2021 not only marks the anniversaries for Halo/Xbox, Uncharted 3, and The Lord of the Rings films, but also it's the 10th anniversary of BioWare's MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic. After a lot of hype and anticipation, the MMO was released in December 2011. The game has had its ups and downs over the years, including its transition to a free game with optional subscriptions, but the game has remained popular and relevant over the past decade for fans of the Star Wars universe.
GameSpot recently spoke with The Old Republic creative director Charles Boyd about the 10th anniversary and what's next for the game, including the Legacy of the Sith expansion this year.
"I tend to compare it to TV a lot, like how lucky are we to have made ten seasons of our favorite show, so to speak, and to know that we’ve still got more yet to come?" Boyd tells GameSpot.
"Switching to a hybrid model of subscription or free-to-play was also a big win for us, and something I think we've evolved really well over the years. It's great that we can meet gamers where they are, instead of trying to have a one-size-fits-all approach," Boyd added.
With the Legacy of the Sith expansion, which Boyd says is The Old Republic's biggest to date, the enduringly popular MMO gives players greater control and freedom of their character with combat styles. Additionally, gear progression has been improved, while there are quality-of-life changes coming to the UI as well. Overall, Legacy of the Sith adds "lots of other modernization" efforts that Boyd says should help The Old Republic live on and thrive for another decade to come.
Since The Old Republic's release in 2011, even more MMOs and MMO-style games have emerged on the market, including Destiny and Amazon's New World most recently. Boyd says he's energized by the renewed enthusiasm in the market for this type of game.
"I'm excited to see people jumping back into this style of game and rediscovering what makes MMOs so uniquely fun and engaging," Boyd said.
You can check out our full interview below, which touches on many other subjects such as how BioWare has responded to fan feedback over the years, why the game has remained popular, and some favorite memories from the past 10 years.
10 years! That’s such a big milestone. I remember all the massive hype leading up to TOR’s launch back in 2011. How does it feel today, 10 years later, to be celebrating such a momentous milestone?
We’re so excited to be celebrating our tenth anniversary! We definitely feel fortunate on the SWTOR team to still be creating new Star Wars adventures after all these years. As huge as the game felt back then, it’s even more colossal now--I tend to compare it to TV a lot, like how lucky are we to have made ten seasons of our favorite show, so to speak, and to know that we’ve still got more yet to come?
When you look back at the past 10 years, what are some notable milestones you can call out that you’re especially proud of or you think are noteworthy?
Knights of the Fallen Empire would definitely be one of them - we got some amazing technical improvements for our Writers, Designers, and especially Cinematics Designers that allowed us to really step up our overall storytelling to a new level. Switching to a hybrid model of Subscription or Free-to-Play was also a big win for us, and something I think we’ve evolved really well over the years. It’s great that we can meet gamers where they are, instead of trying to have a one-size-fits-all approach. I love that you can just download the game and see a ludicrous amount of cool Star Wars stories for free.
"We’re so excited to be celebrating our tenth anniversary! We definitely feel fortunate on the SWTOR team to still be creating new Star Wars adventures after all these years." -- The Old Republic creative director Charles Boyd
What have you and the team learned from the past decade of TOR and how have you applied those lessons toward making TOR better?
Aside from the above, I think we’ve found a great balance in terms of hitting the right mix of content types. MMOs are renowned for the breadth of different experiences they can offer, and we have a very diverse player base interested in the game for a variety of reasons - so at various times over the years we’ve leaned more heavily into various aspects of the game, which has helped us land on an ideal mix of solo-friendly story missions, PvE group activities, and PvP game modes over the last few years in particular.
What do you think it is about TOR that has allowed it to not only sustain but grow over the past 10 years?
Who wouldn’t want to build their own custom character in the Star Wars galaxy and then go on interactive adventures tailored to their choices alongside friends and fans from all over the world? We’ve got so many great characters to befriend or battle or betray or romance (or all of the above!), so many exciting environments to explore and different ways to play that it’s easy to jump into the game and find something to love.
