Thursday, 9 July 2015

Knights of the Fallen Empire (part 3): group content

I was writing this post when suddenly the bomb fell this official post announcing no new group content with Knights of the Fallen Empire was released. On the plus side, I have more to write about; on the down side I could start over from scratch. I guess a warning is in order: I'm not exactly in a cheerful mood at the moment. Group content is something that is very much on the mind of the gamers I play with right now. And while we may not get any new immediately with the release of the expansion, I believe it is something that will prove to be deeply entwined with the future of the game.

Before today

So what did we know about endgame in Knights of the Fallen Empire before today? Not that much. All we had was this quote from Eric Musco: 
"Lots of good questions around Operations! I am not going to go into details right now but, we have plans for Operations that we are pretty excited about. We will be releasing a blog in the coming weeks which should answer many of the questions that you have right now."
Initially, I was relieved when I read this: at the very least, this means that they don't want to totally give up on this part of the game. Then I realized that this quote doesn't promise anything new if you read it to the letter. In the worst case scenario "we have plans for Operations" only covers scaling the current operations up to the new level cap. There is no explicit promise of a new raid in the making.

And then that worst case scenario just happened.

The news

We are not getting new operations with Knights of the Fallen Empire. Instead, all old operations will be scaled up for the new level cap (level 65). (Source.)

George Smith: "We felt it was important to first address some of the issues with our Elder Game before moving on to new content."

I'm sceptical about this argument. I don't hear players addressing old raid content not being scaled up as an issue. I'm hearing players address bugs and extreme difficulty of the last bosses in the current endgame raids as an issue. I'm getting tired of this. When will game companies realize that being plain honest is less harmful to player goodwill than making things up or evading questions? A suggestion: "Since we are putting all our resources in making amazing stories, we don't have any left to work on new operations" - there, that wasn't so hard, was it?

I might still not like it, but at least we know where we are standing.

Oven mitts: the retro trend of fall 2015?


Then there's that other thing that makes this news the more disappointing to oldtime endgame players. As a member of the Nerfherders (my Imperial raid group) voiced it: "So with the update we can basically start over again, doing the same old raids to get gear? What's the point?" Endgame raiders are aware of the gear threadmill, but they're also aware of why they ultimately raid: to get that great feeling you've beaten something you have not done before, that you've worked on that together. Gear is merely a means to a goal and for oldtime raiders there will be no goal.

Smith continues: "Nightmare Mode will also be available for all the Operations that had it previously, and will reward the same as the highlighted Hard Mode, as all as all the unique mounts and titles available currently."

I don't see much of a reason to challenge oneself with nightmare mode content. I guess it's fun if you really want that mount or title, or if you haven't done it yet. It feels a bit weird that nightmare mode doesn't reward with better gear than hardmode, but then again, it's not like we'll be needing superb gear with solo droids and bolster in both story and hardmode flashpoints.

The positive

Because I'm really getting too depressed if I don't put some positive stuff in. Here we go:

1) Scalable flashpoints that will allow people of different levels to play together is a great quality of life improvement.

2) New players will have the chance to see the old operations on level, while oldtime players can do some nostalgia raiding.

3) "Every Operation will drop a new tier of Elder Game gear, as well as new vanity rewards such as Mounts, Vehicles, and Decorations for your Stronghold."

I like new decorations for my stronghold. I guess that's at least a reason to do them again.

Does this outweigh the lack of new group content? No. As much as I like decorating, it is not enough for me to keep playing a game. But I guess it's something.


No new group content, in particular new raid content, is a slap in the face to old time raiders. I expect a lot of them to disappear over the course of the Coffee expansion. While it can be fun to do old raids for nostalgia reasons for a while, ultimately the fun of raiding is to figure out how to beat challenges, and for old content these players have already done that.

For new players, the Coffee update might be amazing. Casual players can see the story-heavy flashpoints with an OP solo droid and players that haven't been around since launch will get to experience loads of operations on-level that they have not seen before.

