It has been just over a month since Star Wars: The Old Republic Game Update 1.3: Allies went live. Server transfers are complete, and BioWare is in the process of moving the remaining players from origin servers to the twelve destination servers by way of automatic transfers. The looking for group system gives players a way to streamline the lengthy process of finding a group to tackle content. Both of these tools are great ways to help players come together and enjoy the already established Warzones, Flashpoints, and Operations. However, new content is the lifeblood of any massively multiplayer online game. For my thoughts on the future of SWTOR, hit the jump.
With no new content since April, BioWare is making it easy for players to find a reason to stop playing. Along with other players, I felt invigorated after the initial server transfers began. Player activity went from about 80 Republic players total logged in during prime hours, to nearly 250 players on Carrick Station alone. Warzone queues took less time, and I found myself fighting new players rather than the same people I faced three times already in the last half hour. Despite the not-yet-implemented looking for group system at the time, players were using general chat to form groups for Flashpoints, something I had not seen since December when the Esseles was still fresh. With people buying and selling on the Galactic Trade Network, players flexing their PvP-muscles in the combat training area, and socializing huddles around bank terminals, the game felt alive again.
When the Group Finder system arrived in Game Update 1.3, I felt like it pushed me towards flashpoints, in a good way. My Jedi Knight Guardian had a few pieces of Recruit and old Centurion gear, but not nearly suitable enough to take on some of the harder Flashpoints, or even beginner operations like the Eternity Vault. For others, the looking for group system was a way for BioWare to respect players’ time. Instead of spending close to an hour on the fleet hovering over general chat LFG spam, players could simply click a few buttons and have the system look for them while they do something else. The system is not perfect; there is no indication of estimated time before a group is formed, and damage dealing players still wait longer than tanks or healers due to combat dynamics. Regardless, the looking for group systems gives players a way to do the things they want while lowering—or skipping—the prep time required.
As great as these additions are, they do not give players looking for new content a reason to log in. Ranked Warzones give an extra level of competitiveness, but we are still playing the same four Warzones we have had for the last four months. The Group Finder system makes grouping easy, as it should, but even the most recent Flashpoint, Lost Island, still deals with a storyline from way back in January. We now have people to play with, and a way to play with them, now give us something to play.
I believe the pace of game updates directly reflects not only the satisfaction of players, but their activity as well. In December 2009, Blizzard released what was supposed to be their final content update for the Wrath of Lich King expansion, even though the next bit of content, their next expansion Cataclysm, was not due until fall the next year. As a result, Blizzard caved partly through the drought of content and released a patch that included a new single-encounter raid. I do not want BioWare to be like Blizzard. I want BioWare to be more like Trion Worlds. In its first six months live, RIFT received five content updates, each adding a new type of raid or other endgame content. More content means more players logging in and enjoying the game.
With the upcoming holiday release schedule starting up in only a few weeks, unless BioWare does something soon, they could see even more players dropping the game in favor of the non-MMO competition.