Annnd... it's official

After several weeks of rumours, speculation and uncertainty, SWTOR has officially been transferred from Bioware to Broadsword. There was a news post on the Bioware blog and everything. Now that was an exercise in marketing speak! I don't know anything about Bioware General Manager Gary McKay, so I don't want to accuse him of not meaning what he says, but comments like "we’re enormously proud of the work the team has done" certainly rang a bit hollow considering Bioware's past treatment of the game.

SWTOR Executive Producer Keith Kanneg's addendum at the bottom was much more heartening to read, as he confirmed that he'll be making the transition and is still as passionate about the game as ever. I remember when he first took charge more than six years ago now!

This was followed by many of the current members of the team piping up on Twitter as well to confirm that they are remaining with the game. Swtorista has been on the ball as usual and has compiled all their comments on a single handy page. I was happy to read that Community Manager Jackie Ko, Narrative Director Ashley Ruhl and Lead Writer Caitlin Sullivan Kelly among others will be staying on. Currently not entirely sure what to make of Eric Musco's silly gif response...

I also thought it was interesting to see how many of them commented on how much they love their work environment and colleagues. The games industry has been rife with many stories about game developers having to deal with horrible things at work in recent years, so I'm happy to hear that the SWTOR team seems to be one of the lucky ones.

I've got to say, I'm feeling pretty good about this whole thing right now. When the news first leaked three weeks ago, it was very unsettling. I mean, I wanted to remain calm and stay positive, but there were just so many things we didn't know; it was certainly worrying! With all the new information that has come to light since then, the future certainly looks a lot brighter. I can absolutely believe that nothing much will change for us as players in the near future. What comes later is more unknown of course, but then it always is and positive developments wouldn't have been guaranteed under Bioware either. I'll just keep my fingers crossed and hope that things work out for the best - if nothing else it's nice to know that we (players and devs) are all on the same side in this and want the game to prosper under its new ownership.


Small Updates on the Broadsword Situation

We haven't had any more official statements on how things are progressing with SWTOR's potential move to Broadsword, but there have been two bits of commentary I wanted to highlight here.

First off, game developer blog Ask a Game Dev chimed in on the conversation about a week after the IGN article. I've linked to them before, because while the author is anonymous, they seem to have either worked on SWTOR in the past or at least know someone who did, since they've casually thrown around some very interesting insider info in the past, such as that SWTOR turned its financial fortunates around after the free-to-play transition (which also had a follow-up post years later explaining how profitability for an MMO works in general) or that SWTOR's companion system had to be re-written from the ground up around Shadow of Revan to accommodate players being able to gain new companions.

On the subject of the rumoured Broadsword transition, the author's focus seems to be on hiring, and how it's probably been hard for Bioware to deal with turnover considering that maintaining a decade-old MMO isn't really the kind of thing people specifically apply to Bioware for. They don't really express an opinion on whether the move is likely to be a good or a bad thing, but they do seem to see it as something very normal that makes sense to do when enough parties (players, devs, EA) are still interested in maintaining a game but the original studio might not be.

Perhaps more importantly though, Game Director Keith Kanneg took to the forums again on Tuesday to reassure players once again, while also being willing to go into more detail this time (which to me indicates that things may have progressed behind the scenes even if they're not quite ready to make an official announcement yet).

He stated repeatedly that absolutely nothing will change from a player's perspective in terms of how their accounts are maintained, what with EA still being the publisher and so on and so forth. He also stated that the game is "absolutely not" heading into maintenance mode, while also going into a bit more detail about what's to come in the near future. We're supposed to get 7.3.1 towards the end of summer, and 7.4 in time for the holiday season. They're still looking into moving the servers to AWS, evaluating the possibility of opening a new APAC server, and are working on upgrading the game to DirectX 12. The latter is something that doesn't mean a whole lot to me, but according to people more knowledgable on the matter it seems to be another positive sign, as similar to the 64-bit client, it's back-end work that has no real immediate benefit to players but makes the game more future-proof.

Keith also revealed that the SWTOR team will not have to relocate - this was a concern that only dawned on me slightly belatedly once I realised that Broadsword's headquarters are in Virginia, which is quite far away from the team's current office in Texas. I was initially seeing some mixed messages among the speculation on Twitter, so I'm glad to have this point clarified. This means that nobody should have to leave the team for reasons related to where they live.

