SWTOR Play Your Way – My Accessibility Hopes for Spoils of War

SWTOR Play Your Way - Gearing under Spoils of War and AccessibilityWith the upcoming expansion to Star Wars: The Old Republic comes a huge set of changes to how gearing in SWTOR works. Which means I’ll have to update my blog post on the subject! But until then I wanted to go through the live stream and examine the new slogan of Play Your Way. As someone who has written about some of the difficulties SWTOR have inadvertently given me due to my chronic illness, accessibility matters. Spoils of War is the name they’ve given the gearing updates from Onslaught‘s launch. So let’s go through the notes, because the stream gave me great hopes that accessibility will be improved for me.
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Improvements to Communication and Feedback

The Spoils of War Live Stream began talking about how the team at Bioware were going to be improving communication with players of SWTOR. As well as the usual blogs and streams, SWTOR will be

  • Starting new forum threads
  • Running a Reddit AMAA (Ask Me Almost Anything) relating to Spoils of War
  • Setting up surveys

SWTOR Unveiled new Feedback Mechanisms for Spoils of War
Players can then give feedback, which the team can look at and act on. Then I presume the cycle can start over so the process can be refined.

How this Affects Accessibility

This promise of improved communication and listening to the player base is really, really important. If you have struggled to play aspects of the game due to accessibility reasons, then this is big. Although I love the game, and the writers at Bioware can create great stories, I’ve had to avoid certain aspects. Generally high pain, but also fatigue and hand pain make even some of the solo content extremely difficult for me.

With these additional feedback aspects, which I fully intend to take advantage of, I have a way to give that feedback. Aside from ranting in blogs and moaning on Twitter of course! This means I may not feel like an unheard minority, but a key part of the game improvement process.
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Play Your Way

Keith said very early on that he wanted gearing to be a fun process. For me, who can’t often play the latest content and definitely not the hardest content, getting better gear has definitely not been fun. That said, I really like Ossus, excluding the final episode. But the RNG ‘box’ for the weekly was a bit of a pet peeve. It was sort of summed up by Kayeri!

How Play Your Way Works

Charles Boyd said that SWTOR wanted to give players “lots of different ways” you can gear your character. Moreover that it could be personalisable, so you can build your character the way you want to. So the basic idea is, you choose the content you want to play and you can gear yourself and your other characters how you want to.

Obviously there will be rewards for players who undertake the hardest content. And, as a player who does not do those things, I fully support that principle! But, to quote Musco

If you just do Story-Mode flashpoints, you could get the best gear in the game. It is still possible.

That. Is. Huge.
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How Do You Get All This Stuff?

Let’s have a look and see!

  • Play What You Want: You can progress your character playing what you want, while harder content is more rewarding. As it should be.
  • Drops Based On Your Character: this is REALLY IMPORTANT. It must be, I put it in red, which I never do! Gear that drops from enemies is based on your characters level, build and your stats. Galactic Command will not drop items that are much below your level any more, for example. It will always be something around your current stats.
  • RNG Protection: I’m going to go ahead and call this “grind protection”. Although RNG will still exist, the new system effectively checks to see if you’ve had a run of bad luck. If you have then the next time around, you’re more likely to get an upgrade. This only seems to apply to Set Bonuses and Tactical Items, though.
  • Everything’s Legacy-bound: after Onslaught launches, you can earn gear for all your legacy. All items on new gear earned can be swapped across legacy. Got an upgrade? Great, send the old one to a different character! And if that doesn’t sound good enough, they’re cross-faction. An Inquisitor piece can be sent to a Consular!
  • New Vendors: Deconstruction is a way of getting whatever the new currency is. That currency can be used to purchase items for specific slots. This helps counteract any RNG bad luck you’ve been having and to purchase the items that have not yet dropped. This should keep you competitive, although should not be the best gear. A second “elusive” vendor will appear occasionally offering specific set items and tactical items.

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Appropriate Gear Drops

Before the raiders go up in arms let me explain! Or more accurately, let Mr Boyd explain. Because of how insanely flexible the new gearing system wil be, the gear dropped will be more appropriate. So in one sense we need to get away from the thought of “best gear”. Charles’ example was

  • In PvP you’ll get gear that helps you in PvP
  • If you do Operations, you get gear that improves your performance in Operations.

How Play Your Way Affects Accessibility

If being rewarded appropriately for the content you play then this could make a huge difference to me. RXP (the new CXP) will be granted as a proportion of the XP you would have gained were you earning XP. This could mean running exploration missions at level-cap, or enjoying GSI Missions or even playing the class story if you hit level cap before it ends could all earn reasonable RXP.

So if you want to spend time wandering the galaxy and avoiding combat, then you could still be rewarded for doing that. From an accessibility perspective, it means I could play something really relaxing and still improve my gear. That’s new and very welcome!
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Gear Drops from Enemies

When Galactic Command was first introduced, gear dropped very rarely from enemies, because your main source of Level 70 gear was supposed to come through the CXP system.

Now they will be increasing/improving the way gear drops through the game. Musco and Charles did both affirm that this would especially be true of bosses, meaning Operations (and presumably Flashpoints too). As mentioned above – the harder the content the better the gear. However they said it would filter its way down the through the lower-level content over time.

