The Force is Imbalanced: Managing Jedi Population

posted by

Aconite and ornj

May 25, 2024

May 25, 2024

posted by

Aconite and ornj


Surprising no one, adding Jedi to Star Wars Galaxies is a very tough thing to get right.

We believe in the original vision of a high risk, high reward class. It adds an extra layer of depth to the game, and it makes Jedi feel special… which it should, because this is Star Wars. However, we also believe that Star Wars Galaxies is still a fun game without Jedi, and we don't want to create a game that excludes or diminishes the role and balance of other professions just because Jedi are in the game. It's also one of our core design tenets to make sure that playing the game lets you feel like you're living in Star Wars… and, as we’ve talked about before, Star Wars in our time period of 3ABY doesn't have a lot of Jedi.

As we shared when we originally released Jedi, getting the balance right of Jedi’s role in the server and balancing their gameplay will be an ongoing journey. It's not something that any version of SWG has gotten right. Jedi in the Pre-CU period with the FRS quickly became plagued with overpowered Jedi, where playing almost anything else felt like a waste. The opposite approach, which the NGE took, also had plenty of Jedi running around everywhere, but balanced combat to such a degree that Jedi weren't even all that useful in PvP. It turns out that most people want to play a Jedi, and will do whatever it takes to do so, making it challenging to meet these goals.

Jedi by the numbers

On the evening of February 29, the first Jedi was unlocked on Restoration. Since then, at time of writing, 145 have been unlocked. At one per account, that's about 9.6% of our weekly active player base. Many more are in the process of unlocking Jedi as well, with 161 others that have completed Phase 1 of the unlock, a good indicator that they intend to go all the way.

By the numbers, the online Jedi population is not as scary as some might think. It hovers around 5-10% most of the time (average of 6.48%):

Online Jedi Metrics

Those numbers don't tell the full story though. We've definitely heard from plenty of players that the server now sometimes feels "overrun" in Jedi. One key metric we are beginning to track is how often Jedi show up in "endgame" content, such as group instances and PvP. We want to ensure that these groups specifically do not become over reliant on Jedi, because that would exclude those that don't have them or don't want them. 

Our goals, and our tools for achieving them

We believe that it's critically important for the health and longevity of the server that we stay true to this promise: Restoration isn't dominated by Jedi. We're very proud of our unique unlock and enhanced Jedi gameplay, making it a fun and rewarding class to play. But we need to balance that fun experience with the experiences of those that want to play in the lore-accurate and diverse game that it is without them, too.

In order to achieve this balance, we’ve set the following goals for ourselves, based on measurable metrics:

Desired metric 2024 goal 2025 goal
Online Jedi, out of all online characters 5% median 5% median
Online Jedi in an NPC city like Mos Eisley 5% median 3% median
PvP Flagged (SF) Jedi, out of all PvP flagged characters 20% median 10% median
Jedi in Instanced group PvE, out of all instance grouped players 20% median 10% median

We can't directly control the population of Jedi (i.e., the number of players that actually have unlocked Jedi), but we can design systems that will influence the number of Jedi that are actually running around at any given time. So we are setting targets that reflect those outcomes, rather than raw population. We have a near-term goal and a long-term goal, as we expect to add more tools for managing this over time.

We currently have a number of levers that we can pull to influence these metrics:

  1. How long players must remain a Force Ghost after death
  2. How quickly visibility is generated from player/NPC reports
  3. How high the visibility penalty is for being around other Jedi
  4. How quickly visibility is reduced through various mechanisms
  5. The likelihood that an Inquisitor or Vader spawn can effectively deter or kill a Jedi
  6. The cost and accrual rate of a Jedi bounty for hitting 3000 visibility
  7. How many Bounty Hunters are allowed to accept the same Jedi's bounty
  8. The relative combat strength between a Jedi and a Bounty Hunter

You can expect us to keep pulling levers over time, until we meet those goals. Some of these are being adjusted with the next patch to ensure visibility is more manageable, but more impactful. Even once the goals have been met, player patterns will alter over time and we will be ready to meet those changes with our own. It will be an ongoing process that will likely never be completely solved, but we are committed to keeping things in check.

Changes Coming Soon

In addition to the levers mentioned above, today we are announcing some changes that are coming soon, to serve as additional incentives for Jedi to either log onto another character, or to think twice about participating in risky endgame content.

First and most impactful, we are reintroducing XP loss for Jedi. When a Jedi becomes a Force Ghost, they will also incur a penalty of a fixed amount of Jedi XP, possibly resulting in the loss of skill boxes (more details on this below). There was a similar mechanic in the original CU that we removed early on after release, but in hindsight we realized that it can be an effective mechanic at actually limiting the impact that Jedi has on the endgame. This will mean that the cost for dying is not just logging onto another character, but also creating actual in-game tasks a Jedi must perform outside of end-game content (i.e., leveling).

The expected details we have in place for how XP loss will work are:

  1. When a Jedi player becomes a Force Ghost (through 1 PvP death or 4 PvE deaths), they will lose 500,000 Jedi XP.
  2. If that XP loss would cause their banked XP to drop below zero, the game will select one of the highest tier Jedi skill boxes on that character, remove it, and refund its XP. So, the end result would be that the player would need to regain up to 500,000 XP in order to retrain the box they lost and be at full template.
  3. If a player has no Jedi skill boxes (because they retired or haven't trained them yet), they will enter negative Jedi XP, which of course must be earned back before being able to train new skills.
  4. If a player dies and loses their last life to a Bounty Hunter or to a Visibility-system-spawned NPC, the XP lost will be 1 million (instead of 500,000).

