SWTOR launched with a single PVP bracket for warzones that spans levels 10-50.
Viewers of my YouTube videos have posted comments similar to this one:
Wait if your level 18 in PvP why is there a level 50? Or is there a way that they even up the fight
SWTOR implements a Bolster PVP mechanic to help lowbies compete with higher-level opponents.
Here’s how Bolster works:
- Bolster scales your damage / healing tooltips to level 49
- Bolster scales your stats to level 49
- Bolster does not provide the talent points that a sub-50 would have earned by 49
- Bolster does not provide new abilities that are not trainable until a higher level
Does Bolster provide parity for lowbies against higher-level opponents? No, but it does help to minimize the gap and help lowbies to be competitive if not equal.
An interesting implication of #2 is that a low-level player who is geared in solid greens and blues for their level can hit hard in PVP. I’ve put up 200k damage with various RDPS classes at levels 10-12 in PUGs while focusing on winning the match not padding my stats. On an early Sniper stream, I delivered ~9k damage with 3 abilities thanks to crits.
If you keep the same gear across levels, you’ll find that your damage / healing decreases as your level increases. Bolster takes your current stats and scales them as if you were level 50. As such, a level 15 player in 13-15 greens and blues hits harder than a level 40 player in 30 greens for the same ability, assuming it’s not talented (e.g. the armor ignore talent for Powertech / Vanguard in the Advanced Prototype / Tactics tree). Therefore it’s important to keep your gear relatively up-to-date. The other thing to consider is that as classes level up, they gain abilities that provide utility, e.g. CC, buffs, debuffs, etc. What I’ve found as I’ve leveled up my Bounty Hunter Powertech and Trooper Vanguard is that I spend a lower % of GCDs for damage abilities compared to other abilities. While your abilities may hit or heal for less at higher levels, this is more than offset by the increase in utility and survivability gained with talents and abilities.
In addition, from a stats perspective, level 50 characters have access to level 50 PVP gear, which has the PVP stat Expertise. Expertise increases damage / healing and reduces damage takent in PVP, and the stat is not available on lower-level gear. This is a significant advantage for level 50s over level 10s.
In my opinion 10-49 should be one bracket and 50 should be a separate bracket. As I discussed in my streams during Beta, the last thing I want is to face level 10 players when I’m level 50 – it would be unchallenging.
Per the recent Best Buy Dev Chat, BioWare said they’ll be putting level 50s in a separate bracket:
Guest-346: In regards to PvP, are you guys planning on bracketing off level 50′s in warzones once there is a high population of them?
Gaming-BBY: >>Gabe: Yes, stay tuned for a Developer’s Blog with more on this and other PvP features coming soon.
When 50s are moved into their own bracket, I think having 10-49 all together will be fine.
On a related topic, the red buffs in warzones do provide +15% Expertise, so even if you are below level 50 you benefit from getting the buff.
UPDATE (2012/04/26): per the 1.2 tooltip for Bolster, the buff upscales players in 10-49 up to 49. Previously I had thought it bolstered players to 50.
UPDATE (2012/01/18): the level 50 PVP bracket for warzones was implemented in Patch 1.1. So there are now two brackets: 10-49 and 50. This is exactly what needed to happen.
I agree with your reasoning (and BW’s decision) regarding bracketing level 50’s. What I disagree with is that the bolster mechanic evens out the levels enough from 1-49. Let’s take the most extreme disparity: a level 10 Powertech vs. a level 49 Powertech (The class doesn’t matter, it’s just the one I’m most familiar with). The talents and skills available to the level 49 make this contest horribly mismatched. The level 49 has flamesweep, carbonize, shoulder slam, kolto overload, as well as the skills made available through the talent trees..
The disparity isn’t as bad as a lvl 50 with expertise, for sure, but there is no way that an even moderately skilled level 49 player should lose to the level 10 player. They just have more tools at their disposal.
I think it would make more interesting and competitive warzones if there were at least another division at 30 or 35. I’m just thinking somewhere in the middle, though a more detailed analysis of where skills and talents put players across classes might yield a better breaking point.
Very fair points.
