This blog post will briefly discuss the current state of PvP in the game Star Wars: The Old Republic, as well as delve a bit deeper into the expectations the players have for the future. PvP in SWTOR has been struggling for a long period of time and I have watched the playerbase grow increasingly frustrated. Considering the amount of time this has been going on I was curious to know how much faith there is still left in the community for an improvement, especially with the upcoming expansion and its promise of an influx of players. In order learn more about this I’ve interviewed four players (Igor, Zherio, Snave and Mosh) and asked them about their thoughts and feelings about the current state of the game as well as their expectations for the future.
Running a successful PvP guild these days is becoming an increasingly difficult task in this game. With the lack of competitive team based PvP actively happening on the servers the reasons to belong to any one guild are diminishing. Now more than ever it’s important for members to connect to each other socially in order for PvP guilds to survive. With the lack of fresh, stimulating challenges it’s particularly important that social relationships develop within the guilds since this aspect becomes the sole reason to not run solo. Unfortunately the lack of a competitive community and gaming experience makes it harder for members to connect since the natural bonding that comes from time spent together working towards a common goal is removed. With the lack of new operations in the new expansion this is a sour apple that also the PvE guilds might have to taste soon.
Igor, GM of <MVPs> on TOFN says in his interview with GD that one of the challenges he faces when it comes to recruitment is the decreasing pool of players. When asked to elaborate he says: “Before you had a huge pool of people. You could be more selective. Every day people were asking to join the guild. Now there is a much smaller pool of people and it’s harder to find good players so you have to decrease the skill cap expected of players to join the guild.”
It’s pretty clear that it is a lot more difficult for a PvP guild at this time to keep the quality of players high. In order to keep afloat the GMs might feel they are forced to lower their expectations on skill the way Igor here describes. When asked how Igor has dealt with this decrease in player population, having been around with his guild for a very long time, he tells me: “[By] following the flow of the game probably. When 8v8 died, everyone left. I mean I had more skilled players when playing 8v8 team ranked.”
When asked what motivates him to keep playing he tells me that it’s due to his love of all things Star Wars. “That’s it”, he says. “I mean a lot of people would agree, if this game wasn’t Star Wars a lot would have left. I would personally have left a long time ago.” Igor says that he doesn’t see himself leaving the game now. He predicts that in a year we will have one active EU server and two US ones. He thinks that the new expansion will have us see a vast income of returning players. We will see faster pops for a little while as people try out the new expansion and experience the changes. Then in a month Igor declares they are likely to get bored and leave again.
Speaking to Zherio from TRE he explains that in his opinion we are experiencing a time in SWTOR when class balance is worse than what we have seen before. “The next expansion will not have any influence on the PvP scene”, he says. “The new abilities will have players want to try out PvP again at the start. I do not believe however that the increased PvP population will remain as it is purely PvE story-telling expansion we are talking about. Changes like these always give incentive for players to try out their favorite specs and classes again, hoping they will find it more viable. Overall, more players will try PvP at the start of the expansion, but since there will be no other changes to PvP itself they will most likely leave again.”
The predictions of Igor and Zherio conforms to the pattern we have seen manifest in connection to previous expansions. Considering that the only difference with this expansion is a determination to go back to a stronger focus on storytelling one can understand the lack of faith exhibited by the players.
When I ask Snave about his feelings regarding the state of PvP in SWTOR at this moment in time he gives me a parable of a “stagnant pond”. He says: “At the moment PvP is like a stagnant pond. The same old shit is floating on top and those at the bottom are forced to swallow the same shit they’ve been fed for years.”
Snave explains that the main area he is disappointed in is the class imbalance and the huge delays in making obvious changes. He points out that throughout this last expansion there has consistently been broken classes dominating in warzones and that pretty much nothing has been done to address it. “All this means”, Snave says, “is that people either feel forced to play the fotm classes or they’re forced to play against them in imbalanced games.”
He also points out, same as Igor, that the overall skill level of players has been drastically decreasing since the removal of 8 man ranked and the “mass slaughter” of pretty much all PvP guilds. Snave doesn’t see this changing in the near future. “This expansion seems to reinforce the super casual nature of this game”, Snave says. “I’m not saying it’s a bad thing but the nature of that kind of game does mean that people don’t really have the incentive to go through the hassle of running a guild for little gain. Most top PvPers these days use their friend lists rather than being part of a guild.”
I truly believe that a good environment for producing and managing guilds strongly benefits the overall health of an MMO as many people play and continue to play purely based around their relationships with other players. By negating the need to join a PvP guild or making one borderline irrelevant you are effectively destroying the foundation of your PvP community before it even begins.
Looking at the mined data that has been leaked so far it’s easy to feel discouraged in one’s hope for an improvement. How the upcoming changes to the classes will influence the general PvP gaming experience is something that worries many. When asking Snave about this he replies that: “Based on what’s been leaked, the current overtuned classes will continue to be overtuned. I’m not confident that a lot of the abilities have been well thought through and they can potentially have game breaking consequences. This wouldn’t bother me so much if BioWare had a good track record of making quick balance changes but as it stands I fully expect to wait at least 6 months to see any changes. After all, the game will now be story based and NPCs don’t complain on the forums that powertechs are globalling them.”
