BioWare Austin, the studio behind Star Wars: The Old Republic may be in the process of ‘restructuring’ (a.k.a. laying off employees) but that isn’t slowing down development on the game itself. A brand new trailer and screenshots give a quick look at some of the changes being made with Game Update 1.3, entitled Allies.

As the name implies, much of the improved infrastructure is focused on making The Old Republic‘s grouping and raiding coordination much smoother. Instead of having to coordinate a group of friends or online acquaintances to take on Operations or Flashpoints with each class accounted for, the game’s systems will do the work for the player instead. As Game Director James Ohlen admits in the trailer, this far simpler matchmaking system, along with the newly granted ability to swap characters across servers has long been demanded by serious MMO players.

Current players are already aware of the wealth of changes brought with the Legacy Update, which increased the amount of ways players could customize their own gameplay experience. Allies will be expanding on those, by introducing Adaptive Gear and Augment Tables. Some of the most sought after character clothing in The Old Republic has, until now, been confined to social items not fully suited for battle. Thanks to the new adaptive set-up, players will be able to add Mods, thereby making the cosmetic gear function like actual armor. No word on the exact limits, but the odds of running into battle with a squad of lightsaber-wielding slave girls just got better.

Along with the ability to upgrade whatever gear the player wishes, the introduction of Augment Tables will allow nearly every in-game item to be augmented in some way. This might seem a bit unclear to those unfamiliar with the game already, but the possibilities with this addition are numerous. Several more changes are on their way and sure to be detailed as the update approaches.

Besides addressing some nagging fan demands, this amount of information on the Allies Update should work to calm the fears of The Old Republic‘s subscribers – fans who may have been spooked by the recent lay-offs at BioWare. Having subscription numbers drop 25% is certainly never a good thing, but for the time being BioWare seems intent on delivering strong updates for the 1 million subscribers they still have. A strong player base in itself – just under half the size of WoW‘s North American community – and certainly worth working for.

In a post on the game’s official forums, BioWare’s Greg Zeschuk confirmed that layoffs had taken place at the company’s Austin studio, but that the company was committed to their original plan of expanding the universe of The Old Republic:

“Looking forward, the studio remains vibrant and passionate about our many upcoming initiatives for Star Wars: The Old Republic. We still have a very substantial development team working on supporting and growing the game, and we feel we are in a strong position, with your continued involvement and feedback, to continue to build Star Wars: The Old Republic as one of the most compelling and successful online experiences in the world today. There are many strong initiatives planned for cool new content and new features that we’re excited to tell you about in the upcoming weeks and months.”

BioWare may not have always won the favor of their fans over the past few years, but have never been too slow to address issues or concerns either. Hopefully Allies is just the first of many sweeping updates to the core experience, since the developer is apparently even diverting resources away from Dragon Age 3 to counter any losses felt by the studio’s restructuring.

Which changes are you most looking forward to with the Allies Update? Think the lay-offs are just a sign of even more bad news for the company?

The Allies Update 1.3 for The Old Republic has yet to receive and official release date.

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Source: BioWare (via Shacknews)