Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR took its first step into competitive gaming and fell on its face

    
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Just when you think that Star Wars: The Old Republic will change things around and actually do something that will appeal to the Killer-type of MMO player, it shoots itself in the foot time and time again.

I was caught completely off guard last week when I read that SWTOR had partnered with the Electronic Sports League. Competitive gaming was one of the last things that I thought SWTOR would get into. I thought that perhaps this was finally BioWare‘s appeal to that kind of player. But then, in typical BioWare fashion, it fumbled at the one-yard line.

In the past, I have been hypercritical of the way BioWare treats the competitive player. It has always seemed that the developer hasn’t paid anying attention to what’s worked and not worked in the past. It appeared that it copied what games like World of Warcraft would do not because it was highly successful but because WoW had done it.

This time, however, things seemed to be different. Although the proposed jump into competitive gaming isn’t completely original, it was a step outside the box.

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Star Wars: The Old Republic is notorious for not being successful with its PvP. Its 8-man, objective-based PvP is decent, but any time TOR has stepped into open-world PvP or any other kind of competitive gameplay, it’s fallen short.

From launch, Star Wars: The Old Republic injected 8v8 PvP into its progression system. Especially at the beginning when players were still discovering their classes, this type of PvP was really enjoyable and balanced. It really appeared that every class had something to do in PvP. Of course, TOR also scored player points for Huttball, a capture-the-flag game where you could throw the flag to another player. The progression system itself was a bit messed up because it involved a bit of lottery, but it didn’t take too long to change that.

SWTOR‘s first attempt at open-world PvP failed spectacularly. BioWare literally had to shut down that area of the planet until the introduction of the Gree event about a year later. Originally, the area was overloaded with particle effects. Add to that the hundreds of players, and we ended up with an unplayable lagfest. Of course, the gameplay mechanics didn’t help the situation. There weren’t really PvP objectives, just PvE objectives in a PvP zone. It ended up just being easier to let the enemy do his thing while you did yours. Then when the zone was reinstated with the Gree event, it ended up being the same PvE objectives in a PvP Zone, and there were literally lines forming at the PvE node in a zone where everyone could attack each other.

The latest big mistake wasn’t the introduction of arenas themselves but the fact that when these PvP instances were created, they became the only zones for ranked PvP. Arenas were not on the list of items that PvPers wanted. These 4v4 deathmatches really highlight where the class imbalances are and end up being boring in the long run with many matches being decided before the match even begins. Then BioWare tossed out what ended up being the ultimate insult to the Killer player: removing 8-man from ranked PvP and replacing it with arenas, a gameplay type no one wanted in the first place.

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After three years of messing things up, BioWare seemed to finally realize what it does well: PvE. Making the most of that, it decided to channel that talent into a competitive outlet for players, the eight-man operation speedrun.

Last week, community manager Eric Musco introduced BioWare’s partnership with ESL in a contest called “Operation Victory.” The competition was to allow groups of eight to run through the story-modes of the Shadow of Revan operations (Ravagers and Temple of Sacrifice) as fast as they could and then submit their times to ESL for approval into the final competition.

ESL and BioWare had mentioned some amazing prizes which included in-game items, cash prizes, and even a trip to be BioWare’s guest at Star Wars Celebration.

So what happened? “We spent a lot of time this week testing bug fixes to see how viable the fixed version would be in a speed running environment,” Community Manager Musco explained on the forum yesterday. “We have applied improvements to the Coratanni encounter as of tomorrow’s [March 3rd] patch but there are still situations that could impact players focused on a timed run.”

Anyone who has run the Ravagers instance knows that the last boss can be bugged. It doesn’t happen all the time, but there is a chance that Coratanni will not despawn as she’s supposed to, though I thought that bug was fixed in a previous patch. The biggest issue was probably Coratanni’s door, which you can see in the patch notes from today as an item the developers attempted to fix. At times, the door doesn’t even appear, but during other runthroughs, it’s there. The interesting thing about Coratanni’s door issue is that it’s not game-breaking and would likely never get fixed because it doesn’t stop players from completing the instance.

