25/07/2017

The Future of CXP?

As my Scoundrel is slowly working her way towards becoming my third character to reach Command rank 300, something has been rattling around my head that has bugged me about CXP from the start but which I didn't really talk about before because there were too many other things wrong with the system that were more important. However, now that Galactic Command is in a relatively comfortable place, I can't help but wonder: Where is it going?

The moment it was first announced, I was immediately reminded of the way Blizzard has gotten into the habit of coming up with "cool ideas" for their WoW expansions just to completely scrap each and every one of them the moment the next expansion comes out, simply because they were never designed to scale and work for the game in the long term. That's what CXP looks like to me too, like something that someone thought "would be a cool idea" but without thinking through how it would integrate into the game in the long run. Simply put: If you have an alternate levelling system after the level cap, what happens to those levels once the normal level cap is increased again?

One obvious solution would be to simply scrap the whole system. It would be the easy way of dealing with it at least, and I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who would not be sad to see it go. I would be a little sad though. After a painful amount of iteration, Galactic Command is finally in a good place, and I think it's not bad as a supplemental way of getting gear. Also, while it's just numbers, I think I would feel a little cheated if my total of over a thousand Command levels just disappeared into the aether without a trace. I may not rank very high as an achiever, but that doesn't mean that I can't develop an attachment to some achievements.

But if it were to stay, this would open up a lot of questions. Would the system still unlock at level 70 or would it move up to the new level cap? And would people be allowed to keep their existing Command levels? If the new stuff were all tacked on at the end, it would still leave 300 Command levels of "old stuff" for new players to grind through before even getting to the new gear, which would feel silly. At the same time, just resetting everyone back to rank one would feel like a sting to veterans for the reasons described above. Any attempt at keeping both new and old players happy while retaining the system would probably involve some awkward rejigging, keeping in line with making the system ever more complicated. As an example, the existing 300 ranks could continue to exist while being greatly sped up for new players, and the loot tables would have to be reworked completely to drop lower-level "new stuff" right from the start, so that veterans would only get a bit of a headstart. I struggle to imagine a simple and elegant solution for this though.

How do you expect Bioware to handle Galactic Command going forward?

21 comments :

  1. CR is a pointless number and could be represented with a cheev (maybe one for each 100 ranks?) but the gear you have had from it represents the actual material benefit, especially with the wardrobe allowing players to save their looks, so I have no problem with BioWare resetting the system when the level cap goes up

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  2. I don't understand why the level cap has to keep going up. Resetting your progress with each expansion in this way is such a turn-off for me. We're already on a treadmill and then Bam! Treadmill reset.

    Makes me want to stop playing every time it happens. I stopped raiding last time they did it. Just don't want to go back to square one. There just weren't enough different raids to keep me interested in doing what I'd already done again and again, and I never really got into the whole CXP thing. I'm not into grinding.

    Most of my characters are still in the raid gear from, like, two expansions ago, if that. This kind of game design may appeal to some, but not to me. It's small wonder that I haven't logged in for months.

    I don't know what the solution is, I suppose you have to keep giving folks something new to aim for, but making you feel like all your work was for nothing doesn't work for me.

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    1. I'm not a fan of gear resets myself, but I understand why MMOs want to have them every now and then: to prevent things from going stagnant and to give new players a chance to jump in and be on even footing with everyone else. I don't think it's that bad in SWTOR, especially as gear from an expansion or two ago still does go a long way. In WoW I got tired of how they have a full reset pretty much every single patch nowadays, and because they are constantly increasing the stats on their gear exponentially, the old tier tends to become complete garbage.

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  3. If they use WoW as any guide, come the next expac they could minimize Galactic Command for whatever is the replacement.

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    1. But I was looking for suggestions for how to deal with this in a good way! :P

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    2. I don't think they need to innovate for the sake of innovation. They have a system now that most people agree is a great way of supplementing the regular gear grind so it would be silly to throw it out and come up with something new.

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    3. Well, I'm glad I both got a chuckle out of my quip and a backhanded swipe at Blizz. ;-)

      Seriously though, there does come a point to where trying to "fix" things might make it worse. I'm not sure what Bioware will do, especially if it's not "good enough" to keep going forward. The use once and throw away that Blizz does in each expac is a bad example because Blizz has a bigger dev staff for WoW than SWTOR (or any other MMO) has, yet they simply move onto the new hotness rather than make it work long term. The Pet Battles is the most recent exception to that rule, and that's because of both the monetization of the Blizz shop and the popularity of pet battles. Bioware doesn't have that luxury of use once and discard, so they're more inclined to try to make it work for the long term and get more mileage out of it.

      That said, making it tiered, so that you reach a certain level of command rank you get into XXX group content, and more becomes available at higher command ranks (kind of like how WoW had the gearscore barrier in Wrath for the ICC 5-mans) might work the best.

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    4. They are actually talking about introducing gear requirements for hardmode flashpoints and the suggestion doesn't seem to have been too well received (including by me) because as it is, SWTOR has almost no gear barriers unless you want to get into the highest tier of content and the notion seems unnecessarily restrictive. But that's a whole different kettle of fish really.

      Galactic Command is about giving people gear for the sake of giving them gear, completely decoupled from what they might want to do with it.

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    5. "Galactic Command is about giving people gear for the sake of giving them gear, completely decoupled from what they might want to do with it."

      Or, perhaps, because fashion.

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  4. This is one of the first concerns I had when it came to CXP, but I had a tough time explaining it to the others on CRR. I don't know what's the best way to go forward. I just hope the devs understand that if they just keep increasing the max amount of command ranks, it will increase the barrier for new players to get into group content (something which I consider to be a very bad thing).

