I've been skeptical of group-finder tools. Sure, MMOs should have them, but more importantly, most that I have seen don't work very well. Usually, they fall short in some manner, like not pairing classes well. In the case of Star Wars Galaxies, the group-finder was very little help at all; you were pretty much were better off just searching in a random chat channel.
The group-finder in SWTOR changed my mind. It's robust and feature-rich. Not only can you see the queue for an instance or frankly anything else that requires a group, but you can select the group role you wish to play (though not a role your character cannot be specced for -- you won't find a Marauder trying to fill a tank role). On top of that, I have found that operations set up a fairly balanced group.
I have been skeptical of the server mergers, but it was never because I didn't want to see them done. It's just that I've only seen one company in my history with MMOs handle server mergers well. RIFT's mergers were nearly seamless because players could freely switch servers from the start of the game. I believe that SWTOR handled the actual mergers poorly, but the ultimate result is a net positive for the game.
If you left TOR because your server was bleak, then you have to come back now. Servers are full again. Even the least-populated of the 12 US destination servers has a very healthy server population. If not for the server mergers, the previously mentioned group finder would not work at all.
Some gamers, including Justin Lowe from Darth Hater, would say that too much emphasis was placed on the Legacy system during development. He believes too many resources were allocated to that system when they would have been better spent in other areas of the game. In general, I agree with that.
But I think that for TOR, the legacy system is very important. If this had been World of Warcraft or RIFT (especially RIFT), I don't believe a legacy system would be nearly as important because there is no huge incentive to roll a second, third, or eighth character. But given that SWTOR contains eight unique class stories, I can think of eight different reasons that everyone should roll an alt: Imperial Agent, Smuggler, Jedi Knight, Sith Warrior, Bounty Hunter, Sith Inquisitor, and Jedi Consular (in that order).
The world quests and side-missions block my personal desire to play through every class story, especially in later levels when your class quest makes up only about 20% of your missions. The legacy system breaks down some of that wall of frustration by granting additional (up to 30%) XP for playing other parts of the game. The two biggest areas for me are PvP XP and class missions, but for other playstyles, you can gain extra XP through space missions and flashpoints. (With the addition of the group-finder, the flashpoint XP is well worth it.)
On my newly created Sith Sorcerer, I am less than halfway through Tatooine and am already the level I should be to go to Alderaan. I'm hoping by the end of Tatooine, I will be able to skip Alderaan's world missions all together. (The world quests on that planet are not my favorite.)
Lastly, ranked PvP has been introduced to the game. Currently, it's in a pre-season state, but it does give us a taste of what in-season PvP will be like. And of course, you can still earn PvP gear rewards.
Personally, I am not a fan of post-50 PvP, but many of my friends and guildies love it. Granted, most of my friends who PvP have already obtained their War Hero gear, but it's the 8-man queue that is the biggest turn-on for them. For the first time in the game, you can have a completely premade PvP team. This allows for great cohesion and greater competition between teams because PvP queues are not yet cross-server. The teams will begin to really understand each other, and I foresee some great (and healthy) rivalries being built.
Before the additions found in update 1.3, much of the content in SWTOR had been ignored. Certain flashpoints, story quests, and PvP maps were just not fun. However, with additional incentives like group-finder dailies and ranked warzones, many of my guildmates complete the weekly missions easily and regularly, even if they play at odd times.
If you play SWTOR now, do you like the additions of 1.3? Are these really game-changers for you? If you don't play SWTOR, how do you feel about getting back in now? Are you intrigued? Let me know in the comments, and I will see you next week! May Ashla watch over you.
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!