07/10/2017

More Road Map Thoughts

As mentioned in my last post, the announcement of the impending server merges kind of overshadowed everything else that was said in the road map update this week, but there certainly was more. The team at Bioware did a pretty good job at banging the PR drum for once actually, as the post was almost immediately followed-up by a Q&A on Twitch, and this weekend more information about upcoming content has been pouring in via the New York Cantina event.

First I'd like to look at something else though: namely the previous road map released in May. How accurate was it in hindsight? Did everything that was promised in it actually come to pass? The answer is no, but nonetheless the final verdict is positive - nothing that was mentioned in the previous road map has been outright cancelled; a few features that were said to come in the future without any specific time frame just haven't arrived yet but are clearly still being worked on (such as Unassembled Components becoming a legacy currency, the new warzone map, or more returning companions).

The new road map reiterates those points and gives the impression that Keith continues to be devoted to delivering a strong and varied line-up of new content. The next story update will bring back a former Imperial agent companion and has been co-written by famous Star Wars author Timothy Zahn, which gives it quite a pedigree. In terms of multiplayer PvE, there'll be another flashpoint and the next encounter in the Gods from the Machine operation. PvPers will get a new Civil War-type map set on Yavin 4. (I have to confess I'm a little disappointed by that in so far as the previous references to "a new warzone" had made me expect a new rule set, not just a new map, but we will see how interesting it is. Quesh Huttball was sufficiently different from The Pit to make it a fun addition anyway.) And Galactic Starfighter will see its first proper rebalancing in years as well as a new map. (Again, not as good as a new game mode, but a big step up from nothing!)

At the same time, an impressive amount of effort seems about to be invested in quality of life changes and polishing existing parts of the game, such as continued CXP changes and the addition of a special vendor for companion customisations that were previously unavailable to one faction. What intrigued me the most personally was the mention of plans to update Dark vs. Light, conquest and the group finder. Maybe the longer dark/light states will improve my chances of convincing my guildies to hunt down some of those special bosses. (Understandably people didn't want to jump out to go looking for them for an hour in the middle of an ops.) My interest in conquest has been waning for a while, and the incoming server merges will likely make it impossible for my small guild to ever compete again under the current rule set. But if they make changes to the system afterwards, who knows? I don't know what to think of the idea of a group finder revamp, because I do think the current one works fine, but I'm open to possibilities.

All in all, the current direction continues to be encouraging for long-time fans of the game. Sure, I've seen the occasional grumble from dedicated KotFE/KotET players who want to see nothing but new solo story content, but overall public perception seems to have improved a lot compared to say, a year ago. Even in places like the SWTOR Facebook page, where I'm used to the top comments usually being whines about how much the game sucks now, people are positively excited and discussing the new developments with interest. Not bad for a nearly six-year-old MMO, not bad at all.

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