I feel two things are imperative to the success of Knights of the Fallen Empire's group content. First off: scaling. The scaling will have to work well, especially with regard to the oldest raids. Lord of the Rings Online is a living example of how tricky scaling can be. A lot of resources went into rescaling and revamping old content (instead of making new, hmm, sounds familiar?) in this game; however, nobody plays them because the difficulty scale is totally off compared to the original content (both ways, depending on which instance) and they give a very different 'feel'. As you can tell from the disastrous scaling in LOTRO, new skills and utilities that have been added over the course of various updates can greatly influence the playing experience of old raids that were made under different circumstances, so this is something that should be taken into consideration and handled carefully. Secondly, new raid or (challenging) flashpoint content should be released within a reasonable time after the Coffee update goes live. If not, SWTOR risks a bleed of old time raiders that currently provide a social structure for non-pug raid activity.

More on Knights of the Fallen Empire

Knights of the Fallen Empire (part 1): the trailer
Knights of the Fallen Empire (part 2): overhyped?
Knights of the Fallen Empire (part 3): group content
Knights of the Fallen Empire (part 4): the newest trailer and story leaks


  1. And for those that have Heroics stashed in Mission logs get the shaft yet again. I have both Macro's and Seeds sitting there unfinished. Not to mention the Op for Oricon. I've only seen them done on youtube, and have never been able to play them myself because by the time I got high enough, everyone was bored with it.

  2. I believe that Bioware watched what Blizzard did with Mists of Pandaria --announcing who the end boss was and what was going to happen-- and decided that they weren't going to repeat that mistake with Knights. Their first order of business seems to be cleaning things up first, and then addressing the new raids and content.

    This will work only if their story content isn't capable of being blasted through in a week or so. If it takes longer to make it through the new content, then there isn't a need for brand new raids right off the bat. But if MMO players are true to form and rush to the end only to say "There's nothing to do!!", then Bioware has a problem.

    I sincerely hope that all of the "Nothing to do!" crowd has moved on from SWTOR after all the entertainment from launch, but you never know. We MMO players are kind of predictable that way.

    As for Flashpoints, which are what I primarily do, I'm very interested in how they broke them out. The ones core to the story are kept in regular mode and given the option to solo, whereas the others that are just fun to do (Athiss and Mandos, for instance) are moved into Tactical. I like that a lot. If you ever are up late at night or early in the morning (or if you play on a server not in your time zone), it can be hard to get into a random FP if you're DPS like me. But this makes grouping that much easier, and if you can't group, you can always solo the story FPs.

    The FP changes remind me a lot of what Blizz wanted to do with Cataclysm: the auto-adjusting of toon levels so that you could group up with a low level friend and tackle a 5-man at the proper level. Unfortunately, Blizz dropped that design element for Cataclysm, so it never made the light of day.

    Now, if they can get the tweaking right, I might finally get into Red Reaper before I outlevel it....

    (Hmm, they didn't list Directive Seven there. I wonder if that was just a goof.)

  3. The flashpoint changes are awesome. FFXIV has a similar system and I feel it encourages social activity because any level guildie can jump in and help you. But I'm similarly worried about the operations. People are leaving, even if only temporarily, because they don't want to rerun old content, even if it's scaled up.

    1. Totally agree with the flashpoints. It's something new MMOs should instantly implement, in my opinion. Guild Wars 2 runs on a similar system (levelling players down while still getting normal XP for your level, both in open world and instances) and I *love* never having to worry about levels. I feel levels were always intended to provide a feeling of reward to individual players, not to limit cooperative gameplay.

      If we'll get a new operation somewhere at the start of 2016 the situation might be salvageable. But like you say, if the game runs without new endgame for a long time, those oldtime raiders might be gone for good.

  4. The problem we run into is that things take time to mature when you re-do and re-engineer to the level it sounds like they are doing. A couple of my guild members have tried to put lipstick on the pig, but most of us are thinking, what will make me want to log in and play once I hit max level? I have no idea what my regular 4 person group is going to do together once this comes out. Probably go try a different game.

    1. I'm similarly worried about my Imperial Nerfherder raid team. The majority of them only logs in to raid. For my Republic guild things might be better: most members stem from LOTRO and have joined SWTOR at a later date. They haven't seen the old operations on-level. Conrad is looking forward to rediscovering them with these people (he leads the raids), and with his enthusiasm I'm not too worried that we'll get something going.


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