Hyperspace Beacon: Star Wars The Old Republic’s mid-term report card

You would probably expect me to cover the new Star Wars: The Old Republic Manaan stronghold because it just released yesterday, and indeed, I will be covering that in my livestream with MJ this afternoon. But if you came here for my elevator-pitch impressions of the new stronghold, I can only say that it is mixed. There are some really great things about the new stronghold and some really bad things about the new stronghold; the base would have a bigger impact if there were visuals connected with it. I will lay that all out in the livestream with MJ.

Here, I would like to give my impressions of where Star Wars: The Old Republic sits in the middle of the year. As always, I like to use the Bartle Taxonomy to see how it appeals to different types of players. Bartle’s archetypes are Socializers, Achievers, Explorers, and Killers. I’ll get more into the details of what that all means in a bit. No one will fit any one of these archetypes 100%, but people will tend to lean heavily into one category or another.

Massively OP writers took a test based on Bartle’s Taxonomy a while back, and although it doesn’t cover everything that players are interested in, I believe it gives a good impression of what players of MMORPGs are looking for. Below, I have pulled apart the key features that each archetype is looking for in SWTOR and measured them with a letter grade scale.

Socializer: C+

Socializers look for things to do with other people. It’s usually more important to them that they are able to interact and do things with other people than the actual activity itself. A pure socializer would want conversation or teambuilding activities over anything else. However, no one is a pure socializer, although I come close.

We have had two major patches that have added social activities this year. Bear in mind that Knights of the Eternal Throne actually came out last year and was on last year’s report card. However, I will keep in mind some of the carry-over activities. This year, we gained things like Iokath dailies and the beginning of a new operation, as well as the continued support of instanced and open-world PvP.

I will be honest: I was not personally impressed with anything that was released this year. But I am one person, and I have been playing this game for five years. I completely understand that things are going to wear on me differently than someone who might not have been playing the game for so long.

If I take that alternate perspective and look at what has been given to us, I would have to say there is a marked improvement toward group activities this year. I will get to some of the mechanics of the Galactic Command system when I talk about Achievers, but as a social activity and its ability funnel players toward specific group activities, the Command system works really well. Iokath also gives the Socializer-Killer opportunities to do some open-world PvP.

BioWare usually has amazing goals, but where it consistently falls short is execution. I don’t believe that Iokath worked out the way the developers intended, and player-to-player communication in game is just as difficult as it has always been.

Achiever: C+

Last year, I gave SWTOR the Achiever grade of B. As a general rule, SWTOR has done a better-than-adequate job of giving Achievers rewards and things to do to earn those rewards. However, based on this year alone, the rewards versus the time that it takes to earn those rewards have fallen short.

I still think that many of the things that players have to do to gain Command rank borders on insanity. The rewards are insignificant versus the time spent. Many changes have been made to improve the Galactic Command system, but I just think that the whole idea behind it in the first place is a rehash of an old system that fundamentally didn’t work then and fundamentally doesn’t work now. I also believe that BioWare is reluctant to scrap the idea entirely because there are cash-shop items attached to it. Based on this alone, I would have given it a much harsher grade.

But BioWare has made significant strides to make the Command system a lot better than it was at the beginning, and I can’t knock the activities just because many of them happen to be ones that I don’t personally enjoy. There are many players in the community who really enjoy Iokath, heroics, the new operations bosses, and dailies. The studio also brought back the Night Life event with different prizes and new achievements. So I’m not going to fail the game outright, but it’s certainly not as good as it has been in the past.

Killer: C+

I would like to give SWTOR a higher Killer grade because of the open-world PvP of Iokath, but I’m just not certain that the execution of Iokath was up to the standard of places like Oricon or the Gree event on Ilum. On top of that, BioWare seems to be balancing its classes strangely. From my perspective, it seems to be nerfing the classes that don’t need it and taking away abilities from “overpowered” classes that make no significant impact on why it’s overpowered.

am interested to see whether BioWare ends up doing something significant by the end of the year, so this is not its final grade in this area. But I can only judge based on what I see now, not what it is suggested in the future.

Explorer: D

As a Socializer-Explorer, I am highly disappointed in BioWare. One thing that every Explorer type hates are corridors, even corridors that you can see over the wall. In fact, I would venture to say that if you can see over a wall but for some reason you cannot get there, then that just makes it that much worse.

Sins against explorers continue to plague this game. First, Iokath is so small and has such a vast horizon that it makes me want to tear my hair out. The land and concept is amazing: a technological Dyson sphere with many different biomes of natural and artificial environments. It sounds like an Explorer’s dream, but instead, we get a single corridor made of technological, sterile hexagons. Honestly, it looks pretty good, but it’s just a tease of what it could be, or rather, should be.

Additional notes

There is one thing that I’d like to mention that I think BioWare is doing really well at this stage of the game’s life. For the past five years, the creators of the game, especially the producers, have been very tightlipped or very scripted when it came to addressing the community. Recently, the game producer switched hands again; this time falling to Keith Kanneg. Although I cannot say that I agree with everything that Kanneg has done, I appreciate his candor and level of transparency. More than probably any single producer in the game’s history, Kanneg has directly addressed the community in the forums, instead of making us rely on second-hand information from a community manager.

Those are my grades and my thoughts, but now it’s your turn. How well do you think SWTOR‘s doing this year? Which grades should have been worse? Which grades should have been better? Let me know 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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11 Comments on "Hyperspace Beacon: Star Wars The Old Republic’s mid-term report card"

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wayshuba

I think a new category should be added to these report cards – Content Cadence.

At the end of the day for those that pay a sub fee (voluntary or not), that is the Number One value expected for those funds.

If this category were added, SWTOR would come in at an F or maybe a D- at best. Compare what sub fees are getting players in SWTOR (for content), versus ESO, FFXIV, WoW or any other mainstream MMOs and you will find that SWTOR, despite the backing of one of the biggest gaming companies with deep financial pockets, falls far short of the value subs get from other MMOs.

And thus why SWTOR keeps bleeding population.

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Witches

This game always hated explorers, i still remember the first time i played, went exploring the water on Tython, reached an exhaustion zone and died. Don’t go too far off the path was the lesson i learned.

I don’t see how anything is worse except the socializing, less players = less people to socialize with, otherwise i think this is more you liking the game less, than it actually being worse.

One thing i see a lot in the forums, is “the good old days of SoR and RotHC”, i didn’t get RotHC right away so i kinda missed the reception it got even though i was playing at the time, SoR on the other hand, was a bugfest, the silvers bug, the bottish invasion, the ability cost snafu, exploits left uncheck for months, meat tree, revan fight bugs, several bugs in the ops, it was a disaster, not to mention everyone was groaning at how bad the story was, apparently evil empires and dysfunctional families aren’t StarWarsy, but pirates, split personalities and resurrections are.

adadfor3
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adadfor3

It’s funny. Recently, I’ve been really thinking of getting back into this game after a rather loooong absence.

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Fred Douglas

This is very general and I’m not sure you’ve been playing that much recently after reading. Which is fine, but perhaps have someone that’s currently into the game write these kinds of things.

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Kickstarter Donor
Alex Willis

In so many ways, this game has never been an Explorer’s game. Achiever, Socializer, Killer, sure. But Explorer has, in retrospect, been a true dead-end for it since Day 1. At least with the release-version of the game, some of the planets — Tatooine, Taris, etc — you had some sense of vastness, of scale. But as the game progressed, zones felt more and more abbreviated, like an afterthought. I remember my first time on Tatooine and thinking, “Finally! A planet that matches something close to what I thought of as being Star Wars.” But pretty quickly, it felt small.

Any multi-planet, story-based MMO is going to have challenges like this. But SWTOR never took any risks with their zones. Throwing an open PVP area into a random planet never cut it, either. A score of “D” is in some senses charitable.

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TheDonDude

I have to admit I’m really not a fan of the whole Bartle thing. It seems so arbitrary.

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Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

Ouch, that’s a pretty rough report card, especially compared to ESO’s recent one : /

Any changes under Keith still haven’t happened in terms of design/direction in-game (at least it’s not obvious), but he’s been killing it on the communications front. Even Musco seems to have stepped up a bit, likely due to Keith pushing. Though the “second hand” information bit…I mean, that shouldn’t be an issue with CM’s passing along clear information. If there is, that’s a problem with the CM…which I’ve been on the anti-Musco train for years, so I won’t go down those tracks again.

If anything is making me optimistic about SWTOR right now, it’s Keith. I’ve not been thrilled with the direction the game has taken the past few years (was initially super stoked about KotFE, but quickly became disenchanted. KotET has always been a big step in the wrong direction for the game IMO, for a variety of reasons), but Keith is putting more publicly visible effort into improving things than any producer before him and to me, that bodes well for the game.

I’ve largely not even really played since KotET, only logging in during the XP bonus window to finish my last few level 50 storylines, but I’d be more than happy to sub back up and jump back in if the next expansion actually looks good again, especially if it comes with some business model improvements. I still want to play the game, it’s Star Wars after all and I do enjoy the art style/visuals. I’m just waiting for it to return to a state where I’ll enjoy spending money on/playing it.

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wayshuba

There is not going to be a next expansion.

Reader
Sorenthaz

I’m in a similar boat. I tried to get back into SWTOR with the latest expansion, but my interest was just 0 after I heard about the lockbox progression and the overall clustertruck that the game’s direction is.

plasmajohn
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plasmajohn

Going back to SW:TOR again would be a mighty big ask…

The first time I left was prior to SoR due to lack of content and lack of information. I came back a few months before 5.0 and I loved almost everything about 4.0 especially how relevant the old content was via tacticals and level-sync and it was super alt friendly. Sure the KotFE story was a bit hokey but it had promise and yes, levelling was braindead easy but it was entertaining.

Galactic Command pulled the rug out from under all of that. They recycled one of their worst ideas and this time inflicted it on everybody. Not even going to consider going back until GC is just a bad memory.

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