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PvP Interview

By Michael Bitton on May 06, 2011 | Interviews | Comments

PvP Interview

What forms of PvP are available in Star Wars: The Old Republic?

Emmanuel Lusinchi:

Well, we have announced two. There are only two. There are the warzones, that you have actually tried today, which is a very codified engagement, because we wanted it to be fair, so 8 vs. 8, objective, very clear, we show you what you're supposed to do and we're going to reward you based on whether you complete the objectives. There is much more reward for the team that wins than the team that doesn't win. Very team oriented gameplay, that's one.

Another one is a kind of PvP that naturally occurs when people don't like each other meet somewhere on the planet. Traditional, really. We did do a few change to the traditional formula, even on a PvE server, because we have PvP and PvE servers, and some people on PvE servers don't want to be subjected to PvP, we have a zone we're going to mark as, "There will be PvP. Beware." It's a dangerous place; you don't have to go there, I mean you will have a way to skirt it, but we want that kind of engagement to be there.

There's a third one, which is just dueling. You can turn towards a friend or stranger and duel them, and that's another form that is in the game right now.

Can you give us an overview of the Warzones you've revealed so far?

Emmanuel Lusinchi:

We've talked about two. One is Alderaan. The story behind it is there is an extremely powerful cannon in the base and both sides want to capture it to help with the war and they send a dropship, each side sends a dropship, and before you can capture the cannon you have to shoot down the other ship so that they stop sending reinforcements, and to do that you try to capture three turrets, and every time you capture a turret it will turn and start shooting on the enemy ship. Once their shields are down the ship crashes and you win the engagement.

The second one is the Void Star. The Void Star, the story behind it is, it's a prototype ship that has become lost, derelict, so it's lost its crew, both sides locate it and both sides send a team inside to capture it. At the beginning of the Warzone we randomly pick one side to be the defender and one side to be the attacker, and the attacker need to take the ship room by room, there are several rooms, and each room has a slightly different objective, ranging from breaching a door with explosives, and the other side tries to disarm the bomb and prevent you from putting it in the first place, to extend a bridge, or destroying an objective such as a shield generator.

Once the attacking side has captured the ship we flip it around and people that used to be attackers now have to defend the ship they just captured and the people who were defenders now try to capture it faster than the first team did. So a very traditional assault, but again, we are trying to make it very immersive with not a lot of gimmicky parts, just keep it really immersed into the Star Wars universe, and I think that is all we have announced so far.

Are Warzones or PvP in general a viable leveling track for those who might prefer it?

Emmanuel Lusinchi:

Sure. We do reward you with loot, XP, credits, kind of everything you need to make it worth. I don't foresee people just doing PvP to level up to max level, I guess it's possible. We have no plan so far to prevent that, to put a maximum amount of XP that you can get in PvP before you can gain a level in PvE. That's a possibility, but we don't see a need for it right now. We are pretty confident in the rest of the game being fun, and we think it's really good if people can take a break from one kind of gaming to move another kind of gaming whatever it is. In the end it makes a stronger game overall. So we'll see how it works.

Will the rate of XP gain in PvP be competitive with what you 'd be getting in PvE?

Emmanuel Lusinchi:

A good rate would be if I spend an hour doing PvP in Warzones and I spend an hour doing Flashpoints, is it going to be the same? We are going to try to make it the same, but mathematically it cannot be exactly the same thing.

But you intend for it to be a viable form of leveling?

Emmanuel Lusinchi:

Definitely. We don't want people to feel like they are wasting their time like,"I could be doing something else that could reward me." Because that's what I like, we'd rather it be the same.

At what level can players expect to take their first steps into PvP? And does this differ on a PvP server?

Emmanuel Lusinchi:

It's not different on a PvP server, that's actually a good idea. We're struggling a little bit to pin down the exact level, at some point we wanted it to be more integrated in the story, so it made sense. You'd start going to all the different Warzones when you had your ship, the bad part of that is we don't know exactly what level you're going to be when you get your ship, and it's not a very clear point for the players, they can't really plan on it.

