BioWare announced their plan how EndGame Gearing will work in SWTOR 7.0, which will return to vertical progression and have almost no RNG.

BioWare’s Gearing Philosophy for 7.0

Our philosophy for gearing and progression in 7.0 is to ensure that players have the gear they need to play the content they want and that they can grow their power over time. Whether a player is here for the story or to take on the most powerful challenges in the galaxy, we want there to be something a player can look forward to that makes their characters stronger.

Legacy of the Sith (7.0) will be reintroducing the vertical progression path for gearing. This type of progression is not new to the game; however, 7.0 will offer players new experiences and ways to obtain gear. Within a game update, a player can regularly work toward getting stronger and know that more power is on the horizon.

Another key component of our philosophy is to remove randomness (referred to as RNG) from the equation as much as possible. When RNG is used often, it causes a variety of issues, such as inflation in the game’s economy, bloat in a character’s inventory space, and removal of player control in acquiring and equipping gear. The Renown system was meant to mitigate issues caused by RNG by providing alternate opportunities to earn gear; however, it wasn’t effective in that goal. Issues caused by RNG can lead to a frustrating gearing experience, and we want to remove these hurdles.

There are two points players should keep in mind when it comes to upgrading their gear in 7.0. The first is that weekly content will be the fastest and most efficient way to obtain upgrades. Secondly, risk is rewarded. If a player chooses to complete content on a higher difficulty, they will be rewarded with better gear.”

“The majority of gear upgrades will be offered through weekly mission rewards or by trading in reward gear to purchase an upgrade. When a player receives an upgrade as a mission reward, that upgrade will affect the player’s lowest rated equipped piece of gear. If it is being traded in, the player can decide which piece of gear to upgrade instead.

Instead of dealing with a large quantity of drops from bosses, players will receive one of two possible progress rewards: a type of currency that can be traded to a vendor as part of the gear upgrade flow or rewards that can be used towards an upgrade.

What does this mean for the randomness component that players are used to experiencing? As mentioned above, RNG and the RNG associated with the Renown system did not have a significant positive impact on the experience of the player. To support our philosophy about RNG, we are removing Renown and nearly all RNG in the 7.0 expansion.

Furthering our efforts to build a fulfilling experience for our players, we will be featuring different content on a weekly basis in 7.0. This content will rotate on a schedule to prevent farming of one specific piece of content, which has a negative impact on a player’s overall experience.

As an example, Group Finder will only feature a limited set of Flashpoints and Story Operations each week. Players who queue for this random set will earn a guaranteed upgrade to their lowest equipped gear slot as their weekly Group Finder reward. Players can run the content multiple times per week, but the guaranteed upgrade mission reward will only be awarded for the first three runs. Beyond the first three runs, players will receive currency that can be used towards upgrades.

With this updated flow in mind, let’s expand on what’s known as the gearing ceiling. New and more powerful gear will be released with each new major update, but game balance will remain the same throughout 7.0 patches. Content that may have been too difficult or intimidating at launch will eventually be out-geared, giving players an opportunity to level up to higher difficulties and also learn the mechanics of the content at their own pace. As expansion updates get released, we will also raise the “floor,” or the power of base gear, so new players who happen to join the expansion at a mid-way point aren’t left behind by this power growth.

Let’s take a look at what this could look like with example item ratings:

Players will start earning gear with a 308-318 item rating from levels 75-79. In 7.0, once a player reaches level 80, the base progression gear rewarded will be item rating 320. Gear obtained via Conquests can be upgraded up to item rating 326. In a future update, the base gear rewarded in that same content would be 322, and the upgrade limit raised to 330. These specifics are subject to change as we go through additional testing and feedback.

Nearly all gear that is rewarded and upgraded will be static and non-moddable to allow for a more convenient upgrade path for the player. Comparing stats and upgrading gear will greatly improve and become easier to understand. Players will still be able to use moddable gear, but this type of gear is not required for players to be effective in any content in the game. Access to a moddable gear vendor will be granted at item rating 334, which is the highest possible gear rating attainable in the major game update following 7.0. We plan to provide that additional layer of stat customization to those players who prefer to min/max their characters between major updates.

You may be wondering how aspects of customization, other than mods, are impacted by everything we discussed above. In short, Amplifiers did not add value to the player experience, so we are removing the system from the game. We are reevaluating how to handle stat customization post-7.0, which may include bringing back Amplifiers in a different form. This evaluation will take into consideration the behaviors we see in-game and player feedback.

We want the gear upgrade experience to be as smooth as possible, so we will be keeping the existing Augments at 7.0 launch. As we stated above, we’re taking a closer look at how to handle stat customization going forward, including improving the interaction between stat customization and other systems, such as crafting. For the time being, the existing Augments and Augmentation Kits will still be usable on 7.0 gear.

