22/05/2018

Summer of PvP

Last week Keith surprised us with the unexpected release of a road map for summer. The reason this was as surprising as it was is that Bioware usually likes to make announcements about announcements for teasers first, so them just dropping something like that without warning is rather unusual.

I read through it before anyone else had a chance to talk to me about it and my first thought was that there were probably going to be a lot of complaints about too much focus on PvP and about how nobody thinks of the poor, neglected solo players, and when I looked around on forums and social media later, that seemed to have been right on the money.

There is very little talk of actual new content coming out any time soon. There is mention of more companion returns, "a completely new storyline" as well as "new characters to meet and planets to explore in the new year", but that's all still very far off (autumn/winter) and vague. I don't really count things like Nar Shaddaa Nightlife returning once again or another week of double (C)XP as content, even if they are nice.

The only definitives we have to look forward to in the near future are:

- A new stronghold set on Rishi
- A new arena (I think it was previously mentioned that this would be set in Shae Vizla's Mandalorian compound on Rishi) and a new Huttball map set "in the dangerous and dizzying heights of an industrial planet" (guesses as to said planet's identity that I've seen so far range from Corellia to Vandin).

Aside from that, there was some talk about quality of life improvements, which are always nice to see but which aren't a complete replacement for actual content. Also, apart from a mention of "big updates for guilds" later in the year, the upcoming changes are all PvP focused and again somewhat vague. I'll hazard a guess at what some of them might mean:

- Convert more, if not all, of our Warzones and Arenas to allow cross-faction grouping: Okay, this one is pretty clear except for some wiggle room in terms of what exactly "more, if not all" will turn out to be. This is the one thing I'm actually not keen on at all, because yes, I care about roleplaying in my PvP - crazy, huh? That's to say: I'm fine with making some more warzones cross-faction where this makes sense, which is to say in Huttball and in the arenas. I'm not keen on the idea of the factions mingling randomly in warzones that have traditionally been explicitly about the Empire-Republic conflict. However, I could see Bioware perceiving a certain necessity for this, as some of the other changes they are alluding to actually risk increasing queue times (see below).

- We’re investigating ways of improving the experience of all Warzones: This is about as vague as it can get, but my personal hope is that it means that they are looking into addressing the desync issues that have plagued the game's PvP for a while and which have gotten considerably worse over the past couple of years. I tried to find some great videos/gifs again that I'd seen on reddit about this in the past and couldn't find them right now, but for those who've never experienced desync, it means that your game client and the game servers can have some pretty violent disagreements about what's happening in any given situation. The effects of this are worst in Huttball, where you might find yourself passing to someone just to watch that person suddenly teleport somewhere completely different so that you look like an idiot who just passed into empty space for no reason. Similarly you might leap towards the ball carrier in Queshball and suddenly have them vanish and re-appear on a completely different floor, which is very hard to recover from. I've had both of those happen to me and they are highly discouraging. We can only hope.

- We’re taking an in-depth look at our unranked PvP matchmaking system overall to see what kinds of improvements we can make to better ensure every match is a good one: Another very vague one, but here my guess is that they are looking into role-balancing, which currently isn't a thing in unranked at all. The goal would obviously be to avoid matches where one side has four healers and the other has none. While I've had some pretty memorable games with setups like that, I can't disagree that it would be better to have balance, though I dread the effect this might have on queue times for healers if there aren't enough or too many queuing for your respective faction. Then again, I suppose the increased cross-faction queuing is probably meant to address this.

- We’re also exploring giving unranked players more queue control over which Warzones and Arenas they want to play: While still somewhat vague, this one is a bit clearer and basically talking about a feature that people have been requesting since launch: to queue specifically for the warzone(s) they want or at least to be able to exclude one or two that they really hate. There is a reason this has been rejected for years, and that has been queue times (and risk of enforced monotony for those who queue for everything just because x people don't like Huttball for example). I'm not sure why it would be feasible now, even with cross-faction queuing, but I guess Keith intentionally used language that doesn't commit them to anything ("we're also exploring...").

- We’ll be focusing attention on exploiters, cheaters, and adjusting how Ranked Warzones complete: This one is straightforward and I'm glad to hear it, especially after I managed to go for years without running into any genuine hackers/cheaters but recently encountered one twice within the course of only a few months. People running through walls and forcefields or teleporting themselves inside a wall to AoE their opponents from an unreachable position suck.

- Finally, the Rishi stronghold as well as some changes to the way decorations work will be set up with an eye on supporting duelling tournaments and such. My first thought on reading this was "Are they actually implementing this just for Snave?" but I'm guessing there must be other people arranging events like these on occasion... I don't really see this being very relevant to me, but at least it's kind of original I guess? Or are there any other MMOs out there that encourage you to build custom PvP areas?

