Hyperspace Beacon: The rest of SWTOR's year-end report
The end of the year is nigh, and as I promised, I will give you my final thoughts on Star Wars: The Old Republic and its achievements for 2013. I wanted my assessment to be based on something other than squishy feelings. Of course, opinions are extremely subjective, but that doesn't mean they cannot be based on something a bit more substantial. In July, I created a mid-term report card for SWTOR using Dr. Richard Battle's studies as the starting point. Bartle's study allowed me to step out of my normal playstyle and observe the game from the standpoint of different types of MMO players.

Some players find discovery and exploration to be the most important part of an MMO. Others want to achieve the highest scores or defeat the biggest bosses. Some want to prove that they are better than other players in direct combat, and yet other players want to use the game as an interactive chatroom or work with a group to achieve a goal. Few people fall neatly into one category or other, but nearly everyone will have a dominant motivation.

A couple of weeks ago, I graded the game based on the perspective of Bartle's Killer type, giving SWTOR a C- in the category. Because of Galactic Starfighter and 4v4 arenas, I raised the grade from the F I gave it during the mid-term report. I gave the game an A- for Achievers, B for Explorers, and C for the Socializer earlier this year. Has SWTOR been able to raise its grade in these other categories?

Achiever: A-
I am extremely tempted to give SWTOR a straight A in the Achievers category, not just because of the achievement system added this year but because there are just so many things to do in this game, especially in PvE. The solo achiever can earn unique items like mounts and minipets from rare spawns and difficult or time-consuming tasks. The group achievers have hard-mode and nightmare-mode operations (raids) that actually meet the difficulty many groups are looking for.

As for the Achievement system itself, it's grown from 30,685 achievement points to 36,860. The variety of different achievements continues to grow and change. Although most Achievers earn the points for bragging rights or personal compulsion, many achievements give players rewards, including money for the cash shop in Cartel Coins.

Two things prevent SWTOR's achievement system from receiving a full-blown A. Although the variety of achievements is wonderful, the actual rewards for some of the high-end achievements aren't exactly equal to the time spent to acquire them. It's great that Achievers receive Cartel Coins, but 20 CCs doesn't exactly allow you to purchase anything. Secondly, although the players on the SWTOR forums have helped track who has the most achievement points, there is nothing official outside the game that allows us to see how we are doing or how we compare with other players or friends.

In case you were wondering: As of right now, the top achiever is Rommelesp from Tomb of Freedon Nadd at 32,300 points.

Explorer: B-
As someone who does a lot of dailies (despite not liking them very much), I enjoy the tight questing areas. Makeb, CZ-198, and Oricon -- the new areas added this year -- take up very little map space, and travel between the different zones is fairly quick and easy. However, what is a boon for the daily-runner is a detriment for the Explorer.

Although these areas lack the expanse that an Explorer would enjoy, each new zone, especially Oricon, has tidbits of exploration gold. When the average player coasts through Oricon, he will likely not notice the holocrons sitting around that give the backstory for each of the Dread Masters. And he certainly didn't notice the new lore object at the southernmost point on Ilum's western ice shelf.

Despite the game's launching as an extremely linear themepark, the developers have made a much-improved effort to make the game more Explorer-friendly. Two things made me drop the grade slightly from the mid-term report. The first one I mentioned is the small size of the new maps, but second is the new expansion. For all the things Galactic Starfighter did for the Killer, it launched with zero additions to exploration, yet BioWare insisted on calling it an expansion. It's nit-picky, but I just think that the hype and terminology revolving around GSF set it up to be more than it was, especially when it comes to exploration.

Socializer: C-
Although roleplayers certainly fit into the Socializer category, it's not exclusive to them. Many players like to create and participate in some events purely for the social aspect of the experience. Guilds, for the most part, are social hubs. If you're one of those people who like to hang out in Teamspeak or Mumble despite not actively playing the game that everyone else is playing or even playing a game at all, welcome to being a Socializer.

Unfortunately, there have been no new social tools added to the game this year. Yes, BioWare gets points for adding sitting-in-chair emotes, but it loses those points by placing them in Cartel Packs. I would be fine with their being in those random lottery packs if they were also in every future pack, but they're not, which in turn raised the price of those particular emotes on social-centric servers. On the two servers I checked this morning, The Ebon Hawk and Jung Ma, the sitting-on-the-toilet emote was selling for 125,000 credits on the GTN, and the basic sitting-in-a-chair emote was up for 150,000. That's not a lot of credits in the long run, but it's not cheap for emotes, which usually sell for about 50,000 or less.

Another social area that was over-looked in this year's additions to the game was venues. Event planners and other socialites want to have spaces to hold their social or even PvP event in spaces that don't have random NPCs getting in the way. Unfortunately, each of the new areas is so crowded with mobs that you can't go 30 meters without aggroing a huge chunk of event-interrupters.

Ending on a high note
I don't want my last article this year about SWTOR to end on a downer, so I'd like to talk about the general health of the game. In January, the game was still getting off the high of the free-to-play launch, then Rise of the Hutt Cartel came out. So if we looked at the population of the servers from the beginning of the year, we'd see a downward trend. However, I like to look at the summer, fall, and into the winter. If the downward trend continued through those months, I would be worried, but it didn't. In fact, populations remained relatively even. Of course, there were minor ebbs and flows depending on your server, but generally, I believe players are enjoying themselves in SWTOR and sticking around.

Have a good time however you celebrate the new year, and don't drink too much Jawa Juice. I'll see you next year.

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.