When The Old Republic ships it will be coming with more game play than you can shake a stick at. Quests, flashpoints, warzones, space combat and exploring a galaxy far far away all come standard. Two features that will not be included at launch (so far) are Arena PVP and a Dungeon Finder system. It only takes a quick browse through the TOR website to find a thread either arguing for, or against, the addition of these two controversial features. Personally I find myself on the fence, but as any decent man of logic would do, I will attempt to flesh out the pros and cons of each.
When it comes to arenas, the main problem people seem to have is the effect they have on the balance of the game. To take a page from the book of WoW for example, arenas have become the sole source of the primo PVP gear, with players earning points only attainable through arena battles. This in turn, has rendered the only other PVP option, battlegrounds, little more than a place to farm gear with decent enough stats to eventually enter the arena. The other never ending teeter totter ride is class balancing. Class balancing is almost impossible to achieve in any mmo and TOR would be no exception. The complaints about characters being over or underpowered inevitably lead to “nerfs” and “buffs” of classes in the aim of leveling the playing field. It is during this process that the abilities helpful to PVE play tend to get overlooked and sometimes inadvertently nerfed. Battleground style PVP on the other hand is more about larger groups combining their strengths and consequently this minimizes the likelihood of an overpowered class running amok. Fewer people complaining about class imbalances result in developers taking more time to think through class changes and less quick fixes.
The argument in favor of arenas is a pretty simple one. The small scale battles have a more intense feel and require higher level of personal skill and teamwork to be successful. There’s also something more gratifying about a victory in the arena setting, when you and your team pull off that new strategy you’ve spent hours working on. Another common argument is that Star Wars lore contains many examples of this type of combat as well. For starters there’s the coliseum on Geonosis that appeared in “The Clone Wars”. Not to mention the entire Mandalorian society seems centered around arena combat. Arenas, whether a functional part of the game or not, most likely will be a part of the story.
We now turn our gaze to the dungeon finder tool. The much criticized ability to almost instantly find a group and take on an instance without having to spam the LFG channel or pleading your case to a guild. Yes, with one click of a button you’re added to a queue of eager dungeon crawlers, and when that magic time comes you get whisked away to an instance. What could be wrong with such a wonderful feature you ask? Take out the main reason for people to talk to one another in the game and you end up with a mere online RPG.
On the flip side of the coin, for people who aren’t members of a decent guild or can’t find a pickup group, the dungeon finder is a life saver. Plus you have to admit, it does save a lot of time, especially if you’re just looking to finish a quest or upgrade your gear. And finally, some people just don’t want to have to socialize to play and advance in the game. There are tons of lone wolves out there who want nothing more than to enjoy the game at their own pace and keep all the loot for themselves.
Well, it looks as though my fence-riding days are over. I have made a choice and I choose… none of the above (at least not for a while). Yes, arenas are fun, but the overwhelming effect they inevitably have on other aspects of the game are too much. Even without them we’ve got warzones that look like a blast and personally I can’t see myself getting tired of them very quickly. As for you Mr. Dungeon Finder, you’re in the same boat as arenas. Bottom line is that this is an MMO: forming PUGs is part of the territory and travelling to the instance used to be half the fun. Plus the game isn’t even out yet, and last time I checked there were around forty three thousand guilds registered. Plenty of time to find some like-minded gamers, join a guild, and get ready for a hell of a time.