What happened? If PvP used to be enjoyable and now it's just a drag, what changed? The unfortunate answer to that question isn't a simple one. We can't point to one action or one flaw that broke the system that everyone used to enjoy. I went so far as to say that the team at BioWare needs to stop working on PvP because it's taking the team away from expanding on the things that actually work. In fact, PvP changes ruined high-end PvE for some classes like Shadow/Assassin tanks. From my perspective, the team working on PvP is focused on the wrong aspects of the game. I will break it down the best I can.
BioWare has yet to be able to successfully make an open-world PvP zone. When the game launched, players had Ilum and Outlaw's Den. Outlaw's Den remains the same now as it did at launch: empty. No one ever goes there, no one ever did go there. There's nothing to do. Yes, I know: "What about when the chests dropped mercenary comms?" you might ask. It's true you'd catch the odd solo player there attempting to cash in on some quick comms. Those players were usually stealth classes and never a strategic group. On top of that, those chests don't drop anything now so it doesn't matter. Then there's Ilum. I've made my complains with that zone widely known, so I'm not rehashing that today.
The stun/resolve system has been the subject of a rant at least once in this column. Although BioWare claims that it's working as intended, even Combat Designer Alex Modny admitted that the current stunbreak system does not work well. He stated in a post on the official forum, "We shouldn't have gameplay systems that have a trap players need to avoid to 'be good,' that is just poor design on our part." Meaning that stunbreak is a trap because it's extremely binary and very much like flipping a coin. But I've discussed this before, too.
To be perfectly honest, I don't know how many PvPers are left in SWTOR. Because of the age of most of the arenas and the amount of time the consistent PvPers have spent in those Warzones, those players have all the winning strategies down cold. I'd think that most of them can win any given Warzone without having to think about it. This disparity makes top-level PvP extremely difficult (or at least frustrating) for those who are looking to jump in fresh.
Despite constant complaints from players, the PvP system BioWare built is still gear-based. The reward for winning is the ability to make things easier. Now, I'm not a competitive PvPer, and I do PvE. And yes, you get better gear for PvE, but the true reward is more difficult content. Yet for PvP, BioWare rewards players with easier more boring content. How is that a good thing? How does that entice people to continue playing? Fundamentally, I don't believe the PvP team has a grasp on what PvPers are looking for.
I have to get this statement off my chest: I have seen individuals who are known hackers who left my RP-PvE server for the greener pastures of a PvP server only to find their way back to my RP-PvE server. These have to be the saddest individuals in the whole game.
I'll get into greater detail in a later Hyperspace Beacon, but I believe the problem is twofold. There are inherent flaws in the game's engine that allow for players to consistently compromise the client-to-server communication. Secondly, BioWare does not have a consistent and viable way to detect and punish hackers for breaking the EULA.
Thanks for taking the time to read my rant. I'll present my solutions in the next column. I'm interested in hearing your take on the PvP system. Do you still PvP in SWTOR? If so, what keeps you playing? If not, what ultimately drove you away?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!