All in all, I agree that this road map is particularly thin on concrete information, but then the early summer months are traditionally the least busy season for MMOs so I can't claim to find this shocking or terribly disappointing. Also, while I'm not a huge PvPer, it is a part of the game that I quite enjoy (even if it's on a more casual basis), so I'm happy to see and test whatever changes they come up with.

8 comments :

  1. I think this roadmap serves two purposes, firstly to show a little love to the PVP community and secondly to give the devs breathing room to develop the next set of PVE content.

    People want an expansion of the more traditional style with a planet/s and a full operation. This takes time but they need to release something whilst they work on new story content.

    PVP is quicker to do. The new arena sounds like a cut and paste from the Bloodhunt flashpoint. The new Huttball is probably on an existing planet so many of the art assets are already in game. There's very little writing or voice work to do in PVP. The remaining PVP items are updating the functionality of existing backend systems.

    I guess this must leave the creatives free to work on something and since we're not going to see any of that until late in the year that something should be substantial.

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    1. Oh, I absolutely agree that PvPers deserved some love. And it's no skin off my back if they focus on different parts of the game in turn as I do like to participate in most activities at least sometimes. :)

      And yes, the explanation that they can release little right now because they need to focus on the future if they want to release 6.0 as one big package makes sense. Since they didn't actually say that though, the reasons for the lack of new content in the immediate future are open to interpretation and the speculation makes for prime doomsayer fodder. :-/

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  2. I wouldn't be surprised if Snave was everyone's first thought when it came to supporting dueling tournaments in strongholds. It was for me.

    I wouldn't mind having role-balancing in unranked. They might also be doing ELO balancing, as well. Assuming the cross faction adds enough bodies to the queues it would be nice to have Warzones be closer in skill levels amongst all the players.

    I also find it amusing that Swtor is adding PvP map blacklisting just as WoW is removing map blacklisting. Watching an MMO add a feature that another MMO is removing is fun because you get to see how each set of Devs tries to solve problems at different points in the life of their game.

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    1. Hah, I had no idea that WoW was removing that. That's funny to me. I was about to ask why, but a quick Google search gave an explanation of some sort (large vs. small battlegrounds). Wonder if we'll see similar behaviour in SWTOR then, with people wanting to avoid either arenas or objective-based warzones?

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    2. I suspect more people will want to avoid arenas, but I could see them avoiding WZs if all they want to do is quickly lose their way to the PvP weekly. I'm going to have to get back into Swtor PvP and watch what happens. :)

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  3. A few days ago, you tweeted a video about an audio podcast from Totalbiscuit/his wife/and a friend. They are talking about SWTOR back when it was released. Boy...they sound so excited about all the small things, what this "new" MMO did so tremendously right compared to other MMOs. Small things like sending out one of your companion to gathering missions. I didn't know that this small feature revolutionized the gaming industry. :)

    Joking aside...it was really nice to hear people talking so enthusiastic about SWTOR. Especially their love for the story (Bountyhunter and Inquisitor in this case). It was heart-warming. I realized how blunt i am, after all this years...rerolling toon after toon through the same old story. Bioware did a really good job on the story, didn't they?!

    Good old times...what i really want to say...thank you for the tweet/link. I enjoyed the show. And thank you for the new videos on your Youtube-Channel. Always fun to watch...

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    1. You're welcome! I should re-listen to that Totalbiscuit podcast myself some time... :)

      And yeah, I would say it's pretty impossible to maintain that sense of wonder for years and years. Just the other day I was cruising around Tatooine and thinking about how vast it seemed to me back when I started playing but nowadays I know every nook and cranny of the map so it feels much smaller. That's just the nature of these games I think.

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  4. You know, it's funny, I was sitting in my couch and I suddenly missed you and your way of talking about the game! So, here I am. I was also surprised at the sudden roadmap, and it isn't very clear in a lot, but let's all talk PvP!
    I don't much enjoy PvP (regardless of the game) because I feel it ends up encouraging and/or being a constant victim of the most toxic gamers. It keeps me out of them, and, quite frankly, I see no point in just randomly walking and killing another player. Yes, even while role-playing. That said, I enjoy that's war zones are more tactical and have different objectives, and I've had tons of fun playing PvP. I do love the idea of Huttball! And I HAVE always wondered why Hutt-related war zones weren't crossfaction as there's no good reason for them to be decided by it!

    Anyway, I'm going to hope for more hints of new story/pve content and decorate my new rush I stronghold when it comes.....

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