All in all, lots of positive news in my opinion. Sure, if you want to be cynical you could always accuse Keith of lying, claim that he's only saying these things to prevent people from unsubbing etc. but I don't think it's healthy to go through life expecting lies everywhere, plus Keith in specific has given me no reason to distrust what he says. In fact, I think the shaky launch of 7.0 has demonstrated that he and the rest of the team are very good at clamming up and not saying anything when shit hits the fan in a way that they don't want to talk about, so I definitely see the fact that he's feeling confident enough to tell us all these things as a good sign.

EDIT: A mere hour after I posted this, Ted Gegoux, (formerly) Director of Live Services at Bioware, announced on Twitter that today was his last day at EA/Bioware, he's now moving to Broadsword and in favour of the transition.


GS4 Review: Satele Shan & Tulak Hord

I expected the other two servers to be at least a week behind, but in reality it was only a few days, meaning that I actually finished GS4 on all my secondary legacies in the same week. I was kind of impressed by how "in sync" I had kept them without really paying much attention to it.

Satele Shan

My Shadow didn't get too much love this season and was mostly used to complete objectives that benefited from stealth, without making much story progress. Like seemingly everywhere else, I enjoyed spending some time on Empire side, getting my Sniper from ten to 28. I didn't touch my trooper at all this season, though my Guardian gained a few more levels from doing PvP.

I will have to say that trying to get into warzones kind of vexed me this season though. Satele Shan being the west coast server (even if it's "inofficial" now), it's always been a bit tricky for me to find the right time to do group content on it, because 7 pm on the west coast is 2 am my time, so "prime time" was always out. Still, in the past I also used to be able to get pops outside of peak hours, such as when it was early to mid-afternoon over there. This time, though: nothing.

I would sometimes use the /who command to check how much activity there was going on in warzones and could often only find a single match running in the 80s bracket, and sometimes none at all. I had to give up on PvP-related objectives a couple of times because despite of repeated attempts to queue at different times of day on different days I just had no luck whatsoever. This is also why I only got to PvP season rank 3 or so this season. (I forgot that the PvP season was about to end and didn't check my final rank before the UI disappeared, oops.)

Now, from what I've read online I get the impression that Satele Shan players are a bit sensitive to their server being declared "dead" because it seems to happen all too often. While we don't have official population numbers, indicators we do have point towards SS still being bigger than both Tulak Hord and Leviathan combined. There just didn't seem to be that much PvP happening these past couple of months. Did I miss an exodus of PvPers in specific or something? I would be happy to hear from any Satele Shan regulars about what they think.

In terms of personal stats, my Shadow upgraded his gear to item level 333, and my legacy gained five levels, going from 22 to 27.

Tulak Hord

On Tulak Hord, I'm still in the same two-person guild that I joined on a whim during Season 2, and it seems that the other guy also plays kind of on and off, as I noticed that the guild master title had once again reverted to me when I last logged in. However, he also invested in a guild ship this season, so he's clearly been around and busy at some point.

My trooper made a little progress in terms of story and was able to proceed to Tatooine, though I still have the Nar Shaddaa bonus series left to do. My Sorcerer alt hit level 30 and actually got her ship.

Here, too, my legacy advanced by five levels, from 20 to 25, and my trooper's gear rating increased to 332.

Overall, Tulak Hord wasn't my favourite server to spend time on this season, though I couldn't exactly tell you why. I think it's because there was a period of crossover where both my Sage on Leviathan and my Tulak Hord trooper were doing similar content on Nar Shaddaa and Tatooine, and since I usually logged into Leviathan first, the second time round on Tulak Hord then felt repetitive. As an example, I actually bothered to hunt down all the Tatooine datacrons on my Sage this season, which included a ride on the Jawa balloon, something I hadn't done in aaages. But then I thought about doing the same on my trooper and just felt "eh". So she only picked up the Anchorhead datacron so far and the rest will have to come some other time I guess.


GS4 Review: Star Forge & The Leviathan

I haven't made a post to sum up my overall feelings about Galactic Season 4 yet, because I'm still working on completing the reputation track and the last achievements on Darth Malgus, but since I cut back on my aspirations for the other servers this season, hitting level 100 anywhere else means that I'm done there! So I thought I'd do brief little reviews about my different experiences on each server again.

