Star Wars The Old Republic’s PvP Revamp is one of the main highlights of Game Update 7.2 but has received a mixed reception from the player base. It features the separation of warzone and arena queues, a new Arena Map and a fluff participation-based rewards system (tailored after Galactic Seasons). There are also several minor changes and quality-of-life improvements. You can read more about these changes in my SWTOR PvP Revamp Overview Article.
However, these improvements come at a cost. The removal of Ranked PvP.
Here are my thoughts on the Revamp. I’ll be discussing various topics such as toxicity, community and other ‘issues’ with PvP. This article concludes with a wishlist for PvP.
But before we get into my thoughts, let’s define toxicity.
The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary defines toxicity as an ‘extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful quality’. Banter is defined as ‘to speak to address in a witty or teasing manner’. People on the internet throw around the word ‘toxicity’ in regard to behaviours, words or actions they don’t like or agree with all the time.
But what about in a video game environment? How do different players define toxicity? Most players would agree that behaviours such as throwing, win-trading, griefing and exploiting are ‘toxic’. But when it comes to words typed or said, everyone reacts differently. What one person considers harsh or malicious another would consider just banter. More competitive players are more likely to brush off most of this type of toxicity as banter.
Given the complexities of human behaviours, conditioning and emotions, toxicity is something that can not be solved in a video game. However, as I discuss in this article, it can be reduced with the right decisions.
But first, we’re going to talk about Ranked PvP.
Ranked PvP was a staple of the game for over 9 years and ran for 14 seasons. I was honestly disappointed but not surprised that it was being removed from the game. Even though I haven’t actively done Ranked since Season 3, I feel awful for the players who loved it and mourn the removal of challenging content from the game.
It has also brought back painful memories of the removal of 8v8 Ranked. I had always naively hoped that it would one day make a comeback. Of course, there’s no hope of that now.
The reason the developers gave us for the removal of Ranked was to encourage positive play but ultimately to reduce toxicity. Some toxic behaviours were present in Ranked such as throwing, win-trading and even straight-up exploiting. However, Bioware’s lack of success or attempts at moderating these behaviours in later seasons led to poor player experiences which gave the developers license to remove Ranked. In essence, they just gave up on it.
Something as simple as removing the Top 96 Rewards would have gone a long way to reducing these toxic behaviours. I remember the first few seasons of Ranked being pretty chill back when we didn’t have the Top 96 Rewards. It’s a shame the developers didn’t do a recent Season without Top 96 Rewards or try anything else to save Ranked (but again, not surprising).
But alas, there are other types of toxicity (not unique to Ranked PvP) that the PvP Revamp does nothing to address.
Removing Ranked won’t get rid of Toxicity in PvP
To say that toxicity only existed in Ranked PvP is incredibly naive. As someone who has primarily played unranked PvP for many years now, I can assure you there is plenty of toxicity. Every other match there is a player raging at their teammates for not playing objectively or insulting their team for some other perceived injustice. This type of behaviour and similar ones are quite normal in PvP environments and have been a staple of SWTOR since its launch. So removing ranked is not going to solve this type of PvP toxicity in the slightest.
So when the developers tell us they want to remove toxicity, they only mean select toxic actions or behaviours, not more common forms of toxicity. Having a better understanding of how players perceive PvP in SWTOR, could help address some toxicity in the game.
There are two types of PvPers
Broadly speaking in SWTOR, there are two types of PvPers. Those who like to engage in PvP combat (number farmers) and those who like to click on blue shiny things over fighting other players (objective players). In a sense, these two groups of players define ‘winning’ differently, at least in Warzones. For the number farmer, having the highest DPS or effective healing etc. on the team is ‘winning’ while actually winning the match itself matters less. For objective players, winning the overall match is most important with DPS, heal etc. numbers considered irrelevant to overall match victory (according to these types of players anyway).
