Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR’s 2015 report card

    
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It’s hard to believe that it’s been another year in Star Wars: The Old Republic. On the 20th of this month, the second Star Wars MMORPG will turn four years old. And 2015, despite my previous predictions being almost completely wrong, sits as the most eventful year for game after its launch year. The year began still on a high from the Shadow of Revan expansion and ended on a major shift in storytelling design with the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion.

At the end of the year, I like to give the games I cover a report card based on Richard Bartle’s taxonomy. For those who aren’t familiar with what that is, check out this Massively Overthinking where we took the test ourselves — Bartle himself might have even commented on it. I used the test based on his work as a base because it is designed to help game developers make better games. It focuses on why players play online games. I have taken a basic American grade-school grading system (A, B, C, D, F) to represent how I think each player type would score SWTOR.

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Socializer: B+

I don’t believe socializer would give the highest marks to Star Wars: The Old Republic because the chat rooms and direct communications have yet to be fixed, and of course, the roleplayers haven’t seen chat bubbles yet (and probably never will). The game has made great strides, however, in becoming more social and encouraging rather than forcing people to group up. I see three major contributors to the social side of SWTOR: level-syncing, instant-travel heroics, and the tactical flashpoint finder.

Many people dislike level-syncing, and I can sort of understand why, though I completely disagree with it. The good that level-syncing does to bring people together far outweighs the desire to cut through foes like a lawnmower. Although it’s not much of a challenge, there is a bit more thinking involved in doing things like heroics on a planet or helping a friend with a quest. Level-syncing is a part of what allows group members to receive full XP despite there being a level difference and despite there being a group at all: XP used to be split between group members, but now you can help your friend at any level, and you might even get something out of it yourself.

Instant-travel heroics and new tactical flashpoints based on order flashpoints really serve the same purpose: They allow players to easily come together for group content. Although you can solo most heroics now, bringing a friend along makes the instances go by that much faster. And heroics are probably the most lucrative in-game content, especially when you consider credits per minute. Look for a guide on that coming soon!

Achiever: A

hsb-report-card-02In the simplest of terms, the achiever sees a bar and wants to cap it, sees a number and wants to make it bigger, or finds a hole and wants to fill it. Achievers love competition with other players, but most of the time, it’s all about the player versus him or herself. Achievers also love great rewards. Last year, I gave the achiever score an A-, but this year I’m going to have to raise the score just a bit to a solid A.

I don’t think SWTOR is doing anything innovative or revolutionary when it comes to achievements. The fact that they exist at all gives the game decent marks in this category. Achievers looking for something to do simply have to take a moment to meander through the achievement list and pick one. But on top of that there are hidden achievements, something that all achievement-hunters are looking for. Plus, some of the revealed achievements are difficult, and like a good achievement, these come with great rewards that you can show off to people who haven’t completed the achievement yet. I’m not an achievement-hunter, but even I am wearing my The-One-and-Only title with pride.

Killer: D-

The developers swear that they haven’t given up on PvP and other aspects that appeal to the killer-type player, but it sure looks as if they aren’t even trying anymore. I don’t expect SWTOR to suddenly become a PvPer’s game, but I’m not sure the developers even understand what motivates the killer player.

You might think that killers just want to grief and cause other players trouble, but that’s not exactly the case. Many are in it for the competition. They want to pit themselves against other players and know where they stand in comparison to other killers. I talked at length to a player who liked to stand on the steps of Korriban and duel other players. Not only did he want to test his gear against others, but he also liked to see whether he could overcome a gear deficit.

In my mind, the duellers on the steps of Korriban are the only players who have any real beef with the level-sync addition to the game. Of course, these guys could find a new location that allows them to be a true level 65, but part of the killer profile is wanting other people to see what they are doing. The level 65 areas don’t have nearly the same amount of traffic as Korriban.

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As much as I think that it’s great that Sorcerers and Sages are viable in PvP again and the meta for the classes was mixed up a bit, it doesn’t help matters when you see the same two classes dominate the leaderboards (let alone the actual warzones) over the last couple of seasons, not to mention that one of those advanced classes dominated well before that.

The only thing that is keeping me from failing SWTOR in the killer category outright is that there was at least an attempt to make the classes more balanced this year. The developers brought the healing classes a little bit closer to even, but of course there’s always one that outshines the others. And I call it just an “attempt” because it appears that one of the three has slipped back down again into the don’t-bring-to-a-warzone category.

Explorers: C+

Explorers are all about the joy of discovery, and it’s also another category of players that BioWare doesn’t quite seem to understand. However, the developers have at least attempted to make an effort to cater to them. They also made a great change to datacron retrieval so that it’s easier for explorers to track. And they tried to give out quests specifically for explorers.

The datacrons are now tracked in your legacy tab. This means that you have to gather a datacron only once per server or just once per account if you do a server transfer. Prior to 4.0, you had to track datacron gathering through the codex entries that are earned when you click on the cubes, which was a pain.

Area quest givers can be hidden, now. Since discovery is a large part of why an explorer plays the game, keeping certain quests hidden on the minimap is helpful. But since no new quests were added to the old game, this applies only to new content. And if you’ve played the new content, you’ll notice that it’s the most corridor-like content produced by the game so far — very anti-explorer.

This discussion doesn’t end with my grade card; it continues in the comments below. What are your thoughts about how each player-type would grade the game’s performance this year? I’m SEKA player, perhaps one of you is a AEKS and would see the scores differently. I’d like to read your thoughts. And I’ll see you next week.

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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Dalishal
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Dalishal

Is the purpose of the article to analyze the game as a whole or parts of the game?
I am not an RP’er, not a major pvp’er. Nor am I a progression raider. I am almost a pure socializer. As such, I have had more fun in the last few weeks then I have had since I started playing in may.
Yes the new expansion is individualized, but I generally played my class stories alone. I grouped to do heroics, fp and boring fetch quests with friends when I could. This is possible in kotfe as well. How much time are you spending in the chapters anyway? Being able to knock out 5 heroics in 30 min with guildies is awesome. Socializing is more than endgame and class/main quests
I have done more with conquest, fp, operations, heroics and guild functions, now than ever and I actually am trying pvp.
I really like the downgrading of story mode operations and fp. It encourages more people to try end game contentent who perhaps would not. If I want a challenge, there is hard mode.
For me :
Socializer-A
Achievers-B+
Killer-? (I dont care about this at all, so I dont know)
Explorers-C-D ( I really dont want to do this in the game now. It’s not Skyrim. And I have stuff to do. Plus the map sucks. No location toggle-what is this the 90’s?)
I wonder how much of the grumbling is due to change and mmo tradition?
And how much of the social dissatisfaction has to do with the guild situation in the game?

spoilofthelamb
Guest
spoilofthelamb

Socializer: D
As a RP’er, KOTFE has split our userbase between those who are leveled for the expansion and want to RP post-time gap, and those who aren’t capped and don’t want spoilers. In the past, level differences have never mattered for RP. Now, we need players to get to cap to play in the right year. It’s unfortunate, and has led many who didn’t need content from developers to stay subscribed start to lose interest and play elsewhere. We’re at 10-25% our usual population now that people don’t want to start events that aren’t inclusive but have lost interest in pre-time gap events that would cause them to ret-con or play with character shields, and with the other major RP guild on server transferring to greener pastures this month, it looks like there won’t be much left for RP-PVP.

Achiever: A+
There’s a lot of achievements in game, mounts to win from them and a new collections interface that has breathed new life in this department. Collect all pieces of a gear set, and you can unlock the ability to copy that look to any other character on your account without changing the stats of your gear. You can even mix and match pieces of any of these sets to overwrite a specific gearpiece (like gloves), then dye each piece individually to really loook unique. It’s the best system I’ve found in this department in any mmo, and the standard for gear customization. Short of letting players model gear in an editor, I don’t see how it can be improved.

Killer: C
PVP hasn’t received content in a while, but is still very strong on my server. Huttball remains unique, and arenas pop at all hours of the day. Objectives are varied enough that warzones don’t all feel the same at level cap. Large-scale World PVP is mostly relegated to server events, though that’s par for the course in mmo’s I’ve played. WPVP reigns supreme during Rakghoul and Gree events (in-game holiday events).

