Welcome to the war, comrades. Let’s get to the briefing. Today, we take a look back at PvP in SWTOR and discuss changes coming in the summer.
More after the Jump…
There was a blur of news this week as Senior Producer Bruce Maclean dropped a rough schedule for the summer on the updates coming in the months ahead. Among the things mentioned in his plan were the following:
Update 2.2 (targeted for June 11th): Nightmare Mode Terror from Beyond, new PvE tier of gear, more guild bonuses, PvE gear crafting, unified fleet chat channel
Update 2.3 (targeted for August 6th): New flashpoints, new daily area, new recurring event, graphics upgrades
Update 2.4 (no date, presumably no later than October 1st): unspecified PvP things
In addition to the unspecified PvP things, there will be “minor tweaks,” including a couple of new features in 2.2. We’ll get to those in a second.
You will notice multiple new things for PvEers and nothing for PvPers until October. As in, almost half a year away.
A Timeline of PvP
Here is the rough calendar of major PvP updates and changes since launch.
December 2011, Launch
The game officially launches with three warzones and two open world areas (Ilum and Tatooine). Ilum is the main source of open world PvP, but the Imperial faction vastly outnumbers the Republic faction, and the spawn area for the Republic is farmed, and Republic players cannot escape without dying over and over again.
January 2012, Update 1.1.0
Turrets are placed in the spawn areas to fix the respawn camping problem, and the quests are redone to require a certain number of player kills or collected items in the middle objective. This leads to kill-swapping and exploitation, and in general, Republic players avoid Ilum due to continuous faction imbalance. Some weekends are promising, and fight clubs form to fairly progress the weekly and daily quests for both sides.
April 2012, Update 1.2
Ilum quests are removed from the game, essentially killing any open world PvP on Ilum. Valor is still able to be gained there through straight player kills. Novare Coast is added to the existing Warzone system. Ranked warzones were initially supposed to be in this patch, but they were delayed. Instead, Ranked Warzone Commendations can be purchased at a 3:1 ratio with regular commendations. Those with plenty of time grind their way to the top of the heap.
June 2012, Update 1.3
Ranked warzones finally make it into this patch, but without the initially promised solo-queue. Only teams of eight players can queue for Ranked warzones. Unfortunately, Ranked warzones become a secondary way to grind Ranked Warzone Commendations, due to the low population of players using them and the 3:1 conversion between Regular and Ranked Comms. Because of the requirement to have eight people, strong guilds with static and well-organized teams are among the few that queue, and again, due to the small pool of players, the likelihood of going against those teams and losing to them over and over is increased, so the pool continues to dwindle in a vicious cycle.
September 2012, Update 1.4
The way Resolve works is changed to allow for players to be subject to more Crowd Control. Previously, Resolve stacked when multiple CCs affect a target, but with the changes, it only counts the total time a player is controlled towards the Resolve meter. Thus, while previously a bad group could make someone CC-immune by throwing all of their CCs at a player, under the new system it is fully possible for a player to be under upwards of 10 seconds of CC at a time with coordinated groups (or even accidentally with bad groups).
This patch’s class changes are also responsible for seven months of major class imbalance. Changes are made to the way Force Sweep/Smash works in Focus/Rage specced Guardians/Juggernauts and Sentinels/Marauders. Thanks to these “Smash specs,” AoE damage is through the roof.
There is also a change in this patch in the way Sages’/Sorcerers’ Force Armor/Static Barrier stuns other players. With newly formed hybrid “Bubble-Blind specs,” the stun now does not break on damage, effectively making every person bubbled a walking stun. This in combination with the Resolve changes makes for a very miserable experience.
This also further exacerbates the Ranked warzone issues, since most Ranked teams start running Smash and Bubble-Blind heavy team compositions. Teams that do not run these comps are very much at a disadvantage.
December 2012, Update 1.6
Another warzone, Ancient Hypergate, is added to the existing warzone system.
February 2013, Update 1.7
The Relics of the Gree event is introduced on a periodic basis, and Ilum is given a facelift. Valor rewards for killing players are removed, effectively sealing the fate of open world PvP progression, as there is now nowhere in the entire game where valor can be gained through open world PvP.