In addition to XP loss, there are several other changes we plan to implement soon. The broad theme for the remaining changes we wish to make is to allow players to better police the population themselves. NPC Inquisitors and grinding XP will never be punishing enough for some, but nobody is immune to the worst feeling of all: dying in PvP.

These additional upcoming changes are in supporting additional ways for players to help curb the population themselves:

An important related note: We do not see Jedi exclusively as a PvP class. In the past, we have made statements as such, but our more recent design decisions and goals for the server have adjusted that stance. The balance we hope to strike is the following: if a Jedi (at rank Padawan) avoids getting high visibility, they will not be forced into PvP situations. However, a high visibility score does still put you on the bounty boards where you will be hunted by other players. In addition, the future FRS (ranks above Padawan) systems we implement will also involve more "forced" PvP. So, if that style of gameplay doesn't interest you, simply remain cautious with your visibility score. This will keep your PvP interactions to a minimum, as well as keep you out of sight from most players while allowing you to still play a Jedi-role in the galaxy.

Roads not taken

We have been following the Jedi Population very closely and discussing possible roads to take since its release. When we went into these decisions for what changes to make, there were number of ways to address the issue of the Jedi population levels that we ultimately didn't go with. Here’s why:

  1. Reintroduce the online queue. This was part of the original vision, as a sort of last resort for making sure that there were never too many Jedi in one place. However, this never really made anyone happy, and the ways in which it would just frustrate players were all too clear. So, this idea was discarded.
  2. Adopting a "carrot" instead of a "stick" approach, encouraging players to log into their non-Jedi characters by rewarding them in some way. We searched and brainstormed ideas in this realm, trying to manufacture an incentive that would actually convince a player to leave their Jedi on the shelf and play with another toy. The closest thing to come out of this was the general rewards for all players for defeating Jedi, but nothing compelling enough came up for rewarding playing on their alts, so we had to set it aside. We are certainly still open to ideas in support of this, if better ideas surface.
  3. Add some sort of combat penalty to having high visibility. The visibility system as it exists now is still something that many playstyles are able to avoid the worst effects of, and NPC punishments will never really be effective against all players. So we considered a sort of "battle fatigue" for existing at high vis for too long, as the one thing that min/max players will respond to is a nerf. This was the leading option until we decided a cleaner and more interactive approach came from removing XP and skill boxes.
  4. Permadeath. This wasn't ever really on the table, but we can also just use it as an umbrella term for mechanics that heavily punish death. We could just make the Ghost timer 6 months long, or reset all Jedi skill boxes… but we don't really find this viable for a couple reasons. One, we'd have to pump up the "reward" side of things a lot higher than we're comfortable with to make the risk/reward ratio feel fair. Two, we think that punishing death too severely has a lot of negative externalities. It disproportionately affects less experienced players, and even makes it harder for them to get more experience. It also would incentivize a lot more degenerate gameplay patterns, "forcing" a meta where survival must be achieved at all costs, through running away from fights, logging out, searching for exploits, etc. None of that sounds very fun to us.

Changes coming later

There's one more thing. We still think Jedi should be fun, of course. And we’re excited to share an exciting way to make the endgame of Jedi, and the feeling of being hunted, much more interactive and compelling. 

We plan to introduce player-played Imperial Inquisitors into the game, as a dedicated FRS faction, opposite The Order. Inquisitors will primarily participate in Jedi Slaying, where they will be able to see and hunt down high-visibility Jedi, and move up the ranks in Vader's Inquisition. Inquisitors are fallen Jedi, who can still make use of the same Jedi trees but gain power through ranking up and eliminating Jedi through a similarly customizable and sandbox ranking system as The Order. The power gained through this system will hone them into specialized tools of Vader, perfect for countering and eliminating the threat of The Order.

We expect this final system to feel more familiar to those that know the original factional dark/light FRS, but with a number of unique elements to bridge the eras and tie in more closely to our other goals of player freedom, game balance, and authenticity to the time period. Inquisitors will also be punished for their failures, as Jedi are. Vader isn't the forgiving type.

Well if Inquisitors are there to hunt the Jedi, then who hunts the Inquisition? Bounty Hunters, of course. We intend to form a sort of "rock, paper, scissors" relationship between these three clans. The three groups will be balanced by giving each an edge against one of the others. Inquisitors will have an advantage over Jedi, Jedi will have an advantage over Bounty Hunters, and Bounty Hunters will have an advantage over Inquisitors.

This three-way system is meant to create a really fun environment for players to live in Star Wars as the faction of their choice, and even better yet, ensure that each group has a check on its power and prevalence in the galaxy.

We're still excited for where this server can go, and we hope that you'll continue with us on this journey. Restoring and redeeming a 20 year old game is quite the challenge, and there will be plenty more ups and downs, but we're committed to making this the best version of Star Wars Galaxies that has ever been.

May The Force Be With You,
The SWG Restoration Development Team