This weekend I reached the level cap with my first character in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Considering I did not start playing this character seriously until just after Christmas, for all intents and purposes this was accomplished in about three weeks, but we'll be generous and call it four. While I was "on vacation" for much of that time, I did not have as unlimited playtime as you would think. It was still probably more than I will have when I get back to work this week, but it's not as if I was sitting at my computer playing SW:TOR twenty-four hours a day. But let's break down just what this means both for this individual character, and my long-term feelings about the game right now.
As you can see from the second screenshot, I hit level 50 in just over five days "played." In total, it took me about 130 hours of game time to reach the cap. While a few of those hours were spent "sitting around the forge" doing crafting while I was semi-AFK, I would say at least 120 hours of active time was spent. And this was done almost entirely through "solo" content. As I mentioned in other posts, I did not do any Heroic quests after about level 20, and was unable to complete a Flashpoint after about the same time. So for at least two-thirds of the leveling process, every bit of experience was earned solo. I also reached the cap without fully completing my class story. I was on Corellia when I hit 50, but I had just barely started the planet. In fact I had not even completed the first step of my class quest on the planet when I hit 50. So I still have a bit to do in that regard also.
To sum it up, I "consumed" most of the solo leveling content. I skipped a couple of the "Bonus" chains and bypassed the non-class quests on a couple planets, but for the most part I used all the content presented to me that could be completed alone. In contrast, I used virtually none of the group based content. I did a few Heroic quests on Dromund Kaas and Nar Shaddaa, but I solo'd the ones on Hutta and didn't even try any after Nar Shaddaa. Similarly, I completed no Flashpoint after Athiss. So to compare my 130 hours with Bioware's claim of 200 hours of content per character... well I would call it a bit of an exaggeration. Even if I had done the group content I skipped, it would have pushed me to the cap faster, so it wouldn't really increase the "time to cap" number. Overall there are two conclusions to be reached based on this experience.
1) It is possible to reach the level cap entirely solo without difficulty.
2) Grouping in SW:TOR without a guild is tedious and unsatisfying.
While no one ever thought that SW:TOR would require grouping to level, I was surprised at the overall ease of the process. Yes occasionally you will come across a difficult quest to complete, but after a messy death, you usually pick up the "trick" fairly quickly. And for all the emphasis on story and the "journey" rather than the destination, there is little incentive for you to slow down the process. In fact sometimes you find yourself "racing" from one quest to the next in order to get to the next part of your class story. On the one hand that means the story is probably pretty good, but on the other it means that you find yourself at the "end" faster than you might anticipate.
As far as grouping goes... SW:TOR continues to really, really disappoint me. Part of this I blame on the game, but part is the players as well. As I mentioned over the weekend, the social tools within the game itself are a total, complete joke. But I'm thinking that the players themselves are just as much to blame. It feels like the vast majority of people playing SW:TOR are essentially playing it alone. It may as well be Knights of the Old Republic 3 with Steam chat, because that's as much as people interact with one another. Chat channels are virtually silent. The only places with any kind of chatter are the Fleet hub and the capital planets. Anything outside of that is almost entirely dead. I sometimes wonder if half the people around me are even aware this is an MMO and are just "stuck" in their own world.
I honestly don't know where I stand with SW:TOR going forward right now. I'm more inclined to switch to another character than I am to begin the "daily quest/instance" grind for gear and tokens at max level. I wasn't expecting any kind of revelation at 50. I knew that was what was waiting for me, but I also expected to care a bit more about investing a character in the process. Right now... I don't. Similarly I don't know how much I really want to invest in SW:TOR itself. If I cannot find a guild soon, or if EA/Bioware doesn't so something to making grouping more efficient, right now I see myself walking away come April. I'm sure I can polish off most of the unique class stories by then. There just isn't anything else to hold me in unless something emerges on the social front. That is why we play MMO's after all... or at least, that's why I play them.