Right now it's going to be level 10. We'll play it for a while on the test server and see how it feels. It's a good time, level 10, you start to know what your character is about. It might be a little bit early in the sense you still have really important for PvP abilities that are slightly later like 14 and 16, like your break free, which is an ability that breaks any kind of crowd control on you. Of course, we can move this ability towards 10, but already 10 is a very crowded time and your characters typically, either you've just done a Flashpoint or you're going to your capital world, you've got a companion just freshly granted to you and you're choosing your Advanced Class.

It might be too much, at the same time we dump on you a bunch of PvP abilities like Guard for tanks, so we have to find the right place. It's going to be about that time; we don't people to have to wait for days and days and weeks before they can start PvP. But we don't want it to be right when you are beginning and you are level 1 and you don't have abilities, it's just not a very interesting rotation for you to do in PvP.

On the subject of PvP servers, what are your current plans for PvP servers?

Emmanuel Lusinchi:

We have plans for PvP and PvE servers, as I mentioned even on PvE servers there will be zones that are flagged as PvP, but it's a pretty simple traditional solution here, and we'll see how that works out. But it's a traditional PvP and PvE server, no word on whether we're going to have role-playing server and RP-PvP servers; it's a popular request from fans, we'll see.

Can you say if players can fight everywhere on PvP servers?

Emmanuel Lusinchi:

No, there is limits. Actually, in one of our builds there was no limit and it was pretty ugly. Players will be players and we had to go in there and police because they were griefing each other on Nar Shaddaa, which is one of the planets where you really get together, and the guard mechanic was not there, and by guard I mean actual guards that protect you at critical points, and it was pretty ugly, people we're killing each other at taxis, and it was fun, but it really impacted the playstyle for some people.

I know people are like, "It's a PvP server! You signed up for it!" but there's a core minimum that we want to maintain. But we do like that there is a concept of making the other side miserable when you are well organized and so on, it's a balance. There will be zones that are safe, there are zones that are naturally safe because you don't tend to go there, well, I won't say more about that, nevermind.

Will there be meaningful ways for Guilds to get involved in PvP? Will Guilds or groups of players be able to hold territory?

Emmanuel Lusinchi:

I won't say anything on that. Sounds fun!

How are you approaching crowd control abilities in PvP?

Emmanuel Lusinchi:

OK, so for crowd control, again, I know that some players are looking at the videos and they're like, "Wow! There sure is a lot of crowd control in this game!" It's an important part of the solo and the group play because it's one of the things that makes the game fun, because you really get to impact your enemies in meaningful ways, like setting them on fire. But, for the PvP games, we wanted to tone it down, but not eliminate it. Some classes in the end, some roles, rely on being able to paralyze or stun other players to set up some of their abilities, so removing it altogether would first make a kind of boring looking fight, but would make some classes have to work completely different in PvE vs. PvP, which is kind of against what we are trying to do, so we came up with the concept of Resolve, which is an energy bar that will appear only in PvP. You start building Resolve any time someone uses a controlling effect on you; we are pretty generous with the definition, controlling effects can be just a knockback, like somebody throws a grenade and you're pushed back; during that fraction of a second you're technically can't do much, so we count that. The sleep effect, being unable to move or act; the stun effect, the same thingAll these kinds of things are tracked and all of them build up your Resolve.

Once your Resolve bar is full we really show it to the world, people can check how much Resolve you have, but once your Resolve is full it changes color and you become immune to controlling effects, so, you know, you've played the Warzone. It was not a stunfest, right? There was a good exchange of being able to effect a guy, "Oh no! He's going to control that turret, stun him!" but you're not going to spend your whole time sitting on your thumb because there's nothing you can do. So it's nice balance, it's easy to tweak for us, how much should a stun count to a physics ability? So we're going to be tweaking it, but I think it's actually in pretty good shape right now.

Tanks have traditionally had a tough time finding a place in PvP. How will tanks contribute to the overall dynamic of a fight? What options do they have to protect their allies?

