17/09/2017

Gods from the Machine So Far

It's hard to believe that it's already been five months since the Gods from the Machine operation opened its doors. My guild actually downed Tyth (the first boss) on veteran mode only three weeks ago. As I wrote in my first impressions of the encounter, many of my guildies weren't particularly enamoured with him, which actually led to us turning our backs on the new operation in short order and going back to working on older boss fights that we still haven't beaten to this day. It was only a little over a month ago that someone said: "You know, we should really give Tyth another try." And after a couple of nights of working on the fight, the God of Rage finally lay defeated at our feet (not counting story mode, which we had of course beaten right on release).

I think one of the major factors that helped our progression was that we eventually deviated somewhat from the strategy laid out by Dulfy's guide. Specifically, the tank swap kept causing us trouble because it wreaked havoc on the add control, so eventually we changed it so that whenever the main tank needed to drop his debuff stacks, he briefly swapped aggro with a dedicated dps instead (the fight's mechanics allow for anyone to get aggro instantly, without the need for a taunt) - this way the off-tank could focus on add control without distractions, so the adds got rounded up much more quickly and calls to AoE them could be made more accurately.



Last night we finally got to try the second encounter, Esne and Aivela, on veteran mode. (I thought the second sister was called Aviela for the longest time... I think that would have made for a much better name.) On story mode, they were mostly a crazy light show without much else happening - the only mechanic you really have to watch out for are the coloured laser beams. But from what I've seen of veteran mode so far, it's pretty much the exact opposite of Tyth. The latter is extremely straightforward from a mechanical perspective, with only very few abilities - the challenge consists of dealing with the adds and the fact that it's largely random what kind of set you get during each wave, forcing you to adapt your tactics on the fly. Esne and Aivela on the other hand enforce an extremely complicated dance, with every person in the ops group having to fulfil different tasks to deal with various adds and abilities, but there are only a couple of points in the fight where you don't know exactly what's going to happen from one moment to the next. While we didn't get them down on the first night, I suspect that this kind of challenge is going to be a little easier for my ops group to tackle than Tyth's. We're just bad at making decisions on the fly.

Either way, I'm quite happy with both of the new boss encounters that we've got so far. I'm kind of hesitant to rate them compared to the older operations, because I suspect that the piecemeal approach to the operation's release has been colouring my judgement. ("Finally a new boss! Gimme!") We'll see how I feel once we have access to the whole thing.

This brings me to my current worry though: When are we going to have access to the full operation? The original plan was to have it finished by the end of the year, but we're now approaching the end of September and only two out of the rumoured five fights are actually live. Seeing the final boss before the end of the year seems increasingly unlikely.

And I'm not mad about "broken promises" or anything, but I'm a little worried. I don't think that Bioware is just bad at planning. I'm worried that Gods from the Machine is underperforming compared to their expectations, which is forcing them to prioritise other things again and slowing down development of the new encounters. I mean, we all know that raiding is a minority pursuit, but so are many things in game, and there's still a difference between developing something for a minority and doing so for a tiny minority.

When I do a search on Youtube for "swtor tyth veteran mode", I currently get 1,720 results, but you don't have to scroll down very far to see the first videos that don't actually match the search term, such as some guild's Eternity Vault run. (Just why, Youtube?) How many raiders are actually left in the game?

Some time ago I had a bit of a discussion with someone, I think it was actually in my own comment section, who posited that making mistakes wasn't such a bad thing for Bioware, because then they get all this good publicity for fixing them, which they wouldn't have gotten if they'd just got it right the first time. I strongly disagreed with this, because from my experience it's rather the opposite: First impressions matter a lot and are likely to get all the big headlines, while fixing things later doesn't get nearly as much attention, and people are less likely to return after having been burnt than if you hadn't scared them off in the first place.

This is what I suspect and fear is happening with Gods from the Machine. Keith really wanted to return that multiplayer feeling to SWTOR, but too many of the people who enjoy this kind of content left over the past two years while Bioware was releasing almost nothing but story updates, and after all this time they have little interest in coming back.


Another thing that speaks in favour of this theory is Tyth's missing master mode. Again, the original plan was for Gods from the Machine to include the return of master modes, with each master mode coming out for the previous boss whenever the next encounter is released. So Tyth's master mode should have come out when Esne and Aivela were released back in July. However, it didn't, and there has been no comment on why or even on whether we might still get to see it later. It probably didn't seem worth the effort, and the fact that there hasn't been much of an outcry from the community about this particular "broken promise" only seems to back that up. Honestly, even as someone who still runs ops every week, I can't claim to be upset by this particular decision. The veteran modes for Tyth and the sisters seem more in line with Ravagers and Temple of Sacrifice so far, meaning they are hard enough as it is and don't feel like you could realistically add another difficulty above them that would be played by more than a handful of guilds. However, it's still a little discouraging to see Bioware backpedal on their plans for the new operation quite so quickly.

