Somebody please kill this Hutt already.
The last few days, people around me have been buzzing with disbelief, sadness and anger at the news that ranked warzones are going to be removed from the game with update 2.4. Assistant designer Alex Modny wrote on his developer blog:
"A smelly part of those Tauntaun guts is that for Game Update 2.4 we are removing 8v8 Warzones from the Ranked Queue. We are sad to see it go but the truth is that because of many factors not enough people played them and we didn’t support them well enough, so they are going away for now. Getting eight friends together and hoping another eight people are doing the same at the exact same time AND your two teams were equally matched was a nightmare for the players."No ranked anymore? So what will competitive PvPers have to do then? I quote:
"Right now, the Warzone maps we have in the queue focus on full team, objective based combat with a series of goals needing to be accomplished for the team to win. In 2.4 we are introducing Arenas, a Last Team Standing Warzone in which players have only one goal: to eliminate all players on the opposing team. That’s it. No planting bombs, capturing points, just a team of four versus your team of four in a battle royale to determine the victor."
Ranked players will just have to play deathmatch instead of spending their time on silly things like objectives.
Now there are just so many reasons I feel this is wrong. I'll name a few:
1) Arenas don't equal RankedOnce more, Alex Modny:
"The same amount of attention to team strategy and coordination will be required in high level Warzone Arena play so right now we want to focus on Warzone Arenas for the current Ranked matches."
This is a promise I don't believe the devs can keep.
Remember that Huttball where the enemy team obliterated your DPS but somehow lost with 6-0? Right, that was because they were playing team deathmatch in the middle and not objectives. I'm sure everyone playing warzones remembers a similar event and this is exactly the reason why Alex is wrong. Killing players of the other team has always been an objective in current ranked, but it is an objective that has to be balanced with other objectives, such as scoring a goal, defending, or capturing a node. This requires a high level of awareness of what is going on and a prioritization of the team effort over yourself. With deathmatches having no objectives and only four players it sure may be easier to form teams, but it will certainly be a different form of gameplay (dare I say, perhaps a more casual one?).
It is mind-boggling that the developers seem to think that arenas can replace ranked. The two sorts obviously have completely different objectives and a completely different team dynamic.
2) Don't fix it...
While the developers might believe the current ranked warzones are broken, I think the fact that people are enjoying them proves that they are not. Scour the official forum, and you'll find loads of useful and less-useful ideas from the community to improve ranked warzones. These threads should not be interpreted as an indication of them being broken, but as a sign of people truly caring. Just like others write down ideas about their class, operations or gameplay balance. Look at the zeal and passion the community has displayed since day one when it comes to crucial topics such as nerfing operatives, yet the little buggers are still around (nerf operatives!). Why should ranked warzones be treated differently?
In my opinion, the ranked warzones function well and are great matches to play. As with all high skill level requiring gameplay, it has a limited player base. How many guilds per server are progressing in Nightmare mode operations? The fact that there aren't many doesn't mean Nightmare mode should be removed all together. This is a problem many MMOs face. Challenging content may be played by a minority, but this doesn't mean you should only listen to the masses and reduce your game to a Farmville skill level.
Removing something that people enjoy is not a way to fix it. Sure, more people playing ranked would be great, but I think I speak for many as I say we'd much much much rather keep ranked warzones as they are than not being able to play them at all.
3) Breaking up communities
Not enough people queuing to being able to constantly fight ranked warzones whenever you want is not the problem the devs apparently want us to believe. Motivated players have looked for ways to circumvent this problem, by communicating about when to queue against other teams. Wait, so people are communicating with each other instead of just using the queuing system anonymously, and this is considered a bad thing? Yup, seems so.
Let me look at my own server, the Red Eclipse, as an example. Despite officially being a PvE server (!), it has its own forum with a thriving PvP section, where people post when and with whom to queue for ranked, together with the occasional organization of ranked kickball events (wherein players of different teams mix up together for fun). An in-game chat channel for ranked PvP was created to communicate as well as an IRC channel for cross-faction communication. One player was as generous as to gave out voice chat details or anyone needing communication for ranked. Ranked players often drop down to other group's voice chat to discuss the ranked scene on a friendly base and fill in spots on other teams when needed.
Ranked warzones as they are now don't limit our gaming experience, they enhance it in ways Bioware did not foresee. The ranked scene feels more like a community than I've ever encountered in SWTOR before, and then I'm not even remotely as much involved as many others.
4) Recent events
With the introduction of paid server transfers about a month ago, many players from the ranked guilds of my servers transferred to the Tomb of Freedon Nadd to play against other guilds of high skill. It was often a difficult decision, as players left non-ranked friends behind. I can imagine that finding out those thousands of cartel coins were spent on something that won't exist anymore within a few months leaves a sour taste.
At the same time, the ranked scene at the Red Eclipse got to know new players who felt they could give ranked a try as the remaining teams to play against consisted of ranked 'noobs' as well. Many guilds tried to assemble a team, sometimes even a cross-guild team, resulting in the revival of ranked on the server. Ranked may not be as sophisticated as on the Tomb of Freedon Nadd, but it's a lot of fun nevertheless.
My point is that it takes a lot of effort and time to build a ranked team. Removing ranked warzones as they are is pretty much a blow in the face for all the players who took that effort.
I have not written about it before, but I've recently gotten into ranked on the Red Eclipse. This summer our Rep guild went into temporarily hibernation (many people were on holiday) and Tiger and I joined a wonderful Imp guild that had many PvP enthusiastic players. Tiger ended up becoming PvP Officer, assembling a ranked team for our guild (I'm the team's sorc healer, Tiger takes care of the operative heals). Topics on our guild's forum were opened about ranked PvP specs and gear. We spent the last month working our arses of to gear up and get some team experience. Even though no one had played ranked before, we have been doing pretty okay, and it's been amazing fun.
I can safely say that ranked is one of the things that hugely motivates me to play SWTOR right now.
I'm not against change, but I think it's a great shame that perfectly well designed gameplay like this is thrown out of the window. Ranked is already there and there is no good reason not to let it stay, Arenas and Ranked can just coexist. Removing Ranked is a totally unnecessary move that will deprive a lot of players of the thing they like doing the most. Whether you play ranked yourself or not, if you agree, please sign this petition on the forum. I'm not getting my hopes up, but you never know. Let the devs hear what you think!