Bryant Wood, a systems designer at BioWare, took to the forums recently to offer some clarifications about continuing to earn Underworld Syndicate Plans, the Shadow Syndicate Reputation System, and Galactic Seasons 3.
Shadow Syndicate Reputation
The greater focus of Bryant Wood’s forum post was on the Shadow Syndicate reputation. While Galactic Season 2 was active, you could increase your reputation with that organization by giving Underworld Syndicate Plans to a Togruta named Qi’us Dnar on Nar Shaddaa.
Unlike other reputation tracks in SWTOR, there is no reward vendor associated with the Shadow Syndicate. Once you max out your reputation, all you can do with excess Underworld Syndicate Plans is exchange them for 12.5k credits per 100 plans (yes, you read that right, it’s basically nothing).
The only unique benefit of progressing through the Shadow Syndicate reputation ranks is getting the admittedly fantastic legacy titles “Shadow Initiate”, “Master of Shadows”, and “The Shadow’s Veil”.
Bryant Wood also cited that players expected to be able to continue advancing their reputation with the Shadow Syndicate after Galactic Season 2 had ended, including using that new reputation to receive the extremely lucrative daily repeatable Advancement: Reputation conquest objective which grants a whopping 43,875 conquest points with the full 150% stronghold bonus.
In 7.1, BioWare will make Underworld Syndicate Plans continue to drop from mobs across the Galaxy, though potentially only for players that haven’t completed the reputation track, along with being able to purchase Jawa Intel from Brrazz on the Fleet. These plans will only be available until Galactic Season 3 begins.
I think BioWare needs to provide a more concrete solution to this issue. The huge amount of easy conquest points offered by this objective creates an incentive for players to consume the trophies at a slow rate, which will perpetuate this problem if BioWare opts to release additional Galactic Season reputations in the future.
Furthermore, once you hit Legend status, you become locked out of earning conquest AND galactic season points through that objective, which transforms the excitement from completing a milestone to frustration at conquest being harder to achieve.
I’d like to see BioWare make it so consuming reputation trophies grants some other reward once you reach Legend. This could include things like reputation-specific currency or even conquest points directly.
Battle Passes vs Galactic Seasons in SWTOR
BioWare clarified that Galactic Season 3 (GS3) will NOT be coming in 7.1, contrary to my predictions and expectations I shared in past articles. This tracks with the roadmap from the 7.0 Legacy of the Sith Announcement livestream last year.
While plans have likely changed since then, it’s clear that BioWare intended multiple major updates (7.1, 7.2, 7.3, etc.) for 2022, but only mentioned a single Galactic Season for the same period of time.
I still find myself a bit perplexed by BioWare’s overall plan for Galactic Seasons. Galactic Seasons is based on the Battle Pass system invented by Valve for DotA 2 and popularized by Epic Games for Fortnite. It provides several benefits to developers, publishers, and players:
- Offers a clear and consistent sense of progression via specific cosmetic rewards
- Avoids the gambling pitfalls associated with loot boxes
- Creates an incentive to subscribe at any point to get more rewards
- Presents a clear timeline for when new content is released where the end of each season brings a major update and along with a new season
BioWare doesn’t appear to be following that final point. They have never had one season begin immediately after another ended and GS3 isn’t coinciding with the next major update.
In BioWare’s defense, a sense of progression isn’t super necessary when new content is released along with new tiers of gear, especially considering that gear in MMOs is typically used to fuel that feeling of progression.
In addition, not every game has to copy the system exactly; innovation is essential if a game is to survive in the competitive world of MMOs. We don’t know if BioWare was the one that actually decided to implement the Battle Pass system either; it could have been an instruction from EA similar to what so many companies were trying to do with NFTs.
That said, consistency is a big part of what makes the Battle Pass system work. Shortly after GS2 ended, I recall a player on the Fleet expressing confusion about why GS2 was ending in the first place if there wasn’t new content. Why not just extend GS2 until 7.1 was ready?
I am worried that BioWare will generate frustration from players that are most likely to interact with the Galactic Seasons system when they find that it doesn’t work as they expect it to based on the experience they have in other games.
Furthermore, if BioWare does only plan on using Galactic Seasons when there isn’t any existing gear progression to do, I would think that future Galactic Seasons would come to foreshadow (multiplayer) content droughts.
I’m not operating off of concrete evidence at this point, but it’s essential that BioWare avoids using Galactic Seasons exclusively to fill content droughts or they could very well end up driving down subscription numbers with a feature that’s typically meant to increase subscriptions.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) on exclusive cosmetics could mostly mitigate this issue, but it only works if the rewards are cool enough, and in my subjective, non-data-driven opinion, none of the rewards thus far have risen to that level.
Don’t get me wrong, the Haxion Brood armors from this season are neat, but I think top-shelf sets like Callous Conqueror and Sovereign Executioner are required to get people to sub through a content drought.
Bryant Wood did “not have an exact [release] date to share at this time” for GS3. So at this point, all we can do is wait and see. It’s not a huge issue in the short term. Even if my fear comes true, it’ll take years before anyone can make such a statement definitively.