16/10/2019

Looking Back on Three Years of KotET

Seeing how we only have six days left until the release of Onslaught, it's about time I wrote the post looking back on the current expansion that I've been meaning to write for a while. It's not exactly a tradition, but nothing about Knights of the Eternal Throne has been traditional!


In fact, it probably featured the biggest period of upheaval for the game since its launch year and the free-to-play transition, at least from a player perspective. Business-wise, I'm sure the first year was a much bigger deal, what with the many unmet expectations and resulting lay-offs. But from a player point of view, it wasn't actually such a bad time, considering the sheer amount of content that was being released.

Knights of the Eternal Throne on the other hand was a bit of a mess from the beginning. The story was solid, but it was originally meant to go on for much longer and was quickly cut short (for whatever reasons).

After the heavy single-player focus of KotFE, there seemed to be some renewed interest in releasing group content, but initially only in the form of uprisings, which were a bit awkward. I really wanted to like them, but ultimately I was not at all inspired to repeat them unless I was going for an achievement or something. I couldn't quite put my finger on why they just didn't grab me for the longest time, until a commenter described them as flashpoints with the interesting bosses taken out and more of the sort of trash pulls put in that everyone always wants to skip.

And of course there was Galactic Command. Not going to re-hash that story yet again! Let's just say that it was quite a disaster at launch; it was probably the period of time in which I was the most unsatisfied with SWTOR gameplay-wise that I've ever been, and it made several good people I knew leave the game for good. Boo!

The first couple of months after launch mostly seemed to be dedicated to damage control. We will be getting back to Republic vs. Empire, honest! And you'll get a new operation too, even if it's only one boss at a time!

The release of Iokath in April 2017 was true to this change in direction, but felt somewhat clumsily done. Yes, we were getting back to Republic vs. Empire, but the plot felt like it had been written with a single destination in mind and little concern for whether it made sense how we got there. Iokath also featured our first new daily area in years, yet it was awkward to navigate and initially released with several dailies actually costing you money instead of awarding it (yes, really).


In May, Keith Kanneg becoming the game's new Producer gave many of us new hope for improvements. And ultimately, I think he has been good for the game, but it's been a very slow process. I'm a bit hesitant to speculate ever since I read John Staats' WoW Diary - in which he proclaims that player speculation about what's going on inside video game development is pretty much always wrong, no matter how well thought-out - but what it felt like from the outside above all else was like Keith had to completely clean house and revamp a lot of things, which took up a lot of dev time that could otherwise have been used to create new content.

After he took charge, we basically got a slow trickle of new content alternating with systems updates: the second Gods from the Machine encounter was released a full three months after the first, then a month later we got a new flashpoint with some story, then another three months passed until a big round of server merges, and so on.

It took almost a full year for all five bosses in Gods from the Machine to be put live, and the traitor story arc, consisting of three bits of story tied to an equal number of new flashpoints, took a full nine months from start to finish. It wasn't bad content, it was just coming out so, so... slowly.

The traitor story arc did also mark an interesting turning point from my point of view though. While the first chapter, Crisis on Umbara, continued in a similarly awkward vein to Iokath, part two was a marked improvement, and part three was all-around enjoyable again. It was also an interesting time to be playing and engaging with the community, as there was a lot of discussion about what to make of the traitor's actions, which was the kind of thing you only get to experience right at the release of such new story content.

After that we had to deal with another relative drought of content for several months, until Bioware revealed that a new, bigger piece of content was coming in December, which would eventually be followed by a whole expansion. It's kind of weird to think that this was a year ago now and said expansion is only launching now.


Three years is a long time for any MMO to go without an expansion, but it has been even more so in SWTOR's case, which was pumping them out mere months apart before that (even if they were smaller in scope than what many other MMOs call expansions). It kind of felt like Bioware just completely lost the plot for a little while after KotET's launch, with everything a bit of a mess and no clear plan in terms of how to proceed.

I don't have a citation at hand, but I even remember Keith saying at one point that he wasn't that keen on expansions and preferred smaller content updates himself, which may have contributed to no moves being made towards working on another big content drop for a long time. I'm glad that the cries for a new expansion eventually won out though, even if it took a while. I'm looking forward to playing it in a few days!

