BioWare has released the redesigned forums! This article will cover all the new features and dig a bit into the main goals for the changes and how that could help you as a player and BioWare as game developers!
New Features Now Available
Here I will show you what the new currently available features and new tools are available in the redesigned forums.
Personalized Feeds and Tagging
BioWare is calling this feature Streams, but basically, you’ll have the ability to follow specific accounts and tags (examples: #gameinfo, #devupdate, or #update7.1.1) and everything you’re following will show up in this feed.
These content streams really seem to be a non-algorithmic approach to the feeds we see on other social media.
The key limitation of this approach is that it requires manual configuration from each user, and a lot of people just don’t want to bother.
In order to alleviate this issue, BioWare has created several default streams, including the Dev Tracker. These defaults should be enough for most people.
The forums have finally been brought into this decade with a view that also works well on mobile instead of only working properly on desktop as it used to:
The UI has been significantly cleaned up and modernized. Its design kind of reminds me of the temporary UI BioWare showed us during the PTS development of SWTOR 7.0 (but later replaced with what we have in the game now)
Announcement Banners and Alert Pop-ups
There are 2 new interface elements that BioWare can use to emphasize certain pertinent information: announcement banners and alert pop-ups.
Announcement banners will allow BioWare to convey major happenings that the whole playerbase would like to know about, such as when a new PTS phase is happening, or perhaps that patch notes have been released.
Alert pop-ups will get in your face to tell you that something time-sensitive is happening soon, like that a dev stream is about to go live, and you’ll have to dismiss them to keep interacting with the forum as you were, kind of like some phone notifications.
Additional Features Coming Soon
Game Events Calendar
We’ll finally have an official game events calendar! I expect it will include things like the conquest schedule, the monthly game events, and possibly other cycles like the endgame weekly mission rotation we had at the beginning of 7.0.
This feature isn’t ready yet, but BioWare says it should arrive sometime in October or November, so we won’t have to wait long.
This initial release was focused on adding most of the functionality to the new forums, but there are some additional aesthetic changes that will be coming. BioWare emphasized reward badges for users and posts. We can see the initial structure already:
A leaderboard page exists that shows user points (similar to Reddit Karma), highly active members, and popular posts.
Icons for forum categories are still missing, but BioWare has assured us that they will be coming soon.
My Thoughts on the Upgrade
Overall, the visuals of the forum are pretty good. The site feels responsive and modern with most issues being minor nit-picks. The core site functionality is great.
There are a few issues I think are worth drawing attention to, though I want to reiterate that none fall into the game-breaking category.
It’s fairly distracting to have the name of the poster above the profile icon as opposed to below like it is for literally every other forum I’ve ever seen.
This presentation doesn’t look bad per se, but it doesn’t look good enough to defy such a strong convention. As I was browsing the forum today, I kept looking to the wrong spot to find the identity of the poster because the location of the poster name and user category should absolutely be swapped.
The alignment on the navigation banner is also not centered properly.
This is probably because the centering parameter looks at the texts, not the dots. The middle dot is not centered on the “Forums” word below. Sorry for those of you who now won’t be able to unsee this, but it should be easy for BioWare to fix and definitely shouldn’t exist on a professional website, so hopefully it won’t be around for long.
The new forums also lack a “[jump to] Next BioWare Response” button next to each dev post in a thread so that players don’t have to sift through multiple pages of comments just to see what the developers are saying.
I think without such a button, dev-player relations will be substantially less constructive because many players aren’t going to bother finding out if BioWare has offered any clarifications or responses on the issue and just respond to the initial post.
Yes, this is a good use of BioWare’s limited resources
Some players have complained that revamping the forums for a 10-year-old game is a waste of BioWare’s limited resources. Eric Musco, the game’s lead producer and former community manager, replied by explaining that the choice was between eventually shutting down the forums completely or upgrading the ancient system. (I’m paraphrasing a bit because the current post is inaccessible as a result of the ongoing transfer, I will update this article again when his post is available.)
Realistically, we do need a place where the devs can interact with the players that is owned and operated by BioWare, so the Forums needed an upgrade, especially considering that it’s clear the game isn’t shutting down anytime soon given all the modernizations happening this year.
It is unfortunate that it feels like we’re giving up game content, but look on the bright side; now that the upgrade is done, it’s not unreasonable to expect that those resources will now be freed up and able to be used on the actual game (unless BioWare is also planning to update the rest of the site).
You can explore the new design for yourself, it’s up publicly and available to everyone at forums.swtor.com, though F2P players are still restricted to read-only.