I agree with you that assuming equal gear and skill and all cooldowns available, the 49 should beat the 10 the vast majority of the time, with the exception of RNG.
That being said, SWTOR has the highest skill cap I’ve ever seen in a game. I’ve solo’d players of much higher level, even playing my mirror class.
Skill matters in this game. I love that about SWTOR’s PVP.
Aside from the oft-mentioned higher TTK in SWTOR (which I am personally a big fan of), why do you feel SWTOR PvP requires the most skill of any MMOs PvP?
Let me first state that I agree – and like – that higher TTK means more strategy can and does go into any given fight.
My question arises from the fact that from a pure mechanics standpoint there is nothing in SWTOR that isn’t done in other MMOs.
The class mechanics are no more or less complicated than anything in WAR/WoW/Rift. Combat mechanics like avoidance in a 180 degree frontal arc, strafing, kiting, pre-kiting; movement based mechanics e.g. snares, roots, knockbacks, teleports, leaps, self knockbacks – all these things exist in the big titles mentioned above. WoW specifcally has all these things, and at high levels it even (since cata) has the high TTK.
So what is it that you feel is the ‘thing’ that gives SWTOR PvP the highest skill cap of the games you’ve played? Could it not just be that its still the early stages of the game, and you’ve adapted quicker than most? SWTOR is a primarily PvE game and as such I would expect that it wouldn’t have necessarily the most hardcore PvP following, so maybe you’re playing more PvE oriented players who aren’t so practiced at PvP and that artificially inflates the feeling of a higher skill cap?
If a game is balanced, then the deciding factor in PvP should be skill, assuming equal gear (or un-equal gear if gear didn’t matter for PvP). Maybe its just that SWTOR is much closer to balance than the versions of WoW/WAR/Rift when you played those? Thats a great thing if its the case!
Anyway, I hope that didn’t come off as a rant or disrespect, I’m just interested in your point of view. Your videos are great, and I’ve read your guides even though I’ve never played any of the classes you have, they’re full of great tips!
It isn’t any single thing in SWTOR that creates an environment where skill matters.
That being said, here is the list of items that promote skillful play:
1. long TTK
2. all classes – including healers – have functional CC and ST damage
3. the resource (i.e. mana) bar regenerates non-linearly for 4 of the 8 ACs, so you can’t just spam-cast
4. no addons to tell you what to press and when
5. no macros, and with all the abilities to manage a player needs a good keybinding setup
6. reasonable class balance across 6 of the 8 ACs
7. no cheeseball 1-shot or 2-shot mechanics
8. can’t stunlock an opponent from 100% to 0%
Certainly in a duel it would be extremely unfair. But, in warzone PvP the higher level player will often not have their longer duration cooldowns available to them.
Have you noticed if Bolstering ranks up abilities to level 50? That’s been a fuzzy topic for me and it’d be nice to know.
Any abilities you have are Bolstered to their 50 equivalent.
The bolster mechanic is awesome. I still hear people complaining on the forums about how unfair it is but I can’t see how.
When people lose, they’ll attribute it to almost anything else other than skill differential.
The good players rock in warzone even under level 20. That’s what I’ve consistently seen.
Granted a good 50 will crush a good 20, and a good 49 should beat a good 10.
Bingo. I’ve found that when it comes to PvP, many players will blame ANYTHING but themselves for coming up short in a fight.
You may remember me from your Prot pally days and Warrior days in Rift (I played both and was even in your guild for a while on Rift till I changed faction and server). I got a couple of questions mate, I am currently on the verge of giving SWTOR a crack, but certain things puzzle me in regards to Bioware’s thinking.
First of all, lets take WoW as a start point. You have a dual spec option, but you are pigeonholed down a single tree with the option to have some splash talents in a 2nd/3rd tree at max level. Rift changed this for the good, offering 9 souls and 5 roles without the need to change gear. You could have so many variations with PvP/PvE specs to play with without the inconvenience of having to retrain anything. No pigeonholing at all, even though there is some argument that some souls aren’t as good as others, you could switch on the fly to suit the environment, opposition and your playstyle.
