With the upcoming June release of the PTS looming ever closer (although it's yet unknown when it will be active), Eric has been posting some more details about changes. So far the announced changes are specific updates to different Warzones (and a smaller update on the matter here), to reduce the average time of completion and punish environment-hackers, and improve on matchmaking.
There will probably be more changes being announced over the coming weeks, but until then there's a good amount of stuff for people such as myself to get their teeth into.
Specific Warzone Updates
As mentioned, the goal of these updates is to punish hackers and to reduce the average time it takes to complete a Warzone. More specifically, the new desired average time is approximately twelve minutes. To this end, objectives in various Warzones have been adjusted.
Alderaan Civil War
- Turrets now deal 12 Damage (up from 10).
- Individuals hacking the environment to cap within the node itself will be killed.
Very minor updates here, but this looks to be decent. I myself never came across anyone hacking in a Civil War match - unlike one instance in Voidstar - so I never knew that people even were doing this capping-inside-the-node 'trick', but it's great that they're accounting for it all the same.
- Orbs now score more points depending on which round it is. Formerly they used to score 6 flat, but now they score as follows:
- Round 1: 12
- Round 2: 15
- Round 3: 18
- Round 4: 21
- Round 5: 24
- Round 6+: 27
- Forcefields in the starting areas are now down for ten seconds and up for fifteen seconds. Previously they were up for thirty seconds, but it is unspecified how long they were down for previously.
It's great to see them making Orbs have more of an impact. Controlling the centre space of Hypergates is of inconsistent importance as it is currently, so I'm looking forward to seeing the difference this change makes. It's nice to see a 50% reduction on the uptime of the forcefields, even though as I say I don't know how much they've changed the downtime. Still a nice change, though, of course.
- Anyone who leaves the starting area prior to the official start of the match will be killed.
- It will be impossible to cap the node outside of the intended 20-metre range.
Much like Civil War these changes are small, to the extent that depending on the amount of exposure a Player had to either issue as little as nothing could be changing. The latter change is designed to counter the more 'popular' issue of Sages and Sorcerers planting their Phase Walk behind the nearby turret and then Phase-Walking while capping. This is an issue which several of my Guildies have witnessed first-hand, so they'll be very pleased to see this change.
- The Bomb on the Door will now take six seconds to arm, down from eight, and fifteen seconds to disarm, down from twenty.
- Extending the Bridges will now take six seconds, down from eight.
- A forcefield will protect the doors on the other side of the reactor room until the bridges are extended.
- Anyone who hacks through doors to plant from the other side or to access rooms before they become 'available' will be killed.
Since VoidStar is the only Warzone where channel-timers actually matter to progress the Warzone, it's logical that they get adjusted in these changes. A reduction of two seconds for the bomb and bridges might not seem like much, but the amount of times I've seen casters get interrupted with one second to go is really quite high by this stage. Five seconds fewer for disarming the bomb is nice too, since it lessens the time but still allows the Attackers enough time to prevent it.
If you don't understand why the third point is important, I refer you to this video by Shintar of Going Commando. This change will prevent this exact scenario from happening, and a further update by Eric implies that any Stealthers will be unable to sneak across one activated bridge and cap the 'unbridged' door as can happen now. I'm curious to see how this change affects the Warzone strategically.
- Ships now have 500 Health, down from 600.
- A Player-death will now reduce Ship Health by 2.
- Anyone hacking and capping the nodes within them will be killed.
Their main goal for Yavin with these changes is to differentiate it from Alderaan a bit more, since currently outside of the more gradual ticks on the Ship Health and the fact that you can increase the speed at which you cap a turret everything else is functionally identical.
The latter change is something which I've seen people raise concerns about, since they're worried that it might change the Warzone from being purely-objective to more Deathmatch-focused - essentially the thinking is that a team can lose based on kills despite owning two turrets the entire match. While I do see why they're concerned, I can only think these people don't play GSF since this is exactly how Domination works. Considering how much easier it is to kill a Player in GSF compared to normal PvP and how little a difference even this makes to the overall scoring of Domination it is exceedingly unlikely it will severely impact normal PvP.
