Taking a break from my normal topic of end game raiding, though, I do not think it is a stretch to say this topic is heavily related (it is from my viewpoint, after all) … I wanted to talk about some of the larger issues I see in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Going a step further, I will also offer my realistic suggestions and the possible ramifications that these suggestions might have for the development team and the engine that SWTOR was designed on. This is a pretty long article, so if you are looking for a particular topic, try guiding yourself by the section names which are in bold.
Not Content On Content – Lack of Activities Between Your Primary Goals
The first truly overarching problem with the game has been keeping players busy. When the game launched, the focus was on story. While this remains a “pillar” of the game, in a world that constantly expands and evolves, the story pillar has proven to crumble a bit faster than the others. Every MMO has its lore, even EverQuest, my first MMO, had lore when it came out over a decade ago. Lore and story is not what keeps players around, though in SWTOR’s case, it is certainly what got players to come play the game in the first place. What actually keeps players around is the idea of keeping the players busy. When you log in, there should always be something to do. PvP, Raiding, Dailies, these were the three endgame events when SWTOR came out. Later they introduced the Seeker Droid and Macrobinocular quest lines and soon they will release another repeatable event – though events are temporary, lasting only days.
PvP has grown very stale, with the newest map being released around a year ago, the reward for PvP being a gear grind, and ranked PvP being nearly non-existent on most servers (The Harbinger and POT5 being the exceptions). There are changes lined up for patch 2.4, but that is still some time off and BioWare has already lost or are facing to lose a large portion of their PvP crowd. To be clear, there are people who enjoy more than one activity, but usually people either dedicate themselves to PvP or PvE – then mix in the other activities. I personally dabble in PvP, and besides some days where I will group up with a few guildmates, I find myself sitting in the fleet doing nothing, more than I am actually PvPing. I am not complaining about queue times here, I am complaining about the lack of something to do between queues and my lack of desire to be constantly PvPing to fill my down time between raids, being that I am primarily a raider.
Dailies are super boring. There, I said it. I can run through each once – but after doing them when the game first came out to grind gear with just Belsavis and Ilum dailies, I don’t think I can ever step foot in them again. They are great for credits, but I no longer need more credits, so there is no remaining value. Reputation seemed to add no extra motivation for me and for many others. Adding new daily areas won’t fix the problem – I may explore the new area once and complete it as I have the others, but the time going into developing a daily area could probably be better spent elsewhere (I know some people may disagree here, this is just my opinion and my guess is, the opinion of many).
Those Little Things – Filling Your Time
Now, before I get into the Operations portion of this article, which will be my longest section, I thought I’d talk about the issue of boredom. What can be done to fix this problem? Pretty simple, give us more to do in between PvP, dailies and raids. Like what? Well Sabacc is by far the most obvious and possibly the easiest thing to implement.
Sabacc is so long overdue, it defies logic why it is not in the game – and I have yet to see a reason from a gold post of what, if any, potential roadblocks there would be. Sabacc does not need to be about gambling, it could purely be about ranking, but adding a quick and fun activity that you can sit on the fleet (or better, Nar Shaddaa casinos) and occupy your time for hours on end would be a very welcome addition and change of pace.
The “Super Secret Space Project” offers a bit of hope. I think a lot of people are looking forward to putting the stars back into Star Wars. I personally still hope to see an operation and a PvP match that involve space combat in some way.
The little things are what fills your time. The fleet is currently the place to sit and stare at nothing. Adding additional activities, like an arena in the fleet, would be a vast improvement to my general time wasting. A swoop racing track, or something along those lines, would be a nice addition as well.
There are other little things outside those bigger activities as well. I remember when the game was being announced and the first time I heard there would be no swimming in the game. My disappointment was not about the lack of immersion that caused, though it plays a small part, but things like being able to swim and fish – or cook and dance aren’t just things for role-players. Players of all calibers like to relax, escape into their virtual world, and do activities like these just to fill their time. The little things matter in keeping players happy, bring on the space fishing.
