It didn’t took the devs long to bring “Maze Engine: Alliances” to the preview server after announcing it on Monday. The first build has been patched to the preview server on Friday and I had a chance to look at some of the new content over the weekend.
I’m not in a guild on the PTS and don’t intend to, so the alliance system is something I will most likely not experience before it goes live on June, 7th, but the system can only be evaluated over time anyway. Right off the bat I have a few pros and cons though.
The hierarchical structure of alliances is something that is probably going to be problematic for some, but it might be necessary to keep all tiers of guilds interested. The main question is why a maxed out guild to would share their marketplace and donate to their sisters’ coffers. Of course one incentive is guild marks, but the other comes in the form of the so-called alliance bonuses, which rise with the level of the whole alliance. Taking Star Trek Online as reference, it could be more ADs and experience for the Helm (Tier 1) Guild while Tier 3 (Sword) Guilds will probably get cheaper Stronghold structures and Tier 2 (Gauntlet) Guilds a balance of both.
Maybe you could have been able to set up a same system where guilds align as equal partners, but let’s also not forget the code is probably largely a copy of the STO one and fundamentally changing the system would have required more resources.
And in the end everybody should profit anyway. Alliances have a much larger playerbase to work with in terms of Dragonflights for example. Smaller guilds that have no shot at getting down more than one or two should immediately be able to get all four. Runs will probably be organized in the alliance channel regardless of guild affiliation. You call a Stronghold where the run takes place and anybody can join. Same for marketplaces or Influence runs etc.
I’m however not so sure the donation sharing will work equally great. To me it looks like as system of who’s going to get screwed over the most. Will Tier 1 Guilds force the alliance to donate to their coffers first? And once they have maxed out and need Guild Marks, will the Tier 2 and Tier 3 Guilds block the coffers that generate the most Marks and force the upper tier guilds to grind campaign currency, Surplus and Influence for them? Otherwise the coffers that are already easy to fill just will just flow over even faster, blocking the most convenient ways to get Guild Marks for own members. Unless you have a bunch of guilds that are already closely bonded or consist of mostly altruistic members it’s hard to envision an arrangement in which everyone equally profits.
Alliances also add to the already unstable guild system. Strongholds added the need to constantly refill ranks to keep donations up and alliances will add the need to always keep your guild spots filled as well. Tier 2 Guilds will eventually be strong enough to become Tier 1 ones and open up their own alliance. And Tier 3 Guilds might seek to step up the ladder somewhere else as well.
The system should work best if you are in control of all the guilds within the alliance, sort of a super-guild. In such a setup, players and characters could not only advance within their guild, but also within the alliance. Members could be moved around freely depending on their status. The best donators and/or veteran members earn themselves the best progressed Stronghold in the Helm Guild, regular contributors and members reside in the Gauntlets ones with Strongholds that are not yet maxed out and alternative characters and recruits have to proof themselves in the Sword Guilds that have the least Stronghold progression. You could even build up a PVP Stronghold within such an alliance. If you have 500+ members, it shouldn’t be a problem over time. It’s an intriguing option, but I’m not sure Neverwinter has the population for that.
Overall alliances should provide a boost to all guilds alike, but in terms of donation sharing drama is inevitable. It also seems the system helps bigger guilds more than smaller ones, which is why I would have liked a setup that would have allowed small guilds to collaborate directly. It’s certainly interesting how the first alliances will look and develop. Will bigger guilds settle for a smaller role in a powerful alliance? Will smaller guilds consisting of a few active members suddenly be highly coveted to fill the lower ranks? We are set to find out in June!
What’s your first take on the alliance system? Share it in the comments below or visit our message board!