Wednesday, 26 October 2016

RNG in Knights of the Eternal Throne

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?


  1. "casuals love grinding" is such a counter-intuitive idea but I think you might be right. On the face of it you'd assume people who don't play often and/or seriously would be the least likely to do repetitive content but then again it's the easiest, least stressful option in some ways so perhaps they would...

    Going to have to think about this one.

    1. I know it sounds strange, but I know from LOTRO (an MMO that involves a lot of grinding), that many casual players love logging in to do something easy and steadily working to get closer to a goal. The best gear drops from tier 1 instances (that are *really* easy, I can solo them on a light armour class) as well as tier 2, but the former drop rate is much, much lower. Still, a lot of people play these tier 1 instances over and over until they have the best gear, then rinse and repeat on their next alt.

      I really don't get it, because I don't see the point in acquiring gear that you never need for the content you are playing on that character (I am strongly experience driven as opposed to loot driven), but apparently it gives some a great deal of satisfaction.

  2. Still sceptical about it, but I guess it will turn out to be one of the "friendlier" RNG systems. At least I hope so.
    What's completely mind-boggling to me is that at launch we *HAD* RNG bags for PvP gear AND THEY CHANGED THAT BECAUSE IT WAS HORRIBLE. ?! Can't wrap my head around that.

    1. Yeah, I guess they just... conveniently forgot about that? *sighs*

      My theory is that the developers were looking for a way to keep *all* players involved with the game in between chapters witj 1 single system & without adding much new content (DvL deja vu?). Gear is always a good motivator, but if they wanted to make it available to everyone (also people who don't PvE raid), they couldn't keep it dropping from bosses. The proposed system seems the most logical way to go about it.

  3. Not sure that I like the sound of the change, but expect I'll learn to live with it However, I'm wondering if the set that I got doing Dark v Light with xp bonus will still be interchangeable between characters. Also got other sets that I've made to be shared........

    1. Don't worry, those you can still send over. I realise now I explained that rather poorly for people did not follow the stream. I will fix it soon, thanks!

      You will still be able to send gear over, but what you cannot do anymore is exchange unidentified set bonus pieces for the advanced class of an alt, because the gear you acquire are always identified and automatically come with a set bonus for your character's advanced class. So if you want to get set bonus pieces for an alt, you'll actually have to play it.

  4. Eric has followed up with his threatened post on how "catch-up" gearing via crafting is going to work.

    1. Cheers. Do you have a link? I don't have access to a computer for a few days but I will see if I can look into it & post it here later then.


      Hey folks,

      As we discussed yesterday on the livestream, one of the goals of crafting is that it will be a mechanism where someone can gear up an alt, catch up to their friends, or even gear an off-spec. With the launch of Eternal Throne you will find that there is a new grade of materials and higher level items which can be learned from your Crafting Trainer. For endgame crafting, the intent is that you will be able to craft items which are within 2 item rating of the best gear in that tier, but without a set bonus. The exception to this rule is tier 1, where you will be able to craft items equivalent to the best item rating in that tier. All of the gear that you craft in this matter will be static, meaning that you cannot move mods. However, crafters will also be able to craft mods of those same item levels.

      If that is confusing let me give you some examples using made up numbers from Fallen Empire:
      Tier 1 – 216 with set bonus
      Tier 2 – 220 with set bonus
      Tier 3 – 224 with set bonus

      You would be able to craft at the following ratings:
      Tier 1 – 216 without a set bonus
      Tier 2 – 218 without a set bonus
      Tier 3 – 222 without a set bonus

      Let’s talk about how you get access to craft these items.
      Gear: You will earn the schematics to craft gear from their respective Command Crates. Ex: You will get schematics to craft tier 1 gear inside of tier 1 Command Crates. These schematics will require materials earned from Conquests in order to craft them.
      Mods: You will earn the schematics to craft mods through either reverse engineering the mod, PvP, or looting the schematic from an Operation boss. These schematics will require materials earned from Operations or PvP in order to craft them.

      This is a summary of how crafting relates to gearing in Eternal Throne. Let me know if you have any questions.


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