Sep 15, 2011

Posted by in Office Hours | 48 Comments

Office Hours: The Perils Of Faction Imbalance

If you spend any time on the official Star Wars: The Old Republic forums, you are sure to have seen his passion and prose regarding all things Star Wars. You know him as Professor Walsh. Each week (or thereabouts,) Professor Walsh enlighten us all with opinions on lore, design and more in this sometimes highly-opinionated piece. 

Greetings my Padawan learners! The Professor is here once again, and this time with a topic that I am empassioned about. But first, I have two disclaimers:

Disclaimer #1

What you are about to read is an opinion piece. It might even be considered controversial. It might even make some readers mad. The point is, I’m a critic. I do what I do and say what I say because criticism, in my eyes, is a better form of feedback than flattery.

I get a lot of flak from some viewers for always “attacking” BioWare. The truth is that there are plenty of things I wholly agree with BioWare on regarding The Old Republic. I, intentionally, focus on controversial hot topics and heated opinions because I feel the dissenting voice is an important thing.

Am I always correct? No. Do people disagree? Yes.

This is what I do though. I’ll never say, “This sucks because I say so.” I’ll always explain why I don’t like something. That, to me, is the essence of what being a critic is all about.

Disclaimer #2

This article is based on a series of forum posts that were made on SWTOR.com in a thread started by Aneu.

I have checked the information as well as I could, and have found it to be accurate. If this information is incorrect, I can only apologize. This article is, however, based on the numbers generated by parsing the Guild Headquarters information.

Moving On…

About two years ago, before I joined Ask A Jedi, I wrote a series of articles on the SWTOR.com forums regarding some predictions. At the time, I declared that there was a flaw in the marketing strategy and insinuated that I felt BioWare was intentionally hyping up the Sith Empire.

From all of the information I was able to gather since then, it seems a fact that a slant indeed existed. My evidence however suggests that this was entirely coincidental and was in no way intentional on behalf of BioWare. I want to make that clear.

At the time, some people – many of whom have become regular sparring partners with me on the forums – argued with me and attempted to disprove the slant. Inevitably it was revealed to be true but unintentional and all opposition to the existence of the slant faded away as is usually the case in these situations. It became an accepted thing and everyone let it slide.

I, however, was not content to let this sit. I fought tooth and nail to put my theory out there that the marketing bias appearing to exist for the Sith Empire would inevitably create a PvP faction imbalance.

So I compared the possible faction imbalance to the same kind of imbalance that was present in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning which was produced by Mythic Entertainment. Once more I was countered. There were many people who claimed that such a thing was only my paranoia. Eventually the forum posts fell into obscurity and onto deaf ears. Though, BioWare did seem to change their presentation format regarding the hype differential of the Sith and the Republic and did indeed statistically begin to balance the two out.

Enter Huttball

My fears recently resurfaced as I was pondering Huttball. The reason Huttball was created was because BioWare wanted a PvP match that could be started more easily in the event of a faction imbalance. BioWare in fact appeared to be preparing for a PvP faction imbalance, which sent a tingle of fear down the Prof’s spine.

There now are recent reports coming in that used the Guild Headquaters system as a data mine that are showing in numerical form how these imbalances might be taking shape:

That is a higher than 2:1 ratio of Empire:Republic PvP guilds. If these numbers are accurate, then this is a sample size of nearly 150,000 players. This is a small number compared to the total number of players The Old Republic will have but this is absolutely a large enough sample to be considered statistically sound.

This is exactly what happened in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.

This may seem like a small issue to people who don’t intend to PvP and indeed it will be. If you don’t PvP then this imbalance won’t really alter your play experience at all. If you only intend to participate in Warzones like Huttball then this will not really alter your play experience either. If, however, you plan on doing any of the objective based PvP in the game, or the over world PvP, then this could be bad.

I’m a veteran of games like Dark Age of Camelot and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. I also love open-world objective based PvP. It is probably the most fun and enjoyable part of MMORPGs to me outside of roleplaying. Heck I roleplay while I PvP.

As a side note, the old Professor is not a newbie at this kind of thing either. No, I was pretty hard core in my day. In DAoC I spent a good bit of time on the Blademaster leader boards. In WAR I have screen shots of myself topping damage charts by extreme margins while playing a Swordmaster. I know, and love, my objective based PvP.

What’s The Problem?

The problem when playing on a server where the enemy faction outnumbers your faction by a huge margin it becomes nearly impossible to succeed in objective based world PvP. This is because they can’t actually bring those numbers to bear, something that they can do in Warzones or other instanced PvP. When a group of 30 people take the enemy fort and the enemy can show up with 60, 90, or 120 people they take it back fast.

It becomes frustrating and overall not fun for anyone involved. It is too easy for the enemy and too hard for you. Eventually objective based PvP goes the way of the dodo.

This could be even worse in The Old Republic because it has been stated that PvP gear can be gained from objective based world PvP. This means any faction imbalance will cause the higher population faction to have better gear on top of numerical superiority. All in all, yes – PvP faction imbalances are a big deal.

A Little Bit Of Theory

Generally speaking PvP players are attracted to being the aggressor and they are attracted to being the winner. In pretty much all of the main pre-launch hype, the Republic and Jedi have been depicted as the losers, the defeated, and the major underdog. While there is a minority of players who like being the underdog, most PvP players, the causal mindset, do not.

The underdog is the guy who comes out of nowhere to challenge the establishment. Usually this is a quirky bunch of individuals who come together with the common goal of upsetting the status quo. They usually have a higher degree of skill than the status quo team does but lack the equipment and the facilities to utilize it to its maximum potential.

Unfortunately in The Old Republic, from the perspective of the casual player, the Sith are the underdog not the Republic. While the Sith may be the ones who won the pre-release story and thus the Republic being defeated would make them the underdog, that isn’t how it actually works out. BioWare, I feel, sent the wrong message.

The Republic had everything: money, planets, and more. BioWare, in the Great Hyperspace War timeline, painted the Sith as the victims, as the people the Republic bullied and tried to annihilate. The Empire wins the Great War by way of a “last ditch desperation move” which is usually how the underdog team wins. When the Hope trailer was shown, it depicted the only Republic victory, which, unfortunately, set a bad example because the lone Sith Warrior star was ganged up two to one and defeated that way.

Individually we are lead to believe Darth Malgus could have beaten both the unnamed Trooper and Satele Shan… implying the Republic only won because they ganged up on him. This is exactly the kind of behavior that the “villain” team does in underdog movies.

Show Don’t Tell

When I had a chance to speak to BioWare Senior Writer Drew Karpyshyn at Star Wars Celebration V, one of the things he (and other developers at the con) made clear was that they wanted to set up the Republic as an underdog. Their plan to do this was to show the Republic being beaten down pretty severely. Unfortunately, that isn’t the proper way to show an underdog story.

Ler’s take a look at a few examples.

The first is the remake of the movie: The Karate Kid

We are introduced to our protagonist. Young Dre, who is moving to China. He is shown to be entering into a situation that is out of his element. Next we are introduced to the antagonists as Dre is bullied, less than halfway through the trailer however, the tide changes. Mr. Han shows up and stops the bullies flat.

We see Mr. Han outclassing the bullies in a brief montage then he assures young Dre that he will teach him real Kung Fu. The rest of the trailer is a training montage that culminates in showing young Dre becoming a better fighter and most importantly it shows him defeating the bullies. People are cheering him on. The bullies are clearly meeting their match. The trailer ends with Mr. Han sharing some words of wisdom and hope.

Those are key elements to create an underdog feeling. Those are what resonate with people and especially casual players. Those are the things we have been ingrained to look for our whole lives when trying to pick out the underdog.

Think this is cherry picking? Here’s another. This is for Kickboxer. Notice some similarities?

As usual we see the main protagonist in a bad situation. Eventually he meets a teacher who will teach him. He trains up, becoming better than his enemy, and eventually is shown fighting the enemy and apparently winning.

This is the part that, in my opinion, BioWare missed. They only did half of the underdog story. Because we only see Sith winning “fairly” and regularly. Because we see the Republic with its idyllic worlds and the Sith in their dark and desolate places. We associate the Republic with the status quo as the Sith as the underdog.

My Suggestion

If this imbalance does exist, BioWare still has time to correct it. It won’t be easy though, and it won’t be cheap.

BioWare needs to show the Sith getting their you-know-what handed to them. We need to see the Sith suffer a loss on par with the Jedi Temple. We need to see Sith Lords bite the dust in one-on-one encounters against the Republic. We need to see the Sith ganging up on the Jedi two-to-one and actually losing. We need inspirational dialogue and we need the Republic talking about how the war isn’t over.

BioWare wanted the Sith to seem like a credible threat. I feel they took it too far and made the Republic look like a joke. There is still time to correct these things, however there isn’t much. I fear, if those numbers are correct, that it could potentially harm the long term health of the game itself.

Until next time, may the Force be with you.

  1. anotherqqpost says:

    Another article from ProfessorWhine. Complaining about faction imbalance in a game that’s not even out yet.

    • I don’t know. Those numbers are taken right from BioWare’s Guild HQ… 2:1 Empire:Republic

    • I would rather start talking about a faction imbalance before the game comes out than start talking about it when the Republic is getting their ***** handed to them on every server in open world pvp.

  2. Just curiously, your chart of numbers lacks detailed labels. Are those numbers of Guilds or does it account for numbers of players in each guild? Like, are we counting all the guilds of 1 single person that won’t even make it to launch (To get transferred into the game: “The guild has at least four members who have pre-ordered the game and redeemed their Pre-Order Codes”) as equivalent to the few guilds that actually do have a substantial number of people?

    If so, how would that affect your data overall?

    • Another thing that Bioware has in place to help combat the imbalance is the pre-launch guild system its self. Bioware can see where the imbalances are and then arranged the guilds accordingly on servers to compensate that imbalance. No, its not perfect, but I think it will help. I also think these numbers will even out after launch as more people start to play the game.

      • I don’t have that level of optimism due to previous situations that were similar. A lot of people thought that things would even out in Warhammer and things only got worse. This is the kind of situation that has to be repaired before launch.

    • thats all the people in the swtor guild headquarters

  3. You present an interesting hypothesis, but there are many unknowns that will likely impact the projected PvP imbalance. such as:

    1.) The imbalance only demonstrates that people in PvP guilds tend to favor Empire. It’s possible that PvP players that don’t like being in guilds favor Republic (a large unknown population).

    2.) The faction changing that may result from beta testing.

    3.) recent progression videos, such as the smuggler and consular video, may have more of an impact on character selection because they have appeared closer to launch and use more developed animation.

    that being said I would love another cinematic of the republic beating the crap out of the Empire :)

    • 1. That is possible, but also very unlikely. It also doesn’t help as non-guided, or solo PVPers (and yes, I used to solo PVP all the time in DAoC) have a much smaller impact on the game than guild PVPers do, especially in open world PVP.

      2. That is unlikely. Guilds usually are locked into a faction once they are formed officially regardless of beta. Especially since the game is within 2-3 months of release.

      3. It could, but this is a scary huge margin.

      As to a video… Heck yes… I want to see a definitive Republic win in a cinematic.

      • Well, actually, the Sith are supposed to be bad guys->more agressive->more similar to the PvP non top mindset.
        On the “underdog problem” I agree with you, but I point another resource: show the empire as the dark force riders. I mean, show how the empise slaves the conquered planets, show them killing women, children, raping droids and doing “dark side things”.
        Show why the republic should be saved.
        Until now we have a indolent republic, defenders of the status quo, a jedi hippies bunch and a cool, efficient, unified empire (they are consistent even betraying themselves!).
        Just my two zenis, after all I come from a 80/20 unbalanced server of WoW and wasn’t a problem to me…

  4. I think the fears are not warranted.

    Any kind of Sith slant in the beginning was because of the story of the game. Sith come back, war happens, Sith start peace talks, Sith sack Coruscant. Those events lead us to the climate and story of the game we’re going to play. Bioware can’t show the second half, of the underdog story, because the players determine the second half, not Bioware.

    You can’t count out the fact that most players are going to want to be the Good Guy, and Sith are not the good guys.

    • Sorry but no,

      You don’t show an underdog story by cutting out the comeback. It doesn’t work. This is a story driven game.

      What BioWare should have done was make the beginning of the underdog momentum of the Republic the launch trailer for the game.

      Literally open up with:

      “The Sith thought that we were licking our wounds. We were gathering our strength. They had us on the ropes. They had the element of surprise…

      That element has been taken from them.”

      Then show a MAJOR Sith stronghold get hit. Like the main palace on Dromund Kaas. Have it get razed to the ground and show at least two members of the Dark Council dead.

      Then have that be the spark that reignites the war with the war opening up with the Sith taking a massive pounding for once.

      • Who is to say, that this won’t happen yet? If the last cinematic has been released, I sure missed that memo. (although I know that they have designated one of the vids to the games opening cinematic).
        If no more big cinematics show before launch, then yes I completly agree with you.

  5. AlextheWhiteSaber says:

    Nice text but I don’t think marketing as the main reason for the imbalance. Thats the human nature, most of us feel attracted by the dark side. Personally I don’t!
    The, unfortunately, only way to fix any imbalance in numbers is restricting server char creation of a faction that has a 1.2 rate or higher. But Bioware already said it won’t happen… too bad, I can see a LOT of PvPers complaining and quiting after a few weeks of being ganked over and over… I will!

  6. yes.. no mater what you do it will be unbalance it has been in every game there is different ways you can work on it lock some servers on letting a faction not to be made on it or gave a faction buff per zone that updates all the time to try to help even it out.. but the player that is allways doing 2 vs 1 will become a better pvp player… and the more you try to balance it the more peoplims you will make..
    and you didnt say how many people have not mad up there minds on witch side to go there is alot of people have not picked a side and pre-ordered the game like me

  7. Bioware has said there will be things put in place to help the outnumbered group at one of the outdoor pvp objectives. I would wait and see how they deal with this before saying it won’t be fun.

    • No way.

      Look, I most BioWare games, but the idea that they are infallible is not something I will entertain. There is nothing they can do to even out a 2:1 ratio. They tried doing fixes like this in WAR and it failed miserably, since the WAR team is actually doing the PVP in TOR I am DOUBLY not going to put my faith in an “after launch” view of something that should never have been allowed to happen.

      • Although you certainly have a point with the faction imbalance and this having a big impact on the PvP gameplay, I do agree with Zulcatt.

        These defend or attack bonusses you get when outnumbered could even be a very cool game mechanic to add to the PvP gamplay. Time will tell :)

  8. I can see where you are coming from, but I don’t think the imbalance comes from the Sith being portrayed as “underdogs” (which I disagree). I’m coming from EVE Online. And while I don’t have concrete numbers, it seems to me that many of the EVE players who express interest in SWTOR want to play Empire. But not because they view the Republic as status quo, but because the Empire seem more “hard core” to them.

    Another reason is typical EVE player like to play the opposite of how they are in real life. Or at least, perform activities or play a role they can’t play in real life. Activities like being embezzling, cheating others out of money, spying, ganking, etc., for examples. I think most view the Empire as being more conducive or appropriate for those roles than the Republic who tend to be on straight and narrow (even allowing for the Smuggler).

    But for your underdog argument, I saw Darth Malgus as being so powerful that they needed to double team him to just give them a shot at winning. After all, Malgus had them beat before the Republic reinforcement arrived. Plus, they needed to show how a Trooper with no force abilities could possibly go toe to toe with a Sith.

    However, maybe I’m in the minority on these lines of thoughts.

  9. i always played the underdog side and i love it
    example: warhammer online yes the first month was hard to pvp for open world objectives, later on we organised better and we turned the tide or atleast gave them a fight over objectives (like the ones in praag where you could funnel the enemies their number making their number advantage useless)(this was on dragonback mountain server and eltharion server were order was usually outnumbered 3 :1 in rvr zones)

    my point is that the skilled players would rather fight the odds then just zerg everything and be bored out of their minds since there is noone to fight them
    and yes we’ll find someway to make their number advantage useless like we did in warhammer

    • I’m a skilled player, and I played WAR as well… If you claim you were winning in open PVP with a 3:1 it’s hard to believe.

      My server we had a 2:1 ratio of Destruction:Order and even with the extremely overpowered classes (such as the Brightwizard) we were only able to manage token victories at best before the Zerg destroyed us and took back any objectives we managed to get.

      No matter the tactics or the dedication there is only so much you can do when facing enemies who outnumber you 3:1 unless your enemies are completely incompetent.

      Not saying we didn’t give Destruction a bloody nose now and again, but consistent victories against overwhelming odds? Not possible in an MMO.

      • I’d expect he’s talking about numbers in a given fight rather than overall server balance. Also, he’s not made clear whether he was in a PvP guild going against non-PvP guildees.

        If so, that further illustrates the damage of PvP guilds being lopsided, as people in a PvP guild tend to do much better in PvP because they’re accustomed to working as a team and no the limits/playstyle of their fellows.

        • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-g7O2ts8uo

          just to prove my point we developed bombing as a playstyle, wich is still being used now in warhammer, to minimize the effect of numbers
          i was and still am Calnin the archmage in the vid /(warband)
          the guild i was in was called libertalia on dragonback mountains and when we moved to eltharion we changed the name to exodus (the first order guild to kill t’charzanek or whatever his name was)

          yes i was in a pvp guild if you wanna call it that way our primary focus in warhammer was to kick destro asses, i’m not saying we didn’t loose a fight as i recall we lost on numerous occations on the other hand fighting as the underdog your victories actually meant something when fighting the destro renown trains (refering to the choochoo train the destro’s made moving from BO to BO) and for the record there were destro pvp guilds (don’t actually think i know any pve guild that played on warhammer SICNE IT’S A PVP GAME)

        • i’m just trying to say there will always be skilled players who will find ways to counter the numbers advantage the opposition has

  10. Darth Janus says:

    An interesting and exhaustive article, but unfortunately it is inaccurate to portray numbers from the Guild Headquarters as a representative sample of the actual player base. While it does serve to represent the game’s hardcore player base, this number does not reflect all the many casual players or even those hardcore fans in the forums who have yet to join a guild.

    Ultimately, however, no marketing campaign will drive a vast majority of players in a roleplay-based game to a certain faction or class unless it is a clear and deliberate attempt to do so by the developers (which of course is not BioWare’s aim).

    The only conclusion we can draw at this point is that among the most hardcore fans joining PVP guilds before launch there is a clear leaning towards the Sith faction, nothing more.

    • Er, that’s the issue.

      The PvPers that will have the biggest effect on open world PvP will be in guilds. And as you see, there’re far and away more of them in Empire guilds than in Republic.

      • Darth Janus says:

        Actually, the article uses the Guild Headquarters numbers to foretell faction imbalance within the game upon release. My point is that this premise is false.

  11. I understand you. I know where you want to go with this, but after rewatching the three trailers, I just cant say that the empire is the underdog. yes, the republic offensive during The Battle of Alderaan was sort of cunning, an ambush, but it was because the sith were thousands more and it was their only solution, their only hope for a victory. It’s a military (and desperate) strategy, period. I will play republic because of this. I hate being the powerful one, the mighty winner, before doing anything. I will play republic, and even if my server will have a 2:1 ratio, I will be fierce, and my enemies will remember my name.

    • Long long ago, in a thread not so far away, the many pundits postulated interesting theories, but failed to articulate the most engaging aspect of the SW saga, that being freedom vs. statism/fascism. While I have historically played the darker side of the spectrum as I found the rp’ish marriage of hardcore pvp style and dastardly race/class backdrop to be both natural and appealing…I have in this case swiftly veered from playing a Sith (started inquisitor) to playing the light side, wherein I have 5 toons concurrently. Go Freedom! Also, did you consider character redundancy bias…especially on the side likely to appeal more generally via story-line. Gods, but server refreshes are EVIL..!

  12. I strongly believe that if they had offered a few more “interesting races” but only for the Republic… like Rodian, Duro, Nautolan, Mon Cal… they would totally bring the balance back.

    I understand there are issues with VOs… we have human sounding VOs so there is a limit to how alien your character can be,,, essentially he needs to be of a race with a human voice… but I’m pretty sure a “Huttese/Gibberish” track could be compiled from all the Rodian replies (and then just add subs)… Other VOs could be run through a filter just to give em a more appropriate alien sound…

    I plan on playing a SW… but I would totally go for a BH if I could be a Trandoshan… or a Guardian if I could be a Mon Cal or some rare alien.

  13. Interesting article and I pretty much agree with your concern.

    Sadly, I find it unsurprising how few of those commenting are willing to consider this a problem, preferrng a wait-and-see approach. I’m not a fan of the ostrich technique.

    I’m glad to see there’s one author at a major fan site that’s able to provide constructive criticism rather than mindless positive PR. There was too much of the latter with WAR (and where are all the blogs now?) and I see the same with TOR now.

    Keep up the good work, Prof.

  14. Interesting article. I was always interested in figures for how the faction balance was playing out in TOR, and those you’ve listed make sense.
    This sort of imbalance in PvP severs is often the case for MMOs with one inherently evil faction. The horde on my WoW server were the majority and were constantly winning Wintergrasp. They controlled it at least 80% of the time. In addition to that, horde queue times for PvP were sometimes up around half an hour.
    I am an avid PvP player and despite initially favouring the Republic heavily, I was drawn to the Dark Side because of their allure in terms of ferocity and power. They are a more attractive faction for PvP players because their whole premise is concerned with obtaining victory. Jedi on the other hand are supposed to be peaceful and non-violent. You can argue the accuracy or validity of the statistics in the article all you like but the Empire is far more likely to be played by a player interested in PvP.
    I may change change to Republic… I want to be one of a small number of valiant heroes, not an insignificant cog in the enormous Sith war machine… However, I do not want to be disadvantaged when it comes to World PvP… Bioware have their work cut out for them to solve such a dilemma.

  15. I am unconvinced that it is the marketing of SWTOR specifically that has caused this imbalance. PvPers tend to roll for the faction that is seen as aggressive and war-like. This is Star Wars, and aggressive and war-like = Sith. Any marketing that Bioware puts out that counters that concept is inconsequential compared to the effect of, say, Darth Vader choking any problem he comes across.

    Might Bioware showing the Republic taking the war to the Sith it have some effect? Sure. Enough to mitigate a 2:1 ratio? Not very likely.

    I am also unconvinced that the ratio from Guild HQ reflects the population balance on release, nor the population balance of players who will engage in PvP. Assuming SWTOR becomes quite successful, the vast majority of the population will be comprised of people who didn’t follow the game pre-release, and who only know Star Wars IP through the movies – they will likely be confused by the existence of a “Sith Pureblood” species. Average, regular folks. Average, regular folks tend to play “heroes” in MMOs… they roll for the good guys, for the Republic. Average, regular folks will PVP even if they aren’t in a PvP guild.

    The last MMO I followed so extensively pre-release was WoW, and if I recall correctly the expected ratios based on the pre-release WoW fans were similar. The PvPers tended towards Horde. What happened post-release? Alliance typically had a 2:1 or better population advantage, and they absolutely flattened Horde in open world PvP. Why? WoW attracted casual players. Average, regular folks who wanted to play the good guy hero. I fully expect the same thing to happen in SWTOR.

  16. In all due respect Professor, I think you are: 1) taking this a little to far considering the game has not been released. 2) adding to the problem.

    First, I know we are all excited for this game to come out, but remember…. the game has NOT come out yet. Most of the people who are signed up on the forums for guilds are considered to be more towards the “hard core” side. Hundreds of thousands of people who will play this game have not even started looking into it in much detail because of the lack of a release date. Furthermore, this game is doing a lot of things to cater to casuals, therefore there will be A LOT of parents, grandparents, and people will full time jobs who will be playing, and a lot of them may favor republic. My point is that there are to many unknown variables for you to make an assertion like OPEN PvP WILL NOT BE FUN UNLESS BIOWARE DOES SOMETHING RIGHT MEOW.

    Second, you are adding to the problem. If I am a PvP player who is on the rope about what faction to play, but I am really interested in the republic classes, and have always been a light sided nerd…. well now after reading your speculation, I start leaning away from Republic and start consider more Empire… In a way, by writing an article like this, you are killing your own cause.

    Finally, while I respect your opinion, and your right to blog about whatever you wish, I think we all need to just take a chill pill and enjoy the ride leading up to release. Looking forward to seeing you in game.

  17. Teddywestside says:

    I would say that a large portion of the people intending to play swtor don’t even use forums or sign up for guild pre release, so there is really alot of figures you don’t have to go on before the game is even released.

    Alot of which will probably roll the ‘good guys’ anyhow

  18. This might be a bit of a long reply…

    I’m in a guild that’s doing the rare thing – creating two versions of itself on different servers, one Republic, one Sith. The Republic side does outnumber the Sith (though that gap is closing), but our forums can be…lively…when a Sith versus Republic discussion occurs.

    Perhaps most interesting was when “The Return” trailer happened recently. The Sith side immediately cried out about the Republic bias – something that I think is clearly not present in Deceived or The Return. The whole “Sith as underdog” argument makes sense; it is, of course, a telling feature that in societies that non-underdog can make itself feel like an underdog. The Sith can claim persecution due to the checkered past of dealings with the Jedi; and moreover, they are definitely the victorious side thus far in this conflict.

    I think more important to the faction imbalance is the appearance. In WoW (Sorry :\ ) the more “aggressive” faction also contains some of the “uglier” characters, such as orcs, trolls, goblins, whereas the Alliance has the “prettier” collection, which I think offers some form of balancing. No such real distinction is present in TOR – we more or less have the same races of humans, perhaps with coloration restrictions but otherwise similar. I think THAT might have a more significant impact on the imbalance – the fact that each side has similar character races, but one side has the more intimidating armor (BH, Sith Warriors, and Sith Inquisitor high end armors look fantastic, and while their counterparts are perhaps more iconic, a brown robe is simply not intimidating). If your main goal is to pvp and to look like a BAMF, then you’re going to pick the side that lets you look like a BAMF.

    In other words – I feel the aesthetics will have an impact on the faction balance. That, combined with the factors the Professor talked about, could mean severe issues.

    Of course, these are Star Wars fans here – and for most, the all-consuming fantasy is to be a Jedi. That might help even out the split – but I honestly feel that offering more diversity in races (and alien ones, at that) would help immensely. You’d be surprised by how many Mon Cal, Togruta, Nautolan, and even Rodian fans are out there.

  19. I’ve got a few thoughts (and this is a lengthy comment). Firstly, there’s a saying a Stats teacher once shared in a class I was in. There’s statistics, statistics, statistics and lies.

    I’ve been working with stats in a professional context for about 10 years now. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, unless you test your dataset for validity you’ve got the potential for severely skewed results. Skewed results lead to flawed conclusions. And the fact is, there simply is not enough data or analysis to draw the underlying conclusion that these numbers are statistically valid.

    The primary example, already commented on, is that guild HQ represents the hardcore player base. It’s already been observed, and quite rightly I believe, then when you add the casual player base (which given the game design could well be a significant majority) that the hypothesis drawn from these numbers could well be disproven. The advice to take a ‘chill pill’ and wait for game launch to see how things pan out, as condescending as it is, has merit. I appreciate that denial won’t help, but until BW themselves have valid data on the issue how motivated will they be to invest serious resources to address this issue? If I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t.

    In short, Professor Walsh, my main critique is not with your opinion but your method. You’re clearly not a statistician. And you’ve just proven my stats teacher very correct. What you’ve done is akin to taking a graph, skewing the x-axis categories to make the curve look sharper than it is.

    However, I can’t blame you. Your method is a product of your ignorance in statistics, and is actually enforced by the hordes of people, media and organizations that manipulate statistics to position an argument.

    Secondly, I do get the urge to air this though. One thing I do agree with is that the 3 trailers have definitely presented a Imperial bias. They look hardcore. I do agree with your opinion that a trailer with the Republic taking it back to the Empire would be great. However, I don’t think it’s going to happen. It’s getting close to launch, and the timing is not good.

    Thirdly, the topic of imbalance should be in the spotlight. Poor use of statistics aside, if it’s ignored it won’t be pretty. Just assuming that these numbers do pan out, then this would make the controlled Warzones a way to ensure balance. Severe imbalance does indeed cause problems. I appreciate that some commenters have said that they’ll take it, grow from it, get better from it. But in my experience such determination and perserverence is not the norm. People that get beaten down don’t always bounce back. However, if I end up a server with imbalance in PvP and get fed up with the Zerg then I’ll use controlled warzones. In addition, if BW does deliver on balance mechanics then things may not be quite so harsh.

  20. The “bad” guys are always more interested in pvp. You could dress up trailers any way you want, but in the end, those who really like pvp typically play that faction. The more casual crowd likes to play as the “good guys.” This was true in WoW, DAoC, and just about every other mmo out there. The PvE numbers are pretty equal in Beta so there ya go.

  21. Lots of good points in the comments, and a great article. I want to add three points, however.

    Firstly, adding new races is an RP/SW fanatic panacea and won’t do much for pvp. Every PVPer I’ve ever met has been concerned primarily with winning (and doing whatever it takes to get an edge in that regard). Being a magical space-donkey isn’t going to get you any inherent pvp advantage, but if it restricts a toon to the faction that loses more in pvp, pvpers will be unmoved.

    Secondly, BW isn’t infallible, but they certainly seem interested in doing thorough research before releasing this game. They have access to data that we do not, and I would be shocked if they aren’t taking faction imbalance very seriously.

    Thirdly, and IMO most importantly, the companion mechanic needs to be considered in the context of pvp. If there are 20 Imperials fighting with 11 Republics (Republicans?) and the Imperials cannot have their companions out while the Repubs can it goes a long way to evening the odds, and gives BW a nice slider to adjust to balance things (tweaking companion power in pvp would be an easy way to, well, tweak world pvp balance).

    We’ll see how things work out when the game goes live, but here’s hoping that BW can launch it without any game-breaking imbalances…

    • seriously don’t think companions will balance anything out
      they only saw the light of day because ppl who didn’t wanted to group up wanted to do group content solo
      (this being all pve)

  22. I do agree that most PvP focused players tend to be more aggressive in their gameplay and gravitate to the ‘Evil’ side. Changing things by adding other playable races if unlikely to change that, though I do think BioWare missed an opportunity by not including other more alien playable races, like Mon Calamari, Wookiee, Rodian, Quarren, and Duros to name but a few.

  23. Bah, numbers dont matter :) Bring one, bring two, bring 10 sith front me, all go down, numbers all just illusion :)

  24. You seem to forget places like the Alderaan warzone also happen in pre-arranged matches with eight Republic players fighting eight Imperial players, so, if anything, this means that Imperial players might have to wait twice as long to start fighting than Republic players.

    Or they might simply do what other PvP centered MMOs have done, simply shut down the ability to create characters for the largest faction for a while and/or offer free server transfers to players from PvP servers where they are the majority to where their faction is a minority to help and balance things. I honestly wouldn’t worry too much about this.

  25. Lady Republic says:

    I thought this was a very interesting piece, first of all – and yes, I do worry about developer bias, but less form things like guild or PvP stats and more from the fact that whenever you see a developer video, they’re wearing Empire shirts. :(

    Anyway what I wanted to add is a bit about perception. While I can see where you are coming from on the videos – I actually read the Republic as the underdogs in the Hope video. They were explained as just a tiny rebellion group in a planet by then already dominated by the Empire – and while we see Trooper and Shan fighting Malgus, there’s a much larger battle taking place around them. As the main Trooper is “defeated” (before Shan arrives), things are looking VERY bleak and his buddies are getting executed by the Sith all around him. It’s only in that very last, desperate gasp before he’s beheaded that things turn around and the momentum starts to shift.

    So while I agree in the meta sense that there is developer bias towards the Empire (something I’d desperately hoped to leave behind in WoW), I actually think the Republic is shown as an underdog in Hope. My concern is more how factions are portrayed in the game itself, than the videos – but that’s another matter entirely.

  26. WonkoTheSane says:

    I already have all the video i need to bring me hope as i play a Jedi. It’s 6 movies set 3600ish years later. We win in the end!

  27. Isn’t the SW universe chock-full of examples of the underdog prevailing. Luke taking down the Death Star… The Rebellion defeating the Empire at the end of ROTJ… The Sith rising and upending the Republic. When has this ever mattered in the SW uninverse? This is all pre-release conjecture. Adding a video of the Sith will do nothing to balance this out. We all have our reasons for picking the factions. This was more important to me than anything. I then picked my guild affiliation after this. I;m sure guild deployment will even things out, and we’ll see how it goes form there. Being out-numbered won’t deter me. it would just challenge me and my guildmates to become all that much better and more organized.

    Long live the Emperor!

  28. Aegon Kenobi says:

    Hey professor I have a question that seems simple but there is no straight forward answer to.
    Who would you consider the worst jedi of all. Not neccesarily the weakest jedi midichlorian wise,just the worst.
    A few I would sondier are Etain Tar Mukan, Anakin Skywalker, Arlington Zey and that group of jedi in rise of Vader.
    An answer would really be interesting.

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