10/06/2018

R.I.P. Faction Rivalry & Other PvP Changes

Last week Eric Musco started to use the forums to talk to players about some of the planned PvP changes to gather feedback. And you can tell that Bioware has been taking it seriously because they've actually already gone back on one major change after it wasn't well received! That's really good to see.

That said... considering that all of these changes are supposed to be improvements, I'm feeling so-so about what's been announced so far. Some things do sound good to me and like they could shake up the meta in interesting ways, but others have me taking a more sceptical stance. I'm not saying they'll be bad, but I'll actually have to see them in action for myself to be convinced that they really are as good as the devs think they will be, because to me there are some obvious downsides.

I won't go down the list bullet point by bullet point as others have already done a good job of that, but I do want to talk about some key changes.

First off, some general goodness: They are making some changes to forcefully stop cheaters that were using hacks to move around the map to places where they shouldn't have been able to go. After having witnessed people walk through forcefields or teleport themselves inside walls recently, I'm all for that. The only thing that makes me a little sad is that these changes all follow a brute force approach, which is to say the devs are putting up new barriers and causing players to be auto-killed if they enter an area that should be inaccessible. The reason this makes me sad is that the addition of extra force fields in the second room of the Voidstar will make a perfectly legitimate but tricky tactic to cross the chasm before the bridges are down impossible in the future. They didn't say anything about intentionally wanting to kill this manoeuvre, so I assume the change wasn't targeted at people doing this specifically and will just kill it as a side effect.

Matchmaking

The biggest announcement for me was confirmation of the matchmaking changes, which started with a statement that all warzones will become cross-faction. I've said in the past that I've never been a huge fan of that idea, so that was a bit of a downer to me. Don't get me wrong, I see the potential benefits. But I also liked feeling a certain faction pride in PvP, and that Bioware actually cared about the warzones making some sort of sense. (So when they initially enabled same-faction matches for all warzones for example, they changed the voice-overs to say that it was just a training exercise.) I wonder if they'll even bother to try and come up with anything to give completely mixed teams in warzones like Civil War or Novare Coast some legitimacy. Considering that the plans for the overall story line are to make Republic vs. Empire more of a focus again, ditching it completely in PvP seems a bit strange to say the least. (The other day I actually got teamed up with a guy in Yavin Ruins that thought his Imp being put on the same team as a bunch of Pubs was a bug. We had to explain that it wasn't.)


Then there is the planned role balancing for tanks and healers. Again, in principle this sounds like a good idea. One team being virtually unkillable due to an over-abundance of tanks and healers can be... interesting sometimes but generally it doesn't make for the most fun matches. What has me worried is that they are seemingly planning to lump tanks and healers into a single "support" role which will then be limited to two per team. (I don't think this has been 100% confirmed as the wording of the forum post is a bit ambiguous, but that's certainly what it sounds like.) As someone who often plays healers I'm certainly not looking forward to having longer queues just because there are usually a lot of us queuing when I play!

In addition I have to say that being the only healer in an 8-man team is actually rarely fun, because if the enemy puts a mark on your head there'll be nobody there to support you, so I'm not looking forward to that becoming more common. And no, I'm not really counting pug tanks as potential support. Don't get me wrong, a well-played tank can be a huge asset to your team, but from my experience many tanks in unranked are pretty bad... and yes, healers can be bad too, but at least they generally know that they are supposed to heal. Yet if I had a credit for every time I've run into someone who was specced into tanking in PvP yet earned zero protection points throughout the entire match... yeah. I wouldn't be surprised if tanks became pretty unpopular after this change, seeing how they'll be seen as "taking up a healer slot".

Interestingly there's been no mention of being able to select any maps as ones that you would prefer or want to avoid; I wonder if they've already given up on that. Though the new matchmaker will make arenas much less likely to pop in unranked apparently, which seems fair considering that you can always target them specifically by queuing for ranked. Once upon a time I would have been super happy about this change as I wasn't too thrilled by the introduction of arenas, but considering how many different maps have a chance to pop by now anyway, a certain percentage of those being arenas hasn't actually bothered me in a long time.

The one thing that really has me intrigued is that they are planning to include "skill" rating in the matchmaking process in the future, and that this is something they've apparently been tracking since the game's launch. (I put "skill" in quotes because presumably your skill has only a limited amount of influence on your team winning or losing in a random 8-man.) My first reaction was actually: I want to be able to see this! It should still be hidden from others of course, so that people would only know yours if you personally told them, but I would certainly find it fun to confidentially compare my stats with those of my friends (or even among different alts, assuming that this rating is character and not account based.)

