Dude, Where's My Endgame?
What's somewhat funny about the whole situation is that there is still some debate as to whether SWTOR's endgame starts at level 50 or level 55, although BioWare themselves considers the term 'endgame players' to be anyone over level 50, judging from Bruce Maclean's Producer's Letter on May 7th. Granted, the game started off at a level 50 cap, so that's where the original endgame began. However, these days with a cap at level 55, things are a little less clear as to what you can do now. Just for grins, I asked my veteran guildies the basic silly question, and the answers they provided started with things like playing through Makeb, building gear through the level 50 Flashpoints, running more dailies than you can shake a lightsaber at, what you should buy first with your comms, but it took a few minutes before I could get the point across that I wanted to know what people thought they could do only at 55 that they couldn't do before. They came up with the following:
- Ranked Ground PVP
- Two Newer Hard Mode Flashpoints (Czerka)
- Four Classic Hard Mode Flashpoints
- Two New Tactical Flashpoints (Tython and Korriban)
- Five Operations
Part of the problem is that there is no singular comprehensive guide to SWTOR's endgame. Even the official page on swtor.com refers to it as 'Elder Game', and they make no qualms about having it simply start at level 50. Once you throw open that door, then you have three more Operations and eight more Hard Mode Flashpoints to monkey around with as well and a bunch of dailies leading up to the various Ops and Flashpoints. However, you'll note that all of this content requires groups to complete, whether pre-made teams as is recommended for Ranked PVP or pick-up groups if you cannot gather up the required number of friends and/or guildies to run FPs or Ops. There is no level 55-specific solo content, although some decently-geared players can run with their companion on Oricon and do some of the introductory quests and dailies.
Another part of the problem here is that while that might seem like a lot of things to potentially be doing on a daily basis in the game, you can't do them every single day due to lockouts on the Operations and weeklies. These also built up over two and a half years, with no all-new story content added since Game Update 2.7 on April 8th, and no new Operations since Dread Fortress and Dread Palace were introduced in October last year in Game Update 2.4.
One might begin to wonder if we'll see any new Operations content at all this year, considering the launch of Galactic Strongholds in late summer/early autumn, and the now-uncertain timing of the release of the as-yet-unrevealed 'Makeb-like' expansion. Bear in mind that none of the stuff we currently know about the housing update or guild ships or Conquests or any of that currently specifies that it's intended for endgame play. We might be able to start puttering with housing the moment we get our ships after completing our capital planet story quests. We might be able to start playing as soon as we reach level 10 and can participate in Warzones. My personal theories pretty much eliminate Strongholds from being linked to endgame other than as a place to store your trophies from playing elder game content.
While I might suspect there will be a new Operation or two in the unnamed expansion, in what should be SWTOR Game Update 3.0, I think we as a playerbase have been bitten far too often to get our hopes up until we see some hard facts coming out of Austin on the matter, so that leaves us with the present endgame. Solo players' only real options here for vaguely new content are to shelve their level 50+ characters and go back and play another class, gender, or light/dark side options, or they can just grind the same old dailies repeatedly for some comms, credits, and gear for their companions.
They say that variety is the spice of life, and on the face of it, SWTOR's current endgame selections might seem like variety until you start considering the last time any of those selections changed in any significant way. A number of players have taken to the forums and other social media to gripe about the fact that the only new Operations content since October involved Nightmare Modes of those selfsame Operations introduced then.
Certainly, SWTOR isn't the only game suffering from lack of new endgame content. Blizzard's players have been yelling about no real substantial updates for World of Warcraft for almost two years, but they can still afford to offend more of their players than BioWare can, and their new expansion is already in Alpha with Friends/Family and selected press and fansite influencers already testing it. Just the other day, Turbine's players inundated Lord of the Rings Online's community manager during a friendly livestream with a series of questions about their lack of upcoming raids or endgame content, ignoring his repeated statements that Turbine had no plans to add any of that high-end content in the foreseeable future. Rick Heaton even went so far as to point out the fact that their metrics regarding how many players actually used raid content had a bearing on the company's decision not to have it on their current roadmap. Conversely, newly-launched MMO WildStar has been going out of its way to cater to that rarified 5% of players who aren't getting the answers they want out of that sort of metrics-based decision.
If I had to make a vaguely educated guess as to where BioWare is going with this, I'd say they were following the same basic gameplan that Turbine is following: focus on the majority of players within reason. I say 'within reason' simply because I believe a majority of PVE players would like to see the return of true class quest storylines, but we know from the number of times someone on the Community team or Lead Writer Charles Boyd has answered the question that it's probably never going to happen. They also have to operate within the budget handed to them by EA (despite them making tons of money on the game according to EA's most recent financial reports), and it seems as if it's easier and cheaper to make story-light content to appeal to a broader number of players.
At the end of this particular day, I'd say that BioWare has added a decent amount of endgame content since the game launched, but it's certainly time for more. I personally get bored with doing the same content over and over and over again. My tolerance for grinding for gear, mounts, or whatever was burned out in old-school WoW when I did the Winterspring Frostsaber grind during its second interation before they nerfed it into easymode a few years back, so I get tired of doing the same Galactic Starfighter maps repeatedly. I get bored with running through the same planetary quests every single time I want to level a new toon up. Personally, I've long wondered how the endgame raiders and Ops teams can put up with doing the same fights over and over again every week. Despite the richness of the stories present in all of the game's Flashpoints, even I'd start spacebarring through the conversations after the tenth or eleventh time.
So, the ultimate question I have for my fellow SWTOR players who have remained faithful, where's your endgame?