Operation: Endgame – Linearity, Gear Progression And Tearing Down The Artificial Wall
I actually enjoy the raids/operations and think that, if you judged on the amount of difficulty modes, they have done a decent job releasing the content at an okay pace as of late (it was a bit slow to begin with). I think there is a new problem, though. When people have defeated Hard Mode, gone onto a whole new raid zone, then go back and defeat the Nightmare Mode of the previous tier content, it does not sit well with the raiding community. To clarify, the issue is beating Hard Mode Terror From Beyond, beating Hard Mode Scum & Villainy, then going back to TFB to beat Nightmare – making the content feel recycled. I think even worse was the fact that when the Makeb expansion came out, we were forced to return to HM TFB to farm the newest tier of gear. We had literally just spent months farming the top gear there, then all of a sudden this gear becomes 100% obsolete and we have to return to the same operation in order to farm more. This did not feel like a well thought out plan.
Still on the topic of gearing, I wanted to present another problem that affects the casual raiding community much more than it will me. The new Nightmare Mode for TFB is truly difficult (bravo, on behalf of the “hardcore” raiding community). However, this content needs to be defeated in order to attain the newest level of gear. The big problem here is, there are 99% of guilds who raid who will never clear this instance – heck some still haven’t (probably can’t and never will) clear Explosive Conflict Nightmare Mode (tanks are still a tough fight, even at 55 and in full Underworld Gear). When you make something this difficult (part of progression not to mention fights that they feel like they are somewhat dependent on RNG), you are really blocking a large part of the community from the content.
The problem isn’t that the content is hard, this is a good thing and something BioWare needs to do for the hardcore community, the problem is that we need to, and BioWare actually expects us to, go in and farm gear from here. I truly shudder at the thought of having to do this content for months. Honestly, the two hour title is reason enough for us to return, we don’t need to continue coming back for gear at this difficulty. Worse yet, we will have to do the same for another NiM raid probably simultaneously – I have sincere worries of our abilities to farm this gear fully (NiM S+V and TFB) before whatever next operation comes out. The best progression is one done on an equal playing field – equal gear means that the guilds with the best talent will win. When an artificial wall is created that creates other inequalities, that is not a good thing.
I digress, the problem for the casual guilds who cannot even really participate in this tier, they will perhaps end up two tiers of gear behind for the next operation. What will happen then, will this tier be nerfed? I don’t think it should, but it is an interesting conundrum. I think it also feeds into my next big issue, one also introduced with the new level cap – linearity of progression.
When the expansion came out and the level cap was raised to 55, three operations became obsolete (in terms of necessity of completion for progression). Looking back at my EverQuest nostalgia, one of my favorite things about gearing was that you could not complete X2 before completing X1. Flagging would be one way to maybe resolve this … but that is not what I am looking for. A fresh guild, with all fresh new characters, should have to spend a couple weeks farming their way up each tier before they jump into the next. As the game stands right now, I can reach level 55, and without the assistance of my guild, spend one week gearing and be ready for S+V and TFB HMs – not only be ready, but actually be able to contribute. Now, there are the other problems, such as crafting (and comms) assisting in bypassing the need to raid older tiers, but the bigger issue is that EC, EV, and KP are completely obsolete. They were left at level 50 (which is OK) but their gear is inferior to 55 FPs (story even, not HM).
Before I offer my suggestion of fixing this problem – let me go into one other issue that I think can be solved in the same way. I already spoke about how when we hit 55, our year of hard work gearing up into the newest tier instantly became obsolete by the newest tier of gear in the buffed (or new) story mode operation. Meaning, Story Mode S+V and TFB post 2.0 dropped iLVL 162 gear, when I was wearing 150′s from the previous tier. Combine this with Story Mode operations being so easy I probably could have completed them with my guild half naked. In other words, we could easily roll through SM in the iLVL 150. Not only that, but none of the guilds that wanted to jump into HM wanted to have to farm gear in SM, and most didn’t, anyway.
