Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR’s awful patch 3.2.1 Marauder and Sentinel changes

    
53
I like to consider myself a measured person. I try not to give into overblown rants and statements that I cannot take back. Too often, I’ve been called on my mistakes, and I’ve had to retract some things that I’ve said. As much as it displeases me to be wrong, I will admit when I am. I make a lot of statements very publicly, and people have listened to the things I’ve said; I hate steering people wrong. So when gamers have asked me about the changes coming to Sentinel/Marauder in the next patch for Star Wars: The Old Republic, I’ve been hesitant about giving an in-depth answer.

I consider myself an average player. I have not put in the tens of thousands of hours that some of the other players of the Marauder advanced class have. My game time with that class sits just under four thousand hours. But it was my main raiding and PvP class for the majority of the game. Prior to Update 3.0, I ran early Dread Fortress Nightmare content, and I have a valor rank of 80 on my Marauder. And the vast majority of the time my Marauder was Annihilation spec.

So I think I know the class well enough to make some educated statements about the upcoming changes in 3.2.1. And in today’s Hyperspace Beacon, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

hsb-mop-3.2.1-mara-sub01

Categorical changes

BioWare will break from its normal Tuesday patch day and patch Update 3.2.1 on Wednesday, May 27th. (That’s tomorrow for anyone who might be reading this article on the day that it releases.) At the top of the patch notes is the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife event, followed by some Cartel Market changes, resolve changes (that I will have to comment on some other time), and Jedi Knight and Sith Warrior class changes.

These Jedi Knight and Sith Warrior changes fall into three different categories: utility changes, DoT changes, and damage output changes. Unfortunately for the developers, all of these changes have received a lot of heat from the Marauder community. You might remember the news story about a SWTOR designer being harassed by players. In no way do I condone the actions of the few individuals who took their disdain for the class changes way too far, but almost universally, the changes to the Annihilation/Watchman discipline were disliked.

hsb-mop-3.2.1-mara-sub04Axing defensive forms

The utility change within the Marauder/Sentinel class was intended to get rid of the Defensive Forms utility, which as any Marauder/Sentinel knows is a must-have for the class if the player wants to even come close to being survivable in PvE and PvP situations.

Currently, Defensive Forms grants the player 2 Fury every 1.5 seconds if the player is actively being attacked. In Shii-Cho stance, the player would gain a damage reduction increase by 2%; in Juyo stance, the internal and elemental damage reduction is increased by 5%; and in Ataru stance, movement speed is increased by 15%. Since Annihilation/Watchman spec uses Juyo stance, it doesn’t take a theorycrafter to see why this was a necessary utility for that discipline.

In 3.2.1, the developers proposed that this utility be broken apart. The movement speed has been added to the Phantom (Force Fade, if you’re a dirty Pub) utility; the damage reduction and Fury build was made into a new utility called Brazen (or Stoic). And Defensive Roll now takes on the internal and elemental damage reduction utility.

On the official forums, Oofalong (a resident theorycrafter and all-around nice guy) pointed out the same flaws that I see in this particular change. He says that the reasoning behind splitting up Defensive Forms makes sense because there are a lot of passives in one utility. And if the class were in some way more survivable, this change would be more than necessary. But as he put it, “nothing about the Maras/Sents is too strong given the current meta.” In other words, Marauders and Sentinels already have survivability issues by just being melee; suddenly needing two different utilities to be viable just doesn’t make any sense.

Durational change for bleeds

Bleeds (burns, for the Pubs) are the primary source of DPS for the Annihilation (Watchman) discipline. In my last calculation for me personally, bleeds accounted for at least 60% of my overall damage. So changes to abilities like Rupture (Cauterize) and Force Rend (Force Melt) could change the functionality of the class completely.

The second chunk of changes in Update 3.2.1 did just that. The duration of Rupture was cut in half to 6 seconds, and damage to Force Rend was reduced and the duration decreased to 15 seconds from 18. The Rage cost of Force Rend has been reduced by a third, which could be helpful, but the cost of Rupture hasn’t changed. I would say that’s fine if the Annihilation spec weren’t Rage stared as it is — even before the aforementioned Defensive Forms changes.

hsb-mop-3.2.1-mara-sub03

Some forumgoers claim that this change alone will decrease the effective DPS for the class. And I can kind of see their point: The faster the DoT cooldown, the more there is to track. If you look at the duration of the DoTs, you’ll notice that they don’t match up nicely in a rotation. It is a priority rotation versus a clear step-by-step sequence of abilities. If your timing is off by a little bit, then you risk the chance of reducing your overall DPS.

