Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR’s strange and fascinating journey through 2023


There’s a shot right at the end of Empire Strikes Back that’s always struck me as the most profound in the entire franchise. The good guys spent a bulk of the movie getting slammed around and beaten up, yet they haven’t surrendered hope. This is communicated in the shot of Luke and Leia looking out of the medical frigate’s window at the bright galaxy and the Falcon soaring off on a rescue mission.

That’s kind of the position that Star Wars: The Old Republic is in as we wind down 2023. It’s a game that’s been neglected, underserved, and cast off by its former handlers. Yet it’s also a game that’s holding onto hope for a better and brighter future. In today’s column, I’m going to trace the journey that SWTOR’s made over the past year to see how this MMO ended up where it’s at today.

SWTOR kicked off the year by crowing about how players racked up over 158 billion conquest points in 2022. This wasn’t enough to keep it off of our list of MMOs with the most uncertain futures — which ended up being somewhat prophetic, in hindsight!

The first significant patch of the year came at the end of March with the 64-bit client, Galactic Season 4, and PvP Season 2. The devs also hoped to use this patch to counter the runaway inflation that SWTOR had become sadly known for. Shortly thereafter, the game started testing cloud-based servers, which was another step toward beefing up the MMO’s backend.

Star Wars Day arrived this year with the advance reveal of Update 7.3: Old Wounds. This would take players back to Voss for a new area, added the Shrine of Silence flashpoint, made more economy adjustments, and brought back the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife event. The patch officially went live on June 13th.

Late in May, the community came together to hold a vigil for Star Wars actor Ray Stevenson, who died at the age of 58.

Shockwaves rippled through the SWTOR community at the start of June when SWTOR announced that it was moving from BioWare to Broadsword Games along with about half of its development team. Electronic Arts said that it would still publish the game but that BioWare effectively wanted out of the MMORPG genre altogether. The dev team assured fans that the MMO was most certainly not going into maintenance mode.

Such a transition naturally elicited a wide range of responses among players and developers alike. While some people were anxious about the long-term future of the game, many — including ex-BioWare’s Damion Schubert — looked at this as a positive move forward.

Even we had opinions on the subject, with Eliot calling it a “win for Broadsword.” And I posted a top 10 article about why I thought SWTOR was still a lot of fun to play even in 2023. In fact, I later said how the announcement of the move was the catalyst that got me back into the game this year (and I’m still playing!).

However, I later posted that I strongly felt Broadsword needed to reassure fans: “What’s important for this game’s health is that it needs to stay in the spotlight with positive actions and direction. It needs to say what it’s going to do — and then carry out that vision to show that it’s a trustworthy entity.”

Oh no problems.

Even with the messy move happening in the background, life in SWTOR continued — as did updates. PvP Season 3 began in July, and the MMO itself got another canon nod thanks to an official Star Wars comic book.

The team started the transition of old servers to the new cloud-based ones in mid-August, doing just one or two at a time. More happened later that month, and the cloud migration finally wrapped up in mid-September.

Galactic Season 5 came roaring onto the playfield in early September with Update 7.3.1. This patch was loaded with quality-of-life improvements such as a higher cap for auction hall bidding, map changes, and quick travel price scaling. The team also introduced outfits “inspired by” the Ahsoka Disney+ series, despite the MMO taking place thousands of years prior. A very small follow-up patch in early October made sprinting available from level 1.

SWTOR’s first big dev livestream of the Broadsword era happened in October as the team previewed Update 7.4. As that went into testing, I asked the question of whether or not SWTOR’s visuals had aged well over the years.

A surprise announcement that SWTOR was (re)opening an Australian-based server in mid-November was a huge cause for celebration, especially for those in Oceania who were still bitter that BioWare took their realms away years ago.

And finally, Update 7.4: Chains in the Dark arrived in early December, marking the last patch that was under development from SWTOR’s BioWare days. The update took players back to Ord Mantell for a new area, storyline, and world boss — as well as a welcome overhaul of the Galactic Trade Network.

Barring any final surprises for the year, that’s a wrap on SWTOR’s 2023! I’m intensely curious to hear what Broadsword has in store for the game in 2024, especially now that the team has settled into its new digs and the MMO is enjoying the benefits of cloud-based servers, 64-bit architecture, and an Aussie realm.

When the mood strikes, the MOP team jumps into our T-16 back home, rides through the hypergates of BioWare‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic, and posts about our adventures in the Hyperspace Beacon. Now strap yourself in, kid — we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!
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