Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's 2016 Report Card
It's that time of year again where we reflect on the year gone by and consider Star Wars: The Old Republic as a whole. Pretty much since the game launched five years ago, I've calculated my judgment for the game not as a single score but as a group of scores based on the taxonomy created by Dr. Richard Bartle that focuses on player motivation and how to appeal to them.
I'm not going to pretend that this is the perfect way to judge the game because it would leave out important things like the cash shop and the single-player elements like storytelling. However, it does look at the motivations of gamers and analyzes their general gaming style. Bartle divides gamer motivations into socializers, achievers, killers, and explorers. Of course, player specific motivations will encompass a spectrum of these four. But just as with most psychological categorization, gamers will lean heavy in one or two areas and less so in the others. If you're interested in where you lean, there is a test you can take to find out. (The original GamerDNA test is gone.) However, it will be completely obvious where you lean as soon as you read my individual descriptions.
Last year, I gave the game a B+ because of additions like level-syncing and instant-travel heroics as a huge positive for the socialization of the game. I believe that for a short period in 2016, the game was more social. For several months, it was really easy to find a group of people to do things with on a social level. However, that all changed once heroics became less lucrative and tired. Because the content wasn't new, players needed different motivation to actively participate in Heroics and other existing content. Although the level-syncing allowed people to group together, that alone wasn't motivation to do it. Once my article about earning 1 million credits in an hour was no longer valid, the player's reason to keep doing that content as a group disappeared as well.
There are still many social activities, and the group-finder for Uprisings and other group activity actually works well. BioWare added more group activity with the expansion and a new PvP map earlier this year, so it doesn't completely fail at the social merits. However, its change of focus to single-player content for most of the year doesn't improve its marks significantly. And don't even get me started on its significant lack of guild-help tools.
Achievers really have it made in Star Wars: The Old Republic. The whole legacy panel seems to be made for you. Even the galactic trade network appears to be made for your particular playstyle: find a bar and fill it; find a number and make it bigger. The developers probably had you in mind when they made the level-cap for Galactic Command 300. All the new content added with the Knights of the Fallen Empire chapters seemed to have a great deal of focus on the achiever type. Not only did the content have a lot of bars to fill, but it also had hidden bars for the achiever to look for.
The biggest disappointment for achievers had to be the Dark-vs.-Light event earlier this year. I find myself wanting to fill many, many bars and make lots of numbers bigger, but I couldn't bring myself to do Dark vs. Light. I did enough to get the companion, but anything beyond that just wasn't worth it. The level of grind exceeded the fun limit. It tested the limit of SWTOR fandom and appears to have actually driven many people from the game.
I don't know if it's just my server, but PvP seems to be on the upswing. More and more people are doing it, and queues appear to be popping a lot faster. Players whom I would not normally associate with PvP seem to be jumping in, and I'm not quite sure how to read that. Does that mean that PvP is becoming more accessible? Maybe, but there hasn't really been a change in how people get involved in PvP. The only thing I can think of that has really changed is the Galactic Command system. In 5.0, it's no longer required that you wear a specific set of gear for PvP vs. PvE. Therefore, we have all become equal, so to speak.
Being a Killer is not just PvP; it's competition. And the only way that competition works is if there is a level playing field. Perhaps the Galactic Command system put players on a level field again. Maybe that is a big secret behind the increased activity.
Unfortunately, I cannot grade the whole year on the performance of the last month. Although Galactic Command boosted my score quite a bit, I'm not quite ready to give SWTOR high marks in the Killer category because the rest of the year has been devoid of real improvements.
I'm sorry, Explorers, but BioWare just doesn't know how to appeal to you. I know expansive maps, hidden points of interest, and going places you probably shouldn't ever go are your forte. Unfortunately, as SWTOR ages, less and less time has been spent giving your playstyle the gems that it likes to see.
The datacron boom was great when the game launched. The added datacrons from this year were great, but they were just a small addition. They didn't really improve the exploration factor of the game at all. In my recent livestream with Vulkk and Passionately Casual, we talked about the new planets of Nathema and Iokath. Although we had differing opinions on the beauty of the worlds, we all agreed that they just weren't big enough. There was nothing to explore.
Full disclosure: I'm a SEKA player according to the new Bartle test, and my view is from that perspective. I'm very interested in seeing what other player types would have to say about the game this year. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Where do you think SWTOR ranks now? When you give your answers, let me also know where you land in the Bartle spectrum.
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 email@example.com. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!