Onslaught Gearing Stream Thoughts

I've said often enough that I'm a grumpy old fogey when it comes to streaming (it's not for me), but that didn't stop me from staying up late last night to watch the planned dev livestream about gearing in Onslaught. 10pm wasn't that late even for a work night, and to be honest I was just way too curious about what Charles and Eric would have to say about the new gearing system, feeling a mix of positive excitement and slight trepidation. I've never doubted Bioware's good intentions, but I do remember that there was a time when they genuinely thought that Galactic Command was a great idea, and any arguments brought forth by the community about why this wasn't so just resulted in us being told to wait, and that we'd be sure to love it once we saw it. (We all know how that turned out.)

I needn't have worried this time though. The stream was highly informative and entertaining, and the tl;dr version of this post is basically that I thought most of it sounded good. I'm sure there'll be things that need tweaking, and there'll be something that doesn't work out as intended, simply because MMOs are complicated and that's how these things always go, but you could tell that a great deal of thought went into their plans for the new system and they made sure to avoid any obvious pitfalls.

Also worth noting was that they started the stream by stating that they were very dedicated to gathering feedback in a timely manner this time around (which is again, a nice contrast to Galactic Command, which was dropped on us as a done deal). There will be several rounds of PTS testing for which they are even planning to bring back the old reward titles, there'll be reddit AMAs, and they'll even send out surveys!

Keith also made an appearance early on and said that the game had subjected us to a veritable rollercoaster of emotions over the years when it came to gearing: "whether to get data crystals, not get data crystals, whether to use Galactic Command, not use Galactic Command" etc. and that he wanted the team to go back to the drawing board and learn from all this. Honestly, that was just incredibly heartening to me and once again made me appreciate just how great it is to now have a Game Producer who both knows and loves the game and understands where its problems lie. [/end Keith fangirling]

Also, the way he just sort of slid into the frame during the stream was kind of funny, as captured in gif form by Snave.

Anyway, if you just want a factual summary of what was said, you can find one in this forum post and a proper official blog is still supposed to be forthcoming as well. I'm not going to repeat it all in detail; I'm just going to pick out some parts to share my opinion on.

They went into some more detail about the new set bonuses and tactical items, which didn't really reveal anything drastically new in my opinion, just expanded on what had already been said. The only thing that was noteworthy to me here was that they explicitly stated that tactical items are meant to be rare, at least initially. They also listed some examples of item effects they've come up with so far, most of which made chat go "whoa, that sounds OP". Trying to balance all this is going to be fun...

The one entirely new thing they brought up was that the new gear is also supposed to have a new thing called "amplifiers" on them (apologies for saying "new" three times in a row there), which is basically a chance at that item having some random extra secondary stats such as "increased dot damage" or "faster gathering". I initially had a moment of panic there, thinking that this sounded a lot like one of the things that WoW players have been complaining about in recent years, but Eric was quick to clarify that while the original stat assignment is random, you can "recalibrate" amps to change their stats to something else. Okay.

Mostly I wasn't sure what to think of this one. Did we really need another stat slot on top of armourings, mods, enhancements and augments? Is this the sort of thing that excites people? At the same time it almost sounded as if they didn't want us to worry about it too much, as apparently amps won't be taken into consideration for PvE boss tuning and will only have a relatively small impact. It's like they want us to care and not care about them at the same time. Gonna file these away under "wait and see".

The second half of the stream focused on how we will acquire gear in Onslaught and that's where things got interesting. Basically they did still want to realise the original idea behind Galactic Command, to let people earn gear from pretty much anything, but it sounds like they also wanted to give us back the feeling of actually getting rewarded with items for completing specific tasks. As Charles and Eric put it: "Gear drops from enemies, hey!" - "Wild concept!" I do have to admit the thought of actually getting useful loot drops from flashpoints again really excited me, as that's something we haven't had in many years.

There will still be vertical progression, with harder content rewarding better gear, but mainly the focus seems to be on getting us to collect armour with different set bonuses and tactical items. Everything will be legacy bound and they fully expect us to trade things around between different characters. This brought up the issue of storage space, which led to Eric dropping the almost off-hand comment of: "What if you didn't have to store any of your crafting materials in any of your inventories? Hopefully that'll clear up some space for ya!" - which made the chat go wild (including me). Right now I only have a couple of free slots in my legacy cargo hold, and about three and a half of my six tabs are taken up by crafting mats, so yes, this change will make a big difference.

