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Discussion in 'UO Developer Feed' started by UODevTracker, Apr 14, 2010.
To view the original thread, please click here.
We have been working hard on making some major updates to the Factions system, and we are now commencing public testing of these changes. They represent some significant changes to the Factions system. As such, we feel it is important to do extensive public testing and gather as much feedback as we can.
First and foremost, please be assured that we will make very sure these changes are as well tested and debugged as possible before publish. Even though these Factions system updates are now in testing, this does not by any means signal our intent to publish them with the next live update. In Publish 65, we added a new feature that allows us to patch out alternative maps for testing while leaving the Live versions untouched. This gives us the ability to keep the Factions changes in parallel development and hold off on publishing them to the live game for as long as needed.
You are invited to join the public playtest of the Factions system changes. You will find a test shard named "Factions" on the server list. This server is dedicated to testing the Factions changes, but it has all the normal test center features enabled. Please, create a character, join a faction, and come join the fight!
Please utilize this forum to offer feedback, report bugs, and discuss your experiences. I will be here frequently to take in the feedback and answer questions in depth.
Here is a quick rundown of the things you can expect to see:
1> There are now three factions. Their names (Crusaders of Virtue, Guardian’s Legion, and Free Tradesmen) are temporary placeholders, and deciding on the final names is one point we would very much like feedback on. The three factions’ philosophies are all opposed to each other – each faction can find evil in the purpose and deeds of the other two. They have updated blurbs on their recruitment stones.
2> Each of the three factions has a new stronghold. Two of the strongholds have been placed in newly-renovated mountainous areas. The former Minax stronghold is now the home of the Guardian’s Legion, but the base has been completely rebuilt. All of the bases are completely unique, including their layouts, architectural style, and furnishings. They are designed to present interesting choices for assault and defense.
3> The score system has been completely reworked. The new system scores players in combat based on the following actions: damaging enemies, healing allies, stealthing, revealing stealth, and fighting in the presence of of town sigils. These scores are designed not to accumulate continuously but instead to act as ongoing ratings that compare players against each other. This means that scores will fluctuate up and down over time based on ever-changing conditions. It is the intent that the new score system measure actual real-world player performance in combat, instead of being a value that accumulates over time. Score is now awarded for overall performance in battle rather than simply for scoring kills or corrupting sigils. As such, it is no longer possible to transfer points between players.
4> The ranking system has been altered. There are now only 8 ranks. Each rank has a unique name. The names of the lower four ranks are the same for all factions, and each faction has unique names for its higher four ranks. There is also a new Rank 0, named “Deserter”, which is reserved for those who join factions but never fight in a battle. Ranks have some minimum participation requirements in terms of time spent in Faction combat. Ranks are otherwise distributed based on overall player score, with only a very small percentage of players able to attain the highest rank. Assignment of ranks depends on active (i.e. non-Deserter) players in each Faction. A player may only be promoted or demoted one rank per day. The "punkte" speech command now opens a UI window that shows you your score breakdown and gives you a sense of how your performance relative to your faction mates may or may not merit you a promotion in rank.
5> Faction artifacts now have lower rank requirements, because it will be difficult to attain maximum rank. The highest tier of Faction artifacts will require Rank 5, which is sufficiently difficult to attain but not so difficult that only a handful of players will be able to use them.
6> There are now in-game leaderboards that update hourly. Each stronghold will have one set of leaderboards for its own faction, and a set of all-factions leaderboards. These will list players in order of overall score, the five sub-scores, and also by total kill count and kill ratio.
At this point I do not want to go into too much detail about the updates to the score system. In the near future I will begin offering more details about how it actually works. But for now, I just want you to play the system, form opinions about whether the new score system seems fair and accurate, and tell us what you think!
Happy playtesting! I’ll be joining in, anonymously of course, so I’ll probably see you there...
(note: the server is expected to go live at 3:00 PM EDT on 14 April)
Right now the sigil timers and the process for taking towns are unchanged. Updates to town conquest are on the radar for the future, not this initial Factions update.
Silver is the same, as are the stat loss timers. We are planning on making tweaks to these things as the playtest progresses, with an eye towards including those changes with the first Live publish of this system change.