The solution? Well for one, when the level cap increase arrives, make the previous hardest content (let’s use NiM TFB and NiM S+V as examples) drop the new easiest tiers gear. This allows a few things – the previous guilds that weren’t “good enough” to beat the previous tier can still progress with this tier of gear. It also allows the hardcore guilds the ability to farm gear faster so that they can compete on skill, not gear, for the next tier that will come out (NiM modes will always be delayed in the future, most likely). It also allows the hardcore guilds the ability to jump straight into hard modes without having to waste time farming in Story Mode and without making their previously hard earned gear feel so completely obsolete.
There is a positive when it comes to Operation design – Scum and Villainy provided great improvement in terms of run time back to the bosses after wipes, please continue modeling future design of run-backs on S+V.
Content Release Schedule And While We’re At It, PvP
One of my biggest gripes is how content and fixes are patched in. Things should be released when they are done. They have already stated that 2.4 is the aim for a really big PvP update. I refuse to believe that, a couple months out, with what I think they might have planned, that some of what is in that patch is not already complete. A big “some of that” would probably be a new PvP map. I’d strongly urge BioWare – if anything is completed now, just release it. Don’t wait for 2.3. Just release it in 2.2.2, 2.2.3 or whenever it is done. Enough with the major releases. There is no reason to hold back content that is already done just so you can package it all together. Whatever reason you think there is (some kind of overhaul to valor maybe?) is not good enough. If you want to keep PvPers happy, and all players happy, then just release what you have as soon as you have it.
I also miss original Ilum world PvP. I get it, it lagged a lot of people, and sitting there while your computer stalls isn’t fun. I understand that not everyone will see it from my view, but it never lagged me to the point where it wasn’t fun, even when there were two full ops groups on each side. I sincerely wish they never removed it until they had a more permanent complete replacement. The current repeated Ilum event was a good start, but by no means complete. I think additional world PvP must be coming with 2.4, but it needs to come fast – this would be another great way to fill the time between WZ queues and daily doldrums.
I think new maps and world PvP would go a long way to helping PvP’s rejuvenation – and I’ll throw in more suggestions further on in this article. On the topic of content release, the same should be applied to everything – especially balances and bug fixes, realizing it is not always possible to do. If there is something that is envisioned, something that can be done quickly, just do it quickly on any Tuesday patch – especially balance fixes between classes or the 8-man and 16-man versions of operations. I think it is ridiculous that Vanguards and Shadow DPS have been left to suffer for so long. They are so weak now that I couldn’t bring those players into raids, even if they were exceptionally good players, until they rolled something else. If there is an imbalance, one as obvious as this, something needs to be done quickly.
Class Balance Part 1 – The Standard Bearer and Discouraging Stacking Classes
2.0 introduced a huge improvement in class balance. DPS numbers are close on the dummy (there is a great thread tracking this), but let’s put it into practice and look at the TORparse numbers (this links directly to Thrasher, check out 16-man HM in particular for one of the largest discrepancies). What numbers are we seeing in raids? Vanguards, Scoundrels, and Shadow DPS truly are horrible among even the elite players excluding some freaks of nature(Sorry guys, don’t mean to single you out). This is a pretty serious issue as it’s the kind of horrible that’s not worth bringing into raids horrible. Sentinels not only do higher DPS than most but also offer the group wide buff inspiration, boosting their groups DPS, and transcendence, boosting the entire raids run speed (important for certain mechanics). The only melee worth bringing in right now is a Sentinel (other classes are viable, especially those freaks of nature, I am just saying that given the option, a Sentinel is preferred due to the cost to benefit ratio). Then you have Gunslingers … the most ridiculously overpowered class. The kicker is, you can’t nerf the good classes. You can’t nerf them because they are so entirely needed to beat the current tiers content. Look at the top guilds in 16-man who have beaten Dread Guards, rolling with six Slingers. This isn’t cheap to do and it is entirely necessary. Fights are not even beatable without some Gunslinger DPS in 16-man.
