Creature Handler is one of the most unique and popular aspects of Star Wars Galaxies. Unfortunately, Creature Handler is seldom seen as “competitive” – its creatures are relatively low in damage and can’t take punishment like a properly defensively-stacked player can.
The Empire in Flames team has been well aware of the problems with Creature Handler for some time, but because of other development priorities (the Galactic Civil War, new content, Jedi), the team chose to wait and hash out a proper revamp to bring creature handlers back into their own in such a way to make the experience rewarding without nerfing anyone or anything…and leaving open the possibility of further adjustments that don’t include a “pre-nerf” situation.
Fixing creature handler requires solving several problems. The foremost is that EiF’s combat has been vastly overhauled; simply buffing individual pets either means invalidating “normal” pets, or completely throwing out PvE balance.
Another problem is with pet levels – creature handler by design allows a player to have multiple low-level pets or one big pet. Actual combat experience shows players tend to go with big pets because they find anything lower than level 50 isn’t worth it.
Finally, we need to ensure that we can adjust balance going forward; if we can’t, we have the potential to completely break EiF’s combat system.
An Old Take on Creature Handler with a New Twist
At SWG launch, Creature Handler included two skill modifiers that were unrelated: “Additional Pets” and “Max Level of Pets”. The “Additional Pets” modifier was used to determine how many pets a creature handler could have active; “Max Level of Pets” determined how powerful their pets could be.
Early pre-CU made Creature Handler a must-have – players could run around with three full-grown rancors (at the time, extremely powerful compared to players) and dominate virtually everything. SOE promptly nerfed the system, making “Max Level of Pets” cumulative – instead of each pet out having to be under the max level cap, the total levels had to be under the level cap.
The EiF team looked at changing the system back to the pre-nerf situation – after all, three pet rancors under the EiF system would hardly be overpowered. However, it created its own issue – the only pets players would want to use were the most powerful. Other pets, which may be fun, would be ignored.
A Full Solution
Creature Handlers are still restricted by the “Max Level of Pets” modifier. (A master creature handler, post-revamp, will have a rating of 75; Singing Mountain Clan players get an additional +5.) That “max level” is calculated against a creature’s base level.
The pet, when summoned and if full-grown, will scale in level to the player’s “Max Level of Pets”. For example, a Narglatch Guardian is CL25. When summoned by a master Creature Handler, he will enter the world at CL75, with roughly appropriate damage and HAM.
Naturally lower-level pets, when summoned at high levels, have a higher damage rating and more HAM than a pet that’s naturally at that higher level. However, naturally higher-level pets have better accuracy and better armor resists, making them more likely to hit and easier to keep healed.
And with “Additional Pets” no longer checking against the sum of “Max Level of Pets”, triple pets of various types is now a potentially powerful solution.
Not Just the Creatures, but the Handlers, Too
Even with the changes, we wanted to add more choice – and improvement options – for creature handlers.
To that end, we did a quick revamp on embolden and enrage.
Embolden now provides a taken-damage reduction to a handler’s pets, along with a small increase in pet accuracy.
Enrage provides a done-damage boost to a handler’s pets, along with a large increase in pet accuracy.
Embolden and enrage are mutually-exclusive; only one can be active at a time. Will your pets do more damage or take less?
Finally, we added a new SEA type – “Max Level of Pets”. This SEA is not used for control calculations; a player with no CH can’t use it to call a CL35 pet, for example, but it is used to calculate a pet’s adjusted level.
What Will You Do?