Change is inevitable and whether you think it’s good, bad, or simply are along for the ride, it’s gonna happen. That’s a good thing though. Things can’t get better if they don’t change, and everything the same makes for pretty boring, pretty quick. With the first quarter of the year soon to end, we’re starting to see some of the changes SWTOR has been promising us since the beginning of the year. And some changes we didn’t see coming.
Changing of the Guard
It wasn’t so long ago we said goodbye to Pokket as part of the Community team. It was pretty clear that she left to rejoin the “streaming is my day job” club, and it was no surprise when the position became open for applicants again. Almost as quickly as it was posted it was taken down, and I imagine the number of applicants was very high. And now, after a short time, we have our newest member of the Community Management Team, Nick Avola!
You can read his introduction here, though beware another overused CM joke. You can also find him on Twitter @avola_swtor. It’s nice to see he’s an actual player of the game and does both PvE and PvP. He also says he is a very competitive gamer, and I wonder if that means he participates in Progression, Leaderboards, or Ranked. Nick also mentioned that he’s trained as an Intelligence Analyst by the government, which is pretty freaking cool.
Part of his initial post also highlights what he hopes to add to the Team; better facilitation of the information passing between players and the appropriate Devs. I’ve long felt that Musco and Tait’s lack of understand in specific game mechanics means the info getting to the production Devs is slightly distorted at times. I’m excited to see how this hire will change the Community/Community Team dynamic. Maybe I’ll get my emails answered a little bit more regularly.
Other changes on the team (in case you missed them) was Courtney moving up to the writing team, and Amber leaving to be an Infrastructure Program Manager with EA Digital Platform. Both these are steps up for the ladies and it’s sad, but good, to see them go.
The Devs have also started their revamp of the Friday Community Streams, which was prompted after many players complained about the lack of interesting content and information on these streams. Hopefully that means a loooooooong break from watching enthusiastic (albeit sloppy) Tactical Flashpoint runs and pity inducing PvP.
On the March 20th stream, the Eric Musco, Bruce Maclean, and Michael Backus gave a presentation of upcoming 3.2 content including Ziost and Outfit Designer. These are both on the PTS to be experimented with and are a part of what the Devs have been hinting at as “big things” coming this year. Story will also be one of the major components for SWTOR 2015 and the stream laid the groundwork for what this might be. Spoilers...we’re finally going to find out what’s the deal with the Emperor. This portion of the stream was accompanied by various graphics which you can actually download here.
The second half of the stream covered mostly the highly anticipated, much hyped, Outfit Designer. For months and months we’ve been wondering how this new feature was going to work, and the Devs gave a basic overview on the hows and whats of the system. The quick and dirty is players will be able to save premade vanity outfits in tabs that will essentially overlay a geared outfit, saving time, energy, and credits. You will no longer have to rip components out and forever be augmenting when you want to change your style.
I liked the organization and information in the stream and hope they continue down that path in the future. I’d also like to see them continue the habit of having DEVELOPERS on the stream so the community can interact with them more and give/get specific information. Right now balance is a huge issue, and it would be nice if Combat Team Devs could talk to players about expectations and realities. It would also be nice to hear from the UI team, Art Devs, and Operation Devs. Something I hope they change in the future is how they operate and monitor the chat. I understand the community is a rowdy bunch sometimes, but the combination of Slow Mode chat and Cartel Coin giveaway fluff showed how intimidated the Community Team is by the players. Instead of interacting with the viewers they filled chat with freebies so any real discussion or question asking was impossible.
The Stream Dream
The second part of SWTOR Stream Plan is to host Player streams on the official SWTOR channel. They seem to be going about this two ways, using established streamers and SWTOR specific streamers. You might remember they’ve done the former previously, with Towelie, and this time they chose the popular European streamer, Nomanis. They also chose player/streamer Snickerr.
Theoretically, both these decisions were good moves. Using established Streamers showcases the game to viewers who may not have seen it before, and it’s the good to help one of the games more well known streamers get a viewer boost. European players have also long felt left out when it comes to catering towards them (no cantinas there & everything happens in the middle of the night) and streaming during their prime time, with one of their own, showed the Devs do actually think about them. To additionally raise the visibility of Snickerr’s stream, Twitch placed it on the front page as one of the featured streams and anyone who went to Twitch.com would see it right there. There were over three thousand viewers during this time and Snickerr gained a few hundred follows.
I used theoretically before because I’m of the opinion that the gain from these two streams was negligible. It’s almost impossible to find the Nonamis stream, as it’s sandwiched between his WoW streaming, and Snickerr’s stream is silent on playback due to music copyright rules with Twitch. And while Snickerr gained followers, his next unhosted stream had about the same number of viewers as before he was hosted. Now, I’m not saying these issues are to be laid on the Streamers themselves, the SWTOR Devs should have been more involved with the streams themselves in a more significant way than just being in chat. For example, all aspects of the game should have been showcased during the Featured Stream time. Snickerr is a GREAT player and PvE-r, but we all know progression PvE is not the selling point of this game. Things like GSF, story, and PvP are all things which should have been shown in order to gives new viewers an overview of what SWTOR has to offer.
Hopefully these changes in staff and streaming help improve the game and it’s prominence. I’m looking forward to what’s going to happen this year and how SWTOR can capitalize on the Star Wars fever and grow. What about you all? Did you watch the various Streams? Do you think the Devs can do more to promote SWTOR that way? What are your hopes with the new Community changes?