The Time Eating Effect: SWTOR PvP Edition

1. FULL BATTLEMASTER, bitches!  Not so bad, only two weeks of six hours a day.  2.  Come on, pre-made, what did I bring you guys in here for?!  PERFORM!  3. What do you mean you were four-hit by a War Hero?!  REGROUP!  4.  Wait, what do you mean I need MORE expertise!  Damnit, where’s my jar?!

The Time Eating Effect is something that most MMOs cause.  Sometimes this is a fun and enjoyable thing that everyone can participate in on a somewhat equal level, and other times you look in the mirror after days at your computer and cry at the fact that you’ve been sitting in your own filth just to reach the next tier of game proclaimed awesomeness.  We all know that most MMOs require you to devote a large amount of time just to feel accomplished in them, even if you’re having a lot of fun along the way, but when does this issue turn into a Time Wasting Effect?

In the highly anticipated–and equally as disappointing–MMORPG called SWTOR, players once again explore yet another batch of time killing activities in which they must participate in to rise to the top of the ranks of PvP…  and the PvP system isn’t fully implemented yet!  While some of these time consuming activities are fun, especially at first, we, the player base living outside of our mothers’ basements, are forced to ask ourselves why we even bother.  Let’s take a look at a few ideas the guys at Bioware thought to be “innovative”, and “fun”.

World PvP in SWTOR: There is little to no true world PvP outside of hardcore PvP servers where quest-ganking is a rampant issue.   The truth about the world in SWTOR is that it is actually quite small.  There’s not enough room for servers to hold the amount of people MMOs in the past have accounted for.  You would think this would encourage more world PvP on PvE or RP servers since each player can flag themselves PvP while they are out and about in the world.  After all, if each planet’s questing locations truly are not that hard to reach due to the relatively small size of world maps, how can you not run into another player ready to fight you?  There is a severe lack of balance in the world PvP system because of the failure to include incentive for player versus player activities outside of warzones.  I was discussing this issue in general chat with some other players and one of them cited that PvP itself should be incentive enough to do it.  He was right.  However, in SWTOR, that idea is nothing more than a pipe dream.

There are a handful of contested zones within the entire galaxy, and the one meant to be the “big” PvP zone appears on an icy planet (Ilum) you can only reach at max level and have little reason to hang out on other than completing a few easy daily quests for PvE purposes.  Several attempts to introduce PvP quests to Ilum have failed miserably.  The first attempt was an easily exploitable objective system in which players had to click on AT Walkers and/or turrets of the opposite faction to blow them up in five different locations.  This was very easy to do and encouraged both factions to work together rather than against each other by taking turns clicking the objectives, thus opening up the opportunity for your faction to “regain control of Ilum”.  The second attempt placed clickable armament objects in the center of the entire map of Ilum, where opposing groups were expected to battle it out for the right to hopefully click on a box of ammunition so one person at a time could gain a tick to their quest count.  That’s right, the click counted for one person, so at that point players were basically fighting their own faction just to complete this mission!  Of course, killing a member of the opposing faction also counted as a tick for your quest count, but acquiring thirty opposing soldiers came hard to the majority TOR’s servers.

Apparently, they could not find a way to remedy this issue without rendering Ilum almost useless, because there are zero PvP quests to participate in and all rewards given to players by daily missions now focus on Warzones.  Warzones are like battlegrounds in WoW, battlefields in SWG, or any team queued battle in Guild Wars.  The best comparison of warzones is to WoW’s battlegrounds since Bioware failed to introduce anything innovative about them and instead decided to implement a bastardized version of Blizzard’s.  Since you can only get better PvP oriented gear through warzones, there is not much reason to roam the galaxy and take the fight to other planets–like you see in most Star Wars media.  You know, all six movies, and a hundred something previous games including one prior Star Wars MMORPG.  Some guilds organize world PvP events, but in my opinion it should not take so much player effort just to initiate PvP in these otherwise empty contested zones, especially if you cannot talk to opposing faction members in game.

Welcome to Ilum PvP, where all world PvPers are on the endangered species list as Bioware continues to reek havoc on their habitat.

[ ** The reason I harp on Bioware’s lack of innovation has little to do with the fact that they took an idea that obviously worked well for Blizzard, but everything to do with the fact that during the several year hype Star Wars fans endured leading up to the release of SWTOR, many selling points we heard from Bioware were about how innovative and new everything in the game was.  How it would blow our minds because we’ve never seen anything like it.  I have yet to see anything outside of their admittedly quality voice acting and mediocre character cutscenes that is truly new to the MMO genre.  This means there is absolutely nothing new or innovate pertaining to the actual video game. ]

Warzones in SWTOR:  The plus sides to the warzones in TOR is that they’re easy to queue for, you tend to get in quickly on a populated server, and they’re a quick burst of accessible PvP fun.  Unfortunately this fun begins to fade once you reach level 50, the level cap in SWTOR, and a stat called expertise is introduced to your gameplay.  Expertise functions as a PvP boosting stat, making you more resilient to player attacks as well as more punishing to other players in your own attacks.  What I beg to question is if they were so intent on copying the battleground system from WoW, why they think adding the damage boost to the Expertise stat when WoW’s equivalent only gives you defense, would keep things balance.  Is this the innovative idea they were aiming for?  You will find that DPS specc’d classes are now not only more powerful in their attacks, but even harder to kill, and that hybrid healers can dish out a surprising amount of damage while healing just as well.  This sounds fun in theory, but for a PvP system that hardly changes anything else about the classic profession based gameplay, all it does is imbalance it.

