I try to cover all interesting SWTOR news on Ravalation. Indeed, several people have been asking what my thoughts on the highly controversial galactic command system are. The reason why I haven't written anything earlier is twofold. Firstly, Shintar voiced my initial reaction so well in Galactic Command - Bioware Trying to Reinvent the Wheel again? that I started to wonder if she can read minds. I just was reading each paragraph and nodding. Secondly, I wanted to wait for Thursday's livestream, because I expected a response to the community's outrage - and indeed, there was. And guess what? After having watched the livestream, I think I can live with these changes.
Concerns and solutions
Initially, two things about the galactic command loot system deeply worried me. The first was the disadvantage tanking and healing capable advanced classes would suffer over pure DPS classes, as it was confirmed that the loot drops would be entirely random. In such a system, it would be much faster to level up sentinels/marauders and gunslingers/snipers (who exclusively play a DPS role) than other advanced classes. The developers dropped the ball here. Luckily they realized this themselves and it was changed so you will get gear based on your character's active discipline.
The second concern was regarding the nature of random (RNG) rewards. Veteran gamers know that RNG usually goes hand in hand with grind. We've all been in a position where you're only after one specific item and it just won't drop. SWTOR has been relatively grind free for an MMO so far, because best in slot gear is guaranteed to drop from certain bosses; however, people who have played other MMOs (such as Lord of the Rings Online and World of Warcraft) will be able to tell you horror stories about how many times they ran instance X before they finally got item Y to drop. (Pro tip: mention "Miniature Brass Anvil" in the vicinity of a LOTRO champion player and watch their facial expression twist into a grimace as memories best left forgotten are stirred back to life and the PTSD kicks in.)
"Miniature Brass Anvil"
The response of the developer team was to make the loot boxes drop frequently. And with frequently I mean very frequently. Apparently we can expect one for the first playtime every half an hour, the rate slowing down as you progress further into the galactic command system. Doing harder content will reward with getting boxes faster. If you complete an operation, you may walk away with two or three boxes, the devs illustrated in their stream. That is more than you gain now, but you can get things you don't have a use for.
How will the new loot system affect our playtime?
It is hard to imagine what the new gameplay experience will exactly be like, but we can say the following things for sure:
- We will see less social interaction about gear. With gear now exclusively dropping individually rather than for a whole group to share, SWTOR follows in the footsteps of other MMOs that have done this, such as LOTRO. This means that people will experience fewer social stress regarding loot distribution. As I don't pug and am part of a drama free guild, for me it mostly means we will have to delete the loot list thread on my guild's forum. I slightly lament this, as I like loot as a kind of treasure you accumulate together with your guildies in a raid. The removal of this mechanic makes loot lose a bit of flavour, but I know from LOTRO that it isn't a real deal breaker.
- We will get more junk. I loathe and procrastinate inventory management, so even if some of the things that come out of command crates are going to be really cool (decorations? pets?), I am sort of dreading the side effect of having to sort out more stuff. The developers seem to think everyone loves opening crates with random content, so now we're getting more of that. I'm not sure where they get their data, but it's certainly not from me.
- You will actually have to play a character in order to gear it up. (The fact that I even need to write this down, shows how extremely friendly SWTOR's gearing system has been thusfar.) Don't worry, you can still send over gear to alts with legacy pieces. But you cannot exchange set bonus pieces for an alt anymore, because all gear automatically comes with a set bonus for the class and role of the character you receive it with. You also no longer can gear up a new guildie by running through an operation and giving them all the loot. This change thus makes it somewhat harder to get into progression raids as a fresh new player.
Overall, I think the new gearing system will be a positive change for casual players (hmm, where did I hear this before?). Sure, it will take longer to gain gear doing non-raid activities, but non raiders at least will have access to best in slot gear, including set bonus gear. From what I've seen in other MMOs, casuals love grinding. I'm sure I'll be seeing all these clueless people (*cough* DPS commandos in the healing stance *cough*) running around in gear with twice the stats of mine. Whether you think it's correct that you can get the best gear without raiding is another thing. Personally, I don't really care about what gear other people wear, as long as I'm able to do the content I want to do with my own.
The latter might be a problem for me personally. I don't have much time to play. Right now, I just login to raid twice a week and that's pretty much it. Gearing my characters up will probably be slower than average. But if the drop numbers are really as high as they say, it might still be faster than it is now.
Would I pick this new system over the current? No, I'm just not a fan of RNG and inventory management. But I guess I can live with it.
How about you? Did your opinion change after watching Thursday's livestream?