Still, it's nice to see them finding ways to differentiate it a bit more from Alderaan.
Matchmaking is a gruesome beast, particularly in Unranked PvP. I'm sure a lot of people who dabble in PvP will have seen matches which have either too many or too few Healers, an abundance of Tanks, and even a team of nothing but DPS. This is particularly an issue in Arenas, where it is possible for one Team to be made up of nothing but DPS and the other with two Healers.
Changes announced yesterday are intended to fix this. Not only are we seeing actual matchmaking finally make its way into Unranked, but we also have a confirmation that every single Warzone will be Cross-faction. As unpopular as Yavin and particularly Odessen are, balance is much easier to see in both due to the mixing of Imperial and Republic teams across the board.
The specifics of these changes are as follows:
- As mentioned, all Warzone Queues will become Cross-faction, but this also includes - unexpectedly - GSF.
- Unranked Queues will prioritise Warzones over Arenas. An Arena will only get chosen if there aren't enough Players in the Queue to populate a Warzone.
- No more than two Healers or two Tanks in the same Unranked Warzone group and no more than one Healer or one Tank in an Unranked Arena group.
- If an odd number is present, the system will try and balance it out - the example given is in the case of three Healers, one Tank; one group will get two Healers and the other the Tank and remaining Healer.
- Premades in Unranked can only have a max of one Tank and one Healer.
- Player-Skill (based on an invisible 'rating') is going to take a bigger role in forming the teams.
- Premades will be placed in groups and matches based on the skill of the highest-rated Player and not an average of the group as a whole.
- Ship loadouts in GSF will now dictate the groups and matches a Player will find themselves in.
So... there's a lot of changes here.
Firstly, the Tank/Healer situation looks... interesting, especially for Warzones. If I understand things correctly it seems they're basically making the system form teams which are six DPS and two of either Tanks or Healers. That will certainly help speed things up, depending on the DPS composition, but it might still lead to teams having no Healers if there are (for some reason) several Tanks in-queue - and of course it can't account for no Healers being in the queue at all. Curious to see how that works out.
Arena matchmaking in Unranked is great to get as well, of course, but again this doesn't guarantee that each Team will actually get an even balance of roles - now that Arenas will be purely 'backfill-only' matches this could get quite ugly depending on which roles are in queue at the time.
This will also, of course, mean that if a pre-made goes in with the Flashpoint trinity, that's their Team spoken for for both Tanks and Healers immediately even in a full eight-man Warzone. This isn't a criticism as it makes a good amount of sense in my eyes, it's just something that people will need to watch out for going forward since a Healer queuing alongside a Tank will now always know that they will be the only Healer in their team.
I'm interested to see this invisible 'rating' at-work, especially in terms of grouping. It could actually be quite a humbling experience for some people; those with inflated egos who believe they're all pizzazz and what-not, yet keep getting grouped with 'lesser' players due to the system detecting them as being on the same level of skill. Indeed, I for one am curious to see what 'brackets' certain guildies get put into...
Finally on the functional side of things, GSF matches now taking ship-loadouts into account will definitely be interesting to see. I'm assuming the loadout used is limited to the five ships you can use in a match and not your entire Hangar, but it still raises the question of whether a Player can 'force' themselves into a different 'bracket' by deliberately choosing low-level ships alongside their main ship. I hope not, but we'll see what we shall see...
I've touched on this before, but thematically cross-faction doesn't make sense at the moment. Even though it's possible that they'll be recording new lines to indicate that every single Warzone is now a wargame within the Alliance, the indication is that the Alliance won't be as neutral and "lovey-dovey" between the factions going forward. To go from the story saying "the Alliance is helping the Republic now!" to fighting for the Empire against a Republic-aligned Alliance team won't exactly be helping eventual new Players adjust to where things are at.
It may be a minor thing to some people, but to people like me keeping themes consistent across the board is vastly important.
Overall, with the exception of the cross-faction stuff thematically and the balance still not guaranteeing that a team in Unranked will actually get a Healer, I like what I see. I'm curious to see how all these changes announced thus far will impact things as well as to learn what other changes will be announced within the month. I'm looking forward to the PTS being opened later in June so that I can experience these changes first-hand.