I'd like to preface this by saying a few things; I am a veteran player of the game, and started during the first week of the game's launch. Since then, I have managed a few guilds, until finally coming to find a home with The Alliance; specifically the Vader's Legion cluster, and two guilds named Vader's Fist, and Mos Eisley Irregulars. I got my wife hooked on the game during year 3, near the launch of the Sith Raid, and I have seen her sheer excitement wane into the demeanor of someone frustrated and disappointed. We got married this year on May 4th, and were caught playing GoH at our reception during dinner... My wife even was playing while she was getting ready, and we had a Star Wars themed wedding. I have paid a considerable amount on the game, which I would rather not disclose, and stopped paying regularly around the release of Captain Han Solo, and the fallout that ensued, along with the response from the developers to the community's outcry.
I am also frustrated and disappointed, and this sentiment echoes throughout the community, not for a hate of the game but because we are so invested and passionate. Everyone angry with the state of the game right now is angry because we have loved this game for a long or short time, and we have always wanted to see it succeed in all things. This is just my opinion, based on what I have seen since the game's release, and what I have experienced as the leader of a now-200 million galactic power plus guild. I say 200+ because in recent months, people have been quitting the game and recruiting has been probably the most difficult that I have ever seen it. We recruit non-stop, and even while we're at maximum guild capacity, we still look because people are quitting in a handful a week, despite our best efforts to give them incentive to stay.
Having outlined all of that, I just want to add that... as a player, I am worried, and I feel isolated, and it will never be because I have hated this game, and I will readily agree that some things now are far better than they were two years ago, and I will happily state them in this article. The only trouble is that some areas are, I feel, much worse for both free and paying players alike. So I'll just try to go over a few things, and do my best to avoid any doom-saying or outright negative things with no bearing in fact or reason.
To be fair, I'm all for new characters that are fun, unique, and exciting. That make you feel that your efforts, or your investment of real money is actually worth it's intended value. General Skywalker plays and feels like a raid boss, and that's what EA/CG wanted from him. Is it healthy for the game? That's a tough question. There are soft counters for GS, but at this time we can't really see anything in the regards of hard counters. I'd like to explain that the difference between "hard" or "soft" counters is thus: hard counters are teams that can more-often-than-not overtake an opposing team, and will even forgive a few play errors and requires less attention to mods. However, a soft counter means you need very tight play, great mods, and will still likely lose around 2 to 3 characters from your side of the field.
That's fine, really, because new characters should have an impact. The most realistic trouble with Skywalker isn't entirely reliant on his structure, but his release. Right now, the game has moved beyond a point where gear 11 is relevant on a 5* character; relics have seen to that in short order. The parameter and power difference between even relic level 3 and gear 11 is monstrous, and by reports about 6,000 people were able to unlock GS at varying investments or efforts. Very little instances of General Skywalker have actually entered the player pool as a result, and getting him to maximum value outside of a 7* character upgrade is not going to be enough to deal with the relic level 7 Jedi Knight Revans and Darth Revans and General Grievous teams kicking around arena. Your investment, whether time, effort, money, or otherwise, is immediately cheapened despite you being 1 in 6,000 players to obtain "the new hotness". A lot, if not all of these players, are decidedly frustrated with that outcome.
Darth Malak entered the game in the exact same manner; unlock at 5*, extremely gated, purchase the remaining shards from the Guild Event Store using thousands of currency vital for a steady flow of end-game gear, and at a conversion rate that is absolutely terrible. The flow of Guild Event 1 Tokens could be much better than it is, as it is heavily reliant on the cadence of the grueling Territory Battle events. But Malak entered the game a good deal of time before relics, and was still extremely viable at 5* gear level 11 as possibly the best Dark Side tank available in the game at all, and easily the best Sith Empire tank. That is not the case here. Because of this giant shift in mechanics, these Epic Confrontations that are so gated and only provide you with a 5* character unlock, where all other events will give you a 7*, it would make much more sense to have had General Skywalker unlock at 7* rather than 5. A lot of people will say that this enables the "whales" to just get another max value character day one, but... why shouldn't they? Only around 6,000 unlocked him anyway, so why should their investment be so restricted?