I have not done but maybe two or three PvP matches on my Marauder since 3.0, so I cannot speak to that. But one thing I can talk about extensively is Raiding. My overall DPS took a hit when 3.0 dropped. Even though I was five levels higher, I was effectively doing 300 or so DPS fewer than before. I was forced to use timers in my parser (Parsec) in order to effectively use my DoTs, and even then I was still Rage starved. Eventually, I did raise my DPS back up to pre-3.0 levels, but that was not enough to catch the other DPSers in my raid group.

I can certainly see the effective DPS loss with the DoT changes, but I will have to see about the actual change when the servers come up tomorrow.

hsb-mop-3.2.1-mara-sub02Devs just don’t understand

Lastly, I want to mention what appears to be a small thing, but if taken in context could be evidence that the developers do not understand the Marauder class or the people who play them.

Systems Designer John Jarynowski posted a few “tips” to Marauder players and the design philosophy behind the class on May 6th. He said, “Never overestimate Dual Saber Throw.” Essentially, he said that it was a situational utility and should not be used as a regular part of the rotation, that you’re supposed to use it only in large groups and when it’s proc’d. As a regular player of a Marauder, I will tell you that it would be a huge mistake to not use Dual Saber Throw regularly. We are talking about a priority rotation, so you will not use it nearly as often as some of your other abilities, but do use it.

Not four hours later, Jarynowski jumped on the forum again asking the community if Dual Saber throw should trigger the Marauder set Critical Chance Set bonus. I think the whole Marauder community did a collective facepalm or sarcastically said, “No, I only use Dual Saber Throw situationally, so making it a key part of set bonus wouldn’t be worth it.”

I’ve been mostly quiet on the subject of the Marauder changes because I believe the community is speaking my mind fairly well. I turn to Oofalong again to sum up my thoughts: “[The devs] sharing insights is beneficial, and my hope would be that it leads to better outcomes. However, in this case it feels like BioWare has not properly understood the realities of the [Marauder/Sentinel Advanced Class].” After about three years of raiding with a Marauder (loving it every step of the way), I’ve stopped. I haven’t quit the game, but my favorite class is no longer my main class. And unfortunately, it looks as if it won’t be anytime soon.

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!
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
jonny_sage
Guest
jonny_sage

Patch broke my launcher. Uninstalled. Not worth redownloading.

Barachiel
Guest
Barachiel

I did much the same.

I’ve re-rolled as a Vigilance Guardian for my melee DPS  main, with the option to go Tank if I decide I want to do something more than hit things with a glowstick

I have not quit the game or deleted my Sent, but I doubt i’ll be using him as anything other than  GTN broker for the forseeable future.

srmalloy
Guest
srmalloy

mysecretid I don’t think that it’s entirely because the developers don’t have the time to actually play the classes to be aware of how they work out in the wild. I suspect that part of it comes from the fact that the developers, as developers, have a concept of what they believe the class should be, and make changes to a class to push it closer to that concept. Look at the recent changes to the advanced classes that took abilities away from one of the advanced classes because they didn’t fit with how they believed the advanced class should be played. After all, it’s completely anathema that the players should have fun playing a class differently from how the developers think it should be played; the classes have to be changed to force players to have fun the correct way.

mysecretid
Guest
mysecretid

Peregrine_Falcon mysecretid Armsman 
Yeah. I’m loath to ascribe specific behaviors or practices to devs, because I simply don’t know what they do or don’t do — but yeah, I continue to be surprised that there appears to be such a noticeable disconnect between what the players do, and what the developers see or understand.
Perhaps it’s akin to working in the mass media? 
I had a friend who worked in national news, and she told me (to paraphrase), “Most of us really did struggle to be accurate and ethical and properly sourced in our reporting, but the constant time-pressure of the 24/7 news cycle meant that it was a daily battle to get it right, and details did slip, regularly”.
(She eventually quit national news, and now makes very fine, ethical documentaries, last I heard)
My point being, maybe the devs are so eyeball-deep in the daily mayhem of whatever being an MMORPG developer entails, that they’re really not able to maintain or monitor reliable feedback regarding what’s going on with the game systems they create?
It would be sad, if true.
Anyway … the sort of things I ponder in my quieter nerd moments. :-)
I appreciate your thoughts on the topic, as always,
Cheers,

