On the heels of this Q&A released on Dulfy, Bioware has announced a new expansion for SWTOR in the fall.
I think I can side with the raiding/pve community in calling this too little, way too late, especially since they have released no details about what content this expansion holds, and the above interview sounds downright passive-aggressive and ignores a lot of common sense, business sense, and the increasing pleading of player demands right up until the mass exodus of pve players in the summer of last year.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with swtor, mmos, or gaming in general, Star Wars: the Old Republic is an online game meant to be played with other people. You can treat an MMO game as a single-player game, but it's much more rewarding to play with and/or against people. SWTOR operates on a subscription model, but recently it's been difficult to understand why to subscribe as this past expansion, which dropped last fall, was all about single-player story content, with nine chapters coming at launch and one chapter per month (roughly) since then, the last to drop in August.
Bioware released a new PVP map recently. I can't speak to how it is. Since the 3.0 expansion in December of 2014, there have been no new operations (raids in MMO jargon) released, just one raid boss in May 2015. Bioware claimed that rescaling all their old operations in the 4.0 expansion, which dropped in late October 2015, counted as releasing 'new' content.
As the leader of one of the largest PVE guilds on any server, with probably over four hundred players lifetime and once boasting ten simultaneous operations teams of eight people, I have had a handle on how the swtor player base reacts, when they demand new content, and what is reasonable, for a long time. Most of the pve community left in the summer of 2015 because Bioware refused to announce new operations release date in the 4.0 expansion tier.
When it became clear they were going to rescale the older operations first, my officers and I agreed that we would look at 4.0 as a reboot, essentially SWTOR 4.0. It's true that it seemed--and it was true--that the 4.0 expansion would resolve a lot of the issues that had been plaguing the game since launch. So we decided that it would be a platform on which to create new operations, and wanted to stick around into the fall, give 4.0 a chance, try out the rescaling, and wait for the inevitable announcement of new operations to come.
Except, the announcement never came. It's true that most of the Aisthesis members had not been around since launch and had never gotten to play most of the content when it was fresh, and that the introduction of new levels and powers made those unscaled operations trivial. However, I anticipated that Bioware could not afford to release new operations after spring 2016, which was a long lead time given how long expansions take to develop. In our discussions of game-theoretic scenarios of how Bioware would react, how to react as a GM and officers and players, and what the timing would be, none of us anticipated nothing. Even after we split from swtor and decided to try other MMOs to do fresh raid content together, it was always with the feeling that we would come back when new operations came around, even if it was just to see them.
Since the split, Aisthesis had and still has three raid teams. It's true that a lot of pve players across all servers have come back out of nostalgia, inertia, or optimism. However, the health of the pve community took a nosedive after the 4.0 announcement from which it never recovered. The health of Aisthesis in swtor took a similar hit. A lot of loyal players have become free to play because there is zero reason to stay subscribed; outside of some vanity items, you can buy passes with gold to do all the things a sub can, and the $15/month price tag is too steep for the lack of new content.
The Q&A, and the swtor dev team's actions, speak to a game that is out of touch with its own metrics, its devoted players, and its business model. Though companies do not generally reveal their numbers of subscriptions or how many players do x and y, both pvp and pve tracking metrics available to the public show how the player base in swtor has become more casual, and thus, less likely to subscribe to the game, less likely to do group content, and smaller over the past months. Because the expansion will affect the guild, I'll be following the news closely, but right now I have zero hope that the dev team cares about or even notices player concerns except to mock them for whining and demanding too much.
Their failure to resolve bugs that have broken the game's economy is even more worrying. In every MMO, a market develops. SWTOR, thanks to a bug, has suffered massive inflation because the devs didn't take the created currency out of the game. That's akin to our government not discovering and prosecuting people who counterfeit money on demand. It means that honest players suffer and that prices have skyrocketed, making it hard to log in and buy anything anymore, and the time spent on earning money in-game useless because of the relative scale of people's wallets.
It would not surprise me if this expansion is swtor's last. I would honestly prefer that to feeling as though I am visiting a mockery of the game I once loved every time I log in. This swtor is like a dying guild that fills you with unease whenever you try to do things with it.
I would like to know what really happened once the game dies. Even though some jaded gamers out there might blame EA, I doubt that's the whole story. EA has every reason to want their games to be successful because that affects their bottom line. Bioware made some massive missteps even before they lost the resources to do anything (if that is indeed the case). Likewise, as a faithful player subscribed since launch, my trust in them has degraded to an all-time low.
I thought DA2 was surprisingly underrated, even if it was annoying that they Mass Effected the DA franchise. I thought ME3 was wrong in a different way than most--while playing my way to top 5% NA in the multiplayer. I thought DAI needed work and was overhyped (what happened to the 50ish hour storyline they promised us?). I am strongly considering not buying Andromeda because of the missteps, petulance, and broken promises of the swtor dev team and my disappointment with the studio's decisions. From a company whose Baldur's Gate series, NWN, and Kotor rank somewhere in my very small gaming Hall of Fame, I have seen none of the right moves made for a long time.
I've been following EA's stock closely since its miraculous rise last year (and kicking myself for not investing). However, between all of this, the Sims 4, and the Battlefield debacles, I have been expecting it to drop back to earth for a long time now. I can respect people who feel differently about Bioware, EA, and swtor, but my history with the devs of swtor has been one of joy, not entitlement, followed by complete disappointment.
