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Closing the Gap: Suggested PvP Enhancements


WhiteStriker

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Introduction

My purpose for writing this post is to make a series of suggestions which I feel can help improve the player versus player (PvP) experience for Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). For me, SWTOR has been an amazing experience for the last year for most of the PvE content and some of the PvP content; however, I think that there is a huge gap to fill, in terms of enjoyment when playing this game, in the area of PvP when compared to other games, and I think some of the issues I am bringing up might be useful for closing the gap. As a disclaimer, I am merely a fan and player of this game; I have no game development experience, but I can say, after playing this game for a year, I know which areas of the game I enjoy the most, and which areas I do not enjoy as much. I would also welcome feedback from the players on some of my suggestions on how to improve the PvP experience. I would also appreciate feedback from any Bioware staff to explain their reasoning for doing things the way they are doing, or to see what they think about some of the suggestions I have posted.

 

Warzones: What I like

I don’t like making all of my suggestions only about the negative, so I do realistically want to talk about what I like in SWTOR PvP. So far, the variety of warzones that has been offered in the Warzones has been slightly above average; it could certainly improve, but I actually enjoy the various kinds of warzones that are currently available. I am probably in the minority when I say that I enjoy huttball as one of my favorite warzones because it feels more like a sport and it requires a substantial amount of teamwork and coordination, but to me, that is what a warzone should be about. The other warzones offer this as well, but I think hutball does the best job at this; clearly this is my opinion. The various types of objectives in the warzones keep the games fun so that it’s not just about killing enemy characters (not that a mode for doing just that would be unwelcome).

 

Warzones: What I Would Like to See

One possible thing that I would like to see with Warzones is the ability to select the warzone you wish to participate in. I realize that too few people being placed into separate PvP queues might the limiting factor here which is why such an idea has possibly not been implemented yet. I think part of this problem was corrected when updates were made to each warzone to allow for same-faction modes. I think further improvement to the PvP queue sizes could also be made if cross-server queuing were implemented. Sharing players across servers would increase the pool of players wishing to participate in warzones which would result in shorter queue times and possibly make a large enough pool of players available to implement my first suggestion of being able to choose the warzone you wish to say. Priority wise, I think cross-server queuing is more important than selecting the warzone, however.

 

I would also like to see warzones that can be played with smaller groups of players. Let’s say it’s a slow day and there are fewer people who are playing PvP; 4v4 warzones with Warzones actually intended for four people (please don’t use 8 man warzones for smaller groups), could keep people playing PvP more frequently as opposed to sitting around the fleet getting bored.

 

I would also like to see additional warzone modes revolving around simple modes like Team Death Match (the first team to get x number of kills wins) and Capture The Flag (take some object from an enemy base and bring it back to your base, but you must hold onto your object as well). Adding game modes like this could certainly enhance the variety of warzones that are presently available in PvP. Yes, much of it has been done many times before, but they have been done many times before for a reason, because they are fun.

 

My Biggest Problem with PvP—Gear Progression

I realize that talking about this is going to spark some controversy amongst the players because some people feel that if you play more PvP and earn better gear, then you deserve an advantage over the other players who play PvP less frequently. It is my personal opinion that I do not feel this is a desirable way to run PvP. I hate to play the “Guild Wars 2 card”, especially because I think that’s the only part of GW2 that I think they did right, but I don’t think gear should play into PvP in the same level that it does in PvE content.

 

When SWTOR first came out, every player who was eligible for PvP (level 10 and above) played in warzones together. This makes me think that at some point in SWTOR’s development, they did not intend for gear and level to matter all that much in PvP, since they did bolster all of the lower level players up to level 50. There was still a problem; however, any player who made it to level 50 and had acquired gear containing Expertise had a fairly large advantage over the players that had no gear with Expertise. Another problem with this system was that in PvP, players who were below level 50 did not have all of their skills or their skill trees unlocked, limiting what they could do in a warzone. I believe it was this which forced the hands of the developers to split PvP into groups of people less than Level 50 and people at Level 50. This fixed a substantial amount of problems in the 10 – 49 groups, but it still left a lot of problems present in the level 50 groups. To address the issue in the level 50 group, gear with Expertise was given to players upon reaching level 50, and it seems like the current trend is to steadily improve that entry level gear as additional PvP gear sets are introduced and older PvP gear sets are obsoleted. In short, it seems to me like SWTOR has a bit of identity crisis when trying to cater to players who want gear to matter substantially in PvP and players who want gear to not matter in PvP. It’s like they want gear to matter, so they try to push the lesser geared players along, but ultimately they don’t gain much. Now it seems like they are trying to make Expertise less of a factor (since 1.6), which I do believe is a step in the right direction.

 

The problem with gear-based PvP where PvP gear can only be earned by doing PvP is that you essentially go into each warzone knowing you are at a fairly large disadvantage. Some players like to say, “if you’re good, the gear advantage they have won’t hinder you too much”, but the problem with that mentality is that it leaves average and less skilled PvP players extremely frustrated while the better PvP players are made even more difficult to defeat not only because they are already skilled, but also because they have better gear that makes them even more unstoppable. My vision of PvP is that players should be on an equal playing field when it comes to gear; it should be skill, experience, teamwork, and a little luck that determines the outcome of a match. Players should not receive a gear advantage simply because they have put in more gameplay.