Peregrine_Falcon
Guest
Peregrine_Falcon

mysecretid Armsman Yes but it doesn’t seem to me that many dev teams even do that. You’d think that actual players should be able to tell them which changes are bad and why. Also, on many forums there are players who will post in the official thread about a change with long strings of equations proving that the proposed changes simply won’t work.
In my experience those posts get ignored, but then dev teams will revert a change if enough people light the forums on fire. This makes no sense. This kind of behavior on the part of dev teams simultaneously encourages bad behavior and teaches those who try to post calmly and responsibly that they’re just wasting their time.

slade1122334455
Guest
slade1122334455

I dont think I agree that this is a nerf yet.  Some of the complaints I am reading… splitting defensive form into 3 different utilities.  As it stood before, you could only get one of the defensive forms, depending on what stance you where in.  If you went combat, you couldnt get the damage reduction, or if you went watchmen, you couldnt get the movement speed.  This now allows you, if you wish, to take all 3 defensive forms if you want, reguardless of which stance you are in.  

The bleeds/burns change.  The wording states that rupture/cauterize deals its damage over 6 seconds, down from 12.   I may be wrong, but the wording sounds like if it delt 1000 damage over 12 seconds, it now deals 1000 damage over 6 seconds, which is a bonus.  If I am wrong, then yes, it is another dot to keep track of more.

Force Melt, brought down to 15 seconds, slightly reduced damage, and costs 2 focus instead.  I am not sure on this one… is it dealing reduced damage simply because it only lasts 15 seconds now?  but will deal the same ammount of damage (or close to) if it was to last for 18 seconds?  if so, this isnt too much of a nerf as far as I can tell.

The next point being rage/focus starving for the class and having to use rupture/cautarize twice as often… we also gain a bit more rage/focus via bleeds due to the fact that Plasma Blade change, allowing you now to gain 1 focus every second, instead of ever 4 seconds.

mysecretid
Guest
mysecretid

Armsman Peregrine_Falcon
In my long post earlier, I briefly alluded the possibilty of devs having (self-selected) theorycrafters for their games (bloggers, forum mainstays, et al) whom the devs — almost certainly anonymously — would follow or check in with to keep an eye on how the deeply-engaged players are “digesting” the state of the game.
I guess I figured most devs already did this? I imagine I would.

You don’t have the time or the ability to listen to “everybody”, so you focus on a sample of what you consider indicative deeply-invested players, and check in when possible to see how they’re experiencing the state of your game.
The people in question don’t know that they’re part of your ersatz, personal “focus group”, but they become your “weather forecasters” for your game — you check in with what they’re saying, as time allows, to see what the general feeling for the game state is “out there” from game fans whose assessments you trust.
They become your “eyes and ears” in the game without knowing it, partly because they can put in the constant hours you simply can’t, and are giving steady public feedback anyway.
I guess my point in the original post was simply that I always figured game devs would already do this sort of informal, personal, opinion-sampling anyway.
I guess I’m surprised to find that a number of devs are so utterly surprised themselves whenever they implement significant, radical game changes which a plurality of the playerbase finds unnecessary or baffling.
Simplistic cynicism would say, “They don’t care. They don’t look”. But a lot of devs do demonstrably care — so I’m surprised to find that someone isn’t using intermittent, even informal, observance to track how those most invested in their game are playing it.

Companies track and sample their customer bases all the time — in the end, it’s simply good for business.
Abject apologies for the length. I hate writing “walls o’ text” as much as I hate reading them, but I felt I should be as specific in my wording as possible, to bypass potential confusion or misunderstanding.
I’m just throwing out opinions for consideration, as usual. My thanks to anyone brave enough to read all this.
Cheers all,

Armsman
Guest
Armsman

Peregrine_Falcon I think the issue is many Devs don’t actually play the game their working on in ‘real world’ conditions like a player. yes, they run playtests on new content; but that’s a far cry from playing with actual real world players. It’s also why they feel blindside by an ‘exploit’. IF they actually played their games under real world conditions; I’m certain many exploits that make it live in an MMO would get killed at the whiteboard stage. it’s sad.

StClair
Guest
StClair

Peregrine_Falcon In most cases, it’s simply a matter of time.  They have jobs, that limit their playing time right there, and if they’re like most people they don’t want to spend all of their off-time dealing with the same thing they do for a living.  So when they do play, it’s for work, in short bursts, probably with instant-50 characters and other dev perks.  That sort of spot testing doesn’t and IMO can’t give an accurate sense of what playing the class is like.

mysecretid
Guest
mysecretid

Anatidae mysecretid Werewolf Finds Dragon 
My point was actually that I didn’t want to see a _third_ set of abilities added, specifically for groups and raids, and separate from PvE and PvP ability sets.
If you check my original post, you’ll see that I am very much in favor of having separate PvE and PvP ability sets.
Be well,