Since it seems customary for blog writers, podcasters and other content producers in the SWTOR player community to publish wish lists in January outlining their hopes for the game in the new year, I figured I would join the chorus before January runs out. (This way, at least, Jessie can’t accuse me of being a slacker).
If I am allowed to dream big -and totally unrealistically in some cases, I acknowledge- the following is my wish list for SWTOR in 2016 and beyond. (Honestly, I would probably be happy just seeing the game moving in this direction, but as a more easy-going player I am honestly content to just enjoy what comes):
Operations: Two New Operations, Their Hard Modes, Fixed Loot Tables, and New Vanity Items (Likelihood: ☆☆☆☆)
I know there is much ado right now about Bioware’s perceived neglect of the high-end raiding community -and much of it has been merited. I completely agree with this segment of the player community’s call for new repeatable end-game operations content, even as small and as specialized as it may be. (See Bad Feeling Podcast’s recent Episode 94 with the audio here. This round-table discussion was particularly valuable in that it provided an opportunity for some of the currently-disgruntled Nightmare raiders to frame their argument for the rest of us).
I don’t think I feel the sting of neglect as badly as this segment of the player community does since I tend to be a more easy-going and eclectic with the in-game content I pursue (I’m a bit of a jack of all trades and I find something new to do when a given mode of game play strikes me as unfulfilling for the moment). I do, however, concur that any specific kind of content (*coughGSFcough*) should not be neglected in favor of any other kind of content once it has been introduced, since some segment of the player community forms around each specific kind of content and will no doubt feel neglected if their preferred content is not at least marginally maintained. In that light, raiding is a key component of MMO gaming, and to see the once-thriving high-end operations community in SWTOR dwindle has been saddening. Fortunately, Eric Musco and Ben Irving made sure to assure us this last week during the January Producer Livestream that group content is not going to be on the back burner indefinitely. It may have been a strategic move simply to placate this segment of the player community, but I do have some hope that we will at least see some operations content published in 2016.
That said, I am a big proponent of communication and patience on behalf of the player community while Bioware evaluates and reevaluates their priorities (I have analyzed Bioware’s story focus before as an marketing strategy that I believe will take them only so far. Eventually they will have to shift their focus to retention which brings with it greater emphasis on repeatable group content). In that light, I think at least one operation designed around the Knights of the Fallen Empire content -perhaps using Zakuul as its setting- would be a reasonable expectation. I am hopeful for another operation too (maybe set on Odessen) since operations usually come in twos. My expectation is that they will release something following chapter 16 in August or early September.
On my wish list is also an addressing of the Nightmare and top-tier loot tables and a nerf to high-end gear dropping from highlighted Hard Modes in order to incentivize high-end operations -and definitely more weight behind vanity items for the same reason.
PVP: Two New PVP Maps (Likelihood: ☆☆☆)
I give my dream of seeing at least one new PVP map five stars because Eric Musco and Ben Irving confirmed that they are working on one during the January Producer’s Livestream. According to the livestream, the new map will be based on Odessen with a randomly-spawning king-of-the-hill game mode -and by their hinting I expect it to be released sometime in March. I think it is somewhat less realistic to expect two maps, so for that reason I am downgrading the likelihood of seeing two new PVP maps this year to three stars. Still, two new maps (neigh, five new maps!!) are exactly what the SWTOR player community has needed for a long time. (And yes, I mean the entire community). PVP is easily the most participated-in repeatable activity in the game, and even hardcore story players participate in it casually from time to time. As such, PVP deserves far more consideration on the part of Bioware than it has received, and it is good to see that they are releasing at least something this year.
