We did not think we were going to do additional serious updates until Alpha 4, but we have changed our minds. We added two new features - Protectorate Mechanic, which allows one player to become the protector of another, and an Invitation System, which allows existing players to invite their friends into the game RIGHT NOW.
Let's talk about them in detail.
If you do not belong to an alliance you can ask another (stronger) player to become your protector. This is a relationship between two players, not between alliances. When in a protectorate relationship, players cannot attack each other and the protector can collect a levy from the reinforced town of the player in protection. A levy is collected as a percentage of that player's resource income in that town. Collection is not instant and continues until the reinforcing army's baggage is filled. Afterwards, protector can recall their troops to deliver the collected resources to their towns and send fresh troops for further collection.
This mechanic will allow players to establish a profitable relationship between weaker and stronger (or aggressive and peaceful) players, where one player is providing troops and another is paying for protection. Plus this relationship will be in a format which will allow everyone to see it and it may act as a warning sign for plunderers and attackers to beware.
A Protectorate relationship can be cancelled by any side at any time.
This mechanic is experimental - we are not sure whether or not it will work as a good alternative to plundering weaker players, but we hope that when there are more strong players, competing for weaker ones, it might work. Anyway, try it and let us know how it looks like from your side.
We had originally planned on setting up a system which would allow existing players to invite friends in Alpha 4. However, we have decided to make this function available now so that we can test it in advance - and here it comes. There is a new "Invites" tab in your control panel (green bar in the upper right of each page) where you can send invitations, and see who accepts them. I know there is not much time left until Alpha 4, so invited players will not have enough time to enjoy the game properly. But we need this tested - so please try to invite someone to test it out. Also, I really hope you have friends outside of this game ;)