Wednesday, 28 June 2017

SWTOR roadmap highlights (summer 2017)

When I returned from holiday in Sweden a few weeks ago, Mox and Jason of Corellian Run Radio gave me homework. "Let us know what you think of the roadmap", they said - and so I read through the document and created a page full of notes like a good girl. I figured that, since I'd already written it out, I might as well put together a blogpost. Of course this was two weeks ago and now the roadmap is already old news. But you're going to read this post anyway. *Waves hand*

Keith and the road map

There's a lot of fangirling and -boying going on around SWTOR's new game director, Keith. Xam Xam has a whole "Keith Watch" blog series dedicated to him, in which she monitors and evaluates his forum posts. And when I'm scrolling through my Twitter feed, motivational pictures featuring Keith catch my eye.

One such motivational picture, posted by @BrianInHawaii on June 23rd, 2017

Before Ben Irving's departure, Keith's presence in this universe was unknown to us. But then the whole "grind your life away for CXP" mentality got thrown out of the window and a new, fresh wind brought us Keith the Saviour, who was going to steer SWTOR in the direction of... an MMO. After the game having focused primarily on story content (2015) and then on an RNG gear treadmilll (2016), that's actually refreshing.

Strictly speaking, what Keith's doing is not all that revolutionary, but it's clear that a 'back to basics' approach is currently very much appreciated by the SWTOR community. One of the first things he did - in addition to promising more dev communication (and immediately delivering) - is announcing a roadmap. This was a great move, because a roadmap not only shows that you're sincere in communicating more, it's also a nod in the direction of veteran players, who still remember the time when SWTOR used to make such roadmaps.

As for the content of the map, I enjoyed that it covered both broad long term views and detailed plans with a time indication. The latter is dangerous terrain for MMO developers because of unexpected delays, so this is where Keith's communicative skills might be put to the test.

News that make me fangirl

More concretely, here are some things from the roadmap that make my fangirl heart beat faster.

  • New flashpoint: It felt like the devs were kind of done with flashpoints, after transitioning to tactical flashpoints (a sort of 'flashpoint lite' , faster paced and with fewer cutscenes) and, ultimately, uprisings. I'm happy they are not. While I do like uprisings, I find myself enjoying the old fashioned flashpoints most. And since I do a lot of them each week, something fresh is very welcome.
  • Story update Crisis on Umbara: I must admit that I was a tad disappointed with the War for Iokath story, as it went for the easy option by adding new danger and power struggles rather than explore what's happening in the galaxy on a social and cultural level in these stressful times. That's probably just the archaeologist in me getting a bit bored by the focus on power in Star Wars storytelling, though. Nevertheless, I'm hoping for more answers to my questions and of course visiting a new planet is always cool, too. I expect the new flashpoint to be involved with the story.
  • More operation bosses: Of course we already knew this was coming, but it's something that makes me very happy nonetheless! I really like Tyth's design, so I'm looking forward to the second encounter - a twin boss fight.
  • New stronghold with 'view over the ocean': Everyone is predicting this will be the often-wished-for Manaan. Then again, that's what people said in 2015, too - and then it turned out to be Yavin IV. I hope the developers surprise everyone and it's Rishi! I'd love my own tropical island with, indeed, a view over the ocean.

Finally, there are also things that sound less exciting, but are definitely worth some dev time. One of them is increased companion influence through doing stuff. This is sorely needed after the absence of influence gain from non main story quests (ever since the Makeb expansion) and - more recently - the change from companion affection (max 10) to influence (max 50). Part of this is already live with the addition of influence gained from sending companions on crafting missions. This is not something that you feel the effect of right away, but I'm sure it makes a positive impact long term.

Y'u-no misses her favourite spot in Civil War

What's missing

I'd love to see time to kill go down in PvP. Right now every class has so many defensive abilities that level cap PvP feels like the boring part of 8v8 ranked used to: long stalemates in the middle with the party that manages to cap a node first practically winning the fight. After trying to muddle through for a few weeks in 5.0, I realized I wasn't having fun and gave up on PvP altogether. I have a huge army of PvP characters sitting at the ready with all the roles for all different brackets, but they're not getting used at all.

Unfortunately, this problem isn't mentioned in the roadmap at all, so either it's just me that doesn't like the situation or the developers aren't aware of it. However, after the announced nerfs to sage heals, this partly may get solved when the other healer classes get adjusted accordingly.

Overall, I'm happy with the roadmap and the change in direction towards an MMO that's more focused on... well, being an MMO, is a welcome one for me. What do you think?


  1. Problem is that you are giving Keith credit for things that were decided when Ben was in charge as Ben was still in charge when they shifted to making it more MMO based content the only thing you can give Keith credit for is communication.

    1. If you read this article more carefully, you'll notice that "who came up with idea x or y" is a can of worms I'm avoiding (we don't usually have that specific information about decision making, nor do I think we need to). My aim is to investigate why the playerbase is so enthusiastic about Keith - a phenomenon that mildly surprises me.

      In a way, a game director is the face of the MMO and representative of the direction it is steering in. Keith got appointed on a key moment in time, when a fresh wind that was not associated with the generally loathed CXP system was much needed. I think that's where we have to look for our answer.

  2. Oh no. It's the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.


    I've noticed that a lot of devs in MMOs have livestreams these days. There's a blog post in there, but I'm not exactly sure whether I want to go down that rabbit hole without a lot of research (so I don't sound like an idiot, you know, but that's not exactly stopped me before).

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you! I'm sure you can come up with a interesting livestream post. I've written about things in the past that could've used more research, but usually some cool discussions flowed from them, and that's always been worth it. We blog for fun, after all, not for a job!

      Interestingly, SWTOR has recently tuned down on their livestreaming and is putting more effort in oldschool communication. Keith and Musco in particular are very active on the game forum nowadays, answering questions from players, which is pretty cool.

  4. Welcome back!

    Sounds like SWTOR may be headed in a better direction. That is good! Now if they'd add a turn off camera shake option, I'd probably play again. I do miss my combat medic.

    1. Not sure if it's better for *everyone*, but for me, personally, it's very nice! Unfortunately, I don't think an option to turn off 'camera shake' is in the works, though. It would mean retaking all the cutscenes, and it's not something I hear many players wishing for.


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