The enemy can deploy sizable thief strikes. If you are running right on the edge of balanced food, with no room to cut taxes and boost food production, then your city is very brittle against siege engines. The only way to push population like that is to have many high-population buildings, and these are inherently unstable themselves. All the population is concentrated in the upper levels, and a few good catapult hits will bring your population crashing down.

For that very reason, I do not recommend using high-population setups that depend on 1-4 Geomancer's Retreats. These buildings will amplify your Nature's Bounty spell up to 22-24% instead of 8%. Just understand that your geomancy spells will be attacked during sieges. The enemy can break your geomancy spell with a Gift of (Basic) magic from any of their cities within 1500 squares. Even if you counter-break from a nearby city, your Geomancer city is the one that will need to recast Nature's Bounty to get the food boost back up to 22-24%. That recast will immediately get hacked down by yet another enemy city. Point being, if an enemy is determined to break your geomancy spell on a city, there is really nothing you can do to prop up that spell. Centralized magic is by definition fragile.

Save the big population cities, amplified food spells, centralized magic, and running negative food for your gold farm. A true PvP city is squat and sturdy, able to take significant punishment without the danger of population implosion. It avoids creating weak points from magical dependency and top-heavy buildings, just like its map location is carefully selected to remove siege-friendly weak points adjacent to the town.

Always remember, cannon fodders: when the rocks start flying, sturdy is sexy.


Misbehave, kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Declaration of Sandbox Freedom

Greetings, cannon fodders.

Since Hathaldir borrowed the framework of the real Declaration of Independence, I was inspired to offer my own pointlessly long recanting of martial philosophy and the rights of Illyriad gamers. Read at your own risk, particularly if you have a tender muggle brain.

WARNING: This article is not the typical Warmongering guide to game mechanics. It is opinionated, political, and based on my own personal perceptions. 
 

A Discourse Most Lengthy


When, in the course of Illyriad gameplay, particular coalitions have risen to power and implemented a noxious stranglehold on the sandbox and the community, it is imperative upon the warriors of the game to act.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: That the game of Illyriad is strategic in nature, and that this was fully intended by its designers and developers. That valuable resources and the very fabric of the map will compel alliances into conflict, and that these conflicts will be resolved by politics, by meta-gaming, and sometimes by troops. That these causes and effects are fully intended by the game's creators, planned for and even encouraged, and are not some abberation of unruly alliances. That these ever shifting tides of interaction are not a distraction from the game, but in truth are the very game of Illyriad itself, which we all play to varying degrees.

Further, we state now and forever for the permanent record, that the vitality of the game has been badly decayed by the stranglehold of particular Elgean alliances, exercised over the whole of their continent. That these old and corrupt alliances dominate tournaments, the main annual activity for many noble alliances, by crude and unsavory means. That the players of these offending alliances achieve their battlefield power, not through the clever management of resources, but rather through the collection and maintenance of several permasats each, often in repulsive excess of the game's published multiaccounting limits. Further, that these alliances have cluttered the map with their permasats, occupying prime real estate with dead accounts at the expense of truly active newcomers.

We allege that these alliances have, by accumulating detritus of a thousand departed players, fostered the growth of grief play and harassment over their digital debris. That they have maintained accounts long dead through the use of interminable holding sieges, blocking hundreds of excellent settlement locations across the map, to the benefit of a priveleged few.

That these decrepit confederations have plotted to destroy those who opposed them by treacherous means, have pushed an agenda of annihilation, have overwhelmed the weak using sheer size as a means of intimidation. That they have, in Elgea, crushed healthy PvP that includes both vigorous fighting and easy terms of surrender, and sought to impose such suffocation upon the Broken Lands. That their leaders have demanded that their players fight at fatal odds, while risking none of their own cities, purely for the sake of pride and politics.

We resist their portrayal of alliance size as the only relevant virtue, over activity or contribution to the game. We deny the validity of alliances who push an agenda of global domination and lawmaking, with the express intention of depriving a voice to small, new, and nimble alliances.

We allege that these alliances occupy prime resources, as if first occupation alone is justification for permanent ownership. That these alliances own a disproportionate amount of valuable rare resources by using permasats to occupy them. Worse still, that these players often decline to harvest the valuable resources in their possession, when newer players might use them profitably. That these alliances have crashed the trade markets by relying on permasats for supplies instead of upon commerce.