Star Forge

I was kind of surprised when I saw the level 100 achievement pop up on Star Forge first, because I hadn't had the feeling that I'd been pushing much harder there than on the other servers, but I guess it benefitted from the creation of Shintoo for the Galactic Championship. It meant that I suddenly had not just an Imperial alt, but thanks to the boost, one that had access to most of the expansion planets (while my other characters on the other servers are still puttering about in base game content). This made certain weekly objectives much easier and more pleasant to do - yes, I'm the weirdo who'd much rather do one round of Iokath than two rounds of CZ-198.

This meant that Shintoo got way more play than any of my other characters on Star Forge this season, and got to level 80 in the process. I barely touched my smuggler and knight, and only did a minimal amount of questing on my trooper, though the latter did at least increase her gear rating from 328 to 330. (The removal of daily commendations in the last patch helped a lot with that.)

In terms of other numbers, I increased my legacy level from 37 to 40 and earned 7 levels in the PvP season.

At the end of last season I got a couple of offers to park my characters on Star Forge in small personal guilds, both from commenter Pallais and fellow blogger Intisar, and I meant to ask them about that several times but it never happened. The one time I did see Intisar on the fleet and whispered him he must have been AFK. Guys! If you read this, tell me when would be a good time to guild those chars!

The Leviathan

I haven't kept track of the weekly "complete missions as x origin story" objectives, but it felt like knight/warrior got more love in that department than others early this season, so I guess it shouldn't be surprising that I actually managed to make a bit of progress with my Sage knight's class story and completed chapter one. She's now started on Balmorra and we'll see how she gets on with Doc.

I also had some fun advancing my small bounty hunter to level 25. I even gave him and Mako proper matching outfits, something that I very rarely bother to do. I also realised that I hadn't done the Black Talon since its cut scenes received an overhaul several patches ago - hrm, this is one of those things I only ever talked about on Twitter... anyway, seeing the updated camera angles was neat. Somehow I never pictured the Black Talon looking like a Star Destroyer.

In general I'm kind of weirdly excited about levelling another male character. The only other one I currently have is my Shadow on Satele Shan, because for some reason I spent more than a decade being happy playing almost exclusively female characters. I guess I can use SWTOR's second decade to finally check out some of those gender-locked dialogue options that I missed out on until now.

In terms of numbers, my legacy level increased from 19 to 24, I hit level 6 in the PvP season and my Sage's gear rating shot from 326 up to 332. Apparently I've also done a lot more GSF on Leviathan than on the other servers, as it ended up being the first server where I mastered all the different ships on Republic side.

I didn't gain any new insights about playing among the French this season, but I was kind of proud of myself when someone whispered me to ask in French how to start Knights of the Fallen Empire and I was able to string together a coherent answer with the help of Google Translate.


Old Wounds - Story Review

The latest story update is here and I have thoughts - lots of them! If I had to sum up the experience in a single word, I would simply call it "interesting" - which is mostly a good thing, with some caveats.

First off, the team tried something slightly different with the way the content is structured this time around, and I'm honestly still undecided on how I feel about it. Basically you start with a "normal" story update with fully voiced dialogue, cut scenes etc., then you end up being sent to Voss, and what you do there is done in the KOTOR style and feels more like a planetary storyline. That storyline in turn then asks you to do a bunch of what I'd usually call side missions before you can continue, except that doing some of them is mandatory for story progression. At least one of these minor quests even has sub-tasks of its own... it's all nested like a Russian doll and honestly a bit weird.

I mean, people asking you to run errands for them before you're able to continue is a tried and tested MMO trope and I'm not against it, but I felt it was a bit extreme here in parts. When I was sweeping the floor of the Gormak cantina I was definitely questioning the life choices that had led me there when all I wanted to do was get a bit of intel from the Three. On the other hand though, there was a part of me that liked how that particular setup felt like it gave the update more "gameplay meat", instead of ending up in a situation like on Ruhnuk where you spend an hour watching a lot of cut scenes and then the optional content is to grind mobs in tunnels for the next month. I always do all this side stuff anyway, so having it a bit more integrated into the main story did work for me in a way. I'm conflicted.

Anyway, so much about the structural part of the update; let's talk about what actually happens in the story and my thoughts about it. As usual, full spoilers ahead!

We start with Darth Rivix and Tau Idair having a confrontation in some ruins, fighting over one of Darth Nul's trinkets. The winner depends on which faction you're playing. It's an opportunity to feature a cool lightsaber fight scene I guess, but the part that actually intrigued me the most is that Rivix is accompanied by a rival Sith called Lord Sovu and uses this opportunity to get rid of him. I played Republic side first, where the scene begins with Tau arriving and Rivix just having killed someone, but at that point it's not clear who it was. Seeing the Imperial version afterwards, with the brutish Sovu giving Rivix crap and the latter cunningly luring him into a trap was a delightful surprise. Meanwhile Tau gets an earful from Admiral Rava (whom you might remember from Manaan), for prioritising her relic hunt over helping with a planetary defense mission.

