LotS (of) Gear

It seems that Bioware decided to open the floodgates in regards to information about what else is coming with 7.0, which makes me glad that I'm not a news site and therefore not compelled to repost everything they say asap, but there's been a lot of food for thought and I'd definitely like to talk about at least some of it.

Today I'd like to discuss the news post called "Itemization in 7.0", which basically revealed that set bonuses being replaced by legendary items is only the beginning... and um, wow. My overall impression of that blog is best summed up as this new system being a sidegrade from Onslaught's, getting rid of some issues while introducing others, and I'm not sure whether I'll like it.

As I said in my review of Onslaught, I honestly thought the gearing this expansion has generally been great. I won't deny that it's had some issues, but at least to me, they were so minor that they barely affected my enjoyment, if at all. I guess I can't blame Bioware for aiming to address them anyway and trying for perfection, but I do worry a little that they'll just end up causing other issues that'll ultimately bother me more. I guess we'll see.

Less randomness, less gear needed

The way things worked in Onslaught, there was a lot of randomness (and bad drop rates for certain sets and Tacticals was definitely one of the criticisms I had), but this was somewhat compensated for by the game absolutely showering you with loot at every opportunity, so odds were good that you were going to get at least something interesting reasonably often. In terms of sheer quantity of drops, this system was very over the top, and having to pause after every other flashpoint or ops boss to deconstruct all the random gear filling up your inventory wasn't great, but I didn't consider it a massive bother either.

In the linked blog post, Bioware basically states that players hate RNG so they want to do away with most of it. In LotS, every time you complete (a weekly mission for) a certain type of content, you'll either get a piece of gear that's guaranteed to be useful to you, or some sort of currency to improve it. Very utilitarian and deterministic.

Some people will love that I'm sure. However, I've always liked a bit of RNG to be honest, that feeling of being surprised by what drops. To me, it's only bad if there's an expectation that you'll get a certain item within a decent amount of time but bad drop rates keep holding you back, or if it takes a lot of effort to even spin the metaphorical wheel and the results tend to feel unrewarding for the effort required. Overly deterministic loot systems can feel somewhat work-like in comparison, which I'm not a huge fan of, but I guess we'll see how this one ends up feeling.

Not all things are equal anymore

The second big ticket item in the news post is the announcement that they want to bring back tying item level rewards to specific pieces of content (read: you can only get the best gear by doing the hardest raids). More than anything, this is just one of those cans of worms I'm kind of tired of dealing with because I honestly don't care either way at this point in my life.

I do think it's fine to incentivise certain bits of content with more powerful rewards, especially if this content depends on a minimum number of participants to function or has high skill requirements. I'm perfectly fine with not having the best gear in the game myself, as long as what I've got serves me for doing the content I want to do. In a casual theme park game like SWTOR it really doesn't matter and I think people who get up into a huff because someone gets to do their dailies with a few more item levels than they have are drama queens.

But at the same time, I also don't care if it's not that way. Onslaught's gearing system made SWTOR the most egalitarian it has ever been, as everyone could work their way up to item level 306 by doing any activity they wanted. I continued to do operations anyway because I enjoy them, and it didn't hurt me that someone else could grind their way to the same gear by doing things that would be boring to me. Live and let live, I say.

So I don't really mind either way, though I do sort of wonder what prompted this change on Bioware's end. Not enough people doing the latest operation this expansion, I guess? I will say that Nature of Progress was terribly incentivised initially, but that didn't have anything to do with item levels, but rather with the fact that it initially dropped less loot than the old operations while also having worse drop rates for its coveted special gear sets somehow, even though the new ops was "supposed" to be the best way to farm them.

Different gearing paths

A catchphrase that Bioware has been using to describe their design philosophy for several years now is to "play your own way", yet somehow this can apparently be used to justify totally opposing design decisions, which I find fascinating. In Onslaught the "play your own way" concept was supposed to be supported by the fact that you could get your gear drops - with the exception of a select few sets - from any source. The implementation was just a bit wonky because in practice rewards from PvP were absolutely anaemic while flashpoints were the way to go, but I guess I was willing to forgive that because I really like running flashpoints with my friends anyway.

In LotS on the other hand, playing your own way will apparently mean largely separate gearing paths for every activity, though the details of just how separate they are going to be are still a bit fuzzy to me. The basic idea is that veteran flashpoints will drop different items from master mode flashpoints, which will drop different items from PvP and so on, with each one having its own upgrade currency as well, though my understanding is that their stats should be comparable except for the different item level caps for some activities as per the previous point.

