15/06/2019

Points and Pointlessness

Sooner than expected, Tuesday's patch brought the return of the Conquest point change about which I expressed concerns two weeks ago, and which crashed the servers last Tuesday. This time it "only" caused the game to crash whenever you looked at the mission or Conquest tabs, which was still something to behold. (Seriously, I don't think my game had crashed this much since 2012.) A server restart took care of that particular issue quickly enough, but the game remains somewhat laggy during busy times, as it's now trying to assign Conquest points to every little action.

The reports from guildies who had briefly seen the way this worked a week ago, before the change had to be temporarily reverted, were not exaggerated. The Conquest point gains assigned based on normal experience earned are absolutely insane at level 70. Yes, I know it's also double XP week right now, but still. After less than two days of playing, my main was "accidentally" sitting on a personal score of about 80k points, without even trying... with your personal "target" for the week still set at 15k.

And I know this is not going to be a popular opinion, but I find that kind of sad.

More than anything the current situation actually reminds me of what was done to levelling heroics in 4.0: They used to be casual, open world group content, and I loved them. Then Bioware changed them into basically another form of solo daily quests, and all the people who like dailies and who didn't care for the old heroics went: "Yes! Best change ever!"

And because there are apparently a lot of people who like dailies, this was seen as the popular opinion, and the end result was that people who liked dailies now had more of them than before, with two different names (the ones actually called dailies and the ones called heroics), and people who liked casual, open world group content (like me) had no content of that type to play anymore.

Conquest has always been an objective-based endgame system. While you could technically also participate at lower levels, the general idea was quite obviously for it to be something to keep you busy at max level. The different objectives gave you goals to work on, and the changing weekly events provided variety in what kind of goals were available.

I think Galactic Command caused a bit of an identity crisis for Conquest, because the two systems were filling somewhat similar niches, giving you a bar to fill via a variety of activities to earn rewards. At least that was my theory as to why, when Bioware revamped Conquest in 5.8, they narrowed down the objectives a bit and emphasised the collaborative aspect more heavily than previously.

The initial version of the updated system was probably a bit too stingy with objectives, but this was rectified relatively quickly, leaving the new Conquest in a very good place in my opinion. I've been participating in it almost every single week since then, much longer than the original iteration of Conquest ever managed to keep me engaged.

After this week's patch though, Conquest objectives have suddenly and decisively become utterly pointless, because the amount of "passive" points you automatically earn for the simplest of tasks, from killing a group of mobs to completing a single daily quest, is so insanely high that pursuing any particular objective for its comparatively piddly Conquest point reward is pretty much a futile endeavour with no real benefit. From what I've seen, the most efficient way to fill your Conquest point bar now is to simply do dailies/heroics or grind mobs.

It doesn't really matter though, because you'll get points no matter what you do. You'll get enough points to hit your target if you've never even heard of Conquest. I'm pretty sure that there's a significant number of casual players out there who'll be very surprised this week to suddenly get a random quest-like pop-up that suddenly gives them free stuff for nothing in particular (as far as they can tell).

And in my opinion, that sucks. Like with the heroics, a type of gameplay that was one thing has suddenly been turned into something completely different. And since that "something different" is "get free stuff for whatever you were going to do anyway", forums and blogs are full of praise for this change. But all I'm seeing when I read "I love the new Conquest" is: "I didn't care for Conquest before, so thanks for turning it into something different now that gives me free stuff for doing my dailies".

Meanwhile my own gameplay experience is diminished, because Conquest goals feel like a thing of the past now, as my Conquest bar just fills itself in parallel to my CXP bar, with no notable difference between the two other than different rewards when the bar is full.

Make no mistake: I'm not saying that Conquest needed to be hard, before anyone accuses me of some kind of elitism. In fact I just praised the Pirate Incursion event for its variety of new and rewarding objectives only a week ago. I'm saying it should have remained something that requires deliberation and conscious decision-making about which activities to do or not do. We already had a system that rewarded you for playing any way you like, and I don't see why we needed another that works more or less the same way.

I will keep participating in Conquest of course, because there literally isn't a way not to anymore, unless all you do is roleplay on the fleet. But mindlessly showering me with rewards is not the same as actually giving me something interesting to do.

5 comments :

  1. There's a double xp week? I haven't logged into TOR since I got back, having been focused on EQ2's holiday event and catching up on blog reading, but I was planning to re-sub next week. I just checked and it ends on Tuesday - probably going to miss it.

    As for Conquest, it's yet another mysterious system I've been ignoring. I get pop-ups occasionally, telling me I've completed some Conquest objective but nothing seems to happen and I have no idea what I've done or what the benefits are supposed to be. I was guessing it was linked to that other thing that sometimes appears, telling me whether Light or Dark is doing better in some competition I also know nothing about. My current plan, since there's every chance I'll be off work for most of the summer, is to get to the level cap and then look stuff up to see what it means but I'm wondering if that's really going to be viable. I feel I know less now than I did when I started!

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    1. I think you shouldn't worry too much about these systems; they basically exist to keep long-time players entertained who've been there and done all that.

      Dark vs. Light is just something that slightly increases rewards if your side has recently won, and Conquest, as hinted at in this post, is another way of earning extra rewards by doing certain activities.

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  2. It is definitely raining conquest points! I agree that the points you get are way too high. If they diminished the returns by 25% or so, I feel it would make conquest more of a goal to strive for.

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  3. I'm feeling the pointlessness as well. First and foremost, it seems like the change is still causing lag especially where farmers are gathering. I tried to run the non bug hunt heroics on Balmorra and the lag was rough even in instances with as few as 30 people. Once the population hits the 90s its gets bad. Likewise, the lag on Dantooine is frustrating too. Whatever issues I have with Conquest, I'll take those over smoother play any day.

    On the bad side, I'm in a small guild with Republic and Sith branches to feed, and while we generally hit our small yield target, we're still only levels 16 and 14. At this rate, it might be 2021 before we max out the guild's. If it didn't matter I wouldn't care. But large guilds have access to better perks and better rewards. Excepting guilds that are focused on Conquest and may or may not be botting medpacks, I don't think our individual members are putting any more or less effort than folks in large guilds who succeed due to the economy of scale.

    My guild would've hit a large yield this week, but I didn't dream it would be possible, so I set the target for a medium planet. We blew through that goal in two days without even trying. Double XP is probably skewing the numbers, but it seems like Medium will be the new Small.

    If this a meant to be a catchup mechanism for small guilds, I applaud Bioware's intentions, but I think it's making a bigger mess than the one it's cleaning up. Generating four or five types of XP (xp/cxp, legacy xp, conquest points, guild xp) from every action we take is ridiculous system bloat.

    What I like about Conquest before is that it could direct my play in different directions from week to week. Oh, lots of PVP objectives? Let's do that. Well, the op of the day is this, but if we run that instead we get lots of points. That sort of thing. Now objectives don't matter. In fact, I'm avoiding them to reduce lag. I think there can be a middle ground and I hope they can find it soon.

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    1. The thing is, from a competitive point of view, I think this change actually exacerbates the size issues. Previously, a dedicated small/medium guild could beat a medium/large guild that didn't care, because 10 members that were actively working on their Conquest objectives were worth more than 50 that were just doing whatever (playing through their class story etc.). But after this change, every character that is active in any way boosts a guild's score, while trying to complete objectives hardly gives you an edge anymore, making raw member numbers more of an advantage than ever before.

      Issues with small guilds levelling too slowly could have been addressed by tweaking other knobs, without making this change.

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