Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Gree get an Knife in the Back

1-15-13 News Article

Game Update 1.7 will be named "Return of the Gree".

Following up on a prediction from my previous post, Game Update 1.7 will indeed contain a limited time event involving the Gree Enclave named Relics of the Gree.

Interestingly, or ominously, the event will take place on the planet Ilum, notorious for its design emphasis on PvP.  Included in this announcement are both gems of goodness and chilling warning signs.

First, the good.  I have enjoyed both of the events that TOR has hosted so far and I'm glad to see that there are more coming.  The Gree are an interesting conception, both for their love of geometry, their whimsical dialect, and their mysterious background.  I look forward to more Gree stories, and the potential to build reputation with this ally.

Also noted in the article is the fact that it will be possible to "join this recurring event throughout the rest of the year."  One of my complaints about new story content added to the Old Republic is that up until recently, it has all been ephemeral.  It lasts about a week and then disappears forever.  Section X on Belsavis was the first new non-instanced story content introduced to the game and that came late in the first year. 

Limited time events are great for my existing characters of the time, but I'll never get to experience the Rakghoul plague on any of my more recent alts.  In a game that is starving for new content, limited time events don't actually increase the total content of the game.

But interpreting the hints of this news release, it seems as if Bioware is taking a different approach, trying to combine the sense of urgency of the limited time event, with the story expanding value of more permanent content.



Ilum Awaits

But now: the faintly ominous.  I note with hesitancy that this event is supposed to take place on Ilum.  In the "contested Western Ice Shelf."  Let's come right out and ask the question, does this mean that some or all of this will take place in pvp-flagged zones?

So one of the HK-51 pieces is bought from a vendor in the Outlaw's Den, an area where anyone who enters is flagged for open pvp regardless of faction.  Die-hard griefers had a merry time at the start preventing people from obtaining the item.  In their eternal and futile quest to get normal people to participate in pvp, in the hopes that they will suddenly find it fun, the quest designers thought this was a good idea.

It is looking like a good possibility that the Gree event will involve the same sort of backward thinking.  Now, it's not a foregone conclusion, of course.  There are flashpoint entrances on Ilum that require no pvp participation, and I'm hoping at least portions of the Gree event will be the same.  If it does require pvp, however, as I suspect it will, I'm going to be disappointed.

Assessment

So lets speak plainly.  If more than one segment in the Relics event exposes normal pve players to the threat of pvp, then the event is basically a pvp event.   If this is mainly a pvp event, then it will contribute nothing to SWTOR's need to substantially increase the story content of the game.

More cynically, is Bioware attempting  to revitalize the failed pvp of Ilum by dragging a bunch of hapless pve story gamers across the path of pvp gankers?  Is this really their big plan?

I suspect that it is.  This is their attempt to create a Wintergrasp/TolBarad area that mixes pvp and pve objectives.  My feeling is that people who want to pvp will have limited use for a story event, and story gamers will feel excluded from an event that involves them suffering through a lot of mindless ganking.

I do wonder why they don't just say it outright in the announcement, so that people who aren't interested in PvP can plan accordingly, and not raise false hopes about exciting new content that simply isn't designed for them.  If this is a major pvp-only update, then I will just mourn the loss of a favored faction and move on.

Look again at the announcement above.  Look for keywords: adventure, explore, journey, assist the Gree, ancient, uncover, mysterious.  The text urges you to face a powerful opponent in order to earn technology, a classic description of downing a boss and getting loot.  Each of these keywords is specifically chosen to appeal to the pve story gamer.  A single word in the announcement hints that this might be anything other than a purely story-driven encounter.

If this were going to be billed as a massive pvp re-vamp you'd expect words like, clash, conflict, dominate, destroy, attack, defend, rally, conquor, etc, etc.   None of them are present.

And suddenly, I find that I've answered my own question.  They want to create this sense of excitement.  They want carebears to show up to Ilum in massive numbers to be slaughtered by blood-drunk pvpers in imbalanced contests so they can crow about how good pvp is again, to reminisce about those few glory days of the wolves among the sheep.  And after the first few days, when the sad truth has spread and the pve-ers stay away, the wolves will be left alone, eying each other and completely ignoring the actual Gree event, which they couldn't care less about.

The devs want people to participate, even if they have to hide the true nature of the thing for a while.  I just think it's short-sighted to set up so many players for disappointment.

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