Monday, 25 July 2016

Knights of the Eternal Throne: more of the same


Star Wars: the Old Republic's latest teaser about its newest Knights of the Eternal Throne (KOTET) expansion is just that: a teaser. We have a picture, a title and the promise that we'll fight for the eternal throne. Nevertheless, the announcement does reveal some things.

Last year, the news of the release of the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion caused somewhat of a hype among MMO players. The promise of going back to Bioware's roots with "story-driven content" including "choices that matter" (to throw in some terms the devs are particularly fond of) appealed to many players, who came to embrace the expansion as a sort of unofficial KOTOR 3. Of course, in reality the SWTOR developers had the challenging job of creating a successful marriage between an MMO and a lineair single-player game. Now, more or less a year later, we know the result.

As we all know, SWTOR's answer to having to work with a hybrid of two gaming genres was subscription based episodic story content. This is not entirely new. Releasing content in tidbits has been a recent trend in the game design world: think of the popular Life is Strange story based single player game, or - if you're looking for an MMO equivalent - Guild Wars 2's "the Living Story". You could even argue that story content DLCs that are popular in single-player games are a sort of episodic content. Nevertheless, the dedication with which SWTOR has embraced the formula is unprecedented in MMO world.

There is much to be said for the choice to go with this type of content release: there is a clear demand for regular new updates by the playerbase. Large expansions are time consuming in development, therefore likely preceded by a period of content drought, and they are consumed faster than they can be resupplied. It seems the current chapter system has worked well for Bioware, as the KOTET announcement shows they plan to continue the path they laid out for themselves a year ago. Even the name, "Knights of the Eternal Throne", is almost identical from the previous expansion and is no doubt chosen to emphasize continuity.

KOTFE was a huge change in direction, a truly new road the company took, and if there would've been plans to come back on that decision, this would've been the time.

So this is what we can expect from KOTET: more of the same. We have a new companion system, an alliance has been built; a whole new base system is in place and it seems only logical that the developers want to build upon it further. There is also another reason the announcement didn't come as a complete surprise to me: we're close to the end of KOTFE, but a chapter with a dazzling finale seems premature. (KOTFE spoilers incoming.) We don't know what the plans of the Emperor are yet, Scorpio has just found her way to the throne, Arcann is losing perspective of things, Senya wants to deal with her children and nobody knows what Vaylin is up to. It's just a bit too much to resolve in such a short time. Not to mention the heaps of pre-KOTFE player companions that are still awol somewhere in the universe.

I am aware that "more of the same" can be read as a negative thing, but this is not how I necessarily mean it. I enjoyed Knights of the Fallen Empire so far: the storytelling is superb and often surprising, I love our main companions and I've enjoyed the KOTOR references (such as the conversation design and playing as the Mysterious Stranger in the arena fight). I'm very curious how the story will come to an end. If single-player storytelling is your thing, the new expansion is excellent news.

KotET and group play

Unfortunately for me, what I love about playing MMOs is group play, and the developers have been suspiciously silent on this subject. Since KOTFE, the effects I forsaw due to lack of new group content have come to pass: my Imp progression team has disbanded; their guild, which was one of the largests on the server since launch, as good as dead. I'm still raiding with my guild on Republic side, but even there I can sense that people are slowly losing enthusiasm. SWTOR is more casual than ever before. Nevertheless, its raids are of an awesome quality, and it seems such a shame to let the talent of the operation developers go unused.

Edit: Shintar linked me to this news article on that reads:
"Of course, The Old Republic is still an MMO, and Ohlen said there will be "a lot of great co-op and multiplayer challenges" included in Eternal Throne. The story focus is there, similar to Fallen Empire, but they redoubled their efforts to make the expansion attractive for their loyal subscriber base as well."
This is good news, right? If anything, it shows that the developers are aware of the wish for group content by the community, and want to address it. I do find it interesting that it doesn't mention the word "raid" specifically. I don't think this is coincidence. We may still get a new raid at some point, but for the near future I'm expecting smaller and less development heavy group content, such as flashpoints or heroics.

At the moment I find myself logging in to play new chapters and twice a week when my guild is raiding, but not just randomly to have fun. I don't see that changing with Knights of the Eternal Throne.

How about you? Are you excited about Knights of the Eternal Throne?


  1. Sadly not really. I have lost my faith in this game. I play it from time to time, but with way they shell out story. It just can't hold my interest anymore. I was going to do the Dark vs Light event, started it, and as usual quit. I got my Light character to Light tier III, and level 55, and just stopped playing.I guess it wouldn't be so bad if I didn't already have a legacy level 50, maxed at crafting, etc. As for story. I can't keep replaying the same old 8 stories, I have my favorites, but still not just for an event. The event doesn't even make sense since I have opted to pretty much keep certain classes completely neutral. Their choices for DS or LS points well doesn't make an ounce of sense to me.

    1. I'm sorry to hear that. With all those alts you have and the role-playing you enjoy, I first thought you might actually like the Dark vs Light event - but then I read your blog post. As you know, the Dark vs Light event doesn't do it for me either. I did eventually create two new characters last week, because I would kind of want that new companion (even though I don't expect too much from it story wise), but I haven't played them much. I'm grouping up with a friend to level two evil sith inquisitors: we both haven't done that yet, and it fits great with the voice acting. I've been spending more time in LOTRO lately, though. I need to gear up there to give the new raid a decent try.

      I hope taking a break from SWTOR will make you return refreshed at some point. I know how much you love(d) it! :)

    2. I took a nice long break, been working on my MMO blog, but last night I ventured back into SWTOR for a bit, went from Ebon Hawk to the 1st server I ever was on, The Shadowlands in the US servers, and recreated my female trooper Reinjasa, Got her to lvl 15 and put her in the SH for the night and logged. I haven't played it yet tonight, not sure. As for Role playing, well it's a dead thing now since for a while now. I have my newly created Agent Trayvae over on Shadowlands as well. I'm doing it just for something to do. I did venture back over into GW2 for a bit. need to take my lvl 65 and bring her up to lvl 70 now. I Love the story there, but hate the grind to get to the next part of the story.

  2. I have been playing for some years - can't remember how many - but I like the KOTFE approach, and still have enough characters who have yet to do the full storyline and with missing companions they want back. So I see KOTET as something to look forward to. I like exploring the subtelties of the plot, even if it is sometimes a dead end. Dark vs Light opened up another area to explore as I'm using the event to develop an Imperial Operative still working for Ardan Kothe at the end of Shadow of Revan - yes I left him alive and agreed to work for the Republic = unlocking a hidden conversation on Yavin. Plus I had focused on class story and Heroics on my first 16 toons, but now I'm exploring all the options that Conquests offer. I admit that I'm a player that 'smells the roses' as I play, and hates rushing through everything. But then I read books again and watch movies again, IF they help me escape into another reality. (And I play other MMOs on the side.)

    1. Replaying to see what different choices do can definitely be a lot of fun! Unfortunately I have a terribly memory for detail (seriously, I can watch series over and over again - I just forget what exactly happened), so I've only done it with two characters ( a dark and a light side one) so far myself. I also want to wait with my other characters until they can get the companions they care about most back (if at all). I agree, for a casual & story-driven playstyle the new direction is absolutely awesome! :)

  3. I'm excited about the stuff they haven't discussed yet, which James Ohlen referred to as "a lot of great co-op and multiplayer challenges". I'm genuinely curious what they are going to do in that area going forward.

    I'm also happy to get more story chapters, but I can't say the prospct "excites" me exactly.

    1. I did read something vague about group content, but nothing as clear as what you posted. I've updated the post and added my thoughts on the subject. Thanks!


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