SWTOR Has Repeated RIFT’s Mistakes in Endgame PVP


It’s been a few weeks since I last posted, as I’ve been busy with corporate work and leveling up my Gunslinger to 50.

I just played my 83rd warzone at level 50 on my Gunslinger, and I wanted to share my blunt thoughts on the state of SWTOR PVP at endgame, from the perspective of a new character.

Let me open by framing my preparation for making my Gunslinger as effective as he could be as a fresh 50 character. Prior to dinging level 50, I did the following:

  1. Reached the limits of 3500 RWZ (Ranked Warzone) commendations and 2000 WZ commendations, so that I could immediately purchase the War Hero mainhand blaster weapon at endgame
  2. Saved up the credits to purchase a full set of Recruit gear (aside from the War Hero mainhand weapon)
  3. Stockpiled Warzone Adrenals, so that I would not need to spend WZ commendations on them
  4. Leveled Biochem to 400 and crafted the reusable Rakata Medpac, so that I would not need to spend WZ commendations on Warzone Medpacs

I am probably in the very small minority of the population who undertook steps 1-3 above (especially step #1). So keep in mind that my experience was probably better than people who were not as prepared.

As I wrote over a month ago, Patch 1.2 had a very negative effect on the quality of PVP.

Some of the issues were addressed by BioWare:

  • Prices of warzone consumables was reset back to what they were pre-1.2
  • Rewards were improved for the losing side of a warzone match
  • Recently BioWare also changed the PVP daily quest to be based on warzone participation not wins, which was another positive change because it discouraged quitting mid-match

That being said, I was expecting 50 PVP with a new character to be a fairly rough experience. And it’s even worse than I expected.

Issue #1: PVP gear scales too much across tiers

Before stepping into a 50 warzone, I acquired the War Hero mainhand weapon and 13 pieces of Recruit gear. With the Trooper 5% HP buff, that put me at ~13.4k HP, but with a Recruit weapon that would have been ~13k HP.

The issue is that the Recruit gear doesn’t provide a sufficient amount of stats to enable a fresh 50 to be competitive with players decked out in some or mostly War Hero gear, because the latter have:

  • ~17k+ HP, or even 18k HP with augmented gear for non tanks. A 17k HP player has 30% more HP than a Recruit-geared player
  • Higher stats in every category: more Expertise (which affects damage done, damage taken, and healing), higher primary stats, and higher secondary stats. So they hit (or heal) harder, crit more often, have higher crit bonus damage, avoid more attacks, and have their attacks avoided less often

On top of the gear scaling, a compounding issue with SWTOR’s PVP itemization is that the type of stats on a given slot changes between tiers. The Gunslinger Force Tech’s Battlemaster gear is woefully under-budgeted for Surge, whereas the War Hero versions of Force Tech have a lot of Surge. Surge equals burst, and as the old adage goes, burst damage kills but steady damage is easily healed through. My understanding is that the lack of Surge on BM gear is not isolated to my class.

This makes gear a primary determining factor in PVP performance, just as it was back in Vanilla WoW. This was the exact same problem with RIFT last year, where the gap between Rank 2 gear and Rank 4, and R4 and R6, and R6 and R8 actually increased the higher rank you reached. It created a faceroll advantage for R8 players in RIFT Patch 1.4 – even after Valor (the PVP stat) was normalized.

Unfortunately, BioWare has repeated RIFT’s mistake of having PVP gear scale too much across tiers.

It took months of iteration for Trion to sort out the gear scaling. As you may recall, RIFT went through the following progression:

  • Having ranks of gear with increasing overall stats (those related to HP / damage / healing) and an increasing PVP stat (called “Valor”, which provided mitigation only), to
  • Having ranks of gear with increasing overall stats but with the PVP stat normalized across all gear tiers (e.g. the Valor normalization that I was a huge proponent of), to
  • Having gear scale much more gradually, with more ranks than 8

Let me state that even the 2nd bullet point above was insufficient: R8 still had a faceroll advantage over R2. And such is the case when comparing WH-geared players to Recruit-geared players.

