Ranked Warzones could be coming as soon as SWTOR patch 1.2. This is going to kill PvP as we know it, unless they put in some serious changes to fulfill balancing issues.
My server is pretty busy, but since we’re on an RP server not everyone is desperate to PvP. When 50s were split into their own warzone bracket, queue times skyrocketed from a few minutes to get a game to sitting around for a half hour wondering when the Sith would be done with their silly Huttball matches. Things have gotten a bit better since, and, depending on the time of day, we can now get games to pop in about 2 minutes or closer to 20 minutes (except late at night when we Republics can’t get a game to go for the life of us).
The lowbie bracket still seems to have games going regularly, even sometimes during those late at night sessions. But have things really gotten better for them with losing the 50s? Sure, they’re no longer being slaughtered by people in full Battlemaster gear, but most of the lowbie games are won or lost by the other team’s players in the 40s. If a pair of well-coordinated 40-something Sorcerers can take on half of the opposing team, the Sorcerers’ team is probably going to win. That doesn’t even take into account the games where the other team has more than 8 people, but that’s another issue entirely.
Now the 50 games are filled with the same few names on Republic side. There are probably 20-30 Republic 50s that PvP regularly on my server. When a Republic vs Republic Huttball goes, the question is which of the few that PvP will be on your team and which will be on the other? “Target Soandso, because he’s a healer.” “I’m glad we’ve got Whatsherface, since she’s really good at carrying and passing the ball.”
It’s almost boring in a still-exciting-because-it’s-PvP kind of way.
But, what will happen when they add Ranked Warzones? Where will Soandso and Whatsherface go? Will there still be incentive to PvP in non-ranked matches or will we casual PvPers lose even more of our already-few queuers?
With WoW, battlegrounds form from the pool of everyone queuing on every server. Even if a huge chunk of people on all servers decide to just do rated battlegrounds, there’s still a huge population to choose from who are queuing for regular battlegrounds. If we have 30 Republic PvPers who mostly focus on PvP in their day-to-day activities, and 8 or 16 of those go off to do ranked warzones, that leaves us 22 or, eeshk, 14 queuing for regular PvP.
Keep in mind those 14 aren’t even necessarily online at the same time as each other. We can’t even get a Huttball game going without the Empire’s cooperation! I mean, I’ve got no qualms against pounding on some lightning-wielders, but they always seem so busy Huttballing against themselves that I just don’t see where we fit in.
BioWare is already warning us that “the current interim ‘gearing up’ system will change significantly” with Ranked Warzones. Speculation has me worried that, once again, there will be gear that is unreachable to those of us who choose not to participate in ranked warzones. And, honestly? That’s awesome. It’s great that they’re giving people a reason to participate in their game’s new challenges and content. Until, of course, that gear is used to slaughter and farm the Centurion-geared (or worse), fresh 50 PvPers.
Because, if you’re not competitive in PvP just because you’re new and there’s a gear discrepancy, what’s the motivation to stick it out? Only the people who truly love PvP will claw their way through the ranks toward Battlemaster and on from there. The casual I’m-Bored-Let’s-PvP types might find something else to do with their downtime.
This, again, is totally fine. Until you remember that we’re dealing with the same-server PvP issues. A low population of PvPers is a death sentence to PvP.
What happens when it takes 30 minutes to get a game to go? What happens when it takes 60 minutes to get a game to go, and you’ve only got 6 of the 8 people you’re intended to have? Fewer and fewer will queue, and it will exacerbate the problem further.
When WoW first introduced Alterac Valley, our server had queue times that lasted for hours, but the game itself lasted for hours or even days. There wasn’t an alternative; we didn’t know better. We hadn’t been spoiled by multiple, fast battlegrounds with a huge body of players to queue with. Sure it was boring to stand around waiting to get in, but once you got in, it was amazing. It was a tiny PvP sandbox with tons of Tonka trucks and dinosaurs. And, by dinosaurs, I’m pretty sure I mean harpies.
SWTOR’s warzones don’t have any dinosaurs or trucks. It’s not like I’m asking for siege vehicles (far from it, in fact, since I loathe them with a fiery passion). I’m not even asking for PvE in my PvP. I’m just looking for incentive to warzone. Once I get my rank 60 Valor and suit up in Battlemaster, is that it for me?
Will I get my I PvP’d Trophy at some arbitrary level of Uberness? Is the warzone gearing system there just to emphasize “We’re an MMO, and we have grindy stuff!”? Because, if you’re going to wear down the accessibility of PvP by letting people gear passed this level, there needs to be more incentive for the lower-geared to continue at this level.
No, I’m not talking about “welfare epics.” That’s just the same thing we have now in different packaging.
The incentive should be fun. Excitement. Maybe even a sense of pride at victory. There’s a rush to PvP — an exhilaration — that I can’t get anywhere else. I’m uncoordinated. I’ll never be an amateur athlete or even a spectator. But, PvP is competition that I can sink my teeth into without being the gawky, awkward girl I am.
Normally, I would suggest some sort of bracket system wherein better-geared players play with other better-geared players, but then we’re back to the same-server PvP issues. We’re still pulling more and more people from the already-too-small pool.
So, what’s the solution?
At this point, I’d say battlegroups, or wargroups, or battlezones, or whatever you’d like to call them, might be an option. Give a larger pool to pick from. But, “Community!” you’re now screaming at me. Is there really that much of a community now though? Are you and Whatsherface BFFs on your server? Queue together then. The most chat I see in warzones now amounts to “nice pass,” “wrong way,” or “inc right.”
Community probably matters in PvE. Knowing who’s just ninja looted from your allied guild probably matters. But how much community are we really even developing on our servers? With guild chat and other cliquey game mechanics, outside of meeting someone and pulling them into your guild, are you even making friends outside your guild? Does your server have some sort of Guild Co-Op that’s working to foster some amazing community?
Because, I have to admit, even in the oft cherished Vanilla WoW days, community seemed to me more about holding accountable for matters of personal responsibility and less about budding friendships. Is community really just a fancy word for the banishment and blacklisting of ninjas? Is it community if we can’t even be bothered to accept an invitation to group up for a lowbie quest boss on a long respawn timer? Quick! Tag it before someone else does! Mine, mine, entitlement, mine! I really don’t see how that definition of community could be too terribly tarnished by allowing for a larger PvP queue pool.
All I know is that I’ve considered starting a new character on a PvP server. Preferably one as high or higher in population than the RP server I’m currently on. I want to PvP. I don’t want to stand around the Republic Fleet waiting idly for my in-game mini-game to pop; I hate that lobby server feeling. Or, is the real game, “How Long Can You Wait Before Giving Up and Logging Out”?