Our current line of thinking is to reduce the statloss timer but not completely eliminate it.
Since there will be a couple of months between now and when this hits a live server, players will have time to make an alternate suit. All faction artifacts are just replicas of PVE artifacts, so if you really gotta have it, then you can farm it from PVE.
IMO a good imbued suit is plenty good to start. It's not going to be the tip top, but as you point out, nobody is going to have the new faction artifacts so it will be a level playing field.
Anyway, we hope you will come on over to the Factions TC and check it out.
As Mike mentioned, this is just the beginnings... provided there is support from the players to move forward. Cal's not going to let us keep working on it if noone seems to be interested. We are really excited about these changes so I hope you all well at least create a character on the Faction TC and check it out for yourself.
The moongate link to Ter Mur has been activated.
The intent of the design is for score to rate players on the same scale regardless of whether they play a lot or a little. In other words, someone who plays eight hours a day but sucks would have a lower score than someone who plays 1 hour a week but owns. The low-score guy wouldn't be able to attain high rank because of low score, but the high-score guy wouldn't be able to attain high rank because of low participation.
The levels of participation required for each rank are actually not that high. Meeting the time requirements should be the easy part. Fighting well enough to raise your score should be the difficult part.
I'd also like to note that at this time I will speak a lot about the intended results of the design, without speaking much about the details of the design. The details will come later.
I'm not being coy for its own sake. This playtest needs to tell us whether the system is functioning as intended. For now, I'd like everyone to play the system and make discoveries about it, to be able to offer feedback based on actual experience instead of theorycraft and speculation.
I think this would be an appropriate change to make. However, I'd like more feedback on it before making a final decision.
The stat loss on the Faction server is currently 5 minutes. I've seen one post in this thread that seems to have noticed. As far as I can tell, he's the only poster who has mentioned stat loss that has actually played on the Faction shard. (Thank you Cardell!)
Have a little faith regarding a fiction based transition to a three faction system. This isn't going out for ***months***. The new factions are a part of the new story line. We are trying to test mechanics here, not story line. My current live story line has a timeline that takes us through the end of the year.
I played last night and had no lag in any of the keeps. I was using the enhanced client. It is helpful to hear from people who are having lag and we will be glad to make improvements. Hear-say and speculative reports of probable lag is not helpful, we know it *might* cause lag.
We might add the ability for people to get imbuing ingredients easily on the Faction shard, but for the time being you can get any artifact in the game on the shard by using the verbal commands. You can also set your stats and skills using verbal commands. The information is in a sticky on this forum but you can see the commands in game by just saying "help commands."
I'll just go ahead and say it, though I realize that a couple of people have called for me to be fired, I designed those keeps. I designed them to support the story. I designed them to actually look like a castle and not an arena. I play a lot of pvp in many games and I always hated the way the keeps look in other games... they don't look like anyone lives there, I'm not even sure I would want to defend such a crappy building. I designed the keeps to make them places that people would take ownership of and want to defend. I designed them so that players could have a fight while running through a castle. I designed them to be part of a virtual world where people fight for a cause and have homes and lives.
The halls are wide to prevent cheesy stuff like 2 people who happened to be in the area stopping a 10 man raid that you spent the past hour putting together with a pile of impassable items. I've had that happen way too much in poorly designed keeps. I designed these keeps so that if some jerk piles candelabras to block a hallway, they are going to need a truckload. I designed them so that greater dragons are not overpowered... or energy fields.
I want keeps to give the defenders an advantage but I want them to be fun too. 3 defenders should have an advantage over 5 attackers in their own keep but not 3 defenders beating 10 attackers... unless the 10 just suck.
I want to say something briefly to the haters in this thread. I get up in the morning thinking about the players of UO and how I can entertain you. I spend all day working on it. I would appreciate a little consideration. You don't have to like what I designed, but speak to me as if I was actually standing in front of you.
Believe me, if the keeps are truly "crap" then they will ***never*** go live. I didn't spend hours upon hours to design them so that I could "ruin the game". To be honest, I'm completely surprised that more people don't say, "Wow, finally some bases that actually look like they belong in a fantasy role playing game."