Is having gear such a big factor in PVP outcomes healthy for a game? My strong belief is no.

It’s a deterrent for new players to try PVP at endgame and enjoy it because they’ll get their ass kicked repeatedly until they can gear up (hundreds of warzones), and it’s a hurdle for existing players to gear up alts at endgame. This is not to say people won’t do it – the most hardcore PVP guilds on my server are full of FOTM re-rollers (notably Sentinel/Marauder, Shadow/Assassin 31-pt tank, and for healing Scoundrel/Operative).

Issue #2: Class Compositions Influence Outcomes

As I stated consistently before Patch 1.2, SWTOR had the best class balance of any MMORPG on the market.

This was not to say it was perfect – pre-1.2 Watchman Sentinel/Annihilation Marauders, Shadow/Assassin 31-pt tanks, and Assault Spec Vanguards/Pyrotech Powertechs were overpowered, and Scoundrel/Operative healers were underpowered.

I loved PVP in SWTOR pre-1.2 in both the 10-49 and 50 brackets. Raved about it consistently here and elsewhere. Why? Pre-1.2, we could run comps with a wide variety of classes/specs and do well in warzones. What mattered the most were the players behind the keyboard. That’s the way it should be.

But after 1.2, that is no longer the case – the class balance gaps are too significant to ignore from a mechanics standpoint. With the sweeping changes to classes in 1.2, PVP outcomes are now heavily influenced by which classes your group contains. The same healer playing a Sage/Sorc versus Operative/Scoundrel will heal much more effectively with the latter. I know this from talking to multiple players who re-rolled and from killing them.

The parallel between RIFT and SWTOR in terms of the progression of class balance is striking. RIFT was trending in the right direction in terms of class balance from 1.0->1.4, and then 1.5 and 1.6 went in the wrong direction. SWTOR PVP in terms of class balance was trending in the right direction from 1.0->1.1.5, but then 1.2 launched :(

Issue #3: The Grind

If there is one word I would use to describe the experience of playing Patch 1.2, it’s “grindy”.

With respect to PVP, to be competitive you not only need to grind many hundreds of warzones to get a full set of War Hero gear, but you also need to acquire augmented crafted War Hero gear, which requires purchasing crit-crafted gear and then paying to yank out the mods from the vendor War Hero gear so that you can insert them into the augmented gear. You also need to purchase augments, which as acknowledged by James Ohlen typically run for 75k+ credits each on the AH, roughly the same pricing I’ve seen on Ajunta Pall.

To give a concrete example of the grind, buying a WH mainhand weapon costs ~3.5k RWZ comms plus ~1.5k WZ comms, which equals 12k WZ comms ((3.5k x 3) + 1.5k). Assuming you earn 100 WZ comms per match, that’s 120 warzones to fill one of your weapon slots. Or 240 warzones to fill both weapon slots. Filling in the other 12 slots costs tens of thousands of additional WZ comms, which again is hundreds of more warzones.

Granted, WH gear should be easier to earn once the Ranked Warzones system goes live, but we haven’t received a date for that yet, so it is what it is until then.

Some people claim that pre-1.2 was more grindy, but let me make a correction: for a long time, pre-1.2 PVP gearing was RNG-based, not grind-based because you were limited by your dailies, until they added a change where you could acquire BM bags with commendations.

Closing Thoughts

My server, Ajunta Pall, has been consistently top 10 in terms of active population according to torstatus.net since January. In recent weeks, we’ve gone from having a critical mass of players – typically 100-170 on the Republic Fleet during primetime – to 50 or less. The result has been increasingly long queue times – for much of the weekend I was waiting for 10+ minutes per pop.

SWTOR is losing players, and it’s not simply because other games have launched. As BioWare has previously stated, PVP has been (unexpectedly) very popular ever since launch. But the majority of players I’ve talked to agree that the quality of the PVP has tanked with 1.2.

