So, I've been playing SWTOR for about 2 months now and I think I've played enough to form a proper opinion on the game without jumping to a bunch of snap decisions.
A bit of background on myself since this is my first blog post - I'm a veteren of MMOs, including playing Ultima Online (9 years), Shadowbane (2 years), World of Warcraft (1 year), Guild Wars (1 year), Lineage (6 months), Age of Conan (3 months) - I've dabbled in a few others as well, but not sticking it out past the free trials for the most part.
My priority has been and always will be PvP combat. I don't mind doing PvE stuff, generally when it directly leads to PvP, nor does PvP have to be some non-stop warzone.
I'd first like to acknowledge Teala's excellent analysis on The Old Republic's population and from my perspective of fleet sizes it does appear to be getting smaller and smaller (on the Daragon Trail server, it has dropped from around 300+ people on the main fleet to about 150 during primetime over the last couple months. It gets worse each week.
There are some good reasons why the server population appears to be shrinking - PvP sucks... Well, more to the point, bad design and mechanics.
On Daragon Trail I have a level 50 Sorcerer and a level 32 Bounty Hunter and these are some of my experiences thus far.
1) System Requirements - My system is pretty damned good. I've got a top end gaming laptop, i7 Q740, 8 gigs RAM and a GTX 460M. All of which are pretty high quality stuff (and signficantly above their minimum requirements), I am able to run pretty much any game on high graphics settings - Witcher 2 was one I had no problems with high graphics settings, nor have I had issues with any other game.
Except I can't PvP with it effectively. When there are more than 5-6 people in the immediate area in certain WZs I begin to lose FPS - occasionally dipping as low as 5-10 (Alderaan is consistently worse than Voidstar, and Huttball is somewhere in the middle in terms of FPS). All of my graphics settings are on the absolute minimum and I've played around with my client / video card / extra programs (I am using Gameboost now, which has helped a bit). But this is absolutely unacceptable.
I'm not alone with this issue either as evidenced by the amount of threads on their official boards.
Oh, and here is a run down of how to fix your FPS issues at the beginning of January, including the suggestion of turning off all your background programs. Thanks Tips. I guess it is not your problem, but ours.
I haven't even mentioned the god forsaken planet that is Ilum yet - if you thought your performance issues were back anywhere else, just wait until you check out the "Open World PvP area".
Fun Fact: In addition to doing damage, these cannons cripple your PC's performance, reducing FPS to roughly 0.5 frames per second!
If you have more than 20 people on your screen, good luck getting more than 2-5 FPS per second - you're basically reduced to throwing down area of effect spells and hoping something hits someone so you can get your kills for your daily quests.
Ilum on most servers has become a ghost town in part due to performance issues (among many, many others).
This appears to be all thanks to the Hero Engine... errr wait, what is this? HeroEngine COO fires back at Bioware questioning their own coding, shaders, etc.
But Remember folks at the end of the day, it isn't their problem, it's your garbage PC.
Even this guy needs to close his background programs before he goes to Ilum.
2) Bugs and Exploits - Ahh yes, already exploits and bugs have been hitting SW:TOR fairly hard. Here are just a couple that have been impacting PvP. In this section I will give Electronic A... errr.. Bioware some credit for being able to fix things in a timely manor.
Remember our little turret friend who fired shots of crippling particles into your PC mentioned above? Well, he has a fairly dark history with The Old Republic already. He was actually being exploited for valor when Ilum first opened.
Yes, players were able to farm Valor off these turrets, which spawned instantly. To Bioware's credit they decided to fix it within a few weeks, however by that time the damage had already been done. Many players already had either maxed out their valor or gotten it to a high enough rank to wear the highest ranked PvP gear, giving them a major advantage against fresh lvl 50s who did not use the bug. Normally players would have to grind through hundred of PvP warzones in order to achieve lvl 60 valor (which is supposed to take a couple months), but these guys were doing it in one afternoon.
So what did Bioware do? Nothing. They fixed the bug. Didn't ban or reverse any valor gains. Instead we have people asking for Rank 4 PvP gear to come out. Sweet job guys.
Of course we've already had to deal with Warzone wins not registering for Daily PvP gear (an endless source of frusteration for players, as 3 wins is a lot harder than it seems to be), the 12vs8 imbalances, allowing the opposing team to be 1.5x the size of yours.
These issues of course have been fixed right now - I will give them credit for doing so, but again this is where first impressions come into play. The valor bug is definitely an issue for the community going forward and things like that are huge turnoffs for myself and other players. While the 12 vs 8 bug and the Warzone wins ones are certainly frusterating, they aren't game crippling like the valor one was.
Anyways stay tuned for my Part 2 of Tortanic's PvP later this week when I add more about Ilum's transgressions, crappy UI & skills delays...