At the same time they're apparently not totally separate, as the example they cite is that you'll be able to upgrade flashpoint gear with "flashpoint upgrade currency, daily/heroic currency, conquest currency" - but not PvP currency? Which does bring me to my main gripe with this announcement, which is that as someone who likes to regularly take part in different types of content, it sounds confusing as hell and as if gathering pieces of gear from different sources might end up being a proper nightmare. Maybe they just didn't explain it very well and it won't be as bad as it sounds, but I really don't miss having umpteen different vendors to trade in different tiers of stuff like we had at the end of Knights of the Eternal Throne.

Some simplifications 

While the above sounds like potentially unnecessary complication to me, there are some things they are planning to simplify. Amplifiers will be gone, and nobody will miss them except for the handful of crafters who actually bothered to optimise them for a special crew skill crit set, and these players do have my sympathy.

Augments are still somewhat in the air and it sounds like Bioware don't plan to add a new tier of them, but the old ones will keep being useful.

Most importantly though, the default way of gearing at level 80 will simply be unmoddable items, with purchasable modifications becoming something that still becomes accessible at max level if you do want to change things around for some reason. As someone who's never enjoyed the number-crunching associated with min-maxing, I'm happy with this, especially as it sounds like this should e.g. result in damage dealers being automatically accuracy capped with a few pieces of "default" gear without having to maths out the perfect way to mix and match their mods. Leaving in the option to do this if you're hardcore while making things more straightforward for the more casually inclined strikes me as a good compromise.

All in all, it sounds like a lot of change to address what were mostly non-issues to me anyway, so I can't say I'm hugely excited about anything I've read here. I'm not massively worried either... just a little disappointed that they feel the need to mess with gearing this much when Onslaught already had it mostly right in my opinion.


  1. "the default way of gearing at level 80 will simply be unmoddable items (...) As someone who's never enjoyed the number-crunching associated with min-maxing, I'm happy with this"

    I will miss this. Looking up a guide, which numbers do i need, which thresholds do i need to pass, getting the right mods and enhancements. This was a source of joy for me, working on my gear, getting better.

    Now it is gone. You get, what you get. All i have left is pick the right augments. Worst case scenario... all crit. I don't think, i will start my NiM Raiding Days again.

    1. Did you miss the part where they said that you can still mix and match modifications at the top end? If the default gear has the perfect stats that nobody will ever want to adjust for more or less alacrity, crit or whatever, in any content, I'll be very surprised. :)

    2. How can a 320 item rating drop have the perfect stats, if you can have 334 item rating gear with more stats. It simply is not perfect per definition.

    3. sry, i think i misunderstood what you was trying to say with your comment. i don't make sense with my 320 and 334 comment.

    4. Yes. I was saying that the thing you love is unlikely to go away, it's just that more casual players won't have to worry about choosing from fourteen different variants of the same mod anymore.

  2. With the current set of legendary items, it is not possible for a DPS to get to 110% accuracy without augments if one (or both!) of your chosen implants lacks accuracy rating. There will be more, so this will hopefully be a non-issue for quite a lot of players.

    The distinct upgrade paths feels like a bit of an unnecessary complication. Flashpoint and Conquest gear are identical at the same levels, but you can get to one - perhaps both - of the potential FP gear caps (324 / 326) in a single week just via Conquest alone if you have eight or more characters at 80. Even if they cap CQ gear to 324 that still makes it a faster route to this gear rating than VM FPs for players with alts.

    1. Of course, the point about implants becomes moot if you choose not to get any legendaries and focus exclusively on non-set accuracy ones.

  3. Separating out PvP and PvE gear is a good idea, so that raiders don't dominate PvP and vise versa. However I also firmly believe you should be able to get top end gear doing whatever you feel like, not just raiding. The plethora of currencies also sounds really confusing.

    1. The thing with PvP is, the blog states that matches will have "both a statistical floor and ceiling", which I would think would take care of the problem of raiders dominating PvP on its own, without all this weird separate gear paths thing? At least that's what it sounds like to me...

  4. I like the change as I prefer systems where you get rewarded for the type of effort you put in. At least those doing the harder modes will get you geared faster than those of us casually enjoying the game. That seems fair.

    That the gear is non-moddable feels more like a Blizzard-style pendulum swing given we currently have an insane amounts of mods, armoring, etc. to pick through. Still, if it gets people used to clearing content without mods maybe the obsession with min-maxing will die down a bit. Probably not, but one can hope.

    I do wish bosses would still drop specific pieces of gear, but I don't see them going quite that far back. It did add excitement. for me, to flashpoints. I still remember getting that Rakata chestpiece from Lost Island. ^_^

  5. I don't have much of an opinion on these new changes right now. I'm waiting to see how it will all work out exactly because I'm not sure how the whole upgrade currency is suppose to work. They really didn't explain it very well.


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