World PvPers such as myself might have noticed by now that there is a severe lack of organically spawned World PvP. When I leveled my first character to fifty, I came across three enemy players the entire time. My second character was a slight improvement at four enemies. How could this happen? I fight on a PvP server specifically to fight people in the open world. So why do I never find anyone to fight? Why don’t you join me as I dig deeper into the issue to find the cause after the jump.
What is World PvP?
To those who are unaware, World PvP is Player versus Player combat that happens outside of Warzones in the open world. While some consider World PvP to simply be higher level characters “ganking” lower level characters, that is merely a tiny subset of the larger whole. “Ganking” interrupts the questing of lower level players, but can also be used as a tool to entice an enemy guild to show up to a fight. This works especially well if there is an existing rivalry between two involved guilds. There is also organized World PvP; large battles that can include hundreds of people across multiple planets in the Open World, planned ahead of time with player-made rules and objectives. Ilum is considered a World PvP zone, but it has objectives and rewards different from normal World PvP, which doesn’t really have any. Below is a video taken from youtuber MatthewThomasParker, during a large World PvP event on Hoth on the Jung Ma server.
I’ll focus on natural and organic World PvP; the type of World PvP that happens when individual players from the opposing faction meet up while both are questing, entirely by accident. This presents both of them with the same options; either fight or flight. Organic World PvP begins with the former and sometimes, if it gains no traction, it ends there. Other times, when the conditions are just right, it grows more and more as each side calls in support until its a battle between armies. This example is why I love World PvP, there is potential for a minor incident between random players to grow into a great battle. However, in SWTOR it seems to be missing. Why is that?
The worlds themselves appear to be the biggest impediment to natural World PvP. Half of the worlds are only accessible to a single faction; the four starter worlds, the Capital worlds, and Taris and Balmorra. While the remaining nine worlds have few questing areas shared by both factions. More often than not the worlds are built specifically to keep each faction separated.
On Nar Shaddaa this construction is obvious. The above image shows an Imperial landing platform above Republic platform in the Industrial Sector. In this area, a player must run through multiple elevators and across entire maps, fighting mobs, until they finally reach the opposing faction segments. But even if they make it to a hostile area, being killed will likely send them to a med center several levels back. On Nar Shaddaa you literally need to go out of your way to find an enemy player.
On other worlds, like Tatooine, this is a bit different. Quests rarely send players to the same locations, but rather almost always in the opposite direction. However, the open nature of the world and the vast empty landscapes tend to allow players to get lost and inadvertently let them wander into hostile territory. To get around this, physical barriers are erected to literally separate the two factions. In the Jundland Wastes, a large canyon and cliffs separate the Imperials in the south, from the Republic in the North, only accessible through seven narrow routes, some of which are in “Heroic” questing areas. Yet with all of these obstacles, Tatooine was where I had my first interaction with the enemy faction.
Sometimes, paths may naturally intersect—like on Alderaan and Belsavis—forcing the two factions together as a most unexpected time. It is in these areas, those that require the two factions to run past each other while questing, which almost always encourages a fight on its own. Unfortunately, these locations are rare, and require both factions to be passing through at the right moment.
Technology seems to be the main factor in preventing large scale battles, much in the same way world construction is the main impediment to small scale battles. The technology limits the population on worlds around 200 players per shard shared between both factions. It is this limitation that has so far proven an issue in every large scale open world battle I have taken part in.
It would seem that the problem stems from limitations of the Hero Engine itself, because more than a few dozen characters on screen can—even on the best of machines—cause lag. This limits the already limited fights into smaller numbers to make them somewhat enjoyable. Otherwise, when several dozen people charge at each other, most players will freeze, some might even disconnect, and a lucky few will have just enough movement to begin fighting.
Another technological limitation is the lack of an alert system to let everyone watching the channel know when a location is under attack. So even if you are attacked, there will be no reinforcements unless someone directly contacts them or communicates in General chat.
Unlike in most PvE events, where Tokens can easily be gained from Dailies, Flashpoints and Operations, Warzones are the only real source of PvP commendations. Warzones are unfortunately not the same as Open World PvP, due to their restrictions and built-in objectives and time limits.