This is a lower number than those who had unlocked Malak, and I recall the reasoning for the duration of the Malak event was initially slotted as 3 days because more people unlocked Darth Revan than they had intended for, as stated by CG_Carrie on the official forums. This is where the well-known phrase "tip of the spear" originated from, as that is the player-base the event had been reportedly aimed toward; the very upper echelon of end-game players.
I don't think that General Skywalker, inherently as a character, outright unbalances the game; this is the fourth team we've seen recently that carries on soft counter options... But I believe that continued events of this format are going to tax players to an extent of frustration and disappointment, while further increasing requirements in order to unlock new characters, and prevent their viable use for weeks after. I believe that staging him so close to the release of Geonosian Territory Battle, g13 followed by relics, and other forced-hand farms was intentional planning, but it was the tipping point for a lot of frustrated players.
On the 18th of this month, Darth Malak's Epic Confrontation event returned for the second time, marking the third appearance of it in the game, directly on the heels of the General Skywalker Epic Confrontation. This time, however, the entire event was bugged, allowing people to replay the event for extra rewards. In response, EA/CG took the event down and postponed it until a later date.
Alongside this, people who obtained shards via the bugged event will experience a rollback of Darth Malak shards, in that they will reportedly be removed from these players' accounts. Okay, that makes sense; this was an unintended outcome, but this was the third run of the event as well. On top of all this, the Darth Malak Epic Confrontation returned for this time ahead of schedule, and this forced several players' hands in spending actual money, that will not be refunded. It honestly shocks me that the event was so bugged on the third run, especially considering that the heavily-gated GS event was just before this. They have the same event structure and it should be feasible to not implement a bugged event of identical structure on the last day of the week. From a company like EA, this was a gargantuan oversight, and the damage control was already redacted and the new reconciliation plan is detailed here.
As far as we are aware, any players that spent money or crystals for anything like gear that would allow them to participate in the event will not be refunded. Instead, all players will receive 500 crystals, and players that did not have a 7* Darth Malak (as of 10/18 12:01am PST) and are having shards/progress removed will receive an additional 5000 Guild Event Tokens and 2 Zeta materials. Players that already owned 7* Darth Malak as of the above time, but did not receive additional shards will receive 2250 shard shop currency. Players that received one tier of additional shards will receive 1125 shard shop currency. Players that received two tiers of additional shards will not receive any shard shop currency.
The issue that I have with this reconciliation plan is that historically, over the last 4 years of the game's life (4 years in November), EA/CG has openly dissuaded us from participating in any knowingly bugged content. However, this time if you participated, you receive compensation in varying tiers of rewards that are very specific. I, myself, openly instructed my guild, and several others, to not participate in the event, and all of those players are now receiving a lesser compensation than those who participated in this fault. This doesn't seem or feel very fair or balanced at all, mainly because usually if we participated in any bugged content we all experienced the same rollback, fix, and compensation if any, and usually the outcome with our experiences in previously bugged releases would be negative. So it already had people worried about participating in the event as it was.
EA is a massive, massive company, and the sheer thought that they will not be refunding shards or money spent feels almost unreasonable to me. If I purchased a product and it didn't work as specified, I should be reimbursed my purchase price. Additionally, this character is much less relevant now that it is roughly one year old, as the meta is shifting to compensate for "power creep", so this heavily gated Darth Malak unlock isn't even as meta-defining as it once was, and you still need thousands of Guild Event Tokens to take him from 5 to 7*, and subsequently gear level 12 and relics afterward. This causes players to lose faith, become frustrated, or lash out, and it is exactly the opposite reaction that any player wants to see from the release of content or characters, or repeats of older events. As of this article we do not know when the event will return, or when compensation is due to roll out, as EA stated it has already been delayed.