Useless gear drops are supposed to be drastically reduced via RNG protection and the gear level of rewards scaling with what you're already wearing. I'm not sure if that means that everything will be personal loot going forward? Waiting on clarification on that...

Galactic Command will become Galactic Renown, intended to be purely supplementary and with no more tiers, so that you can theoretically get the best gear out of your very first crate (depending on what you're already wearing). Levels will become pointless and basically just a cosmetic thing to raise for bragging rights, and they will also reset every so often in what will now be considered seasons. Not sure what's going to happen to the other stuff that currently comes from Command crates, such as cosmetic gear and pets - some open questions here. Also, apparently Conquest will start to give gear too?! I'll save my thoughts on that as well as on the changes to (C/R)XP for a separate post I think, as it's something quite near and dear to my heart.

Now, with the sheer number of new gear faucets, we'll still end up with lots of stuff we don't want or need, or that one slot for which we can't quite get the right thing. This is where the new currency comes in! It doesn't have an official name yet, so they jokingly referred to it on the stream as Charles Points / Chuck Bucks.

Twitter user Greyias even drew a picture of one. You know you've done well when your stream inspires people to do fan art.

You can deconstruct unwanted gear (which is going to be similar to reverse engineering but doesn't require you to be a crafter) to turn it into crafting materials and this new currency, and then use that to craft or buy what you actually want from a vendor.  (You'll also be getting more of the new currency as an activity reward.) I guess this is not dissimilar to the way unassembled components work now, but I guess the balancing will be different as you will also get the new currency from PvE and other activities.

So basically what you'll be doing is: run specific content you like for (somewhat but not completely random) rewards, then convert any unwanted rewards into materials or currency that you can use to acquire what you're missing and optimise what you already have.

Pretty much like they illustrated on the slides. Don't mind the not so happy expressions I somehow managed to capture here.

It didn't occur to me immediately after watching the stream, but now that I'm spelling it all out to myself a second time, this does feel like a system that tries to learn from the past and take all the parts of previous gearing systems that worked best:

- Making it rewarding to do actual content (e.g. getting set bonus items from flashpoints, something that was something that I loved in the base game)
- Allowing more than one avenue to acquire gear with the best item level (like we had with the final iteration of Galactic Command, before Ossus)
- Allowing people to simply go to a vendor for what they're missing (as has been the case throughout several iterations of the game pre-Galactic Command)
- Allowing unwanted gear to be turned into currency too (like you can currently do with Command crate drops)

The big unknowns are mostly the new factors:
- Everything being legacy-bound sounds great in principle but there might still be some unintended side effects. For example I personally prefer to get each character their own gear set - will I feel pressured to send my main's gear around to all my alts going forward purely so that their rewards will scale higher?
- Just how well will this loot scaling thing work? (See above.)
- Inventory management (even with the additional storage, the new focus on collecting different set bonuses might result in overcrowded cargo bays)
- Various unknowns, such as how exactly you'll be rewarded for doing PvP or GSF. Will you just get a box with a random item?

All that said, overall I'm feeling optimistic about everything I've heard, and especially about Bioware's renewed dedication to gathering and listening to feedback. I actually went and posted some questions in the forum threads currently dedicated to feedback about what was said on the stream, and I'll definitely also fill out any surveys they'll send me. Plus I should probably check out the PTS when they put it live! I haven't been back there since checking out the Rishi stronghold and the big PvP changes last summer, but this sounds like something that would really benefit from as many people as possible playing around with it, and the return of the title rewards sounds great too. (I currently only own one of them, First Line of Defense).

I'll definitely be keeping a close eye on more news about this as it gets released. Is there anything that stood out to you about this news drop above anything else?


  1. Hmm... amplifiers still sound like titanforging to me, since there's only a random chance of the item having an amplifier to begin with. And given my recent forays back into the world of ESO, I like the sound of the "crafting bag". My legacy storage also has at least 3 tabs taken up by crafting mats - and that's without biochem mats since I have all them in my sole biochemist's personal storage.

    1. I think that's what it initially reminded me of too (not an expert on anything WoW-related introduced in the last eight years) but I don't think it's really like that? Since amplifiers won't add base stats.