Killing people in the open world, even of the same level, gains you neither tokens nor commendations. There is nothing to gain from the effort it takes to hunt people down. Therefore, there is little to no reason to go out of your way to fight the enemy. The only drive is, in fact, just a desire to fight.
There are many problems that plague World PvP. However, for those who love World PvP, and love the game, solutions have been developed since launch. The following are some of the more important fixes. Hopefully, they can help you, if you need a taste of World PvP.
World Events seem to provide a source of good World PvP. The Rakghoul Plague allowed players of both factions to congregate around the crashed ship, the vendors, and anywhere else the quests led them. This inevitably led to conflict, from the one-on-one small scale, to large guilds battling for control of the ship for their faction.
This happened again during the recent Grand Acquisitions Race event—several sections of the hunt were open to PvP interaction on both the small and large scale. There were constant battles on PvP servers over certain items as individuals were ganked, and then subsequently supported by their guilds.
This is what World PvP is about: factions coming together and fighting for domination on all scales. This is, however, not a solution as World Events come and go. This is a temporary fix that is not within player control, so all we can do is watch and wait.
Finding where on which worlds PvP is likely to happen
The worlds that PvP can happen on are Alderaan, Belsavis, Corellia, Hoth, Ilum, Nar Shaddaa, Quesh, Tatooine and Voss. However, there are specific areas where PvP is more likely to occur. The Black Hole of Corellia is often the site of a lot of PvP action. The central Dune Sea and Jundland Wastes of Tatooine are where quite a few players explore and oftentimes wander into enemy territory. On Alderaan, there are many areas where players of opposing factions actually cross paths. It was on Alderaan where I had the most world PvP experience while leveling; two separate encounters.
Spreading fights across multiple worlds
While not an issue for small scale battles, anything larger than a few dozen people leads to lag issues on many worlds, and larger than a hundred or so and you being running into population limits. This sends people to different phases with little control of who goes where. The fight below took place on Belsavis, and while only a few dozen were involved at this exact location, the entire event had over two hundred people involved on other areas of the planet, and on Alderaan as well.
Credit: Aissa, Jung Ma
It is a safe assumption that anything over 20 people per faction requires multiple locations on a world, and anything over 70-100 people per faction requires multiple worlds, to avoid lag and phasing issues. This can, and has been, done to great effect, permitting the inclusion of several hundred players in large battles throughout the galaxy.
Adding a custom “defense” channel
As there is no way to automatically find out which areas are in need of help, using /cjoin to form and listen to a channel meant to monitor and report hostile activity can be a boon to World PvPers looking for a fight. They can either use it to gather people together go start a fight, or prepare a defense to finish one already started. Make sure the channel is open for anyone to enter and listen, with no one guild or person in “control” of it. If the other faction has a spy, then it means you’ll have enemies to fight when you get there. Make it something simple that everyone can remember, like /defense, or something similar.
Players wont get anything killing enemy players outside of Warzones. That means, players need to make their own rewards. For some, that leads to what is considered ganking, but that is not the only possibility. There is of course reputation and bragging rights. Every server has top pvp guilds and top PvPers. When someone can beat one of these players—or succeeds against one of these top guilds—its rewarding all on its own, especially if they recently beat you in a similar fight.
On RP-PvP servers as well, large battles and small skirmishes are fought weekly, all connected by interlaced storylines that the players construct. For these players, its the fun of playing through a story, along with fighting your enemies.
Credit: Aissa, Jung Ma
There is of course the personal feelings you get. I love helping out people when someone is ganking or otherwise harassing them, or while helping a friend level and killing anyone that gets too close. It’s a fun experience.
Star Wars: The Old Republic had the potential for incredible World PvP. Worlds burning with warfare and chaos, cities being conquered by the enemy, and marching armies across the face of planets. That was the possibility—but we got none of it. Instead, PvP is tucked away in limited Warzones, or on the nearly abandoned Ilum. World PvP only seems to occur when players of the two factions themselves work hard to put it together, or through luck. Pure, organic PvP is depressingly rare. When it does happen, its merely two sides hitting each other, until their own goals are met, or until one side gets tired and moves on. The “War” seems to be missing from Star Wars. And I think it’s up to the players to bring it back.