PvP: Queues, Rewards & Healer Power

I originally planned to name this post "PvP Ponderings", but a quick search on the blog revealed that I already made a post with that exact same title back in 2012. That post was mostly about how unexpectedly enjoyable SWTOR's PvP had turned out to be for me (and others).

The last time I really spoke about PvP on the blog was back at the start of PvP Season 5 in March. My lofty ambitions to progress through the PvP season track on more than one server didn't really end up going anywhere, since Galactic Season 6 ended up eating most of my time soon afterwards and had no overlap with PvP at all for its first five weeks. As a result, I only completed the PvP season on Darth Malgus this time... though I did get all the achievements again, and was actually fully done (even with the medals achievement) a couple of weeks before the end of the season. I think most of that was due to the crazy Total Galactic War we had in April, as I did something like nine PvP weeklies during that week, which obviously gave me a major leg up in terms of achievement progress early on.

At the time of me writing this, we're already into the fourth week of PvP Season 6... and while I'm having fun, I'm honestly also a little concerned. I've previously written about how my experiences PvPing on different servers have heightened my awareness of how different these places can be in terms of activity levels and queue times, and to be honest I've always viewed the Darth Malgus server as a good place to be in that regards. Sure, pops might be marginally quicker on Star Forge, but at that point you're just splitting hairs.

However, this season so far, things have felt different somehow. Like during the last two seasons, I'm trying to get my arena credits done in the lowbie bracket, but I don't remember having to wait quite so long between matches before. I know the lowbie bracket isn't the most active, and I haven't exactly pulled out a stop watch while sitting in the queue, but fifteen to twenty minutes between arena matches seems quite normal now even during prime time, which means that if (like me) you lose a bunch of those matches, it can take up to two hours to just get the daily "play arenas" mission done, which means that completing a whole arena weekly (which basically requires four dailies worth of play) is turning into a considerable time investment. I'm thinking about switching to the midbie bracket this week just to see if that's any better. Still, I probably wouldn't even have commented on this if I hadn't noticed my queue times at max-level increasing as well. I remember when I used to boast about unranked PvP pops being near-instant on my server, while now it can sometimes take ten minutes to get into a warzone even at level 80 during prime time.

I'm trying to tell myself that it's not a big deal, or even that I'm just imagining these queue times being longer than they used to be, but I can't help but worry. Back in 2017, shortly before the last big set of server merges, I wrote a post called "The Curse of Queues", in which I pondered the way automated queueing systems shape our gameplay expectations and how the more of them you add to your MMO, the bigger your population needs to be to appear somewhat lively. Accordingly, when the devs decided to split the unranked queue into warzones and arenas, I was a little worried about what that might mean for wait times, since you'd now need more players queueing to keep both modes active at the same time. I didn't notice any negative effects immediately - but now I wonder whether the consequences of this split might be starting to catch up with reality.

My first thought once I considered the subject of queues "drying up" was something along the lines of: Okay, for whatever reason not enough people are queueing for PvP. Could the devs offer some incentives to make more people join in? However, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that unranked PvP has probably never offered more rewards than it does now. I don't remember the details of all the PvP gearing systems throughout the years, but it was basically always a matter of completing daily and weekly missions to work towards some gear upgrades and that was mostly it. Oh, and you'd gain valour ranks for titles I guess. But otherwise, people just kind of had to PvP for fun, because there wasn't much else in it.

Nowadays on the other hand, we still have all that other stuff, plus seasons rewarding things like cosmetic armours and stronghold decorations. Shouldn't PvP be more popular than ever? Then I remembered that there's this thing called the Overjustification Effect (I had to look up the exact name), which basically means that things that we find inherently enjoyable become less so once we start doing them for extrinsic rewards. And then I wondered whether there isn't some of that at play here, especially as the requirements in terms of when and how to play (in order to earn those rewards) are much more stringent now than they used to be.

What I mean by that is that before 7.0, to earn rewards from PvP, you just had to pick up the daily and weekly mission from the PvP terminal, press the queue button, and that was it. Progress might be faster or slower depending on your win-loss ratio, but you could always take a break and pick up where you left off at a later point without losing anything.

Since the devs changed it so that dailies and weeklies reset every day/week, you need to keep playing to get them done within the specified time frame or lose all your progress. I used to hop around between alts a lot more, playing a warzone here or there as different roles or specs, but nowadays I'm much more focused on sticking with the same small number of characters, because else I can't complete my weeklies, which would mean progress towards tech fragments and seasonal achievements going to waste.

I also no longer get warzones and arenas served at random, with both giving me equal credit towards my goals, but I need to queue for them separately, and complete a certain number of matches in both modes if I want to get full rewards - all within the week of course. It's kind of strangely demanding, and I actually noticed that it makes me more cranky when I have a losing streak. Obviously I never liked losing all the time, but at least in the past I could decide to take a break and come back later. Nowadays though there's always that feeling of, "Grr, I need to complete this today, why can't I get one bloody win? I don't have all evening for this!" I've definitely noticed that the matches during which I'm most relaxed and enjoying myself the most are those with the lowest "reward stakes", for example when my weekly is already at 15/16 and I literally just need to complete one more match regardless of outcome.