 

That said, I am not opposed to making gear have some effect in PvP. If we can already bolster people to level 49 in PvP as is, why not bolster all players to the highest level of gear presently available in the game—scale the player’s current gear up to the highest level. This mean if you have a level 20 piece of gear that provides Endurance, Willpower, and Critical, then scale all of those numbers up to what the highest level would be. If the gear is moddable, then scale up all of the mods and base states that come with the gear. What this will do is essentially allow someone who wishes to spec as—for example—a healer be a healer at the highest level possible, making it possible that they can heal well with all the higher level players. To scale up lower level gear which does not assign any secondary statistics, randomly select some DPS oriented secondary stats (e.g. Critical, Surge, Power, etc.) until they replace that gear with the gear for their spec. Doing this allows you the flexibility of balancing out your own gear in the way you see fit for your class, while still allowing you to be competitive, so to me, that’s a win-win. Gear is still relevant, but you aren’t penalized for not having the best version of said gear when playing against other players. Doing this might also improve the market desire for crafting some of the lower level gear, as people will try to spec their gear earlier instead of just rushing through levels as fast as they can.

 

To address the issue with Skills and Skill Trees in PvP, allow players to have full access to their skills and allow them to spec out a separate skill tree for max level in PvP. You can assign a separate respecification cost for the PvP skill tree and the PvE skill tree. You can also require that players choose their advanced class and skill tree selections before entering their first warzone, to ensure that they can play on a level playing field.

 

Open World PvP is Non-Existent

For players who enjoy the PvP experience enough to participate in open-world PvP, there is very little there to satisfy them. PvP rarely takes place on the planets where people are doing missions, even on a PvP server. There is no end-game open world PvP content, like Illum, where players can do PvP in any meaningful way anymore. The largest problem here seems to be the way things have been designed.

 

I realize a lot of the problems with large-scale PvP (i.e. having 50 players battling it out) has to do with performance issues. Many players (including myself) have theories on what may be causing the performance issues, but none of us have the code so none of us know 100% for sure what the problem is. That said, I am capable of realizing that if there are engine problems which hinder us from having large-scale PvP battles, then at least try and come up with ways to encourage smaller scale PvP battles while the alleged engine problems are corrected.

 

Even on a PvP server, when I pass by Imperial players with my Republic character (or vice-versa), I rarely see any reason to attack them or they me. There needs to be some incentive to participate in PvP, whether it be valor, or rare cosmetic item drops or something like that to distinguish the hard-core PvPer from the rest. To prevent excessive low-level ganking, the system could simply not reward players for attacking a person more than 3 – 5 levels below the current player. They can still gank if they want to, but they would get nothing for it. Questing should be set up such that Imperial and Republic players cross paths often so that there is a reason to fight. Bases or medical stations (respawn points) could be placed in close proximity to those areas where factions cross paths so that they can get back into the action fairly quickly—it’s a PvP server, so players should expected a lot of open-world PvP. It would take very little effort to insert a few medical stations on PvP planets to keep the action intense. To make it less rough (for those who are eager to get through their story), you could keep class quests a bit away from the action (like they are, for the most part), whereas optional quests that provide nicer rewards are located close to where players of the opposing faction would be. My biggest problem with world PvP in SWTOR is finding motivation to go out and do it, since it seems like finding opposing faction players takes a lot of time and since there is no gain for engaging in PvP. Basically, I can sum up SWTOR’s open-world PvP with the following “Lots of effort with little return.”—this needs to change.

 

Conclusion

I think SWTOR has a lot of potential to have engaging PvP. The PvE content is amazing, but replayability comes in with good PvP, and good replayability is what gets people subscribing and staying as subscribers while new content is being developed. That said; if I had to prioritize all of my suggestions, I’d list them in the following order.

  1. Cross-Server Warzone Queuing
  2. Improved World PvP (creating more cross-faction encounters, adding spawns, etc.)
  3. Make Warzones less gear-centric.
  4. Additional Warzone Modes (Team Death Match, Capture the Flag, etc.)
  5. Warzones for smaller groups. (Don’t use 8 vs. 8 Warzones for this.)
  6. Ability to select which Warzone to queue up for. (Only do this after cross-server queuing is implemented.)
  7. Improvements to performance to allow for large-scale group PvP. (Probably the hardest thing to do, but it’s still important, but you could do the other stuff in the meantime.)

 

I realize that this is a tall order that I am asking for and I honestly don’t expect my opinion alone to sway anything, but this is certainly something I could see as improving the PvP experience for me, and I’m sure there are other players out there who would agree and would like to see at least some of my suggestions implemented. That said, it’d be cool to hear some constructive feedback and discussions on some of the suggestion that I have brought up; maybe some of these ideas are good, maybe some are not so good, but I'd like to hear what others think.

Edited by WhiteStriker
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