There are some players who believe that the Ranked Warzone system is the silver bullet for keeping PVP players engaged. While it is a much-desired piece of content, the issues with SWTOR PVP are more fundamental: the emphasis on gear and increasing class imbalance need to be looked at. SWTOR 10-49 PVP is still very entertaining, but there needs to be sticky PVP content at endgame to retain players.

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Posted in Commando / Mercenary, Game Design, Guardian / Juggernaut, Gunslinger / Sniper, PVP, RIFT, Sage / Sorcerer, Scoundrel / Operative, Sentinel / Marauder, Shadow / Assassin, SWTOR, Vanguard / Powertech
131 comments on “SWTOR Has Repeated RIFT’s Mistakes in Endgame PVP
  1. jkwervo says:

    Hey Ed,

    Was wondering in your point about class compositions will decide the outcome instead of player skill and variety, what would be the lineup?

    I’ve agreed with EVERYTHING you’ve said thus far regarding the game. I’ve quit the game as well, due to the lack of direction and competence that their PvP dev team have displayed. All your assessments, a lot more concise and explained thoroughly, were almost the exact same assessments I had regarding everything that has happened up to now. Even now, in 1.3 in PTS. I feel that the change towards the Shadow/Assassin tank was a bit much. I understood the adjustments towards the HEAL, and I have nothing against that, but they also nerf the ARMOR rating in TANK stance (Combat Technique).

    I feel that Bioware is reactive and never proactive. Like you, the golden time of PvP to me in this game was pre 1.2. Not to say that pre 1.2 was perfect as it needed adjustments, but the changes made left my mind boggled.

    Regarding the optimal lineup, I’d probably have my 8 man rateds (if i was still playing) be as follows:

    2 Juggs/Vanguard/PTech/Guardian (Not necessarily a tank, but most definitely)
    4 Sentinels/marauders
    2 Operative/Scoundrel Healers

    (You can probably take out 1 marauder/sentinel and put in a sage/inquisitor healer)

    4 tanks (Guardian/Juggernaut/Ptech/Vanguard)
    4 healers (Operatives/Scoundrels/Sage/Inquisitors)

    (You can probably take out 2 tanks and put in DPS such a Gunslinger/Sniper and take one healer out and add a Marauder/Sentinel)

    Thoughts?

    • taugrim says:

      jkwervo :

      Was wondering in your point about class compositions will decide the outcome instead of player skill and variety, what would be the lineup?

      It’s going to shift in 1.3.

      In 1.2, I would say for an 8-person team:
      2 Scoundrel/Op healers
      2 (or 1) Sentinel/Marauder
      1 (or 2) Shadow/Assassin tank
      1 AS Vanguard/Pyro PT
      1 Gunslinger/Sniper
      1 DPS that can offheal

      Scoundrel/Op healers are incredibly difficult to kill, if geared and played well, and especially when protected.

      jkwervo :

      Even now, in 1.3 in PTS. I feel that the change towards the Shadow/Assassin tank was a bit much. I understood the adjustments towards the HEAL, and I have nothing against that, but they also nerf the ARMOR rating in TANK stance (Combat Technique).

      The tank specs are all getting nerfed in 1.3.

      FWIW, as Austin said, the changes to tanks were based on the desire to improve PVE tanking, esp AOE threat:
      http://www.swtor.com/blog/class-changes-and-balance-game-update-1.3

      jkwervo :

      I feel that Bioware is reactive and never proactive. Like you, the golden time of PvP to me in this game was pre 1.2. Not to say that pre 1.2 was perfect as it needed adjustments, but the changes made left my mind boggled.

      Agree that pre-1.2 PVP was the most enjoyable.

      It’s my personal belief that BioWare was forced to launch the game when it did, and that was too early. The result is a lot of scrambling post-Launch, which is visible based on how long it’s taking for fixes and new content to get added.

      jkwervo :

      Regarding the optimal lineup, I’d probably have my 8 man rateds (if i was still playing) be as follows:

      2 Juggs/Vanguard/PTech/Guardian (Not necessarily a tank, but most definitely)
      4 Sentinels/marauders
      2 Operative/Scoundrel Healers

      (You can probably take out 1 marauder/sentinel and put in a sage/inquisitor healer)

      4 tanks (Guardian/Juggernaut/Ptech/Vanguard)
      4 healers (Operatives/Scoundrels/Sage/Inquisitors)

      (You can probably take out 2 tanks and put in DPS such a Gunslinger/Sniper and take one healer out and add a Marauder/Sentinel)

      Thoughts?

