Many of you will immediately turn to the free-to-play model of Star Wars: The Old Republic
and reject my even thinking
about the cash shop working the way it should, so let me allay your fears: I am not going to talk about the hybrid, F2P-trash model that SWTOR
employs, the one that earned SWTOR
our (and our readers’) worst business model of 2016
“award.” I am simply going to talk about the Cartel Market itself and the changes that BioWare
has made to make it more player-centric – and how, if this trend continues, we could see more positive changes to this particular storefront.
If you haven’t heard, in the recent Update 5.5, BioWare changed not only the look of the Cartel Market but also its functionality and the number of items in it. On the Bad Feeling Podcast, Community Manager Eric Musco said that with some of the new functions, like the ability to search for specific items versus scrolling through menus, has allowed BioWare to add more direct-sell items to the market and also bring back some items that people enjoy.
I’m not an advocate of everything that BioWare has added or is doing with the Cartel Market, but I believe that great strides have been made in the right direction. Let me explain what I mean.
Today, when I talk about the balance of a class, I hope you’ll understand that I come from the perspective of a PvEer and raider. I also have a tendency to favor classes that are a little bit more difficult to play. So when I say that I take issue with some of the changes that Star Wars: The Old Republic
has made with Update 5.5, understand that I already believe that my favored class is starting from a disadvantage.
Update 5.5 was supposed to bring the classes into a kind of balance. To understand what balance is about in SWTOR, we will have to go back to a post that Eric Musco made back in June of this year. In it, he details the target markers for each of the different types of DPS without giving specific numbers as to what those targets are. Musco quotes the BioWare combat team: “The deeper reason for a ‘buff’ or a ‘nerf’ lies in a Discipline’s ability to perform at their target DPS.” I will be referring back to this post as I talk about the class that I favor the most: Marauder.
So let’s dive into the deep end.
First, if you’re hoping this is going to be an article hating on server merges and declaring them the ruination of an MMO community, then prepare for disappointment. I believe that server merges when done correctly are more beneficial to the health of a game than attempting to over segregate the playerbase. In fact, if I haven’t written about it here, I have mentioned multiple times in other forums that I think a single-server is probably one of the best things to happen to MMOs. EVE Online
and Champions Online
were a couple of the first MMOs to embrace this idea, and I know I’ve applauded them for it.
Although Star Wars: The Old Republic isn’t going down to one single server for its whole game, it is greatly reducing the number of servers. On November 8th, BioWare will reduce the servers to one server for each of the major English-speaking regions: US West Coast, US East Coast, and Europe. Then one server for each of the other languages represented in the game: French and German.
Surprisingly, most of the community is reacting positively to the idea of combining the servers. While the studio hasn’t actually used the term “server merge,” it’s been clear that everyone’s being moved into combined servers once again. However, there is one hold-out community that takes issue with how the merges are being handled. There are pros and cons, and there is really no way to combine servers without someone losing something, but the hope is that the overall gain will outweigh the losses.
The last couple of weeks have been really rough week for Star Wars: The Old Republic
from a technical standpoint. The Umbara update itself gave us a handful of bugs, including some that were very difficult to bypass. Then players also noticed a couple of extreme bugs that were deemed exploits. Community Manager Eric Musco
acknowledged the exploits, and for one of them, he emphatically said do not do it. “Following the bug being fixed we will begin to investigate the impact of the exploit and what action is required,” he said on the forum
. In the past, those actions have ranged from a slap on the wrist to a three-day suspension to revoking future access to that account. I don’t think things will get that harsh for this exploit, but I do foresee players losing the items gained. I’ll get to the specifics of that later.
What was most interesting was BioWare‘s handling of the second major bug. Under normal circumstances, if players circumvented the normal rate of character progression, the MMO developers would stop everything they were doing and fix the bug immediately, or at very least, they would tell players to stop lest they be punished. Instead, Musco said on the forum, “Until they are fixed next week, enjoy them. We tried to fix the bug, the bug didn’t want to be fixed.” He actually encouraged people to take advantage of the bug.
Let’s talk about that, why it happened, and why this happy accident is one of the best things that’s happened to SWTOR in a long time.
Feedback is important for every MMO, and that includes Star Wars: The Old Republic
. But where does feedback come from? If the developers never ask you about your opinion specifically, how will they actually collect your feedback? Community manager Eric Musco
chimed in on the forums explaining where the development team looks for feedback
and how his job involves filtering and synthesizing that feedback from multiple sources, all of which serves different purposes and offers different inputs.
The official forums and Reddit, for example, offer the feedback of particular narrows slices of the game with a big time investment; Twitter, meanwhile, has much more breadth of feedback but less depth on individual issues. There are also focus groups and specific influential players courted by the development team just for feedback and information. Check out the full rundown if you’re curious about how the melange of feedback gets passed along to developers; this isn’t necessarily how every game does it, but it is how it happens for SWTOR.
Over at BioWare
, the frisky employees have tagged in a new producer
to handle the title. The result is that Ben Irving
is out and Keith Kanneg
is in as the new Star Wars: The Old Republic
Kanneg announced the changeover yesterday in his first producer’s letter, saying that Irving has moved to “a great new opportunity” in the company while Kanneg himself moved up from his previous job as director of live services.
SWTOR’s newest producer gave out his professional and gamer cred résumé: “I’ve been with BioWare/EA and SWTOR for the past six years, where I’ve held a variety of positions, and have always been a very active player with nearly 10,000 hours of gameplay, 28 plus characters and tons of achievements.”
Star Wars: The Old Republic
is getting a new quality-of-life feature in the form of a revamped galaxy map
Eric Musco told forumgoers this earlier today — expect it in GU52.
“Aside from just being improved aesthetically, it also provides new functionality,” he writes. “We really wanted to improve players’ ability to travel around the galaxy.” You’re gonna need a ship, of course, and legacy perks will help:
“If you’ve acquired the Quick Travel perk, you can travel directly to your personal ship from the Galaxy Map. If you have a Priority Transport/Planetary perks, you will have a zero credit cost to travel to that location from the Galaxy Map. The Priority Transport perks function the same, but they no longer have a cooldown. Allowing you to travel quickly to different locations. You can now use Quick Travel while located inside ship hangers.”
Long-time players of Star Wars: The Old Republic
: In the next update 5.2: The War for Iokath, you will finally be able to switch factions. Insert disco horn here.
That’s right: If you are a Republic character, you will finally be able to fight alongside the best people in the universe: the Sith Empire. And if you’re a traitor to the Empress, you can fight alongside the Galactic Republic.
I also wanted to amplify another announcement about a couple of long-awaited companions. Republic Troopers, you will finally get your love interest Elara Dorne back, and Sith Warriors, you will finally be able to Force choke Malavai Quinn again, just as you always wanted.
I’ll explain the details, my opinion, and show a teaser video on the matter below in this edition of Hyperspace Beacon.
Players who logged in to Star Wars: The Old Republic
after patch 5.1 and jumped right into PvP probably noticed right away that their Bolster effects were working a bit differently. Specifically, Bolster wasn’t nearly
as strong as it had been before, going from bolstering players to level 250 to level 232. Community manager Eric Musco has taken to the forums to explain that this isn’t a glitch; it’s an intended change made with an eye toward long-term progression
that the developers just communicated poorly.
As it stands, the best gear available is at level 242. The developers realized belatedly that having bolster bring everyone up to 250 changed bolstering from “put players on an even starting plane with room for improvement” to “progression doesn’t matter,” which doesn’t exactly help matters. There’s a similar gap between the top end gear and the bolster effect as there was for the game’s previous expansion, but Musco apologizes for the poor communication; whether or not the change improves the sense of progression will require a bit of time to test.
Any MMO dungeon boss knows that it is only a matter of time before he, she, or it will be slaughtered by a pack of well-geared, highly trained adventurers. As inevitable as this may be, there is one NPC in Star Wars: The Old Republic
who has decided to take matters in his own hands and commit suicide before suffering the indignities of defeat.
According to the SWTOR team, this is both a bug and a potential exploit in one of the game’s new uprisings: “There is currently an issue with the first boss, Lord Anril, where in certain situations he will instantly kill himself.”
Obviously, by triggering the bug, players can progress through the uprising much faster than otherwise. The team isn’t prosecuting exploiters due to the possibility of this happening on its own and the sheer popularity of this particular uprising. The bug will be fixed in an update on January 24th.
Even if you are not subscribing for the impending Star Wars: The Old Republic
expansion, Knights of the Eternal Throne
, you will be subject to the class changes that come with the 5.0 update. Because characters can reach level 70 when 5.0 drops on November 29th, we will see a rebalance of every single advanced class. And as it is about many things with KOTET
, my opinion is very much on the fence when it comes to the upcoming adjustments.
Although Community Manager Eric Musco has repeatedly warned players that we should not take anything as final until the official patch notes are released, the series of posts he made on the official forums do give us the broad strokes and vision behind the changes to the classes. The one word that best describes the changes coming with 5.0 is “streamlined.” In the past, some expansions have attempted to make the characters seem more powerful, but this time around it’s more about refining your character’s role and playstyle and removing the extra junk.
With that in mind, I’d like to dive a little deeper into the upcoming changes to give you the five biggest class changes to watch out for.
As we step closer to the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic
‘s next expansion, BioWare
spills more and more information about the content we will soon see on the live servers. We’ve talked about the Command Ranks
and new endgame gearing process, but there is certainly more to what Knights of the Eternal Throne
will offer, some of that being group-focused content. However, I question whether it is the content we are looking for. Is the addition of Uprisings too little too late, not what we are looking for at all, or just right?
I don’t know that I’m going to have the answers we’re looking for in this article today, but I do hope to post the right questions to give us food for thought. Despite the negative trend in public opinion toward SWTOR‘s upcoming content, I would like to pose some of the positives that they are bringing to the table and discuss how it’s possible the developers could swing the game around.
As I said, I don’t know that I have all the answers, but let’s dive into what we know.
If you didn’t watch the Star Wars: The Old Republic livestream on Monday, then you missed Creative Director Charles Boyd, Producer Ben Irving, and Community Manager Eric Musco give a brief overview of the new endgame content for SWTOR 5.0: Knights of the Eternal Throne. Although there are many components to the new max-level content, it can all be summed up under the Galactic Command interface.
As a general design concept, I’m on board with the Galactic Command. Most of the components touch on exactly what SWTOR was needing and make some of the endgame confusion for new players vanish. The Galactic Command takes all the elements of max-level content and ties them all together into a nifty little package. Repeatable Knights of the Fallen Empire and Knights of the Eternal Throne chapters, operations, dailies and heroics, flashpoints, galactic starfighter, warzones, and the new group content Uprisings all appear on the new interface, allowing players to see exactly what can be done at max level and also queue immediately for any or all of those activities.
And then? There’s Command Rank gear.
Lately, I have felt that BioWare has taken two steps back for one step forward. It has been losing players, especially endgame players, with every new activity that its designers release. However, Galactic Command might be the first time in a while that BioWare has taken two steps forward and only one step back. Let’s talk about the steps forward first, then we’ll get to the big one back.