1.2 PvP or the Loser Reward Conundrum
My optimism with regard to TOR’s PvP changes in patch 1.2 was a little premature. I don’t mean the absence of rated warzones, which I suspect has something to do with the recent spasm of generosity toward level 50 (later amended) subscribers. I don’t mean how fast-paced and blappy the battles have become. I mean the business about accessibility and streamlined metagame. If anything, it has turned out to exacerbate faction imbalance by another step.
I have consumed a lorry-load of humble pie over the weekend, including a minor philosophical surrender: having taken another hard look at the value of ranged and melee (as opposed to tech/Force) mitigation in PvP, I have concluded that running a pure defence spec is a quixotic enterprise. The new Commanding Awe talent alone, making Focused Defence a formidable blanket defensive cooldown, is equivalent to most of the talents sheared off the top of the Defence tree. I am still higher in Defence than most specs, but I’m finding the Vigilance talents to be very helpful with little survivability trade-off. The rest of the pie had to do with my Republic teams being roundly and consistently spanked the vast majority of the time. While 1.2 allowed more blue-on-blue matchups, Republic is still preferentially pitted against Empire, and, frankly, tends to lose.
I am, by temperament, stoic about defeat. There are limits to my own dexterity (and the overall transition from PvP healer to melee dps/TOR-unique PvP tank took a while) and there are always lessons to be learned and operand conditioning to be hammered in. I do not take it personally, and I am reluctant to blame external circumstances for it unless the evidence really is conclusive. In the end, somewhere along the way, we sucked and need to l2p. Fair enough. I am also aware of, and quite sternly vigilant about, the tendency to overestimate one’s own misfortune and suffering, leading to taking victories for granted and whining about losses. No skewed perceptions in this case.
The pattern I’ve observed this weekend was consistent: slightly undermanned Republic team zones into the warzone, against a slightly better geared Imperial team. The tide turns against the Republic. Sensing the low likelihood of victory, several Republic players leave. The outcome becomes inevitable, and the rest of the team huddles forlornly at our single node. The loss rewards the Empire as victories always have, while (as of 1.2) giving the losing Republic very little. A few matches down the road, the gear disparity grows, as does Imperial unit cohesion (fewer quitters, more familiar team, better practiced patterns) and the loss pattern solidifies. The occasional weaker/new Imperial player is carried successfully and retains interest in PvP, becoming more skilled and geared. His Republic equivalent may ragequit. The pool of recruits for inter-guild premades is larger on the more successful side, leading to… and so on and so forth.
We’d been down this road before, of course. The early-quitters are making an arguably correct (if dishonourable) prisoner’s-dilemma choice, because, inexplicably, Bioware has yet to copy from WoW any penalties for leaving warzones early. I’ve seen the same person run from the sinking ship, requeue, and end up in the same match they’d left, if it took us discourteously long to lose it. The other, less straightforward issue is that of very poor rewards for the losing side.
The amount of Valor, Commendations, and credits awarded at the end of a Warzone is now based on your team’s score, with a bonus for the winning team. Experience rewards are still based on the amount of time spent in the Warzone.
I am typically the sort of fellow who would applaud this. Not quite with a snarling Gevlonesque contempt for the weak, but out of a sense of justice. A loss is a loss (is a loss) and vae victis. It should not be about punching the clock; a real stake enlivens the game. And a victory alongside the weak, against the odds, brings more satisfaction and glory. However (and it’s really not because the lash is on my hide, honest) I do wonder about the sustainability of the faction imbalance in the long run. Was Blizzard on to something when it chose to award, back in the mist-shrouded days of patch 1.8, a third of the spoils to the losing side?