I realize there will always be those sad people who just come to the internet to spread their hate. I also realize that many people fear change. I also realize that I'm not always right. I also realize that the test shard went live at 3:30pm yesterday and most people haven't had a chance to try the new stuff.
I will be interested to see feedback that will be coming through this weekend when people have more time to actually play on the new server. And finally, for the record, I have never played WOW and I do not think playing it would make me better at designing UO.
Pro Zak, I appreciate your feedback. I'm interested to hear more.
I also want to say to all of you that I realize that about every 2 years some designer comes along and tries to "fix" factions... and in the past it hasn't really helped.
Maybe it would be appropriate to say a little about where we would like to head. None of this is set in stone but it might make what we have presented in the first release make more sense:
I can say that we intend to do something about faction arties, even if it is just making them exactly like the ones that you can get in pve. None of this is really decided. Current discussions involves giving crafters some part to play in it.
I can say that we want to make pvp more new player friendly, this speaks directly to stat loss. We understand that you need to be able to route an enemy but a new player dies about 4 times to every time he gets a kill... that is a lot of down time with the current system.
We also have intent to do some stuff with crafting in factions, which is why there is crafting equipment there. I would like to allow them to be upgradable with faction silver too. The main reason there are bankers in there is for the crafters... no one is going to craft in there if they can't ditch their stuff when the building gets raided. Perhaps I should make them be something else that isn't a banker... like maybe just a magic chest you can put things in at the base to protect it during a raid.
Also, we are looking at ways to make towns upgradable using faction silver. Maybe towers that can be added that give bonuses of various types. With this, other ways to create things to spend faction silver on... like insurance.
Another part of the plan is to focus sigil fighting. Current thinking is to make it so one town is "vulnerable" to overtaking at a time. Then you log in looking for some action you know that right now you need to head to Britain, or Moonglow, etc.
We are very conscious of the fact that thieves are really important to factions and we intend to continue to support them moving forward.
We have a lot of ideas on paper but we wanted to put stuff on this new server in stages and then adapt to how the fans of the game want to go. We don't want to go down a new road 20 miles and then turn around and no one has come with us... so far, we have gone about 2 miles and yesterday we looked back.
Another goal is to just get more people involved. There is some feedback that I don't seem to know how this faction game is played, but I would argue that the way it is currently played doesn't attract many people. I'm trying to turn a fringe game that isn't even really acknowledged by the larger world of Sosaria and turn it into a cause. If at all possible, I want to keep our current faction players and double that number. The fact that more people don't play factions makes it hard for our bosses to let us spend time on it. I hope you all well help us push factions farther into the spotlight so we can get more time to work on it.
Please hang with us and help us make factions better. It really does matter to us as much as it matters to you that you want to play in factions. Also, I appreciate the change in tone on this thread to a more civil conversation. Now it sounds like a community of people who love UO and are just trying to protect it for the sake of everyone (including me, who feeds my family by doing this). I appreciate your passion for UO.
I don't understand how you are defending without fighting people. Are you just kind of watching out for someone and if they come telling the people in your guild to come help?
Deserters don't count. That is one of the key reasons to lable them deserters. You are only compared to active players. Deserters also can't wear faction artifacts which keeps people from joining just to get artifacts and then not supporting the faction. Of course, if you actually help your faction for a minimum amount of time per week you are not a derter and it takes about 15 minutes of pvping to remove your deserter status.
One thing you might not know is that you can't get points unless you are near members of enemy factions. Also, you gain points in direct proportion to how many enemies are around, so if you are good it always pays to be the underdog. Finally, your ability to gain rank is directly relative to how you are doing relative to all the other active players. So, if all players in factions tried to create a conspiracy to just stand around each other and then jump off a wall and heal themselves... they would have a decent healing score but they would all be rank 2 because none were actually getting ahead. If you all have 10000 points, you are all a low rank... rank comes by doing better than other players not from just a raw pile of points.
This also means that as the game matures the ranks will normalize. If everyone gets better at the same rate, then the ranks don't change. If we raise dps for everyone, then the ranks don't really change.
