We recently sat down with SWTOR Director of Production, Dallas Dickinson, to talk about warzones, PvP server rule sets, and what the future holds for PvP enthusiasts in Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Swtorhub: During the beta weekends - and even during regular testing -Warzones have proven to be extremely popular, perhaps even more so than many other MMOs I’ve played.
Dallas Dickinson: Absolutely. I’m a little bit of a PvP player and I’ve played PvP in our game about 2 to 3 times as much than any other MMO. I think the warzone system is really, really friendly to that type of situation where you might have 10 minutes free waiting for somebody or some other thing might come up, so you can quickly jump in and play a warzone. I think we’ve had a really great response to that.
There are some people who live in the warzones of course, but for me as a more casual PvP’er I feel like I can get in, it’s fun, I can understand it, I can make some progress, get some kills, and hopefully I don’t bring my team down.
Swtorhub: Do you think normalized power levels has helped increase accessibility for new or more casual PvP players vs. slicing warzones into individual level range brackets?
Dallas: Yeah, and I do think there are some pros and cons to that. We’re certainly listening to player feedback because there are valid arguments on either side.
For the base of the system, which is to say, if I want to play a warzone right now, I can always get into one. I think the way that we’re currently implemented is great, but there are some edge cases there that we’re trying to address. They may not be addressed immediately, but in future launches we might change the system a little bit to address some of the feelings of imbalance that I think people are already talking about; especially when you get really, really high end players in there.
Swtorhub: Definitely. One of the main concerns I’ve seen come up fairly frequently revolves around the disparity between the number of abilities a level 10 and a level 30+ player might have access to in the same match. Damage amounts may be normalized, but that higher level player simply has a far greater assortment of tools in their toolbox for healing, damage mitigation, mobility, or crowd control.
Dallas: Exactly, and that is the original design. If you’re playing against somebody that’s 30 levels higher than you, you’re bolstered to be statistically equivalent but that higher level player will have more tools. That makes it actually more important that you learn how to play with your character in a group, so it’s a shared tool set of a little cadre of four people running around a warzone.
But yeah, there are some imbalances the further apart you get in level disparity that we’re looking into how to address in the near future.
Swtorhub: I’m sure a lot of players will be happy to know that it’s currently being looked into. Along with those future plans for warzones, can we expect ranked or rated warzone matches to be implemented as an option for players who really want to push the competitive aspect of PvP?
Dallas: Not at this time that I can speak to in terms of a timeline for implementation. There are a lot of ideas that fit into that category where it’s like, that’s a really cool idea. And at some point in time we may take a look at them, but it’s not currently on the short-term radar.
Swtorhub: Are there any current plans to expand on the Valor rank system post-launch?
Dallas: We know that there are some great opportunities to augment really a lot of the systems in our game, and PvP Valor is one of them. So we have some ideas in terms of how to make that system better, but in terms of giving you details on how we’re going to do that, and in what order, I can’t really do that right now.
Swtorhub: For players interested in hosting player-run tournaments, will there be any in-game support for organizing them, or even promotion tools, or will that type of thing need to be handled purely out of game?
Dallas: Certainly at launch you’re going to need to organize that one your own. In terms of when and whether we’re going to support that in the future, there’s nothing currently in development that I can talk about related to that. It really fits into the category of really cool ideas that we’re just going to prioritize based on what we think is best for the game, and also what the general feedback from the players tells us.
Swtorhub: The current warzone game types have proven to be extremely popular. Will you be adding any new game types post launch, or even new maps for existing ones? For example, I could easily see a lot of potential for having numerous Huttball maps.
Dallas: Yes, although in terms of the order in which we’re going to do specific other types of warzones, I can’t talk about that now. But the base three types that we have right now are certainly ones that we’ll do other versions of because they’re sort of standards. Out in the world of PvP there are other sub-game types that are certainly on our list as new ones that we might implement in the future.
Swtorhub: New MMO launches are kind of like the Wild West when it comes to players staking a claim on specific servers where their main characters will live over a longer period. For players who may be unsure of what server type to select, or are interested in the idea of PvP servers but might not know what that entails, could you give our readers a quick look at what they can expect if they decide to roll on a PvP server?
Dallas: The core difference is one that I think you’ll find really in any MMO. On a PvE server, you will never participate in PvP if you don’t intend to do so. You either have to go into a warzone which you queued up for, or you have to go to very specific areas. For instance, the planet Ilum is very much the endgame and you have to go to these open PvP areas there in order to participate in the battle of Ilum.
So, on a PvE server it is fully your choice. There is no way that someone might show up when you’re just trying to do your personal class quests, or you’re crafting or whatever.
On a PvP server, that is not wholly the case. There still are areas that are designated as sanctuaries where no one could ever PvP you no matter what. There are also flagging systems, whereby if I put a buff on you, and you’re a player on my faction, I am actually flagging myself temporarily for PvP. So there are some zones where you must be flagged, and if you’re flagged, you’re fair game. But if you aren’t flagged, you’re not fair game.
