Hyperspace Beacon: Three things SWTOR could add in 2018 to turn itself around

Star Wars: The Old Republic did not have a banner year in 2017. It was the first year since the launch year that did not include an expansion. And the expansion that it released in late 2016 didn’t actually live up to its expectations.

Despite this, we did see some good things come out of 2017, like a couple of new PvP maps and some great changes to group finder. But what kinds of things can we see added to or improved upon in 2018 that would make up for this underperformance? Well, I have three of them. And I have done my absolute best make them realistic and doable with the existing team of developers. Let’s talk about that.

An Empire-vs.-Republic story

If the Star Wars movies have done anything, it’s that they’ve made us aware that the best stories in this universe are the ones where the “good guys” are the underdog. Even if you didn’t like The Last Jedi overall, I can pretty much guarantee that you enjoyed Vice-Admiral Holdo’s climactic maneuver. In an effort to not spoil much, I will say that it’s a classic example of the creative thinking the underdog has to do to overcome the greater threat. And from the good-guy perspective, that’s the kind of stories that SWTOR needs to tell. From the Imperial side, we need to get back to the infighting, political maneuvering, and espionage that made the vanilla stories great.

I have mentioned this before, I believe that SWTOR needs to drop the whole Eternal Alliance story and replace it with something that places the main character back into the underdog position. There needs to be a clear arc with the main character, or BioWare is going to lose the audience. There needs to be a real threat and a real goal to achieve. Right now the story is in a weird spot that puts the player character in the position of the most powerful person in the galaxy attempting to maintain that seat.

The two storylines that I was most excited about that eventually became the greatest letdowns were Forged Alliance, which is the lead-up to Shadow of Revan, and the Iokath reprise, which reintroduced us to Elara Dorne and Malavai Quinn. Both ended up being a let-down for me (the second one less so) because they were both opportunities to get us back into the primary conflict for the game (the Empire vs. the Republic) but really did nothing more than tease us.

Galactic Starfighter and other PvP maps

The biggest surprise for me in 2017 was the introduction of another Galactic Starfighter map. Honestly, I thought BioWare had long since given up on Galactic Starfighter and was willing to let that aspect of the game just ride out in maintenance mode. But the new map set over Iokath seemed to reinvigorate that section of the community.

On top of that, it appeared that the map was put together quickly. Other PvP maps seemed to take forever from the time we heard that they were working on one until the time that it was released. The Iokath Starfighter map was rumored and then appeared all within a couple of months, whereas we heard about the second Hutball map years before it as actually released. Perhaps the Iokath map was worked on just as long as the Huttball map, but I doubt it.

SWTOR already has a nice group of existing rulesets for PvP that are unique to the MMORPG genre, so I say exploit it. Maps are important, but when it comes to places to PvP, players aren’t as picky as they are about class balance. As long as there are no bugs, they are happy. Look at the new Yavin ground-based PvP map. People were excited about that. Keep it up! Give us at least two new maps this year and base them on existing rulesets. I’ll give you a starting point: Does the Rishi Maze have a Huttball arena? What would that look like?

More RP tools

The social tools in SWTOR are lacking in general, and although I could go on and on about things like chat bubbles, I would rather talk about tools that would make for a better overall experience for everyone. The first place I would start is the chat system.

Over the last couple of years, we have seen some just amazing chat programs released that help remote businesses communicate and gamers to coordinate with other gamers. Massively OP uses Slack, and many of my guilds (even the ones that don’t use voice) use Discord. Both of these systems are based on really simple technology that doesn’t use a lot of bandwidth: IRC. I believe that things like separate tabs for direct messages and the ability to edit your previous posts will go a long way. This could also allow us things like in-game communication with our smartphones.

Next, we need full cross-faction communication. The way PvP is designed currently, gives us zero reason to disallow the Republic from communicating or even grouping with the Empire. Originally, we were not able to participate with the other faction except to kill them, but now we are on the same team as them and are even able to switch factions in one zone.

