Shintar the trooper over the course of two years
When I wrote a similar birthday post last year, I had a lot of excitement to look back on: from the game's over-hyped launch to the painful fall from grace when subscriptions dropped massively over the following months, followed by server merges and eventually the controversial free-to-play conversion. In comparison, 2013 has been a relatively quiet year. While Bioware released a whole two "expansions" for the game (sorry, I just can't use that term without the quotation marks, especially when it comes to Galactic Starfighter...), they weren't really major game changers.
I'll admit that I haven't made a special effort to keep on top of what is being said about SWTOR in EA's quarterly earnings reports, but the general gist I got from various news outlets is that the game has remained stable in terms of player numbers (which would certainly match my own observations in game) and is doing okay from a financial point of view. It's not the cash cow EA originally wanted it to be, but it's doing all right for itself. With the game garnering less public attention, the vitriol that people have been spewing about it has also diminished. There are other, newer games to be complained about on the big MMO websites.
In terms of updates, the game has been chugging along pretty steadily. For comparison, here's how I summed up 2012's additions:
"They implemented two new flashpoints, two new operations, two new warzones, two new world bosses, two new daily quest areas, two world events - hey, I never realised that so many things came in twos - a new companion for all classes, as well as a multitude of system changes (legacy, the group finder, the augment system, gear colour matching, fifty bajillion PvP tweaks and so on)."
This year, we once again got two new flashpoints, three (!) new operations - admittedly no new 8 vs 8 warzones, but we did get arenas instead - four (!) new world bosses, two new daily quest areas, two new repeating world events and another new companion for all classes (though with less story). There wasn't as much constant tinkering with PvP and class balance that I can remember (oh hey, smash monkeys are still owning everyone), but in terms of new systems and quality of life changes they introduced reputations, a new species to play as, character re-customisation, the dye system, server transfers, the collection system and probably some more features that I'm forgetting about right now. Rise of the Hutt Cartel also gave us a five point level cap increase, a whole new planet worth of story content, achievements, and the Macrobinocular and Seeker Droid "mini games". Galactic Starfighter gave us... galactic starfighting a.k.a. free flying but instanced space PvP.
It's also worth noting that this was the game's first whole year as a free-to-play title. Has this affected the experience for subscribers? Of course - note how many of the new systems I mentioned are tied straight to the Cartel Market in order to make you spend more money. How badly this actually affects each individual depends on where your priorities lie in-game... but I already talked about that in greater detail several months ago. It is worth noting that for all that focus on how to improve monetisation, the dev team doesn't seem to have slowed down in terms of actual content output, which is nice (though a case could be made that there's been a certain drop-off in regards to attention to detail).
Overall it seems to me that it's been a pretty good year for SWTOR. I wish I could be more excited about that, but I have to admit that I've been a bit disappointed by the fact that several of the recent major additions just haven't been to my personal taste at all, even if there are segments of the player base that had been clamouring for them for ages (arenas, space PvP). However, looking back at that list of features Bioware implemented over the course of the year, and assuming that they'll continue churning out updates at a similar pace, I can hope to see more content that's to my personal liking again soon enough. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what major updates they have planned for next year.