We express our outrage that these alliances have repeatedly accused their opponents in slanderous terms, when they have been afforded dignified discussion.

We allege that these alliances have abused the status of training alliance, once honored as a neutral service to the whole community, as a means of sheltering their permasats, possessing mines, herbs, and prime locations under false protection, and breeding malcontent by harboring players of ill will who neither seek training nor provide it to new players.

Of greatest offense to us is that these alliances have opposed the formation of true countries, occupied by their sovereign occupants, who are granted real citizenship in their own homeland. They have maliciously slandered the honorable efforts to establish these countries, the natural constructs of a geography-based game. They have made false and repeated claims against these new nations, of hysterical nature, not for the true interests of the community, but rather as a means to preserve their ability to insinuate hostile cities into the heart of alliances who would be free of harmful interlopers. We assert that breaching the borders of our sovereign countries is an act of infiltration and war, which has been used in previous conflicts with these very same treacherous alliances, often to destructive effect.

Therefore, we set forth the following principles, and call upon the able warriors of Illyriad to set them in motion upon the glorious map:

  1. That where alliances have gathered in such strength as to declare their homelands, that these boundaries should be respected as a sovereign nation, or else opposed upon the field of battle.
  2. That condemnation should be issued against all alliances who rely upon large rosters of departed accounts to supply gold, supply armament, occupy valuable resources, and otherwise deprive the active player base of excellent city locations.
  3. That especial outrage be heaped upon the leaders of alliances engaged in war, who compel their own players to fight, when they themselves sit back safely from the battlefields and risk nothing from their own accounts.
  4. That all alliances have the right for their voices to be heard, not merely based on bulk or age, but on the basis of their vitality, activity, and interesting endeavors.
  5. That the abuse of training alliance status should be met with lethal force, when players are found to have misused that privelege.
  6. That combat be viewed as an acceptable means of conflict resolution in disagreements, without the perpetual cycle of escalation, or calls for pile-on tactics.
  7. That alliances owning valuable rare resources accept the possibility of conflict over those resources, including the notion that infrequently-harvested resources would be better used by newer, more active players.
  8. That the practice of holding sieges be reviewed, and that accounts on constant life support should have their sieges broken so those dead accounts are finally allowed to expire from the map.
  9. That tournaments should be decided by the activity and excellence of the combatants in battle, and not by the outrageous abuse of permasats by the perennial winners.
In light of these tenets, we prevail upon the Illyriad community to embrace the strategic nature of this game, including the potential for conflict, the shifting possession of precious resources, and the establishment of real countries governed by their sovereign inhabitants. We denounce the idea that this game should be ruled by a select few, chosen by no other virtue than their ability to accumulate dead accounts in violation of the rules, who would govern this game and all its rewards to the intentional exclusion of the small, the active, and the new. It is to their defeat, and to a newly revitalized Illyriad, to which we pledge our swords, our prowess, and our treasured honor.
 

And With That...


To all good cannon fodders, I have only this to say:

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Why Runners Must Be Hunted

Good afternoon, cannon fodders.

Today we are greeted with yet another dramafest over a player wanting to flee a war without consequences. While I am generally not in favor of targeting muggles over meat, this forum debate exemplifies why runners must be hunted.

Innocent Muggles


The typical argument about allowing muggles to flee from wars will go something like this:
Forum dwellers, I come to you with word of outrageous injustice by the murderous members of Fighting [FIGHT]. The poor civilian player, EasyTarget [FAT], has left FAT and joined the Passive Troll [PASS] alliance. EasyTarget is a very nice person who has endured many real-life hardships. FIGHT has decided to keep attacking even though Easy has never sent troops into battle or done them any wrong. Easy was just an innocent bystander in this war. Now other innocent members of PASS are being attacked, simply because Passive Troll is trying to protect a helpless player. How can the server stand for this! The community used to have honor, but now mean people are just beating up poor Easy and his noble defenders. Oh, injustice! In the olden days, the glorious Illyriad Community (TM) would have risen up and protected poor Easy. Now he is being victimized by big players with big armies who are targeting innocent civilians. Easy isn't a great warrior, he doesn't even have troops, so why target him to begin with? Please just let him continue playing in peace. Can't we all just play the game we want to play? The warriors should go fight the warriors, and leave the civilians alone.

