Monday, January 2, 2012

SWTOR: Is slicing broken?

I've done a lot of reading about Star Wars: The Old Republic, and one issue that comes up a lot is the crew skill called ‘slicing’ and whether the mechanic is fundamentally broken.  Slicing is basically the art of hacking open electronic safes to acquire the valuables inside.  Some players think it is broken because this skill doesn’t support the in-game economy and does not even require the player to interact with the world at all.  I even heard one player describe it as 'excessively beneficial.' When I first encountered this criticism, I’d been playing Star Wars: The Old Republic up to level 15 or so, and it seemed to make sense.

I wanted to have first-hand experience of slicing for myself, though, and after talking to some buddies who play SWTOR, I switched one of my crew skills to slicing.  But about 2 days later, the benefits of slicing were ‘nerfed'.  Just my luck.

After experiencing slicing for myself, I've come to think that this crew skill--even before it was 'nerfed'--isn't broken at all, and in fact, serves a very important function in the game.  Here’s why.  I was thinking about this idea of ‘fundamentally broken’ and I don’t think it's correct.  In fact, adding a bunch of money to the economy does not render it broken.  Adding money to an economy in which many items are player-made creates an economy in which trade is more successful for everyone.

Furthermore, unless slicing imparts the slicer with an disproportionately large income, one could substitute any other gathering skill for equal income.  I decided to try and test the incomes of several crew skills to see if slicing does indeed grant the slicer extra credits.

Test Method - I did 12 collection quests for each of 3 gathering skills - slicing, bioanalysis and archaeology (these are the 3 that I have access to) in the level 25-32 range (the highest common level that I have access to) then calculated the profit of each quest.  I dropped the high- and low-value for each set, then found the average and standard deviation for each set of 10 uests.  All raw and computed values can be found at my google spreadsheet, here.  For cost estimates, I used the default Galactic Trade Network price.  I can’t say how closely this reflects the actual price a seller may get, especially since many of these items ren’t abundant on the the GTN.  It’s possible they may fetch a much higher price, especially in the future, as people hit level 50 and try to power level the corresponding crafting skills.

Anyway, without further comment, Here’s what I found:
Slicing Bioanalysis Archaeology
Average 198.30 100.40 -141.00
Std Dev 414.66 89.00 149.62

It appears that slicing has the advantage in my test by a signficant margin.  It is very sporadic, often losing credits, but over the long haul it appears to be a winner.  Archaeology appears to be a credit sink in my test, I have to believe that either a) the items are worth more than default GTN prices, or b) the items that can be crafted from them must be pretty pricey.

Even though there is a fairly significant advantage for slicers, I still believe that the slicing mechanic isn’t fundamentally broken, primarily because I think it is an important way to introduce money into the economy--money that can then be used to support other crew skill development, buy gear, and learn abilities.  I can certainly understand those who complain about getting a bit more income for their time with slicing.  But because SWTOR allows players three crew skills (two of which are gathering skills), slicing is a crew skill that can nicely complement any other crew skill, rather than really limiting the crafting skills a player can develop.  I also wonder if slicing is a skill that will be very useful for lower-level players, but then, once players start collecting end-game gear, crafting skills and the supporting gathering skills will become more important.

Regardless, I certainly appreciate the extra credits I get as a result of this crew skill.  So if you'll excuse me, I have some boxes to find.