How Gear Drops Affect Accessibility

IF gear drops from enemies throughout the game as well as in group content, then this will also be a positive step for accessibility. To be honest, because of Galactic Command and Ossus, nearly all gear dropped currently is vendor trash. And getting the relevent currency for gear upgrades from the Ossus vendors requires a lot of grinding. I am not a grinder, therefore I don’t have the gear!

However, this point gives me hope that simply by playing on Ossus, or anywhere else for that matter, I could get gear improvements even if I don’t complete the weekly. Less combat is a good thing when dealing with chronic pain, trust me!

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More Complex, but More Customisable Gearing

So under Spoils of War, some stats/items are being improved and some are entirely new. I’ll see if I can summarise this in a way that is helpful.

More Set Bonuses

A set bonus is an increase in your combat effectiveness due to having a certain number of gear items from the same set. Currently, what those bonuses are are pre-determined and based on your advanced class. SWTOR will be introducing new sets with more varied bonuses.

Importantly, some bonuses will relate to having two pieces rather than needing them all. In this way you can create multiple set bonuses for customisation.

How I Currently Customise My Gear

I don’t talk about this very often, although in hindsight I could have blogged about it! Under the current system you can customise your stats to a degree, although not where set bonuses are concerned. As this is a divergence from talking about Spoils of War, I’ve hidden this below. Just tap the link-button-thing if you want to read it!
Read It!

  • Mods: When you’re at the fleet vendor you can unfilter the options. That means, for example, you can increase power, critical rating or defence rating regardless of your advanced class. A simple example is using a Versatile Hilt on a Guardian Tank, rather than the one designed for tanks. Another thing I do is to add in defence rating mods or enhancements on DPS melée characters. This improves parry and deflection rating.
  • Shield vs Focus Swap: DPS Juggernaughts and Guardians can still carry a shield. Doing so will reduce your Force and damage, but you can improve your defences if needs be. You still have your damaging abilities from the DPS advanced class, but with extra sturdiness.
  • Augments: Although very fiddly to craft yourself and usually extortionate on GTN, augments do offer a degree of customisation. How I got a couple of my DPS characters through KotET was to build in Defence Rating augments. For ranged blaster/rifle/cannon DPS classes defence rating improves your chance of dodging attacks. So with augments, my fights may have been longer, but I designed my build around durability. Out-live your opponent rather than trying to go for the quickest kill.

New Tactical Items

This will be a completely new gear slot introduced with Spoils of War. It was explained as an item to “define your play style”. Simple examples were:

  1. Gaining more XP while “running around” (whatever they meant by that!)
  2. Gathering/Crafting profession could get better returns
  3. A way to improve specific combat abilities
  4. Ability to switch your Tacticals depending on the content you’re playing.

It was emphasised that at the start, Tacticals would be rare and “something you chase”. That infers they may be more readily available later as they tweak the system.

New Amplifiers

Amplifiers are new, bonus, customisation options for players. Content balancing is not affected by this new feature. Amplifiers work to increase stats you specifically want to improve. They may be on shells (an empty gear piece) or a specific component (Mod, Enhancement, Armouring etc).

But importantly, the new content in Onslaught has been built on the assumption that players do not have amplifiers. Having them will make you stronger but you should not be at a disadvantage by not having them. Hopefully that makes sense!↑ Menu

How the New Items Impacts Accessibility

Generally I’m feeling positive about this. I doubt I’ll be “chasing my tacticals” however, because chasing usually infers grinding. But if I can build my characters more flexibly I may not have to resort to the expensive, or unattainable Augments method I have been using. If you couple the new items with the Play Your Way philosophy, I could build in the resilience through less-intense gameplay. That makes it positive from an accessibility point of view.

The amplifiers, although harder to get may help me to improve stats that are not commonly used for a class. My example of building in defence rating mentioned above, I could use on a healer. Or, who knows, a buff to Presence to further improve my companion’s combat performance.
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Galactic Command is now Supplemental

Having said most mob drops are vendor trash, especially with all but one of my Level 70s being in Tier 1 of Galactic Command, most GC crates are also trash. SWTOR are aiming to move away from that being the main way you get gearing. Instead it becomes supplemental, bonus stuff I guess.

How this Affects Accessibility

“Everything you play is gaining you something” was a key phrase out of the Live Stream. That has definitely not been the case for me, to date. Gearing, although never my main aim, is how I try to equip my characters to be able to relax and enjoy the game. If I could be over-powered, I would not complain!

If Play Your Way is truly the philosophy, then the fact I can gradually improve my characters whatever content I choose to do, then I have hope from Spoils of War.
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Play Favourite Classes, Gear Everyone!

One of the things I’ve always found tricky with SWTOR gearing is character-bound rewards. I understood the reason behind it, however. But it meant that, in order to get better gear to take on harder content I had to play the harder content first. It sounds logical, but that made it exceedingly difficult playing the latest content on my Sith Healer, Talitha’koum. The end of Jedi Under Siege was really difficult for me. But an important change is coming with Spoils of War.

