Hyperspace Beacon: The 2014 spring roadmap for Star Wars: The Old Republic

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Hyperspace Beacon: The 2014 Spring roadmap for Star Wars: The Old Republic
Late is better than never. The producers of Star Wars: The Old Republic have finally let players know what their plans are for the next couple of months. Senior Producer Bruce Maclean jumped onto the producer's blog and dropped some tidbits just before Update 2.6 launched. Although it would have been nice to have this info last month when everyone was making new year's resolutions, Maclean did give us some really nice items to look forward to. Unfortunately, I'm not sure whether it's enough to change my resolution to play less of SWTOR.

I recently started a series of articles about roleplaying a Sith, and I promise that I will get back to that, but this producer's letter gave us too much timely news to pass up. The biggest piece, of course, was buried at the bottom in a paragraph that would likely be skipped if a person just skimmed the article. "We are moving to a 9 week cadence for the major content updates," Maclean says. He explains that this cadence will be more beneficial to the game because it gives the team more time to squash the bugs, but I suspect it's more that his team just cannot produce what it wants to this year without a bit of extra time. With SWTOR earning $139 million last year, you'd think that EA could toss in an extra developer or two to help keep up the current six-to-eight-week cadence.

Where is that six weeks or more of extra time going this year? For that, we turn back to Maclean's roadmap.

GSF official
The official launch of Galactic Starfighter blasted to live servers last Tuesday. So far this week, I've run the new flashpoint about a billion times. At first, I wanted to just see all the different scenarios, and I eventually did. It took me a day, but I caught the last one on Wednesday morning. The five different primary levels and the three different boss fights take very little effort to pound through. If you have a low-level character and are sick of the planetary quests as I am, then I suggest running this flashpoint. Sure, it will get repetitive, but at least you're not spending much time traveling from quest hub to quest hub.

A few of my guildies plan to level alts though this flashpoint alone when the next double XP weekend hits, which Maclean said would be March 14th through the 17th. Are we looking at a St. Patrick's Day celebration?

Back to the basics
If you were to ask a Star Wars and SWTOR fan about the biggest storytelling element missing from the game, she would likely say that there is too little in the realm of Republic vs. Empire. Honestly, we haven't seen any of that since our leveling experience through Corellia two years ago. After the Eternity Vault operation, group activity has concentrated on the Dread Masters. The solo and small-group additions have focused on the Rakghouls and Hutt Cartel.

Maclean intends to put those distractions to an end and pit the two superpowers against each other again on April 8th. He explains that Update 2.7 will bring "two new Flashpoints on Tython and Korriban, where the Empire and Republic confront each other directly, initiating a new storyline that will span updates across the entire year until its galaxy-shaking finale." We know that at least one of the original writers, Hall Hood, is still on the team, but maybe this is what Alexander Freed was talking about when he tweeted a long time back (so far back that it's now lost in the bowels of the internet) that he just finished up some work on SWTOR.

Personally, I cannot wait until we see more direct Empire-vs.-Republic storylines and group activities. Let's be honest: It wouldn't be Star Wars otherwise. And if I can make an off-the-wall prediction, I'll say that we might actually see the return of the Emperor before this story arc has finished up.

Endgame pioneers
Progression raids should be happy with Update 2.7 and Update 2.8, which release on April 8th and June 10th, respectively. Maclean's team will have Nightmare-modes of the two latest operations ready to go this spring. Of course, my raid team struggles with hard-modes, but we certainly have a more relaxed atmosphere for our raid group. Top-tier raiders have mastered the existing raids and have been done with them for several months. But the last nightmare-mode had to be tuned down before many of the top-tier groups could actually pass it. What can we expect to see for Nightmare Dread Fortress and Nightmare Dread Palace? I hope the team doesn't undertune it. Make it extra difficult, guys.

PvPers have not been forgotten. During my last conference call with Senior Producer Blaine Christine and GSF Lead Designer Michael Backus, Christine mentioned that there is a surprising number of people who PvP regularly in SWTOR. I'll take his word for it, despite my giving the "killer" aspects of TOR a low score. That said, killers do have a lot to look forward to in the coming months. A long-awaited new Huttball map hits with the April 8th update, as does a new starfighter map. Then on June 10th, we can expect a whole new starfighter role. The GSF players in my guild cannot fathom what that new role will be.

Overall, endgamers should be excited about this spring. However, with nine weeks between patches, we will see a bit more downtime than we'd like. Maybe the Bounty Hunter and Rakghoul events can keep us entertained in the meantime.

More to come...
Maclean said that Update 2.8 will be the biggest update up to that point. Did he mean in the history of the game or this year? If he meant the former, then wow, that's amazing. If it was the latter, then it's still impressive, but I'm not jumping out of my chair. However, Maclean did leave us with one bit of information that I'm more than excited to see: "Expect to see two digital expansions in 2014 just like you did last year," he teases, "with one similar to Galactic Starfighter in scope and one more closely resembling Rise of the Hutt Cartel." Although there are no more personal stories coming, it's good to see that more expansions are on their way. And it's good to know that these expansions will likely revolve around the direct conflict between the two supreme military forces.

I will keep my eyes out for the latest news from the SWTOR camp. Is any of this what you're looking for? What bit of news do you think deserves my focus? Let me know in the comments.

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!
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