Hyperspace Beacon: What was not said in the SWTOR 2018 Roadmap

Star Wars: The Old Republic players leaped for joy when Producer Keith Kanneg finally released the winter and spring 2018 roadmap last week. It was good to hear from him after so much silence over the holidays. I don’t begrudge the silence, personally. It’s typical for people in the games industry to slow down some over the November and December holidays. And many companies do not receive their annual budget until mid-to-late January. So the simple truth is that BioWare Austin probably couldn’t make any real promises for 2018 until February.

Also, Kanneg made some great statements at the beginning of his letter to the SWTOR fans. He said, “We’ve decided to use the Forums as the means to get you the information about the next couple months versus waiting for a Roadmap.” I’m completely on board with this. And I hope that SWTOR fans on the forums allow the developers to be more open and honest with their communication. That would mean that there will probably be things that are said that have to be taken back and more we-hope-we-can-do-this statements that aren’t actually promises.

Despite the good things, there were a few subjects that weren’t talked about or were glossed over in the roadmap that do raise some concerns.

Anthem and Star Wars license issues

I’m not naive; I don’t expect BioWare to tell us that it is in trouble and that the ship is sinking if it is. As a studio, it has to make as much money as it can while it still can, and telling us that everything is trouble would be a bad move. However, I would like to mention that Kanneg didn’t mention the rumors at all.

It could mean nothing. Perhaps Kanneg was completely focused on what his team was doing and wanted to just promote the things that SWTOR was going to do over the next couple of months. But given the rumors that EA was having issues with the Star Wars license and BioWare was shifting resources to Anthem, it would seem prudent to at least have given the situation a nod. “There is still a substantial team working on SWTOR,” or maybe “Despite many resources being shifted, that it is only temporary, and it will not stop the size and quality of SWTOR content” would have been a big comfort to players. But that wasn’t said.

The worst-case scenario is that everything will be sunset before 6.0, but I don’t believe that’s happening. However, it is possible that many things at BioWare Austin are contingent on the performance of the delayed Anthem, and Kanneg just doesn’t know how things are going to play out and cannot make definite plans. I’ll talk more about what wasn’t said about the plans in a bit.

Not many people are raiding anymore

When talking about Izax the destroyer, the final boss of the Gods of the Machine Operation, Kanneg said that he had to leave out full master-mode for that boss.

“There will be two modes with Izax; Story and Master mode,” he wrote. “This also means we will not be offering a full Master Mode for all bosses in the Operation. This was an especially difficult decision for me to make, as I have loved the interaction between developers and our raiding community. Yet, based on what we’re planning for this year and beyond, it’s better to focus on the upcoming group content.”

Perhaps I’m being super pessimistic about this statement, but it sounds to me like there just aren’t enough high-end raiders to cater to anymore. Kanneg is a community person; he was the Community Manager’s direct boss before taking on the role as Producer. It’s clear to me that his working directly with raiding teams was a pet project for him. As a person who has had many a pet project in his life, I can tell you that you don’t just drop your pet project because there isn’t enough time. The project has to be genuinely bad for you or the overall company if you are forced to drop it.

If I’m reading between the lines correctly, the investment of time would cost the studio too much money for the number of people who would be willing to participate in the activity. Kanneg mentions that the team will create more content for Galactic Starfighter, which as we know is an activity that barely gets any traction from the community. And if the developers are willing to toss more time and money at that, then there must be next to no one doing top-level raiding.

We might not get an expansion in 6.0

Update 6.0 is coming, and the community has been asking for a traditional expansion model that we’ve seen since Rise of the Hutt Cartel, but Kanneg has a slightly different idea.

“I like having updates released regularly versus waiting long periods of time in-between patches. Although this remains our current plan, we are also laying out what we’ll include in a 6.0 Game Update.”

I could be completely wrong about this, but I don’t think we are going to get a new expansion that even comes close to mirroring our last three. If I were to take a guess — reading between the lines again — I would say that we are going to see a different story drop with the introduction of 6.0 and maybe a level increase. Beyond that, I believe other parts of the game like new warzones, flashpoints, and operation bosses will be introduced with updates beyond 6.0.

Personally, I’m OK with this kind of updating, but I suspect I’m in the minority. I like to have a reason to return to a game every month or so instead of just once a year. But the problem with that kind of model is that studios can’t generate as much hype off a small update. That also means that we will likely not have the hypetrain that we’ve had for the other expansions. No Blur trailer, guys; sorry.

Despite this, I’m still positive about SWTOR. I believe that the story is still good, and I love the world that’s been built there. But what are your thoughts? Did you read the same things between the lines of the roadmap? What did you find there? Let me know in the comments below.

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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