26/01/2019

Will We Ever Get To Change Sides?

I don't recall there ever being much demand for an out-of-game faction-change feature in SWTOR, probably due to the fact that Bioware has always tried to make sure that neither side has any gameplay advantages over the other, so the main reason to choose one faction or the other is story. So if after levelling a trooper for example, you decide that you want to live the life of a bounty hunter instead, what benefit would there be in your existing max-level character being transformed into a max-level of the other faction, with everything that really sets the class apart already behind you?

The idea of changing sides in character on the other hand has always been vaguely intriguing, as it's one of Star Wars' core themes: the noble Jedi turning into an evil Sith, or the evil Sith redeeming himself when you least expect it. However, the only class that really ran with this theme in the base game was the Imperial agent, where making certain light side choices at the right moments could result in the option to pledge yourself to secretly working for the Republic at the very end of chapter three. Not many people got to experience that though, and with new class and even faction-specific content getting pared down quickly after launch, the whole idea soon lost its relevance. If we're all forced to become the Alliance Commander anyway, where do we even have left to go?


The Imperial agent actually hangs out with the Republic for the entirety of chapter 2 of their class story, but as your choices aren't your own at that point, it doesn't really count.

When Bioware decided to reintroduce at least the Republic/Empire split after KotET, it was a bit of a surprise to everyone when they said that not only would we be able to return to our original faction on Iokath, we'd also be able to betray them and change sides. This got a lot of people very excited at the time (including me!), but like so many aspects of Iokath, the actual execution turned out to be very lacklustre, as the faction change ended up being a limited-time feature that only applies on Iokath and can be reversed at any time. Has anyone actually felt that doing dailies on the right side of the Iokath map instead of the left had any significant impact on their character's identity? Personally I've found it to be nothing but a nuisance to occasionally have troubles inviting guildies to a group if they've been doing dailies on Iokath while pledging their allegiance to the other faction.

Nonetheless, Bioware decided to further expand on the idea of characters betraying their original faction on Ossus. I haven't actually got to see this myself as all of my sufficiently progressed characters are loyalists, and none of the ones I could picture changing sides are anywhere near the right point in the story yet to do so, but I've done some reading up on the subject. Bioware did away with the silly faction hopping this time and you're forced to follow the main story arc of your base faction, however the idea is that you're actually sabotaging it from within at the same time. From what I gather this doesn't change the overall story on Ossus, just a couple of lines of dialogue, but technically you're supposed to be harming them quite badly by doing things such as sending the Jedi's revolutionary farming data to the enemy instead of "your" side.

All that sounds good enough to me for what it is, but the big question it raises is what will come next. I suppose we can keep up this sabotage game for another two or three storylines (maybe with another option to turn back if anyone's starting to have second thoughts about what they're doing), but eventually you'd think that there'd have to be consequences, with the most obvious one being that you change sides for good. I'm sure this would be a huge undertaking from a technical point of view, but even if Bioware managed to get it done somehow I can't help but see other, far-reaching problems that would come with such an option.

- Lack of backwards compatibility: If you switched sides fully, to the point of hanging out on the other faction's fleet and so on... what would you actually do there? Most of the stuff from KotFE onwards would be completed, whether you actually did it yourself or it was auto-completed for you, but you couldn't go back to do most of the old content for your new faction such as quests or flashpoints, because the vast majority of it involves voice lines and there was never any dialogue recorded for a Sith warrior on the Esseles for example. I guess you could do operations or PvP, but then you could already do those as part of your old faction too. Otherwise there'd be nothing to do but wait for the next, saboteur-compatible content to drop and maybe do some crafting and roleplaying in the meantime.


Lord Praven from the Jedi knight story is an example of a Sith converting to the Jedi way of life (if you let him).

- The social aspect: I mentioned the annoyance of being unable to invite guildies to groups on Iokath earlier, but now imagine that this was permanent... Wouldn't it suck to lose your guild's main tank because they decided to switch sides during their solo story? And how would the player feel about suddenly losing the ability to group with all their friends? What happens if you're a guild leader at the time of changing factions?

I guess many people play both sides anyway, but that doesn't mean that this wouldn't still cause quite a few messes and conflicts. The only straightforward way of avoiding the entire issue that I can see would be to allow cross-faction grouping across the entire game, and that would go very much against the renewed focus of Republic vs. Empire and open a whole other Pandora's box.

- Choices matter is both one of Bioware's catchphrases and a bit of a meme in SWTOR as players have often found that a superficially impactful choice later turns out to not have changed all that much after all. However, changing your character's faction for good would be a pretty big choice - and as much as players like to claim that they want their choices to matter, you know that there'd be people who'd soon regret deserting, no matter how many times you asked them beforehand whether they really, really wanted to do it, and then there'd be hell to pay on the forums.

