SWTOR on its second anniversary: Winning an uphill battle

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Star Wars: The Old Republic two-year anniversary -- winning an uphill battle
At the beginning of the year, Star Wars: The Old Republic was struggling to find its place in the MMO world. As you are likely aware, 2012 was a rough year for SWTOR, but because of the free-to-play launch in November, the tide began to turn, at least financially. Players began flooding back to the game because BioWare tore down the paywall, but that was really the beginning of battle. If SWTOR really wanted to see success, it was going to have to keep those players around. Thus began the uphill battle of making the game successful in 2013.

The game began the year with a few flops, and although not everyone was completely satisfied with all the decisions this year, SWTOR certainly upped its game. The game we saw at the end of 2012 morphed into something different and more satisfying by the end of this year. It started with the reopening of the western shelf on Ilum, continued to the launch of the game's first expansion, and ended with a second expansion.

Return of the Gree
Game Update 1.7: Return of the Gree (February 2nd, 2013)

When I'm mentally revisiting the Return of the Gree event, the first thing that comes to mind is the lines of people who were queued up to click on a node in a PvP zone. Players appreciated that BioWare gave them something to do in what used to be the open-world PvP zone, but unfortunately, players learned far too quickly that it was more beneficial to not fight than to fight each other in the PvP zone.

However, the Gree event did show players that BioWare was interested in giving them things they want, even if the designers did miss the mark.

 Rise of the Hutt Cartel
Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Game Update 2.0: Scum and Villainy (April 9th, 2013)

What happens to your character after the primary story is done? After your Sith Inquisitor joins the Dark Council or after your Trooper wins the battle of Corellia, does she just sit around twiddling her thumbs? Of course not; she goes to Makeb! Rise of the Hutt Cartel continued our heroes' journeys, giving us five more levels and a revamped skill-system. Each advanced class earned another ability, and waterfalls could finally flow over rocks and not through them.

I think it goes without saying that everyone thought that Makeb was gorgeous. The landscape was filled with towering mesas thath seemed to have no bottom. Most of the reviews from the journalists and players alike were positive in regard to the story in Rise of the Hutt Cartel, but the population was split on the amount and scope of the content. Many gamers hoped that Rise of the Hutt Cartel would contain not only a new planet but individual class stories and possibly a few more levels as well.

Overall, however, Rise of the Hutt Cartel could be considered the first big win of the year for SWTOR. Besides the questline, we saw new endgame flashpoints and a new operation. It had a little something for everyone, except the PvPers. (That would come later.)

Game Update 2.1: Customization (May 14th, 2013)

After RotHC, BioWare promised a six-to-eight week cadence on new-content production. Over the summer, it was more like four to five weeks. And the first of these rapid-fire updates was 2.1: Customization.

I know not everyone is interested in redesigning his character or wearing the most fashionable gear, but I think it's safe to say that everyone likes to be unique. It's human nature. Although BioWare stumbled up this ridge a bit by implementing a dye system that was largely based on the cash shop, overall the studio seemed to understand the importance of giving you a bit more freedom when it came to making your character your own.

Titans of Industry
Game Update 2.2: Operation Nightmare and Game Update 2.3: Titans of Industry (June 12th, 2013, and August 6th, 2013)

The next two game updates gave players some of the best content they'd seen in the game to date. First, we gained some much-desired nightmare raid content that was actually difficult for the hard-core raiders. And for those who do dailies for money but aren't exactly interested in story content, BioWare provided the fastest, most profitable dailies with CZ-198.

The Dread War
Game Update 2.4: The Dread War (October 1st, 2013)

Imperial players started the Dread Masters' story on Belsavis when the game launched. Nearly two years later, the story closed with two epic operations on the Dread Masters' adopted home base of Oricon.

Of course, the high-end raiders believed the hard-mode content was not hard enough. And that's likely true because it wasn't designed as nightmare-mode, and therefore, it wasn't designed for top-end raiding groups. Still, BioWare delivered on the quick update turnaround, and did I mention that PvPers finally received their deathmatch arenas?

Galactic Starfighter
Game Update 2.5: Galactic Starfighter Early Access (December 10th, 2013)

If you have not read enough about Galactic Starfighter, you should check out the latest Hyperspace Beacons. BioWare delivered on the content (free-roaming space) and pricing structure (free for subscribers; free-to-play players have to wait a couple of months).

Once more with feeling
Once more with feeling

So there were some missteps. BioWare didn't do everything exactly the way we wanted all the time. But turning a big ship like SWTOR around 180 degrees takes work. I don't know whether it's turned completely around yet, but it's close. BioWare has begun to see what it will take to keep the game viable and fun for the existing playerbase. Who knows -- maybe next year the game will gather a slew of new players, too.

So what is in store for next year? Unfortunately, that seems to be some great secret. We know that we'll see F2P players gain access to Galactic Starfighter in February, but beyond that, BioWare has been tight lipped -- more so than usual. Of course, this concerns players given the hefty competition hitting shelves over the spring and summer months. It's almost as if the BioWare team in Austin is sitting around singing the end song from the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

Where do we go from here?
Where do we go from here?
The battle's done
And we kind of won
So we sound our victory cheer
Where do we go from here?

That really only leaves me one question to ask you: Where should SWTOR go from here?
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