Thursday, 23 April 2015

Powerplay - a pre-beta view

Frontier have just announced more about the Powerplay major content update for the next release of Elite:Dangerous, and we should be entering into beta soon.

Looking at the screenshots provided then this one has, for me, the most information in the newsletter about what to expect, the image being an overview of control activity within the faction.

It shows the internecine nature of Empire politics in action that we've been following in the news feeds: Patreus working against Torval despite the public support she has provided. Although Aisling Duval might be dating Patreus in the news feeds the phrase "undermining Aisling Duval" now takes on a whole new meaning!

This has a significant impact on how players will view their relationship with major powers. Those loyal to the Empire now look like they have to choose a faction within the Empire, and this is no longer as simple as the Empire vs Federation insults that are hurled around from time to time!

Do you want a more traditional Empire? Support Chancellor Blaine. A more progressive and economically aggressive Empire? Patreus is your man.

Overall this is a much closer take on the tribal nature of politics: two people who patriotically support their country can disagree vehemently on which political party best represents and protects that country.

The equivalent political tensions have been set up in Federation space with Halsey vs Hudson, though the Alliance has been strangely quiet up until now and we know very little about it.

Mission goals
The missions within Powerplay look very much like the community goals, and with good reason. The goals have become foci for player activity and, in a huge galaxy, have brought them together into a tight space.

Each of the missions will have to surface for players to interact with however. A signal source with a mission profile that contributes to a goal is one way to set up a mission like this, and in line with the range of ways of satisfying community goals that we've see so far.

It looks like the "obtain mil plans" objective in the Lugh campaign is how the mission shown here to liberate prisoners from private security ships will play out.

Lugh was was an intensely focussed community event that drew in around 5000 players into the combat alone. Powerplay looks like it will create a lot of hotspots across the galaxy, but with a smaller number of players. With this will be the likelihood of knowing and meeting an adversary again and again.

Mission complexity and importance
More tiers in an objective would represent larger levels of change, and to achieve them would need a determined effort by supporters, possibly at the expense of successes elsewhere.

Support costs
Systems that are controlled appear to be in one of three upkeep costs: undermined, controlled, fortified. This does translate into an economic dimension that will feedback negatively on expansion. A confrontation on too many fronts is one that would destabilise a faction and force it back into a core controlled space.

Control vs Preparation vs Expansion
The view here is of a "Control" tab which suggests consolidating your systems and ensuring they are economic to run. There is also an Expansion tab, as yet unseen, but it does indicate elements of strategy.

A Preparation tab also points to changes in systems boundaries needing time to set up rather than being regular occurrences. Wars can be won or lost in the supply lines. Fail to set up the expansion and you can't try to move into a new system. Move into a new system and control costs will be high. Manage control costs before you try to expand again. Fend off incursion at the expense of preparation for expansion.

Players that are too gung-ho on the expansion will find they have dragged their faction's economy to a halt, and so a period of consolidation through control would be required. So players within a faction can find themselves undermining each other through lack of co-ordination!

A vicious cycle that means strategy within the faction and a more focused/coordinated gameplay will do better.

The Preparation and Expansion goals might well be more demanding than the Control goals - we'll have to see.

Interesting times are ahead...