It's very moving, isn't it? The argument serves several purposes. First, by referencing real-life difficulties, it suggests that FIGHT is a heartless bunch of people in real life. Second, by calling up images of soldiers and civilians, the argument suggests a level of cruelty and dishonorable destructiveness. All of this angst is wrapped up in repeated mention of the player's peaceful nature, and cast in the light of victimization.

It's all very reminiscent of ajqtrz's speeches about how video game violence is practically the same as real life bullying, embodied in his post When Gaming Gets Personal.

Isn't it reasonable that the muggles should be left to play Illyriad FarmVille? Well, not necessarily. There are several very sensible reasons why deserters should be attacked until they surrender.

Who Is a Civilian?


The first major hurdle you need to clear is, who is actually a civilian? Illyriad does not make distinctions about FarmVille status in the game mechanics. We would be relying upon people to decide for themselves if they are a civilian or not.

Do you know who will declare as a civilian? Anyone with vulnerable cities. Anyone who realizes that defeat is inevitable. Anyone who doesn't want to fight, even though the causes for attacking them are valid (for example, if their own alliance declares war). If players are allowed to walk off the battlefield without surrendering, then there are no consequences to war. You can simply walk away if fighting that particular battle doesn't suit you.

There is no strategic sense to allowing an enemy alliance to divest itself of all its weak points, penalty-free. In the past, alliances like the Night Crusaders, Harmless?, and others have allowed adversaries to make early surrenders with no consequences. Many such offers are still made today, such as The Phalanx [300] offer to let many Eagles Eyrie [EE] bystanders surrender without penalty. The fact remains, it is completely impractical to allow enemy players to decide whether or not you are allowed to attack them.

Treachery and Deception


There is a second, much more dangerous obstacle to allowing deserters to go unpunished. Those players might change alliance affiliations, but they are not changing physical map locations. This creates a triple problem for the fighting alliance.

Those fleeing enemies will often fill their new alliance chat with vindictive statements against your team. Since they have already agreed to shelter the fleeing player, it is reasonable to assume that they are inclined to humor the statements of that bitter deserter, including outright lies. There is no strategic advantage to allowing an angry ex-enemy the chance to claim safety and then turn more alliances against you during a war.

More importantly, there is no way to force the disbanding of the deserter's troops once they have joined a new home alliance, without confronting that alliance as well. Many wars have seen players shift to another alliance, rebuild their troops and remove weakly positioned cities, and then re-enter the fray by jumping alliances again. Without disbanding troops, there is no guarantee that there will not be treachery just a short distance down the road. Anyone who flees the battlefield but refuses to disband troops must be viewed as having the darkest of motives. To treat them otherwise is hopelessly naive.

Finally, and most importantly, the account's cities could be weaponized. Do you know how many cities it took to break vCrow in the Broken Lands? Three. That's it, really. Only three forward positions propelled the final defeat of the #1 alliance on an entire continent. Once you can drive a siege into enemy territory from point blank range, your much faster defensive troops can siege any vulnerable city at will. These weaponized cities--termed "war wagons" by the SINdicate--are an extremely powerful tool to end wars. They will shift your warning time from 3 days to 3 hours (or less), and open up the number of viable siege targets to all your weak points across several regions. The ability to destroy cities without warning is invaluable in forcing wars to a close.

Why is this a problem with fleeing players? That disgruntled player could just as easily turn their city into a sleeper war wagon, preparing siege troops for a surprise counterattack. It is also possible that the deserter will quit the game, but hand the keys over to one of their old alliance mates. The result is the same, a very dangerous sleeper asset in immediate proximity to your own alliance cluster. For those who have wondered, this is the main strategic purpose for a land claim--to keep weaponized sleeper cities at a minimum distance. Enforced distance is the second best way to slow down the attacks of hidden weapons (the best way is proper city placement, denying them a vulnerable siege tile from the start).

What I want my readers to understand is that a proper surrender involves several key points: an assessment of the deserter's hostility, the disbanding of their troops, and/or the removal of cities. If an enemy player can simply stroll off the battlefield at their own convenience, and seek shelter in another alliance, then the embattled parties have no guarantee that the deserter's armies have been dismantled, their cities are removed to safe distances, and they aren't sowing noxious propaganda in a fertile alliance chat.

