Last week we got a chance to ask a few questions of Austin Peckenpaugh and Rob Hinkle and talk about a few PVP topics including warzones, balance, Outlaw’s Den and a few others. To find out what these two SWTOR devs had to say, please continue reading to read the whole interview!
How do we remind players that balancing pvp is difficult and not to overreact from occasionally imbalanced situations?
Austin Peckenpaugh: I’ve played a lot of MMOs and PVP’d for hundreds of hours or more in all of them (and thousands in some), so I am very aware of how frustrating it can be when games just feel imbalanced. It’s so obvious to you, as a player, that it makes you wonder how it could have been missed by someone whose job is to catch this kind of stuff. I think that’s a natural reaction to have, and I’m not sure there’s anything I can say that would ease that frustration or change that reaction.
However, I’d encourage players to keep in mind the sheer number of variables in play that can shift the balance of the game without their knowing it. We frequently hear, “we’re in the same gear and I can’t do anywhere near as much DPS as he can,” but we literally never hear “I’m just worse at playing my class than he is.” Similarly, we never hear, “he popped his cooldowns, relic, and adrenal at the right time and I didn’t” or “I lost because he broke LOS and interrupted me while I just stood there and took it.” These variables can tip the scales in what players may perceive as an otherwise “balanced fight.”
With that said, there’s no downplaying the importance of addressing class or spec imbalances when we think they’re a reality. The best reminder I could offer players is that balance is an ongoing process, so trust that we will do our best to ensure these imbalances are as short-lived as possible.
What is one simple piece of playstyle advice that you can give to help average pvpers improve their performance?
Austin: Stay alive. Really, one of the best ways to contribute to a match is to keep your “up time” high by not dying. To melee roles, plan your escape; don’t charge headlong into overwhelming groups of enemies without backup or without a good getaway plan; without these things, try to single out a lone target. To ranged roles, find a pillar or a corner and use LOS (line-of-sight) breaks to your advantage; stay in the back row.
Do you strive to balance pvp around the skill cap for classes or around average player performance?
Austin: It’s important to note that “skill capped” players are a pretty rare commodity – not because they don’t exist, but because they’re difficult to identify, aren’t readily available, and aren’t easy for us to leverage. We’re fortunate to have quite a few extremely skilled PVPers in the studio though, so we get a good deal of average and high skill performance tests and feedback.
Ideally, when a group of players face off against another group of like-skilled players, the game feels balanced. Whether those players are of average skill or are highly skilled, the balance should feel the same as long as both groups are of equal skill. What we’re more concerned with is that our typical players don’t feel like they can’t compete with highly skill players, and that highly skilled players feel well rewarded for being and playing better.
What is something even knowledgeable players may overlook when judging pvp balance?
Austin: I frequently remind myself that there’s always another approach to a fight. Certain matchups, in group fights and one-on-ones alike, may seem stacked against you at times, but it’s important to understand that you can take the exact same setup and use it with a different approach to overcome a previously impossible challenge.
I heard there are still some abilities that do not have perfectly mirrored mechanics between opposite faction classes. Is this true? Do you intend to resolve these difference or are they intended to stay as part of the flavor of the game?
Austin: Off the top of my head, Project and Shock are the only remaining unmirrored abilities, and Project is being rebuilt to strike instantly for Game Update 1.3. It is absolutely our intention to resolve what differences remain.
From a game design perspective, what differed in design vs. reality when it came to designing Ilum? Have you determined any conceptual solutions? What update can we have on the future of world pvp?
Rob Hinkle: Ilum production started late in the project, and after some internal prototyping and testing we discovered a couple of tech hurdles that really tripped us up. So our initial designs never made it into the game and we weren’t able to successfully adapt the design to something that was both achievable before launch and fun for all players. We know many players are eagerly awaiting a new Open World PvP experience in SWTOR. Engineers and designers are working on it, and will give an update as soon as we are permitted.
Are there plans to develop the Outlaw’s Den in any new ways?
Rob: We have a couple things that we are discussing for the Outlaw’s Den, but most of them are in the vein of accessibility and usability of the area. We’ve always wanted the Den to be a little on the wild west side of things, and we don’t want to suddenly change the area with gameplay and cause the players who enjoy the area to lose their playground.
Are we going to see cross-server queues soon? Possibly before ranked warzones?
Rob: Consistent player density for PvP queues is one of our top prioritites, and is definitely something we’re hard at work on. We should have the first steps for helping density coming soon.