17/07/2020

Another Summer of PvP?

When SWTOR announced a "summer of PvP" two years ago, this was the start of a number of seemingly small but impactful changes to PvP, such as all warzones becoming cross-faction and the introduction of role-balancing in matches so that tanks and healers would be distributed evenly among opposing teams.

It seems that we may be in for similarly dramatic changes this summer, though this time around they've been announced with a lot less fanfare. In fact, I would have completely missed them among this wall of text by lead designer Chris Schmidt talking about upcoming reward changes in ranked PvP. No offence, but ranked arenas are one of the few aspects of SWTOR that I don't really care about, so I wouldn't have read the thing if several content creators hadn't drawn attention to two important changes that are also going to affect unranked PvP and were mentioned in a very off-hand way:

In the update kicking off Season 13, all missions will be changed to require wins for completion and rewards. [apparently this includes unranked]

I have to say, seeing this just made me sigh in a big way because nothing exasperates me about MMO development like circular design. Is there nobody left on the team that was around at launch? Don't you remember that the daily and weekly PvP missions used to require wins to advance, and you changed it for a reason?

Initially the daily required you to win three warzones and the weekly nine. In patch 1.2.3 in May 2012 the requirement for the daily was changed from three wins to six matches played, with losses counting as one and wins counting double as they still do now. Four months later, in patch 1.4, this was reduced from six to four matches played. Interestingly, the win requirement for the weekly stuck around quite a bit longer, until patch 2.4 in October 2013, but looking back at this from 2020, that's still quite a long time ago. I'm not saying devs can't make mistakes and roll them back later, but you've allowed us to progress our PvP dailies and weeklies without requiring wins for almost seven years now.

I understand that you don't like people "farming losses" just to get their rewards, but there's a balance to be struck between discouraging that kind of behaviour and not preventing people who keep getting saddled with bad teams or maybe just aren't that good at PvP themselves from making any progress whatsoever. Nobody is arguing that winning shouldn't be more rewarding/efficient, but for PvP to function properly you need people to be willing to take losses as well, and if you make losing too painful an experience, they aren't going to stick around. Not in the long term, and not in a match that looks like it's a lost cause, which brings us to the second big change:

We will be extending the Deserter queue lockout to Unranked matches.

Now, I'm unsure how I feel about this one. For all the things that SWTOR copied from World of Warcraft at launch, it always surprised me that WoW's deserter debuff wasn't one of them, and that to this day, players are free to quit an unranked PvP match for any reason, without even the slightest penalty, and are instantly able to re-queue again. I do kind of feel that this has fostered somewhat of a "quitter culture" where people will leave matches pretty much at the drop of a hat, simply because it's not their favourite map or oh noes, the enemy team scored one goal. The prime example of this I always like to parade around is this Voidstar I was in, where the final results screen revealed that our team had had 28 players on it by the end of the match. Since the actual team size is eight, and I obviously didn't quit, the rest of the team was basically replaced in its entirety three times over the course of the 10-15 minutes of the match duration.


I do find this behaviour highly silly and at least mildly annoying, because even though backfills are reasonably quick, what with loading screens and so on, every quitter that needs replacing still puts their team at least at a temporary disadvantage and if a lot of people do it, it quickly stacks up. So from that point of view I should welcome this change, right? It certainly won't affect me on a personal level, since I never quit a match halfway through unless I suffer a DC.

That said, I can't help but feel that especially in combination with the previous change, this feels like a lot of stick and not a lot of carrot, simultaneously making it less rewarding to endure a loss until the end while also making it more punishing if you leave in frustration. I just worry that this will simply result in a lot of people giving up for the day more quickly, or staying in matches that they don't enjoy just for the sake of it, while taking out their annoyance on their team mates in other ways, such as by AFKing in a corner or endlessly ranting in chat about how the team/map/game sucks.

Now, interestingly Chris actually came back with a detailed response after people got upset about these two changes being snuck in under the radar. Specifically, he talked about alleviating two other reasons that people cited for wanting to quit a match in progress: that some maps are unfun to play because they suffer from worse performance problems than others, and that people just want to avoid some maps because they don't enjoy them or feel that they pop too frequently (*cough*Huttball*cough*). On the subject of performance, he had this to say:

In the short term, in the upcoming patch 6.1.2d, we will remove the Vandin and Quesh Huttball maps from rotation until we can solve the performance issues with those particular maps.

Longer term, we are profiling the root of performance issues in general (de-syncs, hitches, slide show experiences) across the board in order to provide you with a smooth, fun experience. No ETA on this, but we have already begun in earnest and are committed to fixing it.


