Thursday, July 09, 2015

SWTOR's Plans for Operations and Flashpoints

SWTOR released a post today, detailing the plans for Operations and Flashpoints in Fallen Empire. I am really not sure what to think.

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.


  1. I read this line, "We felt it was important to first address some of the issues with our Elder Game before moving on to new content", as the important one.

    Even though they go on to say that there's going to be no new Ops, that doesn't mean that they're done with them. As long as they can provide enough story content that people aren't going to blast through them in a day or even a week, then I think they'll be okay. They may consider "no new Ops" to be akin to multi-boss Ops in the standard WoW-esque format, but that they will have individual World Boss Ops available to work on.

    It might be that only at the end of the Knights storyline that they reach the true end of the line and put in Ops.

    1. The end of the Knights storyline is really far away, though. There are something like 9 chapters scheduled for 2016. One chapter per month, we'd be looking at October 2016 for the next operation.

      For that long a gap, you may as well abandon the concept of operations entirely.

    2. It would be almost Blizzard-like in it's length between major Ops, that's for sure.

  2. I feel the same about this. It may sound ridiculous, but I felt as though something died when I read the news yesterday. SWTOR is my raiding game of choice as well, and it's something I thoroughly enjoy. I am going to do those rescaled old operations when the update is there and stick around until (hopefully) something new will be released. However, it will be hard to keep our raiding team going as it is. I *know* people will get bored and drop out.

    The thing is, there aren't *that* many MMOs providing challenging endgame opportunities anymore. If SWTOR is giving up on this in the long run (and I really hope they don't), where do I turn to?

    1. Well, there are at least four games out there: WoW, FFXIV, Wildstar, and RIFT.

      I'm not sure which of those I would choose though.

  3. "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?"

    You pretty much nailed it with the above. BioWare still has no clue how an MMO works, and are doubling down on their original mistake of the 4th pillar. They simple won't be able to produce that type of content quickly enough to retain people, and even if they could, the cost to produce that content would be higher than the income it would generate with the current SW:TOR population.

    So not only is BioWare going back to their original mistake, but they are also alienating what core group they had (which doesn't make a lot of sense to me; why raid in SW:TOR instead of other MMOs that focus more on raiding or being an MMO overall? Just the SW IP?), and by driving out that core group, you kill your own consistent income stream.

    That SW IP is indeed powerful, because any other MMO that did the stuff BioWare has been doing would have shut down long, long ago.

    1. I don't know. They may have a better handle on content generation now that they've been working on it for a few years. My fear is that if the content generation is only profitable at a higher number of subscribers, then we're headed for the same death spiral that was launch.

      On the other hand, if they do manage to pull off monthly story updates of reasonable size, I do think they might be able to make stories work.

      As to why raid in TOR, most TOR players like the story content. Raiding is something to do after the story content has been digested. Plus TOR actually has good raiding. The fights are fun and designed well, as is the gearing up process.

      WoW might have more polished raiding, but it has worse levelling. So for people who want decent stories *and* decent raiding, SWTOR might be the better choice.

  4. "it might better to cut my losses, and go find a good group in WoW"

    Hear hear!

    1. Heh, still thinking about it. The problem is that I'm not thrilled with everything else other than raiding in WoW, especially small group content. Maybe I'll make a post with pros and cons of each game.

  5. Not sure WoW would be the best alternative in this case, considering that Blizzard has a track of record of letting their players go for a year or more with no new content as well. Then again, since you haven't raided in WoW for a while, you'd at least have some older content to catch up with.

    1. Well, for group content, you do whatever the group is doing. Modern WoW is very much "current tier", so I think everyone is working on the new raid anyways.