I’m simplifying a little bit, but those are essentially the three different types of areas. There are the totally safe areas where I may be a Republic player, and there will never be an Imperial player there, or if there is one, they cannot attack me. There are places where – if I’m flagged – I’m fair game. And then there are places where it’s a free-for-all, and just by entering the area you are flagged for PvP.
For players who really like PvP, they want that sense of danger. They want to feel like, if they’re on the side of the Empire and go someplace where the Republic might be, it’s a scary thing. Someone might disrupt my personal gameplay and that’s why I’m playing on a PvP server. So you still have knowledge of what might happen to you in any given area, but if you make the choice to go out into a bit of a no man’s land you could be attacked at any second, and you could be attacked by someone who is a way higher level than you.
Swtorhub: I played on a PvP server throughout the beta, and it seems like the first planet you’ll really start seeing a lot more players from the opposing faction is Tatooine, so right around the mid-20’s in terms of level range, even though Nar Shaddaa is really the first planet where both factions will be there questing at the same time.
Dallas: And we’ve been iterating on what areas we want to flag as what. For example, there was a period where on Nar Shaddaa we have that sort of general bazaar area and it was totally flagged for PvP. At the time I had a really high level character so I was just being a jerk and killing people and I kept being told that I was griefing. And I just said I’m not griefing; it’s the way you designed the game. So then the designers changed the way that particular area was flagged.
Swtorhub: I’ve definitely taken my share of dirt naps on Nar Shaddaa in open PvP areas. Or maybe for that planet they should be called neon naps.
Switching gears a bit, are there any plans to introduce gear that includes the Expertise stat at an earlier level on PvP servers, considering that you’ll be entering those PvP areas quite a bit before reaching the level cap?
Dallas: At launch I don’t think there’s going to be a significant difference. I’d actually have to talk to Gabe Amatangelo, our lead PvP designer, to be sure of this, but I don’t think we’re going to have different equipment available on different servers. The main difference is that you’ll have more opportunity on the PvP server to progress within you PvP Valor ranks.
So you’ll be able to get to a higher tier faster just because there’s more opportunity for PvP on those servers. Beyond that, I don’t think we’re going to make different packages of gear available on those shards.
Swtorhub: So we won’t be seeing mods crafted via crew skills that are specific to adding expertise on mid-level gear or that sort of thing?
Dallas: This is as much of a maintenance question as anything else which is why I’m saying it’s a design decision, but it’s also a production decision. Trying to maintain too many different rule sets is actually a nightmare just for supporting the game. So we try to make the differential rules very simple and something that’s actually invisible to the player.
For example, in the descriptions of the different types of areas I gave you, we actually have those individual areas flagged in exactly the same way on our PvE servers. It’s just that the flagging system isn’t on for them. So you’re still running into an area that would be contested, but because you’re on a PvE server nothing happens. But we want to make sure the content in both of those areas is pretty much the same. Otherwise, we get strange bugs filed on one server that we can’t reproduce on another server and it becomes a nightmare.
Swtorhub: Speaking of those flagged areas, players get an on-screen alert whenever they enter into a contested area to let them know that, yes, PvP can and will happen there. Are there any plans to expand that concept of an area being “contested” so that one faction may be able to temporarily gain control for their faction? Or is it simply intended as more of a heads up for players on the area flagging?
Dallas: Right now that is not a dynamic system; it’s simply informational. If I run over here, it just reminded me that I’ve entered into a Republic controlled portion of Tatooine so I should pay attention. So right now we don’t have any system that changes that dynamically.
The only minor exception is in the Battle of Ilum there are some statuses to change based upon how you’re playing there. It’s an open world so it’s not like one of the warzone arenas, so there are areas with a status that can change based upon who is winning. But in terms of the rest of the planets, that’s not the case.
Swtorhub: Are there any final things you’d like to share about PvP in The Old Republic for our readers?
Dallas: For players who have not played the game already who have a light to heavy interest in PvP, my experience has been and the feedback we’ve gotten from players who had played in testing, is that we have a really, really friendly PvP system. Friendly in terms of, it’s really easy to get into, it’s really easy to become a participant in it and get your feet wet. I think that’s one of the big strengths of our game in terms of PvP. We get people into it very fast, and a lot of people who are conceptually afraid of PvP get into it quickly, and find out that it’s really fun.
Not only that, but it’s also a reasonable way to progress in the game. Obviously there are some major events that happen in the game like when you get companions, when you get your ship, or when you get your first lightsaber if you’re playing one of the Force classes. Those things you kind of have to unlock by playing the story of the core game.
But there are players who live in the warzones, and they get decent experience, and they can progress. So they’re playing the game that they want to play, and area able to run up to endgame content that way. It’s not the primary way that people play the game, but it’s available to folks who are really into PvP.
Swtorhub: Absolutely. On at least one of my characters during the beta I progressed completely by doing my class quests on each planet, but otherwise jumping into warzones to earn enough XP to advance to the next planet.
Dallas: And if I were to recommend anything to a hardcore PvP guy, I would say do exactly that. You still want to do your main class story because that’s where you get the big unlocks. But if you really love PvP, spend all of your time leveling up between those major beats in the warzones and have a good time with it.