Friday, October 10, 2014

Chasing Revan: the xp bonus

In a very perceptive comment to my last post, l0n3gun brought up one of the features announced with the new Shadow of Revan expansion for SWTOR that has already gone live. Bioware is increasing the experience gained from class quests by twelve times.  It has all sorts of implications not only for current subscribers but also for how the game may be played in the expansion.

I've seen a few misconceptions about the strength of the experience boost.  It's an odd number, 12, and it doesn't seem as impressive as it is.  It's easy to confuse 12x with 12%.  Think about the 2x XP boosts that you can buy on the cartel market or are sometimes awarded for quests.  Think about the double XP weekends that were so welcome last summer.  Now consider that this boost isn't 2x but 12x.  This bonus is huge.

The extra experience is only awarded to class quests, rather than the overall xp of other boosts, but I think this reveals a very purposeful intention on the part of Bioware.  It isn't just that they want to keep their players in the game while we wait for the expansion to be released, although that's definitely a significant motivation.  And it isn't simply to make sure that players have characters ready to see the new content, though again that's a primary factor.  And where did that number 12 come from anyway?  Why not 10x or 15x?

I suspect that the deep thinkers at Bioware limited the xp boost to class quests because they are genuinely proud of the stories they created for each of the eight classes and they want their players to experience them before they are consigned to irrelevancy.  They could have provided boosts for all experience, as they have in the past, but instead they decided to focus on class stories.  With a 12 time bonus it's very likely that you would advance far beyond a planet's level range if everything was boosted.  And in that situation, the player is likely to simply leave the planet half done and move on to the next one that provided the most efficient xp.  The golden thread of the story would most certainly be lost as you jump around from planet to planet.  Like having the entire season of your favorite TV show on DVD and watching the first 15 minutes of every episode.

In fact, this is the disjointed kind of experience that the early levels of Warcraft offer.  XP comes so rapidly that if you venture into a dungeon you're likely to complete it and find all your quests have turned gray.  I'd like to think that Bioware has learned from Blizzard's experimentation and has improved this next iteration.  I'm guessing that 12x boost was carefully designed to give enough xp to level the character with Class quests alone but allowing you to fully complete at least one story on each planet.

But that brings us to the implicit negative that's lurking here as well.  If the Class quest is the "good parts" version, what do we say about all the other quests that don't get boosted.  Are they mere filler?  I'm hoping that we could, perhaps, be seeing a subtle re-examination of the quality of quests on Bioware's part, that might be reflected in the upcoming expansion.  If Bioware acknowledges that all quests aren't the same and they've decided that the very best of the 1-50 experience lies in the class quests, it may not be too much to hope that the devs might bring us more of what they consider the best.

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