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  5. I've barely seen the system as it came in just before I went on hiatus. This article made me think of Rift actually. They introduced ages ago now an 'alternate advancement' style system called planar attunement; a way to continue dinging after reaching the level cap. That was back when the original cap of 50 was still current. Since then the cap has been raised several times but planar attunement has remained unchanged. It works as a source of minor tweaks to stats and utility abilities post level 50. CXP is different of course since it's tied to gear progression and thus a certain ilvl of gear. But maybe it could be have the level-dependent gear rewards removed and still have other purposes (if it doesn't already)?

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    1. You're right that it could always stay in the game with the cosmetic rewards it currently gives, but then they would still have to think of some other way of handling gear acquisition at endgame.

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  6. Sometimes i suspect, BW knows that they implement bad things into the game. Something, that makes the community go full tilt. After the rage they introduce changes. And all the people stayed during the bad two weeks, hear about the upcoming changes, and pay well-behaved their subscription. When the changes go live they tell all friends how good the game is, so BW gets even more subs.

    It's all a marketing trick. there is no such thing as bad publicity. and when you change it into a good thing, you emerge as a hero to the playerbase.

    It's all about the money.

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    1. I don't believe it works like that; that sounds way too "conspiracy theory" to me.

      In video games there is definitely such a thing as bad publicity, and I've never seen a game get praised for reverting a bad change in the way you describe, except maybe for Final Fantasy XIV's relaunch, but it would be absurd to claim that they intentionally made that a bad game first just to get good publicity later. Most of the time it's actually the opposite: A bad change is likely to cling to the game's reputation like a stain and people will continue citing it as a reason not to play said game long after it has been reverted.

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    2. Yes, of course. I know. But -pardon my language- how the hell is it possible, that an entire BW-Team thinks, that a gearing system, depending only on RNG, is welcomed by the players? How is it possible?

      As i say, "SOMETIMES i suspect". Because i honestly don't know, that a whole bunch of brainy human beings, can come up with such an idea.

      I guess, that's why Ben Irving got fired and Keith Kanneg took over?!?

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    3. Who says the entire team agreed that it was a good idea? Ultimately it only mattered what the main decision maker(s) thought.

      And Ben wasn't fired, he moved on to a different Bioware project. Though yes, even though we don't know for sure I strongly suspect that this was related to how negatively Galactic Command was received.

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  7. I don't think they're going to bother to raise the level cap ever again as long as they have GC. And why should they? Note the last two times they've raised the character level cap, they really didn't add any "new" abilities on top of the old ones, they just spread the abilities out. (More or less, anyway).

    Raising the level cap is a way to reset the "end-game gear level," as noted, but by putting "gear access" into a separate end-game levelling system, they've obviated the need to raise the character level.

    What I would do when it comes time to raise the gear cap? Nothing; which is what BW did for the last gear cap increase. (What?!?) Well, let's look at the current GC system post the gear-cap increase. It's got 3+1 levels (Levels 1-3, and "post-300"), with distinct tiers of gear. There's currently 4 tiers of gear; with "tier 1" being purchasable with "Command tokens" and everything else either dropping from bosses, command crates, or being bought with Unassembled components. All end-game content in the game is scaled for use with these 4 tiers of gear. Come the next gear cap increase, the easiest solution is to bump everything down a notch: current "tier 1" gear falls off the "CT vendor," to be replaced by Tier 2, and everything else steps down a vendor, with the new "BiS" gear arriving on the Tier 4 vendor to be bought with tier 4 methods. Crafting cap increases, but that's divorced from levelling already. Stat inflation in the levelling content is addressed by level cap (more or less). Everybody gets set back a step in their progression, but, assuming the gear cap increase is accompanied by new group content, that more or less happens anyway. We lost the concept of "raid on farm" remaining the case when all the raids were normalized to level cap (and now GC gear cap), and I doubt we'll get it back. And I, personally, am OK that at least conceptually there are no raids my cat can solo, because his character is mechanically immune to damage.

    It took a lot of rough road to get there, but we have a sustainable model of Comms gear (current Tier 1), SM/HM/NiM gear (tiers 2-4), and when the gear cap bumps up, everything slides down a notch but the theory remains the same. The treadmill effect is a little more visible, but it cleanly separates "end-game" from "levelling" content and gearing.

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    1. That's an interesting idea, and I'm not sure how I'd feel about it if they implemented it like that. I feel differently about gear than I do about levels, and I expect I'm not the only one.

      I just can't really see them being that "radical". Many people like having new levels to gain, and increasing the level cap is an established way of offering more character advancement.

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    2. The problem with raising the level cap, is that you have to "Fill" the levels. And there's already too many "dead levels" in advancement. In fact, with the new auto-levelling, almost every level feels "dead." I've levelled 8 or so characters from 65 to 70, and every one it was chore to be dreaded and done with, there was no per-level reward that came with the level cap increase. And in the previous level cap bumps I've been at cap for (55-60, 60-65, and 65-70), none of them felt that exciting. The levelling process is the most tedious part of the game for me; to the point that I run screaming at level cap with a boost enabled and doing all the optional stuff I can (now with the DvL XP boost armor YAY), and enjoy myself at level cap knowing I have a complete character (especially now that you can get set bonus without doing ops or PvP, though I did do a fair amount of PvP while leveling in the before time)

      Plus, adding abilities makes it harder to balance the game.

      I'm not saying leaving the level cap at 70 is what people want, I'm saying that's what they look like they're doing for the good of the game, to avoid increasing complexity.

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    3. The "dead" levels are only there because they removed ability ranks. If they had left them in, we'd still have something to be excited about every time we ding! :P

      And I do see your point but I suspect that never increasing the level cap again would still be perceived as a bad thing for the game overall. I think your view of it being "for the good of the game" is too heavily coloured by your own dislike for levelling. :)

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