In conclusion I turn to you, my readers who also run ops: What do you think? If you weren't interested in ops before, I don't see why Gods from the Machine would have suddenly changed that. But if you were a "lapsed" raider for example, has the new operation helped at all to get you interested again? If you have been raiding it, how much time have you spent on fighting the new bosses? I suppose that in terms of pure metrics, even my own guild wouldn't have appeared to be very interested, as we still spend so much time in the old operations.

9 comments :

  1. I still think that the reason why TYTH Master Mode has yet to surface has got to do with the indefinite delay of Tier V. They were so excited (and as said elsewhere before sickeningly out-of-touch) to announce Tier IV and Command Rank 400 prior to Iokath's launch, and I bet anything that they were ramping up internally for Tier V and CR 500 to drop in July.

    Two months is, after all, quite a fair amount of time for people who do have the free time to grind through Command, especially if they were already full 242 by the launch of Iokath. People wouldn't have liked having a gap of 'only' this length, but with how much CXP people can gain nowadays compared to the initial seven months prior to 5.2 it would still have been far more manageable, especially as getting closer to CR 400 would have increased the chances of getting 248 gear.

    The current gear-drops from Gods may also support this theory, since Veteran Mode of course drops 248. Master Mode would therefore have dropped the Tier V Legendary (which logically should have been 254). With no Tier V gear, there can be nothing which Master Mode can drop to make it 'worthwhile', and we've seen how the community reacts to 'worthless' gear-drops from Nightmare Raids in the past and of course nowadays with the 246 mess.

    Still, I would have liked to have seen how different TYTH would've been in Master Mode compared to Veteran. There might have been an extra Add which would have shielded the Grace, TYTH himself actually might have gained more interesting mechanics, we just won't know.

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    1. It's a theory, but I have a hard time seeing Bioware delaying content purely because they haven't got the rewards figured out, especially considering their history of putting rubbish drops in flashpoints for example... :P

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  2. I wonder if they are caught by a bad feedback loop of their own devising. :/ As a former raider I know I wouldn't have been excited by a slow release of Ops bosses (I remember ICC in WoW all too well). If the bosses had been released on a 3 - 4 week schedule, that would have been ok. Once they start releasing bosses on a 6+ week schedule it starts feeling like just another instanced world boss.

    Possibly they aren't seeing that many people do the new ops (because it isn't that satisfying to be time-gated so horribly). With fewer people doing the new bosses it could mean their metrics are stating that it isn't that cost effective to make the rest of the bosses a priority (given how many other MMO bits have needed attention). I would hate to see the way they handled the release of the bosses in the Op become a reason to push Ops to the back of the development list.

    All this said, in some ways, when it comes to Ops Bioware is in a no-win situation unless they devote the effort to release Ops complete and in a timely fashion. Which could be bad for the rest of the game. :sigh:

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    1. The sad thing is that if they had actually stuck to a 6 week schedule, we would have 4 of 5 bosses out already, with the last one coming out at the end of October. They've just been that slow to release them, and I'm sure it hasn't helped matters.

      Did you ever do any raiding in SWTOR?

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    2. I raided up to Shadow of Revan. I was ill for a time and had to stop being part of an Ops team in Swtor. We did story mode and worked on hard modes (it's amusing to use those names, now, as they date my time in Swtor Ops :)).

      I enjoyed the Operations, especially since there were no addons to use. After Wow's plethora of boss mods it was nice to feel like I was making the right calls and not just waiting for a boss mod prompt. Also, I was in a more casual guild so it was fun to help new-to-ops players get their feet wet and grow as players.

      I might have to try the group finder and see if I can get into a few story mode ops. It would be fun to see them again (in addition to seeing TOS and Ravagers for the first time).

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  3. I'm surprised they haven't even mentioned the master mode versions of the bosses. However given that they are releasing them at a slower rate than even they probably intended I guess I shouldn't be. Maybe they're hoping nobody notices.

    I think one of the things about top end raiding is the race to world first and releasing master mode bosses one at a time kills that aspect. If they do release master modes I think they should do it as a complete operation.

    One thing I would add is that top end content whether it be PVP or PVE has more value than just the people who play it. With twitch and you tube it's the top level content that draws the viewers and helps promote the game.

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    1. I'm sure they know that some people will notice, but they are probably hoping that nobody will really care. Considering the complete lack of any community outcry (and God knows MMO players like to complain about nearly everything else), they might not even be wrong.

      I hadn't even thought of the "race to world first" aspect anymore. I'm not sure there are enough high-end raiders left in SWTOR to have one.

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  4. I am a lapsed raider (of the more casual sort), and it didn't bring me back. I was going to wait until the whole thing was done, but in the meantime my guild seems to have died. Partly because of that my interest in SWTOR has declined to the point where my only involvement in the game right now is watching Shintar's Youtube flashpoint series (which I enjoy immensely, by the way).

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    1. That's sad to hear about your guild! Though I'm glad you're enjoying the videos. :P

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