Talking Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Future with BioWare’s Charles Boyd

BioWare's Charles Boyd talks about Star Wars: The Old Republic's latest expansion and what's next for the MMORPG.

While Knights of the Fallen Empire had a slow start, the penultimate chapter, Chapter 15: Gemini Decision, was one of KotFE’s best chapters, along with Chapter 12: Visions in the Dark. Both chapters feature great characterization and smart plot twists/development. For storyline increments that are obviously designed to be played through in a couple of hours, BioWare has done a solid job at improving these releases.

Starting today, players can enjoy the final chapter, Chapter 16: The Battle of Odessen, which brings the story of Knights of the Fallen Empire to an end. So what’s next for BioWare’s Star Wars MMORPG?

We know the next expansion is called Knights of the Eternal Throne, but not much else beyond that. So we decided it was a great time to grill SWTOR creative director Charles Boyd about KotFE and the game’s future:

DOG: When designing Knights of the Fallen Empire‘s chapters, did you internally weigh the pros and cons of continuing SWTOR‘s story-heavy approach vs. choosing a more standard “MMO-ish” open-world type content expansion?

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CB: We always examine our players’ feedback and gameplay habits when designing new releases for SWTOR. We had seen a major demand for more of the BioWare-style cinematic storytelling that fans love and expect from us, and felt that this year was a fantastic opportunity to double down on providing that experience for our players.

Did the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens tie-in to the decision to give KotFE a 100% story-focused approach?

We definitely saw the new film as a great opportunity to introduce Star Wars fans to the deep and personal storytelling that’s unique to SWTOR and BioWare games, so we ensured that the new storyline that we introduced with KotFE was easy to jump into for anyone, whether they’re brand-new to The Old Republic or longtime fans of the game.

What made you decide to go with the chapter approach? This approach hasn’t really been done in an MMORPG to this degree before, and I feel that’s partially why KotFE has done so well in comparison to older SWTOR expansions. It’s a risky move, surely, but it’s also one that seems uniquely ideal for BioWare. Fans love BioWare stories, after all.

The biggest factor that sets our game apart from others is definitely the quality and depth of our cinematic storytelling, so leaning into that strength just felt like a natural move. It’s been really rewarding to see how much fans have loved this new saga.

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently regarding the launch of KotFE and the content that’s been released?

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Humility is a core tenet of BioWare’s design culture, so we work very hard to learn all that we can from everything we release and find ways to improve. We’ve certainly learned a lot from each of our episodic chapter releases, and I feel really fortunate to have had the opportunity to apply those lessons every month and do our best to make every chapter better than the last.

Some players (myself included) can’t help but feel a little lost in the game outside of the new KotFE chapter releases. The story content is great, but endgame itself seems, well, a little lacking since there are few open world activities to take part in and few new maps/worlds to actually explore. What’s your advice for players in this boat?

This is absolutely one of the most common feedback points, and we’ve heard it loud and clear. Although we aren’t ready to announce anything quite yet, stay tuned.

Some of KofFE‘s earlier chapters felt a little disjointed from the rest. Was this something that was intended in order to build up the story for later chapters, or was this accidental?

The overall storyline of the chapters was planned from the start, but we took the opportunity of using the episodic format to experiment with different experiences as we moved through the chapters: more open world gameplay vs. more directed, more character focused vs. more central plot focused, etc. We absolutely expected to see different responses to each one, and it’s been great to learn which aspects of the chapter storylines our players love most.

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Will SWTOR‘s future development continue in this chapter-focused story direction?

From a writing standpoint, I think the chapter style is really strong, and has led to a significant improvement in the quality and presentation of the story. My own personal perception is that chapters are most fun when “binged” and played together rather than spread out individually, but as with anything, we’ll be examining player feedback first and foremost as we decide future direction.

What might you change in the next expansion?

Players seemed to really enjoy getting the warzone, arena, and Eternal Championship in addition to the chapters, so coupling that data with the player requests you mentioned earlier, we would look to include more of that type of variety of gameplay in addition to the story chapters in the future.

The decision to take SWTOR‘s story out of the “original worlds” was also interesting. Are there plans to return to those planets in the future and perhaps see some of the changes the war has brought about?

I agree, that could be pretty interesting…

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Now that all companions can now provide all combat roles, it almost feels like there’s a bit of a lost identity with some of the newer companions. The personalities are written well, but as odd as it sounds, the fact that some companions preferred to tank instead of heal, for instance, enhanced those personalities. Will we see future content that perhaps focuses more on the backstories of the companions added in KotFE?

We will definitely continue to explore all of the new characters introduced in KotFE, along with their backstories and motivations as we continue the story through Chapter 16 and beyond!

Special thanks to Charles Boyd for agreeing to answer our questions!