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Hyperspace Beacon is a Star Wars: The Old Republic column by Larry Everett. [Follow this column’s RSS feed]

Hyperspace Beacon: Why I’m taking a break from Star Wars: The Old Republic

I’ve been considering writing this for awhile now, but I’ve not been sure how to broach the subject. I’ve not been playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. That’s not to say that I haven’t been logging in or that I’ve not been paying attention to the community and the development of the game. But when I do log in, it’s to roleplay with my guild or GM one of the campaigns my guild has cooked up. I’ve not run operations, I’ve barely run Uprisings, and I’ve been done with PvP for over a year now. Usually, the developers have some event or story content that would bring me back or keep me sucked in, but not this time.

I know it doesn’t mean that I will never be back to SWTOR; it just means that the gameplay itself — in its current state — is no longer interesting to me. It also doesn’t mean that I will not log into the game. In fact, I will probably log in regularly because my roleplay guild is extremely active and healthy. And although I could probably unsub and play the just fine, I think that I will stay subscribed because the subscription isn’t expensive, and I do like the perks. But I’m certainly not going to support the overzealous cash shop.

I’ve been covering this game for about six years, so it’s probably important that I discuss the details behind my stepping away for a bit and what’s been the final nail in the coffin.

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR’s latest raid might be a too little too late

When Star Wars: The Old Republic launched, I was champing at the bit for raids. Then when I heard about the launch bugs from friends, I really didn’t want to have anything to do with that. But thanks to the Darth Hater crew and eventually my raiding guild in Nefarious Intent, I came to really enjoy raiding. I started raiding in SWTOR when Karragga’s Palace was the top-tier raid. I raided every week for three years. We were never the best raiders on the server, and I don’t think that we ever really tried to be because it was about having fun in a team-based PvE.

After a two-year gap, the developers at BioWare decided that it was time to introduce a new raid. With Update 5.2, players will see additional story, dailies, and the first boss of the new raid on the planet of Iokath. Although I am very excited to see all of this hit the game again, I can’t help but wonder if the interest in raids is strong enough to make that kind of gameplay viable again.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tackle the questions: What is coming with Update 5.2: War for Iokath, what does the existing community think of it, and will it be enough to draw people back in?

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR’s Creative Director on Uprisings and Update 5.1

We are a couple days early with the Hyperspace Beacon this week for a reason you’re going to love: We had an exclusive conversation with Creative Director Charles Boyd about the Star Wars: The Old Republic update releasing tomorrow, and we wanted to give you some insight into what Defend the Throne might offer you. Even though you won the day at the end of the latest expansion Knights of the Eternal Throne, there are still factions that have problems with you and your Alliance. There are still uprisings all over the galaxy.

The new group content called Uprisings (pretty on the nose there, right?) is the focus of the next update. We’ll see five more four-player, intense instances launch tomorrow, along with changes to the Command XP system and (of course) a new Cartel Market Pack.

I talked to Charles Boyd on Friday to get his input on the new content and a breakdown of each new Uprising and the overarching purpose behind them all.

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR Creative director discusses a ‘new adversary’

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.”

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR predictions for 2017

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 and BioWare 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.

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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.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Where can SWTOR go from here?

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.

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Hyperspace Beacon: What to expect from SWTOR’s Knight of the Eternal Throne

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.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Analyzing SWTOR’s Uprising group content

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.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Five class changes to watch out for in SWTOR 5.0

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.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Are Uprisings the SWTOR group content we’ve been looking 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.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Outside-the-box Star Wars The Old Republic gameplay

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.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Examining SWTOR’s contentious 5.0 endgame gear grind

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.

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