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Hyperspace Beacon: The rest of SWTOR's year-end report

Sci-Fi, Culture, Expansions, Patches, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Roleplaying, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: The rest of SWTOR's year-end report
The end of the year is nigh, and as I promised, I will give you my final thoughts on Star Wars: The Old Republic and its achievements for 2013. I wanted my assessment to be based on something other than squishy feelings. Of course, opinions are extremely subjective, but that doesn't mean they cannot be based on something a bit more substantial. In July, I created a mid-term report card for SWTOR using Dr. Richard Battle's studies as the starting point. Bartle's study allowed me to step out of my normal playstyle and observe the game from the standpoint of different types of MMO players.

Some players find discovery and exploration to be the most important part of an MMO. Others want to achieve the highest scores or defeat the biggest bosses. Some want to prove that they are better than other players in direct combat, and yet other players want to use the game as an interactive chatroom or work with a group to achieve a goal. Few people fall neatly into one category or other, but nearly everyone will have a dominant motivation.

A couple of weeks ago, I graded the game based on the perspective of Bartle's Killer type, giving SWTOR a C- in the category. Because of Galactic Starfighter and 4v4 arenas, I raised the grade from the F I gave it during the mid-term report. I gave the game an A- for Achievers, B for Explorers, and C for the Socializer earlier this year. Has SWTOR been able to raise its grade in these other categories?

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Hyperspace Beacon: 'Twas the night before Sithmas and all through SWTOR...

Sci-Fi, Events (In-Game), PvP, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guides, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: 'Twas the night before Sithmas and all through SWTOR...
If you've not been in game since last week, then you don't know about the snow problem that Carrick and Vaiken station have had since the Master of Ceremonies stopped by Star Wars: The Old Republic. Everyone, for no good reason at all, has been pelting each other with snowballs. They all think they are special snowflakes or something -- something I knew I was before this event began. But perhaps I should start at the beginning.

The Life Day event actually started when the Cartel Market began selling Life-Day-related items on the week of the 10th. The items were the exact same items that were on sale last year. Many people, including me, were concerned that the whole event (if you could call it that) would be a complete recycle of last year's. Of course, we had the tensile bomb, the Life Day orb, the Life Day robes, and everyone's favorites, the festive snow-blowing speeder. (That was sarcasm, in case it didn't come through the text.) Fortunately, this year's SWTOR Life Day festivities didn't end there.

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Hyperspace Beacon: The SWTOR year-end report on PvP

Sci-Fi, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: The SWTOR year-end report -- PvP
In July, I took the famous Bartle Test and pitted it against the state of Star Wars: The Old Republic at the time. The test, based on the research of Dr. Richard Bartle, measures the types of activities within an MMO that players find fun. Of course, there is plenty of crossover, and very few people fit neatly into one category, but I believe that if an MMO hits all the categories well, it will be highly successful, at least from a player's point of view. In the research, player motivation is divided into four categories: Achiever, Explorer, Killer, and Socializer.

I have never been a fan of the term Killer as used to describe the type of player who likes to compete directly with other players, but then, I didn't earn a PhD from the University of Essex, either. The Killer category has always been described as more than someone who likes to PvP in the sense that most MMOs provide PvP. A Killer likes to compete, plain and simple. He wants his skills pitted against the skills of other players, and he wants to be recognized for it. In SWTOR, many Killer-types will hang out on the steps of the Sith Academy on Korriban dueling, partially because they find dueling enjoyable, but also because it is in sight of many other players. (That's where recognition comes in.)

In July, I gave SWTOR very poor marks in the Killer category. I wrote, "Later this year, BioWare plans on introducing a content specifically focused on PvP, but given the team's track record, I have my concerns," and then I gave the team an F in this category. Has BioWare been able to raise that grade? And how have things changed since mid-year?

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Hyperspace Beacon: Leveling to max in SWTOR in less than a day

Sci-Fi, Events (In-Game), PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guides, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: Leveling to max in SWTOR in less than a day
Periodically, the producers at BioWare will throw players a gift of double XP for a weekend in Star Wars: The Old Republic, or in the case of last July, three weekends. Over the American Thanksgiving holiday, SWTOR did it again, and I decided that I was going to take full advantage of it. Laura Williams, Lee Snyder, and I leveled five characters to level 50 in about 18 hours over that weekend, and today, I'm going to tell you how we did it.

Laura mentioned reading a post on the official forums about two guys who leveled their characters over the July double-XP weekend in 23 hours of gameplay. Being the competitive player that she is, Laura had to beat that record. When I heard this, I knew I had to jump on board. There were some Republic classes that I had not played through yet, and I needed my fourth class buff. When I agreed to run with her over Thanksgiving, Lee joined in, too.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Should you subscribe for SWTOR Galactic Starfighter?

Sci-Fi, Expansions, Launches, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: Should you subscribe for SWTOR Galactic Starfighter?
If our comments are any judge, many gamers do not believe that Star Wars: The Old Republic lived up to its launch hype. These players have been wary about jumping back into the game despite the positive impressions of the latest expansion Galactic Starfighter. Is it worthwhile for them (or anyone else) to jump back in?