I actually like Sage DPS, I play one and do reasonably well. But let’s face it, the ideal grouping right now is probably eight Gunslingers and two Sentinels (exaggerating slightly, different compositions might be better for different fights). Commandos too, for what it’s worth, are good DPS. Sages and Commandos offer utility (they can both run fast, have some nice defensive abilities) – but still lack compared with the Gunslinger. Heck, Gunslingers can even bypass whole mechanics by timing their Hightail It (the roll ability mitigates all damage during the roll, which is perfect for the Dread Guards’ lightning phase).
So how is class balance restored? How can you make every class viable for a raid? You really can’t. It is next to impossible, because as long as one class offers the slightest benefit, they become the flavor of the month and your raid is better off just having as many of that class as possible. Worse, if you make it so certain classes have synergies, making it better to have a mix of classes – well that is bad too, because you are now essentially forcing a raid group to take certain classes they might not have or be able to recruit. I could really only come up with one solution and it is a solution I don’t care for.
Make it a bad thing to bring in multiples of the same class. How? Well, I mentioned I play a DPS sage so it was the best example I can think of. Sage DPS’s cannibalize one another when they are in the raid – particularly when one is balance spec’ed. When you lay down your Force In Balance spell that applies Force Suppression (increasing damage of dot ticks) – when another Sage is in the raid, that Sage will also eat the suppression stacks. The effect is lowering that first Sage DPS’s total DPS. Now, it might boost the other – but if that one is Telekinetic spec then his dots aren’t hitting as hard in the first place, meaning the total raid DPS is lower. Even with two Balance Sages – with Force Suppression – Mind crush (a weaker damage per dot tick spell) will usually end up eating the other person’s force suppression. The only way to prevent that is to be perfectly in sync, which is nearly impossible. So, the end result? It is a disadvantage to have more than one DPS Sage in the raid and every DPS Sage added is an additional disadvantage.
I think that the Sage DPS is an extreme example. However, it is a mechanic that makes bringing in more than one Sage DPS a problem. This definitely puts multiple Sage DPS at a disadvantage compared with Gunslingers (who do more DPS anyway and still have a better damaging bypass spell and a raid wide damage reduction). So either the same disadvantage needs to be added across all classes or the Sage should have the disadvantage taken away (so that their dots only eat their own suppression’s).
Class Balance Part 2 – My Suggested (Mostly Non-Mathematically Supported) Changes
Gunslingers are your new standard, whether we like it or not. My biggest general gripe, so I don’t have to repeat it on every class suggestion, is that everyone should have a raid wide buff – if one class has a raid wide buff they are automatically more useful. I also think the armor discrepancy is not really taken into consideration. I think the logic is that most light armors have a heal (Sages, in particular). Therefore they can heal themselves. Well if they are healing themselves they aren’t DPS’ing. If they are healing themselves, they are not healing others or offering any raid benefit. I think that the light armor wearers defensive damage mitigation for DPS needs to be brought a little more in line with the other DPSers damage mitigation (closer, not same).
Before I really dive in – let’s talk about some DPS bugs that hurt all the classes:
● Not being able to hit the cores in TFB with placed AoE moves greatly reduces the DPS of certain classes/specs (Guardian Smash spec and Sage Balance spec for FiB are the two biggest examples). Having a bug that specifically only affects, or has a deeper affect on particular classes, reduces their usefulness in that encounter.
● Ability lag/Phantom casting has a larger effect on some DPS, as some classes rely on perfectly executing their rotation in order to pull off even just optimal DPS, a discrepancy is created. Some classes are hurt worse because ability lag occurs more often on longer cast times (Sages with Telekinetic Throw lose two whole GCD, same with Guardians/Sentinels with their channeled ability).