From what I have seen, SWTOR has 4 classes with each class having an advanced class. On the surface it would it seem like there is only 8 classes available, but with each advanced class having access to 3 talent trees without pigeonholing, you start to see alot of diversity. I like this, what I don’t like is that I can’t continually change specs without having to go to a trainer, retrain, then reconfigure all my keybindings. With the amount of skills available for each class and AC, a solid key bind layout will be paramount (which you alluded to in your above post). Having to reconfigure your key binds each and every respec (assume we are changing AC’s here, or even just changing trees within a given AC, i.e Shield tech > Dps tech), this seems like a pain in the ass for sure, and a step backwards in MMO development.
Now, to be sure. I am not trying to fault find so much with SWTOR, some things look good. The bolster system is good, Warhammer had the same in a variation, and I agree there will need to be 50’s in their own bracket with possibly a 2nd bracket created for 30-49 players as well. Warhammer needed this at end game also, RR40’s trying to kill an RR80 was damn near impossible. These are minor things though and will be ironed out. My thoughts on the bolster mechanic as it is is to ensure quick que’s and keep the PvP gamers happy in the short term with hopefully changes coming in the future.
Anyway, I have rattled enough. Let me know your thoughts.
(BTW, I am still arenaing in WoW as Prot, it’s painful but not impossible. I’m 1800 in Ret atm aswell, Prot is more fun and relaxed though, especially with a Blood DK due to the Vengeance changes – Ramps to full in around 3 hits).
You should be able to use 80% of the same keybindings for the different trees for a given AC, if you use thematic keybinding.
Sorry taugrim, can you explain Thematic keybinding? You mean keybinding to a theme? I currently do that already, pretty much a straight rip off from your keybinding video, all my characters over rift and wow now have the same letters/numbers keybinded to relatively the same abilities.
Yes, that is exactly what I mean.
Just an addition,
I also read that at level 50 the PvP gear is ranked based. This is the same PvP path that Rift took, and was a major letdown for me and the sole reason I left Rift. Rank based PvP that corresponds with gear reduces the element of skill in PvP imo, as Rift did with Rank 8’s running around 1 shotting Rank 3’s, especially with the long grind for rank 8 it became an attitude common on rift that “I worked for my R8 gear, I deserve to be able to stomp R1’s into the ground, I went through it, so should they”.
This isn’t a good system imo, and I was R5 with-in a few weeks of release and still didn’t enjoy it. Like you, playing a Paladin/RB/Champion hybrid (Healing debuff and RDPS aspect of RB) it was no challenge to kill new level 50 players. The valor change did help, but ranks with gear rewards are still a slippery slope imo.
PvP at endgame should encourage new max level players to participate, and those players coming in from PvE streams to have a go. Getting roflstomped the whole time, even if you are skilled (levelling to 50 via PvP, you get skilled imo if you do it right) is not encouraging and reduces the pool of PvP players, lengthening que’s and making PvP zones like a no mans land. Yes there needs to be rewards, i.e titles, vanity items, mounts, crafting materials? etc. But PvP gear should be easily accessible, within 20 play hours at max level imo (one thing WoW has right atm, it takes a few days to go from fresh 85 to current level PvP gear which puts you on baseline dmg/mitigation as everyone else, thus increasing the skill in gameplay)
WoW, Rift, WaR class balances aside, it is also easier to balance class mechanics and damage/healing output if gear isn’t such a limiting factor in balance.
Another 2 cents from me, curious to hear your thoughts though.
Let’s make sure to delineate the following factors:
1. there are multiple PVP gear tiers at 50
2. there are going to be ranked warzone matches, and AFAIK this is a system similar to Rated BGs in WoW
3. the scaling between the PVP gear tiers does not appear to be non-linear
Re: #3, that was the major issue with RIFT. There was a bigger gap between the R6->R8 gear than there was for the R4->R6 gear. AFAIK this is not an issue in SWTOR.
So you are concerned about something that was a (silly) design flaw in RIFT that I have *never* seen in another game.
SWTOR is a different game.
In my Opinion it is not fair right now. If i have to take down a 50 Guy with 16k Hp compared to the 11-12k from the lowerlevels its just not fair. So i agree on splitting 50 with lower Levels.
