If you’ve listened to the latest Unnamed SWTOR Podcast you know how much I adore Planetary Conquests. It was a surprising addition to Patch 2.9 that at first glance seemed like a tacked on feature; something to give guilds a use for their guild flagships when they were done decorating them. As it turns out, conquests are not only the most important feature added in this patch in my opinions, they may be the most important feature added to the game since the group finder. Guild conquests in concept are the pinnacle of what MMOs strive to be: large, community-driven, open-ended competitions that allow players to play the way they want, in order to achieve victory. With all that being said, very few things are ever perfect and there are quite a few tweaks that I feel need to be made in order to make conquests more player friendly and intuitive. Note these are “tweaks” and not “major changes.”
Patch 2.9 has been out for less than two weeks and there is only one single week’s worth of conquest data to look at. I think it’s important that Bioware uses a gentle hand while making adjustments as changing too much, too fast in a rapidly evolving landscape could create even worse ripple effects down the line. One such example of this is the popular opinion that conquest crafting should be nerfed. Players were crafting hundreds upon hundreds of war supplies over many alts to take advantage of the repeatable conquest points from crafting. This may seem crazy but if you think about it, hoarders like me have been stock piling materials for over two years now and were lying in wait for something like this to use them on. These mass stockpiles will eventually dwindle though, as the time it takes to replenish the mats required and the initial surge of novelty to crafting your way to victory wears off. It may seem very fun and special to play crafting whack-a-mole right now because it’s fresh, but how many players will continue to do so for weeks and months down the line? I think it’s important to reward the players that do have that dedication and love the fact that they can contribute to their guild by doing nothing but crafting. Because of these players, I don’t believe nerfing war supplies is warranted (I also see this as yet another reason why a crafting app for phones would cause more problems in game then they solve, but I digress).
Planetary conquests have several systemic problems that need to be looked at. The reward quantities given for certain objectives need to be toned down. Five hundred points for completing a single warzone? One thousand points for completing Esseles or Black Talon? You get the same number of points for doing a level 10, two man flashpoint at 55 as you do for defeating 250 npc on a planet or 25 elite PvP guards and the latter objectives are not repeatable. You can do warzones until your fingers go numb from smashing faces and still get 500 for every single one. They have since changed the flashpoint objectives to the one shots variety, but this will only further exacerbate the ease at which players and churn out warzones (and starfighter to a lesser extent) for points.
At the same time they need to avoid turning all the conquest objectives into check lists. Bioware should do everything in their power to avoid “forcing” players to do things they don’t want to by limiting the number of times an objective counts. This is why I would be very hesitant to create resembling pseudo dailies for conquest points. If they were to implement daily limits to the number of warzones or flashpoints that can count in a given day or week players may feel like these objectives become mandatory bars that must be filled up every time they compete in a conquest. Adding a limit in game may very well activate players urge to fill all bars. It’s interesting how putting a ceiling on something like warzones makes you more likely to do it. If there was no PvP daily or weekly but there was a permanent double commendation event I would do far less PvP because there isn’t that visual confirmation that I’m accomplishing something. The problem with the limit everything mentality is that conquests are designed to be free form and open. It may be hard, but if you want to craft your way to victory it’s definitely doable. All PvP guild? Bang out those warzones you were doing anyway and victory will be yours. Leveling guild? There are all sorts of objectives tailored just for you. Ideally conquests should reward your guild for doing whatever you were doing anyway while simultaneously incentivizing you to work together more on common goals or branch out and try something different. The system as it is now is far from perfect, but Bioware needs to understand exactly who and what conquests are for and make changes accordingly.
If a conquest event has 10 objectives but 8 of those are limited to one completion per day, there are a few major issues. Checklist objectives like this make it harder for separation to occur on the leaderboards because most competitive guilds will do those 8 on most characters every day and the only real differentiators are the other two quests. It creates a scenario where those 8 quests don’t even really matter. This is why I dislike the change limiting flashpoints to once per day. If you liked doing flashpoints because they’re fun and enjoyed helping your guild at the same time you have been unduly punished. Bioware should have reduced the rewards from multiple completions of the same flashpoint or made completion of low level flashpoints not count to conquest points. There is a massive difference between contributing a small amount to your guild’s success and not contributing at all. I would much rather see Bioware tweak conquest point numbers than slash the number of ways a guild can compete for a planet. Conquests are amazing because there are so many different ways to skin a planet, and limiting those methods doesn’t pass the eye test.
On the other hand, there are a few ways to improve conquests using one shot conquest objectives. I like the theming of each conquest; the one-time special missions like killing a planet’s world boss or defeating a named commander are achievements that give each conquest a unique flavor. I would love to see special high-difficulty, high-reward one shots like “Defeat the Dread Council on Nightmare in a guild group” or “Win 5 ranked matches in a row in a guild group” or even more obscure ones like “Hatch an Orokeet Egg with the Nightmare Pilgrim debuff on a Tuesday.” Make the one time quests mini-events that guilds can guilds to rally around and have some fun with.
Planetary conquests are big and bold and a whole lot of fun to play with. I have only scratched the surface of all the ideas I have running through my head regarding conquests. From conquest event planets to improvements for smaller guilds to the inevitable realization that the same guilds will probably win week after week there are many small tweaks that would go a long way toward improving Planetary Conquests in the long term. I think I need to write a second conquest blog to explain my wide ranging theories for improving the game so keep an eye out next week for part 2.