Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR’s mid-term report card scored by Bartle’s taxonomy

Well, BioWare, it’s half-way through the year. It’s time to look at how you’ve done with Star Wars: The Old Republic and what can be done for the rest of the year to improve on what you’ve given us. I like to make my judgments based on the Bartle Taxonomy. I believe that it’s a worthy and tested way to judge if an MMORPG is hitting all the expected marks. The taxonomy, created by Dr. Richard Bartle, can be used to judge MMORPGs in four different categories based on the player types and what those players look for. This types are Socializer, Killer, Explorer, and Achiever.

I will get into what each of these player types are about as I give the grades, but I would like to mention that these categories are not black-and-white; each player falls along a spectrum with these categories representing key points in that rainbow. Very few players will fill one category 100%; most will have an emphasis one to three of the categories.

There are flaws in the system, and I am aware of them. I understand that the taxonomy doesn’t include a good judgment of modern gameplay types. It doesn’t separate players into PvEers, PvPers, or Roleplayers, for instance. It makes no judgment on large-group or small-group activities. It doesn’t talk about solo gameplay. However, the taxonomy works well when judging a player’s interest in the game as a whole from my perspective.

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Socializer: C+

The Socializer category of player is one of those categories that include many different types of players. You’ll find that roleplayers score high in this area, but so do raiders, open-world PvPers, and many casual players who don’t roleplay at all. What should be kept in mind when judging a game for socializers is how easy it is to unite with your friends and how many other communication tools are in the game. This gives Socializers the tools that they need to have fun in the game.

SWTOR as a whole has never been great at in-game communication. I know that some would think that I will point to the lack of chat bubbles as one of its faults, but the truth is that it’s lacking in many other tools as well surrounding guilds and guild-communication. This is a far bigger flaw in its design than chat bubbles.

At the end of the year, I gave the game high marks for level-syncing, which ultimately adds to the ease of doing content together with players of various levels. And this year, I believe much of that has played out, despite the playerbase being less than appreciative of it.

However, SWTOR has fallen very short in every other area when it comes to socializing. It’s eliminated server types which actually makes it more difficult to find like-minded players. It created PvP and PvE instances dividing the communities of each server. And most of all, it’s not add any new friendly group content (more on that later), and has no plans to date to add any this year. We are currently sitting at a year and a half without new group PvE content and will be waiting at very least another six months before we see any.

If SWTOR is interested in raising this score this year, I would suggest focusing on guilds and guild related activities and get us an in-game guild calendar already!

hsb-mop-2016-dvl-01Achiever: B

In a MMORPG, achievers seem to be the easiest to please. In the most general terms, Achievers see a bar and they want to fill it. There is a sense of cathartic satisfaction in filling up your points to as high as they can go. I would not consider myself an Achiever, but I score fairly decently in that area because I like to find interesting and fun things to do in the game. I like to create a lot of characters and experience everything that the game has to offer. And I like titles.

Although the new story content hasn’t added many new achievements in the game, much of the extra content for this year has been added via achievements. Of course, the Dark-vs.-Light event is completely based on achievements because BioWare added very little content to the game to expand this library. However, the Eternal Championship made for great achievement fodder. The hidden achievements with Doctor Lokin, for instance, were a great addition, too.

However, I have to lower the score because of the DvL event mostly — not because it didn’t add achievements but because those Achievements are tired, and is it really adding achievements if it’s just rehashing things many players have already done before?

If BioWare is looking to do better in this area, it really needs to add more content with hidden gems. Although I believe that more content would improve all areas, it’s the little things and hidden points that make achievements fun.

hsb-mop-2016-mid-term-02Killer: C-

Right off the bat, I would like to distinguish a Killer from a PvPer. PvP is a game activity that pits one player character directly against another player character or one group against another group. And although PvP will rate highly amongst Killers, it’s not the only activity that appeals to them. And PvP also hits marks for Achievers and Socializers, too. Simply put, Killers are interested in competition and domination. It’s not just about showing that he or she is better than other players but also where he or she fits in the competitive hierarchy.

My information regarding the impact the game has had this year on the Killer gamer type is second-hand. I am probably the opposite of a Killer. I’m not interested in where I rank with other players, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like PvP because I do; it’s just that I look at it from a totally different perspective. Bear that in mind when I give my grade.

We actually saw another battleground added to the game this year — an interesting one from my perspective, and it appears that despite its flaws and minor shortcomings, it was a hit, albeit a short hit. There still seems to be no compelling reason for players to want to PvP. BioWare seems to be less and less excited about the PvP seasons, and it’s been changed into a store versus a ranking system. This might encourage other playstyles to join in PvP, but it ultimately pushes away the Killer. I can’t outright fail BioWare for the Killer, but I can’t give it a good grade either.

There are so many different things that BioWare could do to improve the game for the Killer type, but I don’t think that many of them are easy fixes that can be improved by the end of the year. So my suggestion would be to somehow give more tools to players to make their own PvP matches and competitions. Allowing player-made tournaments will help bring back some PvPers who have left and give the development team the time to make content that really matters.

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Explorers: C-

Exploring is probably my second favorite thing to do in MMORPGs, but some folks who really enjoy it more than I are the guys from SWTOR Central. You have to check out their exploration videos; they are beyond wonderful. However, it should be pointed out that their best videos are not from the most recent content. Belsavis is my favorite of their videos, and that content is approaching five years old.

BioWare added new datacrons with the DvL event, but can I really give them high marks for that? I will give them a couple of points, but considering that most of the new content is very tunneled and even closed off behind phased walls, those couple of points disappear quickly. What’s interesting — in a bad way — is that BioWare is very good at giving achievements in general, but it fails in making achievements for going to places that are off the beaten path.

I don’t really know what BioWare can do this year to improve anything for Explorers because most of that has to do with the game maps themselves, unless the studio wants to add new areas to existing maps that for some reason don’t show up unless you’re in them.

If you haven’t guessed, I’m a SEKA player according to the current Bartle Test, although I would put myself more of a SEAK. Where do you sit in the Bartle spectrum? And where do you think SWTOR grades for its additions to the game this year? Most importantly, where do you think it could improve? Be realistic in your answers because I’d like to have a great discussion in the comments below.

Every other week, Larry Everett jumps into his T-16 back home, rides through the hypergates of BioWare‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic, and posts his adventures in the Hyperspace Beacon. Drop him a holocom on Twitter @Shaddoe or send him a transmission at larry@massivelyop.com. Now strap yourself in, kid — we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!
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