I can obviously only speak for myself, but the requirements for progress really do feel quite different from a casual PvPers point of view compared to how it used to be, and I wouldn't be surprised if that affected more people's enjoyment.

Of course, when it comes to PvP, everyone tends to have their own pet issue that they think is ruining it at any given point - usually certain classes being over- or under-powered - but I honestly feel like I don't have enough knowledge about that area of the game to have strong opinions on the current state of class balance. I'd argue that things have never been perfectly balanced though and that the game has weathered all kinds of "flavours of the month" throughout the years.

One thing that was interesting to me on that subject though was when I watched a PvPer's "react" video the other day and he mentioned that he thought healers were actually kind of weak right now, since a good dps could easily beat a good healer one on one. This made my ears perk up because I did mention at the end of Season 4 that I had found myself surprised by how much more I enjoyed dpsing in PvP nowadays when healing had been my passion for over a decade. I didn't think to blame anything systematic for that; I figured it was just me, but now it seems likely that those two things are related, because that feeling of powerlessness has definitely contributed to me being turned off healing in PvP for the past year or so.

It's weird because I can't off the top of my head remember another era of the game when healers in general were quite so weak in PvP (as opposed to one specific class being over- or underpowered). More often the complaint has been that they are too powerful, and that this made matches tedious when it's too hard to kill anyone. With that in mind, I funnily enough can't even claim that the current situation has necessarily been bad for the quality of matches as a whole - it definitely seems to be that, going in as a dps, I see far fewer of those "slug fests" where people just hammer each other in a big pile around an objective forever without anyone actually going down. Ball carriers in Huttball actually need to be fast or good at passing now; you can't just brute force your way through a wall of enemies with some heals behind you. And those are not bad things! So I wouldn't blame the weakness of healers for a decline in interest in PvP, even if it has affected my personal enjoyment somewhat. It's just another interesting thing that I've observed.

This has turned out to be quite rambly, but these are just some of the things that have been going through my mind in regards to PvP lately. What are your personal experiences with this game mode recently? Do you think I'm completely wrong about declining participation and that queues are fine? I'm happy to hear other points of view.


  1. I think the rewards for PVP seasons are kind of bad for the amount of effort it takes, though this is with the caveat that even when I engaged with them I had a hard time getting past level 10ish before getting tired of PVP. Even assuming that I buy up to level 15 every time, that gets me just shy of finishing an armor set, 4 PVP tokens, some trophy decorations that aren't good at being trophies because they can just be bought with credits, and an armor display. 4 tokens is... not a lot, looking at most of the vendor rewards. This leaves the armor and the armor deco* as the main rewards. I haven't liked the armor since season 3, so I haven't really played since season 3.

    *and I think this is new? I remember having to pay a token to get the Shadowhand armor display.

    This is a shame, because I really would enjoy playing 3-4 warzones a week, but more than that and I start to burn out. The devs have removed a lot of credits from the economy by letting me buy levels, though. As much as it makes the trophies kind of worthless (why do I have small trophies for seasons I never played in?) I think it's an underrated anti-inflation measure.

    1. So what's preventing you from playing 3-4 warzones a week regardless of the season? Does it feel bad to see the rewards dangled in front of you while not really wanting to engage with the system at that level?

    2. Part of it is that I just haven't made it a habit to check in on PVP every once in a while to see if I've recovered from burnout. (I just played a match of Voidstar in response to this comment. It was fun even though we lost, so that might happen again.)

      But I meant my comment in response to your musing about queue times. In theory there are more rewards than ever, but the rewards are so deferred they don't really work as immediate incentives to queue. Unless you can get to the back half of the track, where most of the tokens are, it takes 3-4 seasons to get most things from the vendor. I think the first 15 levels of GS are more rewarding, even though that track has 100 levels total.

  2. I do Galactic Seasons on every server because of the cartel coins. It takes up so many weeks, I can't even think about doing PvP seasons until I get level 100 on each server. Then I use the off season to play other games or work on my own goals in SWTOR. I'm not sure what they could do about this, maybe shorten Galactic Seasons? Or maybe combine both seasons into a unified season?

    According to Steam player stats, the playerbase hasn't gone down that much. It was hovering around 10,000 peak players per day from 2019 (when it was added to Steam) and 2021 (when 7.0 came out). Since then, it has been hovering around 8,000 peak players per day, so at most it's a 20% drop. That would make queues slower but not drastically.

    Maybe they just need to add cartel coins to the PvP seasons? I think that would definitely get more players queuing up, but they might be mostly casual players just there to get cartel coins.

    Yeah, I don't know why they still have dailies/weeklies resetting. That was for the beginning of 7.0 when they were restricting what dailies/weeklies were available each week and wanted all players on the same page each week. They did away with that but kept the resets. There's no need for resets anymore.


Share your opinion! Everyone is welcome, as long as things stay polite. I also read comments on older posts, so don't be shy. :)