Though i still think there should be not just 10-49. As you said yourself the higherlevels have much more CC and utlities. I’m not sure if its true but i felt like some Characters get CC immunity on higher level?(Over Time)
Its just hard to stop a lvl 40 who can not be CCed..
And i think the Talentpoints make a difference too.
Btw: The possibility of beeing seen as an Invisible Character like Assassin has smth to do with the Level of mine and the level of the opponent. Is that equalizied in PvP? It sometimes feel like the higherlevels see me over 50 meters.
After all i am a Person who is very bad at losing and i just lost a match so maybe thats why im crying so much about the balance. ;D
Sorry for my bad english.
Liked your Article. I like your work keep doing it! ;-)
PS: Couldnt find any way to support you. No Banner to click on nor i found a Donationbutton. Guess ill just keep watching your VODS and take as much advertisement at Justin.Tv as possible ;-)
AFAIK yes it is equalized.
Your English is excellent :)
Please spread the word on my content.
I am planning on adding a Donate button by early January.
i agree that the 10-49 should be kept for the time being. It helps to make sure everyone gets warzone pops regardless of level, time of day etc. I’m sure they will keep an eye on it in the future based on what the server populations and playstyle become.
The gear thing is just absolutely huge. It can’t be emphasized enough. I bet many of the complaints on the official forums are based off of not having level-appropriate gear and getting killed by lower level players who do. BTW, have you ever thought of having a forum available on your site here?
The official forums are just a huge mess of ignorance and rudeness, it puts me in a foul mood. I’ve already gotten one warning for responding to some ridiculous comment in what I thought was an appropriate way. /evil grin
I’m guessing you don’t want to deal with the moderation issue, however.
When I migrate off WordPress.com, I’ll see about adding forum functionality.
There is a lot of ignorance on the forums. Players don’t understand how to play their own class correctly and whine about being underpowered.
It’s one of the biggest motivators for me in terms of creating content – making sure people understand the mechanics properly.
I had no idea! Thank you!
This game is awesome btw :)
Definitely agree with this. Lots of abilities to keybind, manage, and use appropriately.
So what about scaling a lowbie that is stacked with purple gear and grabbing datacrons? With cybertech not hard to get purple armorment+mods. With the crafted orange gear that gives a cybertech a chance to twink out. Still researching how it scales-but right now pvp tanking seems to work pretty well.
You can invest a lot of coin if you want to be competitive starting at level 11 with crafted gear. But you can’t turn off XP from PVP like you can in WoW.
I’m glad you can’t. Twinking tends to create an environment where “he who spends most wins” and I think it’s lame.
The downside of an increased number of brackets is one cannot play with low is friends. Additionally, queue times are likely increased.
I like the idea of a 50’s bracket and a sub-50 bracket only. There should be an incentive to level and attain unique skills. During beta I was able do 170k+ damage and frequently be on top at around 14-16 as a gunslinger. So I was able to be an influence on the warzone, but also I was excited to pick up new cc’s/aoe’s
I think Bioware has done a good job of allowing lowbies to have a rich gameplay experience (even ones who spent a couple of hours grinding a fresh toon to 10), while also rewarding those who have stuck with there character a little longer.
Agree with everything you said.
Being able to PVP with friends is a huge benefit of the 10-49 bracket. There is uncommon in today’s MMO’s – typically you don’t get to PVP unless your levels are close to one another (e.g. +/- 10 levels).
And it’s easy to level a new AC to level 10 to try it.
The people (like me) who have tried a lot of the ACs have really liked the diversity and richness of the various classes.
It makes it difficult to commit to one AC as your main. That’s a great problem to have :)
who cares about bolstering
there are bigger problems in swtor
checkout the thread called “Horrid FPS” more then 3/4 of the swtor population cant play warzone due to massive bug in the latest patch
bioware are ignoring this completely over 1700+ pages long and not 1 responce
unsubscribed from this game its falling apart at the seams
have 1/3rd of our guild gets kicked to the character select screen when trying to join a warzone a bug that has been in the game SINCE ALPHA 1 FFS!!
oh yeah to round it off the level 50 bountry hunter final quest is bugged , biowares answer ….
have fun drowning slowly with this stinker of a coded game
i predict several staff changes shortly
one things for certain never buying EA anything again
Unsubbing after the game’s been live for 8 days, huh?