We cut to Odessen where your character receives Rivix or Tau, and they suggest that Doctor Oggurobb might be able to help with learning more about the relic they found. This soon leads to another cut to Sa'har and Ri'kan, where we learn that Sa'har thinks that her brother is Force-sensitive like her and wants him to try and unlock his potential. He does briefly try to move a datapad with his mind but quickly gets frustrated and tells Sa'har that he's fine having earned his position the hard way, once again highlighting the tensions between the two siblings.

They are interrupted by Heta and her entourage arriving. She gives a speech about how she's identified the reason her plan failed on Ruhnuk, and she blames it on the Dar'manda and Bask Sunn for his manipulation of the duel. If he's still alive, she shoots him right out the airlock! RIP, Bask; I quite liked you. (Though Indigo sends you a letter afterwards in which he notes that he's quite pleased to be rid of Bask.) If you betrayed Shae to collaborate with Bask, he's already run off and Heta is actually quite pleased, merely commenting on how shocking she found the other Mandalorians' level of fear for Shae's life. She then announces that Sa'har's holocron will form the basis of her next plan, and that only the two of them will know all the details, much to Ri'kan's visible dismay. In fact, we see that Sa'har was right about his latent Force abilities as his sheer anger ends up pushing the datapad from earlier off the table, unnoticed by anyone.

Back on Odessen, the relic is identified as (part of) Darth Nul's lightsaber and as having contained Adegan crystals, which are usually only used by Jedi. My immediate thought was "oh, so she was a Jedi before becoming a Sith", but your companions all go on about how she must have used the Jedi's powers against them or something like that. With this new knowledge, you're off to talk to Malgus again! I've got to admit that didn't seem like the most natural progression of things, especially considering how uncooperative he was last time, but whatever.

In an interesting twist, you enter Malgus' fleet prison to find an agitated Shae having her way blocked by the guard droids. We're reminded that she worked with Malgus once, in the original Deceived trailer, and she wants to question him about the holocron and Heta. I'm very glad that your character automatically points out that she had precious little interest in the holocron back on Ruhnuk... however, one way or another she does get to listen in on the conversation and share information via comms.

I actually found this conversation with Malgus much more interesting than the last one, because while the ending is ultimately the same, he does reveal some different bits of information depending on your conversation choices. I was also very intrigued by his last line implying that he kind of wishes the player character wasn't his enemy - which is something I've wanted for my Imperials since they originally brought him back, but part of me was like: "Really? Now you say that, after we had to beat you down how many times?" Plus he also says it to Republic characters, which I think makes less sense in general. Still, I'd be interested to know whether anything comes of that line and your response to it later on, though I barely dare to hope on that front. I realise that wanting another Malgus team-up after Ossus is just my personal fangirl vice and unlikely to happen.

Malgus senses Shae outside and mocks her, telling her that Heta will destroy her, which eventually leads to Shae rushing off in anger. When your character exits the prison afterwards, you get a call from Sana-Rae, who asks you to come to Voss.

She's returned from that mission you sent her or someone else off to several patches ago, and it's quite explosive: she found out Darth Nul's backstory. As it turns out, Nul was in fact originally a Jedi called Master Raniah (cue me going "I knew it!") who was expelled from the Jedi order for having the unique gift of being able to connect to other people's minds. She ended up exiling herself and her students to this mysterious planet in Wild Space where they did quite well for themselves for a while, until she unwisely mind-touched the old Emperor and he decided to subdue her and her students for his own purposes, turning her into Darth Nul in the process. This sequence was interesting to me as I believe it's the first time that the game has shown us a cut scene that is a flashback of the past, which incidentally revealed Darth Nul/Master Raniah to be a Mirialan.

Arcann is also there if he's alive in your playthrough and tells you that he felt like he had seen some of the locations relevant to Darth Nul before, and that he apparently had dream visions of these and other places while being cured by the Voss mystics. He then gets philosophical about all the horrors he's inflicted and wonders how he can ever atone for them. On my knight, who's romanced him, I thought that whole interaction was quite sweet. On my trooper it gave me more of a slightly exasperated feeling of: "Why does everyone have to be so emotional today and tell me all about it?"

