18/10/2016

Galactic Command - Bioware Trying to Reinvent the Wheel Again?

I was innocently checking the newest comments on my last post (about my love for PvP) this morning to find that someone (/cough) had casually dropped a comment on it mentioning that expertise and therefore the separation between PvE and PvP gear will be removed in 5.0. Apparently this information was part of last night's livestream and the associated revelations posted on the forums. I went to read the summary on Dulfy and learned that it's not just expertise that's being removed.

No more warzone commendations. No more data crystals. No more max-level gear from vendors. No more boss drops. No more endgame gear progression.

Apparently Bioware decided that endgame as it is was "too complicated" and needed reinventing in the form of the Galactic Command system. Through it, anything classified as endgame activity, from dailies to nightmare operations, will fill up a special Galactic Command experience bar, and every time you level up you get a box containing a random gear item, with higher/max Galactic Command level now being the only source of the best gear. If you are lucky.


AHHHHHH, WHAT ARE YOU DOING, BIOWARE?

After the initial shock subsided and I regained my ability to think somewhat, I could see what they are trying to sell us here. It's simple and streamlined, and you can earn the best rewards by playing however you want, right?

But what I'm reading is this: No more choice to work towards a specific goal. No more progressing through content. No more helping someone gear up by boosting them through an operation and giving all the loot to them. Everyone and everything will be at the mercy of that damned random number generator.

The worst thing is that we've been through all of this before. Does nobody work at Bioware anymore that was there for the game's launch? There are still some of us around who were there as players, and we do remember the pain that was the Battlemaster gearing system. People hated it, which is why you got rid of it. Doesn't anyone remember these things? Why is game development going in circles?

Let me be clear here, I'm not among those who hate RNG on principle. Used correctly, it can be a great source of entertainment. But having your entire gear progression system hinge on random boxes is shit. I don't swear on this blog very often, but this really deserves it. I'm sure I'm not the only one who already has visions of getting 18 pairs of bracers in a row but nothing for the slots where I actually need gear. And no, being able to turn those bracers in for additional XP so you can get your 19th pair even faster will not make it more fun.

Some of the other complaints I've seen don't faze me nearly as much. So what if people can also get the best gear by grinding dailies? High-level gear ceased to be a real status symbol quite some time ago. The only reason I've been in full 224 gear for ages is that we made the most out of it whenever Eternity Vault was the highlighted operation of the week - so it was really more about knowing how to game the system than about being the leetest of the leet. It's rare mounts and titles that really command respect these days.

And as for having to be a subscriber to benefit from Galactic Command at all? Ehhh... I kind of get why it annoys people, but sorry, as someone who's been subscribed since launch I'm finding it hard to care. Free to play games don't really want to be free, and obviously people were still finding it too easy to keep engaging in endgame while opting out of paying any money, so I guess they had to put another barrier incentive in there somewhere.

One positive thought that occurred to me after the initial knee-jerk feeling of dislike wore off was that this will basically mean that endgame will now be like endless levelling, with everything you do being about feeding that bar. And you know, I like levelling. Especially during the recent DvL event, I did a lot of it, and gear was a complete non-factor in anything I did. I quested and did flashpoints and warzones because it was fun and gave a feeling of advancement. If I got any gear upgrades on the way, that was entirely incidental and didn't really have any effect on my ability to keep doing what I was already doing. So if endgame becomes more like that... I guess I won't mind that much on a personal level?

I do worry what this will mean for group content though. Part of the reason I haven't felt dragged down by the lack of new operations in the same way as others is that I've accepted long ago that for me, it isn't so much about the operation itself as it is about simply hanging out with friendly people and having a laugh, in the same way that more extroverted people spend their evenings in a pub I guess. But gear acquisition still added at least some sort of structure to what we were doing. You did that one op to help the tank get his main hand, or to gear up someone's healer alt. With bosses basically dropping nothing in the future (cosmetic items like furniture and mounts are so rare as to hardly count), will it still feel like it's worth the effort? Even if they make operations amazingly rewarding in terms of GCXP numbers, I just can't see getting together purely to push that bar forward feeling very satisfying, unless a single operation will be enough to level you multiple times and provide several chances at drops, the way it does now.

