Hyperspace Beacon: Givin' SWTOR props

Hyperspace Beacon Givin' SWTOR props
All MMOs could use improvements, but that doesn't negate what they have done right. And despite the negativity, SWTOR is doing well. In fact, in a recent forum post Systems Designer Damion Schubert said that the free-to-play push was working quite well: "The success of the market (and it has been quite successful) has given us the time and resources to do some ambitious things on Makeb and plan some very ambitious things beyond." Without even looking at the specific numbers, I can tell that the Cartel Market cash shop is working really well because of the sheer number of items I see on the Galactic Trade Network (auction house). As much as I hate to admit it, if the Cartel Market does well, so does the rest of the game.

I also see other hints that BioWare might be changing up its game a little bit. Direct discussion with the community appears to be on the rise, and BioWare has also admitted and is attempting to properly fix its mistakes. In the wake of Stephen Reid's departure, direct communication had become lax, and besides Ilum, I don't remember BioWare ever truly admitting to mistakes.

Let's take a look at a few of the changes BioWare has already made this year. Maybe it will give us a clue as to where SWTOR is going in the near future.

Hyperspace Beacon Givin' SWTOR props
First, Schubert posted a nice long thread about the Cartel Market and its future. Obviously, it's not going away anytime soon. As much as I hate to admit it, TOR is F2P now, and it's doing well. Granted, we have far fewer servers than we started with, but all the server populations (with a couple of exceptions) are quite healthy. And as I mentioned above, Schubert said that the Cartel Market is going well. Although I personally made only one purchase of Cartel Coins when it first came out, I think it's obvious based on the health of the GTN that many people are actually buying Cartel Packs and other Cartel Market items.

The Cartel items themselves are beginning to take shape, and it's clear to me that the developers are listening to the players.

In this last update to the market, we saw a couple of items that I'd hope players would love, roleplayers specifically. I have a character I portray as an Imperial officer, but the character's class prevents me from wearing an Imperial uniform. I found that to be a major oversight on BioWare's part when it limited the officer's outfit to Agents only. (Yes, I know the Agent is the only story in which the player is an Imperial officer, but since when has that stopped roleplayers?) Currently, there is a Clandestine Officer armor set on the Cartel Market. Although it does carry a hefty price tag of 1440 Cartel Coins (about $14 US), it is the first item on the market that I am considering buying outright since the Cartel Market was introduced.

In his thread, Schubert introduces us to some ideas that appear to be on the right track and will hopefully cut out future GTN clutter. Currently, items like the covert chest armor and the Imperial banner sell for insanely low prices, and frankly, are clogging up players' inventory space. One of my guildies, an avid Cartel Market collector, has begun deleting those items when they drop from the packs. Schubert said that the devs are examining the possibility of allowing players to sell these items to a vendor. However, he gave this warning: "There's a very good chance that some of these items may be retired in the future -- an Imperial Banner or Dominator Throne that enjoys a certain value now might find that value greatly increased once the packs that sell these disappear -- so you might want to selectively choose some of these to bank, rather than junk." As a MMO item hoarder, I smile at that prospect.

Hyperspace Beacon Givin' SWTOR props
When Ilum was flopping, the BioWare team admitted a mistake. It redesigned the objectives, but that flopped, too. When Update 1.7 releases, we are looking at a re-redesign of Ilum. The designers have had about a year to think about it and refeature the whole area. Perhaps they'' have gotten it right this time. But the real highlight is that the BioWare team admitted when it was wrong and fixed the problem.

That's not to say that BioWare does this all the time. I mean, it hasn't really admitted to the lack of endgame focus; we just saw layoffs and the introduction of the F2P business model. That said, the designers have since stepped up endgame development. We now see at least one piece of endgame content added with each major update.

In the grand scheme of things, I guess a cosmetic change is small dabaroos, but I am extremely happy in the way BioWare is handling the mistake it made when it changed some of the Cartel Market armor.

A few items available in the Blockade Runner Cartel Pack had different designs on the character than it did on the advertised art. When BioWare changed the models in the game, many players complained because they bought the item for the specific look the item had, not what was featured in the ad art. However, once the change was made, many people admitted to liking the new looks. What was BioWare do to? Is there a way to please both sets of people without one group feeling ripped off? As a matter of fact, there is. When Update 1.7 releases, everyone with the changed items will receive both items -- the old and the new.

At a time when the popular thing is to put down SWTOR for the mistakes it's made, I'm glad I can devote some time to giving it a well-deserved thank-you. Have you noticed this change? What positive changes have you noticed come out of SWTOR this year? Are things looking better? Let me know in the comments, and I will see you on Wednesday on my livestream!

The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to larry@massively.com. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!

This article was originally published on Massively.