● There is a particularly nasty bug with Sages that on an autocast being cast before the proc shows, it prevents them from attacking at all for a period of time (fixed by moving, but still), see thread here. NOTE: This was added to known issues at the time of my writing, but it is important to point out how these bugs, when left to linger, can really negatively affect someone’s main class for a long period of time.
For all my balance sections below, the big caveat is that my thoughts are based more on personal experience which is a bit more extensive than many due to the fact that I spend a fair amount of time speaking with other guild leaders who share my opinion. While I won’t go as far as to say they will agree completely with all of my specifics, I think the general ideas expressed would find some agreement. So, using Gunslingers as the standard, these are my opinions of what is needed to bring other DPS to their level (aside from raid-wide buffs, which I believe every class should have one of):
● Vanguards need a straight damage buff to their abilities. I also think they should be given Charge as a general ability, not as something spec’ed into as tank.
● Commandos are actually really good, they have great AoE, their single target isn’t bad – they can assist in some off-healing if ever needed. I’ve encountered plenty of Commandos who can hold their own – they just aren’t capable of matching a Slinger in DPS.
● Shadows need the single largest damage buff – they actually offer some raid utility and have Force Speed. They have always suffered as being the weakest DPS. I have seen a few great Shadows – and they are still great in PvP – but they are still the most dismissed class in PvE.
● Sages – I can speak most about sages since it’s what I play the most. Balance needs an AoE boost – simply done by boosting the damage by the almost useless AoE, Forcequake (I don’t care that it benefits TK too, they both need it). Telekinetics could probably use a slight DPS boost since they get crushed whenever they have to move (which is a lot in most cases) – it is why I normally out DPS the great TK Sages of the world in actual fights but lose to them on the dummy. Sages in general would need a slight boost to be in line with Slingers. Given their Force Shield, bubble, heals, pulls, they probably have the best utility for any non raid-wide buffs. There are some bugs that definitely need to be addressed, but most of them affect every class in some way. I would also love an execute ability (when target is sub 30% health), but can live without it as I think it would have to be an entirely new skill.
● Scoundrels – they need a large damage buff. One of their best raid benefits is out-of-combat rez’s – which are almost impossible to pull off in a lot of the newer encounters. With that taken away from them they are disgustingly bad. Might as well give them a Scrambling Field and the same damage reduction roll as a Gunslinger – along with a buff to their DPS and I would start loving Scoundrel DPSers.
● Sentinels – they really don’t need much – some of their actual individual trees are weak, otherwise they are almost perfectly in line with a good player controlling them – a slight damage tweak would get them in line with a slinger – but they are still a melee vs a ranged – so they should honestly be doing a tad bit more damage than a Gunslinger in the first place.
● Guardian – it is nice that they have heavy armor and their Smash does very nice AoE damage – but their single target DPS is lacking, needs a good buff, and you should just give them Inspiration in their DPS trees (not tanking, or that’d be way too overpowered).
I would again like to stress, the difference in DPS would not matter as much if each class had something unique and powerful to bring to a raid group like the Sentinel’s Inspiration or the gunslingers Scrambling Field. I would also like to offer a suggestion of how to implement a raid wide buff so only the DPS classes get them. Simple! Just put it at the top of the skill trees (so on top of Sever Force, for example). Not only would this ensure only the DPS classes get these buffs, but it would make it so hybrid specs are less viable (which I think they should be).
Okay, on to tank balance.
As a general rule, I think that tanks DPS should generally be buffed (30-50%). They are currently doing ~1k DPS on a solid fight in top tier (and these are only the best tanks that are truly focusing on DPS). I honestly think they should be doing 1200-1500. For the record I have a Juggernaut and Vanguard tank, but have only tanked top tier on the VG:
● Guardians are generally the best tank right now – they have the best and most cooldowns – have the best damage mitigation. Need the most damage buff – another AoE wouldn’t be bad either.