      You’re missing out of buff/debuff diversity with that many Sentinels.

      • jkwervo says:

        That’s true. With that much zerging though, and if all Sents/Marauders are all on point, nothing can heal through that burst. Then again…..You’re most likely right due to the 1.3 changes. Nonetheless, I’m done with the game and I guess I just have a mild interest in it due to it being Star Wars. I’ve started a blog myself, because I feel that opinions are important.

        I’m just looking forward to GW2, and I’m beta testing TSW as well. But even with the supposed diversity and game changing of the ability wheel in TSW, I just don’t think they can put out a product that I feel like I can play without losing confidence in the dev team.

        Thanks for the response Ed. Big fan of your insights, probably because they’re the exact same sentiments I have when it comes to game mechanics and such.

        Here’s hoping Elder Scrolls Online, with Matt Firor at the helm, can recapture the magic.

        And also…..there will always be GW2.

  2. I play a straight defensive tank geared (vanguard) in BM and WM Supercommando armor I’ve always done atrocious damage but always performed well because of my durability. I was, for the most part fine with that. I could shield a healer or Sent. and and mitigate while offering a meager amount of support.

    Since 1.3, I feel like my class is made of paper. Hell, pyro specs eat my 22k hp in seconds, while I may do a few thousand points of damage to them. My shield and absorption levels.are decent: 50% shield chance and 46% absorption yet, now, I am pretty much wrecked by any class I meet in combat.

    I’m not the best player, but typically I make it in the top three of my team. I know my function and I try to play in a style best suited to my build. Unfortunately, Bioware doesn’t seem to think defensive Tank builds are worth anything in PVP. Hence my qualms.

    Recently in PVP, I went up against a badly wounded pyro with about 4k hp. It was a one on one situation and he ended up beating me. Mind you, I was at full health and I used my reactive shield.

    Now, as I said, I am not the best player but this has gotten ridiculous. Before 1.3 I could stand toe to toe with a marauder and sometimes win.Two recent games I played had two pyros dealing over 500k damage. One of the matches was huttball. Together they did more damage than my whole team.

    I’m not ranting, I just would like to read your thoughts on the matter. I don’t know much about the Imperial side. Is the class that imbalanced.or am I just frequently outclassed? I read the above article, so it is possible that fully geared in WM is the cause. For your info, I’m about half equipped in WM gear.

    • taugrim says:

      Joseph DiCristofano :

      I play a straight defensive tank geared (vanguard) in BM and WM Supercommando armor I’ve always done atrocious damage but always performed well because of my durability. I was, for the most part fine with that. I could shield a healer or Sent. and and mitigate while offering a meager amount of support.

      Yep, that was the role of a tank / meatshield that was tank-spec’d.

      Joseph DiCristofano :

      Since 1.3, I feel like my class is made of paper. Hell, pyro specs eat my 22k hp in seconds, while I may do a few thousand points of damage to them. My shield and absorption levels.are decent: 50% shield chance and 46% absorption yet, now, I am pretty much wrecked by any class I meet in combat.

      Your Shield and Absorb largely do not matter in this case.

      If you haven’t already read the following article, you must read it:
      https://taugrim.com/2012/01/19/understanding-swtors-avoidance-and-mitigation-mechanics-for-tanks-in-pvp/

      Force or Tech attacks bypass avoidance (Melee and Ranged Defense) and Shield. It’s always been that way, and it means that the Elemental damage from a Pyro PT is simply going to hurt.

      The only attack that you can avoid or shield is RS (HIB), but that has a built-in Armor pene too, so even if you do shield it, aside from the shield your armor is not going to matter much.