When we also consider that the last map we were given (a much beloved queshball) was released over a year ago and that all the maps currently in rotation are balanced around a very different metagame then the one we will see in 4.0, it’s indeed easy to feel discouraged. Snave shares his thoughts on the issue by saying that the massively increased mobility provided to all classes is going to make for some “bat shit insane plays”. “For example”, he says, “a juggernaut will be able to score in huttball in around 6 seconds and be unstoppable the whole time. Looking at the changes my initial feeling is that PvP will be an absolute cluster fuck. I also believe that sorcs and PT’s will be a fucking clown fiesta of mobility, survivability and insane dps.”
This said, Mosh on the other hand feels these are things that tend to be blown out of proportion before the changes actually happen and that it’s a hype that won’t be as bad as people think. “To be honest, I don’t think they [the maps] will need to be balanced” he says in his interview with GD. “From what I’ve seen, yes, there’s a lot of moving about but it’s mainly moving from player to player not from player to objective. /…/ It’s just people being able to kite better and catch people more easily. I can’t see it affecting anything in terms of objectives. In reality it’s not going be as bad as people think. I’m not saying that I don’t think BioWare is going to fuck it up, because they fuck up everything. But people are just hyping it up hard. For example when scoundrels got their roll. Now you only get 2 rolls then it goes on cooldown. Do you remember when you could actually roll and roll until your energy ran out? That didn’t end up making games unplayable. Other than you being able to race to a node faster it didn’t have that much of an impact… and that was the biggest, fastest movement ability that’s ever been introduced in the game. My point is the way the ability made its way into the gameplay didn’t affect anything substantial. With these coming changes, having people moving about a lot more a lot quicker, I just can’t see it breaking anything in terms of regs, I just can’t see it. You’re talking about gap closers, that’s about it.”
Speaking about the changes in general, Mosh isn’t enthusiastic about the added abilities that are rumoured to appear come patch 4.0. He says that if the information that has so far been leaked is correct and will actually be implemented then it will have a very frustrating effect on PvP, he just doesn’t think it will greatly impact the metagame.
Looking at the suggested changes I’d say it seems the developers are trying to make the game less difficult for new players to get into quickly by making all classes easier to play. As discussed in my article “Ranked PvP and why Bioware needs it“:
A functional rating system would assist players by setting them up against an evenly matched team in terms of skill and experience, making ranked PvP an enjoyable environment for any player. However, when the population is too low and/or the players do not have faith in the system in place it breaks down, as we have seen happen in this game. This means two very different groups of players (let’s call them hardcore and casual) have to resolve to fight over the same space: unranked warzones. This results with the more skilled players in the game being left continuously frustrated which is intimidating the less experienced players from participating in PvP, decreasing the PvP population further.
The sad thing is that making the classes easier for all will only increase the skill gap between the players as the more experienced players who truly know the game inside out will be able to squeeze even more utility and survivability out of their classes. Since there is no functional way to divide these different levels of skill up into different warzones this could result in some very frustrating matches.
On the topic of team ranked, Snave tells us at GD: “Team ranked should be pushed more and supported more by BioWare. Unfortunately a complete lack of cross server and match making means new teams will get face rolled by experienced ones resulting in them not wanting to take part. SWTOR PvP desperately needs some “messiah” players for the rest of the community to look up to, learn from and aspire to be. Unfortunately I don’t think this will ever happen as so far there is nothing to motivate the existence of these players or to incite them to help build a PvP community. In fact the vast majority of highly ranked players in this game are pretty negative about the whole PvP system. I probably sound like a scratched record here but I believe the only way the PvP community will grow would be the introduction of cross server queuing (to make the games fair), the re-introduction of 8 man ranked (to facilitate the need for PvP guilds) and frequent class balance (to make sure people can play the classes they want and to keep the meta fresh). I don’t see any of these things ever happening so I’ll just keep being a regstar and having fun with my friends until another good MMO that meets my needs comes out.”
Mosh unlike Snave and I doesn’t feel that guilds are a very important part of a competitive gaming environment. Just like other types of competitive games a professional and non-bias attitude should be kept while forming teams in order to secure the best results. Mosh feels that for everything to stay fluid and in a constant flux like it should not too much focus can be placed on guilds and the loyalties and connections made there. “There’s no point because with anything competitive”, Mosh says, “you have a team of people, yes, but they can be swapped out and traded even though they’ve known each other forever. It’s not because they fall out or anything. /…/ Yeah, it’s cool to have the same four people to queue up with for ranked but if someone is slacking you need to replace that guy if you want to be competitive.” Mosh therefore feels that guilds don’t really fit into a competitive MMO gaming environment.
In GD’s interview with Mosh he explains that his main issue with the state of the game at the moment isn’t necessarily the class imbalance. Instead it’s more the lack of a functional ranking system dividing people up by skill. This on top of a team of developers who gets their main feedback from the forums where players who aren’t necessarily knowledgeable on the topics are passionately discussing what changes need to be done. He feels that the same team’s communication with the playerbase and community as a whole has proven very lacking and this all makes for a negative general impression for Mosh. In our interview it is clear that he feels the developers do not care about their PvP players and don’t show concern. This is clear from the persisting problems, bugs, lack of follow through and organisation that the team has consistently displayed towards the PvP community. The poor way in which the team has handled the situations that has arisen is clearly an ample disappointment to Mosh who seems to feels the PvP community as a whole is left uncared for by the people who are meant to support it.
What are your thoughts? What do you think about the SWTOR PvP scene at this moment in time and what do you expect from the future? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo attribution: Derived from www.raygun21.com