SWTOR’s revamp does not do anything to solve this community divide. There is a misconception among some casual players that when the PvP Revamp goes live, all the number of farmers will go into the Arena queue. Players who ignore objectives and number farm have always queued for Warzones (even after Arenas came out in 2.4) because they can get larger numbers on the scoreboard in Warzones than in Arenas.
This divide in the community is a key factor perpetuating toxicity in SWTOR. As long as there is no 8v8 deathmatch mode in the game, this divide will continue to exist.
SWTOR is not the only MMO with this Divide
I’ve seen this same divide in another MMO I played for a time, Elder Scrolls Online. While their Battleground system does have a deathmatch mode, the developers changed the queue system a while back to be separated into solo and group queues instead of by match type. This I believe was a mistake and increased tensions in the PvP community, and in turn, increased toxicity. Deathmatch players were annoyed they rarely got deathmatch games and objective players got upset that they got stuck with deathmatch players (because they were ignoring objectives). This ended up leading to a decline in players queuing for Battlegrounds.
ESO isn’t quite a direct comparison to SWTOR (as again, this divide has always existed in SWTOR to an extent). But it serves as another example of what happens when players with competing philosophies are forced to queue together.
Funnily enough, the reason the ESO developers changed the queue system was that some players complained about premades. I’m glad the SWTOR developers aren’t doing the same queue separation that ESO did. Even now in the SWTOR community, there are players calling for separate premade queues. I believe the matchmaking system the developers are attempting (if it works) is the best solution.
I’m very strongly opposed to preventing friends from queuing together. This is an MMO after all. And honestly, I find facing premades breaks up the occasional monotony of Warzones and can provide some challenge. Although, in my experience, not all premades are made equal.
Since the announcement of the removal of Ranked, more ‘casual’ players and those who don’t even PvP have been mocking Ranked players and/or insisting that it deserved to be removed (and various other opinions in between). These attitudes demonstrate the same theme, hatred of top-tier competitive players. A sort of jealousy really when it comes down to it.
I really don’t understand why any player would want content taken away from another player simply because they don’t play it or enjoy it. You don’t see high-end PvE players or PvPers asking for the removal of story content from the game. What gives casual players the right to ask for harder content and even PvP to be removed from the game?
Ironically these types of players end up perpetuating the very abuse and harassment they claim to receive from high-end players. A recent update in ESO (Update 35) divided the community with many endgame content creators getting harassed and even receiving death threats all because they dared disagree with the developers.
As far as I’m aware, no one in the SWTOR community has quite been that deranged about the PvP Revamp (although there have been issues in the past). But these same attitudes very much exist in SWTOR.
The Casualisation of MMO’s
The increasing casualisation of MMOs (not just SWTOR) has given casual players the license to belittle and bemoan players who engage in harder content. This is a repeated pattern seen in other MMOs as well (again, ESO is a very prominent example of this).
While some casualisation of the genre was necessary given the aging MMO Gamer demographic, it needn’t come at the expense of challenging content. MMO developers would rather eliminate this content than provide stepping stones for more players to get to this content.
We saw this in SWTOR when 5.0 launched. The developers went through and removed mechanics from story mode operations. This reduced the barrier to entry into raid content. However, in doing so it made the step up to harder raid content much higher.
I won’t be surprised if further steps are taken by the developers to make the game easier. Yes, there are some Raids and specific boss encounters in SWTOR that are still difficult for the majority of the player base. But I wonder how long that will last?
What is missing from the PvP Revamp?
The removal of ranked isn’t the only issue with this revamp. The developers have made no attempts to address ongoing combat issues and class balance in PvP. PvPers do not agree on these issues though.
The prevalence of slows and snares is probably one of the most annoying combat issues. Not all PvPers would agree with me on this. However, I think there is a partial solution that would be acceptable to most PvPers. Healers.
Cleansing as a healer in PvP is quite a frustrating experience (especially as a Merc/Operative). Half of the CC’s, slows, snares etc. you can’t even cleanse and on top of that your cleanse ability has a ~10-second cooldown. So what’s the solution?
