In July, I took the famous Bartle Test and pitted it against the state of Star Wars: The Old Republic at the time. The test, based on the research of Dr. Richard Bartle, measures the types of activities within an MMO that players find fun. Of course, there is plenty of crossover, and very few people fit neatly into one category, but I believe that if an MMO hits all the categories well, it will be highly successful, at least from a player's point of view. In the research, player motivation is divided into four categories: Achiever, Explorer, Killer, and Socializer.
I have never been a fan of the term Killer as used to describe the type of player who likes to compete directly with other players, but then, I didn't earn a PhD from the University of Essex, either. The Killer category has always been described as more than someone who likes to PvP in the sense that most MMOs provide PvP. A Killer likes to compete, plain and simple. He wants his skills pitted against the skills of other players, and he wants to be recognized for it. In SWTOR, many Killer-types will hang out on the steps of the Sith Academy on Korriban dueling, partially because they find dueling enjoyable, but also because it is in sight of many other players. (That's where recognition comes in.)
In July, I gave SWTOR very poor marks in the Killer category. I wrote, "Later this year, BioWare plans on introducing a content specifically focused on PvP, but given the team's track record, I have my concerns," and then I gave the team an F in this category. Has BioWare been able to raise that grade? And how have things changed since mid-year?
We should start our examination with the PvP that existed at the beginning of the year and look at its progression... OK, done.
I'm kidding. The changes in the pre-existing PvP weren't much, but there are a few things we should look at, such as class balancing.
Not every Killer is into small-group PvP, but some are. Coordination, class combination, and map memorization are the primary strengths of a good Killers in small-group PvP. A good group or individual knows the strengths and weaknesses of each class and map to better and more legitimately exploit those qualities to its advantage.
However, the issue of class-balance took center-stage this year because of the additional abilities granted to certain classes and the supposed nerfs to others. Assassins and Shadows have always been a popular class in 8v8 PvP because of their survivability and utility. However, when 2.0 launched earlier this year, this Advanced Class took a hit in the gut. Its damage mitigation was nearly cut in half, causing the other classes to rejoice and the Assassins and Shadows to dramatically alter the way they played. Then, just a couple of weeks ago, this Advanced Class was buffed again, much to the ire of all the other classes. If you ask me, I don't believe there is a good fix for this class unless you completely separate the PvP and PvE abilities.
The other downside, besides the lack of any new 8-man warzones this year, is that the developers removed this type of warzone from ranked PvP. I understand that developers wanted to focus on the 4-man arenas, but I don't believe this is a reason to remove the staple PvP zones from ranked, unless there is something on the backend, like Elo-rating misconfiguration, if both types of warzones stayed in at the same time. Whatever the reason, I wish SWTOR developers would be a little more frank about why these were removed from season-one ranked warzones.
Although the changes in class balancing and removal of 8-man from ranked warzones might have lowered SWTOR's grade overall, the introduction of 4-man arenas actually raised it. First, arenas are last-man-standing matches; second, they are fast; and lastly, ranked arenas count on the leaderboard.
Throughout the life of the game, players have wanted a death-match warzone. Although the Asation warzone is technically a death-match warzone, the objectives in the match are far too important to the overall progress to be considered a true death-match. However, BioWare delivered with the arenas. I don't want to imply that there isn't strategy in arenas, but clearly, its a kill-fest. Those who rank high on the Killer side of the Bartle Test love these because there is a clear indication when they end up on top.
I know a few patient Killers, but only a few. Of course, not every Killer is inflicted with a hyperactivity disorder, but many want to dominate and dominate quickly. The 4-man arenas lend themselves to that very well, with a maximum of three rounds and a "gas" mechanic that will kill everyone if the match lasts too long. Most arena matches last less than 10 minutes.
Remember when I talked about recognition and how Killers crave that? Well, the leaderboards linked right on the front of SWTOR's website allow Killers to display just how awesome they really are. Initially, there were some kinks in the proverbial chain, but since launching ranked arenas earlier this fall, BioWare has reworked the boards to better reflect who is currently in the best standing throughout the game.
I feel as if I've covered Galactic Starfighter enough over the last month, but I do believe that I should at least mention how it adds to the overall score of the Killer. Galactic Starfighter's being twitch-based appeals to a slightly different crowd overall, but for the Killer who loves the regular PvP warzones, it gives an amazing distraction from the same thing he's been playing for the last two years. This certainly raises the grade.
We have variety now in the different outlets for the Killer, thanks to arenas and Galactic Starfighter, but only one of these pieces currently shows up on the leaderboards. That means only part of the Killer's desires are fulfilled. However, I do believe there is potential in what BioWare has set up. The only things that need to be fixed is the matchmaking system in non-ranked games and some sort of leaderboard or other recognition reward for all types of PvP.
Next week, I will talk about the holiday event, which starts today, and then on the last week of the year, I will address the other parts of the year-end report card. May the Force be with you.
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!