What else is there to talk about? To loop back to the separation of PvE and PvP gear mentioned at the start, as far as I remember that had its origins in a desire to make sure that raiders wouldn't be able to jump into battlegrounds and obliterate the dedicated PvPers with the awesomeness of their raid gear. Or the other way round, that raiders wouldn't feel the need to do PvP to get better items for their PvE progression. Basically, the content you were doing was supposed to provide you with appropriate rewards that would allow you to do better at that same type of content. Well, that concept is not just going out the window, it's leaving the atmosphere and shooting for outer space. Except that now it might not merely be a battle between PvE and PvP, but whatever is the easiest source of GCXP I guess. 

In general, whoever can spend the most time in game to grind - whichever type of content - will win. You won't be rewarded for simply playing well and say, doing high-level operations twice a week. The guy who has the most hours per week to play will always be further ahead. That sounds kind of sucky. The only reason I'm not more upset is that SWTOR isn't exactly a highly competitive game by nature and has had a pretty low ceiling for a long time. So it might not be quite so bad if you can get a full gear set within a reasonable amount of time anyway - the theoretical no-lifer will then just continue to receive more bracers to maybe send to an alt. While we haven't had official confirmation on how the legacy system will tie into this, from the sounds of it being able to send gear to lesser-played alts will still be a thing.

This post has been kind of rambly and confused, but that reflects my feelings about this announcement pretty well. I don't think I've felt this uncertain about the game's future since they announced the free-to-play conversion. Still, let's try to summarise the pros and cons as I currently see them:

GOOD:
- Easy to understand progression system, simulates endless levelling.
- Can earn rewards from lots of different content types.
- One set of gear for PvE and PvP = easier to manage.

BAD:
- Little benefit to challenging yourself with tougher content anymore. (Wiping for hours on NiM is just a waste of time when you could be earning GCXP from easier content.)
- There will likely be one "path of least resistance" that will be optimal to grind, countering the concept of having lots of options.
- Being dependent on RNG for all your gear is horrible, no protection against being the unlucky one.
- Fewer tangible goals to work towards since the next Galactic Command level is all there is.
- No way to assist someone else with speeding up their gearing anymore.
- Time to play will be the only deciding factor in gear progression, putting "no-lifers" at more of an advantage than they had before.

What are your thoughts on the proposed new system?

28 comments :

  1. As I've been saying since the announcement (I'm really just repeating this to convince myself more than anything at this stage, I think), whilst I do have some appreciation for what they're doing and making gear more accessible, I'd like it more if there was a more 'concrete' alternative.

    It only being RNG dependent is fairly dire, and ideally would 'need' to be rectified, but it seems that they are set in their stubborn ways once again.

    The really silly thing is that this also undoes the beauty which was making all PvP gear more accessible in 3.3, something which has actively encouraged more and more people to return to PvP activities.

    Ah, well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, getting into PvP as a focus at the start of 5.0 is bound to be harder than it is right now. Even if you only need the one set for both PvE and PvP, getting it is pretty much guaranteed to take longer than the current basic PvP set.

      Delete
  2. It looks like we'll still be able to do the legacy shuffle for mods, etc.

    http://www.swtor.com/community/showpost.php?p=9083426&postcount=556

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, that's what I figured. That's something at least.

      Delete
    2. Of course, as mentioned on Reddit, you're still screwed by the set bonus (if on armoring) as those are still Advanced Class specific.

      Delete
    3. That really has me worried, since Eric more or less confirmed on the forums that it won't consider your spec. So I don't just have a chance of getting one of 14 different slots but also one of 3 different set bonuses? Yikes...