Anyway, Sana-Rae also reveals that the reason she brought you to Voss is that there are murmurs of the mystics having had a vision involving Darth Malgus which would surely be interesting to you, but it won't be shared unless you manage to soften the Voss up a bit first. To do so, you're supposed to go to a place called the Shrine of Contemplation, where the Three are overseeing a restoration project.

This is where we get to the new sub-zone and get to the bit that feels like a planetary story. The restoration is led by a Voss call Maton-Ja and a Gormak called Kodom, and naturally, there are problems. As it turns out, some Gormak who distrust the truce between the two factions sought the aid of Czerka mercenaries, but Czerka is never up to any good, so of course they cause chaos instead. You go through a bunch of steps to help out and put things back in order until you've earned enough favour to see the Three.

Even though this bit is what will probably take up the majority of your time during a playthrough, I don't really have much to say about it - it's basically a planetary story and it's solid. Maton-Ja is surprisingly likeable for a Voss, and so is Kodom, with both of them coming across as genuinely devoted to their cause. There are also plenty of roleplaying opportunities in the dialogue to express different sentiments about this whole "Voss and Gormak working together" thing.

Either way, eventually you earn the privilege of being allowed to see the Three, and their reaction to you is honestly a bit of a mystery to me, because they were quite unfriendly to my trooper in specific, even though I had been nothing but helpful throughout the quest line. I wonder whether the devs actually set some sort of flag based on how you talked to them during the original Voss storyline? God knows what sort of options I chose on each character that had an audience with the Three ten years ago.

You also speak to Sana-Rae once more before the audience and learn that she's become a bit of a persona non grata in recent times, since she was actually supposed to return to Voss after Zakuul was defeated but chose to remain with the Alliance instead.

Regardless of how the Three feel about you, they tell you that the mysterious vision about Darth Malgus revealed that great chaos is coming (due to Malgus awakening a "great power [...] that will tear the galaxy apart" and it frightens them because according to the vision there is apparently nothing they can do. All they know is that things will deteriorate even faster if Malgus dies, and that your character will be at the centre of it all.

Now this was a bit of a weird one for me because on the one hand it was yet more vague mysticism, meaning we still don't really know what Malgus actually wants, and that felt like a bit of a meh way to end the storyline. There's also a part of me that cringed a little about being made the subject of prophecy yet again, and it reminded me of how Heskal was always yapping on about your destiny during KotFE. But then I thought, well, in a way that's interesting because my character's been there, done that, so how would that make her feel? Everything the Scions ever said can be seen as having come true or having been complete bogus, depending on how you want to view it, so this pronouncement by the Three could likewise be taken as anything from "Yep, here I go having to save the galaxy again!" to "Bah, more mystical gibberish!"

And of course the bit about Darth Malgus dying seems like it should be an important plot point, whether we personally get to decide whether he lives or dies, or find ourselves in some sort of situation where we actually might want to save him to prevent something even worse from happening. But of course, who knows when we'll get to that...

All in all, I thought this was a strong update. It included many different characters and had a lot of small ties to previous content, to the point that the moment I finished the story on my main, I immediately wanted to play it on an alt to see what was going to be different - which is always a good sign.

The character writing was on point, expanding on several NPCs' characterisations. Shae is coming across as increasingly unstable (just remember how chill she used to be in Blood Hunt!), which presents an interesting conundrum for your character in terms of how far you're willing to go to support her aspirations. Malgus actually sounds a little defeated at the end of his interrogation for the first time... and while that may just be a temporary lapse or even an intentional attempt at deception, it's acted incredibly well.

Arcann wrestling with his past is something that's honestly been a bit overdue - I still remember the addition of his Alliance alert back in 2018 (gosh, it's been a while) and how I and many others felt that it was very odd how his violent past just seemed to get completely glossed over at that point. And Sana-Rae's personal sacrifice adds a lot of new texture to a character who's been with us in some form since 2015 but used to be presented in an extremely utilitarian way.

The only two criticisms I have are that we once again spend quite a lot of time watching cut scenes or being told about stuff that our characters are not directly involved in or wouldn't even know about. Tau and Rivix get to hunt for relics, Heta executes one of her followers in cold blood (potentially, based on your choices), Sana-Rae stands up for herself against the leaders of her people... and we just get to hear about it all and then run some errands for the Voss. Slightly hyperbolic, I know, but I do wish they'd put a bit more thought into how to allow our characters to do interesting things themselves.

