22/04/2018

The Point of Conquest

One of the nice things about having a blog is that you get to look back on what you thought about events years ago without having to purely rely on your potentially fuzzy memory. Unlike the way our brain remembers things, the written word doesn't change over time. So when the recent Conquest changes were implemented, I went back to see what I had thought about the system when it was first introduced back in late 2014. (Gosh, has it really been that long?) I had completely forgotten that my first reaction could pretty much be summed up as: "This is quite fun but I'm not entirely sure what's the point."

Since then I've been trying to consider the Conquest changes from that angle: the system's purpose in the game and how the changes potentially reflect an attempt to change - or at least adjust - the reasons people might participate in Conquest.

For the record, I'm still having a pretty good time with it myself. My guild has hit its small yield target every week so far, and once we even went for medium yield and managed to hit that, though it took more than the normal effort to do so.


The way I see it, Conquest was always meant to fulfil two purposes:

1) To give people something to do, on an individual level. Some would call this a pointless grind, but I prefer to see it as an offer of structure for those who enjoy their time in the game in general but find it hard to regularly choose among all the different activities on offer. When in doubt, you can do something that will also earn you some Conquest points.

2) To give guilds as entities something to do beyond chatting and raiding, something that can be both collaborative and competitive (by inviting comparison with other guilds).

The thing that immediately struck me about point one the moment I thought about it is that this is one of the main purposes of Galactic Command as well. And I suspect that this probably presented a problem from a dev point of view: What's the point of having two systems that are so similar? The main difference is that Galactic Command doesn't become available until max level and is limited to subscribers, but aside from that they've both been largely about running X flashpoints or completing Y warzones to earn points to fill a bar that's worth a box of goodies at the end.

So now my theory is that this is part of why they reduced the points granted by repeatable activities so drastically: Galactic Command allows you to earn your points in whichever way you like, so in order to make Conquest different they had to change it so that you wouldn't just automatically hit your goal from doing the same activities you were already doing for Galactic Command. Instead you have to plan and/or mix it up a bit.

The new system doesn't actually make it hard to hit your target on your first character - in fact one of the recent events had me hit my target faster than I'd ever done it before, in a single night: Two operations were featured as one-time goals worth 7,500 points each (with maxed out stronghold bonus), so my guild ran both of those on story mode in one evening - and boom, that was my personal target of 15k points achieved. But you do have to actually look at which activities are featured that week and consider which ones are the most rewarding for your time investment.

That said, there are still similarities between GC and Conquest, and I think that's part of why I've been enjoying it as much as I have: I embraced Galactic Command after it had gone through a sufficient number of iterations and actually got loads of characters to 300... but I've reached a point now where I'm finding it hard to care because I have almost no level 70s left that aren't Command rank 300. Sure, I could always level up more, but... meh. Just then new Conquest arrived to save the day and provide me with something similar but different to hold my attention.

I feel like Conquest's purpose for guilds is a bit trickier to unpack. My first thought was that the removal of the invasion bonus has de-emphasised the importance of being in a guild to do Conquest, but there is more going on than that.

It seems to me that in the past, Conquest was always meant to be more competitive than collaborative, because while it required working together, all your hard work and team spirit would come to naught if you weren't competitive enough to make it into the top ten. On the surface, the introduction of small, medium and large yield planets should have supported the competitive aspects of the system by making the competition more "fair" by pitting guilds of similar size against each other, but that's clearly not working. (Seriously, everyone just seems to go for small yield except for some confused people whose guilds score like 20k points in total and I'm not sure what they were expecting to achieve by invading the large yield planet.)

You almost have to wonder whether Bioware themselves had doubts about whether this would work or not, because at the same time the yield system makes competition a lot less important and makes it all about collaboration instead. Oh well, so you didn't win first place, but at least everyone still got their prize, right?

However, looking at the personal targets again, a lot of the changes there seem to be geared towards making competition between guilds more fair. The big crafting nerf was one. As I already wrote three years ago, the previous iteration was just ridiculously overpowered. Logging in for five minutes a day to craft would earn you more points than actually playing the game all day, and that was just silly. More importantly though, it allowed guild members to make wildly different contributions to the shared goal. The last few times when my guild placed on the board under the old system were pretty much down to one or two people crafting goods worth several millions (!) of points each. And I'm not knocking their efforts - I was grateful for the free ride, but it wasn't exactly a case of everyone coming together in a big display of team spirit. It meant that for many guilds competing for first place on the board basically came down to how many selected members could burn the most credits on crafting in the shortest amount of time, which wasn't really meant to be the point.

I suspect that the changes to objectives, with their move away from repeatable activities towards more one-time objectives is also related to this, because it means that there are basically "diminishing returns" as you try to bring up more alts. It can be done, but for the sake of guild competitiveness it makes more sense to have as many individuals as possible contributing, instead of being able to rely on three guys who play all day and have an army of alts.

tl;dr:

The conquest changes make sense if the devs' goal was to distinguish the system more clearly from Galactic Command and to make it more about people successfully working together as a group instead of a few rich/dedicated individuals carrying everyone else to victory.

I think the main problem it has right now is that the competitive aspect is kind of standing on wobbly legs because the yield system is so not working out as a way to make competition more fair. That, and that some points values even for one-time objectives seem seriously out of whack in terms of effort vs. reward. I also agree with Intisar that they could add some more one-time objectives to give people more choice in terms of how to achieve their personal target without making it too easy to farm points on a dozen alts (I love operations but they feel a bit over-represented at the moment for example - need more one-time goals related to things like warzones, GSF etc.). I'm sure that all of these things are still being looked at, however.

6 comments :

  1. Long-time lurker, first-time commenter. :-)

    That's a really interesting take, and it sounds very plausible to me. The devs were clearly aiming the changes at _something_, but I was having trouble figuring out what.

    I don't really have a dog in this fight, since I'm the only person left in my tiny friends-and-family guild. I pretty much ignored Conquest before 5.8, except for Trade Emporium, which gave me rewards for stocking up on prefabs I needed anyway. I wasn't interested in crafting Invasion Forces, since I didn't really have a use for them.

    However, the new Stronghold decorations introduced in 5.8 gave me a reason to meet the personal goal on at least one character and also a use for crafted Invasion Forces. So far, it hasn't been a problem achieving the personal goal on one character each week, and it sounds like it will be even easier in 5.9. Alts are another story, of course. I hope the devs can come up with something that will at least partially satisfy the players who liked getting points on lots of alts, but that may not be possible if you're right about their goals.

    Hudlar

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    1. Congratulations on your first comment and thanks for reading! ^^

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  2. Hey! Wake up!

    You just can't announce a "Pugging with Shintar"-Season 2 on Twitter and hide away.

    I'm waiting here...three full days...no new Episode on YouTube...

    Cheers!

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    1. Lol, long videos take even longer to render! Plus I already had it uploaded and then there was a copyright issue which forced me to go back and edit something out. But almost there! :P

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    2. You excelled your previous work! Thank you for the upload.

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