20/12/2017

Six Years of SWTOR

Once again, SWTOR's birthday has come around. I can't believe it's been six years since it launched - in internet time, that feels like forever! Even with a lack of new major MMOs coming out, I bet it's becoming somewhat hard for them by now to attract new players at this point. Then again, the game seems to be holding up alright, especially when you consider the news coming out of other MMOs that came out the same year these days...


Fun fact: I only bought that new assault cannon the other day and because I knew that this post was coming up. I didn't want to be seen using the same weapon two years in a row; I mean how terrible would that be?

2017 has been yet another interesting year for Bioware. They just can't seem to do boring and routine, can they? Mainly we saw a shift back towards paying attention to the game's "MMO bits". We still got story updates too of course, three of them to be precise (Iokath, Umbara and Copero), but that's nothing compared to the deluge of story chapters that had been released over the course of 2016. However, at the same time we got our first new operation since 2014 (well, three out of five bosses anyway), two new "proper" flashpoints of the kind we also hadn't seen since 2014, a new daily area (not seen since 2015), a new warzone (we had one of those last year to be fair), and a new Galactic Starfighter map (also something we hadn't seen since 2014).

I've welcomed this change in direction overall, but I do have to admit that in terms of output this hasn't been SWTOR's most productive year. In fact, this was the first year since 2011/12 that Bioware didn't release a new expansion. I suppose this isn't something you need to read too much into, considering that it's always been a bit arbitrary what they decide to call an expansion and what not, but to a long-term player of the game it's still noticeable. I think the current speculation is that we'll see a new expansion announcement in early 2018, once the current story arc has been wrapped up. It might even tie into the new expansion the way Forged Alliances became a prelude to Shadow of Revan.

Also, because you can never please everyone, we now have people complaining that Bioware is paying too much attention to things they personally don't care about, and asking why everything isn't about single player story anymore. Even if I'm happy with the change of focus personally, I think that if you joined the game within the last one and a half years, it's a reasonable complaint to have. Changing focus all the time just isn't a good idea for any business. That, and "we have half a new raid again" doesn't make for as much good PR as a shiny CGI trailer with a whole self-contained story in it.

My personal theory is that a lot of development time this year ended up being sacrificed to retooling things. The dumpster fire that was Galactic Command's release and how it was received by the community at the end of 2016 took several months to be shaped into a somewhat more acceptable version of endgame (largely by back-pedalling on a lot of decisions and trying to make them sound like new and exciting changes), and later in the year server merges were announced, something that had clearly required some background work to minimise disruptions as well. Finally the group finder was revamped towards the end of the year, and according to Keith's road map from earlier in the year, changes to Conquest are in the works for early 2018. The time to work on things like that has to come out of somewhere, and I'm guessing that's why we saw less actual new content come out in 2017. Whether that's a good investment of the devs' time depends on where your priorities lie I guess.

Either way, I'm still loving the game and looking forward to what's coming next. (I was really down on it after Galactic Command's initial release, but they managed to turn things around for me at least.) Here's hoping that if they actually manage to stick to their current direction for a while, the speed at which they can release updates will increase once again after they manage to get back into the swing of things. Happy Birthday, SWTOR!

3 comments :

  1. As another long-term player of the game, I too was concerned that we didn't receive an expansion, but you hit the right spot, I think, by mentioning that none of the SWTOR expansions felt like real ones. The upside to that was the fact that most (now all) of them were included with the monthly subscription.

    Happy Birthday to SWTOR and Happy Holidays to you, Shintar!

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