The scoring system is comparative. The only thing that the statistics tell you is where you are weak and strong compared to the other players. So, "my healing is a little low" is a helpful observation but "I got my healing up to 11000 today" doesn't inherantly mean anything. That also means that it doesn't break things if we reward healing yourself. Healing yourself by potions or spells is part of being a good player. Everyone who is good does it. Thus, it is part of what makes you good and is measured.
So, in the new system we have a measure of your ability as a soldier (rank) and then a measure of service to the faction (silver). We are looking at adding a third element that is a measure of your Loyalty to the faction but that system isn't very far along.
Well, the core of it is consentual pvp. But we want to add other elements to make it relevant to people who don't pvp. For example, I don't play football, never have other than some school yard/sand lot stuff. That doesn't mean I can't be involved in pro-football. I can support the team by buying tickets. I can gamble on it. I can watch the games. I can discuss it with my friends. I can start a magazine about it. I can give commentary. These are all valid ways to be a part of pro football without being good at football.
In the military, I know there are people who spend their entire career and never shoot anyone. My dad was one of them, he was a dentist in the Air Force. He was valuable to them, he was "involved". But as far as I know he isn't much of a warrior.
So, Factions isn't a sport, but the analogy stands that there should be ways to be involved in factions that don't require you to be good at pvp.
If you have spies that just watch the enemy base from invisibility, isn't that valuable? Aren't they putting themselves in danger to serve their faction? Shouldn't that service be counted? Will they every pass Rambo? No, but they are helping and Rambo doesn't hate them for helping. Rambo is glad he has some intel.
As I said above, hiding is only rewarded when enemies are nearby and it is rewarded in direct proportion to how many enemies are nearby. Also, nothing is rewarded if you are inside a private house. You might be able to snipe from a roof, but you will not get credit for it.
Well, the complexity is only a problem if it is complex to use. I think we need to do a better job of making it simple to interpret the result. When I look at the score board, I just want to know if I'm better than my friend who said that he was the best guy on the server. Maybe we should just report your rank in every category instead of some wierd number that you don't really know what it means. Like, I'm 300th in damage and 50th in healing and 500th in hiding and 50th overall. Then just let the computer figure out all that other stuff.
Nothing stops everyone from joining the same faction, but I think you actually get negative credit if you kill your own faction. Also, you get a fat multiplier if you are outnumbered. The idea is, the best players will always favor the smaller faction because it pays better. The medium players follow the best players and create an equilibrium. The crappy players just do whatever and no one cares if they are all in the same faction. They just exist so that you can be better than them. heh.
Let's see if we can't un-derail the thread.
The "vision" of the scoring system is so that faction participation gets rewarded.
So as much as possible player activity within the faction system should get you points.
We're working out the bugs in the point calculations system (divide by 0 VERY BAD)
But the theory behind the point boards is to allow players to get an overall feel of how they are doing in factions.
So after you have spent noting all the stuff being tracked, and then wondering why would you give points for that?
Consider the following
The current system only tracks kill points. So what incentive is there to be anything other than a stealth archer hiding out at a good res spot?
There's really no reward, incentive or tracking of anything other than the last hit.
The in progress system allows us to rank based on what players are actually doing.
So dishing out alot of damage will net you some points. Not getting that last hit won't mean that your effort amounted to nothing.
Getting that kill shot will still be sweet, but if all you're going to be doing is waiting for the kill shot, you are really not being as useful as the guy dishing out the damage that allowed you to make the kill shot.
Tracking things like stealth, and healing.
If you're stealthing around and reporting and gathering intel for your faction, you are performing a valuable service.
Sitting back and healing your faction mates even though you aren't in the fray directly, is also a valuable service.
The important thing to remember is that if you sat there and fought one guy and got X points from damage, Y points for healing.
X could be 100000000 and Y could be 10000000000.
You're still gonna be considered low rank if everyone else has done 10 times as much damage, healing, or stealthing than you.
So you can sit there with a buddy and beat on each other morning and night till I convince the Power's that be to let me make Frying pans, chairs, and lutes wieldable in combat, but in the end you still are competing with anyone else who's actively participating.
