For background, SWTOR is the only MMO that I am regularly raiding in. I've been raiding twice a week with the same group of people for about the last two years.
A bunch of important story Flashpoints (Black Talon, Revan, Malgus flashpoints) are getting a Solo mode. There will be level-scaling so it's the appropriate difficulty. I'm not sure if there will be a GSI "Jesus" Droid or not, as that would pretty much remove all difficulty.
Many flashpoints are being converted to Tactical mode, where any four roles can group together, without needing a tank or healer. Everyone here will be bolstered to max level, so any levels can group together, starting from level 10. You get personal loot designed for your class and specialization.
Other flashpoints are Hard Mode, which require a tank and healer. They will be available at 50, with bolstering to max level, it looks like. Again, it looks like personal loot will be the normal, but the loot here is specifically called out as being the stepping stone to operations.
The flashpoint changes seem pretty reasonable. It's interesting that SWTOR has chosen to ignore the trinity until near max level, but I can't say that's entirely wrong. For someone who's just interested in the story and simple group content, sticking with the individual story, Solo Flashpoints, and Tactical Flashpoints will provide a good amount of content.
For operations, the key phrase is "however with Knights of the Fallen Empire there will not be any new Operations." Now, Bioware doesn't specify if that means no new operations at launch, or no new operations for the entirety of the expansion. If it's the former, that's pretty reasonable, especially with the other changes. If it's the latter, that's a huge change.
All operations will be re-tuned for max level (8-man and 16-man) and will have a Story Mode and a Hard Mode. There will also be a Nightmare mode for some operations. Each day a different Story Mode operation will be available in Group Finder. It sounds like both Hard Mode and Story Mode operations will drop the same level of loot.
Each week, a different Hard Mode operation will be "highlighted". That operation will drop better loot. As well, Nightmare modes will also drop this better loot.
So loot-wise, the endgame progression as I understand it will look like:
- T0 - Hard Mode flashpoints
- T1 - Story Mode operations, non-highlighted Hard Mode operations
- T2 - Highlighted Hard Mode operation, Nightmare Modes
So I guess Bioware expects extended guilds to focus their raid nights on whatever the highlighted HM operation is. The edge guilds can tackle Nightmare Modes.
However, these are all old operations, just re-tuned. I don't know how well this will be received. Part of the draw of extended group content is demonstrating mastery over content. I'm not sure how well a forced rotation will work. If Bioware does introduce new operations, I'm not sure how they would work. Would they go into the rotation? Would they be a new tier T3?
To be honest, this system is probably great for the new players, solo players, or even group players who came to the game late. It's just not particularly attractive to the loyal group player who's been playing since launch, and has seen and beaten all these operations before.
There are other worries. One view of SWTOR's initial collapse is that story isn't enough to hold people. People did the story once, got to endgame, saw that it was lacking, and unsubscribed. Is this new plan simply repeating the same mistake that launch did?
Or will continuous delivery of new story be enough to keep people, such that this endgame gives them something to do while waiting for the next installment? Is Bioware better off by playing to their strengths, even if they lose many people who were mostly interested in raiding?
To be honest, as a long-time SWTOR raider--albeit one who is still struggling with the current Hard modes--these changes make me want to stop raiding. I might still stick around for the story, as I do enjoy that. But if I'm interested in doing proper extended group content, it might better to cut my losses, and go find a good group in WoW or FFXIV.
In some ways this is a pity. I've always liked SWTOR's operations. They've been interesting and inventive. It's unfortunate that they won't be making any new ones any time soon. I recommend that existing raiding games try to poach some of the ops designers from SWTOR.