- Reduce the cooldown of Cleanse abilities (for healer disciplines only) to ~3 seconds.
- Make it so cleanse abilities can cleanse any negative effect (CC, slow, snare etc.) regardless of its type (Force, Tech, etc.)
- Example: Merc and Operative Healers will be able to Cleanse Whirlwind (CC) which is a force ability type.
Now, this isn’t a complete solution. But, it would be a step in the right direction and make healers more valuable in PvP.
Another ongoing issue with PvP is D-sync (players teleporting forward disappearing for a couple of seconds in the process, commonly occurs on Huttball Maps). The developers have been attempting to fix it for a few years now. It has been a long time since we’ve heard anything about this and it was not mentioned in the PvP Revamp Livestream.
What the Developers should add to SWTOR PvP
Add an alternative to Ranked PvP
The removal of ranked has left a big hole in SWTOR PvP. There is no reason to get better or as Biggs eloquently put it in his video, there is no more mountain to climb. Adding a leaderboard system would have been a good compromise for the removal of ranked. If done right, it would drive competition and give players a reason to improve and get better.
There are many examples from other MMOs that could work in SWTOR. But I think some kind of points system based on the new Battle Record system would be a great starting point. Having rewards tied to leaderboards rather than a Galactic Seasons copy pasta would have given players a more optional competitive experience for all modes of PvP.
A new Warzone Map
We have not had a new Warzone map since Vandin Huttball was introduced in 2019. This map was the second reskin of Huttball added to the game and got a lukewarm reception from the community.
A lot of unranked PvP regulars have expressed disappointment at the lack of a new map being added with the PvP Revamp. Here are a couple of ideas for a new map.
- Novare Coast or Voidstar Reskin
- Capture the Flag
- 8v8 Team Deathmatch
8v8 Team Deathmatch
I have wanted to see deathmatch Warzones for a long time now. I would be perfectly happy for the developers to use existing maps modified if need be. Ideally, hazards or traps should be added to make things more interesting.
There are several different ways you could implement deathmatch mode. But I think the best way is to just let the teams have at it until the specified match time ends (the team with the highest score wins) or one of the teams reaches a specific score (based on kills).
The PvP Revamp had the potential to bring players back to the game. Unfortunately, it falls short lacking big drawcards to bring players back. Sure there will be an increase in players queuing to see what’s changed initially and probably to grab some of the fluff rewards. But it probably won’t take long for queues to go back to how they are now.
The removal of Ranked PvP leaves a big hole in the game one that will not easily be filled. Using toxicity as an excuse for its removal shows a lack of understanding of the complexities of toxicity and of the competitive nature of PvP. The other changes they are making and their goals prove this. It is yet another casualty of the casualisation of MMOs.
Understanding how some forms of toxicity impact SWTOR PvP could lead to an improved experience for all PvPers (if the developers are willing to put more time into PvP). Only time will tell. I’ll be sticking around, for now, to see how 7.2 goes down. For how long? Who knows? But my patience for this game is wearing thin and as far as I’m concerned, I’ve been incredibly generous with it.
Sure there are other MMOs with PvP and plenty of games with competitive play out there. But there is no other game like SWTOR. There is no other game that has combat like SWTOR’s. There is no other game set in the Star Wars universe that gives players the combat choice flexibility SWTOR does. There is currently no other game that lets you role-play an iconic Star Wars character/role in the Star Wars universe like SWTOR does.
I’m tired of wasting my energy hoping for SWTOR to reach it’s potential.
3 thoughts on “My Honest Thoughts on the SWTOR PvP Revamp”
Powerful conclusion. I feel you.
I think the leaderboards reward system is an amazing idea! I can’t stress how great that idea is. Wow! Please Bioware, make that happen!
