SWTOR: Huttball

PvP in Star Wars: The Old Republic is an interesting beast. There are currently three PvP scenarios, or Warfronts, that you can participate in when you queue for PvP. You have an Assault and Hold style game called Alderaan or Civil War by most people, you have Voidstar, which is a round-based Attack and Defend style game, and finally you have Huttball, which is an American Gladiator style competitive sporting event. By design, Huttball is the thing you are going to see most when you queue for a pvp match in Star Wars: The Old Republic. The reasons why are really two-fold.

First, same-faction PvP is something people often clamor about in MMOs. You spend a lot of your time playing alongside these people, and the camaraderie you feel is followed closely by the desire to murder them wholesale. Huttball allows you to do that, strictly because it’s billed as a “sport”. Second, this is how they are handling population imbalance. Regardless of how many people on each side are queuing, Huttball can always end up running. This means that by percentage, Huttball is the thing you will end up running most often.

Now, I consider myself a pretty keen observer when it comes to PvP, especially when it comes to MMOs. Stretching back to EQ days I have played on PvP servers, won some PvP contests, and achieved high PvP rankings in various games (I have been known to be a warlord or a gladiator from time to time, for example). I don’t think SWTOR will be any exception. My primary PvP character is already in good shape after only a small amount of playing. The point here is, I’m not a complete idiot when it comes to PvP and I consider myself to have valid opinions. Then again, who doesn’t?

Here are some observations about Huttball, thus far.

1. Communication is king. 

This warfront, more than any of the others, is the one that groups will steamroll non-groups at. It simply rewards objective play much more than any of the other games. There is only one objective, get the ball across the line. A team that plays together will have an advantage that a PuG team simply will never surmount. Of course, teamwork should win out over no teamwork, right, so what’s the problem? The problem is that five people queuing together gets placed with any other random amount of schlubs right now. That’s always how it goes in early cycles of a pvp games life. Normally this is fixed somewhat by bracketing, but until today, SWTOR didn’t do that. Instead, you had people running up against premades the very first time they queued for a game, and a game that puts a new ability on the bar no less! I will cover that in a bit, though. I can’t stress how bad an experience this is for a lot of people. I was fine with it, but it is one that turned a lot of people off immediately. I do think that this means PvP later on will be challenging in Huttball, because of all the different variety, which is good.

2. Movement is queen.

Classes with strong movement really, really shine. This isn’t strictly limited to stuff like Force Speed, but here I mean anything that allows you to keep on trucking. Force Leap and Force Speed are the most obvious ones, of course, but stuff like improved jet boosters is simply phenomenal here. With so many drops and hazards, movement displacement goes hand in hand with movement itself. If you can get someone to take a couple of ticks of fire or acid, or force them to have to run back up a ramp, then that’s way better than the ability to just keep wailing on people. Stopping movement means you are going to be in a precarious position, and anything that allows you to not stop is a winner in this match, even more so than other matches.

3. The learning curve is high for first timers.

Yeah, even more so than other PvP, Huttball has a high learning curve. First, it’s completely unlike other PvP in games. There are goal lines, hazards, ramps, and you get an extra button placed on your hotbar the first time you play. If you remove it from the hotbar later, it doesn’t reappear, but you have to go into your powers book and add it back manually. This is not at all intuitive to say the least. You then have to just figure out that the “pass” range is the area of the circle, and you don’t have to get the ball directly into the hands of your allies. Hitting them in the circle is enough. The next tricky part is getting the wind boosters to work properly. Revan knows that this isn’t an easy thing to do, and you see a lot of people just hit the ramps rather than dealing with the fickleness of the boosters. It takes a people quite some time to figure out what the hell is going on, and one game isn’t really enough. Learning the little nuances, such as where it’s safe to stand vs. where it’s not safe to stand, or what counts as line of sight and what doesn’t haven’t even entered into the conversation yet, but those matter a lot. There are place where you can hurl the ball almost a third of the map, and it doesn’t look like you should be able to do so. Knowing this makes a huge difference in winning and losing. Even more so than traditional PvP matches.

4. Resolve won’t stack up fast enough to matter.

In this sort of fast past, small area, hazard friendly game, there is no incentive not to stun your way to victory as quickly as possible. In most cases, if you don’t get them stunned early and often, they are simply just going to score. Now, part of the key is trying to knock them into a hazard and then stun them, but my point remains. You never have to worry about stunning them too much, because the area of action is simply too small, and group play is too prevalent. I feel this way about Voidstar, too, but it’s more noticeable in Huttball, in a lot of ways. In the few cases where the opponents are going to get away, it’s not because of the resolve meter, it’s because they are good players, or you are bad players. A bunch of guys healing the ball carrier are probably going to carry the day, for example. I have yet to run into a situation where my resolve meter has made any lick of difference.

5. It feels like a game, not PvP.

This is just my opinion, but it feels much more like a game than either Voidstar or Civil War. This is by design, again. However, when you start getting this one a lot, it feels less and less like PvP. I think this is a genuine concern. Huttball is fun when it pops up now and then, but time after time certainly gets old, and the interest wains quickly. Now, I could see them doing interesting thing with Huttball leagues within the game, and that would be pretty exciting. Unless they do things like that though, interest drops quickly.

So there is a quick PvPers view of Huttball!

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