Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR’s year-end report card for 2018


Every year, I place Star Wars: The Old Republic on a scale and weigh it against the Bartle Taxonomy, giving the different aspects letter grades based on where I believe this MMORPG falls into the different quadrants. It’s the end of the year, BioWare, so let’s grade SWTOR.

Bartle’s Taxonomy divides player activities along two axes. The first axis places the world focus against player focus, and the second axis places acting against interacting. As with many taxonomies, this creates four quadrants. The interacting and player quadrant is the Socializer quadrant; the opposite of that is the Achiever quadrant. The acting and player side is called the Killer quadrant by Bartle, but I like to say that it’s more competitor than killer because the connotation in “Killer” is griefing. Although griefing does fall in the extreme corner of this quadrant, the whole quadrant isn’t about that. And lastly, the interacting and world quadrant is where Explorers fall.

For those not familiar with the American letter grading system, an A is a top grade where a D is the lowest passing grade, but an F is a failing grade. Why is there no E grade? I don’t know; I was just born here. I didn’t make up the system.

Socializer: C+

I’m going to repeat this a lot during this article: Most of the key changes and additions to the game in 2018 actually happened within the last month. And although I really like many of the additions to the game given to us this December, that does not make up for the extremely stagnant months prior to Update 5.10.

The beginning of 2018 was a horrible time for the social SWTOR fan. The server merges had allowed for larger group content for many players, but it also forced groups of people together that were in direct odds with each other. I’m talking, of course, about the PvPers and the roleplayers. I understand that the Satele Shan server fared better, but the Star Forge server was a mess. The big roleplay communities on multiple servers merged with the highly populated Shadowlands server focused on PvE. This was not a good move for either server. Although the merges happened in 2017, the fallout from the move was all 2018, and consequently we saw a steep drop in both communities.

At the beginning of the year, there just wasn’t enough content catering to either crowd to justify sticking around. If you watched some of the last few episodes of the Choose My Alignment SWTOR livestream that MJ and I do, then you probably noticed that I had to sit out many of the story quests because they wouldn’t even let me into the flashpoints to observe, cutting even further into possible social activities.

But things changed by the end of the year. The Rishi stronghold, the completion of the Gods of the Machine operation, and the open world of Ossus made for some fantastic potential changes to the game. Unfortunately, we will likely not see the fruit of those changes until 2019. If I were to judge the Socializer content by the last few months alone, I would give it higher marks, but taking the year as a whole, I had to give it a C+. The plus was because of the potential added at the end.

Achiever: C

I like to jokingly say that Achievers see a bar and want to fill it up. If there is a number that has a limit, they will try to reach it. But the truth is that Achievers like the challenge of reaching those high numbers or filling those bars. Many times, games will see Achievers fall off the game if there isn’t any new content for an extended period of time or if the game is asking the achiever just to reach the same goal again. And in this category, SWTOR’s suffered again. Sure, there have been new bars for the Achievers to fill, but for most of the year, there hasn’t been any challenge to it at all. There also haven’t been that many bars to fill.

The new datacrons and other achievements in “Jedi Under Siege” did start to turn things around, but I don’t think I need to repeat that Update 5.10 came out only a month ago. Eleven other months sat mostly empty. I think it’s clear why I gave this category the grade I did, and it was only this last month that saved the game from receiving an even lower grade.

Killer: B-

This category is very difficult for me because the PvP community, which makes up the majority of this category, has been so loud and frankly toxic about the issues in PvP that it’s hard to interpret from the back line what’s really happening with the PvP scene. If I based this grade solely on what the PvP community was saying, then it’s clear that I would give it a failing grade, but out of all the different categories here, the Killer category actually received the most attention. (Whether players considered it all good or sufficient attention is another story.) And although BioWare made some major missteps with gearing and class balance – as it always does – the other additions in the Killer category have been great.

I could point out the cross-faction action on Ossus with Update 5.10, or I could point out the guild challenges that focus on competition of all types. But I think the biggest boon for the Killers was the Rishi stronghold. I know that some are going to disagree with me, but I believe that Rishi — hands down — showed the Killer community that BioWare wants to keep them around. It’s the first stronghold to have a PvP focus. The stronghold has a customizable Huttball arena, for goodness sake! It’s genuinely innovative for this game, and I believe sets the precedent for future Killer content.

Explorer: F

I really debated this grade. There are a handful of things that SWTOR did this year that Explorers would like, but again like most of the content, it was in the last month. There were 11 other months with practically nothing, and the Explorers were just left out in the cold. I get it: Explorers are hard to build for, but flashpoint content really isn’t the way to win them over. Ossus is great; it’s practically a full new planet to explore. But that doesn’t cut it.

I know that many of you are going to disagree with the grades that I have given these categories, so here is your chance to tell me where I was wrong in the comments. I would like to read your thought-filled responses explaining what great you would give SWTOR in each of these categories.

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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3 years ago

That all seems very generous for the year SWTOR just had. A year of almost no content, a summer of PvP and a focus on an operation that by their own admission not many people play.

An MMO that was to make its name by bringing the fourth pillar of story appears under its current producer what to give minimal lip service to story, while focusing on mini game PvP and group content for a small part of the demographic.

While at the same time seeing a new tier of gear grind as being content. No wonder people are upset with the fixed placement of mods and enhancements and set piece bonuses not stacking with old sets. This is basically the design plan to keep people busy for the next 7 months or so before the next tier of augments is released for my gear grinding.

It would be so nice if they could look at ESO and put out content to keep people entertained as opposed to the next tier or 2 of gear grinding.

Kickstarter Donor
3 years ago

As a casual observer (dipped back in over the break but didn’t get a chance to play too much so I haven’t resubbed to finish the last KotFE episode or the KotET storyline, or the new content) these all seem pretty on-point to me, though that may be in part due to my ignorance.

2018 really did seem like a pretty bad year for SWTOR, not much in the way of exciting new launches until December. I imagine part of that is due to the natural decline of the game, but a big part is also devs being moved to work on Anthem. Really hoping once BW gets their team back (I think some have started moving back but many are still missing?) they can start ratcheting things back up.

All I want for 2019 is either a major overhaul to the Command system that detaches it from the subscription (maybe giving non-subs reduced XP, or preferably giving non-subs normal XP and subs boosted XP) or does away with it altogether.

I still think the game really needs to improve the non-sub experience and work on making the sub much more of a “value add” rather than making that the default and non-subs have a “limited experience”. Always much more of a fan of, and much more willing and happy to spend money on games that provide excellent “free” experiences that make up the “base” version with subs and purchases granting perks (ESO, for example) rather than the SWTOR approach of hacking up the game to limit free players and only grant “full” access to the game with a sub. I know they talked about this in interviews a few times many years ago, and it’s disappointing that there never seems to have been any movement on that front : (

Sana Tan(@xenoncripton)
3 years ago

“the PvP community…has been so loud and frankly toxic about the issues in PvP”

Pvper here. I don’t consider myself toxic, but am I upset with SWTOR? Yes!!!!!

The devs have done all they could to make it impossible to enjoy PVP. I’m talking mainly about the gearing system. One might think that because they added the new matchmaking and Vandin warzone, PVP is in a fine place.

But sadly the gear grind overshadows everything.

The devs don’t listen at all. Most of us that dropped the sub can’t write in the forums so the ones that still play and write there are reasonable mad, they are paying for it.

The ironic part is that the devs asked for our feedback in PTS. There were tons of threads asking to revert or fix the new grind but they didn’t listen. They also screwed min/maxing intentionally, that was the last straw for many. A system with the only objective of making us grind more. Which was the reason why many left in 5.0! They don’t learn.