Emmanuel Lusinchi:

Sure, so one of the things we really want to do is every kind of player has a role to play in PvP, but also every, people make a big choice when they pick their Advanced Class, and one of the things is some Advanced Classes have a support role to play, like a tank, like a healer, and we want every one of these roles to be valid in PvP. That's what you pick for yourself, that's what you enjoy doing, we'd like you to be able to do that in a PvP situation. We didn't want to denature it in the sense that in some other games sometimes your tanks are valid, but they become completely different, they become a huge damage dealer, for example. We didn't want that, because that's not what you picked for yourself, so it's hard to balance.

So the way we've done it is, several ways, we've tried to replicate the effect of the typical taunt ability which redirects enemies towards yourself in PvP. So, taunting actually reduces the damage dealt by the enemy you just targeted, and it reduces the damage that person is doing on anyone, but not on you. So that person can continue trying to do reduced damage on its target or it can turn towards you because he's going to maximize his DPS, so it's kind of, any way you win, as a tank, you've reduced the damage that is going towards your friends, and in some cases you redirect the enemy's attention towards yourself, so it kind of the same wy it works in the PvE.

The other way we further gave options to the tank class, the tank roles, was a PvP only ability we call Guarding, Guard. When you use that on one of your friends, until you cancel it, half of the damage that your friend is actually taking is redirected towards you. So you take a lot of damage, but you're protecting your friend. It's a really powerful ability; we've seen it today, where it really contributed to some healers being extremely hard to kill because a tank was staying next to them and really protecting them. We think it's an interesting ability, and it lets tanks be tanks. Not only that, but both mechanics are easy for us to track every single point of damage that has been redirected by a good tank by himself toward himself, and so we can reward you badges, which is something we mentioned. We can just give you better rewards because you're playing the role you picked for yourself and you're playing it well.

Are there PvP rewards?

Emmanuel Lusinchi:

PvP rewards, yes, so we've mentioned it, we're giving credits, we're giving XP, we're giving PVP tokens, which are called Valor Tokens, which are a currency that you can redeem at certain vendors specifically for PvP loot. So you've got full suits of armor and weapons and equipment and so on that you can only get by doing PvP, which is geared towards PvP as well, with unique graphics that you cannot get any other way. They look very, they look quite aggressive, I mean, this is an aggressive activity; even a Jedi Guardian in a PvP suit will look a bit less meek than your typical guardian of peace and justice. Of course, a Bounty Hunter in PvP gear will really look awesome, a lot of trophies dangling, spikes, and all that. So we went a bit crazy, I think it'll look good. We have sets for maximum level and we have sets for intermediate levels, because we want people of any level, as we have no minimum, to participate in PvP, so there is gear for them.

Another thing we reward you is something which allows you to see how you've been doing compared to other players. You have a friend, you need to have something to compare yourself in PvP. You can compare your equipment, that's one way, but maybe he's saving up his tokens, so who knows, so we have a Valor score, that is right there on your character sheet, and it goes up whenever you're doing PvP, and it goes up faster if you're doing well. If you're winning all the time, if you're getting a lot of badges by doing your role that you picked for yourself, so, it's a score that unlocks titles, PvP titles, and it's a way, not only for players to compare between themselves, but also for us to keep track who is dedicated to PvP, who is really good at PvP, and we can use that for the matchmaking system to know which players to put together when the Warzones are started.

Will companions function in PvP? Either in Warzones or in the game world proper?

Emmanuel Lusinchi:

So, out in the world, if you have a companion out, you have a companion out and if you happen to be engaging a player of the opposing faction your companion's still there and so he's going to be a factor. In a duel, it's the same thing, unless you agree with the other guys to dismiss your companion, your companion's going to be out there and so he's going to participate in the fight.

In Warzones, actually, we allowed them for a while, and then we decided, partly based on feedback, that when you're doing PvP you're really doing PvP and that's, in an environment where we control all the factors, who gets in, when they get in, how many of them, we thought it was more itnersting to only have players vs. players, so no companions, they come back after the match. So, you know, when you get killed you know you get killed by another player and not just an A.I. We find it more interesting, we think it plays better. It's a trivial change, literally one bit somewhere on the data tables somewhere, so it's not like it's written in stone, "You can never change your mind!" So if the players really really want it we can make a new mode where you can queue with companions, but right now it's out, and it plays well.

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined as the site's Community Manager.
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