The only reason that it’s a big deal this time around is because this is a speedrun. If Coratanni’s door is closed, the participants would have to jump through a cutscene before fighting the boss. If there is no door, then the whole team can just walk up to the boss. But they can spacebar through the cutscene, and it would make no difference, right? Wrong. There is a finite amount of time in which this operation can be completed. When you get to the competitive level, we are talking about shaving off tenths of seconds in order to win. A cutscene even if skipped can add three to five seconds of time and possibly cost a team a win.

Ultimately, I’m not disappointed that BioWare pulled the contest. I’m disappointed that it was forced pull the contest. It’s just a long list of items that failed miserably when attempting to cater to the Killer-type MMO player. And I honestly feel that this might have been the last chance BioWare had.

Every other week, Larry Everett jumps into his T-16 back home, rides through the hypergates of BioWare‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic, and posts his adventures in the Hyperspace Beacon. Drop him a holocom on Twitter @Shaddoe or send him a transmission at larry@massivelyop.com. Now strap yourself in, kid — we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!
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TrippinNinja
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TrippinNinja

wild_abyss blast tyrant  Also, if you are low on comms you can find vendors on most planets that will sell you green quality mods and armor pieces. I used these a bunch during the 12x XP event to help keep my gear levels up. My character itself was usually ok but sometimes my companion need a few pieces.

MoneyisSlavery
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MoneyisSlavery

“It’s just a long list of items that failed miserably when attempting to cater to the Killer-type MMO player. And I honestly feel that this might have been the last chance BioWare had.”

This quote does not only apply to the Killer-type MMO player. This quote most certainly applies to SWTOR’s F2P concept itself. 

God bless the Whales!

LordOfBread
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LordOfBread

on a side note…

dear mister disney, please make SWG 2, when you get to it.

thank you,
LOB

cromahr
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cromahr

Xijit Do they still have an option to call them? About a year ago, I wanted to get back into SWTOR, trying to get my acct back, which I have had since launch. Problem was that I didn’t have access to the email-address associated with it anymore, and back then, I used the smartphone-authenticator-app, but didn’t have that phone or the app anymore, so I had no idea how to get back into my account.
I am in Europe, called the local hotline listed on their site, immediately got through to someone, and instead of just removing the authenticator, he patiently walked me through the process of doing that myself so I would know how to do stuff like that in the future. Was quite impressed by that, and was happy to have my original account back.
Maybe that’s an option in your case as well?

Tierless
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Tierless

Estranged I dont blame the devs, I remember them wanting an MMO. I recall them having to tell us they would try to get all the real MMO stuff the forums were beggin for into the game in the first Xpack because corporate demanded a WOW clone. It was so sad for so many people.

Loyheta
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Loyheta

I remember factions letting each other do their dailies on Ilum instead of fighting since it was so crap. I don’t like pvp so I wasn’t bummed that tor’s flopped hard.

Caec
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Caec

Meh. They should just spin off Huttball as its own game, so I don’t have to associate with the rest of SWTOR, in order for a random chance at what is the single best instanced small-scale pvp experience in MMOs.

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

oneeyered HyperspaceHunk  Honestly Oneeyered, we don’t know if the Hero Engine is an absolute piece of junk. I think we’ll have more of confirmation once The Repopulation is out. :) The version of the Hero Engine that Bioware bought shouldn’t have ever been allowed to sell if you ask me. That Alpha version apparently is rather different than the “release” version of H.E.  

After the release of The Repopulation (not alpha or beta but official release) and hopefully they have the money to put up good hardware we’ll know more about what H.E. is or isn’t. That’s my opinion. I agree totally with you that the version Bioware bought is an utter piece of junk.

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

wjowski Estranged Tierless They didn’t yank it, they just didn’t renew it with SOE. Which if you look at current events made good sense. Bioware ended up being no better to be bluntly honest and it has taken me almost three years to get over it enough to play a bit again myself. I’m having fun but I know it won’t be my home mmo-rpg, its just a pleasant distraction like all the other mmo-rpgs are for me these days. :(

Shaddoe
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Shaddoe

Siphaed Because they aren’t the same.