It's an interesting dilemma, because as much as I love the idea of people being able to play out their very personal story of redemption or fall to the dark side to its logical and very Star Wars-y conclusion, I just can't see it happen from a practical point of view. But then, what other possible outcome could there be after repeated acts of sabotage that still makes sense from a story point of view and actually respects your choices?

8 comments :

  1. This is something to which I've also given some thought, and while I jokingly predicted faction swapping last year, I don't really think it can fully happen, but I'd love to be wrong. On Ossus my saboteur Bounty Hunter has spent the last month killing Jedi and burning their crops and ancient texts, so I don't feel like the loyalty choice has had any weight outside the story. But I can't blame BW for backing away from the Iokath mechanic because it played havoc with grouping if we wanted to visit the Machine Gods ops or team up for the Colossus. On Ossus I do actually want to do the heroic-4 with friends and join pugs for the world bosses without having to worry about story choices getting in the way.

    I think cross faction has been good for PVP and I can see it becoming apart of the PVE group finder. It would easiest to slip into Operations and Uprisings where there are no faction specific cutscenes. But, as you say, it would be weird to see Sith Inquisitors running the Esseles and Republic Troopers leading Boarding Party.

    When I run Group Finder for an operation, however, it is almost always as a premade and I'm not sure if it would ever be possible to form a group across factions. I think it would be cool if they could pull it off. I swap gear across mirror classes several times a week, but would certainly prefer to focus on one character instead.

    The old stronghold bug allowed cross faction visits to fleet and the capital worlds, so we know it is possible for players to get to those locations, but the trick would be in making those visits meaningful and useful.

    I'm genuinely curious to see how Bioware pays off this choice they've asked us to make three times now. If it only is reflected in the story, I will understand, but if they can pull off something more I'll be super-impressed. And if they can do with out bugs, I'll be truly thunderstruck.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As much as I grumbled about cross-faction PvP, I can't deny that it's helped with queues and getting slightly more balanced teams on average. But I still don't think it would work in PvE. Like I said in the post, a Sith on the Esseles wouldn't just be weird but literally impossible as they wouldn't be able to slot into the dialogue. Bioware would either have to re-record a whole bunch of old dialogue for the classes missing it or somehow make the cross-faction players mute/make them speak with a different voice. And while mixing the factions would theoretically work for things like uprisings and operations, I don't think a piecemeal approach would be desirable here.

      I have to admit that as much as I love Bioware, I do sometimes worry that they make decisions like this saboteur thing without considering how they are going to deal with them in the long-term...

      Delete
    2. You could get away with cross faction flashpoints if Bioware treated it as an infiltration or masquerade. If they framed it as, say, an Inquisitor pretending to be a Consular or vice-versa, and let each class appear to be their mirror then it could work. Just have the voice lines and a set look get applied. (Wow does something like this for cross faction PvP and in the new raid.)

      All this said, I suspect it would be a fair amount of work on the engine side, but conceptually it would be a clean solution. By just letting the voice lines and looks change they don't need to try to make each class work as their mirror class. Folks hotbars and abilities would be the same. Their would need to be some suspension of disbelief when an Inquisitor threw rocks, for example, but the Sith are weird and the galaxy is a big place. :)

      Delete
    3. I suppose that would work from a technical point of view... but I have to admit I think it sounds pretty terrible, lol. For all of WoW's strengths, when it comes to things like RPG aspects and immersion, saying "WoW did this" is pretty much the opposite of a recommendation. :P

      Delete
    4. Oh, I agree it is a clunky solution, but I was trying to find something that might be easier for them to do than actually swap folks to their mirror classes. That's the pain of making any cross-faction stuff work in the faction-specific flashpoints. Wow has it much easier with the classes not being faction specific.

      All this said, the easiest thing to do is not allow cross faction in the faction instances and just do it for the others.

      Delete
  2. I think cross faction ops can definitely work maybe not on all but most of them. It would be a welcome change for me and I suspect many others. The only way I can see it happening is if they make it GF only this means you dont have to mess around with premades and getting around that. I would gladly wait in a GF queue if I could play with the other faction. As for switching sides I don't see any real benefit from the amount of work needed although it would be fun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The thing is I see very few people queueing for ops through the group finder without a premade group as it is, so I'm not sure a lot of players would benefit from that being made cross-faction.

      Delete
  3. I think at 1st people would use GF to cross faction. However it would probably go by the wayside after a while and most would just pre make groups.

    ReplyDelete

Share your opinion! Everyone is welcome, as long as things stay polite. No sign-in required. I also read comments on older posts, so don't be shy. :)