King-of-the-hill is a fantastic game mode and is proven in warzones like Alderaan Civil War and Novare Coast. The mechanic may not be new, but at least randomly-spawning hills are, so I am looking forward to the new Odessen map. There are some other game modes I would like to see join the warzone rotation too, though I know expecting them this year might be a tad less-than-realistic:
- Capture The Flag
- 8-Man Last Man Standing
At first I thought a capture-the-flag play style would take an awful lot of work on Bioware’s part, making it less than achievable in the short term, but the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that introducing it to the game would be easy, requiring only minor changes to the existing Huttball mechanic. Hutball is, after all, already a capture-the-flag type of mechanic.
A capture-the-flag map would simply require two huttballs, each only clickable by the Frogdogs or the Rotworms respectively. The pedestals for each huttball would be positioned not in the center of the map (or I suppose they could if they wanted to), but on opposite sides, with the associated goal line at the other end of the map. Introduce obstacles as necessary and voila! The only other change required to the existing mechanic would be that a kill of the ball carrier would result not in the ball going to the killer as it does presently, but resetting back to its pedestal. Once these minor changes to the existing mechanics have been introduced, the sky would be the limit with regard to capture-the-flag maps. Simply change the setting and the obstacles.
I would also like to see the introduction of 8 vs. 8 last-man-standing maps that work exactly like the current 4 vs. 4 maps, even if everyone who dies has to wait for a while (think Counter-strike) for the round to be over. Yes, it would be open to trolling by certain players hiding, but constrictive map design and well-adjusted round timers would minimize trolling and maximize the play time. Yes, AOE could be considered a problem and some classes would no doubt result in preferred classes for this game mode, but when has AOE not been a problem in PVP?
A deathmatch-style free for all would work similarly to 8 or 16 ungrouped individuals stepping into The Outlaw’s Den on Tatooine. Medals would be awarded to the longest-surviving players. Again, the actual map design would matter in this game mode to limit trolling and “dead time” on the part of slain players.
Finally, although the mechanic is tried and true and already exists in the game in two maps, I would also consider adding Huttball to the list because I actually quite enjoy the existing Huttball matches. Any new Huttball matches sporting new obstacles and hazards would be both fun and welcome.
Events: Stabilization of Existing Events and The Introduction of A New Event (Likelihood: ☆☆☆)
To date I have been reasonably happy with the existing rotation of in-game events. The current set is diverse and each event is fun in its own way. I also appreciate the predictability of their reocurrences which gives me flexibility and the ability to skip an event with the assuredness that it will return in good time. Still, the schedule of occurrences seems to me to be particularly erratic right now, especially now that Bioware is lining up the more common events one week after another to make up for broken events in December. My hope in the months ahead is that Bioware will be able to stabilize the in-game event rotation. Many, it feels to me, occur too often with the result that they feel more like regular game play than events. So to improve the schedule of events I would recommend that the Rakghoul Resurgence event reoccurs quarterly with the planets on a set rotation. The Bounty Contract Week event should occur monthly on a set week of the month (like the third). The Gree event should also occur once quarterly.
Other less-common events like Nightlife, the Grand Acquisitions Race and Life Day happen rarely and should be rare in my opinion -so they are working great just as they are. I would, however, recommend a new event at some point, something Ben Irving alluded to during the January Producer’s Livestream. It is good to know someone at Bioware is at least thinking about it. Perhaps minigames could be leveraged to create tournament events that reoccur on a set rotation too?
Minigames (Likelihood: ☆)
Minigames like swoop racing and pazaak are long overdue given that SWTOR is a Bioware game that has been in production for four years, and especially given that Bioware is the company that introduced these minigames to the world to begin with! Granted, I know certain types of minigames might be a nightmare for Bioware to introduce and integrate with the game engine (I can’t even pretend to know what all that would entail), but four years is a long time and EA seems invested in the continuation of SWTOR as a product. Surely something can be done over the long haul to reintroduce these aspects to SWTOR as a KOTOR-heritage game. Besides, pod racing (or some version thereof) is a part of Star Wars. For these offerings to be absent from a Star Wars MMO is simply less-than-Star-Warsy. (Even Star Wars Galaxies managed to have some kind of racing mechanic in the game -even if it was just connecting the dots on some predetermined track on a regular speeder). Bioware needs to figure something out.