● VG – I like VG and think they are second best tanks right now. They don’t really offer any real benefit over guardians except in AoE (they are the model for holding AoE DPS, I think). I also think it would make a ton of sense for them to get one more defensive cooldown to match guardians. Again, a buff to their single target DPS would be nice, AoE is fine here.
● Shadow tanks are the worst, by far. They take spikey damage and their philosophy is a ton different than the other two tanks. Forget self heals, they don’t help when the tank is full health and they do next to nothing when the tank is almost dead. They have a couple of nice cooldowns, but could also use one more to be in line with guardians. They have the best single target DPS but still too low – they could use one more AoE DPS ability. They are also at a disadvantage with their Force Speed – which couldn’t be clearer than on the Writhing Horror. While certainly doable, how easy it is for Guardians and Vanguards to blindly leap versus using Force Speed is fairly vast. Honestly, BioWare should just do a complete redesign so that Shadow tanks take damage the same as other tanks – I wouldn’t mind if their Force Speed were replaced with a leap-like ability either. In other words, to make everything fair, they need to be more of the same. Again, compared to Guardians, Shadows are down one good cooldown – though the cooldowns they have are probably the best of the three, so they would only need one more weak one (like a temporary health boost to max hp).
Lastly, healers, which I have very little experience with except when I respec to heals on my sage. That being said, it is pretty clear there is one issue. Consider this a summary of why Sages and Scoundrels are better than Commando healers (not as drastic as the tank issue of course, but still an issue).
● Sages have great AoE heals and can regenerate their Force efficiently with the right skills (and frequent use of Noble Sacrifice). They have a couple nice life saving abilities (mainly just bubble) and decent single target heals. In short, Sages fill a role of keeping the raid alive better than anyone else but cannot single-target heal as well, an acceptable tradeoff.
● Scoundrels have fantastic mobility and single-target heals. They also have the out of combat rez on a shorter cool-down than Shadows. They are the best tank heals, hands down – and are far more viable on fights with heavy movement. They lack in AoE heals compared to sages, but given their great single target heals, consider this a good tradeoff.
● Commandos really offer nothing that the other two don’t. Why would I ever bring a Commando healer in when I have Scoundrels and Sages? They don’t do either job well. They need a slight buff on both AoE heals and single target heals – because even then, they are the least mobile healer and if they are not capable of out-healing the other two healers, they aren’t worth bringing in at all. Like DPS, there are some exceptions, but I bet that same player who out-heals on a Commando would do even more on a Scoundrel. The discrepancy is not so big though that I wouldn’t take a Commando healer into a raid.
I hate SWTOR’s implementation of trade skills. Not everything, just most of it. The only thing I sort of like is the ability to send off companions instead of standing in front of the forge myself. I think it is a bit too late to provide an overhaul here, but there are certainly some improvements that can be made and ways for BioWare to make money!
Give us the ability to learn more than three skills. Ideally, I just want Biochem on all my alts so that I can use the reusable adrenals and stims for them. Why we can’t have more than one crew skill boggles my mind. And the money part? I’d be willing to pay $5 a character or $10 a legacy to expand the amount of crew skills I can learn, per skill. Sound like a deal?
I think BioWare has gotten a little better with how crafting progression level gear works, but I think they should think about taking it down another tier. It sort of stinks that people only capable of beating item level 162 content can run around in 168s by farming or purchasing mats, when top tier is 174. I’d feel more comfortable with more separation.
One other thing I greatly dislike is when the new augments came out – there was a huge rush to get the kits and augments installed creating a great expense to serious raiders who needed these augments in order to compete. Okay, the augments are implemented – how about we just keep them here? Seriously, why do we need to re-augment just because we level? I have been using the same color crystal for over a year now.