April 2013, Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Update 2.0
Smash and Bubble-Blind specs finally get somewhat nerfed, Smash less-so. Despite many warnings on the PTS, Bolster is introduced at the new level cap of 55 in regular and Ranked warzone play. Due to the way it calculates gear values, level 50 warzone gear is essentially worthless. In fact, the most competitive gear is PvE gear, or in some cases, no gear at all. That’s right, going naked is better than level 50 PvP gear. Though it had been reported on the PTS and was widely abused while on the PTS, it is still pushed to live with very few changes, if any.
A subsequent patch (2.0.0b) makes it a bad decision to go completely naked, and instead it is preferred to have empty modification slots. PvE gear still reigns supreme in warzones. Also in this patch is a removal of all Expertise from War Hero and Elite War Hero gear, driving yet another kick to the crotch of open world PvP. Now, even veterans leveling up on Makeb can be easily ganked in their hard-earned gear by people who reach level 55 and obtain Partisan gear quickly.
Yet another patch (2.0.1) follows to nerf PvE gear in warzones and to fix the modification bug, leaving in its stead an augment bug. Taking out your augments in the middle of a match boosts damage and health by large amounts. Players averse to using exploits are vastly underpowered in comparison. This is finally patched in 2.1, over a month after 2.0 launched.
That brings us up to speed on PvP updates.
The Honest Truth
I generally like to be fair to Bioware in their PvP decisions. I like to be honest as well. It’s a good day when those things come together and allow me to say good things about Bioware. Today is not one of those days.
Three things bother me about their schedule here.
One is the fact that we are a mere two-and-a-half weeks away from the anniversary of Ranked warzones. And we are still in PRE-SEASON! Literally nothing has been done in a YEAR with this system.
The second thing is that we have actually lost PvP systems over the last year. Open world PvP, poor though it was, has been completely and utterly removed from the game. Sure, I can go gank PvEers trying to get their Gree reputation, but I gain nothing for it. No Valor, no warzone commendations, no nothing. The addition of Warzones doesn’t count as a gain in systems, as they are all part of the same system.
The third thing is that they actually think they threw us a bone in Update 2.2, a new feature where CC-breakers will reset their cooldown upon death. This is actually not a bone at all. It is a very subtle, yet complex change in the system that has veteran PvPers facepalming all over the internet.
The Problem of Dumbed-Down PvP
We wouldn’t need the CC-breaker so often if Resolve worked correctly, i.e. added Resolve with slows and roots, larger gains when CC’d, CC-breaker grants full Resolve, etc. Now, with this change, CC goes from a strategic tool (that took skill to use correctly pre-1.4) to the unreliable last-ditch effort. You might as well completely remove CC from the equation now. Now, you will never know if CC will work, and it will be trivialized. It will go from being overpowered to underpowered.
This is a symptom of a bigger problem I have seen developing: Bioware is dumbing-down PvP. Here is my evidence.
- Before the addition of Ranked warzones, they added the 3:1 conversion between Ranked and regular comms, giving the good solo player only one way to earn Ranked comms. This, rather than Ranked warzones, is where people primarily get their Ranked comms.
- Update 1.4’s Resolve changes made good teams way overpowered in an effort to make it easier on Pick-Up Groups.
- Valor cannot be gained from Open World PvP, making it less of an incentive for veteran PvPers to gank people questing on Ilum.
- Bolster was added to the top level warzones to make people with bad gear more competitive. Now, people don’t even have to have the initiative to go get their FREE Recruit set.
- The CC-breaker resetting its cooldown upon death means that it can be used regardless of the consequences.
Now For Some Hope
Now, it isn’t all bad. As Bruce said in a later post,
PvP players! I’d love to be able to tell you more about what’s coming in 2.4 and we’ll have more details to share as we get closer. To be clear on the scope of what I was hinting at, we are not going to get closer and just say ‘huzzah, a new Warzone!’ We are working very hard on larger PvP features that everyone will enjoy but are especially targeted at our more hardcore PvP community.
Hopefully, he is using the word “hardcore” correctly.
I know they are trying to balance everything. I am rooting for them to be successful at it. They aren’t. PvE is getting a lot more attention than PvP, and that is normal for them. PvP in my opinion shouldn’t be in the cycle with PvE, it should be a separate cycle, i.e. if something for the PvEers comes out, something for the PvPers comes out. We are customers too, dang it.
They need to be careful about driving away their loyal PvP fanbase (who, by the way, pay for subscriptions usually). There are other games coming out this year with killer PvP systems planned, and if Bioware doesn’t get its butt in gear, it will be left behind.