Of course, since the launch of the game nearly two years ago, fans of SWTOR continued to ask for a free-flight minigame or expansion, possibly hoping for an addition to the game similar to the Star Wars Galaxies expansion, Jump to Lightspeed. But given the track-record of Star Wars: The Old Republic vs. Star Wars Galaxies', I knew that BioWare would feel that it had to do something quite different when it came to the super-secret space project.
Obviously, flight simulators even as far back as those on the Apple IIe and Top Gun for the first Nintendo have attempted to incorporate realistic sections, like landing on a carrier, to give the game a more well-rounded feel. But ultimately, these additions to those simulations distracted the player from the main thrust of the game.
Some believe, as I think BioWare believes, that additions like space mining and other open-space activities will not help the popularity of Galactic Starfighter. I believe that BioWare intends this part of the game to remain similar to the existing PvP game: closed off warzones with an even number of players on both sides. I certainly don't expect to see the complexity we have seen in other space games, like JTL, but I do think that other warzone battle games like World of Tanks, or better yet World of Warplanes, more closely represent what we will see in Galactic Starfighter. With the main game acting as the lobby, we will queue up like our regular ground warzones after we've set up our ship customizations.
I don't expect the customizations to be very deep. If you're looking for an overly complex crafting system that will allow you to dominate your opponents in the space arenas, then this is probably not the game for you. That being said, I do hope to find a system that ultimately balances out so that when you jump into a dogfight, the person or team who wins has the most skill or has the best luck, not the better-geared starships.
Simply put, I believe Galactic Starfighter is another fun game within the game. You should expect to jump in, shoot down some players from the other faction, probably get shot down yourself multiple times, then pop back out to what you were doing before you queued up. I don't believe that anyone should expect Galactic Starfighter to hold them to SWTOR. I believe that Galactic Starfighter will be enough to intrigue players or entice them to come back to the game, specifically players who were missing the "star" in their Star Wars MMO, but it will likely not be enough to occupy the entire playtime of gamers.
We should expect Galactic Starfighter to be fun. As I said, players have been asking for some sort of free-flight space game since before launch. BioWare has had plenty of time to interrogate its playerbase to find out exactly what would make the vast majority happy. Although it won't be everything people have been clamoring for, Galactic Starfighter should present a reasoned compromise of everything people wanted. It should pull bits and pieces from all the suggestions SWTOR players have made over the last two years. Everyone who has asked for a free-flight game should find something that he or she likes.
I cannot have a discussion about Galactic Starfighter without mentioning the payment model. Or should I say the lack of payment model? That's right, this expansion is free, sort of. Galactic Starfighter is releasing a full month and a half earlier for players who are subscribed. It adds additional value to the subscription, and at the same time it should hopefully pay for itself by bringing in extra revenue from players resubscribing to check out the additional content. Perhaps BioWare has begun to really understand the MMO market instead of pretending that its a single-player game with tacked-on MMO elements.
Before I closed out this week's Hyperspace Beacon, I wanted to thank all the people who have sent me email and twitter messages. This past week, I've received a surprisingly high influx of new (let's call it) fan mail. Unfortunately, I have not been able to reply to it all, but I wanted to say corporately that I really do appreciate it. Each message helps to make my job worth it every week. If you ever want to drop me a line, feel free to send me a message via email to email@example.com or send me a message via twitter. I'll see you next week.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!