On toxicity, it gets way worse than what you mentioned. They “stalk” players. I’ve played with guilds who are mostly Latin American, and seen these toxic players come to thier voice channels and say ultra racist things just because Latin American players dared do Ranked Warzones. I saw that happen for two years to my Latin American allies. Toxicity isn’t even the word for that. It’s straight up white supremacist culture.
Regarding two types of players. I argue it’s those playing to win and those not playing to win. I go for nodes, but I can also wreck a player. When Im doing a warzone weekly, I’m trying to do all 3 weeklies. I’m trying to win. Not ignore the game or selfishly make my team lose because I want high numbers on a leaderboard that disappears forever after a few seconds.
I shouldn’t have to go to a huttball match and be playing by myself, getting the ball and scoring without a single soul coming after me. Though I admit that’s rare. But it’s happened. This is an mmo, I expect players to play.
Those not knowing the maps and those eager to look at a meaningless scoreboard that disappears forever are the same level to me. Those not playing to win.
My view on Ranked. Ranked is a lot like chess. And so are warzone regs, because all of the experience and knowledge applied in ranked can also be applied to warzones and is applied in warzones. Ranked players do play warzones. They also do openbworld pvp when we invite them. There is a culture of players who really know the craft of pvp and they deserve a home.
That being said, arenas weren’t it. This is content level 10 players do, when they take the Intro to Warzones mission for their accessories. They get arenas, mostly. This is the content they do to practice pvp and master their abilities as they level. Sometimes they will get a more complicated map that has objectives. So they now have to also learn the terrain on top of their new skills. But they will mostly get arenas as they level up to endgame.
Can you imagine the heartbreak these pvp players get when they find out that the very same exact content they did leveling from lvl 10 to 80 is their pvp endgame content?! That’s lazy on Bioware’s part. Arenas should have never been considered endgame. And it may have been part of the reason as to why the ranked community was so small and hardly ever popped.
I was queued to Ranked every single day as a Seer healer in 7.0 and never got a single pop. It was dead content. That to me is why I believe it got removed.
But your leaderboard special rewards is an amazing idea. It should reward the top 30-50 players. On top of the new GS style reward system for warzones and arenas.
The leaderboard shouldn’t be based on parse numbers. It should be based on wins from 8v8 and/or 4v4.
I’m with you Zam Zam. Let’s get the word out!
As for the white supremacists, we should all ban together to get them kicked from all EA games permanently.
The problem with PvP is far more complex. It starts with the PVP Season rewards. The achievements to move up the season rewards ranks have nothing to do with winning. In fact they incentivize not winning, or drawing out matches as long as possible to farm them. Second, the population of PvP’ers is so small that you never get more than one match going at a time. Which means you have always have a premade on one side and casuals on the other. The first side wins every time. In order for a match making system to work you need to have more than 16 players in a queue. In fact, you need WAY more than 16 players in a queue. SWTOR just doesn’t have this. Part of the reason for this is that they allow premades in the level 10+ queues so new players start off with the deck stacked against them. They don’t have any fun so they don’t drop opt out of PvP going forward. This is what happens when you allow one group of players to exploit another. And make no mistake, this is exploitation. Even if you make a separate premade queue it won’t solve the problem since you have such a low population of PvP’ers if eight people queue separately, odds are at least four of them will get in the same group. They should only allow premades in 80+ PvP. Maybe 45+ PvP. But never in 10+. That queue is for PvP newbies to learn the maps, make friends, and put together a premade for the later queues. Make the 10+ PvP queue not count towards PVP season objectives. That way even the premade work around isn’t worth it. Make a separate reward system for 10+ PvP that gives items important to new players but not so much to more experienced ones. If you make people’s initial experience with PvP more enjoyable you will get more of them engaged at later levels. Finally, make actually winning the match the focus of the PvP season objectives for later queues. The way it stands now the one only purpose for PvP is to farm season objectives. Once people do that they just stop queueing until the next season. They’re not interested at all in actual Player vs. Player combat or competition. In fact, the less competition the better.