One of the mechanics that I really like about SWTOR PvP is the MVP vote. It's a simple button on the final scoreboard, yet it can completely change your focus from annoyance at someone on your team who played badly to thinking about who played particularly well instead. I believe that Bioware copied the idea from Warhammer Online, though other games might use similar systems. I know that plenty of games don't have anything like it though, and as someone who only played WoW before I actually found the system mildly confusing at first.
First off, seeing how English isn't my first language and I'm not really into sports, I initially didn't even know what MVP means. (It means Most Valuable Player.) Secondly, being told that I got to cast a vote immediately made me wonder whether an election of some sort was going on at the end of the match, and whether voting for the "wrong" person might negatively affect other players. I need not to have worried of course, as the votes don't get tallied up; each individual vote just gives the person voted for a tiny bonus to their valor and commendations gained from the warzone. There is no election for the "ultimate MVP" or anything.
You don't get to see who voted for whom and you can't vote for yourself, so the system effectively relies on blind goodwill. For that it works surprisingly well in my opinion - there always seems to be at least one guy who doesn't bother to vote, but most people do. The actual reward is so small that it's almost negligible, however the social value of getting an MVP vote is immense. (You can tell because there are always people complaining on the forums about how unloved they feel when they don't get MVP votes.) I really love getting one or more votes myself, because it's effectively a small pat on the back that says that someone else in the game appreciated my efforts and thought that I did well - unless you're really cynical and assume that people just hit the MVP button at random, but I prefer to take a more optimistic view myself.
We'd all like to get MVP votes ourselves, but who should get ours? If you're new to the MVP voting system like I was it can be hard to figure out who to vote for at first. At the end of the day you only have a very limited view of what's happening at any point during the game, not to mention that you're probably more focused on doing your own job well rather than on scrutinising the other players' performance. However, there are some simple rules of thumb that can really help with making the decision who to vote for. (Note that this can also be read as a guide on how to get MVP votes if you look at it from the other side.)
1. Vote For Your Friends
Some people scoff at the idea of friends that queued up together voting for each other, arguing that it compromises the purity of the system when people vote for someone just because he's a friend instead of whoever "truly" made the biggest contribution to the team. Personally I think this is pretty silly. If a friend queued up with me and his presence made the game fun for me even though we lost, you bet that he was my personal MVP, even if he didn't do so well! Likewise I don't hold it against anyone else if they give priority to their friends and guildies when voting. It's just too straightforward not to do it.
That said, I personally don't believe in voting for your friends all the time. A true friend won't get mad at me for casting my vote for someone else whom I saw pull off something really cool. Choosing your friend is an easy pick, but it shouldn't become a restriction that you always have to vote for your friends, even if someone else's play really impressed you.
2. People With Big Numbers
Most people don't queue up with friends all the time, so who do you vote for if you have no clue what happened and all you have to go by is the scoreboard at the end? Well, generally speaking, voting for someone who achieved big numbers during the match is a pretty safe bet. No, it's not a guarantee that they were actually the best or always made the right decisions, but presumably they at least know how to play their class, and that's got to be worth something. Voting for the person who dealt the most damage is kind of boring, unless they really stood out in some other way as well. Sort by healing done and have a look at whether your team had any healers. People always moan about there not being enough healers in their games but then also refuse to show them any appreciation with MVP votes. Don't be one of those people! Vote for a healer today! The only people who get even less appreciation than healers are probably PvP tanks, but then they are also very rare. If you do see someone with a very high protection score, that means that they made frequent use of their guard and taunt abilities in an intelligent way, something that is definitely worth rewarding.
I would be slightly weary of voting for people solely based on their objectives score or their amount of medals, as it's still a bit questionable what counts as working towards as an objective for the purposes of the scoreboard and what doesn't. And medals are way too easy to game. I've seen way too many Sages stand at a node doing nothing but spam Noble Sacrifice on themselves, just so that they could then heal themselves and get healing medals.
3. People Who Impressed
Voting for whoever got the highest damage, healing or protection is a good way of getting used to the system, but it gets boring quickly. Another relatively easy option is to vote for someone whom you noticed doing something particularly helpful, even if it was just one thing. Of course this requires you to pay at least some attention to your surroundings.
Some potential candidates for this are: someone who guarded a deserted node all match even though it was quite boring; someone who continuously interrupted enemy caps; someone who used their crowd control, slow or knockback abilities to great effect; someone who came to your rescue when you were under attack; someone who scored in Huttball; someone who planted a bomb in Voidstar. These are all little things that may not necessarily make someone the "true" MVP of the game, but they do matter, it's relatively easy to notice at least one of them during the match, and it helps to make your vote feel more meaningful.
4. People Who Talk
This last one is quite interesting because it actually has nothing to do with the player's gameplay performance, but it can still influence people's votes, both positively and negatively. For example I make a point of never voting for someone who spends time moaning in chat about how our team has bad gear or the enemy is overpowered. I recommend that you don't give them your vote either, unless you want to encourage that kind of thing. On the other end of the spectrum however, it is definitely noteworthy if someone repeatedly calls incomings in chat or simply provides some pep talk during the match. I always tend to notice the names of people who do this... and it may be in my head, but I swear I always get tons more votes if I say something like "good try at least, we did our best" in chat at the end of a loss. Again this is something that some hardcore players might look down on as a voting criterion, but I think that the power of using words to (de)motivate your team is something that shouldn't be underestimated.