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How SWTOR Can Own 2013

Michael Bitton Posted:
Columns Michael Bitton 0

In the last couple of weeks I’ve put Star Wars: The Old Republic in my round-up of top games of 2012 and highlighted some of the best additions BioWare has made to the game during that same year. But what about 2013? BioWare is kicking off a fresh new year with SWTOR as a free-to-play game (something I feel it should have been initially designed for) and so far the game’s picked up in activity. With hopefully less tumult ahead for the studio this year and more revenue streaming in, it’s my hope that we’ll see some significant developments towards the game’s future in 2013 and this week I’ll be rounding up a couple of the things I’d like to see happen this year.

‘Open World’ PvP

I realize there has been a discussion on what does or doesn’t qualify as ‘open world’ PvP and some disagree that zones such as Ilum fit this description, but I’m not sure Star Wars: The Old Republic will ever resemble something like Darkfall and to me, that’s OK. As an avid fan of PvP servers in Age of Conan, I’ve taken part in more than my fair share of random ganks, and they can certainly be fun, but I’d rather see ‘open PvP’ constrained to a single (or several) zones than no focus on it at all.

With that said, I’d really like to see BioWare expand its focus on this particular area in 2013. We’re going to be getting something on that front with the forthcoming Game Update 1.7, but I’m not so sure just yet that what BioWare has in store will fully scratch the itch for many of us who’d like to see the faction conflict unfold on a larger scale. Even if they do a good job of it, I’d prefer 2013’s developments on PvP focus on this form of PvP instead of Warzones. 2012 brought quite a few new Warzones to the game and so I simply think the other side of the coin could use some significant attention.

Meaningful Game Updates

Face it, 2012 was a rocky year for BioWare Austin and this was clearly reflected in SWTOR’s game updates that year. While there were a few gems, the studio was undergoing many changes and spending significant development time retrofitting the game to work as a free-to-play product. Outside of the Legacy feature, there weren’t many new systems introduced in 2012. We were mostly treated to familiar forms of new content updates, ranging from new Operations, Warzones, new Flashpoints, and the like.

Unfortunately, while BioWare did innovate with the launch product’s focus on player story in 2011, it was pretty clear this came at a compromise of not pushing the envelope in most other areas. Star Wars: The Old Republic is ‘me too’ in quite a few ways and actually deficient in others.

SWTOR is a themepark game and so it will live or die on BioWare’s ability to pump out new content to satisfy its voracious fans, but even a themepark game needs some horizontal expansion with new systems to support the underlying content foundation. We’re off to a decent start in 2013 with the Galactic Reputation system coming in Game Update 1.7, but I’d really like to see BioWare put much more focus on new or improved systems in 2013 over new content. A combination of both will be necessary, for sure, but new or improved systems really need to be pushed up in priority this year.

Announcement of the First Boxed Expansion

While Rise of the Hutt Cartel technically counts as an expansion, it won’t do nearly as much for the game as something like a big boxed expansion a ’la World of Warcraft would. With a crappy year now behind the studio and a game that looks like it’s really starting to pick up, Star Wars: The Old Republic may yet have a chance to live up to its significant potential. But to do that, the game needs a proper re-introduction to the gaming populace, and this is where a proper boxed expansion and commensurate marketing campaign can really do a great job.

I don’t care what you call it, but if a true expansion is announced this year, it absolutely must contain two marquee features: a completely overhauled space system and a continuation of the game’s class stories. Oh, and at least one minigame. How about Pazaak or swoop racing?

What would you like to see in 2013 for Star Wars: The Old Republic? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB