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Level Sync Update

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ChrisSchmidt's Avatar


ChrisSchmidt
04.01.2022 , 08:21 AM | #1 Click here to go to the next staff post in this thread. Next  
Hi folks,

I wanted to chat about the history of Bolster, how it’s evolved over the years into what is now known as our new Level Sync system, and how we’ve been tuning and adjusting Level Sync based on your feedback. One note on terminology: I’m going to refer to Bolster as the pre-7.0 technology and Level Sync as the post-7.0 technology. We’ve used several terms interchangeably over the years, but for the purposes of this post I’m referring to the technology difference between the two.

In the 4.0 release, we introduced the concept of Bolster throughout the wider game. It was previously launched to specifically address PvP Warzone balance in order to help undergeared players, but the 4.0 release brought the feature to PvE content. When your character visited a planet they had completed the story on, we shifted the character level down to a range we expected players to be in for that planet. Bolster enabled the game to give better and more relevant rewards for high level players going back to older content. We could finally reward max level characters with useful items or currency, whereas previously they would receive rewards far below their actual level.

The reverse was also true: we could Bolster players upwards in order to give more content options to lower level players. This mostly occurred in PvP Warzones in order to keep the queues more active and provide a better Warzone experience for those players in the lower levels.

Unfortunately, this implementation of Bolster brought a host of problems with it. To peel back the curtain a bit, that system relied on applying an ability on the player, and that ability would dictate the level and stat scaling to apply to the player. All of this data was defined by hand in tables, with specific stats defined per planet or per difficulty level per piece of content. Not only was this difficult to maintain and update, but it introduced a host of bugs and undesirable problems that we worked hard over the years to address. Sometimes lower level mods would actually provide better stats in PvP, for example. Or the Bolster ability would fail to apply in Operations or Flashpoints leaving one or more players over leveled for the content, and introducing exploits that allowed players to reliably force the bug and easily complete content balanced for several levels below their own.

This implementation also limited the ideas we had for the future of repeatable content, so for 7.0 we invested in modernizing our Bolster system, and effectively removed it and replaced it with the current Level Sync system.

Level Sync works from a new codebase that is more predictable and less prone to exploitative behavior. Designers can effectively enter item rating ranges per planet/piece of content, and the NPCs in that content are using the same scaling and stat ranges, making the balance relationship more predictable. This was a large change, so it required lots of per-content testing and iteration. We made this change last fall and it went through several PTS iterations. We were able to address lots of balance feedback back then and continue to do so to this day across the game in order to get the system feeling better with each iteration.

With this new system came a few side effects that removed some of the quirks of the older Bolster system. One oddity we solved was the way primary stats were scaled in the old Bolster system, especially when leveled down. They were far from accurate, and the system merely capped stats, so everyone over the defined thresholds had identical stats. With the Level Sync system, primary stats are actually scaled downwards according to how much of each stat characters have equipped. So if you have a high Mastery build, you should see more Mastery than another player who is running a high Endurance build in the same scaled content.

One side effect of the new system is all stats are scaled down when Level Synced. Under the Bolster system, tertiary stats such as Accuracy, Critical Rating, and Alacrity were never scaled. This had both advantages and disadvantages to how players would experience content. The plus side is Accuracy and Alacrity thresholds that players had taken care to optimize would be maintained when playing lower level content. But stats like Crit not scaling made older content more trivial than intended, which set the wrong expectation for game balance when facing other players in other modes such as PvP, or NPCs in Operations, and Master Mode Flashpoints.
We intend to update the new system to maintain Accuracy and Alacrity thresholds when scaled up or down in a future update. This would be very similar to how the old system worked for Accuracy and Alacrity specifically.

Another side effect involves Relics. These typically provide extra stats when they are activated or trigger on their own. As all stats now scale in Level Synced content, there currently isn’t a method to scale the extra stats provided by Relics, so they currently provide no stat bonuses when activated or triggered while Level Synced. We’ve been working on resolving this problem and intend to address it in a future update.

There is similar behavior with Augments and Color Crystals. We identified some issues both internally and thanks to your feedback on the PTS servers where it was possible to manipulate Augments and Color Crystals to provide huge stat bonuses outside of the bounds of the system. We have identified the root cause of these bugs, and have been working on solutions to both, to be introduced in future updates.

Finally, we’ve had a couple of issues prevalent in PvP modes that we’ve identified and fixed incrementally over several updates.

PvP Warzones and Arenas in 7.0 introduced a valid item rating range in level 80 matches. The Level Sync system was intended to allow players with gear from 318 through 326 to compete and upgrade their gear, while synching down players with higher gear (such as 330 gear) to the ceiling of 326. The system was also intended to reduce the stats and effectiveness for equipped gear below the 318 minimum threshold, such as 306 gear.

Once 7.0 launched, players noticed they were not less effective wearing 306 gear in level 80 Warzones and Arenas, and in fact in some cases their equipped stats were the same or better than 326 gear. We found the root cause of this bug and resolved this odd behavior in the 7.0.1 patch.

We have also determined the root cause of a bug that was causing item ratings in Level Synced content to be inaccurately computed. This didn’t result in major stat changes, but was the cause of some stats appearing to be worse after the 7.0.1 update in content that was Level Synced, and also that players with better than 326 gear in Warzones and Arenas had a slight stat advantage. We have a fix to this bug coming in the 7.0.2 update.

One last thing I wanted to address is companions, and their effectiveness in combat. The root cause for companions suddenly becoming worse tanks or not drawing aggro or dealing damage as expected was a bug in how their base stats were applied when loading into a planet or area. This caused some of their stats to be missing or inaccurate, which made things like their taunt ability or area of effect damage abilities miss their target NPC every time. The fix for the companion issue is also coming in the 7.0.2 update.