Straw Man or Real Threat?


Are these fears unfounded? Are they just an excuse for vicious warmongers to chase down helpless prey? Sometimes, yes. I have written about grief play in Illyriad myself. It certainly exists in this game.

That said, I have also had my account get completely wrecked, and my friends razed to the n00b ring, by the sudden treachery of many self-professed "civilians". As long as the potential of such treachery exists in the game--and it can never be reduced completely--then fighting alliances must enforce adequate terms of surrender. All runners are potential threats until confirmed otherwise in a proper surrender.


Misbehave, kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Eleven Cities Ruined the Game

Good evening, cannon fodders.

Eleven cities ruined the PvP game. Yes, really. There has been no bigger shift in Illyriad PvP since the introduction of exodus on 29 September 2011. I'm sure many muggles didn't even notice a change in server behavior, because the biggest shift happened in the apex alliances. Trust me, when the 10 city cap was lifted on 23 February 2015, that represented a seismic shift in the way the game was played. Two and a half years later, we are still feeling the aftershocks of that feature implementation. Today we will examine why.
 

Eleven Cities?


On 23 February 2015, the Illyriad devs lifted the 10 city cap. Overnight, the maximum number of cities went from 10 to theoretically 40. Why was that such a culture shock? For starters, in old school Illyriad, the first 9 cities were easy to attain from a population standpoint. You could even reach that level with all 5 food cities. The 233550 population requirement for 10 cities pushed people towards 7 food towns, but you could still reach that tenth and final city with a mix of 5, 6, and 7 food cities.

One undesirable consequence of the 11+ update is that it opened up a huge gap between new and existing players. It is entirely reasonable for every Illyriad player to reach 9 cities if they so desire. 10 cities used to take some work, which is why it was a celebrated push within the community, and even supported with the Famine Management discovery in your capital. The opportunities to reach 11+ cities are asymmetrically weighted towards the big, old alliances who control excellent city locations in high food areas. In my personal opinion, this is a highly negative development. In old school Illyriad, new players could see that anyone could easily reach 9 cities, and that celebrated tenth town was only 1/9 better than 9. Now, they look at 20, 30, 40 city players and can see that the gameplay gap is absolutely enormous.

Location, Location, Location


Because the population requirement climbs for each additional city, the 11+ update really pushed people towards only 7 food cities. There is no other effective way to push towards 20-30 cities. The update also made water sov far more important, since coastal and river water is the primary source of closely clustered high-food sovereignty tiles. Who controls those locations? In Elgea, it's predominantly the big, old alliances (BOAs).

The altered importance of location caused many behavioral changes. The BOAs started hoarding their dead accounts, even moreso than usual. After the update, you could see the spike in same-alliance holding sieges. These are non-destructive sieges generated by quickly jumping out and back into an alliance, to lock an inactive alliance member in place. With a holding siege on one city, that entire dead account is prevented from entering the server's automatic deletion cycle for inactive accounts. That's a big deal, because holding sieges create a museum effect, allowing a BOA to lock up dozens of desirable locations on the map. These cities are farmed out internally at the alliance's convenience, but in the meantime, those dead cities are blocking all other players from taking the valuable locations.

This particular practice has led alliances like Loki to begin attacking indefinite holding sieges within their sphere of influence. To many this seems like unprovoked cruelty to weaker alliances, depriving them of their own alliance property. However, a strong argument can also be made that by breaking indefinite holding sieges, those dead accounts are being released into the automatic deletion cycle, clearing space on the map for active players who are still actually playing the game.

Another phenomenon directly attributed to 11+ is the terraforming craze. Before 2015, terraforming was an occasional thing. Now, tiny accounts are churned endlessly on a weekly basis. How healthy can it be to have people engaged in a constant cycle of creating baby accounts and then immediately teleporting and abandoning them? That might fluff up the game stats on number of players, but these aren't actually players at all. At what point does that process cross the line of healthy use of game mechanics and enter the realm of exploits?

All About the Benjamins


At this point, a smart player would ask, why did the Illyriad devs raise the city cap? Two words: prestige sales. The only way to capture a city in Illyriad is by destroying at least 75% of its population. Even if a big player is merely absorbing their alt, they will have to rebuild 3/4 of the city's population if they want to keep capturing more. Often they must rebuild considerably more than 3/4, because the original city wasn't a 31000 population behemoth that will support the ever-increasing population threshold. If you want to build a 20-40 city account in any sensible timeframe, then you have to buy prestige.

