We were invited to speak to two of the key developers behind this latest expansion for SWTOR to see whether this question was answered. Producer Ben Irving and Creative Director Charles Boyd spoke to a small group of press on the phone to answer our questions as well as talk about some of the lessons learned from last year and the changes the game made in response to those issues.
But first, here’s the launch trailer:
I’ve been really surprised by Irving’s candor and honesty when it comes to the development of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Although I don’t expect him to reveal everything about the development process behind the expansion, I am glad to hear of the growth and the ability recognize the mistakes of the past and learn from them. And when I asked Irving about the differences and similarities between KOTET and KOTFE, he was quick to own up to the ideas they didn’t quite get right the first time and how he intended to fix them in this latest expansion.
“What didn’t work so well was doing the monthly chapter cadence,” he admitted.
“We kind of put that down to just the change in the way that people want to consume entertainment these days. We are kind of in the era of binge-watching and Netflix. Staggering things one month at a time with just a chapter didn’t really placate the need for people to consume content. So we are kind of moving away from that strategy this year.
“What does that mean for what people can expect this year over last year? Whenever we tell an epic story, we can still do awesome chapter experiences and we can tell really deep stories that put you at the center of it — you know, revolving around personal choices. We are one day into the launch of Eternal Throne and we are already seeing that come through player reactions. So you can still expect that in the future.
“The difference will be between those big story beats; what’s the kind of stuff that we do? Our goal in supporting Knights of the Eternal Throne is to put emphasis on replayable multiplayer content in between those big story beats.”
“This time around we have things like Uprisings, which are four-player group content, that will eventually have three challenge modes,” Irving explained. “The hardest one being a really difficult challenge that we only expect the top tier of our players to be able to beat. We have the Dark-vs.-Light system with new world bosses that spawn that will require 8 to 16 players to defeat. [There are] things like repeatable chapters that let you relive some of your favorite moments as the Outlander. You can expect more of that stuff in between. We already have more Uprisings planned to come out in late January or early February as well as the harder difficulty modes that I mentioned before for things like Uprisings.”
Irving also emphasized that the first nine chapters of KOFTE received great reviews and “lots and lots and lots of people came back to enjoy Knights of the Fallen Empire.” So despite the mistakes in the later chapters of the last expansion, BioWare believes it was a success overall.
Mox from fan podcasts Corellian Run Radio and Passionately Casual Podcast then asked a follow-up question that really hammered home one of the major criticism of the new content. Players are not in love with the idea of Command Rank and the lock boxes for the endgame gear. Irving responded openly to this question, too.
“We’ve obviously heard the concerns from the community, which really boils down to one specific thing: In order to get my set bonus — which makes me as powerful as I can be — I need six out of seven specific items. What happens if I don’t ever in the 300 levels of Galactic Command end up with the piece that I need? We have a couple of thoughts on that. One, if in the future it turns out to be a problem, then we will be flexible. There are a lot of ways to solve this. We have talked about for people over a certain Command Rank adding a vendor just let them buy the missing piece that they have. If you get to Command Rank 200 and you never got the boots, all right you can go and buy the boots because you’ve played enough of the game.
“There are things like that that we can do if it turns out to be a problem. In all the testing we’ve done and the models we’ve run to see how this plays out for people, we really don’t believe that it will be a problem. But it’s really hard to know until we monitor player behavior and we monitor the things that players are actually repeating from the loot drops. But ultimately our answer is yes. If it turns out to be a problem, we will be sure to address it. We’re very flexible in those things. We want everyone to have fun playing the game, and we think adding this system contributes to that because you’re ultimately getting much more loot much faster than you did before.”
Flexibility and learning from mistakes really appear to be the theme of this latest expansion. But ultimately, the answer to the question of if the developers have actually learned their lesson is up to you. If you’re willing to give them a shot, the expansion is live right now. There is new group content, nine new chapters of an epic story, new veteran difficulty modes for solo and small groups, and of course, a new level cap which comes with new abilities. If you’d like to hear our thoughts on the new story for Knights of the Eternal Throne or just subscribe and discover it for yourself and subscribe today.