The second issue I had was that once again, we still don't know what Malgus is really up to. We made some progress on the Darth Nul front, so that's fair, but with the studio only being able to release about two major updates a year, story progress feels absolutely glacial. And this isn't me complaining about the update cadence, because I think you could stick to that schedule without having things feel quite so slow if more stuff actually happened in each update.

I appreciate that it's a bit of a conundrum because I can tell they are trying to have characters develop at a sensible pace and that takes time. There are many things I love about the original class stories (obviously) but they often feature NPCs having their minds changed and doing a complete heel-face turn after only two lines of dialogue, and that's a bit silly. So in a way I do like the writers taking a bit more time to build up to things nowadays, but coupled with the game's release cadence it just makes the story sooo slow in real time, I worry that whenever we do get to something actually happening with Malgus, it will either feel like a let-down because of how long the build-up was, or people will have just stopped caring altogether.

What did you think?


Why the Broadsword Move Could Be Good for SWTOR and Bad for Bioware

As a follow-up to my previous post, I wanted to talk a bit more about how the move to Broadsword could be a good thing for SWTOR. To be clear, we haven't had any more official information, and I think that there are a lot of questions to which we won't really get reliable answers until the deal has actually gone through and we see what happens in practice. However, it seems that the more common public narrative has been primarily negative, focusing on the possibility of the game going into maintenance mode, and I've seen some people express genuine confusion about how SWTOR leaving Bioware could be anything but a bad thing.

Especially when reading reports on larger gaming sites, the general vibe behind the narrative seems to be the same old hostility towards SWTOR. Oh look, there's that failed WoW killer failing again. Now it's doing so badly that EA doesn't even want it taking up any of Bioware's precious time anymore, so they're sending it out to pasture.

The thing that few people seem to consider is: What has Bioware done lately, other than maintain SWTOR? The last time they released a new game was in early 2019, when they released Anthem, and we all know how that turned out. (Though fun fact: while researching this, I found out that the game is actually still playable. From the way that Anthem's failure was reported on, I thought the servers had been fully shut down back in 2021.) Since then there's been nothing, and while there's been much talk about new Dragon Age and Mass Effect games being in development, there isn't a release date for either yet. In the meantime, Respawn Entertainment (another EA studio) shipped both Jedi: Fallen Order and its sequel Jedi: Survivor...

Before Anthem, Bioware's last game was Mass Effect: Andromeda, which released to rather mixed reviews and sold below expectations. The last time they actually released a game that was an unequivocal success was Dragon Age: Inquisition back in 2014, almost a decade ago. Since then there've been multiple exposés about what a mess they've been making of the development of their more recent titles.

How can a triple-A studio keep going for so long with so little output? Something tells me it's not from the sales of Garrus body pillows. It couldn't have anything to do with the underappreciated live-service game they are also running and which provides a continuous revenue stream while the people supposedly making the big, important titles faff around indecisively, could it?

EA's official statement in response to the IGN article said that "BioWare will focus its resources on single-player games such as Dragon Age and Mass Effect" and most people seemed to read that as SWTOR having been an annoying distraction for the studio. There's another way to read it though, and that is as EA putting its foot down that if Bioware wants to be a single-player game studio, they need to actually make some single-player games, not just dither for years while relying on SWTOR to balance their books.

In that version, EA is actually doing SWTOR a favour of sorts by moving it to another studio that actually knows and cares about MMOs, whether that's intentional or not. And interestingly, former SWTOR devs have been popping up on Twitter to say pretty much that. Damion Schubert, who was lead designer for the game during its early years, asserts that it still makes good money, and that EA just isn't that interested in investing in it because their focus is on mega-titles like FIFA, but that it could absolutely thrive under a smaller studio. He also immediately stated that this was "bad news for Bioware".

Chris Schmidt, who worked on SWTOR for over a decade, tweeted a lengthy thread in which he also talks about how unappreciated SWTOR has been as a property on Bioware's end, despite of bringing in "mountains of income" that served to build up other franchises. So he sees the move to Broadsword as an opportunity for the SWTOR team (which was already quite removed from the rest of Bioware as it was) to move on to an environment where their work will be understood and appreciated, giving the game a chance to shine and presumably also reap the rewards for good work instead of simply having them rolled into the reporting for a bigger studio that isn't actually doing so well.