Explorers: B
Datacrons are more valuable than ever this expansion, and encourage exploring throughout the old world content. With level-scaling, revisiting old worlds still requires combat to complete, and there’s more voiced story to find if you return to old heroic missions that are now more accessible than ever. In-game events make otherwise unpopulated or inaccessible large-scale areas open and dangerous, with lots of hidden goodies to find. And a wealth of old systems and content has been hidden away for those willing to dig for it (the old on-rails shooter space battle system, a whole pvp starfighter minigame, bar fight abilities, reputation rewards, etc).

Wandris
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Wandris

Remove the credit cap and allow ALL your customers to use the forums and then maybe SWTOR will deserve a grade. Right now it is in a permanent state of detention in my books.

Joshwar
Guest
Joshwar

I don’t think anyone is complaining about open world PvP. The engine can’t handle large scale open world PvP. I played on Bastion amd Jung Ma for almost a year each and saw less PvP happening than Begeren, which is an RP server! PvP’ers complain that they release no new content, 8v8 ranked never came back, etc. Up through TfB each new Operation got a similar themed map in PvP.
All I’m saying to people on RP or PvE servers is don’t flag if you dont like PvP. Comps can’t wear PvP anymore and level scaling sort of evens the playing field. Im always flagged and if I lose, I /say GJ or GG, or damn you surprised the hell out of me! It is nice to have random pvp whilst questing in my opinion and that’s why I stay flagged. Do I get a lot of open world? No, and thats fine with me.
The PvP servers are dead because there are more pops and better players on the other servers.

syberghost
Guest
syberghost

Joshwar that’s exactly it, Josh; they complain that nobody will play on PvP servers and/or flag themselves on PvE servers, but when we try to explain to them WHY nobody will do that, their answer is basically “if you don’t like getting ganked, don’t flag”. OK; done.

Now don’t whine on the forums that nobody flags, or that no attention is given to open world PvP by the devs, who are concentrating their attention on stuff that the vast majority of their players will experience, because duh.

My main throughout beta and my subscription in TOR was on a PvP server, BTW. Huttball was way more fun than questing on that server. Since lapsing and playing semi-free (I’ve spent a lot in the cash shop), I’ve been 100% PvE servers, and had a lot more fun. And Huttball still rules.

Joshwar
Guest
Joshwar

Lol the PvP servers are ghost towns. If you are on a PvE/RP server, don’t flag yourself for PvP. Problem solved.

syberghost
Guest
syberghost

Karl_Hungus syberghost Sorenthaz Ironwu you know it has PvP servers, right?

Joshwar
Guest
Joshwar

The game imo was way more spcial at launch than today. In fact the reason I cancelled my sub after playing the story is that right now there is NO REASON TO GROUP. All the nerfing of the old content plus the companion insta win jas left the skill set of the average player that of a level 10 at launch. I’d love to be more social, but since i know how to play and therebis no new endgame, group finder is just a waste of my time. My level 60 raid gear is more than enough to get me through the new content for the most part, and i cant even find a group on BC that can finish a tactical Battle of Ilum. Seriously. I log in and pvp and will sub for the next chapter, but there’s nothing to do as a sub worth the 15 a month. And that’s sad and coming from a sub since launch.

vicariousfan
Guest
vicariousfan

Celestial so… every MMO then?

Karl_Hungus
Guest
Karl_Hungus

Ripsnorta Karl_Hungus syberghost Sorenthaz Ironwu 
Being a Killer doesn’t expressly mean PvP, although that is a large component of it. Killers like the thrill of combat period. And yes, griefing isn’t limited to PvP only either. I meant it in a PvP capacity in response to someone who was using it in a PvP capacity. 
But overall I don’t think there should be an extra Bartle category added for pseudo-sociopaths because they are very few in number. People exaggerate the amount of griefing going on because that one griefer who made their life hell was enough for them to say, “there’s nothing but griefers everywhere!”