An additional note on companions and their effectiveness: the Presence base stat does scale in Level Synced content to reflect the amount of base Presence a player would expect to have in that level range. This would apply to Presence earned through character level-up and from equipment. However, the system does not scale any bonus Presence earned from raising the influence levels of companions, so companions with high influence levels will always be more effective across all content where companions can be used.

All of the fixes described above for the 7.0.2 update can be currently seen on the PTS, and we continue to keep an eye on your reports and experiences both in the live game and the PTS server. We made over 100 balance tweaks and adjustments to existing content thanks to your feedback in the 7.0 PTS cycles, and continue to address any areas as they are reported by players, our internal testing, and our own playthroughs of the game.

Hopefully this post sheds a bit of light on some of the issues and resolutions with Level Sync in the game. We’re still very excited about the content possibilities unlocked by modernizing this huge and fundamental system of the game.

Thanks!
-Chris

EDIT on 4/28/22: Follow up post for further clarification on what was included in 7.0.2.
Chris "BioChris" Schmidt | Design Director
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codydmaan's Avatar


codydmaan
04.01.2022 , 09:26 AM | #2
Don't care about history and excuses we just want a working game model.

Hopefully it gets actually fixed this time.

I will say thank you for doing something.

Ghost_Spectre's Avatar


Ghost_Spectre
04.01.2022 , 09:28 AM | #3
Quote: Originally Posted by ChrisSchmidt View Post
Hopefully this post sheds a bit of light on some of the issues and resolutions with Level Sync in the game. We’re still very excited about the content possibilities unlocked by modernizing this huge and fundamental system of the game.

Thanks!
-Chris
Thank you for coming forward about this issue sharing the problems and upcoming fixes. Especially for our companions. Thank you again.
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Sefeki's Avatar


Sefeki
04.01.2022 , 09:31 AM | #4
Thanks for the open communication, Chris!

MagerginFlerp's Avatar


MagerginFlerp
04.01.2022 , 09:36 AM | #5
This type of update is fantastic. Clearly stating the issues, and giving us insight into how you've tried to fix it. More stuff like this please!

Minden's Avatar


Minden
04.01.2022 , 09:46 AM | #6
Chris,

This has been one of the best responses since 7.0 released! Personally, I love reading how the game mechanics work because it gives a better understanding of the game itself. Can we please get something like this on a weekly basis???

Lyriel's Avatar


Lyriel
04.01.2022 , 09:47 AM | #7
Quote: Originally Posted by ChrisSchmidt View Post

An additional note on companions and their effectiveness: the Presence base stat does scale in Level Synced content to reflect the amount of base Presence a player would expect to have in that level range. This would apply to Presence earned through character level-up and from equipment. However, the system does not scale any bonus Presence earned from raising the influence levels of companions, so companions with high influence levels will always be more effective across all content where companions can be used.
I am confused by the last line of this paragraph. If the system does not scale bonus Presence earned from raising the influence level of companions, how exactly are companions with higher influence levels more effective? Is that bonus Presence supposed to be 'passed through' straight up? Current performance would seem to indicate otherwise. Or do you mean that this is not actually happening and will be fixed with 7.0.2 (or another patch)?

Also, when can we expect 7.0.2? This litany of issues with Level Sync impacts the older PvE content and (non-GSF) PvP, which is the majority of content available in this game (particularly when the multitude of bugs makes what little new content there is more of a PITA to play through).

Edit to add: I realize that the above made it sound like the only takeaway I had from this post was negative. That's not true, and I want to express my gratitude for another well-written post that helps us understand the background and intent behind changes made, as well as the outline of measures you're taking to adjust how they perform.
"I'm not a warrior, I'm a soldier. There's a difference. Warriors attack and conquer, they prey on the weak. Soldiers defend and protect the innocent—usually from warriors."
―Carth Onasi, hero of the Republic

Drenovade's Avatar


Drenovade
04.01.2022 , 09:52 AM | #8
Will these adjustments also include fixes for bugged companions such as Treek and CM creatures that severely underperform compared to others?

I think it's fine to have companions of varying performance, but those ones are near unusable. Buffing the lower tier companions in general, such as HK-51, single blade melee, and single blaster users would be nice so that they're more fun to use without worrying about being less effective in combat.

DarthSpekulatius's Avatar


DarthSpekulatius
04.01.2022 , 09:59 AM | #9
ty for the writeup,

Treek is still missing 100% of Ranged attacks on PTS (as of yesterday 22:00 MESZ)

there has been no Communication why Groupfinder was nerfed to not allow switching discipline or style at all (inside or outside), or why you can't list for all the roles you are able to fulfill, afaik it's a baseless nerf compared to the Sync issues that were mostly assumed to be a Bug, please clarify.

lastly, considering the weekly Rotations are mostly gone can you get rid of the reset for PVP, Groupfinder,... Weeklies that will always be available (reset them when a patch happens that's fine just don't do it every Week) or also clarify why this is done.

Real_Dark_Lord's Avatar


Real_Dark_Lord
04.01.2022 , 10:07 AM | #10
Quote: Originally Posted by ChrisSchmidt View Post

We intend to update the new system to maintain Accuracy and Alacrity thresholds when scaled up or down in a future update. This would be very similar to how the old system worked for Accuracy and Alacrity specifically.
Thank you Chris, that would be very welcome.
Basically all that needs to be done is lock the derived percentage values of these stats, no matter to what level a character is synced.
I realize that this is probably easier said than coded, but it's these %-values that actually matter, and they need to stay the same.