To PVP or To Not PVP, That is the Question
This week, Star Wars: the Old Republic announced the end of PVP Season Three to coincide with the launch of Game Update 3.0: Shadow of Revan. They also announced three tiers of rewards based on the Rating players will acquire during the season of play. Today, we'll take a look at the game's PVP options and see where the fun is. Let's get the disclaimer out of the way right now and kick over the hornet's nest: I am not a PVPer. I'm looking at this from the outside, because there are quite frankly some aspects of PVP gameplay that baffle me and makes me wonder why people find it fun. That being said, I have PVPed a few times in SWTOR. In fact, the last time I did, Community Manager Eric Musco was doing the official Friday livestream, and it happened to be on my server, so why not? And yes, I did very very badly. On the other hand, I played the hell out of Galactic Starfighter in beta and then a bit in live, but admittedly burned out on it by the time they released the Deathmatch option and the Denon map.
Quick primer on SWTOR's PVP options for someone who's just rolled up in here and hasn't read the game's website or done any research. The rest of you can skip to the next paragraph. There are currently two kinds of PVP in the game: ground-based traditional character-on-character PVP and space-based fighter-on-fighter PVP. You can queue by yourself or in a group for either or both options at the same time, and when the queue pops, you will be loaded into a random map. Both are accessible by clicking on either the faction icon (ground) or the fighter icon (space) located on your minimap and both have mission terminals on your faction's Fleet for daily and weekly quests. Ground-based PVP has the further option of Ranked play for characters at level 55, but space-based Galactic Starfighter PVP doesn't because it's not tied to your character's level. Both sets of PVP have their own separate system of rewards that do not cross over. Alas, space PVP is still more of a self-contained minigame than anything else, and there haven't been any whispers that this will change anytime soon. It is possible to level completely from 1-55 in Galactic Starfighter, but you have to be at least level 10 before you can queue for ground PVP.
Now comes the fun part. BioWare has told us they intend to do more frequent and shorter PVP seasons for the Ranked Warzones, to get the rewards out there more often and to keep people engaged. Right now, we're in Season 3, which is due to end with the launch of Shadow of Revan, Game Update 3.0 on December 2nd. PVP designer Alex Modny posted the current data on the Season 3 rewards on the official forums, and judging by the reaction, and in basic comparison with the Season 2 rewards, it seems BioWare did the PVP community a solid. Glancing in passing at the three tiers, the rewards are cumulative, although at the time of this writing, the color of the special crystals hasn't been announced. I'm still pondering the wisdom of having the basic tier of rewards in essence be a 'thanks for participating' sort of deal, because the only thing you need to accomplish to earn that is complete ten Ranked Warzones. You don't have to win or complete any objectives. You could stand there and hit various dance emotes the whole time and it would count (note: author does not advocate disrespecting your fellow players by doing this). You just have to manage to get through ten of them. Even as someone who shies away from PVP, that seems weird to me. On the other hand, having been sitting in the Ranked queue on The Shadowlands for over two hours while I was writing and researching this – to be fair, this was the middle of the night and not prime time – it might actually take me until December to manage to get ten queue pops.
That's one of the unfun things about the game's PVP, neither ground nor space PVP has cross-server queues. BioWare has been told by the extremely vociferous PVP community that they've wanted cross-server since before the game launched. Recently, BioWare folks told fans at a recent Cantina Tour stop that they were working on something allegedly 'way better' than that to help with PVP, but I cannot actually imagine what they could do to concentrate the PVP community together. My only theory involves a completely separate server similar in format to the PTS where players could copy their PVP character over and run PVP there and then have the data somehow magically update on their regular server so they can still run with their usual guild and do PVE stuff. That's just a wild idea coming from someone who has little knowledge of high-end server tech, but even so, it's a very inelegant solution even as an idea. We're still waiting on more details on what BioWare has up its electronic sleeves here, because it's not like there will magically be thousands more PVPers appearing out of the Force to join the queue on every server.
They have also announced incentives for making Galactic Starfighter more palatable. More Requisition to gear up one's fighters more quickly was reported to be the first phase of a planned rollout of improvements to the limited fighter game, but honestly, what it needs more than anything else is a bit more variety. The reason I burned out on it so soon after playing it repeatedly and enthusing in Mumble to my guild about how much fun I was having was because at the time, there were two maps and only the Domination playstyle available. Also, folks who played it even more often than I did were outstripping my meagre piloting skills and I got tired of constantly being behind the curve. Despite assurances from BioWare that matchmaking was intended to ensure folks with lesser-geared/experienced ships wouldn't be matched with folks with higher-geared/experienced ships, it seems as if the matchmaking wasn't operating entirely as intended, even setting aside the 'working as intended' notion that if your lowbie GSF character was grouped with your buddy who was flying a tricked-out ship, you'd get matches based on his or her rating. Now we have a third map available and the Deathmatch mode too, but those are the only huge changes in the whole thing since it launched in early access a year ago.
Ground PVP isn't faring much better in terms of variety. Since the game launched, three more warzone maps have been added, two early on in the 1.x phase of the game and one since 2.0, for a grand total of six warzone maps. Three 4v4 Arenas of Death were added to the game in Update 2.4 a year and a half ago, and Ranked 8v8 was removed (and repeatedly said to not be coming back anytime soon). What's ironic is that even the official website's warzone page doesn't list the Quesh Huttball warzone on it.
However, a salient point here is that with the new expansion launching, we've already been told that there won't be any new PVP additions tied into that launch, ground or space. What we have been told involves the fact that the new Discipline system will affect every class in some fashion, so just like PVE folks, PVPers will have to relearn how to play their class and advanced class. Admittedly, I'm not very surprised at the announcement, but it still would have been nice to have some new maps to spice things up as well.
You may have noticed that I have stayed well away from the theorycrafting side of the PVP discussion, or the clamor from a segment of PVP players who state that PVP is broken, or any of the much louder discussions going on with the state of the game's PVP. That fiercely almost hostile tenor of discussion is not my cup of tea and actually the primary reason why I don't engage in PVP. However, let's face it, those of you who PVP daily or constantly are the folks who can plead your case to BioWare, who has metrics to know exactly where you are playing, how often you're playing, and whether your class is working as intended. Class balance is always a tricky thing, and overhauling all of the classes at once with an entirely new system is going to take some time to work out. Not even veteran MMOs with a decade or more under their belt haven't mastered class balance yet, so I'm not holding my breath until SWTOR gets it settled once and for all.
So, open the floodgates, PVPers! Let's hear what you think about your playstyle and where it needs to go from here.