We can see that the feature makes business sense for Illyriad Games Ltd.. The game map is filled with hundreds of accounts in the 9-10 city range. Raising the cap encouraged all remaining active 10-city players to start spending money on the game again. However, this update also created an immediate gap between players who spend meaningful amounts of prestige, and those who do not. The pay-to-win phenomenon will eventually appear in all commercially viable free-to-play titles, but that was a pronounced culture shift for the Illyriad Community (TM).

I also believe that the prestige cycle has taken on a different form than originally envisioned, to the great detriment of the overall game. The BOAs probably aren't buying prestige themselves. Wait, what? If they aren't buying prestige, then how are they building these enormous 20-40 city accounts?

All That Glitters


The update on 14 October 2014 introduced the ability to construct Prestige Items and sell them in the Illyriad trade hubs. Sales of gold for prestige had often happened in the form of sitter arrangements and alliance jumpers, but this update formalized prestige into a physical item that could be sold for gold.

Gold, I believe, is the main construction fuel of the mega-accounts. Unto itself, this isn't a bad phenomenon. Players can now effectively spend $3 USD to get 20-25M gold. As gold is useful for troops, diplomats, sovereignty, and various market purchases, this could be described as a overall good thing.

Where I personally object to the process is that it really encourages the BOAs to keep dead big accounts on life support. Many departing players will hand over their passwords to their friends. These accounts, often in the 8-10 city range, will then get converted into high-tax gold farms. Their sole purpose is to generate large sums of free gold and supplies for the main alliance accounts.

Let me be clear: it is my opinion that massive gold farm accounts are adding nothing to the game. Those accounts represent players who have left Illyriad. They are not played by people's wives, or by players who log in only occasionally to socialize and reset sitter rights. That is a sham. These accounts are occupying map space across the Illyriad world, doing nothing but enriching their multi-accounting owners.

Real traders, have you noticed a trend in the markets? For the last few years, the price of military supplies has gone down. Doesn't that strike you as odd? Kodabear has revived the yearly tournament, so shouldn't demand for supplies have increased? The markets have steadily declined because the BOAs were the main purchasers of military supplies, and almost all of their materiel is now produced internally via farms.

Real crafters, don't you think it's strange that the 22 February 2015 update introduced a 5x power update to crafted items, but since then, the price for crafted equipment and rare materials has fallen steadily? How is that possible? The power of that gear is higher than ever before, but prices sank? It's because the BOA gold farms are often filled with crafting centers. Your work is no longer really required.

Miners, herbalists, have you ever wondered who is holding the permanent valuable resources? If it's a very low growth account, chances are very strong that it's just a zombie account supporting a BOA player. Many times you won't even see harvesters going out to the plots. They sit idle until the main account needs some more rare material crafted into items.

Hunters, have you ever wondered about that nearby player who never shows any growth, just hunting and then harvesting the kills? BOA permasat, almost guaranteed. One look at the growth chart, and you can tell the difference between a main and a farm. Even the sov and city structures will give it away (and maybe that would make an interesting future article).

My intention here is not to write a manifesto against multi-accounting gold farming. Permasats are a fact of life in most MMO strategy games. What I want to highlight is that the 11+ update really kicked that process into high gear in Illyriad. Previously, you could supply a 9-10 city tournament account with a single 9 city alt. When you go to 20, 30, 40 cities, there is no way to supply all that except by collecting even more dead accounts to permasit. Even the alliances who don't play tournaments still need the permasats to supply gold to buy prestige, and the raw construction materials to actually prestige build the captured cities to completion.

The BOAs alone were uniquely positioned to receive the best gold farms. By operating zombie accounts and the occasional museum alliance, they are severely distorting the game simply by being big and old. A revitalized community would favor the alliances who are filled with active players, not the ones operating spreadsheets full of permasats. That hoarding of life support accounts is tilting all tournament results towards the BOAs. More importantly for the muggles, all those zombie accounts are suffocating the trade, the free markets, and crafting.