    2. Amplifiers are more like Leech, Speed, Indestructibility than War/Titanforging which is purely an ilevel increase. Amplifiers feel more like something that could make a person want to keep a piece of gear as part of a specific setup when it isn't a straight upgrade.

  2. Heh, I see that "dead game" is still a meme. Doesn't matter how many people play, that we've got a big content patch coming in a few days and an expansion in a few months... also, the new gearing system is obviously only one of many bullet points about the new expansion; it was just the focus of this stream.

    (That said, I'll be playing WoW Classic too. I'm very excited for it in fact! No need to quit SWTOR though, you can like and play more than one thing at a time, you know. :D)

  3. I remember the time, when they said, all the vendors on the fleet with datacrystals as currency were to complex. I don't think any of the new gearing systems including galactic command or this new system, with new item-slots, new manifold set-bonuses, additional amps… is easier to understand.

    But hey...i'm a long time veteran… i'll find my way. But boy… i really don't want to explain this to a new player.
    Has anyone thought of the children?

    1. Well, it's certainly more complicated than the original iteration of Galactic Command (level up, get box with stuff in it). But it's a big improvement from the current situation with all the gear shell trading and having to go to different vendors to use different currencies to upgrade your stuff.

      It's more in line with how things used to be, but I never thought that was that bad. I think it just sounds worse right now than it is because we're trying to wrap our heads around things that are still purely hypothetical to us.

      I think the deluge of new set bonuses is more likely to be confusing in a "but is this good for me or not" kind of way. Or at least that's how I've been feeling in ESO ever since I hit CR 160, heh.

    2. The biggest improvement for new players will that killing bosses, all bosses, will drop loot again. That's best thing for new players. Unless/until they get into other things, or min/max, the rest of the systems aren't going to be a problem.

  4. Uprisings dropping loot. Okay it wasn't my first thought but it's in my top 100.

    1. Ahahaha, I hadn't even thought about uprisings! They may just see an unexpected renaissance in 6.0.

  5. @unknown I played in Vanilla and I remember agility cloth armor. ^_^ Often you didn't wear the gear of your preferred armor type because stats on something else was so much better: cloth wearing paladins, warriors in leather, etc. While Classic may have the loot delivery systems you prefer, it still had some bizarre gearing.

  6. Not that I ever had a real problem with the gear, but so far your take has always been insightful so I'd rather believe you :P At least everything seems to make sense so far, so while I'm not excited for SWTOR right now, this sounds like I can imagine myself coming back and enjoying it again.

    > I've said often enough that I'm a grumpy old fogey when it comes to streaming (it's not for me)

    Had to chuckle quite a bit here, for me your videos are kinda close to what I see streamers doing, no heavy editing or doing voiceovers, more like an edited stream with commentary. But I'm not a big fans of streaming in general, so you must be doing something different enough ;)

    1. Well, personally I think that the current system isn't too bad in terms of effort vs. reward, but it is ridiculously complicated. I don't recall if you ever got to the higher tiers, but all those different currencies, shells to trade in at vendors, restrictions on what you can move between characters... just thinking of it makes me shudder. For that reason alone it was in dire need of an overhaul.

      As for the second part of your comment... first off, even light editing is a lot of work, you know! :P I spent hours cutting out those awkward silences and removing noisy sniffles from my Pugging videos.

      The point isn't that I have anything against watching people play video games though - I happily watch recordings of stream highlights for example. What I dislike is the live nature of streaming. Maybe I would have found that kind of thing more interesting fifteen years ago, but at my age the thought of being at the beck and call of a streamer's schedule and then having to watch them for hours just to maybe catch a few minutes of genuine entertainment at some point feels like an incredibly bad use of my time.

    2. I didn't want to say it's not much work, sorry if it sounded like that, just that you don't have a million of overlays and other video feeds put in, scrolling text every minute and so on.
      I am dreading ever having to record just another screencast of 5mins, I know how much more work video is, that's why I stick to blog posts ;)

      Gotcha, yeah - I also much prefer the condensed version with the pauses cut and hopefully saving half of the time without anything interesting happening. Same with podcasts, good editing makes it so much more enjoyable to listen and then it *should feel* lightly edited. What I meant to say: Doing content in the way you do it as a narrated stream of consciousness is the prototype of game-streaming content for me.


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