Hopefully I was exaggerating on the billions of points and when we iron out the issues with the point system itself there should be less dramatic occurrences.
*Only 4 minutes to re-derail my attempt at un-derailing*
*Now I must attempt to re-un-derail the re-railed-un-derailed derailed railed thread*
Try saying that fast.
I think you might be taking my comment out of context. I was explaining how the fact that we don't put caps on the number of people who can join a faction isn't going to unbalance factions. In any team, organization, army, whatever, you have 20% of the people doing 80% of the work. It's an old cliche and it is old because it is true. My point is that if the 20% who do 80% of the work stay reasonably distributed among the factions then the 80% that only do 20% of the work can do whatever they want and the system will still balance. I have no interest in labelling individual people. Perhaps "crappy" was a poor choice of words, perhaps I should have said "people who don't really help the cause in any measurable way."
I think the new scoring system will actually give some overdue credit to your members who help with healing and stealthing. We obviously don't devalue these services to the faction because we are now giving them points for it.
Anyway, I hear those people who say they want to get together on the test shard and show me specific problems with the keeps. I will be glad to get together with you in a few weeks and you can show me. As I said in the beginning I am not able to spend much time on this, I am currently working on pub 66 stuff and I have deadlines for that. Once I get my pub 66 stuff done I can get involved with factions again. That's how it has been since last November when we started this project.
Until then, Shade out.
These things are part of the long-term plan. These plans are still in the design phase. As such, I'm interested in getting some feedback.
Here's a nebulous overview of where we'd like to go with town control:
Basically, we'd like to change the way it works such that each of the 8 controllable towns would come up for grabs in a continuously rotating schedule of approximately three hours. The schedule would work in such a way that the window to take a town shift by a few minutes each day, and from the perspective of someone who plays at the same time every day then each day a different town is up for grabs.
So, instead of being a constantly ongoing battle open for potentially all towns, the game instead would be a series of concentrated battles for single town at a time. At any given time, all online players would be able to tell what town's capture window is open. The idea is to capture that town's sigil, hold it for a short time to corrupt it, then successfully return it to the town. Failure of any faction to do so means the town goes uncontrolled until it comes up for capture again the next day.
I'd like to see responses discussing the pros and cons of a system such as this. This feedback is important because it will help shape a possible future Factions change. Again, this is something we are considering for future development, not something we have solid plans right now to implement and publish.
Ok, I got my stuff turned in for an upcoming EM event (check the herald it starts late next week).
Shade is what I call my GI Joe name... it is like Phoenix. I only use it on things like jack o lanterns in game. I was told I needed to come up with one and that is what I came up with.
Ok, rotating schedule...
First, the idea is that there is actually more stability in town ownership, not less. Thieving is still important but you are now thieving during this window of around three hours when everyone knows you are trying to thieve. You will probably need a diversion.
Corruption is only going to take a short time... like 30 minutes. But then you have to keep defending until the 3 hour window closes. If someone starts corrupting 10 minutes before the window closes, you go into overtime. If the relic is picked up, the timer starts over.
One of the key reasons to have multiple places to corrupt is so that you can decide where you want to stage your defense. In each keep, some places to hide it favor melee and some favor range.
So, what I imagine will happen during the window is that it won't even get interesting until the last hour... because you don't really want to corrupt it in the first 30 minutes and then defend it for 2.5 more hours. (it is not exactly 3 hours or it wouldn't rotate right, but for the sake of this explaination it works to say 3.)
Another element of this is that there is intent to do things with your town. Like... you own the town for a reason. (**shock**). So, it's going to be a benefit that after you get the town locked down it won't be up for grabs again for a little bit more than a day.
There is an inherant balancing element here... because the more towns you own, the harder it is to keep them all.
The schedule will be known. It will probably be on the Herald. The lore is something like... the Gargoyles have some kind of forcefield magic that is preventing the end of their world by destruction from the void, this knowledge is used with some modification to protect the towns of Felucca from being invaded... unfortuately there isn't enough power to protect them all so there is a rolling blackout.