Now, all of this is coming from ex-devs - the current ones might feel differently for all we know, and even if they don't, a lot of things would have to go right in a very specific way for things to work out as Damion and Chris propose. So I'm not saying this is definitely or even likely to happen - but it is currently one of many possibilities, and it's worth noting. Especially as I do tend to lend a bit more weight to the words of actual devs who worked on the game than to those of random internet pundits who think that this must be the end for SWTOR just because they didn't like the last expansion.

Interestingly, after I finished the first draft of this post, Keith took to the forums a second time to follow-up on his previous post by saying: "Whoa whoa everyone... I was hoping me telling you about the upcoming releases would help you understand this is a new beginning, not the end." That wording indicates to me that he views this as a positive development as well (though I guess the proof will be in the pudding in terms of whether he's one of the ones to make the transition himself).

Naturally, as long-time fan of the game I prefer to be optimistic as well, but I hope that this post shows that this view doesn't come entirely out of thin air. We all have to wait to see what actually happens, and there's no benefit in spending the next few months dooming. In the meantime, we've got 7.3 to look forward to next week (which, incidentally, means that my prediction of a mid-June release was spot on) and I'm excited to play it (especially as I have two days off right after the day of the patch, which wasn't planned at all but should work out extra nicely).


SWTOR to Move from Bioware to Broadsword?!

Late last night I was presented with the stunning news that EA is planning to move development of Star Wars: The Old Republic from Bioware to Broadsword Online. At the time it still seemed like an unconfirmed rumour, but the IGN article has since been updated with an official statement from EA, and Keith Kanneg has acknowledged it on the SWTOR forums, though he also added that they're not in a position to answer any questions at the moment.

Needless to say, this was pretty shocking news to the community, though it's clear as mud what this change will actually mean for SWTOR's future.

On the one hand, Broadsword was formed specifically to maintain Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot, two MMOs that are more than twice SWTOR's age, and moving to a studio that is actually focused on the MMO business could be a good thing for SWTOR, as opposed to it always being the unloved step-child at Bioware. It's well known that the dev team was repeatedly kneecapped there when resources were pulled off the game to help work on one of Bioware's proprietary IPs instead (*COUGH*Anthem*COUGH*). Most of the current team is supposed to make the move, and Broadsword founder Rob Denton apparently worked on SWTOR in its early days.

On the other hand, saying that "more than half" of the core development team is meant to move to Broadsword is a nice way of saying that they're planning to cut the development team by almost half, and we don't really know how good Broadsword are at their job. Even if they are invested and passionate, UO and DAoC are very different games from SWTOR, with its distinctively Bioware-flavoured focus on voiced story content and companions.

The first thing I did when I heard this news was try to find out just how much development UO and DAoC are getting under Broadsword, and what I found was some very mixed messaging. For example this PC Gamer article from last year happily proclaims that "Ultima Online is one of the oldest PC games still being updated today, and it's a fantastic thing to behold even if you aren't an invested player yourself" and Bree from MassivelyOP even claimed in this comment section that UO is still getting expansions. However, googling for "Ultima Online expansions" surfaces nothing since 2015's "Time of Legends", and their patch notes from the last few years all seem to be about bug fixes and small updates to seasonal events (what I'd call maintenance mode). Things look even worse for DAoC, whose last official set of patch notes was posted in October 2021 (though I don't know whether that really means that nothing has been done or whether they've just been slack with updating their website).

Then again, apparently Broadsword is currently really small, with only about a dozen developers working on both games combined, while SWTOR is meant to retain 40+ - surely they'll still be able to do more than just maintenance mode with that? In fact, if you look at it like that, Broadsword quintupling its head count with SWTOR's acquisition would mean that the SWTOR team is effectively taking them over in terms of everyday realities, not the other way round, with the game basically becoming their new flagship title overnight, massively overshadowing the older games.

Ultimately we've got a lot of questions and no real answers. I doubt that even the SWTOR team can really tell what's going to happen right now, because the ones making the decisions at the top always think that they're doing the right thing, without necessarily having any clue about the realities on the ground. All that remains is for us to wait and see, and to wish the SWTOR team good luck with the transition.

Some links on the subject:


Ruhnuk - Six Months Later

When Ruhnuk was added as a new planet almost six months ago now, I quickly went from excited to confused. It had looked beautiful in the previews, and the story update set there featured some amazing cinematic cut scenes, but my feelings about the story as a whole were... complicated, and my first experience with Ruhnuk as a daily area was a bit of a nightmare. However, I did wonder even at the time whether it would grow on me over time, the way Iokath did after not making a particularly stellar impression at first.

