SWTOR 2.0 – The Progression Game: A Fresh Start

Posted: March 4, 2013 in Unknown Regions
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One day, a long time ago in a world named Azeroth, an undead rogue had reached the pinnacle of achievement within this fictitious game world. He had fought off the trolls of Zul’Gurub, ventured into the depths of Molten Core, and battled against huge bug-looking thingys in the Temple of Ahn’Qiraj. He and his fellow guildmates had spent weeks upon weeks learning the tactics involved in boss battles, finally mastering them, and dying hundreds of times along the way. But the victory and success was oh so sweet. The rewards were treasured dearly, and the armor and weapons they equipped were symbols of the heroics they had performed and the challenges they had overcome.

Then one day, a weird looking portal opened leading to a new land. Always being the brave and daring adventurers, this rogue and his friends ventured through to see what lie on the other side. Behold, the Outlands! New adventure awaited! The rogue quickly sprang into action, finding a nearby outpost in need of his aid. One of the leaders at the outpost had a need for fresh demon pig blood (don’t ask), so the rogue headed out into the wilds to slay some demon pigs.

The demon pigs were feisty, but they could not stand against the rogue’s deadly looking glowing daggers of doom! Upon slaying one of the foul beasts, he noticed something shiny sticking out of the eviscerated corpse. What’s this? A pair of unattractive leather gloves, colored brown with bright green dots – obviously vendor trash. But upon closer examination, the ugly gloves seemed to ooze with significant power. Upon trying them on, sure enough, they made him feel faster, stronger, bigger. What wonders this new land held!

Yes. After spending weeks and months acquiring the highest and greatest end game raiding equipment, the gear was replaced with an item that was found within the first 20 minutes of stepping into the new expansion’s first zone. A green quality item with better stats. A green item that randomly dropped off a fucking demon pig.

Such is often the nature of MMOs when an expansion is released. With Game Update 2.0 arriving on the Public Test Server for Star Wars: The Old Republic, it appears as if the release of the Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion is imminent. Players are hopeful that BioWare has learned from other games and the gear progression won’t be quite as dramatic as this example. There have been some vague mentions by BioWare developers that current end-game gear would last longer than might be expected. However, we won’t know how true this is until we actually see what the level 51 quest rewards and loot drops look like. Until we know more, it very well could be that highest end gear that SWTOR players have spent months acquiring will soon be replaced by level 51 quest rewards and random drops from the Star Wars equivalent of a demon pig.

This can be frustrating to players, although reaction to the phenomenon seems to vary. Newer players seem to be less than thrilled with the idea of replacing their precious highest end armor so quickly. Long-time MMO veterans are used to it by now, though they may not always be happy about it. However, if an MMO is going to introduce content that allows players to reach higher levels and become more powerful, then new equipment progression is something that goes hand in hand.

Recently I wrote a little something comparing MMOs to religion and guilds to individual churches. Let’s use another analogy when discussing progression and expansions – Sports. Guilds are the teams. Expansions are like new seasons. Let’s use baseball since spring is almost here and it’s a new beginning for every team. During the season, you build your team, set your line-ups, and assign roles. Teams sign free agents, make trades, decide who is batting lead off, who is batting clean-up, and who is riding the bench. They decide their starting pitcher rotation, who is best to bring in to pitch against left handed batters, and who their closer will be. They experiment with different lineup orders or field positions to try and find something that works best. If things are going well, things generally won’t be changed much. If things are going poorly, there’s going to be a lot of instability within the team.

This isn’t much different from a raid group being put together and trying to succeed. Who’s going to heal? Who’s the best tank? Who stands in fire constantly and needs to be benched? If a particular player sees another guild with more to offer, they may leave as a free agent. Sadly, (or maybe fortunately depending how you look at it,) there are no long-term binding contracts between players and their guilds. A guild that succeeds will generally be happy and stable. A guild that constantly wipes on the same boss weeks on end will probably not be a very happy or stable place.

So what is the team trying to do? Ultimately, they’d like to win the World Series. But that is not going to be a realistic goal for every baseball team each season. Maybe they’d just like to make the playoffs, finish over .500, or even simply develop some of their younger prospects by getting them major league experience. Let’s face it – the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates are not perennial contenders. Their expectations are fairly low.

Similarly, different guilds have different expectations. Some guilds are built for the sole purpose of being a world-class progression guild competing to obtain “world first” boss kills. Others guilds are a step below, happy to be among the first handful of guilds on their server to conquer the latest challenging content. Even more guilds are perfectly content to slowly and surely make progress and are not really interested in being among the first at all, but do want to eventually progress through the content at a reasonable pace. And yet others are just hoping to be able to scrape together 8 people online at the same time so they can at least see the Story Mode versions without having to bring in any PUG players.

So Rise of the Hutt Cartel is a new season. Every guild starts over with a record of 0-0. All players’ home runs, RBI, batting average, wins, strikeouts, and ERA stats are set back to zero. Some of the faces may have changed since the beginning of last season. You still have the trophies, achievements, and memories (both good and bad) of last season, but they will do you no good going forward. You put tons of time, blood, sweat, and tears into last season, but last season is over. It’s time to look to the future and what awaits you this season. There will be plenty of exciting moments to look forward to and new accomplishments to strive for.

So when that demon pig drops those ugly-ass gloves that are better than the pretty gloves you spent months of blood and sweat earning, don’t look at it as if the game is shitting on your past accomplishments. Look at it as the first base hit of a brand new season, a season that is ripe with new possibilities and achievements. And fondly remember the grand slam you hit last year that put your team into the playoffs.


  1. vanye111 says:

    Just getting back into the game, so I know a lot of vocab has been developed in the last year, so…what is TFB? 🙂

  2. Shintar says:

    Judging by the level 55 gear available on the PTS, I suspect/hope that the gear transition to ROTHC will be more like WoW’s at the release of WOTLK, meaning that top end raid gear won’t be replaced instantly and in the first zone, but more steadily as you advance in levels.

    TFB being retuned for level 55 will also be something different from all previous raid content being left behind with a new level cap like it’s always been in WoW.

    • Jaspor says:

      Yeah, those are both good points. I hope it’s true that the gear shock won’t be as bad as Burning Crusade. And the whole recycling TFB is kind of weird. That’s probably not going to sit too well with the hardcore raiders who have done it dozens of times already unless they dramatically change the boss mechanics.