Final Fantasy XI (FFXI) v Star Wars: the Old Republic (SWTOR) – Gear aka Loot

This isn’t really a competition but whilst I have no real urge to write about FFXI right now (I’m not playing after all) I have found several things interesting about the different approaches taken by Square Enix and Bioware.

You need to be aware of a couple of things. Firstly, FFXI was launched almost 10 years ago, whereas SWTOR was launched almost 4 months ago. FFXI is Japanese and SWTOR is Canadian. Yes, Bioware is Canadian.
The two games are obviously two entirely different kettles of fish. However, they’re both apparently MMOs. SWTOR has 1.75m subscribers right now and FFXI has several hundred thousand, possibly half a million. I played FFXI for over 7 years and SWTOR since launch. I have cap-level characters in both.

At this point the basic unit of grouping in SWTOR is 4. The basic unit of grouping in FFXI is 6. So in SWTOR you have 4, 8 & 16 and in FFXI you have 6, 18 and 36. At one point in FFXI you had 64 but I don’t think many people did Dynamis with 64 players and those that did were back in the Dark Ages. Still, it did happen.
In SWTOR groups are not actually required for you to have a meaningful game. All levelling can be done well on your own, with your Companion. You can level in multiple ways but it is perfectly possible and reasonable to level 1-50 doing activities alone. I’m not that kind of player but I’ve levelled quite a lot solo and a lot, duo. It’s fun. I do tend to break it up though by choosing to do group activities and team up on harder quests or with other activities including PVP warzones.

 Multiple Routes to Loot in SWTOR

This for me is probably the approach I like the most. It’s one of the things which enabled me to let go of FFXI. I don’t want all my gear handed to me on a platter; however I do want to be able to make decent progress without the need for 17 other people. Let alone 35. Should there be fights which are challenging for larger groups? Yes, I think so but only if you can make progress on an individual basis.

SE has engineered its events to ensure you must work with others to complete them. It’s actually on the whole a good thing because it necessitates linkshells or guilds. However their ethic seems to put a lot of pressure on players to co-ordinate and organise themselves to do it. Not always a bad thing but add in the relative anonymity of the internet and cultural differences, a lot of things can go wrong.
The events I think SE have done really well are? Well I think actually with hindsight, Assault was probably one of the best. Limbus, Nyzul isle, Assault and Salvage were all fun. I loved Dynamis but honestly I know I’m the exception there. The events which worked the best I think are smaller group events where you can make progress. In Limbus you had ancient beastcoins and upgrade materials to collect (awesome) but you also had megabosses to kill. Unfortunately, for some reason SE messed up with Ultima and Omega needing different numbers of wins and by then limiting how much dropped off them. If you spend all that time farming a one-use popset but need (as you did) 12-18 players to kill a mob, then only dropping up to 3 items (over which you have no control) isn’t fantastic. What do the other 9-15 players do?
Assault I can’t fault really. Go in, get clears, get random items, get points towards items you want. Nyzul Isle wasn’t as well thought out in terms of boss loot but because you only needed up to 6 people then it’s not as much of a problem. Salvage I loved as a group activity but the loot allocation was abysmal.
SE force you to group. I think the events which I have the most respect for them are those requiring 6 or less, i.e. one party. At that level it is possible to static and manage loot effectively. It works well and engineers loyalty and community. If someone is a dick at that level, it’s very obvious and very easy to deal with.
However, where I feel SE goes wrong is when they scale up events and address loot allocation for larger groups. Any game relies on a certain amount of repetition. Part of that is necessary to learn and feel as if you’ve achieved something. However I think they also have a cultural expectation which is unrealistic in a global market. That of large groups of people being willing to repeat an event again and again and again, days, months or even years beyond the point at which an individual player has gotten everything they need from it.

I’m sure there is a lot of theory out there about how best to prolong a game and retain subscribers etc. If players consume content fast, you have to provide more content, more quickly. Directing players to repeat content only works when they see progress for themselves and for the group. SE is appallingly bad at this.

Anyway, I could write papers on this subject so let’s get back to examining both games.

How is loot in SWTOR?

As you’d imagine from the makers of fantastic singleplayer games, Bioware are really good at furnishing you with loot as you level.
You start with basic gear for your class. When you hit level 10 and chose your advanced class, you are provided with the appropriate weaponry. What this means is as a basic class (level 1-10) you are for example a Jedi Knight. At level 10 you choose to be a Guardian (tank) or Sentinel (DD,DPS). As a Sentinel you get given a bag with an additional light sabre in it. Because Sentinels use two. Jedi Consular Shadows get given a dual bladed light sabre. So you don’t have to worry about it. They provide you with a level appropriate weapon so you’re ready to go. Don’t talk to me about artifact weapons in FFXI.

 

  • Gear drops from mobs. Not constantly but it does. It’s level appropriate. So you’ll kill a mob around your level and get loot for your level or close.
  • Gear comes from completing quests, it’s level and class appropriate and it is usually better than the loot you get from random xping.
  • Gear comes from the equivalent of NMs that you find along the way.
  • Basic gear can be bought from normal NPC vendors.
  • Gear can also be crafted or bought on the auction house. Crafting can keep up with levelling (although it can be relatively expensive to do so, it’s really not bad in the way that crafting in XI is).
  • Gear can be bought from specialist vendors for example social or lightside vendors. You need a certain social or lightside rank to buy them but they gear is usually modifiable and you can get really good items this way. You can’t get social points solo, but you get lightside or darkside points along the way.
  • As you xp and quest you earn planetary commendation, these can be traded in for gear on the planet you’re xping on. Think of planets almost in the same way as regions.
  • You can do group quests called Heroics or Areas on planets which net better gear.
  • You can do group missions called Flashpoints which can net several pieces of really nice gear.
  • You can do PVP warzones from level 10. You can complete dailies and weeklies which reward you with bags, which you can also purchase with warzone commendations. These bags contain gear and meds to help you inside warzones. As you level, so do the bags. For key levels, (20, 40 and 50) you can also turn in warzone commendations for amazing gear from PVP vendors.
  • At 50 you can do Hard Mode Flashpoints and things called Ops. All of which net you gear. I haven’t done an Op but it’s the closest thing to a FFXI event there is. 8 or 16 man.

A hardmode Flashpoint is an event in its own right. Requires 4 level 50 players. Along the way you kill minibosses and they drop crystals and have a chance to drop other bonus loot. You’ll always see some extras along the way. If you complete the bonus objectives within the HM flashpoint you’ll unlock extra minibosses for chances at extra types of loot. The megaboss fight for the HM FP at the end, will always ensure you walk away with more crystals. However you also get a chest and opening that chest gives everyone some commendations.

Inside the chest will also be one piece of gear, for one member of your group. It will always be for one of the classes you have with you. Should you be unlucky though, the crystals and commendations you earn each time can be traded in for the same pieces, once you’ve amassed a few.

As with most of SWTOR there are daily and weekly quests tied to Flashpoints too. So the daily is to beat one hard mode flashpoint. Turn that in and you’ll receive a few more commendations. Turn in the weekly you receive a LOT more. It won’t be long before you are buying pieces of excellent gear with your commendations and crystals, even if your luck stinks on the final chest. The gear you buy this way is known as PvE gear.

There are tiered systems in both games. Like FFXI there are higher versions to aim for. In both PVE and PVP gear right now, there are 3 tiers of endgame gear. The higher the tier, the harder it is to get but what’s nice is you can work on it. In PVP whilst you’re gaining Centurion pieces quickly, you’re also getting a few Champion commendations (used for the next tier) and so on. This is how Bioware tend to do things.

Getting loot in Abyssea is comparable. You have basic gear which you work on in small groups to get better gear and eventually you work on in larger groups to get even better gear.

One thing I should mention though is orange gear. Like in other well known games, gear quality is colour coded. So in SWTOR purple gear is better than blue which is better than green. What you also have is Orange gear. These are armour pieces or weapons which are fully modifiable. Their armour value and stats can be changed. You can take a level 11 piece of gear and wear it all the way to 50 and keep it level appropriate if you want to.

This gear has slots in it, into which you plug in various modifications. This changes the armour value and the stats, dependent on the mods you use. When you level you can make, farm or purchase mods and insert them into the gear. You can even remove the old mods first (not usually worth doing).

Some mods come from completing quests, some are random drops but most are either crafted or bought with planetary commendations. What this means is (at least until 50, and soon – even there) quite a big variation in how people look.
Gear variation is actually one of the things which I enjoy a lot about SWTOR. At 50 right now, a lot of people do tend to end up in the same gear but until that point, everyone looks different. You can examine people and see very quickly how effective their gear is if you want to (doesn’t tell you when it’s happening either which I like) but you don’t assume anything by just seeing them.

The variation will now spread with this next update. Level 50s will be able to take the mods out of gear and preserve set bonuses. So they can satisfy their aesthetic taste and have good stats. Apparently everyone will also be able to match colouring to the body piece if we really want to improve our look too.

I honestly prefer Bioware’s gear approach to trying to get items from Voidwatch. Hard Mode Flashpoints take good team work. They’re not impossible but they will be hard going if people don’t play well or gear semi-appropriately. I hope to try some Ops out soon, I simply haven’t needed to so far but I’d like to try them.

What SWTOR doesn’t have yet is the breadth of events which FFXI has. A few months in and you wouldn’t expect it to. Whether they can keep up with the ever hungry player base, remains to be seen. Their plans for an open-world planet for PVP at 50 haven’t worked well and so they’re redesigning it. There were a few amazing YouTube vids of mass groups fighting each other on Ilum but there wasn’t much point once the novelty wore off. So they’ve gone back to the drawing board. There are still quests to do there and a point to going but Bioware have admitted, they didn’t get that right. What’s very apparent though is there is plenty of space for more content.

Right now you have levelling, Heroics, Areas, World Bosses, Flashpoints, PVP Warzones, daily quests, weekly quests, Hard Mode Flash points and two levels of Ops. At most I need to find 7 other level-appropriate players to experience everything in the game. Eventually I think we’ll see larger style, almost Campaign or Besieged style events but what I hope they never change is their approach to loot.

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Categories: game mechanics

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