(Editor’s note: This guest post is by @ben_b55, a proud member of the guild Despair on The Harbinger.)
“Giradda the Hutt welcomes you to Warzone Arenas of Death” and decides that 8v8 ranked warzones are too difficult to make work. Before I proceed further I just want to say that I am not a PvPer. I would say that on average 80% of my time is spent on PvE content. However, that does not mean I dislike or look down on PvP. My first reaction upon reading that 8v8 ranked warzones were going away was one of joy. Unfortunately on my main server, The Harbinger, there is currently a serious faction imbalance with regard to organized PvP-centric guilds. That isn’t to say there is a lack of competent PvPers, but when premade groups come out into the world of non-ranked warzones, it can be a painful experience. It has been this way on the Imperial side for some time, though prior to server transfers being instituted there were at least several Empire PvP guilds present. Most have since moved to PvP servers (like The Bastion) in order to experience a more balanced and competitive (although many would say largely Empire-dominated) environment in which to play.
With this change I felt that it would provide a better environment for casual PvPers, as well as the more hardcore PvPers who haven’t had the easiest time finding a dedicated group to run with. I soon realized, after discussing the topic with several other players, that perhaps my first reaction may have been a bit shortsighted. For one thing, as was brought up previously, there were several 8-person teams, as well as whole PvP guilds, who paid for server transfers so that they could enjoy the opportunity to remain active in 8v8 ranked combat. With server transfers costing just over $16 per character, that is a large amount of money spent. In general, many of the players who chose to move characters over to these other servers ended up moving more than one. A day after the initial release of this new information, there are already several forum threads related to this decision. One titled “Petition Please don’t remove ranked 8vs8!” already has 37 pages of replies alone.
Some have come to a different conclusion on this issue. They feel that the idea of 8v8 ranked warzones are in fact not really PvP. They feel it is merely about stalling enemy players, exploiting bugs and is rarely about trying to actually take enemy players down. While there is some truth to these statements, it doesn’t mean that objective-based PvP in a ranked environment isn’t worthy to continue existing.
All this said, the fact of the matter is that 8v8 ranked warzones, for the time being at least, are effectively dead. Let’s move on to what the future holds: 4v4 ranked arenas. Within this format there are two separate options: 1) queue individually or, 2) queue as a group of 4. The success or failure of these ranked arenas is really balanced on one thing: will the player ranking system actually work as intended? The idea for individual queues is that each role will have a mirrored role on the opposite team with a ranking that is at least comparably close. An important factor to consider is that roles are not determined by selecting a specific role that you intend to fill, as is the case in the Group Finder queue.
What does this mean? We also know that as soon as a player queues for any type of PvP content, be it warzones or arenas, they will no longer be able to reset and reallocate their skill points until they leave the queue or leave a warzone or arena. This mechanism doesn’t factor in the presence of hybrid builds. If a player chooses to put an equal number of skill points in two separate skill trees, be it tanking and DPS, or DPS and healing, the player will automatically be queued in the role of a DPS. This has the possibility to drastically affect how well the ranking system is able to set up matches that are truly competitive. Yes, most players tend to stick predominantly to one skill tree, but it feels as if it would be important to try and place players with similar skill point distributions against each other as well. If players continue to succeed by using methods such as these I would hope that the ranking system would work as intended, and after a period of time begin placing these competitors against players of the proper ranking. This isn’t inherently a big issue, just something that could potentially cause individual ranked warzones to take more time to find their footing than initially predicted.
The second option is for premade groups of four to queue for ranked arenas. In this environment, what builds specific players have do not matter; it’s the overall group rating that determines who are chosen as their opponents. Overall it seems this will have the fewest problems to work out, especially as this will be where the majority of 8-person teams will end up, having divided their teams into two effective units (although with the assortment of group make-ups currently out there, this will likely be a more difficult and painful process to work through).
As of right now we have no idea if these groups will differ from the current format. Will each group be formed into a specific team with a team name? Or will it stay (as it currently is) with no team name and the ability to change out team members on a whim between matches. As of now I feel that it will remain the latter.
One feature we have not yet heard about that could change this would be the introduction of leaderboards. In most games, leaderboards are the lifeblood of sustained ranked PvP. Currently the only way that players of SWTOR have found to create anything close to a leaderboard is by submitting combat logs to sites to wag their epeen around. Clearly this is far from what is needed to determine who is “the best there is and the best there’ll ever be.” If this feature isn’t properly integrated, it will not matter if it is pre-season or season one.
The last topic I will discuss is that of rewards for ranked warzones. Firstly I will include a few quotes from players:
“Ranked should be about winning, I see no reason why you should reward losses in any way shape or form.” – Gaddock Teeg – Host of the Unnamed SWTOR Podcast (@GTeeg)
“The incentive is winning, and learning to work together better.” – R3DN4 – OotiniCast (@R3DN4)
“Ranked PvP gives an incentive similar to PvE progression. It creates a way to gauge ability and creates an objective…Ranked PVP is about pride. Not gear.” – DurtaDurta (@DurtaDurta)
“Ranked PvP is a form of horizontal progression. Gear and power isn’t the impetus, but pride is.” – Geldarion – Official SWTOR Forums Gunslinger Class Representative (@Geldarion)
While I agree with the sentiments expressed above, I do feel that rewards for engaging in content that is of a higher tier than what the average player participates in deserves specific rewards. For going into hardmode and nightmare mode Operations, higher tiers of gear with set bonuses are given for successful completion of encounters. In contrast, organized groups of PvPers can easily decimate random groups and get the same rewards that they would get for running ranked at about the same rate, if not faster.
The problem is the ability players have to convert Warzone Commendations into Ranked Warzone Commendations. One of two things needs to happen if this is to change and actually encourage ranked play: either the conversion rate needs to be increased to something like 100 Warzone Commendations for 10 Ranked Warzone Commendations, or the ability to receive Ranked Warzone Commendations needs to be exclusively from competing in ranked play, removing the ability to convert the commendations altogether. In this way the best PvP gear would only be attainable by participating in the higher difficulty content. There could also be added daily and weekly missions pertaining specifically to ranked warzone arenas, but unlike the normal PvP dailies only wins would count toward the completion of those missions.
There is a good amount of time left until Game Update 2.4 is released. Changes may still be implemented between now and the official release date. Hopefully Bioware takes these concerns and suggestions seriously. How it’s implemented could be the deciding factor for the decision of many PvP players regarding whether to stay or leave SWTOR. Hopefully the Warzone Arenas of Death bring life back to ranked PvP!
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