Fear and Loathing


So why is this topic even worthy of Warmongering in Illyriad? Because the 11+ update produced a crushing effect on PvP. Back in the day, big players hated losing city 10. It was painful to lose that town after the 10th city process: reconfigure all cities for high population, capture the 10th, and then restore all 10 cities to normal functioning status.

On today's battlefield, big players have repeated that process to 15, 20, 30 cities. If you point a credible siege in their direction, their first instinct is usually to flee via exodus rather than risk losing that town. Alliances with big accounts want to surrender as quickly as possible to limit city damage. The most visible recent example was the vCrow war. Despite having maybe 200-250 troop-producing cities that were mostly surrounded by plains, their alliance chose to concede the entire Broken Lands continent rather than face losing more cities. I believe the pain of permanently losing cities in the 11-30 range was a major influence on that decision.

Not all players will fear losing their 11th and subsequent cities. Unfortunately, I am forced to conclude that the morale of very large accounts will always be in question, because so much effort was invested into attaining 11-30 cities. What's the point of fighting wars where the biggest--and therefore the most glorious--opponents are inclined to drop their colors and surrender at the mere threat of losing a couple cities? It seems clear to me that the 11+ update opened a huge psychological gap between giant 11-40 city tournament accounts and the battle-hardened 9 city PvP accounts. If the big accounts are so brittle, then doesn't that just push the BOAs to be even more paranoid than ever before? I believe more people should explore and enjoy military PvP in this game, but once you cross into that 11+ city zone, the stakes just get excruciatingly high, which generates more hostility and reluctance towards PvP.

Breaking the Cycle


So what is to be done about this situation? Clearly the devs can't roll back the 11+ update, and I wouldn't want them to. The problems that we really need to fix involve keeping dead and nearly-dead accounts in the game for far too long. Specifically, there are some loopholes around accounts that badly need to be changed to make the game base healthier. To the Illyriad devs, I would personally recommend:
  1. Teleport functions like an instant exodus. No tiles change values.
  2. Holding sieges only affect the target city, not the whole account.
  3. Accounts past 90 days inactivity receive the visible (Abandoned) attribute, regardless of holding sieges.
  4. The (Abandoned) attribute immediately halts food production and deletes all sov.
  5. Accounts auto-delete at 105 days inactivity, regardless of holding sieges.
That would at least clear up the abuse of terraforming and the BOA ability to lock up dozens of map locations with a single token siege that costs nothing.

I cannot recommend that the devs crack down on the active permasat accounts. That doesn't make any economic sense for them. As long as people are buying prestige to trade for gold, then allowing the permasat gold farms to distort the markets makes good business sense for Illyriad Games Ltd., even if it is slowly rotting away the muggle community. I would, however, encourage the devs to post weekly stats on gold generation and consumption, so that people can see how much the gold farms are actually slanting the overall Illyriad economy in aggregate.

I would likewise suggest that players become more supportive of brush wars and breaking holding sieges, but such a shift is quite improbable.

Always remember, for muggles and true cannon fodders alike, that crossing the threshold of 11 cities requires massive structural changes to your account. Those changes will inevitably make PvP more painful and less appealing. Grow with caution.

One More Thing


Watch out for those zombie accounts.


May I join your museum brains? Er, alliance.

 
Misbehave, kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Server Gets Mouthy

Greetings, cannon fodders.

Did you notice that the server felt different today? The Illyriad devs have successfully released the 06 September 2017 update. The most obvious difference is the conversion of many volcanoes into Hellmouths. At present, people have found two varieties of Hellmouth: Woe and Anguish.


Oh look, it's a Jack 'o Cano!

Additionally, a new Herald post has been made, introducing the new Kerberos faction. This faction seems distinct from The Tower and their newly active hub of Omen. Multiple new units have been introduced of type Underworlder:

  Hellmaw
  Behemoth
  Hunter
  Deathrunner
  Firesinger
  Demon
  Imp
  Impaler

It remains to be seen if traditional crafted equipment works against these new units. The Undead and Monstrous type items will probably have no effect, but standard terrain and defense boost items should function normally.

No doubt new announcements are on the way, quite likely the dev tournament that GM Cerberus mentioned a few months ago. Obviously this is the update that was foreshadowed in ominous System messages over the course of several weeks.

Stay tuned, cannon fodders!


Misbehave, kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade