Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR predictions for 2016

    
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“Difficult to see. Always in motion the future is,” Yoda explained to Luke Skywalker on Dagobah when the boy had a vision of his friends in Cloud City. So when I make predictions for the future of Star Wars: The Old Republic, I know that I am trying to predict something that even the developers might not know. When I interviewed three of the developers last week, they consistently mentioned that it was the Shadow of Revan expansion that led them to create Knights of the Fallen Empire.

For those of you playing at home, SoR didn’t release until December 9th last year, which was only 20 days before I made last year’s predictions. And since game studios like to take a lot of vacation in December, it’s likely that the developers didn’t even know for sure that they would be making KOTFE in 2015.

That being said, this is will be a fun experiment. I’m going to look at last year’s predictions and compare them to the actual outcomes, and then I’d like to make a few predictions for 2016.

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Where I was wrong

Two more raids

I was wrong about the very first prediction: I said that there would be at least two more raids coming in 2015, and there were zero. Unfortunately, because there were no new raids in 2015, much of the endgame community stopped playing the game all together. Obviously, they moved to games like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV, which did implement new raids this year.

That being said, the hard-mode version of Temple of Sacrifice was nearly impossible to beat because a little boss called the Underlurker. Not to mention the tight DPS timer on the last boss. But eventually, a guild called Zorz took down the raid in late January. The group was even rewarded with a plaque from BioWare to commemorate the achievement, but then the guild promptly left the game shortly after receiving the gift, possibly solidifying BioWare’s decision not to bother with new raids in 2015.

Two new PvP zones

I figured that I would be wrong about the PvP zone prediction. I’ll be honest, a lot of last year’s predictions amounted to my being hopeful. I had wished that BioWare might change its mind regarding PvP, but as you can see by reading the Killer score on my report card, I don’t believe that the developers even know what makes that group tick. So of course, no new PvP map was made, not even a new arena, which once seemed easily created given how quickly BioWare use to pop them out.

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Where I was right

Nerfs incoming

I am glad to say that I was mostly right about my nerf prediction. I truly wasn’t asking that certain classes be nerfed; I was really hoping that those classes that are most difficult to play would actually have better overall DPS for those who could perfect their rotations. For the most part I was right because my focus was on the Annihilation spec’d Marauder (Watchman Sentinel). For most PvE theorycrafting, that spec certainly made it back to the top of the chart over some of the other classes that have an easier rotation.

However, thanks to the mechanics of the raids this year, it didn’t matter because, practically speaking, having a close-ranged melee class in high-end PvE was too taxing on healers and is usually a detriment to a raid team as a whole.

More solo flashpoints

I was completely correct when I said there would be more solo flashpoints. How many new solo flashpoints did we get last year? All of them. Well, not all of them, but most of them. Nine flashpoints received a solo mode version. The idea behind this change to the core game was to encourage players to experience that part of the story. And they did.

More story more often

Although technically, we didn’t get story more often, it is BioWare’s plan to deliver it more often in 2016. However, it’s clear with the complete change to the storytelling approach that BioWare delivered on the “more story” part of the prediction. Knights of the Fallen Empire not only delivered some amazing story to the SWTOR universe but also shook the existing game to its core. If you read my interview from last week, you’ll see that developers decided that it wasn’t enough to just add more story to the game; they also fundamentally changed their approach to storytelling in the game, even going so far as to change the leveling process by steering the new player through the most important parts of the class story.

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What I think about 2016

The developers have made a few off-handed comments about the content we might get in 2016, but the only thing truly confirmed is additional KOTFE content. Starting February 11th, subscribers will gain access to one new KOTFE chapter a month for the next seven months, totally 16 KOTFE chapters total. That will satiate us until August… hopefully.

Those paying attention would notice that BioWare mentions that these 16 chapters is not the end of this style of storytelling. The studio hinted at another season of stories coming before the end of the year. In fact, I will make my prediction now and say that the next season will release in November. (BioWare will want to release it in October like the last one, but it will be delayed.)

BioWare also hinted that it was working on a new warzone and that Shadow of Revan was not the end of raids. I believe that BioWare will continue its trend of releasing a minor expansion in the beginning to middle of the year and a big one at the end. So just before summer starts, we will see an expansion of this type, and with it will come a new Warzone and my biggest prediction: a revamp to PvP as a whole. BioWare will finally figure out that it’s just not handling PvP correctly and will attempt a totally different approach. I don’t know what that approach will be, but I’ll make a second prediction: That approach will ultimately fail, too. Sorry, BioWare, I love your work, but PvP has never been what you are good at.

As a side note, I wager we will also get a new raid at the same time we get the PvP expansion, but overall it will keep endgame PvEers interested for only a month. Those PvEers who stick around will be those who are still interested in the daily and weekly activities that are currently available in game.