This kind of angry, thoughtless comment is what makes the official forums a cesspool.
That being said, if we dig down through the pointless, knee-jerk lashing out, there is a valid concern here. I know the game has only been live for 9 (15 if you count EGA) days, but there was extensive alpha and beta testing and many of the problems identified during that period have not been addressed.
Full disclosure: I’m not in any way a programmer. I wouldn’t know the difference between a line of code and a line of random characters. I assume that something that seems simple from a player’s perspective might be extremely difficult to fix because of the way elements interact.
From my perspective the real problem is Bioware’s communication. I have found that most of the information they offer is the same kind of pointless, empty comments that almost every large corporation offers to dissatisfied customers. Research (in both economics and psychology) shows that this only leads to reactions that are generally out of proportion to the original inciting incident. On the other hand, more open and candid communication from companies has directly the opposite effect.
In other words, the more a company admits that it made (or is making) a mistake and addresses its attempts to fix the problem, the happier people are. Most of this kind of stuff would go away if companies (like BW) would loosen the restrictions put on their public relations (or in this case community manager) teams.
Personally I am more frustrated by the lack of yellow posts with any real substance or acknowledgment than by the problems themselves.
I thought I noticed a drop in FPS after that last patch. Haven’t had the drop to character screen issue though.
I was able to fix it by zoning before queuing again. Or you could unsubscribe.
“On a related topic, the red buffs in warzones do provide +15% Expertise, so even if you are below level 50 you benefit from getting the buff.”
aehm.. as you don’t have any expertise until level 50: isn’t 15% of 0 still 0?
It’s a +15% buff, so even if you are below 50 you benefit from it.
Easy way to confirm this: get the buff, look at the PVP stats tab on your Character sheet.
I read your tweet about considering playing a SW/JK. I am level 42 atm and just got my level 31 ability in the Vengenance tree. I dont think the SW/JK is woefully UP, but it is a litte behind some ranged and melee DPS. Again a good player will generall negate these advantages.
The challenges the class has from my standpoint are this:
1) Lack of good CC and attacks at low levels. As been mentioned before some of their abilities need to move down in level. Some rage consuming abilities are very underpowered. (Vicious Slash im looking at you). The rage building Assault does nearly the same damage and fires instantly.
2) The class Rage/Focus being needed to built actively rather than drawing from a mana pool or allow heat/power to bleed off. This mean sometimes you have to take your eyes off the action to make sure you can use ability you want. This with having to manage CDs means you really need to pay attention.
3) Higher level damage abilities are understrength. Shatter in Vengance tree is a prime example. It up front damage is lacking but places a 12 sec dot. The CD on Shatter is only 9 seconds making it redundant to have a dot run that long. I would like to see some of that dot damage added on the front end and reduce the length of the DoT to 9sec.
Other than that, I think the class is fine. Not nearly as UP as some of the callings in Rift for example.
Oh and for the record, SW AoE ability is flat out awful.
While true, I do not think this really applies to TOR Warzone issues.
As Taugrim pointed out, the access to more utility (and PvP mitigation in the form of expertise) skews the playing field in favor of the higher level players.
A skilled premade of level 20’s, is still going to get rolled by an equally skilled premade of Lvl 50’s, and even premades of level 45.
And this is how it should be. The good thing about is swtor is a coordinated team of 20’s can roll a pick up group of slack-jawed 45’s.
That is not what is happening though. What is happening is that the ‘slack jawed’ lv 50’s, are rolling the coordinated team of 20’s.
Ideally, what should be happening, is that ‘level’ should be a relatively minor factor in Bolstered Warzones — with skill and coordination allowing the ‘better players’ win.
What we have now is a system to for the most part helps the ‘higher level’ players, and certainly the Level 50’s, win, not because of skill, but because they are given default advantages.
We win against the opposing side with multiple 50s in our premade with 14-35 level characters.
The odds are stacked in their favor but coordinated team play can still overcome gear differential.
I’ve been having a great time with my l20 shadow. And i fully agree that skill is the deciding factor when facing someone without pvp-gear.