Then again, even that could have negative side effects, especially as it's been stated that if you queue as a group, your group's rating will be based on that of the highest ranked player, not an average of all group members. That means that while in the past it was always a given that you would be happy for a highly skilled guild mate to join you, with such a rating system you might want to think twice before inviting Mr PvP Pro, considering that having him along will also drastically increase your chances of facing some very stiff competition in the next match... ah, it's fun to speculate about such things.

Gameplay Changes

Gameplay-wise, most of the proposed changes seem to be aimed at making matches faster and giving the offense more of a leg up (and Eric did state outright that this was their goal), though there are some outliers. Changes that fall into this category are ships taking faster damage on Alderaan and on Yavin, shorter cap timers in Voidstar, and the respawn area opening up more frequently in Ancient Hypergates than it does right now. I don't think the first two will make that much of a difference, as the only times when those maps seem to drag are when one or more of the turrets remain uncapped for a long time, and I think that will continue to be a drag regardless.


The shorter Voidstar cap timers are interesting though, as they will make lone defenders much more vulnerable to stealth capping. In case you don't know, long-duration crowd control in PvP lasts eight seconds at max, and caps in Voidstar currently take exactly the same amount of time. This means that it's very hard to pull off a cap after crowd-controlling, since there's always a tiny delay between your CC going off and you being able to start to cap, so that the CC will inevitably run out just before the cap finishes, giving the defender a chance to interrupt. With the cap timer being two seconds shorter than the CC duration, capping will become much easier - this can already be observed in Ancient Hypergates, where the time to cap a pylon has always been six seconds.

Changes that sort of go into the opposite direction, making matches slightly longer, have been announced for arenas and Huttball. In arenas the acid now won't kill you quite as quickly if the match goes into overtime and will gradually reduce healing done instead of instantly making it completely ineffective. This I'm actually really happy about, as the complete immunity to heals as soon as the acid hit always turned healers into a liability instead of an asset, because suddenly the winner was whoever could do more damage to the enemy more quickly. This way it will be more balanced and still give healers a chance to continue contributing, even as death slowly becomes inevitable.

Huttball was always going to be a special case based on how different it is from most game modes, so I guess it shouldn't be surprising that this was the one where Bioware ended up going back on their initial proposal. Their initial suggestion was to have the Huttball apply a hindered debuff (similar to what you get when you get hit by a Commando or Merc's Electro Net), disabling leaps, speed boosts and immunities. I'm glad that they decided to not go with that plan, because while it can be annoying when a well-played character uses their speed boosts to zoom across the map towards the goal line at high speeds, the sheer utility of these abilities in the Pit compared to other maps is part of what makes Huttball fun.

I'm quite happy with what they've announced instead, which is that Giradda will kill the ball carrier if they hold on to the ball for 45 seconds (down from two minutes). With the two minute timer I've actually seen this happen only very rarely, usually when the ball was caught by a newbie who didn't know how to pass and just kept running around aimlessly. Bringing this down to 45 seconds won't prevent someone from trying to make a fast run for the goal line, but they shouldn't be able to brute force it on their own via cooldown use if the enemy is actually slowing them and they aren't getting any support from their team mates.

That said, I find it interesting that Bioware felt the need to slow down scoring in the first place if one of their stated goals was faster matches. Yes, encouraging team play and all that... but that was already a big aspect of Huttball anyway. In a similar vein they've stated that in the future you'll have to score ten goals instead of six to win... which to be honest sounds more painful than fun to me, because rare is the match where you get to one team scoring six times and that actually being balanced and fun. Usually when one team is able to score six times it's because they are completely steamrolling the opposition and the poor losers are just waiting for the pain to end. Having to wait for ten goals in the future doesn't strike me as an improvement.


Sadly there's been no mention of trying to address the desync problems yet...

1 comment :

  1. 'What has me worried is that they are seemingly planning to lump tanks and healers into a single "support" role which will then be limited to two per team. (I don't think this has been 100% confirmed as the wording of the forum post is a bit ambiguous, but that's certainly what it sounds like.)'

    Oh, that sounds unfortunate.

    ReplyDelete

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