      Joseph DiCristofano :

      I’m not the best player, but typically I make it in the top three of my team. I know my function and I try to play in a style best suited to my build. Unfortunately, Bioware doesn’t seem to think defensive Tank builds are worth anything in PVP. Hence my qualms.

      Recently in PVP, I went up against a badly wounded pyro with about 4k hp. It was a one on one situation and he ended up beating me. Mind you, I was at full health and I used my reactive shield.

      Now, as I said, I am not the best player but this has gotten ridiculous. Before 1.3 I could stand toe to toe with a marauder and sometimes win.Two recent games I played had two pyros dealing over 500k damage. One of the matches was huttball. Together they did more damage than my whole team.

      I’m not ranting, I just would like to read your thoughts on the matter. I don’t know much about the Imperial side. Is the class that imbalanced.or am I just frequently outclassed? I read the above article, so it is possible that fully geared in WM is the cause. For your info, I’m about half equipped in WM gear.

      1.3 brought significant single-target damage nerfs to VG/PT (and Guardian/Jug). Aside from Shadow/Assassin, tank damage isn’t functional any more – the mechanics shifted too much.

      The changes were made with PVE tanking – in particular AOE threat generation – in mind, so it’s been good for PVE, but it has had an unfortunate impact on PVP. Many former tanks have simply moved to a DPS spec based on either of the two DPS trees.

  3. Blastin says:

    LMAO! Hundreds of warzones are you kidding me! I just lvled my shadow up to 50,today with 1600 RWZ and 2000 WZ comms and after like 3 hours I had 1/3 of my BM gear and I lost the majority of my matches

    • taugrim says:

      Blastin :

      LMAO! Hundreds of warzones are you kidding me! I just lvled my shadow up to 50,today with 1600 RWZ and 2000 WZ comms and after like 3 hours I had 1/3 of my BM gear and I lost the majority of my matches

      Date of your post: July 24
      Date of my post: May 20

  4. deadtor says:

    And now the game is F2P and dead. It is absolutely stunning how arrogant Bioware is. They were told in PTS the classes were severely unbalanced in PVP and that Maras were OP. They responded by banning anybody that dared to post that. They then proceeded to continue to condescendingly assert the players were all incompetent and that Bioware’s metrics told them everything was fine.

    Well Bioware, how do those metrics look for your subscriptions now? Tell me Bioware, what does a rapidly declining sub base indicate? It indicates the game has failed and now it’s going F2P. Several of the arrogant devs and CS people are now gone.

    I am convinced Bioware Austin doesn’t actually play games. They’re failed accountants/analysts. They weren’t intelligent enough to become analysts on Wall St., accountants for the Big 4, or to be attorneys or any other analysis driven profession. They got stick in games and they took it out on the player base. I don’t understand how anybody could think that would help your career, but that is seemingly their mentality.

    And now even if they did revert to pre-1.2 balance it will be too late. The best MMO balance I have ever played and they completely ruin it, probably because they thought they could just force re-rolls and more of a grind to retain subs. Or maybe they really are that clueless.

    • taugrim says:

      deadtor :

      And now the game is F2P and dead.

      A game going F2P in itself will not kill it. However based on what I’ve heard about SWTOR planned F2P system, it’s not going to work.

      deadtor :

      It is absolutely stunning how arrogant Bioware is. They were told in PTS the classes were severely unbalanced in PVP and that Maras were OP. They responded by banning anybody that dared to post that. They then proceeded to continue to condescendingly assert the players were all incompetent and that Bioware’s metrics told them everything was fine.

      I actually thought the game was reasonably balanced at launch. The problem was that there were imbalances, but what BioWare did was make drastic changes to multiple classes. Iterative tweaking, not large-scale changes, is the better approach.

      deadtor :

      And now even if they did revert to pre-1.2 balance it will be too late. The best MMO balance I have ever played and they completely ruin it, probably because they thought they could just force re-rolls and more of a grind to retain subs.