My feelings on Ruhnuk have indeed become more nuanced since then... though I'll say right away that I'm still not a fan of doing the dailies.

The Planetary Story

I realised that in my original posts about Ruhnuk, I never said much about the optional planetary storyline that unlocks after the main story, which seems like quite a big thing to leave out, especially considering that it's actually quite good. After the endless alien gibberish on Manaan, I definitely appreciated all the characters speaking Basic this time around, and it was just an enjoyable storyline in general (with one "bug"/flaw I ran into early on, where Lane chastises you for supposedly making a certain choice at a point where you're not actually given any choices). I especially liked how when you find the little Basilisk droid at the end, it's implied that it could join you as a companion or pet later on... we'll see whether Bioware ever follows up on that.

Relic Hunts

There's also this other "side quest" to unlock three minor buffs to help you with your questing. I have mixed feelings about this one. As an optional side mission, by itself, it works okay, even if the last part goes on a bit and features several bait-and-switch scenarios where it seems like you should be done after the next step but then yet another obstacle appears. However, in terms of how helpful these buffs actually are for everyday play, I'm not entirely convinced.

I liked the way this was done on Manaan, where you organically earned three temporary abilities as part of the optional storyline, and they were really useful ones as well, such as stealth for non-stealth characters or a reflective shield. With the Ruhnuk Relic Hunts, the abilities are both less powerful and require waaay more running around to acquire, to the point where if you don't strictly focus on completing the long mission chain as a priority, you might well max out your planetary reputation before you've actually earned the tools that were supposed to help you with making questing easier. That felt a bit misjudged to me in terms of effort vs. reward.

Datacron & World Boss(es)

First off, I generally really appreciate that Bioware took the time to add these things to Ruhnuk to make the planet feel more "worldly" and to ensure that there are some things to do beyond just doing dailies. I didn't actually bother with getting the datacron until today, but I liked that it felt interesting to get without being too challenging. I've kind of had enough of the fiendishly hard jumping puzzles to be honest...

The summonable wraid boss is a nice idea but somewhat hampered by not having any purpose beyond a one-time achievement and the fact that one of the drops required to summon him seems to have a stupidly low drop rate. The "regular" world boss, Kithrawl, was kind of disappointing to me in that his mechanics are extremely basic yet he has a ridiculous number of hitpoints, meaning that he's both quite boring to fight but also takes a long time to die unless you bring an absolutely massive group - not the best combination in my opinion.

Navigation & Obstacles

All that said, the main reason that I still don't like Ruhnuk all that much remains that it's just a chore to get anywhere. After six months and visiting the place on several alts, I kinda know my way around by now, but it remains easy to get lost by taking a wrong turn inside a tunnel. Still, there are other planets that are hard to navigate, and that alone hasn't been a reason for me to dislike them, so what's the problem?

I realised that what makes Ruhnuk such a pain to traverse is that a lot of the map consists of narrow ravines and tunnels stuffed with mobs, which means that assuming you don't have stealth, getting anywhere requires fighting every single step of the way (which makes it feel all the more punishing if you accidentally end up taking a wrong turn and then have to backtrack). I didn't like the endless tunnels of skytroopers in the KotFE chapters, and there's definitely a bit of that vibe here.

Even worse though, for some reason there are way too many silver and gold mobs sprinkled throughout the area, which makes everything take even longer. More specifically, the areas for the heroic missions are not clearly delineated but instead kind of "bleed into" the regular questing areas, which means that you might just be following an arrow towards a story quest objective when you turn a corner and suddenly find yourself in combat with a large group of golds and silvers.

I had one particularly memorable encounter of this kind which was exacerbated even more by the fact that two groups of mobs appeared to be linked in some way that didn't make sense, so I'd not just get one group, but another heroic-level group of mobs would instantly come sprinting around the corner the moment I pulled, which caused me to get overwhelmed and defeated in the same spot about three times before I could proceed to my quest objective. I like heroics as optional, more challenging content, but the way Ruhnuk has these unavoidable heroic-level mob groups blocking your path everywhere is just tedious.

I hope that Bioware will continue adding new areas like this; I'd just prefer them to be more open, to not have so many unavoidable mobs, and for side content to either be more rewarding or less tedious. Ruhnuk's planetary storyline and the datacron both hit a pretty sweet spot in my opinion; there's just too much other stuff that detracts from the experience for me to want to spend much time hanging around.