For the last five years and more, Star War: The Old Republic
told the story of Tenebrae, a Sith of humble origins who rose to great power and ultimately corruption. Of course, there were other great stories along the way -- the eight player stories, and ultimately, the Outlander's story -- but even the story of Revan revolved around this hidden but powerful figure who was eventually unveiled as the Sith Emperor.
At the end of last year, I talked to Producer Ben Irving and Creative Director Charles Boyd about the past five years of SWTOR and about what the future holds for the game. It turned out to be a wonderful, frank interview. I learned many things that I didn't know about Irving and his introduction to BioWare, which I mentioned a post last year. But I also learned some fun facts about the future of the SWTOR story.
Without spoiling too much, I think it's safe to mention that Tenebrae's story wraps up in a nice little bow at the end of Knights of the Eternal Throne. I spoke to Boyd about the challenges of closing up a long, pivotal story and where the writers go from there. And one of the things he mentioned is a "new adversary."
Here we are again. Star Wars: The Old Republic
survived another year despite those who predicted five years ago that it would shut down in less than a year. Although I've been pessimistic about the game at times, I've never believed that Electronic Arts
would give up on the game. And it's clear by the enthusiasm of its producers and developers that there is still a strong love for the game at the creators' studio.
Some people believe that 2017 will be the last year for SWTOR, but I choose not to believe that either. I think that SWTOR has made a strong showing and continues to make the studio money, despite my best effort to discourage the purchase of lockboxes.
Since the game will still carry on in 2017, let me give my predictions for it. But first, let's talk about last year's predictions.
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.
Have you ever watched a great movie and ever wished that the director would make a sequel but also not make a sequel, all at the same time? More often, we are usually begging for a sequel only to be disappointed by it. Star Wars had the exact opposite effect to on me. I thought the sequel was better than the original. However, when Return of the Jedi released, I can't say that I was begging for a sequel to that. I'm not a fool; I wanted more Star Wars movies, but we hit the happily-ever-after moment. The story was done.
I won’t dive too far into the spoiler territory just yet, but it’s safe to say that with Knights of the Eternal Throne that the story for Star Wars: The Old Republic is done.
There have been some movies that wrapped up nicely that also did well when they received a sequel. The Terminator is the first example that comes to my mind. The sequel did just as well as the original, but that is rarer than the opposite happening. Although the Star Wars universe continued to turn with the books, when the creator went back to tell the beginning of the story, it fell flat. I have a fear that the same thing likely could happen to the story in SWTOR.
After some of the major flaws with Knights of the Fallen Empire
, I wasn't expecting much from Star Wars: The Old Republic
's latest expansion Knights of the Eternal Throne
. It was more than clear, given the last two chapters of KOTFE
, that the previous expansion was a setup for the current expansion. In fact, that's probably the biggest flaw for KOTET
: It doesn't stand on its own. However, BioWare
has taken lessons from its previous mistakes and made an expansion that not only is entertaining as a story -- which BioWare has never had a problem with -- but features mechanics that are interesting and a vast improvement over the boring murder-tunnels of the last expansion.
Games ultimately prompt us to ask the question, "Is it worth the money?" I don't have an exact quantifiable measurement for fun had in a game versus its cost, but if we took my typical judgment that one fun hour should equal to one dollar spent, then at the cost of $15 dollars for a month's subscription (which earns you the expansion), it's a steal. I did have a couple of hours of interruptions, but I started playing the expansion when it first launched at 9 a.m until about 3 a.m. last night. I could have given my first impression on the first few chapters of the expansion, but the truth is that I didn't want to stop playing.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
dropped a treat this week by allowing fansites to tour Knights of the Eternal Throne
. Although we can now see the first chapter of KOTET on YouTube
, that's not the story that I want to learn about now. Don't get me wrong; the story of KOTET
is very important to me, and I really want meaningful and impactful choices. But seeing someone else play through the chapters at this point is only going to set me up for spoilers and disappointment, especially since there is only one story for every player and every character.
Group content is far more important at this stage because it's part of what makes the game feel bigger, and it's been a weak point for BioWare for the last year. So let's take a look at some of the fansites that released playthrough videos of both the story mode and veteran modes of the Crimson Fang Uprising: SWTOR Central and Kid Lee. They don't offer much commentary on what was happening during the gameplay. They did mention if things were more or less difficult but offered little in the area of why or how certain things worked. I don't fault them for that; it's difficult to make commentary while fighting for your character's life. Today, I will dive deeper into the Uprisings and the things we can glean from the video playthroughs.
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.
For some reason, this time of year always seems to be a down time in the activity of large-scale MMORPG development. Although Star Wars: The Old Republic
is a bit of an exception to that rule with its new expansion coming out in about a month, there are still many people kind of standing around wondering what to do. I am not one of those people. In fact, my friends and I have done something kind of crazy: We started a new guild in what would likely be considered a very low time for the game. The crazier part is that it seems to be thriving.
We have gone from about four active members a day to about 20 or more concurrent players on a night in about a week. I’ve lost track of how many people log on in a day. I know there are bigger guilds out there, and I don’t claim to know all the secrets. However, I do think that what my friends and I have done is significant, and you might be interested in it too, especially if you’re an old-school gamer.
When I say old-school gamer, what I mean is a pre-videogame gamer. I mean tabletop gamer. During this huge lull in actual game content, we have taken this time to make our own game out of SWTOR by introducing pen-and-paper mechanics to the things we do. If roleplay in an MMORPG hasn’t interested you before, it might interest you now.
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.
Last week, I stirred up a hornet’s nest by bringing up the topic of lockboxes and how I really didn’t mind them in general.
It’s an important topic given that Elder Scrolls Online
just released its version of lockboxes in its last update and Star Wars: The Old Republic
has run into its share of controversial situations regarding its lockboxes. I’d like to continue that discussion this week.
I mentioned in the article last week and many times in the comments that I have some major caveats to how I think lockboxes should work, and I mentioned that neither ESO or SWTOR actually handles lockboxes well. Both have their good points, but neither does it perfectly.
This week, I’d like to dive into what could make lockboxes simultaneously viable for studio funding and far less frustrating for the customer. If lockboxes are here to stay, why not try to fix them? Let’s look at three ways to make lockboxes better -- for everyone.
I expect to come under fire for the opinion I'm expressing today for a couple of reasons.
First, I know that many people have very strong opinions regarding lockboxes, including some other writers here at Massively OP. Second, my opinion will likely put me at odds with a lot of the people who visit this site. I would like to state right up front that anything expressed in this article today is my opinion alone and should not be taken as a reflection of the opinion of this site or any other person who writes for it.
With Elder Scrolls Online introducing lockboxes, we have lost what was pretty much the last vestige free from virtual gambling. Some ignorant people have accused me and this site for not calling lockboxes what they are: gambling packs. (In fact, we have called them out, repeatedly.) That is what they are; except you don’t ever get your money back, as you would if gambling. That is one reason game studios can get away with not calling it gambling, although that’s exactly what it is. I understand that there are legal implications when calling them gambling packs, so I guess I understand why game developers avoid calling them exactly what they are.
However, I don’t have issue with lockboxes in principle, and in some ways, I encourage game developers to continue making them. But this wouldn’t be much of an article if I ended it there.
I write a lot of words about Star Wars: The Old Republic
. And over this last year, the Knights of the Fallen Empire
has done some really great things, like adding level-scaling, presenting a compelling story, and making all companions viable again. However, I think it can be agreed that KOTFE
also took some steps backward as well.
We are in a content lull right now, so I know that people have been stepping away from the game because of that. However, many of the major players and fan sites started to drop off well before the KOTFE chapters were actually finished, and I’ve really had to take a step back and ponder that. In asking why, I believe that I’ve come up with five things that BioWare can do in the next expansion, Knights of the Eternal Throne, that will help bring some of the people back, or at very least, entice players to stick around.
Be warned: There are spoilers ahead!