SWTOR: Bioware Going Back to it’s Roots – A Disturbing Prospect

Hey everyone,

There have been a couple for new developments this week with SWTOR.

Firstly, EA published a ‘preview‘ of Knights of the Fallen Empire by Jesse Sky, the Creative Director for SWTOR. Basically Jesse blabs on and on about how Bioware are going back to their story-telling, RPG roots. Because we didn’t already know that…

Jesse summaries how capturing the ’emotional punch’ of The Empire Strikes Back and creating high quality of story telling, where choices mattered, with equally gravitating consequences, was the aim and focus of KOTFE. Just in case we didn’t already know…

When we began conceptualizing Knights of the Fallen Empire, the story was our first priority.

We decided very early on that we wanted to get back to our roots as a BioWare roleplaying game. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is the game that made me want to work for BioWare. It showed me just how immersive cinematic storytelling can be.

In its best moments, Star Wars: The Old Republic captures the same magic, but we want the whole experience to feel that way. That’s why we’re revisiting the early gameplay experience to focus entirely on the story, in addition to crafting a brand new epic storyline.

So basically a whole lot of blah blah blah we already knew about.

However one new thing they did hint at, is that they are revamping the companion system. What that means? We’ll have to wait and see. One last part I wanted to highlight:

Whether you start at Level 1 or Level 60, the game is going to feel a lot more like a traditional BioWare title. You won’t need any knowledge of the game to play the new story, and we aren’t going to pollute your story with needless grinding or travel. You can just focus on the parts of the game you like.

They’re certainly desperate to attract new players who aren’t MMO players while also trying to get old players to come back, which is nice I guess. But are they really going about this the right way? It seems they’re forgetting some of their player-base? Surely there is a way to appeal to all the different types of players? Well you’d think that.

But I guess their ‘metrics’ say otherwise. I’ll expand on this in a bit.

Needless to say, this post left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m becoming increasingly concerned about their focus on story as I’ve said before.

zakuul-troops

Secondly, the Senior Designer in charge of Operations and Flashpoints,  George Smith, wrote a post detailing the upcoming changes to Flashpoints and Operations.

To sum up. Basically they’re making flashpoints easier. They’ve made all the flashpoints which are important to the overall story soloable and have made most of the older flashpoints into tacticals. Oh and to top it all off we’re getting hard mode Red Reaper! YAY!!!!!!

But, the icing on the cake, is, they’re scaling all operations to level 65. Ooooo shiny! New content to grind for a new tier of gear when we hit 65!

Bahahahahahahaha! No.

There will be no NEW endgame content in KOTFE.

Basically, once we play through the intial nine chapters of the KOTFE story, all we’ll have to do between story updates is to play the same old content we’ve played already. Yawn.

As Michael said in State of the Galaxy: Episode 17, ‘why would anyone be excited for this?’

Bioware’s new found direction focusing on story is very troublesome for a game built and marketed, to an extent, to be a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (in case anyone had forgotten what MMORPG means). Unfortunately they seem adamant about going in this direction as we’ve already seen in their various E3 press interviews.

Despite all these changes, BiowWare is clear on thing: The Old Republic is still very much an MMO, with all that genre entails. It’s just been streamlined, with new options for the way each player approaches the game.

“I want to be really clear to our fans out there who are deep MMO fans. We’re not forgetting about that part of the game either,” said Hickman. “We just have a focus right now on the story. We’re doing lots of stuff around flashpoints and operations and raid bosses and PvP and that stuff. But it’s all about story this year.” – Polygon

They consider scaling and increasing the level of the current operations content sufficient to keep the players happy. Because apparently people like to repeat the same content over and over again for years at a time.

So TLDR we can forget seeing any new content at all for anything other then story this year.

SWTOR’s justification for the decision is somewhat founded, but, is also concerning:

We know that many players love our Operations and look forward to the introduction of new challenges, however with Knights of the Fallen Empire there will not be any new Operations. We felt it was important to first address some of the issues with our Elder Game before moving on to new content. These changes will allow us to be more flexible with how we release new content, as the content no longer needs to be tied to a new gear tier or level cap increase.

Kephess
Kephess at 65?! OMG!

They want to change how they approach raiding. But making gear tiers mean nothing? What will be the motivation to do new raids? New mounts, decor etc. will not be enough motivation to do the new raids and or it will be short lived. Michael and Justin discussed this on State of the Galaxy as well.

These changes might have worked better if they were made in conjunction with giving us a new raid or two as well. Making the gear grind,  in raiding, apparently obsolete seems strange to me.

Endgame is the Social Soul of SWTOR

My greatest concern is for my guild. We’re scrapping by, for now, grouping up and doing old content together. We can only keep repeating old content for so long until boredom sets in. That’s why having a decent cycle of new endgame content is so important. Even for more casual guilds like mine. Ideally every 6 months to a year at the absolute maximum.