You’ve now read my thoughts, but beauty is that this is only the beginning of the conversation. Let me know what your thoughts are for SWTOR in 2016 in the comments below. May the Force be with you in 2016.

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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DoflamingoGT
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DoflamingoGT

LeonardHobbel how the fuck do you compare a stupid tank game with an mmorpg

LeonardHobbel
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LeonardHobbel

2017 is the date swtor players wont like.
I dont know from reading some of these novel like posts .
We are seriously lacking players..MOST Servers are damn near empty. Some at peak times have less then 50 on fleet.
  Harbinger has had a influx of people stating their servers were empty.
  Harbinger now is slowly seeing less and less.
  Our last 30 minute story….sigh was boring.
  LARRY we need people. FRESH MEAT and a free to play does not count.
E.A.  only cares about $$ and right now this game no matter what ANYONE says is NOT making it.
     2017 is it guys…and I am willing to make a bet on that.
    Over in WOT  ( world of tanks ) we are still growing..and with the new patch that changed so many things…I couldnt believe a patch could be so well written, after 4+ years in swtor where our patches were so messed up.
  I wonder if the engine for WOT was changed twice to make it BETTER…why cant EA give us a better engine people can write with.
  OTHER GAMES DO IT…EA is loaded with MONEY spring for a good engine.

  2017
Len

adrian02031985
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adrian02031985

At the moment I am an F2P who started playing last month full fledged after downloading the painfully long 33GB of game..I would like to see more of this game to make me sub…So far I haven’t gotten to see much except the first 3 chapters which kinda becomes lack luster towards the end and doesn’t keep me gripped, and two characters a server..I am perfectly OK with the two characters per server thing but I would like to see more in terms of being able to level my character till 65 or the removal of artifact authorization to let me explore the usable items of the game to see if its better whilst doing FP’s, HM FP’s, PVE’s, WZ’s, PVP’s..Also crew skills is another joke for F2P’s why bother letting F2P have this feature when in reality you need two to three skills to craft anything whatsoever…The cartel coin thing is an epic joke in my view..All you can earn is 20cc after ever chapter per character on all servers..Who would in their right mind sit as an f2p and grind thru 2 characters on 17 odd servers just to get 20cc per chapter? that is not a selling point to sub..Also there are a ton of people offering f2p’s 1 mil credits when the cap is 200k, I mean seriously?! and also some offering links for cc thru various links on using some code, again seriously?! I have blocked more people with this than have made friends, again not a selling point cause bioware needs to monitor this stuff..F@P in swtor is rightly said to be one of the top most worst models in all MMO’s by many..I am a fan of the franchise but this game doesn’t make me want to invest my hard earned money one bit..They could take a look at the star trek online F2P model..It bought me over cause of how accessible the game is..Bioware needs to do something similar to get in more subs..And in another article  i read some weeks back the game was basically saved by F2P from going down..Because the more inviting you make the game to new players the more chances you have for a higher sub base and ability to create better content..NOT AN F2P MODEL THAT LOCKS OUT MOST FEATURES OF THE GAME..

BenFuller1
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BenFuller1

As doubtful as it is I would love another new species or 2 for this year. This game really lacks om iconic races. While we most likely won’t see wookies added I hope for the bounty hunter in me they will find a way to add trandoshans and rodians. I’d very easily accept not being able to romance anyone with those races. For me those 2 races are epic for bounty hunters especially trandoshans

Woetoo
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Woetoo

It’s difficult to know where things are headed.
I’m a pessimistic dreamer. I dream of a better tomorrow, yet firmly expect things will get worse.

PvP – sure. The new arena was already confirmed and Bioware tend to get tunnel vision with each new project. With limited resources (I assume) they keep throwing everything they have into very narrow directions (Galactic Starfighter, etc). Could a single new area mean a PvP focus for a little while, with more PvP and a new PvP revamp? Maybe. I don’t think so.

More Chapters beyond the current 16? I think that’s probably the current plan, yes. And it’ll all go to hell. Mainly because if Bioware are delivering a single player KOTOR3 style experience, I have my doubts as to whether people will pay hundreds of dollars per year for what is effectively a single player game. But perhaps I’m only speaking for myself and transferring my cynicism onto others. I think revenues will fall during the next 9 months and that will lead to further cost cutting within the game. That will mean less than ever being delivered – and since the current budget only delivers a minimal amount of content delivered monthly, I really can’t see how they could spend less without abandoning story completely. So my prediction would be that the Chapters 17+ content that’s written by the time the decision is made will be repackaged into a small expansion (that will be marketed as big expansion) and that content will be a sold as an expansion in the traditional sense. In effect, it will be the final cash grab before the game goes into development lockdown. The game will continue for years to come, but relying on subscriptions and new customers paying for pre-existing content without adding much of anything.

I do predict that all chapters will be finished. In my darker moments, I
think through the consequences of that not happening and just don’t see
how the game could survive the abysmal PR for failing to deliver a
complete story arc. I think the aim right now is to keep people
subscribed (*cough* subscriber bribes anyone? *cough*) and to keep
people on the subscription hook, without actually promising anything
concrete.

New operations? Despite the uproar about NiM operations loot drops and lack of “new” endgame content, there’s seems to a consistent upturn in active players right now, in spite of large number of raiders leaving the game. (torstatus shows more players, ixparse shows considerably less raiding parses). One thing I was surprised to notice was that ixparse show 130k+
characters doing HM content at it’s peak. Even allowing for alts, that’s
probably still 75k+ people just doing HM operations, with even more
doing SM. Which makes me think the raiding community within SWTOR is a
bigger part of the population than people realise. Even so, I think Bioware are going to see this as a win/win situation where new players are coming it, paying their money despite no additional money being spent on development of new operations. I think this is short sighted in the extreme, but it’s great for the next balance sheet report included in the EA quarterly statements. While these short term gains are being seen, I don’t see there’s much incentive for Bioware to spend money on Operations, so we won’t get any. If there is an operation in the works, I can see it being held back to be included in the mini-expansion Larry foresee – bundled with the remnants of the Chapters 17+ – creating the appearance of something larger, when really just making use of something that was already being worked on anyway.

I’ve said there’s an increase in active players right now, whilst also saying that I predict the revenues will fall overall within 9 months. I don’t see a contradiction here. I see history repeating itself. I see the 1.0 launch repeated, with everything gambled on story and endgame being lacking. I see the rave reviews of the story and influx of new players, who ultimately don’t stick around because the endgame is so underwhelming and the “core gamers” talking themselves out of the game. And like the 1.0 launch, I just don’t see how Bioware fix things in the long term without retaining a large subscriber base. They’re clearly not allowed to spend the money to fix the underlying problems, all they can do is try to maximise profits while minimising the investment. We’ve gone from 8 stories, to 2 stories, to 1 story, to chapters. And like 1.0, where some foresight, patience and … yes… money could have seen 1.2 released instead with a more fleshed out endgame to potential to see a much larger subscriber retention – I think the short sightedness is going to see the repeat of poor retention, reduced revenue and more cost cutting, resulting in less content, delivered less frequently.

calyptic101
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calyptic101

Really enjoying swtor atm. Im not really interested in hardcore end game content anymore and i love the fact it now feels more like an rpg experience. Im hoping we get a lot more customisation options in 2016 so for those of us that do not want to raid have options of doing things outside of standard thempark end game. I know people are asking for more raids so i do hope they get them.

Karl_Hungus
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Karl_Hungus

My prediction for 2016 is that the game will continue to fail to deliver on all fronts. The short-lived nine chapters of the new story left a thirst in the dedicated player base that will not be quenched by a meager one chapter a month. The lack of new raids with this expansion killed virtually every mainstay progression guild on my server. They’ve simply stopped playing. You could argue that raiders are such a small minority, much like PvP, or even GSF, but that’s largely because of Bioware’s mismanagement on all fronts. All my dedicated PvP friends gave up on the game ages ago. My GSF peoples gave up months ago. And my raider friends finally gave up with this expansion, as there simply is no reason to keep playing. 
It seems that Bioware simply can’t put out enough new content, and not for the content locusts, but for the average player that is interested in more than just an hour of story each month. Having to wait years and years for a new warzone, let alone new operations, is outright embarrassing and disheartening. Plus the bare bones amount of content they’re planning on releasing in 2016 costs $15 a month to experience, as if things weren’t bad enough. Considering how fast the first nine chapters went by, in eight months I’ll subscribe again for a month just to catch up on the story in a few hours. 
At this point it really feels like Bioware is helmed by a bunch of apes in a room who are crapping ideas into their hands and hurling it at the walls to see what will stick. They haven’t got a clue what to do. Everyone loved the 1-50 class stories and wanted that to continue but that’s just not cost effective for an MMO so they gave us this shared story crap at the expense of deepening the standard MMO experience so I find myself with little reason to log in once I’m done with the story. That is really bad for the long-term of any MMO, especially any that practically demands you subscribe to it. There really is no reason for me to continue to fund Bioware’s failed MMO experiment.

Digest
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Digest

alexjwillis Is there a way where your melee attacks have more oomph / weight behind it? Its the only gripe that I have with SWTOR. TIA

captainzor
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captainzor

SallyBowls1 You had me at “no gear grind”

tominva2012
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tominva2012

Caec “I do think it’s a shame the game is going the traditional rpg route…”
Yours was a good post, though I disagree with you about this point, since I feel the “RPG” elements in most “MMORPGs” are really tacked on as an afterthought. 
Bioware is good at putting together an RPG, so if they go more in that direction I think it’s for the best. In my opinion, the more “MMO” a game is, the worse its “RPG” content (WoW and Rift being examples of strong MMOs/poor RPGs) and sometimes they just fail at both (TESO).