Biochem, in my opinion, is still the only truly useful skill to end gamers so much so, that I eventually gave in and dropped Synthweaving for it with 2.0. I like my first idea presented here, let us learn Biochem in addition to everything, or let us learn additional crew skills, then having a must-have crew skill won’t be as big of a deal. There are other ways around it sure, but I don’t really expect my raiders to pump out 100,000 credits of adrenals every night in order to get a fight down – and I’m competitive enough where I need them to be used to make sure we can progress.
I also mentioned this earlier in the little things, but I would love fishing and cooking to be added as something like a crew skill. They do not actually need to have any benefit other than making role players happy, but I think it would be a nice improvement as long as they did not interfere with your max of three.
Bugs And Features
This is more of an appeal to the players – understand that all games have bugs. MMOs more than any other game has tons of bugs because they constantly evolve. With evolution and change, comes complications. BioWare has always done an okay job with the bugs. Sure there are some around since day one, but I have yet to see a bug in this game so bad that it is world destroying. Do I hope they fix all of them? Of course I do, but I think the players should cut them a little slack in this department. It is our job to take into consideration that their team has had a huge changeover since the games original development. BioWare is now getting in a rhythm and I expect bigger and better things down the horizon.
What features are missing and which ones are needed the most to revitalize the game? I already stated my number one – casual games like Sabacc. After that, being able to design your ship (player housing) would be great for casuals and hard-cores alike (not to mention a potential monster for EA on the Cartel Market, hint hint!). Ranking boards would be great for competition (competition drives players). There is no actual ranking board to reference for PvP or raiding, yet they could both use an official one. Further, if and when Sabacc does come out, that should get a ranking board too (Win/Loss or ranked like PvP as a scoring system).
Then there’s one topic that should have it’s own category – guild features needs a great deal of improvement, especially with the recent push to get more and more people into guilds. I can only hope that they have bigger plans for this since BioWare’s spent so much time emphasizing the bonus of being part of a guild.
As far as guild features go the biggest one in my book would be increased communication tools. The guild message of the day seems to be largely ignored, even though I put a lot of pertinent information there. The guild description is really hard to scroll through. Both these UI elements need improvements. However, there are a lot of additions needed:
● Guild Capital ships – I think the importance of these are understated (as much as they are vocalized on the boards). Nothing builds camaraderie as much as a place where all the players of a guild can go to congregate without a set schedule. Nothing major is needed at first, literally just an instanced place that only guild mates can go – throw in some of the fleet objects for good measure – then later add in some ability to customize the interior.
● Guild calendar – most guilds have websites, but it is difficult to drive people there – give us a calendar!!!!
● Guild-wide mail – just as it seems. I want to be able to type in a rank and then everyone of that rank getting a piece of mail. Make it cost 5 credits per person payable by the guild bank to reduce spam, I guess.
● Ranking Systems – I already mentioned this, but for endgame, ranking systems would be nice (it would be by guild and by player depending on content)
● More guild management tools – I want to be able to see who leaves and when – who joined when – even who has participated in how many raids with the guild – I want to have additional ranks so I can create more classifications.
● Sister guild and alliance tools – especially for those guilds who have 2000 members across 4 of their own guilds. The ability to share guild chat or have an alliance channel that does not need to be created/maintained/joined on login. A bank that can be shared across guilds.
OK, a few more personal features I would like to see that are probably more difficult to implement, but would still be nice:
● Legacy bank – especially credits across all the toons
● Dual/multi-spec – I need somewhere to store my PvP gear and heal gear other than my inventory
● Save abilities/keybinds to UI – this can either be part of multi spec system (so that when I change my UI it changes my spec) or it can be its own thing where the skill slots are saved to the UI with the keybinds
● Companion trading – use Qyzen on any of your legacy guys in place of their usual tank (this one is really low on my wish list, but I tossed it in)
● More out-of-game online support – again ranking system on the website would be nice – but also an official armory would be good. I’d still like to run trade skills through a phone app one day.
I understand that all these things will take time. I also understand there may be other higher priorities, but I do hope to see most or all of these things implemented in the next couple of years.