Swoop racing, in particular, has endless possibilities. I would love to see the Hutts reopen the Taris, Manaan and Tatooine tracks given that all three planets have a presence in SWTOR (Manaan needs to be expanded as a planet anyway; it is entirely too beautiful to be the launchpad for only two flashpoints). And if Bioware can track ranked PVP ladders, surely they can track race times and post weekly or monthly leader boards (complete with prizes for participants) on the SWTOR website.
Outfit Designer: Gear Switching (Likelihood: ☆☆☆)
The Outfit Designer lists easily among the best quality-of-life improvements published to the game since launch. I couldn’t be happier with this separation between form and function and the ability to recall certain looks on the fly without having to perform major remodding. So far so good. My one request in this regard would be for Bioware to take the Outfit Designer one step further and allow two or three tabs to be used for storing and switching between underlying gear sets. It sure would be nice not to have to dedicate a certain number of inventory slots to PVP and PVE gear sets with the loss of slots doubled if a given character is used for multiple roles.
New Explorable Areas (Likelihood: ☆☆☆☆)
I have heard a concern expressed on occasion since the launch of 4.0 about limited exploration and the lack of accompanying new challenges like datacrons and world bosses. As a natural MMO cartographer, I quite enjoy scouting every inch of vast maps (I managed to achieve Legendary Cartographer in Guild Wars I, for instance), and I was admittedly underwhelmed with the release of Manaan which struck me as little more than a staging area for a couple of flashpoints. Oricon, Yavin IV and Ziost felt little more than dailies areas, and Odessen strikes me now as little more than a staging area for 4.0 repeatable content. So with the exception of Rishi which was decently-sized and fun to explore with its network of river ways, rope bridges and archipelagos, I must admit I miss the vastness of worlds like Alderaan and Hoth.
Granted, the environmental design of each of these worlds has been phenomenal, but many were clearly not designed to promote exploration. This reality, coupled with Bioware’s new single-player story focus, makes it seem like exploration as a pillar concept in MMO games is being neglected just as much as cooperative play.
(At this point I must admit that exploring the depths of Zakuul is still on my to do list, and I am hoping that there will be much to see when I do).
Fortunately, Christmas time is the most productive time of year for game sales, and Bioware stays true to form by releasing an expansion some time in October or November having learned from the Ravagers exploit to buffer the release with some time before going on Christmas break. My hope is that an expansion closer to the end of the year will bring with it at least one new planet to explore. I hope it’s huge.
KotFE: A Fitting End (Likelihood: ☆☆☆☆☆)
One area in which I have absolutely no doubt is the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion story. The story has been fantastic so far, and since Bioware prides itself on good writing, I have no doubt that KotFE will end well. Right now before the release of chapter 10, we are building our alliances and the resistance is picking up traction. My great hope in this regard is a fitting and epic end to KotFe -and an introduction to the aftermath of the war. Will the Empire rise again? Will the Republic reorganize and return to glory or will it manage to stumble along as it always has? What will happen with the vast alliances of companions? Is there life after KotFE? I don’t know. But I also can’t wait to find out.
Tags: Alderaan Alliance Bad Feeling Bad Feeling Podcast Ben Irving Bounty Contract Week Capture The Flag Cartography Civil War Counter-Strike Deathmatch Episode 94 Eric Musco Events Flashpoints Frogods Gear Sets Grand Acquisitions Race Gree GSF Hoth Incentives Incentivization January Producer's Lifestream King of The Hill Knights of the Fallen Empire KotFE KOTOR Last Man Standing Life Day Minigames Nightlife Novare Coast Odessen Operations Oricon Outfit Designer Outlaw's Den Pazaak PVP PVP Maps Rakghoul Resurgence Rishi Rotworms Star Wars Galaxies SWG Swoop Racing Tatooine Warzone Wish list Yavin IV Zakuul Ziost