I believe there is still a lot of potential for us to see some wonderful things in SWTOR in 2018, but it will require that BioWare take a few moments to look inward at its existing playerbase instead of all the players it doesn’t have yet. There are many more realistic things that BioWare can do to make the game better. What would be your top three? Let me know in the comments.

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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54 Comments on "Hyperspace Beacon: Three things SWTOR could add in 2018 to turn itself around"

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David Smith

It’s all too late.
SWTOR is done.
A game at one stage had 2 million subs and now has roughly less than 100k population spread across 5 servers (chances are most of them are f2p/preferred too).
All profits come from the cartel whales that love to play dress up.
EA/Bioware ruined this MMORPG along time ago.
Things were going well around 2.0/3.0 and then at some stage EA/Bioware had a meeting and pulled resources away from the game and it’s been downhill ever since.
Can it be saved? No chance.
Bottom line EA are never sending Devs/money back to SWTOR so people need to be realistic about the future of SWTOR.
It will be rinse and repeat of 2017 in terms of new content until the plug is pulled.

Reader
connor_jones

Hey Larry,

Just heard a rumor that vanilla servers are coming to swtor. Can Massively confirm or deny this? If true, I’m assuming it would be the game as it was just prior to KOTFE, and to my mind that would be a godsend!

I know we’ve had a lot of quality of life improvements since KOTFE that would be missed, but still, my big complaint about the post KOTFE game has always been how easy everything became. I mean, before KOTFE when you defeated Baras and/or Thanaton and assumed the title of Darth it really meant something, as it had been a long and sometimes difficult road with lots of hard boss fights to get there. Post KOTFE, however, these guys talk the talk and go down in about 15-20 seconds tops. Hollow victories for sure. :(

Needless to say I am jazzed and hope the rumor is true.

Reader
Crowe

Allow me to add to your list: a different developer and publisher.

amkosh
Reader
amkosh

“An Empire-vs.-Republic story”

This will never happen, and is a bad freaking idea. Why? If you put Empire vs Republic, someone has to win, and someone has to lose. That will always be some players. If it becomes a draw, then its even more angering to the players as they feel like they lost time and their actions don’t matter. Also, damn few players really like PvP.

I’m sure someone will point out that WoW has done this, and that is true, but those expansions are usually the hated ones, and usually the PvP part of the story is in the periphery. I fully expect BfA to be similar to that, and if not, Blizzard will discover this truth: Not many people like to be losers.

Reader
spencer quinn

great article I agree with 2 out of 3 of these the third one I cannot imagine would make people come back to the game imo but it would be great though. the first one I think would be really interesting has not be done since vanillia (minus the small story updates iokath or forge alliances part 1) though I have no problem with the kotfe/kotet in fact for me there probably the best stories of all the expansions imo. though I think all future expansion should be about different enemies, rep vs empire, another expansion would be vs umbara, or vs yuuzhan. its good to have different stories/ enemies.

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Jerane Alleyne

I really think that SWTOR needs to stop trying to be an MMO. I have always felt that SWTOR was decent as an MMO, but never really doing anything different or better than its competitors (the story and dialogue aspect I’d say is wholly separate from the MMO part of the game). While I don’t advocate abandoning the multiplayer portion of the game completely, I think that the priority should be story content that is engaging and challenging to the single player, followed by small group PvE content, specifically Flashpoints and Uprisings, also figuring out how to get significant space PvE. PvP being last on the list of priorities. In some ways, I would like to see SWTOR resemble something closer to Warframe, or even The Division.

Regarding the story, I have to say that I thought it was always obvious the story would revert back to Republic vs. Empire at some point, but not by having to abandon the Eternal Empire to obscurity. I get that some didn’t care for KOFTE and KOTET (and sorry, but that was definitely a Star Wars story), but the Eternal Alliance itself is actually a great setup for certain aspects in the Darth Bane Trilogy. Without spoiling anything, it could serve to explain why certain things are the way they are in that book.

Lastly, EA really needs to reinvest in this game (not in the evil, microtransaction way). It has the best potential to offer the whole “games as service” shtick that they have been preaching for a while now. If EA actually decides to use its powers for good….

Reader
deathr0w/Adigallia

The game is in a huge mess and the content they have been releasing is garbage a quick video then a flashpoint, now with doing the one operation boss per 3 months is bad after 6 years of being a sub I decided it was time to end it why should I pay $15 for some video then a flashpoint that is over in seconds with no replay value also the Cartel Market took over the games content it seems to be the major focus not actual game play that we all wanted.

Also after the recent merges they nuked the database and made it hard for previous character restores the data all got messed up and they will start blaming players and making excuses to why a certain player can’t be restored.

Don’t get me wrong SWTOR would be the perfect game for a new player but for a veteran such as my self it’s a dead duck they have nothing to do and would you want to do the samething over and over for 6 years ?

Reader
Humble DG

The thing that SWTOR needs is to revisit the micro-transaction store and do a full makeover. Remove many of the roadblocks that they put in. You can have an item store, just don’t make it required for every little thing. In SWTOR, you have to pay separately for the bathroom, then the toilet, then the sink, then the toilet paper, then the piss and even then s&#t. You might even need to buy the character customization to do the last parts.

Reader
Anthony Clark

No longer be run by EA.

Only hope they would have.

Reader
Knox Harrington

Bioware Austin doesn’t have the resources to turn itself around because their limited resources are why it needs to be turned around in the first place. They painted themselves into a corner with all this shared story crap because they didn’t have the resources to continue two faction stories, let alone eight class stories so they just merged it all into one story for one character, the Outlander “class”. And just that alone took away resources from developing other aspects of the game like, gee I dunno.. everything that makes an MMO an MMO.

There’s no turning anything around at this point. There is only extending a glorified maintenance mode while there’s still some milk left in the whales. Bioware Austin needs renewed and sustained support from their corporate overlords at EA, and even that won’t guarantee success because of how much they squandered every other chance they got. If you like this game in any way, you better get back into it now while it’s still around. More promising Star Wars games in development have already been scrapped thanks to Disney’s acquisition of the IP. SWTOR’s long-term future is not secure at this point.

amkosh
Reader
amkosh

Disney has no real reason to shut it down, tho anything is possible.

Reader
Nate Woodard

I don’t know. For the first time, I’m left speechless with what they could do to reinvent themselves and the current game short of starting over from scratch. They won’t do this. They’ll let it die before they ever pull a Square Enix and relauch. E.A. is really drowning this game. I hope it can turn around though.

Reader
Bruno Brito

-Better F2P model, make the subscribers WANT to stay subscribed, don’t penalize them. Make people desire your game. Really. F2Ps being unable to talk IN GUILD is ridiculous. Having to buy a damn helmet license is ridiculous. Not being able to use your sidekick’s appearance is ridiculous. My god.
-Revamp of leveling, or at least make it a bit harder.
-Better PvP experience, give a bit more of the rotation, so the low levels can bolster away and at least be useful. The leveling PvP is fun already, but that’s an small improvement i can see being done.
-Take EA off stuff or nothing will ever change.

hurbster
Reader
hurbster

EA needs to lose the license.

Reader
Cosmic Cleric

that places the main character back into the underdog position

That’s gotten old though, especially when the ‘reset button’ gets used in an over the top sort of way (as in the new movies).

Better to introduce new enemies, and give the hero’s progression, story-wise, IMHO.

hurbster
Reader
hurbster

They pull the ‘hero becomes the underdog’ in the middle of a boss fight ! Way too many times for my liking.

Reader
BDJ

I could see 1 and 2, but 3 is a far reach for “turning the game around”. RPers are the minority of the minority. Focusing resources at this point on a handful of players when the population is already low, won’t help turn anything around. It would probably have the opposite effect.

Reader
Melissa McDonald

I wasn’t joking about building a new Star Wars MMO around the Battlefront 2 engine. That game looks spectacular. An MMO made on that engine would rival Black Desert, possibly even exceed it in graphic quality.

Reader
Knox Harrington

I doubt that would ever happen because it’s far easier for them to crank out a new Battlefront with DLC and microtransactions and have it be an almost guaranteed top seller with a much broader appeal. MMORPG’s as a whole are still a niche by comparison and have proven to be too risky of an investment with too little return. WoW is an anomaly and not likely to be repeated. They tried it with SWTOR, spending hundreds of millions in development just for the game to fail and go F2P within a year of its release. We probably won’t see another AAA Star Wars MMO for a very long time.

Reader
Mallus

Here is what I would like to see happen:
1/ Get rid of the command ranks or allow FTP players access to this system
2/ Increase the general challenge by lowering companions combat & heal abilities
3/ End the Eternal Throne story line & return to a more “traditional” Star Wars theme

Reader
Witches

Don’t think there’s any hope for this game, FFXIV, ESO and even TSW with Funcom bankrupt, managed to turn things around, where there is a will there is a way, and clearly the will part is not there with SWTOR.

All i want are all companions available for all classes, so i can just recruit the ones i like and have some fun playing the parts of the game i like, while i ignore the stuff they think i should like and keep trying to force on me.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Vunak

Reset the game and build it from the ground up that doesn’t resemble a pile of !@#$

Disney needs to give EA the boot first because they don’t have any competent developers left to actually craft a well done game.

Reader
BDJ

I wish Disney would throw the “bank” at Blizzard and give them the license.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Vunak

Them or SE. Either one of them could do really well.

Since Square has Kingdom Hearts and has worked with Disney in the past to much success, I think they may be a more practical option.

I prefer SE honetly since they show their customers a ton of respect. Not saying that Blizzard doesn’t, but SE keeping FFXI alive with content updates after placing it into “maintenance” mode is telling. Not to mention the whole ARR rework.

Reader
BDJ

I could get behind SE too.

Reader
Hirku

SE / Crystal Dynamics is working on a Marvel/Avengers game, so maybe that being successful will pave the way to Star Wars.

Reader
Melissa McDonald

see my battlefront 2 comment.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Cypher

They should just hit the reset button and start again.
They could bring the timeline forward, sometime after the Sith “Rule of Two” had been enacted and the empire is ruled by squabbling moffs, while the republic is rife with corruption (write some of those holocron videos explaining how the eternal empire fell or something, nothing fancy, or just pretend like it never happened! We all want it gone anyway).
You could be a republic player trying to ‘fix’ a broken system, or an imperial player trying to work your way to the top of the heap. All set to the backdrop of a brewing war (sith players could be orchestrating this from the shadows).
Hey, I’m not a writer so no idea how to bring this to life, but it gets us back to something resembling Star Wars.

Reader
life_isnt_just_dank_memes

Before this year I would have said I’d like to see it shut down so that BioWare could look at the way way way outside chance of working on a KOTOR 3. After Mass Effect: Andromeda however, I have zero faith in BioWare doing much of anything akin to the quality of work they were doing last decade.

It’s too bad really that my favorite developer at one time has really fallen to the wayside in terms of quality.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
mistressbrazen

I think the strength of the story telling does lie in the Empire-Republic conflict. And I can’t argue with Larry’s 3 points. Oddly enough for me, a person who never complains about combat modes…I find the combat boring and I absolutely dislike those enforced bonus – kill 40 X missions. I don’t see a whole lot to get me to re-sub or to buy more Cartel coins since really what can you get with them? I’ve watched the streams of the Eternal Empire and I’m not very likely to purchase those expansions, so my 6 week return might be coming to another break.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

They should put ALL the content of ALL the Cartel Packs on a vendor that is accessible for subs only and allow them to buy what they want with In game credits. Because subs should not have to deal with microtransactions those are for the freepers. Subs should be able to get everything in game simply by playing. I know some will say but you get a stip[end as a sub thats what its for, the amount compared to the prices of cartel stuff is a joke and you would have to save that stipend for monay months just buy one thing, and thats provided you could use it directly to by somethign specific which for the most part you cannot.

