Just popping in this week to mark the end of 2022.
As I write this I’ve have recently hit rank 100 on the third Galactic Season track and have also started off the new PVP Season.
Once again I had fun with the Galactic Season. There was a nice mix of objectives and a very solid collection of rewards to earn. While I understand that over-the-top armor sets are a staple of the MMO design aesthetic, it’s good to see the Season 3 outfits include a comfortable jacket and pair of pants that look like something an average person could actually wear. While there should always be a place for armors with countless straps, flaming skulls and unnecessary spikes in odd places, I always welcome the option to wear something my character could reasonably sit down in while wearing.
The G.A.M.E. Pit Boss jacket is adorned with patches recalling aspects of games of chance from Star Wars lore including a sideways Cartel Coin symbol, Han Solo’s famous lucky “spike dice”, the face of a Sabacc card on the right shoulder of the jacket, and the back of another over the heart. This symbol also adorns the weapons and mounts rewarded during the Season.
The origins of the card game of Sabacc stretches far back into Star Wars lore as the game of chance in which Han Solo infamously won the Millennium Falcon from his pal, Lando Calrissian. Originally called “sabacca” in an early draft of The Empire Strikes Back, L. Neil Smith changed the name to Sabacc (perhaps to sound less like “Chewbacca”), in his delightfully odd 1983 novel Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu. Sabacc has been a stable of Star Wars‘ underworld gambling scene ever since. The first playable version of Sabacc, an amalgamation of Poker and Black Jack, appeared in West End Games’ Star Wars Roleplaying Game module Crisis on Cloud City in 1989, but many, many variants and updates to the rules have appeared since. Even in the Star Wars universe, there is no single rules set for Sabacc, and this has allowed creators to include and adapt the game in whatever ways they need from Black Spire Outpost in Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge theme park attraction to the game’s big screen debut in Solo: A Star War Story.
The large patch on the back of the Pit Boss jacket is especially fun, and once I picked it up, it immediately became a go-to outfit on my smuggler. I know SWTOR merchandise is a rare thing these days, but I’d love to see that “Galactic Champion” emblem on a patch or a pin or t-shirt for me to wear in the real world as well!
I definitely recommend sprucing up the jacket with a cheap Secondary Black Dye from the Underworld Reputation vendor who can be found on your fleet’s Cartel Bazarre. If you ever wanted to be cool like Fonzie, this might do the trick!
Weapons, Name Calling and Cheating
The latest game update also saw the debut of SWTOR‘s first revised PVP Season, and I’m dipping my toes again into regular player vs. player matches.
My first impression is that I wish there wasn’t overlap between the Galactic Season and the PVP season. Since participation in either does take time and commitment, having a break between seasons is important. It is nice when the game rewards different activities, but sometimes I just want to kick back and decorate, explore, complete dumb achievements or other stuff that does not actually advance any progress bar. I think that the game should remember to let players direct themselves sometimes.
Since I haven’t PVPed much this year, the PVP season does feel fresh to me, and it’s been fun shaking the rust off. Truthfully, when it comes to player-vs.-player, I am just average, but it’s nice to be able to queue for warzones alone and not have to worry about having an arena popping and dealing with the pressure of having to perform expertly in order to not let my teammates down. In the 8 versus 8 objective-based warzones, while I definitely want to win, I don’t really care if I don’t. As long as I did my part, I shrug and move on to the next one.
Progress down the season’s track, however, does strongly reward winning and active participation in the matches. It is difficult for some classes to achieve 8 medals even in a victory. I can’t tell you how many times my Sorcerer has finished a match with a 59k biggest hit, and once again missed out on the Annihilator medal that triggers at 60k.
While I understand that earning medals is easier in Arenas, in Warzones, it takes active engagement to come away with the magic number of 8 medals needed to advance the weekly objective for earning medals. Players need to aggressively engage in completing objectives, and folks who prefer to act in support or farm numbers may struggle to finish that season task.
I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. Capping nodes, scoring the Hutt Ball, and planting bombs on doors all make matches faster and, I think, more interesting. I’m certain Bioware will adjust the numbers next year, but I’ve had some entertaining games so far. I have had some stinkers too. Solo queueing into a match against a pre-made group is never a great experience, and isn’t an uncommon occurrence during off-peak hours.
The rewards for the season are worth discussing. The Cartel Combatant armor set doesn’t really stand out in comparison to the Galactic Season rewards and certainly not in comparison to old Ranked rewards. If the armor has a connection to Star Wars lore, I can’t quite place it; likewise it doesn’t feel thematically tied to any of the classes or either faction. I don’t dislike the set, but I don’t feel like it fits any of my characters. That said, the interactive decoration are pretty neat and my favorite items on the track so far.
For me, the rewards that motivate me the most are the season tokens that can be used to buy replicas of the flashy old Ranked Season rewards. I know this is a touchy subject for some, but my general feeling is that it is okay for elite cosmetic rewards to become more accessible after their time has passed. This has long been a staple of MMOs and even SWTOR has been recycling Nightmare armor and weapon cosmetics for years. If you have some leftover Light Side tokens, you can buy weapons identical to the Kell Dragon ones my team busted our humps to earn back in the day.
I won’t lie, I’m hoping to save up enough PVP season tokens to grab the weapon set I came up short earning nearly 8 years ago. But it’s going to take some time. Realistically, I won’t have enough tokens until well into the second season. Players who are better than me and more willing to participate in arenas will earn those tokens faster.
Again, I’d say this is okay. I know many Ranked players are lamenting their rewards being turned into participation trophies, but if I’m being brutally honest, it would’ve been much easier and quicker in the last couple of years for me to win-trade enough ranked currency to buy those replica weapons than it will take me to earn the new tokens through a couple of season tracks where the matches are real and people are trying.
Overall, I think the season is off to a good start. The season should be long enough for me to earn enough tokens towards my goal without feeling like all I must do in SWTOR is PVP. The solo queues have been popping, and I hope that means more people are trying it out. More people PVPing should mean better season rewards in the future and hopefully even new maps. There is no downside to that.
Happy New Year!
Just as the holidays began in earnest, Keith Kanneg, SWTOR‘s Project Director, delivered an early present with news of SWTOR’s ongoing modernization efforts. I’m no expert when it comes to computers, but folks who know tell me that upgrading to 64 bit should help the game be less resource intensive and allow some more robust processes in the game. In addition, by moving the servers to the cloud, most users should see reduced latency, especially folks who play on the Virginia-based Star Forge or Satele Shan servers, but are not themselves on the US’s east coast. These changes are hardly glamorous, and if done right should be close to invisible to most players, but they do demonstrate Bioware’s commitment to the game.
That said, for the vast majority of SWTOR players, the only updates that matter are story updates, and I don’t think anyone is satisfied with the amount of story we got this year. Hopefully as these infrastructure projects wrap up, we might see a more regular cadence of story updates, but we also need to understand that story requires a whole host of additional organizational expenses that other updates to the game don’t. Remember, at the very least, every time your character speaks a single line of dialogue, 48 different voice actors have to record that line, and that’s not including the writers, translators, audio engineers and everyone in the production pipeline who makes SWTOR‘s most prominent feature, fully voiced story, possible. Does moving SWTOR to the cloud mean we’ll get more frequent story updates? I want to hope so, but I think it’s best not to assume too much.
Finally, let me wish everyone who’s stopped by here a happy, safe and prosperous New Year! I’ve got a backlog of topics and weird alien text to translate and I hope to see you on the other side!