Missed Opportunities: SWTOR’s Gambling Problem

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Jul 022014
swtor 2.8 spoils of war in game gambling

This kid doesn’t think much of SWTORs gambling implementation either

SWTOR Game update 2.8 “Spoils of War” was deployed a few weeks ago and while I wasn’t able to get in and play a lot right when the patch first dropped I have had some time in the last week to do some serious credit destruction. Here are my thoughts on this event.

SWTOR Update 2.8: Spoils of War

Update 2.8 brought about a few changes and features and of course the casino event. For completeness sake I’ll list the major features here:

  • Double Rewards for PvP and GSF
  • NIM Dread Palace
  • Group Finder Changes for Story Mode Ops
  • An assortment of mostly minor class changes
  • Bounty Contract Week & Relics of the Gree

You can check out the complete list of SWTOR 2.8 Patch Notes here.

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t PvP much and I don’t do any serious raiding at this point so none of these changes really feel monumental to me although I do like the changes to the Story Mode Ops Group Finder as I occasionally am up for those. Bounty Contract Week….eh, well. I think BioWare seriously needs to revisit this event at this point as most players that have been around for awhile seem pretty ambivalent about this now. Same for Relics of the Gree.

The Housing is Coming But We Want You to be Broke When it Gets Here Event

First off, I’m not sure we can really call this an event. I mean, yeah the content is supposed to be for a limited time and BioWare has to call it something but can we really call what is clearly intended to be a means for BW to manipulate the economy by taking a significant amount of credits out of the system an “event”?

To be clear, I don’t really have any problems with the attempt to manipulate the economy. MMO economies tend to suffer from rampant inflation. I have no doubts that this is an ongoing issue in most persistent universe games and that devs spend a fair amount of time analyzing this and trying to determine how best to deal with it without driving players crazy (well, crazier than we all tend to be about changes made to the games we play on a regular basis).

I also don’t have any problems with the idea of gambling or casinos in online games. I think when it’s well executed it can be fun. Herein lies my problem with SWTOR’s gambling event. It is neither fun nor well executed. In fact I’ll go on record as saying this may be the laziest implementation of an in game gambling system I’ve ever seen.

star wars, swtor, gambling, game update 2.8, spoils of war

If only those were space fruits and Gungan heads…with lightsabers through them.

For the uninitiated, you can pick up a mission on your fleet station that will send you to your factions casino on Nar Shaddaa. They start you off with five free Smugglers Chips (first taste is free, right?) and send you to a bank of slot machines where you can spend the chips to try and get gold certificates which can be traded for event gear or more importantly the elusive Kingpin Chip that can be used at Kingpin slots which reward speeder mounts, a Rancor mount or more golden certificates. You can of course buy both Smuggler and Kingpin chips from conveniently stationed casino droids but you’re better off just buying the Smugglers chips and converting them to Kingpin chips via the gambling mechanic. (If you’re a numbers person and want to know the specific odds of winning, check out Dulfy’s here where there is a breakdown of rewards and odds)

Gambling in SWTOR feels very slapdash. There is nothing actually entertaining about it either (aside from observing player behavior, which is remarkably similar to real life degenerate gambler behavior that I’ve witnessed during trips to Las Vegas). When you click on the machines you get a spinning wheel and after a few seconds either a red or green light indicating whether you’re a winner or on your way to bumming the price of a ticket off of Nar Shaddaa from a sympathetic player.

Occasionally you’ll get a song and fireworks indicating you’ve won something better than chips or rarely your machine will explode giving you an achievement. A few minutes of this becomes mind numbingly boring. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not griping about the win percentage or the prizes. Those seem pretty much in-line for what I would expect out of something like this. (Although I have to agree with some folks in the SWTOR Twitter community that this games RNG mechanic doesn’t really feel like it’s truly RNG. It seems super streaky at times and this doesn’t just apply to the gambling mechanic, it’s noticeable when you’re crafting and reverse engineering as well).

BioWare chose to go the easy route and give us the equivalent of slot machines for its first foray into making the casinos places that you can actually gamble away your credits and self respect (and if you’re wondering, slot machines in Star Wars are legit. They’re called Lugjack machines). Yeah I would have liked Pazaak or even a Jubilee Wheel but I also get that this is BioWare’s first attempt to implement gambling and is probably a bit of an experiment. What’s really bothersome is that they weren’t willing to put enough resources into this to make it even sort of interesting to watch while you’re standing there for hours grinding credits trying to get a Rancor. Where are the spinning reels with space fruits or Gungan heads or even Aurebesh characters? Come on BioWare, I had slot machine games on my Atari 2600 30 years ago that were more inspired and creative than what you’ve foisted on your players. This implementation was quite frankly the laziest lazy that ever lazied.

star wars, swtor, gambling, game update 2.8, spoils of war

Even this would have been a more entertaining visual than what we got for slot machines from SWTOR

Opportunity is Knocking but BioWare Can’t Hear it Over the Sound of Jangling Cartel Coins

What’s really disappointing is that this feels like another missed opportunity by the SWTOR design team. Nar Shaddaa is supposed to be a hub of commerce and activity (legitimate or otherwise) and we already know that player housing is going to be implemented there. I think BioWare should also add services to Nar Shaddaa that are similar to what is found on the Fleet Hubs.

With a little more effort, they could have made even this simple slot machine gambling implementation entertaining. This could have been the start of making the casinos places for players to congregate and socialize, places that players would actually want to go to and hang out at. The Casinos are already attractive areas that seem like a ripe opportunity to turn into a hub of player activity. Instead what we have is a grindy boring pit stop where players will only stay long enough to get their reward and likely never return to once they’ve gotten what they came for.

Thanks for stopping by and if you have any comments feel free to leave them below or you can hit me up on Twitter @HolyCrapItsLate

Images: Two, Three