I have to agree with Syp that KotFE is a terrible acronym, though I liked the suggestion of one of his commenters to intentionally misread it as "coffee". SWTOR coffee! Still, fitting "Knights of the Fallen Empire" as a whole into every other subject line for the next couple of weeks would just be a pain.
I actually stayed up to watch the official expansion announcement at E3 last night. It was disappointingly short to be honest, but we did get to see the CGI trailer for the expansion afterwards, and some more bits of information were dropped in an IGN interview after the presentation and in a Polygon article. I haven't been this excited about an MMO expansion in a long time.
First off, the trailer:
I felt like a complete dork when I managed to completely miss the killing blow during the final duel the first time I watched it. I was like: "Yay, they are deactivating their lightsabers because they just remembered that they really love each other...! Wait, why is the one in black falling over dead?" I felt so much better when Syp admitted to initially being confused by this as well.
I think that one of the most upvoted comments on the YouTube video sums up my own feelings pretty well: "Awesome! But I still have no clue what's going on." Which is a nice segue to start talking about the bits of information we did receive. As usual, if you just want a run-down of all the facts, Dulfy or TORCommunity have got you covered. Personally I want to focus on sharing opinions though, and put the new information in context with the speculation I posted two days ago.
First off, it has been confirmed that it will be possible to start a character at level 60 and completely skip the old content. (Also, the level cap will be raised to 65.) I hope Bioware is preparing a good tutorial - the idea of letting people jump right into the story sounds nice in theory, but being faced with four hotbars full of buttons you don't recognise is likely to be much less well-received (the numerous comments from WoW players calling the author of that article an imbecile for struggling to play his boosted character serves to nicely underline the message in my opinion).
It's also been confirmed that the factions will essentially become irrelevant, as your character will wake up after several years of being frozen in Carbonite to find that both the Republic and the Empire have retreated to their home worlds and are basically insignificant. However, so far Bioware has not elaborated on what gameplay effects this might possibly have. (New, shared hubs? Cross-faction queuing? Guilds? All unknown at the moment.)
As far as companions go, it's been confirmed that there will be five new ones, and that you'll also have to work on re-acquiring your old companions since apparently they scattered when you got frozen (or something). The latter worries me a little because adding sensible reasons for players to hunt down forty old companions doesn't sound like a thing Bioware would do in a post-class-story world. Rohan even speculates that we might simply lose some companions in the process, which I would hate. Don't take away my stuff, Bioware! I'm pretty sure that this would create significant amounts of outrage from the playerbase as well, because you can bet that no matter who they might decide to cut, it will be someone's absolute favourite.
Bruce Maclean also had this to say on the subject of companions: "You're able to recruit help and additional companions from an expanded
cast, including companions who were previously exclusive to other
classes. Building that alliance involves going to all
the planets in the galaxy and doing activities and missions that build
faction. If you want to recruit a character who's favorable to the
Mandalorians, you'll be able to do missions for them. You want to
recruit a character who hates the Hutts, you'll do missions to build
your alliance standing against them." So maybe they are going to put a bigger focus on companions than before...
The notion of new class stories hasn't been officially rebutted yet, but frankly, I feel that if there were going to be any, they would have been talking about them by now. Instead they've only been talking about "streamlining" the existing class stories so that you can complete them even faster, though I'm not sure how that's supposed to work. Epic XP bonuses for all class missions, forever? Travel passes that instantly take you from the entrance of one phase to the next? Reduced mob kill/clicking objectives? I can't say any of this sounds particularly thrilling to me.
Overall, I'm simultaneously super excited about everything that's been announced, as well as a little worried. I'm definitely getting Cataclysm vibes off this one. Unlike Blizzard, Bioware is thankfully not planning to destroy its "old world", but the thought of it potentially being banished to insignificance still stings. They keep talking about wanting to get back to their Bioware roots, to what players really want, but to me that also implies that what we've had so far is somehow lacking - not in terms of quantity, but in quality, and I just don't agree with that. Obviously you can debate whether individual patches were better or worse than others, but I've never felt that the game wasn't "Bioware-y" enough. It has always struck me as an excellent hybrid of single-player RPG storytelling and MMO features. I don't see a stronger shift towards single player as a good thing, as I fear that it will just throw the game off-balance. Shadow of Revan's frequent use of personal instead of group phases was annoying enough as it is. In light of that, I don't find Jeff Hickman's reassurance that they haven't forgotten about MMO fans and "flashpoints and operations and raid bosses and PvP and that stuff" very reassuring.
Don't get me wrong, I really am very excited about this new story arc, even if it's currently a bit mind-boggling to think how we could possibly go from Vitiate threatening all life in the galaxy to some unknown Empire - one that nobody seems to have heard of before no less - kicking faction butt instead and becoming the focus of the entire game.
Only a couple of months ago people were ripping into EA/Bioware for not giving SWTOR the attention it deserves in such a year of Star Wars. I think they've just proven that they definitely have big plans for the game. I'm just not sure if they are entirely sensible plans. An MMO can't live off story alone. To stay subscribed continuously, I need reasons to long in when there isn't a new chapter of story to play through, opportunities to hang out with friends and have fun with them. Companions are cool, but they are no replacement for other players. Please don't forget that, Bioware.