Goalposts should always move backwards and create marathon goals if these types of games are to survive, but the userbase is already buried under farming paths we feel "forced into" and this is just increasing the load on all of our backs, if any of us want to remain competitive or relevant.
About one year ago, CG_Carrie declared a very ambitious five-year plan that they were planning releases and content for. In the last year we have seen the release of Jedi Knight Revan and Darth Revan w/ Malak, and General Grievous' rework declared to be the "Revan Killer" which fell flat on it's face until gear level 13 debuted. We also saw the release of Padme Amidala and the Mon Calamari clone of Jolee Bindo in her event, the release of Geonosian Territory Battle which saw several guilds collapse....
A lot has happened, including relic levels being added to the gear tables, which are essentially an inflated gear level 14 - 20, as well as the rework of Finn and HK-47's leader abilities to increase design space and stop infinite loops/interactions. We even saw several teams or strategies that allowed you to "auto" phase 3 of the Sith Triumvirate raid be completely torn down.... except for the brutally simple "Jedi Knight Anakin w/ Nightsisters on auto basic mode" which has yet to be addressed. This last point is especially sore, as it creates a lot of in-fighting among guild members for the coveted top 10 spots in the Sith Triumvirate leaderboard, which is the only way to receive fully-crafted gear 12 pieces. Guild members should not be positioned against each other for the same progress we all need individually.
Really, we have seen so much this year that great differences of things are both good and bad. Squad arena has been an undeniable mess directly after a healthy period of "rock-paper-scissors" consisting of Bastila Shan - Darth Traya - Emperor Palpatine. Fleet Arena has been a Millennium Falcon coin-flip for at least the last eight months... and Grand Arena has been rife with issues, exploits, and even some failed implementation.
But I don't want this closing note to be about listing every good and bad part and quantifying everything.... Rather a summation of general sentiment following all of these things, and I hope you readers, as players, can identify them and draw your own conclusions. I hope that those reading who are frustrated can find the good in what EA has done, and those overly-optimistic can see things for what they are and how they affect such a diverse community as this one, with players ranging from all age ranges, account time, and overall "gp size",
I am resolutely worried for this game, because I have loved it so much for so long. I have made lifelong friends, and have received many opportunities, and have been able to do so much for this community that I felt that I would never want to leave. I feel that this game has brought more of a sense of togetherness or solidarity among its players than almost any other, rather than constant top-quality game content. No game is perfect; no game can be without fault, and at the end of the day, a game must profit or die. I am worried that EA may be making too many invariably strong efforts in order to profit, when the Star Wars franchise as a whole feels like its in a strange state of transition. I also feel that EA needs to really take a step back and re-evaluate what has happened since Jedi Knight Revan, as that marked one of the sharper declines in player sentiment, and it has been a struggle for many of us since, as we try to remain competitive, relevant, or up to par for what we want to get out of our game time.
Ever since JKR, every character released has had to have been so much more powerful than this one that carries 16 keyworded abilities. His kit had to be entirely redesigned after it tested poorly with an internal focus group, and it happened over the course of a two-day overtime grind for EA. They were under the gun, they had to perform, and it had to be the best ever. They nailed it, but it was too hard and too on the head. They've painted themselves into a corner, and they've sent the goalpost flying backwards in an attempt to prolong the lifespan of content or the game, but they've sent it too far. Instead of a steady rate of progression, things are more gated, with more inflated stats; each release having more strict or difficult requirements. Inflated stats do not make for challenging content, it makes frustrating types of content, and frustrated players pay for it. This is something I truly believe, and I don't think that I am alone in saying.
As a player who still loves this game, who has made an emotional commitment to your players and community, I am asking you to listen to our frustrations, EA. Don't bend backwards, and don't give in to all these crazy demands, but we are all saying the same thing...
We don't want this game to die just yet, and we need you to help us feel better about how much time this game demands of its players. We want success as much as you. We're all Star Wars nerds, and we can't ever go back to being anything else.
May the force be with all of us... and I hope to see you all on the Holotables.