      The shift towards more grind in 1.2 and 1.3 was a mistake IMO.

      Going F2P won’t solve the grindiness.

  5. chiarna says:

    i am a pvp’er in swtor and i fully agree with what your saying. i think some sort of internal gearscore would be in order to allow more even matching of teams. . there is nothing worse that having 3-4 recruits in a wz against majority WH team (unless your WH then fun :) ). however after grinding my balls of for months (only get to play 2-3 nights a week) i would be pretty upset to have recruit maurauders,jugg’s shadows and all the other bane’s of sage healers simple walk up to me and rip my face off.

  6. Leiralei says:

    Now that ranked is out people are win trading for the gear and Bioware has tacitly encouraged this by the mechanics, and lack of punishment for the cheaters.

    When you HAVE to cheat in order to have fun playing a game, it makes you wonder about how sick the devs are. I have 3 characters to 50 and only halfway through the grind on one of them, because all the guilds on my server cheated for gear and win 98% of their matches. At 60 comms per match and unable to do ranked because I refuse to cheat, it’ll take 5 months just to get full WH, not even optimized. These cheaters get theirs in a couple of weeks and can start on optimization that fast.

    Bioware does nothing but encourage the problem via design. Obviously this is the result they wanted. People who don’t cheat in this game are simply stupid. I dislike feeling stupid for being a decent human being so I quit. At this point you could give me a time card and I wouldn’t accept it. Bioware hates it’s players.

    • taugrim says:

      Leiralei :

      Now that ranked is out people are win trading for the gear and Bioware has tacitly encouraged this by the mechanics, and lack of punishment for the cheaters.

      When you HAVE to cheat in order to have fun playing a game, it makes you wonder about how sick the devs are. I have 3 characters to 50 and only halfway through the grind on one of them, because all the guilds on my server cheated for gear and win 98% of their matches. At 60 comms per match and unable to do ranked because I refuse to cheat, it’ll take 5 months just to get full WH, not even optimized. These cheaters get theirs in a couple of weeks and can start on optimization that fast.

      Bioware does nothing but encourage the problem via design. Obviously this is the result they wanted. People who don’t cheat in this game are simply stupid. I dislike feeling stupid for being a decent human being so I quit. At this point you could give me a time card and I wouldn’t accept it. Bioware hates it’s players.

      Wow that’s awful Lei :(

      Win trading should be punished, since it goes against the spirit of competitive play.

      PVP gear tiering is a bad idea in the first place. Just a month in GW2 has confirmed how refreshing it is to have gear not matter in battlegrounds. Players can focus on fine-tuning specs and improving their gameplay, which is where the emphasis should be.

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  8. benetsicardo says:

    I just re-sub but i’ve already regreat it. At the very begginin of the game pvp was fun, people wasn’t geared, fights always take some time, at least 20 seconds, now, specially sage, you cant survive a 5 seconds, JK hitting you with a single blow taking 6k. (33% of your life in a single blow) This game’s turns stupid.

  9. Kazrath says:

    I know this is an old topic. But you went about dinging 50 completely wrong. Had you done it correctly you should have had like 3 or 4 warlord epics right at 50 and should have been able to fully suit up in a day or two of PVP’ing. It took me less than a week to fully epic out myself and two pets (DPS / Healer) in full epics.

    What made SWTOR lame to me was how friggin easy it was to get gear. Heck most MMO’s have this problem. There is no gear decay so crafting systems are always pointless and gear is just handed out willie nillie w/o any real work or accomplishment.

    Also, of course if you are running around in blues ppl in epics are going to eat your lunch. Not only do they have better gear they tend to be playing against others in much better gear and have more polished skills through experience. Some brand new 50 in even equiv gear would get face rolled by players that have polished their character.

  10. Mike says:

    I agree with Kazrath and I would like to point out.. Some ppl are just bad no matter the gear they are in. They were born with an inability to pvp or just game in general and some how they still see themselves at gods at everything they do. So they rant and complain that its character balance and or some other excuse all to avoid the obvious… they suck at pvp.. Good day.

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