My job as GM is to essentially 'administrate' the game's contents to our members. I cannot do this job if the devs do not do theirs, and the opportunity costs of their decisions have been too great. The only reason I remain subscribed is to continue to run the guild for our swtor players, knowing that tens of my friends and peers have quit in protest. I wish I could remain optimistic that the game will turn a corner for me, but I doubt it.
If it weren't for the awesome friends I've made in swtor that have followed me elsewhere, I would be a thousand times more bitter than I am. I am thankful every day that the value from playing it will outlast the sadness of quitting it, and that even if we must move to other worlds, we can do so together.
I'm Playing WoW and Enjoying It
I revamped the guild website recently and made this banner for our new, meta-game social page.
During our last officer meeting, someone brought up the stock WoW banner on our site, asking if we could change it. I replied that we could, but the above is basically the limit of my Photoshop skills. (I have a commission in mind for a 'clean' site banner; this was something I threw together at 4 am while cleaning up the Shivtr UI)...
Now, a lot of the guild's decisions are completely out of my hands. For instance, in December when we were discussing what to do with the lack of new content in SWTOR, the officers and I decided to try some different MMOs to see if there was one that we liked. Thanks to Blizzard's refer-a-friend system of levelling and the allure of tons of content, WoW won handily without really any input for me (I was secretly pulling for FFXIV). However, I knew that I also had to continue to pilot the SWTOR branch for people who didn't want to migrate with us, and that my time would be limited. I picked up GW2 because a guildie thought it had fun PvP. Since he didn't intend to play WoW with us and GW2 has a great free-to-play model, I decided to try it. It took all of not that many days to decide I liked it enough to start a guild branch at least for fun. Plus, GW2 was trying this newfangled 'raid' thing...
All of this happened over the holidays, more or less, with our officer/decision-making meeting taking place on January 4th, the day the WoW guild began. However, once the semester started and I got serious about Guild Wars, playing two MMOs and administrating and occasionally subbing into a third for raids seemed insane, so I stepped back as WoW GM.
In mid-June, after my semester had ended and some other commitments had died off, I decided to start playing again in a limited capacity. I got my boosted level 90 Death Knight to level 100, discussed what character to use my 100 boost on (I had been levelling my paladin on Horde side before I unofficially-officially left), and started farming resources. I still didn't have a ton of time, but I felt that the GW2 guild--and my personal account--was in a safe enough place that we could spare me one night per week, along with the nights I traditionally took 'off.'
My problem with WoW has always been that the game and the player base both expect you to have learned rather than be learning. Part of this is the enormity of the game; it's impossible to go through everything if you're starting from the WoD expansion as we all were. The Aisthesis officers that had migrated to WoW expressed frustration and burnout over not only being in the guild 'startup' phase, but also because levelling took a long time compared to SWTOR and gearing was a lot more important--ie, it was harder to alt both while levelling and at endgame, and the game puts so much emphasis on gear that it's hard to even be in the level 100 zones without raid gear, creating an unfriendly, somewhat vicious loop.
I got tired of people chastising me in dungeons for not knowing certain things, tired of people sniping quest objectives, tired of feeling like WoW was a step back from SWTOR. Yes, I knew that the raids were good, but the question was could I even get there. Just the time commitment to level one character seemed daunting.
This summer, though, it felt easier for several reasons. The first and most enormous being that the guild was not going through this learning process along with me, and could help me and answer my questions. The second was that the guild needed people to fill in on raids without me needing to administrate, recruit, and do GM-type things. That meant that raiding in WoW could feel like a nice break from the norm, rather than more of the same (also, I missed the people who went to WoW). Finally, with more understanding of WoW despite not having logged in very often between January and June, I felt more prepared to deal with what it encompassed and entailed.
I am still very new, of course. But I am now able to enjoy the game and spending time with people. Once I came back, I warned people that I would only be able to spend one day per week in-game, raiding. However, I've been having so much fun trying to get up to speed before Legion drops that I've been making both our current raid nights. I don't think this can continue forever, but I'm looking forward to enjoying Legion. After all, I did preorder it way back in December.
So, although our site banners have often come from my screenshots, I feel confident now that we will have screenshots to draw from. I made the video embedded below to show one such crazy moment, in which I died, respawned, and went on a fabulous journey to nowhere...
When Your Guild Flares Up...
Having a guild is much like sitting on top of an active volcano; it's going to erupt, and you're just going to have to sweep up all the ash when it does.
What I'd like to be doing is manifold. I have a mountain of work to do, and I'm dipping my toes into Fiverr. A friend of a friend has commissioned a painting, and I'm still working on some art for myself. Likewise, there's another 16gb of RAM just waiting to go into my computer, but I haven't had a spare moment to turn it off!
So of course there's a ton of guild stuff that I've had to do instead, or in addition to all that. Someone left one of our swtor teams so there's been some tracking work trying to find a replacement. We're still in WoW startup mode, so we're dealing with the repercussions of having fewer people, less stuff, and more need to delegate. Running a guild that spans MMOs is not as easy as taking the old SWTOR workload and dividing it in three sections, unfortunately. A lot of the 'reward' of being an established, large guild in SWTOR came from its solidarity. So we've plunged our SWTOR guild back a few tiers while trying to invest in other games. I'm trying to delegate as much as I can, and intelligently to boot, but I just feel like I'm doomed to fail at some level because there's so much work to be done.
All the while, I'd much rather be debating the important matters: should my GW2 heavy armor be dyed silvery white or gold?