      Delete
  3. So you can't gear up unless you pay for the subscription? Is my understanding correct?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is indeed correct, since Command is only for Subscribers.

      Delete
  4. I think crafting could be the missing element that makes this system decent. It could take the place of commendation gear.

    Imagine if each box contained a piece of Unobtanium, and a piece of gear required 5 Unobtanium to craft. So it becomes like comms, guarantees you to get gear of at least a certain item level eventually.

    Honestly, random loot coming from a boss, or coming from a box you got because you got enough XP from killing that boss, is not that different.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Getting raid gear drops from a daily quest doesn't make much sense in the challenge\reward frame. It does given the last pass to remove the concept of tiers withing the game.

      Seems odd when compared to other MMOs but TOR hasn't tried to be a regular one in years. Maybe they just want a story based game where gear means nothing other than looks.

      Delete
    2. @Rohan: But boss drops in TOR's raids have never been random. Sure, there have been random "extras", but killing boss X has always rewarded set piece slot Y. This is a complete departure from that.

      Though yes, crafting might serve to alleviate some of the issues, also the one of helping a new person gear up faster. We know too little about that as of now though.

      Delete
    3. Crafted gear won't carry set bonus. Eric confirmed that recently. And while he's implied crafted gear will be otherwise statistically identical, he hasn't addressed specifically item modifications

      Delete
  5. I'm okay with the GC being a source of end-game gear. The idea of having to run EV, KP, etc. as the only way to get the best gear has little appear for me. It'd be one thing if KOTET was launching with new Operations, but it's not. The newest Ops in the game are almost two years old now.

    There also isn't any content announced that we're progressing towards anyways, so the GC as the source of gear is fine with me.

    What I don't understand is the need to bring PvP into this and eliminate that gear. That seems unnecessary.

    As far as RNG, I also agree that will be frustrating, especially if you get on an unlucky streak. If you've ever leveled a toon and used the weekly heroics to gear up, you've gotten a taste of RNG gear from crates and that feeling when all you needed is an off-hand and you get a third belt.

    TLDR - GC as a source of gear is good. Bringing PvP into it bad. RNG bad.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wow...5.0 just keeps getting better.
    This whole thing just serves as a method to distract us from the fact that there won't be a lot of content with 5.0. BioWare tries to justify it by saying "endgame is hard to understand". Really? How hard is it to queue in group finder? Maybe if all the breadcrumb questgivers weren't removed people would know what to do next? It's a themepark MMO!! It's not as simple of a progression as it was back in 2.0 for sure, but this is just silly.

    And pure RNG for gear is a STUPID idea. Whomever thought of it and whomever approved it for 5.0 needs to be fired. Why are they bringing back failed ideas? And again, it's a distraction from the fact that there is very little content launching with 5.0, so they're moving the goalpost farther away. Running old ops in 4.0 for gear was OK, because I could at least guarantee what I would have a chance to get. Now it's going to be more of those heroic boxes where in 6 boxes I get 3 earpieces, 2 gloves and 5 relics, when all I wanted was a damn offhand.

    I had really committed myself to not going on the gear treadmill for 5.0. I was going to farm pvp comms before the expansion and then just buy pvp gear and run with that (works for everything except HM OPs). Now....I don't even want to log in anymore. I might just gear up my toons with 204 or 216 drops and never change.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have 30k+ PvP commendations saved up on Shintar and was looking forward to being able to buy the next set right away. I know others who stocked up even more. I'm disappointed now...

      Delete
  7. I guess they think we like opening boxes. Everything is about opening boxes these days. They seem to perceive the Cartel Market as the most successful part of the SWTOR experience, so I guess they want to bring its gameplay to the entire game.

    Don't know what to say, I hate to be like those people on the forums who spend all their time being angry about things, yet I find this news quite discouraging. I've been slowly falling out of love with SWTOR over a rather long period, and this isn't exactly helping.

    I had said that I wasn't going to get back on the gear treadmill with the level increase, because I was just so sick of doing the same old ops. Seems I will be able to re-gear without doing ops now. However, I'm not even sure I can be bothered doing that any more. We'll see, I suppose.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The comparison with the Cartel Market is certainly easy to make, but I thought that would be too much of a cheap shot (and boxes of random loot have existed long before that).

      I guess one saving grace is that gear really doesn't matter that much in SWTOR. I haven't bothered to gear any of my alts this expansion other than for PvP, and my main's gear mostly just "happened" during our regular raids.

      Delete
    2. Can never resist a cheap shot, me. :)

      Delete
  8. It kind of saddens me to see this game go the way it's going. It's also why I haven't really played much the last few months. I stay subbed because I love the benefits of being a sub, but I have never done an Operation, I don't PVP that much because I am to damn slow, and I know I will never have end game gear, hell I can't even get past the first boss fight in Eternal Championship. I had that last tier left in to be able to get the Dark vs Light Companion, but I won't be able too, cause even in 208 and 216 mix gear. I don't get it. So yeah I'll stick with the story of KoTET, and be happy about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are usually folks on Zakuul asking for groups for the Eternal Championship. I think it still counts for DvL if you do it that way, and I hear it is pretty easy if you group up. Might be worth considering.

      You don't actually need end game gear to do story mode ops, and they really are a lot of fun. Even if I have become tired of the ones we have, I'm so glad I got over my intitial reticence about ops, as they have been the most fun I've had in SWTOR. I won't say you should definitely try them, because they may not be for everyone, but I'd hate anyone to miss out like I nearly did.

      Delete
    2. You can do Eternal Championship in Solo+ for the DvL task. I helped my wife get that checkbox that way.

      If you happen to be on JC, let me know and I'll see if we can't work something out.

      Delete
    3. Just thirding the notion that you can do the Eternal Championship in a group. I had to do so too since my DvL character was too weak. I could help on TRE if that's where you were working on it.

      Delete
    4. I'm over on the Ebon Hawk when I do log in, but as of late, I haven't been following anything related to SWTOR, was to hyped up on the Walking Dead, and what not. I haven't even finished my lvl 65 on the DvL for Imperial to be leveled, I just haven't felt like logging into SWTOR even though I do read the blogs and etc from others. But thanks all for the offers.

      Delete
  9. Three quick points:

    1.) Sign me up for the lynch mob forming because all loot depends on RNG. It's basic human nature to want some control over your progression.

    2.) Expertise solves the problem of raiders coming in with there "superior" gear and ROFL-stomping dedicated PVP'ers. Since the PVP'ers will have access to the same gear, there is no ROFL-stomping, so no need for Expertise.

    3.) If they actually go through with allowing crafters to make top tier gear, then the only thing you're actually grinding for is the set bonus. Those had better be the best set bonuses ever!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would still expect there to be ROFLstomping, only by the lucky (gets a full set in a week) vs. the unlucky (has no gear cause they keep getting the same belt over and over). And by those with lots of time of those with little. I suppose the latter was always a thing but its impact was previously minimised by making it really fast to get a full set of basic PvP gear.

      Also, I would be very surprised if they'll let us craft good weapons but I guess we'll see.

      Delete
  10. If they put in effective RNG mitigation mechanics, it's OK. (faint praise). There are a couple ways they could do that, from allowing "free" discard and draw (trash the draw you don't want to fill the CXP bar and draw again), to simply unlocking the armor plate from the specific slot.

    I'm still against it, mind you, but it has a chance of not being awful

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm hoping that there will be enough uproar about this that they will considering adding something like that.

      Delete
    2. Well, the "disintegrate to get CXP" mechanism is announced. The conversion rate is not. There are side effects of the disintegration method (enables power-leveling) that make me think they won't make it that effective.

      I don't often say something BW does is flatly wrongheaded, but this, this I'll make an exception for. RNG for gear does not belong in a subscriber game

      Delete