We could add a mechanism that allows the owners to "power" the field themselves through the blackout. Again, this probably involves some kind of crystal or blood sacrifice or huge mounds of cash... who knows. That part is still pretty incubator.
The main thing it does is create big stretches of time where you can enjoy the fruit of your efforts. There is nothing making you fight all the time. If you all get happy owning 2 towns apiece, then you can all create a pact and just agree not to attack each other... of course... there are those other two towns just sitting there tempting you.
If a town comes up for grabs and is owned by one of the factions, lets say the Freetradesmen (my slogan I like to use for the Free Tradesmen was "If yer so smart, why ain't you rich". Like the way all their stuff is imported?) hold Moonglow when it becomes vulnerable. During that time someone steals the sigil.. but they screw around for too long and it snaps back. Then someone else steals it and starts corrupting it... but then it gets moved from the pillar and they have to start over. Then they have to start over again... Then it gets carried around so long it snaps back to the town. Etc.
So, say no one corrupts it within the 3 hours... even though have of Felucca has had their grubby mits on the sigil... guess who still owns it. FT for another day.
Here's another thought. FT can steal their own Sigial and just take it back to their base if they think it is more defendable. It isn't actually corrupting but they are getting good bonus points for fighting near it.
Anyway, this is how we are kind of envisioning it working. It's not a constant grind to hold a town, it actually gives you time to enjoy your towns and feel like you actually own them instead of having someone steal your stuff a 3 am. You can still do alarmclock raids in the new system... there will be a town that is vulnerable at 3am. But if you took it at 7pm it won't be gone at 3 am the same night.
I realize there is a lot of "it kind of works like this" in this post but that is because I'm describing something that doesn't even have a design document yet.
What Mike is really looking for with his post is any exploit or way such a thing might break. "It might work as long as you account for X" is also welcome.
Ok, I'm headed home, I'm still up to my neck in Pub 66 so I won't be posting much here in the next week.
I am listening, there were some people who asked for clarification so I gave it. I guess, honestly, I'm kind of baffled that you don't like it so I was assuming you didn't understand it and was trying to explain it better.
JC and Tink, I can see your point that if you are trying to capture and hold every city you would have to stay up all night. I guess this idea was built around some notion that what would make factions more popular is epic battles.
Ok, here are a couple of town related ideas, I'll see if these get any traction. One idea that was pretty popular among the devs and my personal favorite was giving each faction their own currency... like colored faction silver. This silver changes value depending on how many cities you hold. For every town you control the value of your silver against gold goes up. If you control more than 4 towns, your factions silver is worth more than gold in Felucca. This assumes we change all the town vendors to accept either faction silver of the controlling faction or gold. You could loot other factions silver or even trade it normally. In this scenereo, the faction could no longer actively set vendor prices, they can just influence the market by holding cities.
We have also been talking about city upgrades, like special buildings or towers that might have some benefit... like cause certain minerals to become more common near the town for miners.
In truth, so far we have just been looking at making epic battles. We have said, "and then we will need to do something to make the cities more interesting," but we have only really brainstormed a bit.
Another thing I am interested in is making the way a faction chooses their leader more thematic. For example, in the Guardian's Legion might makes right so whoever had the highest score in the faction that week is the new boss. In the Free Tradesmen, you vote with gold. Each person can vote as many times as you want but all gold used to vote is gone. Elected official is still elected for the week. For the Crusaders of Virtue, only those with positive karma can vote and for every rank of positive karma you have you get an extra vote. Those aren't set in stone, but that is the kind of thing about factions that truly interests me. I guess I'm most interested in the parts of factions that equate to a player run civilization.
The themes of the new factions are Guardian's Legion (connected to The Guardian of Ultima lore) is all about being against the Avatar, Lord British and won't stop till they rid Sosaria of their stench. They are a might makes right kind of people. The Crusaders of Virtue are the combined forces of the TB and the COM (who in my humble opinion have always seemed to be poised as enemies in a very artificial way... I get the fact that they don't agree but would they really slaughter each other in the fields?). They are a Virtue makes right kind of people. Free Tradesmen are the wealthy merchants of Felucca who are sick and tired of getting ganked by reds while they are mining and crafting, have lost faith in the nobility to protect them and have decided to take their considerable wealth and hire their own army of mercenaries to take Felucca for the people. Their philosophy is wealth makes right.
