Monday, October 17, 2016

SWTOR's New Endgame Loot System

The Old Republic is introducing an interesting new endgame loot system in their next expansion:
First, here are the details on how gearing will work at level 70:
  • Once you hit level 70, the source of end-game gear will be Command Crates from Galactic Command.
  • Most activities in the game will earn Command Experience Points (CXP), which will earn you Command Ranks. Each time your Command Rank increases, you earn a Command Crate.
  • The higher your Command Rank, the better gear that will drop from your Command Crates.
  • The highest difficulty Operations and Uprisings, along with Ranked Warzones are intended to be the fastest ways to earn CXP. This means they are the fastest way to get the best gear.
  • Both PvP and PvE gear will come from Command Crates. Their gear is now shared as Expertise is being removed (head to this thread to discuss PvP/PvE itemization specifically).
  • Gear will no longer drop from bosses as all gear will come from Command Crates. All cosmetic/unique drops will still remain on those bosses (Stronghold Decorations, Wings of the Architect, etc.).
  • Players will be able to craft comparable item level gear without set bonuses.

This system reminds me of the loot system in Overwatch. All activities give CXP, and every level you get a loot box. Gear that comes from the loot box is based on your endgame level.

It essentially converts gear into a straight currency system, albeit one with a some randomness in reward. It heavily simplifies the endgame gear system, and unifies it. Now you can do whatever you like, and you'll still earn experience. It prevents content from becoming entirely obsolete once you've out-geared it.

The downside is that some "easy" activity will become optimum for grinding and gaining levels, and then people will insist on doing that non-stop to earn levels. The advantage of harder content giving better gear is that eventually you have to challenge yourself if you want to improve. This system makes it easy to keep from challenging yourself, and contenting yourself with content that you know you can succeed with.

The normal PvE mindset is that quality of reward is intrinsically tied to difficulty of content. I wrote a bit about this a long time ago, though more in the context of PvP versus PvE. (See Raider Perspective on Rewards, and Why Does the Reward System Matter?) I am not certain that breaking this link will be healthy for the game.

The other problem is that reward is now greatly tied to time spent in game. If you play twice as much as someone, you should have twice as many levels, and thus twice the gear and further into the higher level gear. But maybe making this explicit is more fair than current games. And I suppose you can tweak the XP gained to mitigate this. For example, the first time you do a piece of content each week, you get a big bonus to XP, etc.

Still, it looks like an interesting experiment, and it will be interesting to see what sort of effect it has on the game and the players.


  1. The last item in the list translates to "you only need to do PvE or PvP if you want socket bonuses". Looks like the optimal way to gear up is just craft, because craft is non-random unlike "crates". Unless, of course, itemlevel of your crafted items is somehow linked to your Command Rank.

    1. My bet is that crafting will require a component that drops in these crates. Thus crafting becomes the currency equivalent of random drops.

  2. You forgot one major point: If you're not a sub, you get diddly squat and are completely locked out of the new system.

    1. Well, non-sub players always had to buy passes to get loot from endgame. I guess they're eliminating that aspect now.

      Or who knows, maybe they'll sell the lootboxes directly.

  3. Ok, so if I'm getting this right, they are going into korean mode: gear up by endless grind and RNG upgrades. The only difference is that it's subscription-based instead of conveniently providing boosts in the cash shop.

    I always wonder why after trying out other MMOs I end up thinking that WoW is much better.....

    1. Honestly, I don't see it as that much different from now. Killing bosses every week for random loot is just as much grind. Only now you can do other content as well, and it will contribute.

    2. The difference is that you can 'target' bosses for certain gear drops (ie, Boss XYZ drops your main hand). With this system you're effectively checking against every possible boss drop. The odds are much higher you won't get the item you want/need every time you open a crate as opposed to cheesing lockouts to farm Soa for mainhand.

      Even if RNG never favors the player on a specific boss, the player still thinks they've appropriately reduced RNG to a tolerable level.

  4. Well, it prevents a group from integrating a new player and boosting him with a couple of runs where he gets most of the stuff.

    But the real question is: how long until you reach the gear cap and what catch-up mechanisms are in place?

    Korean mode is endless progression (no cap) and minimal catch-up mechanisms, resulting in an increasing gear gap between old-timers and new players. The idea is to treat the game as a consumable, squeeze as much as you can from it and then dump it as the players move on to the next one (where everyone starts from scratch again).

    1. Which begs the question whats the point? why grind like a mofo if your just going to bin the game in 9 weeks? The new swtor system strikes me as so alien to the current culture withing the game that its likely to be actively harmful, detering current players from continuing to play. I'll commit heresy here a second and suggest that perhaps star wars galaxies NGE wasn't bad according to their market research... it probably made the game more accessable and would have increased player numbers given time: If it hadn't alienated its current player base effectively killing the game. That was my read on it. Thats my read on the risk of the new gearing system too. If they take us pvpers and the raiders out back and shoot us in the back of the head its going to make swtor an rpg you hang out in social chat channels while you play. Is that enough to keep people subscribed?