Ranked warzones are on-track for Star Wars: The Old Republic to go live with Patch 1.3: Allies. This feature was supposed to be part of Patch 1.2: Legacy, but was pulled at the last minute because it wasn't ready. Players who experimented with it on the public test server found it lacking, and BioWare decided they didn't want to release something that failed to meet community standards during testing. The last-minute removal of ranked warzones from Patch 1.2 upset a lot of PvP enthusiasts, and its inclusion in Patch 1.3 may be a pretty big deal in terms of drawing disgruntled players back to the game.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether ranked warzones will be actually implemented with Patch 1.3, or if the feature will be deactivated before the patch goes live. They will be present on the public test server, and if they again fail to meet the community's standards, they will (according to Emanuel Lusinchi at the May 26 MCM Expo Q&A in London) be "postponed." It's the community's responsibility to try this feature out on the public test server - use it, try to break it, report your findings.
There are a few things players will need to know, though, before ranked warzones hit live servers. Preparations will need to be made.
If you are currently level 50 but have been holding off on PvP until ranked warzones are added to the game, it is of paramount importance that you get in on the same footing as everyone else. This means even fresh 50s will need to swap out their PvE gear for level 50 PvP gear with Expertise. And until you earn enough warzone commendations to buy Battlemaster pieces, that means Recruit gear.
This set can be purchased from the Recruit PvP vendor for plain old credits. The full set includes:
|Relic (2)||11,300 (x2)||48 (x2)|
|Implant (2)||17,000 (x2)||69 (x2)|
With the full set (896 Expertise), you receive the following bonuses:
This is the minimum recommendation for level 50 PvP, ranked or otherwise. The downside to this is that your PvE gear likely has better stats in everything else - you will have less health, lower primary stats and reduced advanced stats (e.g. Shield Rating, Alacrity, etc.). But at this stage of the game, Expertise is significantly more important than that. Also, Recruit gear is not customizable. There are no mods to swap out; what you get is what you get, until you earn enough commendations to get something better. And unlike the other level 50 PvP sets, the Recruit set doesn't offer bonuses from equipping multiple pieces.
Be that as it may, Recruit gear is your first stepping stone to Battlemaster and War Hero. You need it in order to advance.
There are a few reasons why playing a more in-depth social game will be important for ranked warzones. Firstly, with server transfers coming up, server populations will grow - hopefully by a lot. Destination servers will see a big influx of new players, and "refugee" players will quickly form their own cliques and pre-mades. Success in PvP comes from teamwork, and you will want to be part of a team that is capable of working together at least as well as these new people.
The second reason is that ranked warzones will only be for pre-made 8-man groups. Queueing solo or in an ops group with fewer than 8 will send you into regular, unranked warzones, so if you want to play ranked warzones, you need 7 friends. Preferably 7 friends of roughly the same rank as you.
The decision to limit ranked warzones to 8-man ops groups was intended to prevent loss of rank due to incompetent strangers - something that is beyond a player's control when he queues up solo or with a pick-up group. Imagine this scenario: you queue up for solo PvP and end up in a group with a handful of fresh-50's who don't even have Recruit gear. These players run around like headless chickens, die a lot and generally amass fail, causing the team to lose the match. You have no control over these people - you can yell at them in ops chat all you like but it won't make a difference. Losing the match causes you to lose rank, and it's not because you did badly - it's because the team of strangers didn't know what they were doing. Inversely, if you queue with a team that you know, where everybody is capable and geared and knows their part, and you lose the match anyway because you were simply out-played, it's easier to accept the loss of rank.
SWTOR lacks an in-game voice chat feature, and the chat box can become cluttered with "spam" messages, so PvP teams need an alternate method of communicating effectively during matches. There are a number of options for this - some are free, some require a monthly fee. Some chat servers can be hosted locally for free, but require some technical know-how.
There are others, but these ones are arguably the most popular and the most likely to be already installed on your teammates' computers. You will likely want to set these up for hands-free rather than push-to-talk - the default chat button for Ventrilo is L-CTRL, and holding down the CTRL key while trying to run and click and not die in a warzone can have some... interesting consequences.
If you haven't leveled your Biochem yet, get to it. Rakata stims and adrenals will boost you into a super-charged state for a few precious seconds. If you want to survive as a ball-carrier in Huttball, do like the pros and juice up. Top-level crafted purple stims and medpacs are superior to anything you can buy with credits, and Biochem is fairly easy to level - crank out tons of cheap stuff for the crafting XP, reverse-engineer it to get some of the materials back and keep going.
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This should go without saying - the more you do a thing, the easier it gets. Jimi Hendrix and Django Reinhardt and Chet Atkins weren't super-amazing the first few times they picked up a guitar. They got as good as they did by putting in the time to learn and hone their craft. Spar with friends to develop some killer 1-v-1 strategies, study the warzones and learn the tricks of the trade there. You might never be the Angus Young of Huttball, but with practice and patience and observation, you could become the Malcolm Young of Huttball - steady, reliable and vital to the success of the team.
Don't forget to check out Gonzo's guide, Top 5 Tips for New PvP Players!
Got any tips you would like to share with others who are looking forward to ranked warzones? Let us know in our comments!