BioWare launches its second expansion for SWTOR today. This addition to the game takes us into the thick of the centuries-long struggle between the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire. Players take command of one of 12 different dog-fighting starships in two possible 12v12 skirmish maps. Far different than the on-rails shooter-minigames the MMO launched with, these maps are completely free-roaming and play more like a flight simulator than StarFox 64. Of course, that alone doesn't necessarily make the expansion worth it. Let's examine the features that could make this expansion worthy of your subscription.

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR Galactic Starfighter has crew skills, too

Betas, Sci-Fi, Expansions, PvP, Endgame, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guides, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

SWTOR Galactic Starfighter has crew skills, too
Last week, I gave you an overview of the next expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic, Galactic Starfighter. We learned that the 12v12 space battles work independently of the ground game and even eliminate any sort of level requirement in order to begin. Galactic Starfighter commendations are earned only through space battles and work to enhance only starfighter-related skills. In fact, the only tie to the ground game comes in the form of your companions. Companions play a pivotal and fun role in Galactic Starfighter, so much that picking the wrong companion can ruin your impression of the SWTOR expansion altogether.

For each ship loadout, you may pick four companions to give you eight passive abilities and one active ability.The abilities are divided into four categories, as are the companions: defensive, offensive, engineering, and tactical. Your active ability is determined by which of the four companions you choose to be your copilot. It sounds simple enough, right? The complexity begins when choosing which abilities work best for your playstyle.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Getting started with SWTOR Galactic Starfighter

Sci-Fi, Expansions, Game Mechanics, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guides, Hyperspace Beacon

Hyperspace Beacon: Getting started with SWTOR Galactic Starfighter
For about a month now, I have been playing the new expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic, Galactic Starfighter. Granted, I haven't logged as many hours as some of those crazy people who have extensive guides on what each component does and how it compares to other similar components, but I have spent about 20 or so hours trying out different builds and testing my skills against other players. I certainly don't consider myself the best, but if I have the right equipment, I can hold my own.

I've realized that not everyone jumping into SWTOR's new expansion will know what to do when getting started. I don't think I have to go over the basics like how to hop into your first match, but there are some things a person of average intelligence should know before tackling his first dog-fight. He should also set some goals for his first upgrades. I intend to help you out with that.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Putting SWTOR PvP on the right track

Sci-Fi, Expansions, Patches, PvP, Endgame, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: Putting SWTOR PvP on the right track
This past weekend, a friend of mine came up from Texas. Not only did we talk about our families and such, but we also spent some time talking about Star Wars: The Old Republic PvP. We have both been following the game about the same amount of time, and we are now in the same guild.

I argued that PvP in SWTOR is broken. A couple of Advanced Classes excel while the others are just filler or fodder. Even if there were balance in the classes, BioWare does little to encourage the competitive player. In July, I gave a mid-term report card for SWTOR based on Dr. Richard Bartle's assessment of the different types of MMO gamers. As you might guess, SWTOR failed miserably in the "killer" category.

As I talked to my friend, we came to the conclusion that SWTOR is a PvE game with a side of PvP. However, given some of the additions coming later this year, I think our Star Wars MMO might raise itself above the F grade I gave it a few months ago. Today, marks the start of Season One PvP, and in less than a month Galactic Starfighter launches. Both of these additions mark significant changes to the perception of game through the eyes of a "killer."

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR Marauders will suck but Operatives will not

Sci-Fi, Classes, Patches, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

SWTOR, Marauders are going to suck and Operatives are going to win
Update 2.5 for Star Wars: The Old Republic will release at the same time the Galactic Starfighter expansion will hit for subscribers. Perhaps this timing is meant to hide the awful mistakes BioWare is making with two of its best Advanced Classes. One will receive a thorough thrashing with a nerf bat, while the other will only get a stern talking-to -- not even a wag of the finger. Of course, I'm talking about the Marauder/Sentinel class and the Operative/Scoundrel class.

Last week, the Inquisitor/Consular class took center stage because there is a chance that the Madness spec might actually become viable in PvP. But at the same time the Assassin/Shadow tank becomes viable in PvE, it'll become a wrecking ball in PvP. (Time to roll another character!) Unfortunately, two of my favorite classes aren't seeing the changes they need in the next SWTOR update. Because I'm so helpful to the SWTOR developers, I will sit in my armchair and tell them exactly what to do. But first, let's talk about the tweaks coming for these two enormously popular classes.

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's changing combat in update 2.5

Sci-Fi, Classes, Patches, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon SWTOR's changing combat in update 25
Let's talk about the combat changes coming in Star Wars: The Old Republic Update 2.5. We'll see pretty large sweeping changes to a couple of my favorite classes and some much-needed changes to others. Some of the changes make me question the thought processes of the designers, and some much-needed changes seem to be absent.