Alternate Advancements And Reward Incentives (back to player housing)
These are two different topics, but I am lumping into them into one because the general theme is the same – make playing,in general, more worthwhile. Alternate Advancement (AA), to those that are not familiar, were really originally introduced in EQ1. When you hit max level, you could continue getting experience for AA’s, which would level up at a steady pace, and would continue building the strength of your player. While some AA’s became more critical to your character at some point – as in the necessity of having X amount of AA points invested in order to reach a certain level of strength to kill an encounter – AA were relatively minor advancements to your character in comparison to real levels.
Before I finish the thought on AA, and then make the connection, Reward Incentives need an improvement. Let me be clear, I am strongly against forcing someone to do treasure hunting in order to advance their character to be more powerful. I think that treasure hunting is the most mind numbingly stupid activity implemented in the game (again, there are people who will disagree, but bare with me). Despite my personal feelings, I think that the incentives to actually participate in these types of activities are pretty weak. In short, if player housing existed, these would be the appropriate type of rewards for such an activity – essentially, decorations. The level 28 enhancements are too weak an incentive – the pleasure speeder parts are good but not enough. There should be dozens of player housing rewards mixed in, which is another reason why player housing can be a very powerful revitalization tool for SWTOR.
On the same note, the current achievement system is good, but it could be great. Some of the achievements reward Cartel Coins and I bet these are the most worked-towards achievements for those who know they exist. Some achievements offer titles, this is another good start, although the system needs to go further. At risk of beating the dead horse, with player housing, the developers would have yet another incentive tool to offer as possible rewards for completing achievements. I think that regular in-game credits and experience would be another possibility. Honestly, I don’t think that any achievement, or at the very least, group of achievements should be left unrewarded. Even Operation achievements, as an example (when you reach 100% for a certain Operation), can reward something (commendations would make the most sense, here).
Tying it all back together, AA and Reward Incentives provide the same thing: motivation to play the game more. Incentives drive consumers. Whether it is rewarding the player through continued advancement of their characters power or more material rewards that player housing could bring, better incentives to play more and achieve more would have a positive overall effect on the game.
The Future of SWTOR Today
I’ve attempted to outline every element, big and small, with what I find wrong, but certainly fixable, in the game. I do not believe I captured all of them, there are many small things that would certainly improve quality of life. Things like being able to sit in all chairs or chat bubbles have been requested by a subset of players and many other things would be appreciated for sure, but there are more universal changes that would go a lot further in keeping the player playing. Things like copying and pasting names into the GTN by Shift+click (for an easy price check). While minor to some developers, this one has been done successfully in other MMO’s and should at this point be considered a standard. Then there’s my favorite, legacy-wide datacrons (PLEASE!!!!). There is no way I am running the identical datacrons across my six alts (or more for some players) – and I would be willing to pay money for this feature, PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY BIOWARE. At the very least, an unlock for Republic and an unlock for Imperial across a server would be nice.
I truly believe in the current development’s team is genuinely trying to make SWTOR great. I believe we have already seen some great things and some great improvements. Again, I will point to the general design of Scum and Villainy as an example. I’d also like to point out Eric Musco’s tremendous effort in approving communication (truly astounding job, please ignore the complaints and keep on doing what you have been!). However, I think the team is limited because someone chose and developed a pretty bad engine (Hero Engine) that the game is built on. I hope, but don’t expect them to, overhaul the engine one day. This would be a monumental task I know, but it has been the bane of SWTOR’s existence and truly limited the game on many levels. That being said, I truly believe that there are only a few things missing from making this game the best MMO on the market. Some of those things are small quality-of-life issues and some are bigger absent features and some other problems are balance issues. However, at the end of the day, SWTOR is a big epic world, containing a rich lore that needs a little more time to become the game it has the potential to be.
Hope you enjoyed the read and I thank you for giving me your time. Let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.