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.
I'm only going to briefly touch on the issues that everyone, even those who do not play the game, are aware of.
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.
I'd like to talk to the achievement-based killers for just a moment. If you're a guy or gal who is driven to gain perks within the game because it is the best way to dominate another player or team, then I'm looking at you. BioWare has not been kind to you. Since launch, your bread and butter has been instance-based PvP and the only thing you have to show for it is a crappy suit of armor that will be replaced again in three months. There are no charts to show that you have the best ELO rating, or that your team beat another top level team. On top of that, the number of viable PvP builds is very narrow. And any step BioWare has taken outside of arena PvP has fallen flat on its face.
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 can't talk about PvP flaws without talking about the griefers. I don't believe that everyone who PvPs looks for the easiest way to win or break the existing game system, but there are some who believe that the best way to win is to cheat. I find it deplorable but I understand the motivation for some to hack the game. When you have players who run faster, hit harder, and do not get stunned because they have a third-party program sending incorrect signals to the server, then those who don't normally play with those types of enhancements feel they need to in order to remain competitive.
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 email@example.com. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!