A Non-Economic Tangent
Just a quick disclaimer that this post is only about economics in the sense that it is part of my attempt to process my thoughts and emotions regarding the current state of this game I care about so much. I am legitimately concerned about the financial viability of the entire game based on the decisions being made by the powers that be. There’s nothing more fundamental to the health of the in-game economy than the financial health of the game itself.
It has been a chaotic and frustrating few weeks. The player base is increasingly agitated, the forums have moved from toxic to nuclear, and the number of previously passionate members of this community that slowly drift away grows each day. However, let me be clear that I expect to play this game until another Star Wars MMO becomes a reality or the SWTOR servers are turned off. To use an analogy that I crafted in a recent forum discussion, I feel like I’m trapped in a bad dream where I’m the lookout atop the Titanic and I can see the iceberg on the horizon. I am frantically trying to tell everyone, or anyone, what I see coming, but no matter how loud I scream no one seems to hear me. Everyone is going about their business, continuing on a path toward looming disaster.
So why write now? And what in the world does that title mean?
On July 9th, 2015 BioWare posted a much anticipated developer blog entitled Operations and Flashpoints in Fallen Empire which confirmed the fears of many in the end-game PVE community by announcing:
We know that many players love our Operations and look forward to the introduction of new challenges, however with Knights of the Fallen Empire there will not be any new Operations.
With one sentence, BioWare struck a crippling blow to many raiding guilds in the game, but many of us have persevered too. We still have no announcement regarding an expected time horizon for new end-game content, but guilds like mine have been trying to bring in new members and focusing on clearing old Operations that many of our members did not even attempt at their original level for varying reasons.
One of the biggest issues with the current state of end-game PVE though has been the persistent lack of Best-in-Slot (BiS) 224-rating gear drops in Nightmare Mode Operations. The current state of Hard Mode Operations, including the new Priority Hard Mode each week, has allowed raid teams to largely gear up in 220-rating and 224-raiting gear by exclusively running the easiest Operations in the game repeatedly, specifically Eternity Vault and Karagga’s Palace. I’ve cleared Hard Mode Eternity Vault during 4.0 with as few as six people in the group and received 224-rating gear for the effort because it was the Priority Hard Mode Operation just four weeks into 4.0 for some reason. I’ve put a lot of effort into becoming a progression team DPS of reasonable quality but I’m far from elite, and this story can be found ad nauseum on Twitter from across the player base.
So while gear has been overly plentiful through the Priority Hard Mode mechanic, we have to choose between running Hard Mode Karagga’s Palace yet again this week for Best-in-Slot 224-rating gear, or go attempt Nightmare Mode Operations that are dropping only 220-rating gear. The community has been clamoring since the very first day of early access for this to be fixed and for the statement made 151 days ago in that developer blog to be fulfilled:
Nightmare Mode will also be available for all the Operations that had it previously, and will reward the same as the highlighted Hard Mode, as well as the unique mounts and titles available currently.
And today, after 151 have passed since those words were originally disseminated to the player base in the middle of a disheartening announcement about an entire aspect of an MMO being left out of the largest expansion since this game launched, we have learned that there is in fact an issue with Nightmare Mode loot tables after all:
First, we discovered there is a bug with the percentage chance of a 224 rated item dropping in any of our Nightmare Operations. We plan to address this when we release Chapter 10 (Game Update 4.1) scheduled in February.
There are so many layers of agony in this brief quote. First, the statement rings a bit hollow when you attach “discovery” to something that every member of the SWTOR raiding community has known for about six weeks. However, fear not raid teams of SWTOR! This known issue with the gear drops from the top end-game content (but not new end-game content remember) available in 4.0 will be resolved in approximately 8-10 weeks… seriously.
Let me be clear: it is a waste of time to fix this in February. There is not a progression raid team in the game that will need 224-rating gear in February because of the ludicrous Priority Hard Mode system that’s been put in place. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be fixed, but it is nothing short of financial suicide to launch an expansion with zero new end-game PVE content, then introduce a new system that undercuts the gear progression aspect of the top tier of existing end-game PVE content, and put forth as a solution to fix the issue 16 weeks after the expansion went live. Just let that soak in for a moment.
Now for the crescendo…
This statement [note: referencing quote before last] is in error and needs to be corrected. When running a Nightmare Operation, there is a chance that a 224 item can drop, but it is not a guaranteed drop like the highlighted Hard Mode is. Nightmare Mode Operations will still drop their unique mounts and titles, and once fixed there is a chance to get 224 gear from them. It is by design that the best and most consistent way to gear up in Operations is to run the highlighted Hard Mode each week. Although they did certainly want to make sure there was a chance for greater reward from Nightmare!
That’s right. The fix that will be put in place 8-10 weeks from now will not actually return the Nightmare Mode gear drops to their logical gear rating. Nor will it return the Nightmare Mode gear drops to what was written 151 days ago, because apparently one of the most talked about and despised developer blogs in the lead up to Knights of the Fallen Empire contained a typo. Nightmare Mode Operations were apparently never intended to drop better gear than Priority Hard Mode Operations each week.
There’s no typo here, you read that right… The top tier Operations in the game, albeit recycled content from prior game updates, are by design supposed to drop inferior gear to operations like Hard Mode Karagga’s Palace and Hard Mode Eternity Vault that were being cleared on the first day of early access by teams with less than 8 players in them with gear from the prior content cycle.
This is not end-game progression.
This is an embarrassment that will decimate the game.
And the salt in the wound is the fact that it is apparently just a typo from 151 days ago, which is approximately how long the Nightmare Mode Operations will have been broken by the time they are “fixed” as well. At least they are consistent.
I needed to put some of these things in writing because it’s the only avenue I have to help process so much disappointment in a game that I care about so much. Let me reiterate that I will play this game until another Star Wars MMO becomes a reality or the SWTOR servers are turned off. I am not saying I’m unsubscribing because that isn’t the case. I am not saying that everyone who plays the game shares my perspective, because that’s not the case. I am saying that I see an iceberg and I don’t want to be one of the people taking a screenshot of my characters as the servers go offline because there’s not enough revenue left to support the game. We don’t have to hit the iceberg, but BioWare is the one at the wheel. I’d like to wake up from this bad dream where no one hears my screams warning of the iceberg ahead.