With it now over six months since the launch of BioWare’s highly anticipated MMORPG, Star Wars: The Old Republic, we here at Darth Hater feel like it’s time to look back at the time we’ve had with the game and reflect. You’ll get our opinions on just about everything, including what we think BioWare did right with the game and what they can work on to improve the game we’ve all grown to love.
This is the first in a four-part series. As always, feel free to comment and leave your thoughts in the section below.
Features & Implementation
Eruptive: I feel like this is a feature that every modern MMORPG is going to require, if not at launch then very soon after. If SWTOR had it at the beginning, I honestly feel like it would've retained subscriptions and the game would generally be in a better place. Ah well, it’s easy to look back and say these things, but realistically, if we expect every feature that other MMO had years to work on at launch, then we’d never have a game! Back to the feature at hand: the Group Finder works for what it’s supposed to do. People who complain that it’s broken really have to understand that it’s just a tool for people to use. If people aren’t queuing for the content you want or you’re queuing as a damage dealer, it’ll take a while to get a group unless you’re extremely lucky. My only major gripe with it at the moment is that is doesn’t take you back to where you queued when it’s over. At 50 that’s okay, but when levelling alts it’s a real pain to have all that travel time after a Flashpoint. I know they’re working on it, but I figure this would be a top priority thing for a feature like this.
Sterling: Full disclosure, I was not a big fan of the idea. I’ve done perfectly fine in other titles without an LFG tool, and I was doing just fine in SWTOR without it. But after seeing the doors the system has opened up in terms of quick action and short play sessions, I’m convinced it was the right choice. Now people who aren’t a part of major or highly-organized guild actually have a chance at seeing the majority of the game’s content. Yes, there are still some hiccups, things like gear or role checks (or lack thereof), some queuing wonkiness and the inability to return to the location you queued from. Even with that in mind, in my book the system has been a resounding success.
LordBurek: While I did Flashpoints just fine without the LFG tool for the first couple of months, it became increasingly necessary as time wore on. It would have been great to have as a launch feature, but I think the current implementation is quite good, bearing in mind the few minor gripes that others have already expressed. The doomsaying regarding the feature appears to have been for naught.
Having said that, I am not opposed to cross-server Group Finder and I hope it is implemented soon to reduce queue times. It isn’t enough to just have the feature, it needs to group people as efficiently and quickly as possible. Incentives for needed roles like tanks and healers should also be implemented to further reduce queue times.
Jaspor: Group finder seems to be pretty popular and successful, though I still see players complaining that they sit in the queue waiting to be matched for longer than they would like. As a healer, I’ve been getting matched up very quickly. It does seem like many people are using it, so I suspect that the long wait times are not so much caused by lack of people, but lack of tanks and healers. Which means that making it "cross-server" wouldn’t necessarily solve the problem. One possible solution would be to offer some additional incentives for players queuing up as the less-popular roles.
Koryalis: This is a feature that I have come to love. It has its issues, but its benefits greatly outweigh any flaws it has. The only real shame was that it took so long for it to come out, which slowed leveling for a lot of people in smaller guilds and cut people out of a lot of the early content.
Now, instead of having to sit and wait on Fleet and hope someone else was looking for the same Flashpoint, I can press a button and go about my questing. It might take a while to get a group, but that time can now be spent finishing a planet or socializing; we’re no longer trapped on the Fleet station. Even better is that it only draws on people from your own server. It helps everyone get to know each other a bit more and helps bring the server together. It's useful.
Eruptive: I haven’t had too much experience here, so I’m not able to say much on the topic. There’s the issue of some people wanting to have a solo queue for it, which I don’t think should happen. It’s the same reason that you can’t queue for the harder-difficulty Operations via Group Finder: there’s a higher level of coordination, skill and gear that’s required and PuGs just don’t have that. Also, if they did allow solo queue without changing how rewards work, there’ll be no reason to play regular Warzones because a loss in a rated match gets you more Ranked commendations than a 8 medal win would in a regular game.
LordBurek: While the addition of Ranked Warzones is a boon for the game, I’m not sure the implementation was great. It took a while, and then when it finally launched there was no option to queue solo. While I understand the reasoning here, my (admittedly small) poll I did last week on the PvP column shows that a lot more people would be doing Ranked Warzones if they could queue solo. This is something that should be addressed quickly. I’m already hearing PvPers complaining of a lack of Ranked opponents during primetime. Surely, a more robust Ranked system could only help the general situation.
Jaspor: I was excited to try Ranked Warzones when they came out. I’m still excited to try Ranked Warzones. The problem is that there aren’t a whole lot of players participating and it’s difficult to find a group to run them with unless you’ve already got a dedicated guild group or pre-made. While in this situation cross-server queuing could improve the wait time for rated matches to spawn, that still won’t make it easier for full groups of 8 people to form up and queue. The initial public test server implementation of Rated Warzones included solo queuing, something that I would love to see come back sooner rather than later.
Koryalis: This is something I have yet to try, unfortunately. It is a fairly good idea, but as with Ops, it’s difficult to get the necessary group of people together for a match. It is a nice addition, though I hear balancing is still an issue, which might take the fun out of it for most people. It gives the heavy PvPers something to work towards, which is better than what they had before, and I am glad to hear of the lack of a single-queue system. I know such a claim might get me yelled at in some quarters of the forums for that, but I understand their reasoning. I dont want my rating determined by someone I dont know and haven’t trained with. Unlike Operations, where the biggest risk is a high repair bill, losing a Rated results in the loss of points, which are not easy to get back.
Eruptive: Probably the single, most beneficial thing BioWare’s done since launch to breathe life back into the game. There are people everywhere, doing all sorts of content, and it’s really nice seeing that. Coming from a server that had ~30 people on Fleet during prime time, this is very welcome. There are a couple little things I wish would’ve gone smoother during the transition, but I imagine they wanted to get it started ASAP without worrying about all the little things. The only real issue I had was had was having to hold onto the guild bank’s contents for about a week and a half before we got it restored. This next bit doesn’t really affect me as much, but I feel like BioWare could’ve done something to let people know that their friends/guild mates have transferred over instead of leaving them to figure out for themselves if they had quit or transferred.
Sterling: It’s rare that a single action by a developer has such a marked impact on a game. I know, I know, the SWG veterans are already writing the NGE comments, but bear with me here. SWTOR went from a scattering of players pining for a community to be a part of, to a series of centralized hubs teeming with life. There were some moving pains, and many others and I lost some of their cherished names, but if the alternative was to play in an environment that prevented me from experiencing most of the game, that’s a price I’m willing to pay.
LordBurek: I’m glad they were implemented. Calling them transfers when players will be forced to move eventually is just splitting hairs to avoid the dreaded "M-Word," but at least they were offered. I’m hoping paid transfers open soon, though.
Jaspor: While BioWare has been careful to use the word "transfers," let’s be honest – they’re merging servers. This has become more obvious with the recent locking of “source” servers to prevent players from creating new characters there and the recent blog post that mentioned characters will be "automatically moved" later this summer. That said, I think it’s been great for the game and community to again have active, vibrant servers to play on once again. While it would have been nice to have some control over our initial destination server, I can understand why they went with the single destination per source and it did help keep guilds and communities from the previous servers intact.
Koryalis: This is the greatest and healthiest thing that could have been done for the game. It clustered all the scattered groups together onto populated servers and brought the communities closer together, cutting down times for Warzones, Flashpoints, and even increasing the attendance at Server Events. They needed the high server number for launch, and it’s understandable that now, they need to condense the populations. I have seen two to three times the number of people at Server Events since transfers began, which make them more fun. It is a welcoming sight to log onto the Fleet station and see over a hundred players for most of the day, and people questing even late at night.
Eruptive: A pretty cool idea on the surface, the Legacy system made a lot more sense pre-1.3, where everything you bought affected your entire Legacy. Now it’s not much more than a glorified credit sink. I’ve got more credits than I know what to do with the at the moment, but it doesn’t sit right with me that the latest set of perks are all for one character. Some of them make sense for being on a single character, and that’s cool, but a lot of them could have easily been Legacy wide and stayed true to the idea of you having a Legacy that encompasses all your characters.
Sterling: Oh Legacy, what a brilliant thing you could have been. Alternate advancement coupled with a server-wide system to reward you for playing alts, all the while giving you nice cosmetic ways of showing off all you’ve achieved? Yes please. Having to pay tens of millions of credits for it? No way in hell. BioWare needs to make up their minds as to what Legacy is intended to be, and in the meantime they really need to adjust the credit costs for most of the perks.
LordBurek: I love the Legacy system, but the credit costs really need to come down. I understand prohibitive costs on some of the big ones like race unlocks, because these have an alternate, credit-free way to unlock them. If you want to cut corners, you should be forced to pay. But some of these perks are still ridiculously expensive for seemingly no reason, and I don’t get that. You’d think the goal would be to engage people in the system instead of scaring them away with huge price tags. On the other hand, prices can always change, so I look forward to future additions and changes to the Legacy system.
