Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's stunlocked

Hyperspace Beacon SWTOR's stunlocked!
How many times have you booted up Star Wars: The Old Republic to have a little fun in PvP only to be frustrated by certain mechanics? How many times have you been playing the Alderaan warzone, or worse, the Ancient Hypergate warzone, and you are about to cap the node but are suddenly impeded because your character has fallen asleep? Of course, you know there's an Assassin or Shadow there using Mind Trap or Mind Maze.

Your first instinct is to set yourself free using your stun break, but it occurs to you that if you use your stun break, then the opponent is just going to use that ability again, and then you won't have any way to break free. However, if you don't break free, then he will cap the node you're supposed to be guarding. It looks to me as if your enemy just hit his I-win button.

If it isn't already obvious, today I'd like to talk about stuns and other movement-impairing effects in SWTOR. Although it'd be really easy to write these abilities off as broken, I believe that there are some misunderstandings about the resolve system and a couple of simple fixes would make the system more palatable to the average player.

Hyperspace Beacon SWTOR's stunlocked!
Everyone who has PvPed in SWTOR or any game knows that it is super frustrating to lose control of your character. And try as you might, pressing the keys on your keyboard harder just isn't going to make your character move any faster. I know; I've tried. Having a better understanding of how the resolve system works could make things a little less frustrating, though, or at least it'll let you know when you can or cannot do something to help the situation. That way you can recite the serenity prayer and wait for the effect to wear off.

For those completely unfamiliar, here's the skinny: The resolve system is represented as a purple bar that encircles about a third of your character's portrait in PvP. When this bar is completely full and white, stun effects cannot be applied to your character for approximately 20 seconds.

But players are perpetually confused about what does or does not affect the resolve bar in the first place. Thankfully, developers Austin Peckenpaugh and Rob Hinkle have clarified this for us in a dev post and an interview on TORWars. Stuns and sleeps (or mez) add points to the resolve bar, of course. There is a total of 1000 points in the resolve bar. A stun adds approximately 200 resolve per second of the stun. A three-second stun generates 600 resolve; a four-second stun generates 800 resolve. Sleeps, which break on combat, generate approximately 100 resolve per second. Lastly, ballistics also add to the resolve bar at approximately 400 points per knockback or pull. On the other hand, roots and snares do not add to the resolve bar, nor are they affected by immunity. That means no matter how full your bar is, you can still be slowed or rooted in place.

Hyperspace Beacon SWTOR's stunlocked!

The primary reason the resolve system is broken is not directly related to the resolve system itself. PvPers coined a term called time-to-kill, which equates to the average time it takes to defeat another player in PvP. PvP in SWTOR is fairly fast-paced; therefore, the TTK is understandably short. In some cases, the TTK can be shorter than the stun timer. If you have multiple players attacking your character at once, then TTK is halved, making it nearly impossible for a player to survive through more than one stun. On top of that, many stuns last a very long time for fast-paced PvP. For example, the Mind Trap ability I mentioned above can last up to 60 seconds. That's longer than it takes to cap a node, and it's certainly longer than it takes for back-up to arrive. This puts any team without an Assassin or Shadow at a distinct disadvantage. If an opposing team has two Assassins or Shadows, then you're sunk.

Secondly, the resolve system is very inconsistent. A sleep ticks for approximately 100 points per second of sleep. One of the most popular Sorcerer or Sage specs right now is known as "the bubble spec" because the Static Barrier ability for the Sorc places a teammate in an electric bubble. Noxxic has an example of this build for the PvP healer: This build causes up to three nearby opposing players to be blinded when the static barrier is destroyed. By itself, this spec isn't broken. I love it, actually. The build is a pure utility build, which is something that I like to play. However, because of the way the resolve system works, a melee player, who has to get in close to attack, can be rendered immobile up to four times this way, totaling 12 seconds of inactivity when the skill is working correctly. (Currently, it's not working correctly because it's giving fewer than 300 points of resolve.) A bubble can be placed on any team member instantly. It's a great defensive maneuver, but it's far too tricky to deal with for melee classes. There is even a hilarious video spoofing this flavor-of-the-month:

Hyperspace Beacon SWTOR's stunlocked!
I am an armchair designer. I don't pretend that I know the inner-workings of MMO mechanics. I know there are many things to consider when making sweeping changes to game mechanics, but I do believe there is a fairly simple solution to the stunlock issue.

Consider giving a little more control of the resolve bar to the player himself. Imagine if you could instantly fill up your resolve bar. That's 20 seconds when you know for certain that you cannot be affected by stuns, sleeps, or ballistics. "But that would make stuns pointless," you might say. Actually, it wouldn't if it's tied to the stun-break ability. That would give the ability a two-minute cooldown, and it would activatable only if player has a movement-impairing debuff on him. This gives those classes who depend on stuns a full minute and a half to stunlock or pushback to their hearts' content. And because the ability cannot be activated unless a movement impairing ability is activated, that means abilities like Cover Pulse will still work the first time around.

I believe this fix will negate much of the stunlock frustration but not fundamentally change the way PvP works. However, I know many of you have issues with the way stun functions. Do you have any solutions that might help resolve (pun totally intended) the issue without completely changing the game?

The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to larry@massively.com. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!
This article was originally published on Massively.