27/06/2024

A Year at Broadsword

Today's it's been exactly one year since it was officially announced that development of Star Wars: The Old Republic was being transferred from Bioware to Broadsword Studios. I actually would've completely forgotten about this anniversary if somebody hadn't reminded me on Twitter a few days ago, and today I was reminded again when Keith released this producer's letter for the second quarter of 2024.

I don't have much to say about the producer's letter itself because it spends more time looking back than telling us anything really new. Nar Shaddaa Nightlife will start on July 9th, and at some point in July or August there'll be a livestream about the next Galactic Season patch. Just business as usual, really. That's not a bad thing though, is it?

When the news of the studio move first broke in early June last year, it sounded extremely scary for fans of the game. Words like "maintenance mode" were thrown around a lot, and certain content creators were cashing in on presenting the news in the worst possible light. 

A video thumbnail showing YouTuber Nixxiom dressed as a Sith Warrior and with a tear in his eye next to the SWTOR logo and the words "It's over?"

Exhibit A

Even those of us who were trying not to panic were struggling to make sense of the situation with the limited information we had available.

A year later, all of the hubbub surrounding the subject honestly seems kind of silly in hindsight, because from a player perspective, nothing really ended up changing at all. And I mean, if you weren't happy with the work the devs were doing before, there's no reason for you to be positively excited about the move either, but for me it's honestly been a big relief.

The content has kept coming out at a similar pace to what we've been getting in the last couple of years before the transition, with patch 7.4 with a new story update and a new daily area launching last December, and more recently patch 7.5 at the end of May giving us another new story update as well as introducing a new seasonal event. In-between we also saw the servers get moved to the Cloud, the launch of a whole new server for the APAC region, and both Galactic and PvP seasons have kept rolling along.

If I had to point out anything that's changed... well, right after the move, the devs actually seemed a bit giddy to me, though that seems to have settled down again since then. I will say that if anything's changed, it does seem to me that the team has dared to be a bit more experimental with communication and monetisation.

In terms of communication, they actually revived the e-mail channel as a way of promoting the game to existing and lapsed players (even if the look of their decade-old email template pains me a little, as someone who does that kind of marketing as her day job) plus they sent out a survey looking for feedback in November, something they hadn't done in many years. Totally anecdotally, at least one thing I specifically asked for in that survey was actually put into the game a few months later as well, so...

In terms of monetisation - well, I know some gamers consider it a dirty word, but I don't mean anything bad by it when I say that it seems to me that the devs have been experimenting a bit more. I'm not someone who keeps a super close eye on the Cartel Market, but it has seemed to me like they've been rotating the stock around a bit more, putting different items on sale more often, featuring better and more popular items as the deal of the day, and just generally been trying to make existing ways of monetisation interesting to new audiences, such as with shiny new dyes (which totally worked on me, not gonna lie) or more recently, outfits that allow you to display your hair under a hood. Nothing radical or obtrusive.

In summary, here's the tl;dr for lazy readers and for those Google snippets:

What has changed about SWTOR since the move from Bioware to Broadsword?

Not much, the game has continued to receive content patches of a similar size and at a similar pace to before the transition.

Did SWTOR go into maintenance mode?

No, it continues to receive story updates and other content updates multiple times a year.

5 comments :

  1. Yeah, things have pretty much stayed the same since the switch. That's good in a lot of ways, but there's still improvements to be made. In particular, more communication is needed.

    They are good at announcements about new content and changes to the game, but they really need more people to help players with bugs or technical issues. On the official forums the vast majority of these posts never get a response from a Broadsword employee, and they never even post on the SWTOR Steam forums despite something like 40% of the players being on Steam.

    I see posts every day about people struggling with bugs or their subscription not being activated after paying, never getting a response from Broadsword. Usually, other players will try to help, but this is really Broadsword's responsibility. The majority of these people are new players, so it's a bad first impression. I think some of these players give up because of this and some potential players are scared away after seeing players not getting help on the forums.

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    1. Hm, not to say that there aren't improvements to be made in terms of communication, but when it comes to things like bugs, I don't think I've ever seen any other MMO developer talk about anything but the most egregious ones on public forums either, so I wouldn't have that expectation of Broadsword either. And things like problems with subscriptions should always go directly to CS as these kinds of account-related issues can never be resolved on open forums.

      Curious where you got the notion that 40% of SWTOR players are on Steam? At a guess I would expect it to be much less.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your source! I've got to agree with one of the commenters though that a reddit poll with a few hundred answers seems unlikely to yield a sample that's representative of the player base as a whole.

    I'm more inclined to believe that the percentage of Steam players is at max 10-20%, based on what we can see with other MMOs that have their own launchers and that were added to Steam later. For example I was reading reports about the launch of the new EQ2 server the other day, and the writer mentioned seeing thousands of players in game at the time (based on the number of instances spun up) - yet if you look at Steam Charts, it shows a player peak of less than 700 for that period.

    Similarly, EVE Online reported about 25k concurrent players on average in June, while the Steam Charts average for the same period is less than 3.5k.

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  3. I actually feel the cadence of updates is better now then it was for 6.0. What did we really get post 6.0 launch? Alderaan Stronghold, some short Odessen cutscenes, Echoes of Oblivion (which was a cool boss fight but a really short linear solo dungeon otherwise), 2 flashpoints, and the first Galactic Season.

    It feels Galactic and PVP Seasons is kinda forcing them to release updates on a set schedule now, and while seasons might be mostly redoing old content, they do have new rewards and some story in them. Besides that 7.0 got a few new actual zones and some daily areas and stuff too.

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    1. I agree on that, when I did my review of patch content last year, I was kind of surprised by how barren the 6.0 content cycle had been of new releases, because at the time I genuinely didn't notice because I was having so much fun with what we did get. (Though I have to disagree with Echoes of Oblivion being a cool boss fight, I think it's one of - if not the - worst in the game, haha.)

      My comparison here was between 7.0-7.3 before the studio move and 7.3-7.5 after.

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