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
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:
- 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.
- 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?