Why would a red want to be in a good faction other than to subvert it? Talk about non-role-play gamey nonsense. A red is a non-repentant serial killer. In my mind, and this is the only part of factions that I really stick on, factions are supposed to be a cause that your characters fight and die for, not just green Drozi vs. purple Drozi. (sorry for the Bab 5 allusion)
As far as the evil faction being addled by back stabbing, intrigues, and otherwise exploiting... that is probably the most role playing factions has seen in years. Also, in the new point system, your score is reset if you switch factions so you would have to be a pretty serious mole who ends up with a large supply of evil faction silver just to subvert it.
Voting in the rich folk faction doesn't need to be expensive, it is only as expensive as they make it. If someone rolls in and drops 200,000,000,000 on one of the candidates... that person is probably going to win but that money is gone, out of the game forever, and they are only going to be leader for a week. To me, getting 200,000,000,000 gold out of the game in one shot sounds like a great idea.
As far as being able to farm colored faction silver, I'm not sure how that would be gated. Faction silver is supposed to be mercenary payment for doing faction work. I would start there and try to come up with a way to make it fair to all people who help factions without just leaving the system at "we just take towns to jack down the prices to the bottom allowable so that Trammys will come down here and get ganked." That system does not even encourage you to take more than one town.
One of the key things that new factions and new colored faction silver allows us to do is just dump a lot of the trash. For example, we make something to replace Faction arties... How do we get rid of the old arties? If we grandfather them we just make Factions less approachable because the old players are still overpowered. If we just make new factions... you keep the old armor as a rare but can't wear it in Factions because you aren't in that Faction anymore. Also, if we go to a colored/minted faction silver system we get to devalue old silver. Old silver is for old factions.
Yes, the Guardian is the same Guardian. We were looking at him because he is core Ultima and a bad enough dude to unite the Minax and SL factions under one roof. Minax would still be around, I have no intention of killing her off any time soon. Minax influence is evident in the design of the Guardian's Legion keep. I was going for a 'vampire chic' look.
Bringing in the Guardian would be bending the timeline a bit, but UO has done that a lot. We added gargoyles in Ilshenar. The real question at this point is not whether I should associate it with the Guardian, it is whether or not we should reduce factions to 3. Right now I'm questioning that decision. Again, the main reason to reduce it to 3 is to pool the people playing factions to create bigger factions and bigger battles. Of course, designing and implementing upgrades for 3 factions takes less time than designing and implementing upgrades for 4 factions... especially when you get into new buildings and such.
So, to elaborate on the fiction I've been working on, the 3 faction system would be combining the 2 good factions and the 2 bad factions and then adding a wild card faction which represented an ideal of not wanting Sosaria to be run by good or bad. I chose the rich because it fits with how UO is actually played. There are some super rich players in this game and it is believable that rich people are powerful and want to control things.
As far as thinking that what I say here is set in stone, not even the stuff on the Factions test center is set in stone. I don't know of any time in the history of UO that we have run a parallel shard to do experimental stuff, so I can understand why you assume that whatever is up there is going in the game. The fact that it is on a parallel shard and not on the pre-pub test center should be a big hint that we aren't sure that this is what is best for UO. Otherwise we would have just made it part of Pub 65. In my opinion, if we had this parallel shard in the past, faction arties would not have gone live as they are now. Now that they are live it is really really hard to change it.
I have always been a decisive thinker and communicator, I just don't have the personality to whimper and snivel. I lay out my ideas and go, "this is what we need to do." The fact that it is my opinion is implicit and I never feel the need to say so. If someone says something that changes my mind, I go, "OK, now this new thing is what we need to do." Indecisiveness and fear of making an unpopular decision is why factions tend to get nothing. Live events is easy... give people stuff and they love you. PVP balance is hard. There is a saying around PVP designers, "when both sides are pancakes the same amount, you probably got it right."