In case you couldn't tell from my last post, I've been playing SWToR, along with Rift for the past month or so. I really like the PvP in SWToR, despite its enormous problems. You can see the hand of Mythic staff at work in the PvP map design, which is quite frankly, the best of any game.

However, the blight of problems that a company as big as EA/BioWare should have foreseen is an albatross around the neck of this game. The reason I mention this, is because these failings by BioWare really illuminate some of the things we don't always think about that make Rift awesome.

Weekly Maintenance Every Day
First of all, BioWare has maintenance multiple times each week, for 4, 6, 8 and sometimes 10 hours at a time. Not just for major patches, but for small updates like those that Trion hotfixes into Rift in 30 minutes or less. SWToR's shortest maintenance cycle has been 4 hours.

User Disinterface
The user interface and ability bars are horrendous. SWTOR has no macros and no UI customization (but its coming in some future patch some day!), no Addons and not even a combat log. Its like they don't even look at standard features of MMOs. There is a persistent bug for all players where pressing the middle mouse button or MB4 on your mouse will lock up your entire UI. Its existed since beta and is not even acknowledged, despite being 100% reproduceable for every single player in the game. The UI is a mess that you constantly have to fight while you fight enemies.

Character Control Fail
SWTOR has the absolute worst player control of any MMO I've ever played. Half the time I feel so disconnected from my character that I actually think I am someone else if there are a lot of players stacked in a small area. If you press your hotkeys too fast, you can actually interrupt your own instant cast abilities. Its unbelievable. Here's a video of some other annoying crap that happens.

Hope You Like Your Spec
There is no dual spec. You have one spec, and it costs more each time you respec, up to 100k credits (equivalent to 50 plat in Rift). You can't shift specs on the fly. You can't bring fight-specific specs like you can in Rift and you can't switch between heal/dps or dps/tank between fights like you can in every other major MMO on the market today. The Operations (aka raids) do not take this into account. Some fights require 1 tank, some require 2. I guess you're supposed to sit your off tank and tell him what a douche he is for the 1 tank fights. Meanwhile in Rift, you can bring a tank, dps and support spec to any raid and change roles between fights or between attempts so that you don't have to worry about what class is in the raid, but what player.

Failure to Plan
The first Open World PvP zone is the planet Ilum. They billed this as an amazing PvP zone, but players just traded objectives with the other faction until the 1.1 patch ruined the zone entirely. SWTOR's hapless community team attempted damage control, but with posts like this, it didn't work out too well. Contrast this with Trion, who always tries to own their mistakes, and make up for them. When the River of Souls opening went South, Trion immediately apologized and compensated everyone involved so they felt rewarded. They didn't say they would "work on a response." They responded.

Its Bad to be Good
If you're playing the Republic, you are probably outnumbered by Empire by a ratio 3:1 or 4:1 on your server. Oops.

Nerf to Balance
This is the mentality that BW listens to. Scoundrels are very good at killing low armor classes like Sorcerers. The problem is that there are 10 Sorcerers (Empire) for every Scoundrel (Republic). So when the Sorcerers start crying about Scoundrels, BW nerfs the hell out of them. Meanwhile classes that can literally spam 1 button to victory go untouched. Instead of making the underplayed classes more appealing, they nerf them to appease the more popular classes who are crying. If Scoundrels are so overpowered, why does no one play them?

If Hitler Developed a Community Management Strategy
BioWare would adopt it. They love to crack down on free thought and critical posts, and frequently disable all posting on the forum during maintenance to keep people from flocking to the forums to ask why the game needs a 6-hour maintenance every 2 days. Trion tries to improve the problems that people find with the game. BW tries to prevent people from talking about problems.

I could go on, but I won't. BioWare has basically wasted a very cool intellectual property. It will be a long time before we see another Star Wars MMO. Too bad, I'm a huge Star Wars fanboy.