Yes the story sounds like it’s going to be fantastic! But what are we all supposed to do while waiting for the next chapter of the story? Story not only doesn’t take very long to complete, it’s also not very repeatable. Therefore it is unsustainable content.

Traditional MMO endgame content (operations, warzones) by design, are repeatable and are therefore far more sustainable content. Endgame content and other types of group content keep player’s engaged for far longer then story content will ever be capable of. But even endgame content becomes stale. For the more dedicated players it only takes a 2-4 months, for more casual players 6 – 8 months. And with raiders having nothing new to look forward to, why should they keep playing?

I’m concerned they haven’t thought this expansion through completely (or have they?). Ignoring all other parts of the game and putting their resources and focus into one part only is not a good sign. This change in philosophy is apparently influenced by the numbers. Many have questioned Bioware’s ability to measure metrics and interpret them. Like Miner always says (and something I also learnt in my statistics class I failed at Uni) is that correlation does not imply causation.

So what does the future hold for guilds and social players? You know, that’s the whole point of an MMO right? To socialise? Keeping things fresh and engaging is the whole point of endgame content while also providing a meaningful tool for socialising. There will no longer be any reason to make friends or be in a guild anymore if they keep up the momentum of focusing on solo story content. 

SWTOR_Sacrifice2
Is the ‘sacrifice’ worth it?

Ouch my face!

To be honest, this new-found emphasise on story is yet another massive slap in the face to PvPers. PvP is the main thing I do outside of playing through story content. It’s been nearly two years since we’ve had any new type of warzone. PvP has been ignored, trampled on and trashed by the devs for so long. Now it seems operations are also getting the same treatment by the devs.

Many players bag out PvP as being full of arrogant, winy assholes. To be fair, there are just as many assholes in PvE but, you don’t come across them as easily. (Being in a guild or playing on your own can shelter you somewhat). Ultimately, the perceived ‘asshole’ problem isn’t just a SWTOR issue. It effects the entire sphere of gaming to varying degrees.* So get over it. It’s hardly worth complaining about or using it as an excuse, on the part of the devs, for yourself to not participate or to bag out people who like PvP.**

It’s disappointing to see them dedicating so many more resources to story and putting so little into PvP. If they had kept the momentum of producing PvP content (they should have released 2 more new types of warzones by now at least), the state of the PvP would certainly be better then what it is now. There would be more players. Bioware need to understand that they need to create the content and do so at least yearly to get players to stay. Other decisions they’ve made haven’t helped either. For instance, the removal of 8v8 Ranked to make way for 4v4’s.. 

sarlacc
Is it time to throw it all in?

One question I see asked quite a lot by the ignorant, is why do people still play PvP in SWTOR? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but for me personally, I love Star Wars and other Science Fiction. So SWTOR is the perfect game for me to immerse myself in a galaxy I adore. Not just in a story sense but to challenge myself competitively, to socialise and have fun in a way only a game can provide. That is why I PvP in SWTOR. I still do enjoy it but not as much as I used to.

This brings me back to my point of keeping the content fresh by providing regular updates. Introducing a new warzone map for instance would certainly freshen things up and attract former players and re-motivate current players a like to PvP.

Conclusion: This won’t improve the SWTOR’s Efficiency

Let me be clear. My main issue isn’t with the lack of new content. I am far more disturbed by SWTOR’s very dramatic change in philosophy to focus on story at the expense of ‘MMO content’. I’m worried what this will mean in the long term for the many guilds and players clinging onto SWTOR. Ignoring the ‘MMO bits’ is going to cost them.

Try to see the big picture here. You might think everything is all smiles and rainbows but long term, you’ll likely get bored of running content you’ve already been running for the past few years. Or maybe you won’t? Perhaps my concerns are unfounded, perhaps they are not. Only time will tell. Either way, I’m not feeling very optimistic about the future of MMO Content in SWTOR at the moment.

Here’s some food for thought from SWTOR Economics:

 

I’ll let him expand on his theory. Perhaps not all is lost after all? I guess those of us wanting a social experience in the Star Wars universe we all love, will have to move over to Star Wars: Battlefront when the time comes.

What do you think of Bioware Austin’s philosophy change and new found focus on story for SWTOR? Have you unsubscribed due to the bleak prospects for endgame content or have you been away for a while? 

*The ‘asshole’ problem in gaming is certainly an issue worth discussing. But for another time. This isn’t the post for it.
** I have a post I’m working on about more the whole PvPer’s being ‘assholes’ thing in SWTOR.

 

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  • dxun

    Great read as always Rach. I’ve made my peace with SWTOR and moved on. It was hard as I really want to play a Star Wars MMO. 4 years of giving them chances and time. But the lack of transparency and them ignoring the awesome community that is the SWTOR Community. I just cant pretend anymore that bioware will make it all better. That being said good luck with whatever you decide to do.

    -ducks

    • Yeah I’m the same. I love Star Wars and I’ve had some fun times with SWTOR, despite lots of bad stuff. But yeah.. I’m still undecided at this point what I’m going to do..