By missing the middle part of SWTOR, I really missed out on the large changes in direction the game has taken over the years. Sure, reading blogs helps keep somewhat up to date, but the details are generally glossed over. I know Galactic Command was reviled, but without experiencing it, I can’t articulate exactly why. Whereas I can at length and detail, describe why garrisons in WoW acted as a wrecking ball.
And to that point, SWTOR is a themepark MMO, and it’s judged in a similar vein. How is the world built, how does the story flow through, are the classes interesting, does crafting have any merit, how many bears do I have to kill? Each themepark takes a different approach to answering them, though in fairness SWTOR at launch tried to answer them by coping off WoW’s dev bible without understanding why.
I’ve gone over SWTOR at launch to a fair degree. Bugs aside, it lacked a significant amount of social interaction, the worlds were open and empty, the classes lacked thoughtful design, and the game just ended at level 50. Within a few months of launch, the game subs dropped by 90%, and the F2P model was applied (with absolute horrible mechanics). Various attempts to salvage were applied, expansion packs and content at various degrees, and it’s in a relatively stable space today. I’d argue in the west that SWTOR today is #3 after FF14 & WoW, though Daybreak may have a thing to say about that. More to the point, dozens of MMORPGs have come and gone, and SWTOR is still kicking. So ya to that!
Looking Forwards and Back
Having done the KOTFE/KOTET and the Onslaught storylines (or rather, the mandatory ones) I wanted to clean up some space in the legacy side. I finished up my Sith Warrior’s storyline to get the entire Imperial story unlocked. I also started up some Republic characters to see the starting areas once again. Bear in mind, this is content that has never been retouched since launch (8 years ago!) and my mind is set in content that is current. In WoW terms, that’s when Cataclysm launched and redid all the 1-60 zones.
The more recent SWTOR is focused, and designed with intent. While Onderon may be a jungle planet, there are distinct areas to visit, and with a quick glance you can recognize your place. Trainers are close by. Transports are evenly distributed. Quests follow a logical sense.
Compared to something like Corellia, where the zone is 4 times as big but has 10x less content. Enemies are seemingly randomly placed, and the various objectives have you going to one corner, then another quite a distance away. It’s like someone threw darts at a map on the wall. Other planets aren’t much better. Tython has you going through open spaces and over hills, plowing through raiders with no real rhyme or reason. The world is artificially big, like it was padding for time. Coruscant is a great example, in particular the sewer/power plant area which serves no actual purpose. It’s just a wall of meat.
I can see the growth from KOTFE’s more linear structure through KOTET’s attempts are wider zones with clear paths. The breadcrumbs throughout pull you along. It feels like it respects your time more, with a narrower scope. It forces you to do stuff rather than spend 75% of the time getting there and clicking an object, only to be told to go back to the starting point.
Every MMO hits a few crisis points along the way. Some are caused by an individual, some by ignorance, some simply by accrual of bad bets. FF14 took the trophy on that with the original launch, and since then has taken a very long term approach with every decision. WoW looks only to the next expansion, and the lack of planning paints them into corners every so often.
I’m not sure how far SWTOR looks ahead. I know KOTET was planned to be 2 expansions but due to feedback from KOTFE it was condensed to a single. I would assume that episodic content in a similar style is in the cards. From what I can see so far, it’s generally receptive to player feedback and course corrects where possible. I don’t think it can really afford not to. Moreso, with the Disney/EA partnership on Star Wars coming to an end, I’d expect that concrete roadmap plans are shared early in the new year. Should be interesting.