The link I posted above-- disable all posting -- now shows up as a broken link. This is because BioWare always deletes their posts when the forums are re-enabled, instead of just updating the post to say that the forums are now live again. This directly contradicts their practice for when the servers go up and down. Clearly, they want to pretend that they don't shut down the forums all the time. The fact is -- they do.
Posted by Dunsparrow
You know, I'm pretty choosy when it comes to games. I won't play just anything. It needs to have a certain flavor, or a certain uniqueness that draws me in and makes me want to explore possibilities.

Rift has that. The soul system in Rift drew me to the game like a moth to flame. The idea of being able to essentially design your own class was so cool that I just had to play. And being able to change your role to fit any situation was constantly challenging and interesting. There is no best spec. There is no best rotation, or best strategy or best class. You must constantly adapt. It's kept me hooked for nearly a year.

Now Trion plans to ruin it all with one fell patch.

I am not one who is prone to exaggeration. When I said that rogues were a joke back in August, they were. Trion eventually got around to agreeing with me. This is just as bad, but now its bad for everyone, and bad for the game.

With the new PvP Planar Attunement system on the PTS, you now have a new tree called Attunement of War. This tree includes most of the good stuff in the Infiltrator soul. Sound like a good thing? I thought so too, until I realized that you have to choose between putting your PA points into this tree or your other PA trees, like fire and air that actually increase your raid damage.

That's right. Trion is now going to make you choose between PvP and PvE. If you want to be good in PvP, you'll need to dump about 9,000 points into the Attunement of War. How much does that leave for the rest? In my case, not much.

Gone are the days of leaving a raid and heading to Warfronts or oPvP in Stillmoore or EI. Unless you want to get totally crushed, and I mean horribly massacred. Gone is the versatility and flexibility that make Rift so great.

You get to either have a massive handicap in PvP or in PvE. Which would you like? What a fun choice this is. I hope I'm wrong about this. I hope that what I'm looking at is just a partial implementation or a mistake. But I'm not hopeful.
Posted by Dunsparrow Labels:
Changing the PvP tree to Planar Attunement is a worthy -- but not easy -- task. This is something that could easily go horribly wrong if some muckity-muck high in the organization, but out of touch with the game and player-base, takes it in his teeth. So, some dos and don'ts.

Create lots of new ranks. Grinding out 8 ranks is tough and progress comes slowly. SWTOR has 65+ PvP ranks where progress comes quickly and benefits are seen constantly. This multi-rank system makes more sense in the context of a PA tree, where many points are needed, and its more rewarding along the way. Too many companies forget that the game is about the journey, not the destination.

Make everyone start over. I ground out Prestige 8, and so have a lot of other hardcore players. We did it to attain an advantage over our fellow players, and worked hard to get here. If you think we're going to start from scratch -- you're wrong.

Translate current Prestige ranks into new PA levels. You could give everyone 10% of their total PA for each Prestige Rank (10% for rank 2, 20% for rank 3, etc.). This will keep the ranks in order, but still get P8s playing again.

Remove any "core" abilities from the PvP trees. Rogues still need Anathema, Cleanse Soul and Camouflage, or at least the option to get them. Clerics still need Deathwings, stun shields and heal spreading. Yes, you can add things like minor vengeance/valor increases, damage against players, crit damage, against players, etc. but don't remove the cool PvP moves that we all love to use and hate to be used on us.

Add new abilities. At least 1 for each class. Also consider pulling PvP-oriented abilities from other souls, and adding them to the PvP PA. Obvious candidates are Deep Wounds from the Warrior Champion tree, Neddra's Essence from Mage Warlock tree, Fell Blades from the Rogue Nightblade tree, and Slumber from the Cleric Druid tree. I'm sure there are others as well. This will make the PvP PA more interesting and rekindle some interest in PvP.

Consider this an opportunity to fix problems that have always existed in PvP but were hard to address in the current system. PvP healing is a nightmare to balance around. Maybe its time give everyone a passive PvP healing debuff through their PvP PA. Something between 30-50% seems about right. If everyone is always heal debuffed in PvP, it will be easier to balance and will make for more fun and interesting gameplay. This could be balanced by allowing vengeance on healers to partially pierce this healing debuff, and make sure this stat is just as important for them as everyone else.

