A massively multiplayer game simply cannot exist without a healthy community of gamers rallying behind it. Star Wars: The Old Republic is celebrating its five year anniversary as we speak and above all else the memories made with fans around the world reign supreme as its greatest accomplishment. SWTOR’s sixth expansion, Knights of the Eternal Throne, emphasizes the new direction with story, engagement and most of all player feedback.
“As I look back on the past five years that have led me from launch crunch, to the reincarnation of Revan and on through the delivery of six expansions including notorious Hutts, the re-awakening of an evil Emperor and the introduction of the most evil family in Star Wars – I realize that there is one part of this journey that stands out for me above all others…the relationship I have with you, the fans.” – Ben Irving, Producer
Feedback is a hard thing to parse in any community, but especially for online games where people are investing many hours of their real lives. Often passionate players will take to forums and voice only what they feel is wrong with their experience. Spending large amounts of time reading negative comments can be exhausting and it’s not easy turning negatives into actual solutions. Producer Ben Irving wouldn’t take any of this back but he says it does get hard sometimes.
During our time speaking with Ben Irving, he let us know that the dev team behind SWTOR now looks at their development as finding the good ideas rather than always being the ones creating them. If a solution or new idea comes from player feedback, then it’s the developer’s responsibility to find it. This sounds like a different BioWare than the relatively closed off version we had at launch.
It’s easy to talk about listening to players because arguably that’s how things have been trending over the last couple of years, but it’s a different thing to actually be doing it. BioWare has been consistently proving they’ve got their ears to the ground by addressing community concerns every week on their official live stream. They set out with Knights of the Eternal Throne to make sure fans understood the logic behind massive changes and they were aware things might need to change as players dove in.
In 2017 and beyond, BioWare wants SWTOR fans to know that they are listening and changing things based on player feedback. In a recent interview with Producer Ben Irving he mentioned he’s listening everywhere but one of the ways he hears raw feedback is when he’s in game. You won’t catch him on voice chat because his Australian accent is a giveaway, but while he’s playing he’s listening to what’s going on in his guild and small groups.
They were hearing that players wanted more group content that’s repeatable and offers player progression paths as well as increasing challenge. That’s where Knights of the Eternal Throne’s Uprisings came in. Uprisings represent fast-paced group content that players can instantly jump in and start throwing around blaster shots and force powers. They’re also demonstrating their ability to pivot on decisions they’ve already made with their most recent live stream. They talked about the issue of players not being able to hunt down specific gear slots. “The final boss of every Operation will have a specific piece of tier gear. The other bosses that you defeat along the way will also contain unassembled gear pieces, but they won’t be specific things,” says Ben Irving in the latest Holiday Producer Livestream. Early on as the latest expansion was being revealed, community members voiced their concerns about raid content not being rewarding and this change attempts to address that.
SWTOR is not the game it used to be and that’s a great thing for the most part. Player feedback has been instrumental in where the game is now and if BioWare continues their new path of listening and implementing, then in 5 more years this massively multiplayer Star Wars game will truly belong to the fans. May the force be with you.