Jaspor: I like the idea behind Legacy perks. I’m not quite as thrilled about the actual implementation. When we first learned about Legacy, it sounded like the vast majority of unlocks will earned be by achieving a certain Legacy level or by purchase with credits. However, the types of Legacy rewards you obtain just for Legacy level or progressing to a certain point in a class story are the minority. Most rewards (and arguably, the best ones) require a certain Legacy level and an expensive credits purchase. Having expensive costs attached to many of the Legacy perks makes it look like another credit sink. When you are being asked to spend 4.5 million credits on the Rocket Boost ability (and its two upgrades), I have to wonder a bit about the motives behind the system.
The character-based perks introduced with the 1.3 update are more of the same. Some are nice to have — but again, the costs in credits seems a bit high. And these have to be purchased on individual characters. I was looking forward to taking advantage of the class story XP bonus on one of my alts. I’ve gotten to level 23 since buying it, and the bonus isn’t nearly high enough to get away with only advancing through class story quests. I still have to do world quests, space missions, and PvP for additional XP so that I don’t find myself too low a level to progress to the next phase of my class story. Why offer such a bonus if it’s not enough to truly advance the way you want to?
Koryalis: A nice system that has a lot of potential, but is used now mostly as a money sink for some cosmetic stuff and a few useful bonuses. It is a shame that everything requires some, usually high, amount of credits to get, as well as the right Legacy level. Family trees also had a lot of potential, but limiting them to your own legacy, they are only a cosmetic feature that serves little-to-no purpose. A nice aspect of it would have been to connect other people’s characters as allies, enemies or relatives, or have some associated bonuses to family members. Being able to tailor characters specifically to one’s play style is a very nice touch, but it has no bearing on the rest of the Legacy, which somewhat defeats the purpose of it.
Eruptive: Having not done any item research nor played in the beta, I had no idea that gear would be set up this way. It’s pretty unique, as it lets you can take the gear as is and not meddle with it, or you can pick and choose exactly which stats you want to maximize your character’s potential for a bit more work. I personally like it, and the only thing I’d change would be to unlock the tiers of exactly what stats can appear on the individual mod/enhancement. They’ve talked about doing this for future content, so I’m excited.
Sterling: Mods are quite possibly the single most unique mechanic that SWTOR has created to date. Most MMOs give you the option of customizing your character via gear, but very few allow players to customize that gear from the ground up. The only problem is, so many of the items one needs to do said customizing are annoyingly difficult, if not impossible, to get. We still don’t have access to tanking Modifications, and after the pre-Tionese tier (50 rated mods) the only source of mods is via endgame instances, oftentimes relying on a successful reverse engineering of an already absurdly rare drop.
In short, there’s a ton of potential here, it just remains to be seen whether BioWare can succesfully tap that potential.
LordBurek: The changes to this system seem to be finally stabilized, and I am happy with the results. I still think it is sad that Battlemaster/Rakata and down don’t carry the set bonus on their armoring and I feel that was kind of a failure of the system. Now though, it’s set up so that you literally can wear whatever you want once you reach the Campaign/War Hero tier, which is perfect.
Jaspor: With the addition of augmentation kits in the 1.3 update, we’re almost to the point of truly allowing players to look how they want to look without penalties to stats and performance. I say “almost” because PvP and Operation gear prior to the 1.2 update tier (Campaign/War Leader) still have the set bonus associated with the armor “shell” and not the removable “armoring” mod. And I’d venture to say that most players have not gotten to the point of obtaining full sets of the highest-end armor just yet. As time goes by, new content will be introduced and more people outgrow the Tionese/Columni/Rakata/Battlemaster gear. Then we’ll truly reach a place where people can dress themselves based on appearance and not numbers.
Koryalis: A fun little mechanic that allows people to get every point they can out of their gear. It feels like a system being developed on the go, from patch-to-patch, but that’s not a bad thing. Adding augment slots to armor is perfect for those who want the most out of their gear, while the color-matching system lets people walk around without looking like they were in an explosion in a paint factory. The only issue I have found with the color matching system is that, more often than not, it matches the wrong colors. A dark gray chest piece I have matches up to be a strange variant of yellow, I assume because there are highlights of yellow on certain parts. It's not a perfect system, but it makes playing the game more fun, and lets everyone look a bit more unique than they otherwise would be.
Thank you for reading the first part of our look back on SWTOR, keep an eye out in the coming weeks for future installments. As always, we look forward to reading and discussing your thoughts in the comment section below.