I don't consider myself a combat design expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I have played every class in SWTOR extensively with the exception of the Bounty Hunter and Trooper classes. But then those two classes aren't seeing any major changes in Update 2.5. Therefore, I don't have much to talk about with them anyway. My favorite class is the Marauder/Sentinel, so the nerfs and upgrades to that class are dear to me. But I also really enjoy the Operative/Scoundrel class as well. This class will see (and frankly, not see) some changes in the upcoming patch. But I believe the class that is affected the most is the Madness/Balance-specced Inquisitor/Consular. Let's start there.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Four myths behind the SWTOR Galactic Starfighter NDA

Betas, Sci-Fi, Expansions, MMO Industry, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon Four myths behind the SWTOR Galactic Starfighter NDA
You want to know how to get viewers to your livestream and get yourself banned by BioWare all in one stroke? Film the beta for Star Wars: The Old Republic Galactic Starfighter! However, like the many who have leaked information about upcoming games, I have wondered why there is an NDA on these things in the first place. What is lost by companies allowing players to stream or talk about closed beta tests, and what is gained by company by keeping some things under wraps?

In the video games industry, like many industries on the cusp of technology and innovation, competition is high, as are the stakes. And developers like BioWare want to keep its latest creations like the next expansion for SWTOR under tight control to supposedly prevent the competition from stealing its secrets and creating a game just like it. I'm not so sure that makes a lot of sense. In fact, I've found that most of the reasons behind a beta NDA don't hold true when it comes to the next expansion for SWTOR. Here are the top four myths that I hear from those who support an NDA.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Curbing expectations for SWTOR Galactic Starfighter

Sci-Fi, Business Models, Expansions, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon Curbing expectations for SWTOR Galactic Starfighter
After the announcement last week about the Star Wars: The Old Republic super-secret space project, I wanted to jump up and down, shouting from the roof tops about how BioWare has done something right. BioWare has given small indications of how it was listening to fans, starting with the size of lightsaber hilts up to dyeable lore-based gear. However, in this column, I want to give a balanced report of what's happening in SWTOR. Although the next expansion, Galactic Starfighter, tops nearly everything SWTOR has ever implemented to date, I think we should have realistic expectations for the upcoming expansion.

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's Dread War, part 2

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Patches, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon SWTOR's Dread War, part 2
This past week, I finished up exploring all aspects of the new Star Wars: The Old Republic patch save for the final showdown between my guild and the Dread Council. If you have been following my livestreams, then you'll know that we should finish that up on Wednesday. In this column, I've covered everything from the history of how the Dread Masters arrived at this point to the first offensive on the moon of Oricon to the first phase of the attack on the Dread Masters' fortress. Overall, it's been exciting. BioWare concluded this chapter in SWTOR history with as much flare as it started it two years ago.

In the final confrontation between the player and the Dread Masters, we understand more about the characters of the Dread Masters and their motivation to conquer the known galaxy. We've already confronted Dread Master Styrak in the Scum and Villainy operation and Dread Master Brontes in the Dread Fortress operation from last week. Dread Masters Bestia, Tyrans, Calphayus, and Raptus remain. And that's who we will study this week.

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's Dread War, part 1

Sci-Fi, Patches, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, Dungeons, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon SWTOR's Dread War, part 1
When I freed the Dread Masters on the prison world of Belsavis, little did I know that a year and a half after the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic, I would not only be fighting against these amazing foes but trying to destroy them. As I mentioned the last couple of weeks, the Empire and the Republic found the secret base of the Dread Masters on the planet Oricon, where they have been hiding and experimenting on the local fauna while amassing their subjugated army.

Eventually, a strike team will have to invade the Dread Master's fortress, and in the two new operations of Update 2.4: The Dread War, you will get to do just that. Although I'm still not sure where this falls on the fun scale when compared to other SWTOR operations, I can tell you that it is challenging and exciting. I'll break it down for you, and if you hadn't guessed already, there will be spoilers. That said, I will limit the story-related ones.

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's Oricon daily adventures

Sci-Fi, Patches, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon SWTOR's Oricon daily adventures
If you missed last week's overview of the Oricon storyline and the history leading up to it, then check that out because today we are going to continue on that same theme. I have played through the content on the new daily area of Oricon set to release on October 1st, and I am surprisingly impressed with the storyline. The writing team for Star Wars: The Old Republic has yet to fall short. Despite the smaller production team and the number of people who claim that the game didn't live up to their expectations, BioWare continues to deliver a wonderful and compelling story. And if that is what you're looking for in your MMORPG, then SWTOR is still your game.

However, many MMO gamers aren't looking for story, specifically. These gamers want to hear about the mechanics. I can appreciate that. Once the story becomes tired, the mechanics of a questline are going to be what holds a player to the game. How does the new questlines on Oricon stack up? That's a good question. I'd usually judge quests on the environment, challenge, flow, and overall immersion. But since these quests are supposed to be done on a regular basis (thus the name dailies), that means there has to be a repeatability factor. Let's examine these categories.

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