Aha, Battlemaster skills!!

OMG WTF War Hero tracer missile?!!1 gg

So, as you may have surmised by the knowledge of how expertise works, you will find yourself getting kicked around hard and heavy in level 50 warzones until you have a sufficient amount of Expertise on your gear.  What is a “sufficient amount”, you ask?  It appears that only the top tier of PvP armor  functions as a truly sufficient amount since it is common to be pitted against entire teams that completely outgear you.  How do you get better expertise, then?  Well, the answer is simple:  endure the thorough and numerous ass-poundings you will get until you’ve earned so many commendations that you can afford a suit of the middle tier PvP armor.  Then, get even more so you can trade in that set of armor for the top tier suit.  Also, make sure you’ve earned enough Valor that you can actually equip it.  The valor part won’t be as much of a problem since you’ve probably been rendered crippled by the amount of lightsaber swings you’ve taken to the buttocks in game, as well as the painful groove in your computer chair your real rear has accomplished in real life.  So, valor is sort of like a charity donation for your efforts in SWTOR PvP.

Add to the fact that there are currently only four warzones, three of which that last under half an hour, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for piss-in-the-jar kind of grinding.  The 1.3 patch is supposed to add rated warzones to the tables, which will encourage more top tier geared PvPers to participate in rather than regular warzones.  But, knowing the “must-win” attitudes of our MMO gaming community, losing a few rounds in a rated game will scare them right back into regular warzones where they will continue to be rewarded by three and four hitting lesser geared victims trying to scale the ladder of ass pounding.  Now, we can’t really blame all MMO gamers for wanting to win.  After all, it is a game, and aren’t people supposed to try and win games?  Isn’t that what makes PvP competitive?  The only fix for these issues is to rule out the variables that encourage them.  This means that the game itself needs to be fixed.

Final piece of Recruit Gear, required for ascent to War Hero. Must be purchased outside of game.

Piss-in-the-jar Grinding:  This is a term I use to jokingly (sometimes not so jokingly in some unfortunate circumstances) describe players that spend so much time in games with systems like TOR’s just to reach the top.  I’m not saying that MMOs should be so easy that  anybody can walk in and win, but I am insinuating that if a common gameplay feature forces you to play against people that don’t have to work, shower, or appropriately use a toilet, that it is truly unfair to any gamer who still at least tries to function in the real world.  This is why I think the PvP system in TOR is not only a time eating one, but a time wasting one.  I am also insinuating that if Bioware is going to steal from a successful game in hopes of making the same sort of money Blizzard does, they could have at least not half-assed it.

Some may argue that it’s not that hard to get the top tier armor and compete in SWTOR PvP, but notice that I did not claim that it was difficult to accomplish at all.  In fact, SWTOR altogether lacks true difficulty, which is a problem in itself.  It is simply time consuming, and after a long while of its redundancy, many players have become fed up and/or bored.  I’ve even watched the most hardcore of Bioware fanboys walk away from the game after sitting at the edge of their seats for a year and a half prior in desperate wait for the game’s launch!  Maybe if there was true innovation on Bioware’s part, there would be reason to be patient for their slow release of content fixes.

“No, really guys, the new content update is coming out soon(tm)!”

Other PvP combat aspects:  The animations are great.  There is an allure to a graphically polished game like SWTOR that jedi fanboys have a hard time saying “no” to.  You get plenty of skills to work with, but the user interface fails classes that need to click on more things than the maximum of four skillbars can hold.  This is frustrating and causes stumbling between your button mashing, which there is plenty of.  The global cooldown of skills is necessary, but feels clunky next to the otherwise smooth gameplay.  Every class has some sort of stun and some class has multiple stuns, as well as AoE stuns.  This leads to Star Wars The Old Republic quickly turning into Stun Wars The Old Republic.  There is a mechanic called the resolve bar that is meant to limit the amount of times a player can be stunned, but it is far from perfect and often times you become immune to stuns after you’re dead.  Therefore you will spend so much time stunned and helpless that it is a wonder your toon does not suffer some form of PTSD accompanied brain damage.

My Advice to PvP-seeking players:  You’ve probably looked into SWTOR as a replacement for your old game.  If you’re like me, your favorite MMORPG to PvP on no longer exists, though you’ve played and PvPed on many other MMOs as well.  Whatever the case is, you’re probably better off sticking to the game you’ve already put time and effort into.  I won’t lie; I still PvP in TOR but that’s simply because I do not have a good alternative game to play at the moment.  Warzones can be fun, it can be competitive, and there is so much potential for an enjoyable, working PvP system.  That’s just it, though.  Potential.

If you’re a WoW PvPer, you will immediately see all of the things SWTOR has copied, but become frustrated with the amount of good, working features they’ve failed to copy as well.   The change of scenery will be refreshing and you will likely enjoy leveling your character alongside an interesting storyline.  However, since voice acting and storyline does little for PvP, you are more likely to find yourself wanting to go back to your old game.  Content may be promised by the Bioware team, but realistically there is so much more to polish and add before PvP as a whole is a working, viable feature to SWTOR.

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