As for what comes after... who knows? I remain eternally optimistic that things are maybe back on track now and the next big update won't take three years, but I honestly don't know. It's a persistent rumour that the team working on SWTOR is much smaller than those working on comparable MMOs, which would obviously limit their resources if true. But I take heart from how passionate they seem to be and that - raw quantity of output aside - I've felt that they've been taking steps in the right direction for the past two years, both in terms of story and in terms of how they interact with the community. For me, Jedi Under Siege has easily been the most enjoyable addition to the game in years. Ultimately, those are things that matter more to me than the sheer frequency of new patches.

13 comments :

  1. Siehst Du!? Und deshalb liebe ich dich. Einfach ein wundervoller Beitrag. Klar strukturierte Gedankengänge. Ein umfassender Rückblick über die Jahre, mit eingewobenen Links zu alten Artikeln, die Erinnerungen wecken. Ein Blick über den Tellerrand hinaus. Eine eigene Meinung, die auf Jahre an Erfahrung fundiert. Immer wieder haust du diese Beiträge raus...macht mich glücklich. Da hält einfach keiner mit. Es gibt einfach zu viele, die "zwei oder drei Jahre Pause zwischendurch" gemacht haben.

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    1. Danke schön! ^^ Wobei ich durchaus auch gerne Meinungen von den "vielen" lesen würde, die 2-3 Jahre Pause zwischendurch gemacht haben. Ich sehe nicht sehr viele SWTOR-Artikel oder Videos, die eine Meinung vertreten; das meiste scheinen immer nur objektive Previews oder Guides zu sein...

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  2. Thanks, this makes things a lot clearer for me. I loved the story content and was not aware of all the backlash by a lot of players, and the kneejerk reactions. I hate the fact they cut everything short and are not defaulting back to boring alliance vs horde ehh sorry rep vs empire. Finally there was an MMO doing something truly different. But now it's all messed up again.

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    1. Sorry, but what's "messed up" to you is "finally good again" to me! Faction conflict is a core tenet of Star Wars, and while I'm open to new ideas, Zakuul wasn't nearly as interesting IMO.

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  3. Regarding SWTOR's future, at the NYC Cantina, Keith (I think) said that they're aiming for the whole Onslaught expansion to last around 18 months. He also said the team is half the size of what they had for Shadow of Revan (hence only one flashpoint and operation at launch instead of two of each like SOR had), so, who knows if they can keep to that schedule. Let's hope it's not three years again. Musco talked about how the plan for Onslaught is to put out content for everyone, but not to expect everything all at once: one game update might be PVP focused, the next might have a flashpoint, that sort thing. He even include GSF in that discussion. This is the same sort of place we're in now. However, Charles Boyd they will be able to talk about what is coming next in Onslaught soon after launch which is something they did not do in KotET.

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    1. Thanks Intisar, that's really insightful!

      An 18-month cycle with different parts of the game getting attention throughout the duration sounds good to me.

      Though I have to say, the team being half the size it was for SoR is honestly a shock to me. I thought all the big cuts had happened way before that and that there hadn't been any more significant downsizing since then. And here's us expecting patches like it's 2012.

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  4. This is pure speculation on my part since I didn't hear any of the Devs even mention the word, but I think Anthem has pulled a lot of people and budget away from SWTOR. It probably explains why the hype for Onlsaught has been understated. I mean, we don't even have an trailer using the in-game engine much less a fancy one from Blur.

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    1. Ahhh, of course, Anthem. Wonder how that's doing after failing to meet all kinds of expectations too. I can tell it's still getting updates but I don't see much buzz about them. I won't lie; I'd rather see those devs back on SWTOR. :P

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  5. It's not speculation it has been documented that part of BioWare Austin is working on Anthem. BioWare commented on the BioWare blog about using the multiplayer experience at BWA due to SWTOR. Some of those Devs were at the Star Wars Celebration Cantina. Budget wasn't pulled away but according to EA's earnings report, SWTOR lost money last fiscal year.

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    1. "...but according to EA's earnings report, SWTOR lost money last fiscal year..."

      Any evidence for this claim?

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    2. i googled ea earning report, and swtor wasn't mentioned anywhere. 2018 or 2019. they speak about star wars franchise in general...including battlefront and more

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    3. I'd be curious about the source for that as well. The most recent mention I could find was in this earnings call from May this year, in which it was said that there was a "slight decline in our Star Wars: The Old Republic business" - but that's not the same as losing money.

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    4. "but that's not the same as losing money."

      i agree. in the past years, we had too many "insiders" claiming the game=ded, no future, last update.

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