The key takeaways from this are:

  • Nearly all RNG is being removed from gearing.
  • Weeklies will provide the majority of gearing. 
  • Amplifiers are gone.
  • The Renown system is gone and will not be replaced. (get the ‘Limitless’ and ‘Everybody Knows My Name’ titles before they’re gone!).
  • No new tier of augments at launch. 
  • Non-moddable gear is becoming the focus, though moddable gear will be released in 7.1 it seems for players who have the highest tier of gear. 
  • New tiers of gear will be released over time. 

Overall, this seems like a side-grade. It’s great that RNG and amplifiers are being removed and we’ll be able to reuse the augments we already have. I’m super excited to not have to worry about wading through piles of gear anymore too. 

How EndGame Gearing will work in SWTOR 7.0 - Legacy Bay
Good riddance!

It’s not so great that we’ll have a perpetual gear grind and I’m also concerned about primarily unmoddable gear. BioWare has never offered anything close to BiS stats on unmoddable gear. I suppose it isn’t impossible for them to buck that trend though. 

BioWare could let players pick which tertiary stat they want (Crit, Alacrity, Accuracy, Shield, or Absorb) on each piece of gear where you’d pick between 1 of 5 options for each gear upgrade. Alternatively, BioWare could remove the tertiary stats from Legendary Items and then just make it so the base gear provides the same amount of tertiary stats as higher tiers of gear so that gear upgrades only give more Mastery, Power / Defense, and Endurance. 

If BioWare doesn’t do something like that, augments will become crucial to reaching stat thresholds in 7.0. This is potentially problematic since 6.0 augments will be less impactful for higher tiers of gear and it will probably be annoying to have to rip out augments before upgrading a piece of gear.

How EndGame Gearing will work in SWTOR 7.0 - Augment Extraction
Get ready for a whole lot of this!

How Content-Specific Gearing will work

Flashpoints

Running a random Featured Flashpoint via Group Finder each week will yield a guaranteed upgrade to the player’s lowest equipped slot, unless the player is already equipped with fully-upgraded gear. In this scenario, players will receive gear that can be disassembled into currency that can be used for future gear upgrades.

Flashpoints will continue to drop crafting materials and vanity rewards, as they do today. In addition to these, Flashpoints will also drop upgrade currency or gear that can be disassembled into upgrade currency. Players can trade the following to upgrade gear: Flashpoint upgrade currency, daily/heroic currency, conquest currency, credits, and a piece of gear they choose to be upgraded.

Specifics and exact numbering are likely to change when 7.0 is live, but for the sake of example, if the base item rating of level 80 gear for 7.0 is 320, then Veteran Flashpoint players could upgrade their gear all the way up to item rating 324. Master Flashpoint players could upgrade their gear up to item rating 326. Essentially, gear dropped in either mode will be different and not identical to one another as in the past.

In a future update, this max would increase to item rating 328 for Veteran players, and item rating 330 for Master players.”

Conquests

Players who wish to enjoy a solo-only experience will mostly upgrade gear by completing Personal Conquests. Using our example numbers above, if the base item rating is 320 in 7.0, upgrading via Conquests can get players to a max item rating of 326. In a future update, this would increase to item rating 330 for Conquest players.”

PvP

The PvP gearing structure is similar to the Flashpoint gearing flow discussed above. Weekly Missions will award guaranteed gear upgrades, and crates for match completion will award upgrade materials and sidegrades that can be disassembled into upgrade materials.

PvP Warzones and Arenas will feature both a statistical floor and ceiling. This allows a wide range of participants to join, gives a clear gearing and upgrade path exclusively through PvP activities if desired, and will stat cap anyone joining with higher rated gear than allowed. At 7.0’s launch, PvP activities will award base gear starting at item rating 316, and allow for upgrades up to item rating 326. The floor and ceiling of gear earned via PvP Warzones and Arenas will all rise over time. We will share these details at a later time.”

Operations

Operations will be divided into two categories: Legacy Operations and Current Operations.

Legacy Operations, or all Operations not introduced in the Legacy of the Sith expansion cycle, will allow upgrades with item rating caps determined by difficulty.

Current Operations will operate a bit differently. Gear tokens will drop directly from bosses and will be tradeable among the group. For example, after defeating one boss, a player may be awarded with a token for Pants with an item rating of 328. They could then either turn in the token and choose their piece of gear or trade it to another player. We believe allowing players who participate in large group content to gear up others quickly mitigates changes in the group dynamics when leaving or joining the group and is a crucial piece of this type of gameplay.

Based on the item rating examples discussed in the previous sections, Veteran Legacy Operations will allow upgrades at 7.0 up to item rating 326, while Master Legacy Operations will allow up to item rating 330. The Story difficulty for the R-4 Anomaly Operation will drop item rating 328 gear. The Veteran difficulty for the R-4 Anomaly Operation will drop item rating 330, 332, and 334 rated gear. Over time, as new difficulties or Operations are introduced, new, more powerful gear will also come with those updates.

Gear Tiers at a Glance

Content Type Minimum Item Rating Maximum Item Rating
Flashpoints 320 326
Conquest 320 326
PvP 316 326 (capped)
Legacy Operations 326? 330
New Operation SM+VM 328 334
New Operation MM 334+

BioWare is separating gear quality based on content type. For Flashpoints, Conquest, and PvP, you’ll be able to get gear up to item rating 326, with the item rating scaling based on difficulty for Flashpoints. Meanwhile, Operation gearing will almost entirely take place beyond the maximum gear tier for all other types of content. The exact item ratings are subject to change, though I imagine the relationship and distance between the ratings for different types of content will remain the same. 

I find this choice to be a bit strange. Saving the best gear for raids has always been controversial. Casual players want access to the best gear while many raiders view their fancy gear as a status symbol of their accomplishments and skill. 

It seems BioWare is trying to satisfy both sides by giving raiders better gear, but still letting non-raiders feel like they have achieved max gear by having a cap for the content they enjoy. This is at odds with their philosophy of continual increases to item rating over time though. 

If you never finish gearing before more gear is released, raiders are just always going to have better gear, so that benefit of separating gear is lost; though this could be partially alleviated by accelerating the pace at which gear is earned outside of Operations such that a non-raider will reach 326 faster than a raider will reach 334.

At the end of the day, it’s all imaginary anyway. BioWare has to balance content difficulty around some item rating regardless. They could choose to balance Operations around numbers achievable with 320-326 gear or they could require higher tiers of gear like what they currently plan to do for 7.0. BioWare could even choose to eliminate stats provided by gear altogether and just balance content around base stats and the content wouldn’t be any different.

Flashpoint Balance

Having separate gear tiers for raiders and non-raiders does allow BioWare to more precisely balance Flashpoints and make them more challenging for a larger portion of the playerbase.

Right now, Flashpoints have to remain accessible to all players. MM FPs have to remain clearable even by players who don’t yet have a full set of 306 Onderonian gear, let alone a full (and correct) set bonus and tactical item. This means Flashpoints end up being a whole lot easier for fully geared players. By restricting access to the actual best gear, this content can remain more challenging and engaging for non-raiders.

elom
Flashpoint on Elom art

In 7.0, DPS and heal checks for Flashpoints can be a bit tighter because they can be balanced around 326 gear as opposed to 334 and the difference between 320 gear (the base level for 7.0) versus 326 is much smaller than the difference between 334 and 320. 

New Gear Tiers and Operation Balance

For me, the worst news about gearing in 7.0 is the fact that we’ll be getting new tiers of gear throughout the expansion, though not just because of the additional gear grind. I dislike when content becomes easier as a result of new gear because it becomes trivial and boring. I raid in MM because I enjoy the challenge. If it becomes too easy, it isn’t as fun anymore. 

R-4 Anomaly Operation art

This approach creates other problems as well. It’s harder to claim you have killed something legitimately or otherwise earned the achievement if you can only do it when the fight is easier. This also hurts players who are right on the edge of being MM capable that rely on MM being easier in order to clear it, so when a new expansion is released and things become more challenging again, they end up getting left out.

“Hey, we enjoyed having you on our team in the last expansion, but now things are harder again and you aren’t meeting the numbers checks anymore, so we’re gonna have to let you go. Sorry.” 

It’s much better to just have a consistent difficulty and maybe add something like Nightmare Power on DF and DP in 2.0 or Izax when it was first released in HM where the bosses can be extremely challenging for the best of the best but it’s disconnected from the overall difficulty of the mode.

DvL

The Dark vs Light (DvL) system, referring to the banner that pops up periodically, not your cutscene choices, is being removed in 7.0 and the DvL world bosses will be temporarily removed, though they will be returning at a later date. Who knows how long it will take for them to be reintroduced. It could happen quickly, or it could be something we’re waiting on until most people have forgotten about. If you care about those achievements, make sure to get them before 7.0 is released. 

SWTOR Dark vs Light Posters

Social Rank

This system will still exist, but in 7.0, points will instead be awarded by completing group activities rather than making conversation choices. Achievements tied to Social Rank will be reworked to instead be granted based on Group Finder activities rather than Social Rank.

SWTOR Dark vs Light Posters

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, my opinions about gearing in 7.0 are mixed, some things like the removal of RNG and excess gear are great, but they’re marred by things like a neverending grind and too many tracks. It’s unfortunate that after 10 years and 6 expansions, BioWare still can’t seem to get gearing quite right, especially after such significant changes each time. Who knows though, maybe BioWare will make improvements by the time Legacy of the Sith is released.

Kai Zykken
Say bye-bye to my guy, Kai!

Sources used for this article: news article on swtor.com and forum post by Eric Musco.

One of the major changes coming up with the expansion revealed so far is the introduction of Legendary Items. It was also the most recent one before what you just read in today’s news update. Catch up! If you have missed anything from the initial release of the SWTOR 7.0 PTS you can follow along with the news and analysis articles in the SWTOR Update 7.0 list.

Author Lokzmir
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