Like many of you, I'm eagerly awaiting the launch of Update 1.5 for Star Wars: The Old Republic, which will hopefully happen next week. Although I have been on the test server and tried out the new content, I don't want to give my impressions until it's officially launched. So this week, I've decided to address an issue I've seen crop up more and more in the roleplay community that has nothing to do with the pending game update.
In any good story, there is conflict -- physical, interpersonal, or otherwise. In MMO roleplay, a good chunk of conflict turns physical. After all, most of our characters are highly skilled warriors and other combat specialists, and physical conflict is the natural course. That means that roleplayers then have to be highly skilled at PvP if their characters are to be highly skilled, too, right? Don't get me wrong, I love PvP, but this supposition always rubbed me the wrong way, especially in a game like TOR where there is a large disparity between PvE skills and PvP.
So what kinds of physical conflict resolutions are there if it's not straight-up PvP? And doesn't the dueling system in TOR limit itself to one-on-one dueling? How do you resolve that issue? Excellent questions. I'm glad you asked. Let's dive in.
Let's start with straight-up PvP and the issues that result from it. It's the easiest to dive into and it presents the easiest solutions.
If all things were equal -- gear and player skill -- SWTOR combat would be fairly equal. Sure there are a few imbalances like an Assassin's overuse of stuns and a Marauder's defensive cooldowns, but these abilities don't make the classes unstoppable. Also, that's a subject for another day. Generally speaking, any one class has an equal opportunity to whittle another class's health down to zero.
The first problem I noticed in SWTOR dueling is that no matter the situation you pretty much stand on your own in a PvP match. Unlike real-life conflict scenarios, one group of people cannot fight another group of people right where they stand. Many times, we have to break immersion to find a resolution to the issue. I have done two different resolutions that have worked with limited success. I've have had both groups travel to Outlaw's Den to duke it out there in freeform fashion. I have also stacked duels. Everyone in the group picks one person to duel, then when that fight is over, the players immediately duel another person before much of the health is able to return. Both of these situations work; however, the unfortunate part is that not everything can be taken completely in-character and no mid-battle banter can take place.
Unfortunately, in this game, not everything is created equally. I might be a god in raids, but against a fellow player in the lowest PvP gear, I don't stand a chance. Why is this? Expertise. Personally, I don't like Expertise because I'm a holistic MMO player, meaning there isn't a part of the MMO that I don't like to participate in. However, that again is an argument for another article. The issue is that in many roleplay dueling situations, there is a mixed bag of PvPers and PvEers. Both sides have worked hard and spent a lot of time gaining the gear they have, and the question remains, "Why should the PvPers win all the time if PvEers have worked just as hard for their gear?" And I agree.
However, there is a solution without asking the developers to do something crazy like allowing players with Black Hole gear to trade it up to War Hero gear on a whim. Everybody has access to Recruit PvP gear. In fact, SWTOR developers have been kind enough to give us Recruit armor for free to any level-50 character. Recruit gear grants each player the same amount of Expertise and comparable stat bonuses, therefore the fight is simply down to the player skill and class knowledge. And hey, even free-to-play players will be able to participate with their level-50s. (Sorry, sub-50s, I don't have an easy solution for you in this category.)
I understand that not everyone has the time nor the skill to be the best PvPer on the server. Even SWTOR's PvP progression is a grind. A grind can certainly be "unfun," and I understand that you want to have fun when you log into a game. So what do we anti-grinders do? Dice duels have been the answer since the pen-and-paper days.
Of course, not everyone has a set of dice sitting on his desk ready for the next impending attack. Thankfully, SWTOR built in a roll mechanic. By default, /roll picks a random number from one to 100, but if you'd like, you can set the maximum number by placing it directly after the command (example: "/roll 20" will yield a random number between one and 20.) Anyone you are grouped with can see this roll in the chat box.
Although dice is the great equalizer, it's not always the most entertaining way to resolve the conflict. Most dice-duelers like to mix custom emotes with rolls. Personally, if I'm dice dueling, the disparity between mine and my opponent's rolls will be equal to the severity of my character's injuries. This adds flavor to the overall fight, and hopefully, creates future roleplay with other people such as patching up injuries and the like.
So why not just purely emote duel? Sure, you can do that if you like. However, I only recommend doing that with players whom you know well. In my years of MMO roleplay, I've seen far too many people use the emotes to take advantage of the open-ended system. It is true that roleplay is more about telling the story than it is about winning, so do as you see fit and what is fun for all participants.
The biggest thing to keep in mind when dueling with any kind of custom emotes is to not emote for other players. "Shaddoe deftly swings his saber removing Darth BillyBob's hand" does not work. It's rude and delves into an area we roleplayers like to call powergaming or god-moding. The better solution would be to suggest a possible outcome or just emote your character's actions. "Shaddoe deftly swings his saber in an attempt to remove Darth BillyBob's hand" or "Shaddoe deftly swings his saber in the direction of Darth BillyBob's right wrist."
The biggest thing to keep in mind when resolving roleplay conflict is to help build a story with other players. It should be entertaining for all participants. Although it might be fun to duel into infinity with just you and your best friend, if a whole group is presently watching, eventually -- if not quickly -- they will get bored. I suggest that you resolve the conflict as fast as possible.
Secondly, remember that it might be fun for you to kill an opponent in a fight, but he might have other plans for his character. So make sure that you always have a reason that your character would not finish off your opponent. Let him decide if his loss kills his character.
I hope this helps you see the possibilities of fun conflict resolution and enhances your overall SWTOR roleplay experience. Let me know what you think in the comments, and I will see you next week!
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!