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SWTOR’s Upcoming Gearing System Changes Are Making Players Very Unhappy

Star Wars: The Old Republic is making significant changes to the way it handles loot at endgame. As summed up a few days ago by Community Manager Eric Musco on the SWTOR forums, once Knights of the Eternal Throne hits in December, individual loot drops from bosses are going away. Instead, all players at max level will earn Galactic Command XP, which can periodically be cashed in for Command Crates that contain randomized loot. You get Command XP for doing just about anything in the game, and the higher your GC level, the better the loot you’ll receive.

Let’s start with the basic premise of GC, which I like: that any activity you do can earn you potential endgame gear. Some people still like “farming” — i.e., grinding out the same content over and over — to get rewards, but I like the notion of having the freedom to do what you want to get good stuff. It’s a different way of acquiring loot, and while it may not be for everyone, I can also see why it would be popular. Crafting is also more viable, and the split between PvP and PvE gear is being removed.

Not surprisingly, though, the part that’s ruffling feathers is the randomness of the loot rewards. Just need gloves to finish out your raid set? You open your next Command Crate and you get… another set of boots. Your third. Which you can “trade in” to earn additional progress toward your next Command Crate, but still, it’s not hard to see where the majority of the complaints are coming from.

One Redditor raises another good point about the problem with using Galactic Command XP — that if you can obtain the best stuff in the game by doing solo content, it’ll kill guilds and the incentive to do harder group content. The difference in GCXP rate for operations vs. story missions hasn’t been specified yet, so maybe this will still work out, but it’s something to consider.

And that leads to yet another problem with this reveal — it absolutely should not have been presented as a brief forum post. This is a major change that affects SWTOR’s most passionate fans, and an experienced community manager should have known better than to think that a few bullet points would “cover most of the basic changes.” The forum thread is currently at over 100 pages, and Reddit is going crazy. Eric Musco does chime in at times in the thread, but this announcement should have been well-thought out and distributed across all the proper channels (i.e., not left to Reddit mods) in a carefully planned manner, with all the important details in an easy-to-find place. You just don’t completely alter the way endgame players get their loot without a proper PR plan.

Which brings up the ultimate question: Why make this change in the first place? Like I said, I like the idea of gearing up any which way you want, but I don’t know that making this kind of change in a five-year-old game, where players are already entrenched in a model that’s generally worked for them, is such a great idea. Was there something wrong with the way things were? Were there lots of complaints about people not getting loot in raids? You can only accrue GCXP by being a subscriber, so you could maybe see it as a way for BioWare to lure more subs to the game, but since it only applies at max level anyway, I don’t know if that’s a huge factor. Maybe there were a lot of non-subs paying Cartel Coins to do raiding a la carte, but I can’t imagine that would have been a big enough deal to turn the entire endgame loot system on its head and risk upsetting the majority who do sub.

What do you think of the new SWTOR loot system? Good or bad thing, and does it make you more or less likely to sub to the game?