To my eye, Star Wars The Old Republic was an awkward marriage of BioWare's singleplayer storytelling and World of Warcraft-derived MMO mechanics. It's a marriage which seemed to satisfy no one, dooming SWTOR to a brief honeymoon and a slowly diminishing life of quiet desperation. A sad, science fiction Revolutionary Road.
Nice of BioWare to throw the game and its players a little lovin' then, in a new expansion called Shadow of Revan. It's raises the level cap to 60, adds a couple of new worlds like Yavin 4, offers new high-level raids, and introduces a new "discipline system" which will affect everyone, including those who don't buy this $20 add-on. There's an announcement trailer below.
While I'm sure new stuff to do appeals to existing players, the available-to-all discipline system seems like the most sweeping change. As explained in a developer post, disciplines replace the current skill tree, and aim to allow players to develop more interesting classes and characters earlier in the leveling curve.
While we hope to maintain the feeling of progression with each level, players will no longer get a single point every level to invest in an array of skill boxes that we felt resulted in the burying of class identity, uneven power gains, and crazy-town rotations, depending on where you were in the tree. Instead, we created three Disciplines per Advanced Class, named and themed after the original Skill Trees (for example the three Disciplines for Commando are Combat Medic, Gunnery, and Assault Specialist, all very familiar names, themes, and play-styles from the skill tree era). For each of these disciplines, we took a look at all of the skills from their tree ancestor and imported everything that defined the identity and rotation of that tree and laid them out in a level-based progression, along with quite a bit of combining, cutting, creating new, and balancing along the way. No longer are you forced to purchase skills that are, in essence, necessary for your character to function; you simply get them automatically as you level up and progress down what we call the Discipline Path.
Which I can just about understand, though the rest of the post dives deeper and deeper into detail the significance of which will only be clear to dedicated players.
If you're not a regular player and you've still got a few minutes spare to read something, I suggest hitting up the Wookieepedia page for Revan. It's bonkers; this guy flip-flops from dark to light more times than Kyle Katarn. Also, news that JJ Abrams is using physical sets and puppetry for Star Wars: Episode VII gives me some probably-naive sense of hope that it won't be totes bunk.
The Shadow of Revan expansion is due out December 9th.