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SWTOR: Encouraging Bad Habits

Like the dog that keeps going back to the rawhide bone he’s had for months, I just can’t leave the topic of PvP in SWTOR alone. I spent this past weekend PvPing way more than I should have, but frankly I needed a weekend of doing both jack and shit. Reverting back to the days of the Duane Benzie Party Bus, I spent the majority of my time queuing with friends in a make-up of Healer/Healer/DPS. It works just as well now as when I was a Bus driver. The overall record for the weekend in this combination was 20-1. However, during this time, I noticed a lot of sub-optimal behavior from both teammates and opponents. I already knew that I exhibited some of these behaviors, but that’s because I’m a jerk. So what’s the problem?

Simply put, the problem is the Medal System. This is actually a very interesting idea in that it rewards individual play and recognizes those who “contribute” more with higher and better rewards. At least, that’s the theory. In practice, it doesn’t work this way because of the rewards that medals grant you. Each Medal accumulated earns 50 Valor and 2 Warzone commendations. This number used to be 5 Warzone commendations, but it was tuned down, and the cost of gear was increased. This makes Warzone commendations even more valuable, since they are now harder to obtain and you need more of them. Now, at the end of each match you see a scoreboard with a lot of statistics on it. Damage dealt, healing done, protection granted (using guard or taunt to prevent damage to your buddies), kills, deaths, objective score, and medals earned are all categories on the scoreboard. There are three categories for medals earned, correlating to the metals of the Olympic medals, which I am certain is a surprise! You earn a gold ranking for obtaining six or more medals, silver for three to five, and bronze for only one or two.In theory, the medals should reflect this scoreboard in some fashion, and, since objectives are how you win the match, you would think that more attention would be paid to them. Instead, here’s the break down:

Healing done:
Medic – 2.5k healing from a single heal
Trauma Surgeon – 5k healing from a single heal
Healer –Healing 75K
Savior –Healing 300K

Damage done:
Demolisher – 2.5k damage from a single attack
Anihilator –5K damage from a single attack
Combatant – Dealing 75k damage
Destroyer –Dealing 300K damage

Kills:
Quick Draw – Getting a killing blow on one player
Assassin – Killing a player in a one-on-one fight
Commando – Killing 10 enemy players
Soldier – Killing 25 enemy players

Protection:
Shield – 5k Protection
Protector –50K Protection
Guardian – 2k Protection since last death
Paladin – 10k Protection since last death

Objectives:
Defender – Earning 1k Defender Points
Warden –Earning 3k Defender Points

Ok, so every category except objectives have four possible medals. Even then, you only gain objective medals for defending, not assaulting or scoring or doing anything similar. You might begin to see the problem here. While it can be argued that these medals are all things that contribute to objectives or victory, you could also argue a monkey in a tuxedo isn’t funny. In either case, you’d be correct in only a very narrow band of circumstances.

Being that your band of medals is normally in the 30-50 range base when you are in the late 20’s/early 30’s you want every one of those damn medals to make the slog more bearable. This encourages you to do things like focus on killing people, dealing damage, or just spamming heals rather than playing the objectives because you might actually make more medals this way, or at least as many as you might get if you were to win. Now, I am sure you are asking yourself, isn’t there a way I can do both? Oh, there is, but it doesn’t make things better. Let’s take Huttball. The game automatically ends if one team has a six goal lead on the other team. As you might expect with this system, it often causes the winning team to stop at a five goal lead and simply farm the opposing team until the game ends, thus resulting in the maximum amount of medals for them. The entire idea of this mercy killing rule is to end lopsided games quickly. Civil War has a three cap mechanism after all…oh wait, just let the other team have a single point and farm them until the game ends. Voidstar doesn’t really have a provision for this, but it doesn’t need one. If one side completes the objective quickly, or completely stomps the other team while on defense, you can rest assured that the other half of the game is NOT going to be pleasant.

Ok, you might say, but this is purely a currency reward so it’s for people concerned with gear. Surely there isn’t any other reward associated with this type of system. Oh friend, how mistaken you are. Like in many FPS games, playing well will also get your name announced in glorious lights, showing everyone how amazing you are. Is it tied to kills like in other games? Oh no, it’s tied to medals.

Unbeatable announcement is unlocked if you earn 4 medals without dying.
Invincible announcement is unlocked if you earn 7 medals without dying.
Immortal announcement is unlocked if you earn 9 medals without dying.

People who are intent on farming are even more incentivized to play this way so that they can get the ego boost. I am as guilty of this as everyone, altering my play style slightly if I know I am close to Invincible or Immortal. This is rubbing salt in the wounds of the opposing team. They already know something is going poorly for them. When they get a string of Unbeatable or Invincible announcements, as these type of stompfests engender, it’s yet another way for them to become demoralized.

While it’s a bold choice to try and reward individual play, more emphasis needs to be placed on the actual objectives of the games, and the medals need to be reworked to reflect this. Even allowing the objective medals to simply count for more than regular medals would be a step in the right direction. The objectives are how games are won, and the other stats will come if the team is working together. Even out the categories, and possibly consider other avenues of commendation awards. There are achievements in place for getting objectives completed in PvP, make them weekly quests, or even daily quests for some of the simple ones. It wouldn’t alter anything drastically, and it might even incentivize people to play the games as intended and get the beatdowns over with more quickly. This kind of system rewards the bad apples, as I well know because it causes me to want to play this way to maximize my medal earnings. This is what the game wants you to do right now, and it simply needs to change.

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