While I actually like both of those maps, reading this immediately had me excited, because desync in particular is such a long-running problem that just seems to be getting worse and worse every year; if they could finally address it that would be genuinely fantastic. Could the crazy prediction I made at the start of the year actually come true? Of course, if we're unlucky they can't quite figure out what's wrong in a timely manner and might then just "forget" to add the two maps back in, but let's not even think about that...


Time to get out my desync gif again

Anyway, on the subject of map preferences, Chris had this to say, among other things:

In the short term, in the upcoming patch 6.1.2d, we will adjust the map rotation to favor match variety over map variety. What this means is that you will have an equal chance to have a Capture Point, Huttball, Ancient Hypergates, or Voidstar match type pop.

Now, I had kind of been asking for them to do that in the Huttball post I linked a few paragraphs ago, but that was just in reference to Huttball - I don't understand why Novare Coast would be lumped in with Alderaan and Yavin for example! Reducing Huttball pops from every third match to every fourth one is good, but instead getting Ancient Hypergates and Voidstar half the time is not! (Both are among my least favourite warzones.) Do Novare Coast justice please.

The exception is OPG, which we hear from y’all is the least popular match type currently. We aren’t removing it completely from the rotation for now, but the likelihood that match type will pop will be very small. Longer term we will take a hard look and address the issues with OPG that makes it less popular.

Fewer Proving Grounds matches is even worse! Don't hurt my Proving Grounds; it's my favourite game mode! Something's always going to be the least popular; that's no reason to axe it. Before Proving Grounds existed, everyone was constantly moaning about/quitting Huttball. Just leave it as it is please.

Longer term, we agree that a welcomed and healthy addition to the game would be the ability to choose which match types and/or maps you want or do not want to play. As with any new feature, this requires investigation and an assessment of the scope of work before we can commit to a timeframe, however that work has already begun. We are committed to this feature and will update y’all with more information, especially on timing, when we have it.

I'm not sure how much stock I'm supposed to put into this comment, because while doing research for this post I actually realised that they already wanted this to be part of the summer of PvP in 2018 and then it never happened. I don't doubt Chris' sincerity here, but I think this is just too tricky to implement with the limited size of SWTOR's PvP population, as siloing people off into different preferred queues would just kill pops. Even something as simple as allowing people to blacklist a single warzone type that they don't want to get could lead to issues, which is something that even the behemoth World of Warcraft with its millions of players had to find out when they added a similar feature (and then removed it again).

I won't complain if they do find a solution that allows people to express preferences without killing queue times or making some warzones impossible to get; I just won't be holding my breath for one. We'll see how the other changes play out in practice when they go live.

7 comments :

  1. Damn, that's *really* bad news for me.

    I don't enjoy PvP in SWTOR and I also suck (not sure if related, but I usually get one-shot by Marauders at 75). I still haven't finished the 20/20 alliance alert for M4 since 2018, although I tried to progress this month. Gave up again after 1 win and 3-4 losses.

    So if they remove losses even counting one point I'll see that I can finish this up ASAP and then simply never set foot into a warzone if I can't help it. Not sure if this was the intention of the change...

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    1. I suspect M1-4X/Major Pierce's Alliance Alerts will still stay at the participation level. They were only talking about changing the daily/weekly quests that award gear/etc.

      I will ask about this specifically in the thread, though, as it's a good question.

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    2. Yeah, I hadn't even thought about one-time quests like that. I'll be very surprised if it's included in the change. Either way though, it also completes once you reach valor rank 40 (which is why I had that one auto-completed instantly on all but one of my characters who went through KotFE).

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    3. Thanks to both of you, that sounds a lot better.

      Also I think I have them mixed up in my head because I have the same weekly 20/20 still in my quest log on that character when I started the M1-4X one. I think I actually completed the Pierce one back then when I did on Imp side...

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  2. OPG ist das beste Beispiel, warum Entwickler nicht auf ihre Spieler hören sollten.

    Jahrelang kam von der PvP-Community "wir wollen mehr Huttenball-Karten". Quesh und Vandin werden zu Most Hated.

    Jahrelang kam von der PvP-Communtiy "wir haben nur Huttenball und capture-three-nodes Karten. wir wollen was anderes, komplett neu". Es kommt OPG. Wird zur Most Hated Map.

    Entwickler sollten wirklich nie, niemals auf ihre Spieler hören. Die wissen selbst nicht, was sie wollen.

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    1. Jetzt applaudieren alle, dass die Karten abgeschaltet werden. Ich gebe allen 6 Wochen, bevor das backfired.

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  3. Another 6 months without new story content? And then two story bits and a flashpoint? They really don't want my subscription money. That is totally not enough to stay subbed during summer and fall.

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