Make sure people have many options for gaining PvP PA experience. Warfront grinds are inevitable, but lets encourage some world PvP or even strange tasks like invading capital cities or enemy territory. PvP PA experience is a new reward for doing stuff, so give it to us as a reward for doing new and interesting things. If you're worried about exploiting, put a cap on the amount that can be earned per day on the new/experimental things, so we don't have something like the PvP Rift exploits happen again. Learn from your mistakes, dont repeat your mistakes, but also don't be afraid to make new mistakes. New mistakes mean progress, which is something we all want.
Posted by Dunsparrow Labels:
1.7 Looks like a big patch for not just rogues, but everyone. Infernal Dawn will soon be entering open testing, the PvP system is getting a complete overhaul, and several rogue souls are getting buffed or tweaked. Most of it, I like. First, what I consider the biggest news, the PvP overhaul. From some Trion talking head:

PVP planar attunement & Prestige system revamp and more!
Last but definitely not least we have a number PVP improvements coming with this patch focused on improving a player’s PVP leveling experience while still keeping the matches as competitive as possible. New level 50 players who are placed in both ranked and non ranked matches will have their base stats automatically bolstered to a minimum level, allowing them to be more than just a speed bump for a higher level player.
For existing PVP players, Items purchased from the Prestige store will get the same improvements as the rest of the game, making sure that the jump in power between each set of items is more consistent.  In addition we are removing the prestige rank requirements from many of the items, which will give players more freedom when choosing to purchase / upgrade PVP equipment. 
Speaking of ranks we will be adjusting the Prestige Rank system to have significantly more ranks, players will have their old rank automatically mapped to the new rank. With these new Ranks come new rewards, including costume versions of PVP armor sets, Planar Attunement Points, and more.
Additionally, we will be doing away with our existing PVP Souls. Moving forward we want PVP players to be able to play the soul combination they want to play and not have to worry about sacrificing soul points to obtain PVP bonuses. Instead we have taken many of the popular bonuses & abilities from these soul trees and placed them in a NEW planar attunement tree specifically focused on PVP.
Finally, we are continuing to look into a number of improvements for warfront queue’s and matchmaking which will be released in a future PTS update in the next few weeks.  So keep tuned for more information!
I've long favored having the PvP trees as always-on instead of the soul that requires you to dump points from elsewhere, even before I heard of Planar Attunement. This new method sounds like just the ticket, if done properly. If not, it will be a mess.

PvP Attunement means greater versatility for everyone and a wider range of viable specs. It will make PvP a lot more interesting. It also means that getting caught in a PvE spec won't be quite so punishing as it is now.

Unfortunately, they seem to be too focused on matchmaking and on bolstering low-rank players. I think this is a mistake. While certainly no one likes being a "speed bump" for a Big Bad P8, it is a necessary part of a player's gaming development and its exactly what any game requires to build and maintain a loyal following.

I haven't discussed the Hero Factor before, and I may do that in a blog post soon, but what Trion is consistently doing in raids and now PvP is attempting to remove the disparity between the Best-of-the-Best and the Average Casual. This is a mistake. It ignores player psychology and falls firmly into the category of giving players what they ask for, instead of what they actually want (but don't know it).

Seeing the champions that killed Akylios wearing full Relic gear, or getting steamrolled by a team of badasses in full P8 gear has positive effects. It makes you aware of what your class is capable of and it makes you want to be that player, or that team, or that guild. This sends you out into the community to grow and learn as a player. It builds the community and creates a tiered system that players can climb as they wish.

Players may ask that the system be removed, but in reality, its this very system that makes the game fun. You can't be a hero if you've never had to overcome obstacles. Its not heroic to cruise to an easy victory in a raid or to grind out middling slogs in warfronts.

I hope Trion focuses more on the mechanics that make the game fun and less on making everyone the same.
Posted by Dunsparrow Labels: