Best in Slot Equipment in TOR-A good idea, a bad idea, or just an inevitability?
For those new to the MMORPG genre, Best in Slot Gear refers to a piece of equipment (at least in class/level based games where equipment is usually very important) perceived to have the best statistical bonuses for the particular slot it fills (helmet, boots, weapon, etc.). Acquiring this gear is one of the chief occupations at max level, aka, “The End Game”. Players spend hours in groups as large as 40 for the slim chance to get one of these key pieces. This is one of the main ways game developers condition players to keep playing, and therefore keep paying.There are many arguments as to how players should get this game, mostly these days questioning whether raiding (the large group of players spending hours to acquire 3 or 4 pieces of equipment) should be the only way to achieve the “honor” of getting this equipment, since in-game status is often determined by what equipment your character wears, even to the point of players being mocked as “bads” and not allowed in groups or guilds if they are under geared. This article, however, is focused on whether or not BiS equipment should even exist, and if it is possible for it not to (or at least be perceived as not existing).Years ago there was much discussion among players revolving around the idea that there should not be an absolute best piece of equipment, but an array of options, each of which could be considered the best for different reasons. As an example, when I played World of Warcraft as a max-level priest and started raiding, I wished to explore the possibility of getting gear to increase my “spirit” stat, rather than the more standard +healing, +intelligence gear, since spirit increased the speed of one’s mana pool regeneration, and the fights I was now involved in during raids lasted so long that this could allow me to cast more spells over the course of a 15 minute fight, overpowering the effects of +healing and the like. Sadly, (or not) I realized quickly that raids were a giant hamster wheel, and the psychological conditioning techniques that underlie most of World of Warcraft were not hidden well enough for me to develop the time I would need to in order to seriously raid (also many of my friends quit, some due to “guild drama” which will probably be the topic of a future article). It seemed clear back then that different equipment could be the “best” for different circumstances, and it could be arguable what was the “best” even for one particular circumstance. Now I see almost no discussion of these ideas, other than the fact that the BiS equipment will probably differ, not by circumstance, but by play-style, with raiding, PvP (link to glossary at least here) and normal PvE (another link). The idea of multiple pieces of BiS gear for one gameplay type seems to be abandoned, even by the many armchair game designers on the many forums.Maybe for good reason. If BiS gear exists for different circumstances this will lead many players to feel, and possibly complain, that they “have to” collect a whole ‘nother set of equipment to carry with them, switching between what is best by circumstance. Also, the proliferation of players using advanced math skills (notably the website elitist jerks) to determine the “best” equipment (it should be noted here that BiS gear does not always exist by itself, some gear is only best if part of a “set” of gear, and relatively worthless otherwise, complicating things further) and spread this information through the player community. Even if the developers did develop multiple sets of gear, none of which could objectively be considered the best, player perception is likely to pick a piece as the best, based on their math which may only be valid for optimal conditions and ignore “real-game” considerations.Hopefully Bioware comes up with a good enough solution, to not only create real choices for the best gear, but to convince the player base that those choices really do exist. Its nice not to feel like your character isn’t on a completely linear path of having to get gear A, to get gear B, to get gear C, etc. ad infinitum. Real choice will further allow players to differentiate themselves, hopefully on playstyle and aesthetic choice. One set of BiS equipment also creates the “clone” problem, with every player of a class looking (or aspiring to look) exactly the same, and as Bioware is currently against an appearance tab (possibly another link), which is the subject for another article, real choice when it comes to equipment will ensure that your jedi knight doesn’t look like every single jedi knight in the game. I fear that Bioware will make different sets of equipment that are very close to the same level of effectiveness, some of which is craftable, some found in high-end flashpoints and the very best in raids. Even if the statistical difference is negligible and really won’t affect gameplay as much as skill will, players will still want the “best” no matter how little difference there is between it and the next lower tier-and the cycle of players being mocked and excluded due to their equipment will continue. Let’s hope that Bioware can do better than this.