I would imagine sustained and ongoing content is key to the success of any live service game like TOR, and you’ve delivered in spades with the various expansions over the years. Can you talk briefly about the legacy of TOR’s expansions and how you think each has helped TOR grow and evolve?
Our first expansion, Rise of the Hutt Cartel, introduced some fun new gameplay elements and characters who are still crucial to the story to this day. After that, Strongholds brought in our customizable player housing, and Starfighter introduced a really fun PvP space gameplay mode.
Shadow of Revan once again introduced some great and fun characters who are still central to our stories, and carried forward some of the biggest hanging story elements from the base game. In many ways we consider it one of our most successful expansions, as it did a great job of hitting that mix of different gameplay experiences I mentioned earlier.
Knights of the Fallen Empire (and its follow up, Knights of the Eternal Throne) were a big step forward for our storytelling technically speaking and gave us an opportunity to explore new worlds and cultures that had never been seen before. Those expansions drew in a ton of new players who were excited to see that new story direction play out month after month.
Our most recent expansion, Onslaught, reignited the classic conflict between the Jedi and the Sith, shifted to the broader mix of gameplay we’ve been following up to now, as well as some improvements to the gear chase that we’re taking even further in Legacy of the Sith.
And with Legacy of the Sith, what are you hoping to achieve?
As always, we want to carry our players’ character storylines forward in new and dramatic ways - so you can expect some exciting revelations in Legacy of the Sith that will set the stage for where the storyline is headed next. In terms of gameplay updates and changes, I think this may be our biggest expansion to date! We’ve got Combat Styles, which is a decoupling of some of the ways our gameplay was locked to certain stories in the past; now you’ll have far more options for how your character fights than in the past, so that you can really create exactly the character you want to be. Loadouts will let you switch between different gear sets and Combat Styles quickly and easily, we’ve got a further-improved gear progression, UI improvements (that will continue to roll out in the updates to follow as well!) and lots of other modernization efforts that we’re excited to bring to life and help us move forward for our next ten years!
As a live-service focused MMO based on one of the biggest media brands on Earth, I am sure you get a lot of feedback about things people like and don’t like. How do you go about managing that and prioritizing what you respond to and act on?
When it comes to broader changes, or more long-term plans, that’s stuff that we discuss pretty widely across the team - what are we excited to add? What are we seeing not working so well, and how could it be improved? A lot of our best additions and improvements come from brainstorming and collaboration spurred by player feedback.
Speaking of which, our Community team does a great job of collecting feedback from all over the place, spotting the big trends of course but also things that are perhaps not broadly impactful, but really important for smaller groups of players that are just as worthy of consideration.
Lastly, we discuss all of our plans with our partners at Lucasfilm. We’ve been really fortunate to work with awesome people there throughout the life of the game (some have been with us since before launch!) and they always have great insights for how to make the SWTOR experience as Star Wars-y as it can be.
Once we have that big list of stuff we want to do, the process is pretty straightforward - which stuff do we think is most important, and how long will each thing take to implement? With those two datapoints, you can fill out the schedule and get to work!
Thanks to other new players in the market like Amazon’s New World and the enduring appeal of WoW and others, what’s your assessment of the MMO market as it stands today?
It’s a big shift from the last five years or so, where it’s felt to me like we’ve been getting lots of MMO-style shared online games, but few if any that would actually describe themselves as MMOs. It’s a term that carries a lot of expectations, so I can imagine why! But I’m excited to see people jumping back into this style of game and rediscovering what makes MMOs so uniquely fun and engaging.
What do the next 10 years of TOR look like?
More storylines, of course, and more gameplay and modernization improvements as well - we really want to keep our visual quality and user experience feeling fresh and modern as we move into the future. Beyond that, I’m not allowed to say yet, but it’s a big galaxy, so we’re always going to be thinking big for SWTOR’s future!
Thanks so much for your time!
The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.