Killing a lvl 45 of a certain class can be easy, while another lvl 20 of the same class might be a great pain to bring down.
Keep up the great work!
As always, one of the main problems in discussions of this sort is how to accommodate casual players and those who play in coordinated teams. None of my friends PvP, so when I go into a WZ I pug. If I go against any premade, I expect it to be difficult, but if I go against a lvl 50 premade, it’s impossible. It’s nearly impossible to beat an opposing pug with 3 or more 50’s (though this depends on the WZ…in hutball it’s easier than in Alderaan which in turn is easier than in Voidstar…choke points multiply the effectiveness of those 50’s and negate the advantage that they can only be in one place at one time).
BW has the unenviable problem of trying to figure out how to keep warzones competitive and fun for both people who run in groups and for puggers. As it stands, pugging a warzone is a coin flip. If you don’t have any level 50’s on your side ant the other team does, the overwhelming majority of the time, you will lose. When it’s obvious 2 minutes (or less) into a wz that there is no real possibility of winning and the opposing level 50’s just start farming us, that’s not even a little bit fun.
One of the side effects is that I’ve already started seeing comments along the lines of, “Average level is too low to win,” before the warzone even starts. That’s one small step away from people blaming a loss (or the perception that we will lose) on low level players. This, in turn, is just going to discourage new people from trying out PvP, which is bad for the health of the community. More people pvping means it becomes a higher priority for Boiware and they devote more resources to refining it and adding content. Plus a larger pool of players means better and more varied competition.
I am curious about how the faction imbalances are going to play out in all of this. I don’t know what the statistics are on my server, but I’ve never gotten a rep vs. rep huttball. I leveled an empire toon to 10 just to get an idea (a statistically meaningless one) and the first 3 warzones I got were empire v empire. If that’s any judge I’d say the imbalance is still pretty large.
Full disclosure: I mostly run as a healer and my experience as a pug healer might color my opinions. Also – more medals for healers, please.
Imo, there is an issue when you try to compare a ‘well coordinated team’ against a ‘PUG’, and claim that the system is working fine.
A well coordinated team of pre-50’s, is not going to beat a well coordinated team of 50’s — thus highlighting the imbalance in the current mechanics.
Taugrim, I’m just wondering what you think about the debate about ‘Character Responsiveness’ and how it affects PvP in SWTOR (http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=95738).
I think it IS a factor that needs to be addressed as well as the bolster mechanic and separating 50+ from the rest/faction imbalances. I want the game to succeed but fear that it might die after early hype.
A slight correction: There are a few items that have Expertise on them that are below level 50. Some of the PVP weapons on the PVP vendors have Expertise. For example, my Powertech bought the J-9 blaster which has an enhancement with +25 expertise. I wound up having so many extra warzone commendations that I bought 6 of those and unslotted the Expertise enhancement from the extras to slot into my other gear. It’s not enough to cap your Expertise – with 150 Expertise from 6 enhancements I had a 3.32% Expertise bonus – but it does help. Also it meant that when I hit 50 and entered the 50-only bracket I wasn’t totally without any Expertise.
I did the exact same thing on my Vanguard by buying the level 46 PVP weapons and extracting the Enhancement mods with 25 Expertise on them.
I updated the article to reflect that 1.1 went live and that sub-50 gear has limited availability for Expertise.
[…] taken from taugrims guide to the bolster mechanic Understanding SWTOR "If you keep the same gear across levels, you’ll find that your damage / healing […]
“Also note the players do not count as “standard” or “weak” enemies, so they won’t get knocked down.”
Does this also count towards players u meet in PvE? In my experience (I can still be wrong on this) when I used the abillity (e.g force wave) on players that are significant lower lvl then me (e.g. I’m lvl 41 and the enemie player is lvl 30; difference > 6 lvls), they’re still knocked down, which should mean that it’ll still work on players in PvE and that standard and weak still applies to human players. Please correct me if I’m wrong or confirm my findings when I’m correct ….
That’s an interesting use case, and I don’t know offhand.
I don’t think that level differential has any bearing on whether or not a target is classified as “standard” or “weak”, but that being said I haven’t tested that large of a differential either.