Bring back all the companions in a meaningful way finally. You took my alts wives (make, kira etc..) and you did not give them back ..immersion broken.

Bring back Vaylin, make her redeemable and marriable. And take her brother and fire him into the sun. you gave us the wrong sibling, the actual villain who we did not care about, and you took the one who wasn’t really a villain and made us kill her… douche move. bad writing.

These three things would bring me back as a sub again. Not much else.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Space Captain Zor

Give us a game engine that isn’t stuck at DX9. And give me my character names back!

Reader
Melissa McDonald

I seriously don’t understand why ALL MMOs these days don’t allow you to use any name you wish and have a back-end account name to drive it. I couldn’t care less if there is more than one Lando Calrissian in the universe – likely there IS…!

Reader
Knox Harrington

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Reader
Loyal Patron
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Kickstarter Donor
Archebius

… I can pretty much guarantee that you enjoyed Vice-Admiral Holdo’s climactic maneuver.”

Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…

In “The Expanse” series, all the planets in the solar system are extremely hesitant to start a war. The reason is that ultimately, once you’ve figured out how to shove objects around space, you don’t need any fancy weapons to destroy a planet – all you need to do is shove rocks down gravity wells.

Death Stars are much more exciting than gravity.

So, while Holdo’s maneuver makes scientific sense, it also removes some of the fantasy from the setting. It makes any future space battle irrelevant. It makes you wonder how no one else ever thought of it. It makes you wonder why the Empire is spending so much money on superweapons and giant ships, when apparently the ultimate weapon is… astoundingly cheap and simple to use.

Reader
Melissa McDonald

reminds me of the weaponized asteroids in Starship Troopers. “It’s an ugly planet! A BUG planet!”

Reader
Shaun Salisbury

Except that’s not how hyperdrives work they open a gate into hyper space and you move in that space not in normal space.

Reader
Castagere Shaikura

Its so funny because another site and the swtor forums have threads like this up now. And everyone blames adding the f2p model as killing the game. I can’t think of EA wanting to do anything to turn this game around as long as they got their whales spending money on lootboxes.

Reader
Koshelkin

Adding the F2P model is probably the only reason why SWTOR is still around.

Reader
JonBuck

Mmm. Hyperspace bacon.

Has Riisha made it back into the game yet? My Smuggler really wants his wife back. I suppose they could do a storyline with Dubrillion to do that.

Reader
Mark

Biggest thing for me is for them to increase the challenge. If you sub, and have a bunch of max companions, datacubes, etc. (i.e. more Presence) – it’s just a snoozefest.

Afro Thunder
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Afro Thunder

A return to Empire vs Republic is a must if they want this game to go on past 2018. They need to dump the Outlander, Eternal Alliance theme pronto.

I totally wish they would implement an option to not play through any of the Eternal Empire content. I would like just a menu to select what choices (lol) that a new character would make and click straight to the end with whatever consequences those choices (lol again) would have be in play.

I also agree with @Henryk on the PvE space missions. That should be pretty easy content to do.

Over all, I don’t stand much of a chance of ever resubbing to this game in it’s current state or trajectory.

Reader
Melissa McDonald

My vote: Do a thorough code audit and bugfix with Battlefront 2, and build the next Star Wars MMO around that. It looks great, but it’s still a bit buggy (I think it was rushed to be released in time with TLJ…)

Reader
Koshelkin

Battlefront 2 is buggy? In which regard, please? The Frostbite engine is in development since Battlefield 3. It was used in several major titles since then, like Dragon Age: Inquisition, ME:A and all other Battlefield titles.

It’s an ongoing prospect and one the few things EA really has going for it(imo).

Reader
Sally Bowls

TY! Makes sense to me.

Although I am conflicted on tools. I can argue that Discord (text) and Mumble/Discord (voice) do better than any studio is going to do, so the money/effort could be better spent on other features. OTOH, built in tools gets so much more adoption than third-party. IDK.

Reader
Dread Quixadhal

SWTOR was a fantastic single player game, when it was subscription based. The shift to a free-to-pay model was terrible, because it locked core parts of the game away behind pay walls, yet flooded the servers with people who weren’t paying, and thus didn’t care about the community.

The thing most MMO designers refuse to accept is that as long as a game has vertical progression, it will always be split into 2 (or 3) camps of people, and you won’t ever be able to please all of them. One is the PvE player who enjoys the leveling process, storylines, and overall questing. That’s the largest group, by far. The second is the “endgame” player who is there for the big epic raids. That’s usually somewhere between 2% and 5% of the players. Finally, there is the PvP player who just wants to compete against others. That’s usually somewhere between 5% and 10%.

In a horizontal progression game, where you learn skills and have plenty of activities that last throughout the entire game, this isn’t such a big deal But a vertical progression system forces everyone from the PvE leveling camp to either move into the PvE raiding camp or the PvP competition camp…. or quit and move on.

Reader
wayshuba

I see these stats mentioned so many times, but they are always a complete miss.

First of all, the 2% – 5% of players shooting for end game content couldn’t be any farther off the mark. ESO actually published what percentage of players do end game dungeons and trials (raids) and it was a whopping 71%. That is a far cry from the 2%-5%.

There is a reason that two of the four releases a year from ESO are solely group end game dungeon content – because almost three quarters of players actually play end game group content. In addition, the other two release, which do contain solo content, also continue to include group content. So ESO is doing four releases a year of end game group content compared to two a year of solo content – that is an an example to tell you where the majority of players actually consume content.

They also mentioned how most players will play the solo quest content once or twice to experience it, then with remaining toons completely skip it for faster leveling options to get to end game. Funny, how it still entails getting players quickly to end game.

ESO is also regularly releasing Battlefields (their version of Warzones).

The real thing is, solo players make up the MINORITY of players in an MMO. The fallacy for a long time is thatt hey are the majority and the end game is the minority, when in fact it is the opposite. This is why the thriving MMOs – WoW, ESO, and FFXIV continue to regularly focus on group content. This is also why SWTOR is dying slowly, especially since 4.0 – they focused on the player base that is the MINORITY in the MMO space.

Reader
Dread Quixadhal

What was the percentage of endgame content consumption before One Tamarial? When you’re level-scaled to the start of endgame raiding no matter what you do, the only reason to NOT do endgame content is if you actually enjoy the storylines.

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Kickstarter Donor
Darthbawl

Yowsers, nice banner graphic! 10/10 :P

Reader
draugris

For me it would be

– general improved game performance, from fps to general responsivity of the combat
– open PvP zone

to bring me back

Reader
Henryk

better PvE space combat or at least new missions!

they have abandoned this game mode since years :(

Reader
Suicide King

I’m gonna add a #4 for you Larry. A Battle Royale mode (a la PUBG). Think of it, riding the hype train right now, but with Star Wars. Woo.

Reader
Sray

Love the new column banner.

SWTOR lives and dies by story and a well served solo/small group audience, and that has to be their primary objective over 2018 (assuming that Disney doesn’t yank the license; which falls into the category of “extremely unlikely to happen, but not impossible”). They’ve flat out stated there’s not a lot of resources working in the game at the moment, so this “one raid rolled out over 12 months” thing is a waste of time. The resources are far better spent on daily areas, flashpoints, and PvP. And they most definitely need to extract themselves from the whole Outlander thing yesterday.

wpDiscuz