Legacy-Bound Loot

Under Play Your Way, I can take on the most recent content on my most solid characters. For that read: Jedi Guardian (Tank) and Jedi Shadow (Tank). With new gear drops being legacy-bound, I have a chance of earning gear on my Tanks that I can give to my DPS characters.

The only downside to this is that, because gear is appropriate to the active character’s setup, I am unlikely to get a gear piece that will help beef up my Sith Healer, though maybe some Armourings and mods may be transferable.
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How this Affects Accessibility

Keith pointed out that the aim is gearing should become part of the process of enjoying the game rather than the only goal. To date, playing most of the newer content has been too challenging because I’ve been unable to gear up first. For me to truly enjoy the latest content, I want to feel an element of challenge, rather than stressing at the odds being stacked against me. I’m looking forward to being able to use any gear item on any of my characters! There is a real chance of being able to be better geared on my squishier classes before I take on new content – which will make it more enjoyable for me.
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Galactic Renown – the old Galactic Command

This is more than a mere name change, there are some very important differences. In short, Galactic Renown is something to cheer about!

  • Consistent Progression: Every crate you get in Galactic Renown has a chance to be an upgrade. This is not currently the case with Galactic Command. Combining Play Your Way with the systemic changes for Spoils of War, you don’t have to reach a new tier before you get upgrades. Every time you level up in Galactic Renown, you have a chance of an upgrade. This is because it is checking against your character’s stats before generating the crates contents! In fact, tiers will no longer exist.
  • Renown is Seasonal: this will reset maybe around each expansion etc, but ranks don’t really mean anything because the crates should always be roughly relevant to your current stats.
  • CXP Derived from XP: If killing an enemy would give you XP, now it gives you CXP (RXP) as a percentage of the XP. If you are at maximum level, the new system will track what XP you would have gotten (presumably based on the Level Sync information) you will get RXP for those. My only wish is that quests such as those for GSI, or running planetary stories at level cap, should also grant RXP based on XP. Currently these only grant 70CXP or so, meaning you need to complete lots to level Command Rank.

Does Galactic Renown Help Me?

Yes, because one of the current barriers to getting better content is the Galactic Command tiering system. I only have one character in Tier 2. Grinding will not be necessary, going through thankless rank-after-rank to hit a tier for a chance at better gear. This means I will be able to improve my stats more easily than ever before, without stressing my mind and body to do so.
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A “New Currency”

Unbranded yet, but a new currency will appear as of Onslaught. But how will I be able to get that new currency?

Deconstructing Unwanted Items

Deconstruction does not require a crafting profession, but reverse engineering will give (vague) advantages. Which also makes sense. This means if you do get items you do not want, you can break these down into crafting materials, scrap or the new currency. This still fits into the continual progression model, because the system will presumably notice if you deconstruct something. That’s a clear, positive indicator, that you don’t want it again. So I think it will know to try not to give it, or something like it, in future.

Other Sources of the New Currency

  • Renown Crates
  • Mission Completions

Does This Help Accessibility?

Yes. There’s nothing more disheartening than running a tough quest, or completing the Ossus Weekly only to have no real reward to show for it. This fact is true of people without accessibility or health issues! But if I am trying to improve my gear, I usually have to adversely affect my pain levels to do so. If I can deconstruct unwanted items and turn them into something useful, I at least have something to show for it!

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Crafting and Play Your Way

Crafting viable gear is a clear way to progress. They did say that crafting wouldn’t give you the best gear – because that should come by playing the game. But, to use a phrase from earlier, you should be able to make competitive gear. That can come in the form of whole items as well as specific mods. I don’t know yet what the impact on Free-to-Play players on all this is. But if the system applies to F2P-ers as well as subscribers, then crafting is really difficult. However, they should find the new system more rewarding so that crafting is optional, rather than a barrier to progression.

Tap the image below to see the main bullet points from the crafting section of the stream.

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Watch the Spoils of War Live Stream VOD

For the full details, please see the SWTOR Twitch video below!

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TL;DR – Play Your Way, Enjoy SWTOR More!

The live stream was packed full of information! Summarising it is challenging. However, Play Your Way is really promising for those of us with accessibility issues. As your gear drops will be relevant to your character’s build, no time is unrewarded. As you can receive new gear through doing almost anything in game, I will be able to play slower and easier content to improve my stats. With everything being legacy-bound I have the chance of gearing my squishier characters from drops while playing my Tanks. And the new deconstruction system will mean less vendor trash and more useful components to further increase my characters’ effectiveness.

Play Your Way is a total overhaul of gearing philosophy in SWTOR. It is my hope that I’ve understood it correctly and can look forward to a more positive, less grindy gearing process. It’s just a few months now until we find out!

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Fibro Jedi

A 30-something Shadow Jedi, married and have a small daughter. By that I mean "young", not just "short". I have a chronic pain condition called Fibromyalgia andI play LOTRO, SWTOR and FFXIV and blog about two of them. Social Media has connected me with so many people and some of those have become amazing friends too! As a hobby I am relearning drawing, which you can see on my DeviantArt profile.