The most recent Roadmap, released today, received no such build-up. It was just released without any pre-announcements whatsoever, just 'boom' there it was.
So with this pleasant surprise, what have we learned?
May 22nd: 5.9.1
With Solo releasing on May 25th, SWtOR are getting into the swing of things by choosing this week to re-release the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife Event as well as a host of other things; another ten days of double-rewards is on the cards, only eleven days after the previous one ended. I'm not complaining too much, but it does feel a tad excessive to have so many double-rewards in a very short space of time.
They're also continuing their new "everything new is Direct Sale" policy by releasing special "Scoundrel-specific" items on the Cartel Market, because of course they are. Still, as a Smuggler main I am relatively interested in seeing what new designs they think make for good "Smuggler-style" outfits.
Oh, and there's also the rather hideous T-4 Rampage Speeder afforded to Premium Players as of the 31st of May, but we have known about that since before 5.9 was released so nothing new there.
July - 5.10?
With the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife only lasting a month and eight days this year - a substantial improvement over the past few times it's been here in my opinion - they're using July as their opportunity to dump a lot more involving activities onto our doorstep.
This basically means PvP, and a lot of it.
The first thing discussed is the gradual conversion of "more, if not all" pre-existing Arenas and Warzones to being Cross-faction. This is something which I saw as making sense for something like Huttball but never really for the more confrontational Warzones such as Civil War or Novare Coast, for one main reason.
Until Odessen Proving Grounds came along, Warzones (Huttball being a slight exception since the teams were never directly mentioned as being tied to either faction) weren't treated as 'wargames' in-universe unless you were against your own faction. They were serious actual skirmishes between the two factions, where the outcome - theoretically - had a significant impact for the respective winners' faction and its tactical advantage.
Odessen, and later Yavin, bucked the trend by having everyone be a part of the Alliance, which worked because that was when these Warzones were 'set' chronologically. It makes sense for both to be wargames within the Alliance since there is no 'real' tactical advantage to be gained for either side by completing the objectives, certainly not in Odessen where the overall Alliance is the real winner.
Civil War, Voidstar, Novare Coast, and Hypergates all fit more in-line with a faction vs. faction viewpoint because they're set during the actual war. Now that we're seemingly going back to a faction vs. faction storyline, having all of the previous Warzones be cross-faction doesn't make much sense thematically. We're against them, but they're also helping us at times? That's not going to align at all well with the story if it does indeed go that route in a very black-and-white manner.
I haven't even touched on Arenas yet; I don't even want to think what would happen to Solo Ranked if that queue also ends up becoming cross-faction...
To conclude on this point at last, I do like the sound of cross-faction Huttball, but again that's mainly because it never had much of an overt factionalist view in-universe anyway so changing it to be cross-faction works much better here. I'm not fond of the other Warzones becoming cross-faction, but maybe it won't be as jarring as I feel it will. Heck, maybe only the Huttball maps will become cross-faction; this isn't a guarantee of every Warzone suffering this change.
Speaking of Huttball...
We've known for some time that a new Arena would be coming in (revealed by Eric and Charles in a Vulkk Stream to be set in Shae Vizla's Mandalorian Compound on Rishi), but now we know via this Roadmap that the third Huttball Warzone will be coming in July as well. This one will be set in the "dangerous and dizzying heights of an industrial planet".
So in other words, probably Corellia; this is the year we'll finally be seeing it realised in film, after all, so I bet SWtOR's environment developers will be chomping at the bit to create something inspired by it - even if it does contrast with their own present Corellia environment.
While I do like Huttball, having three iterations of it is really quite ridiculous. I'm still interested in seeing it, of course, but if it turns out to be like Quesh my enthusiasm for it is going to be very low indeed.
We also now have some additional details about the previously-discussed Rishi Stronghold; it's going to be built around encouraging Stronghold PvP.
We've known from the aforementioned Stream that BioWare have been hoping to add some more functionality to Strongholds and it's no secret that this has been desperately needed; all a Stronghold is, outside of allowing you to place rare mounts and Decorations and show them off, is just a lifeless environment. Nothing of interest really... happens unless you deliberately make it happen.
This is BioWare's attempt to fix this. We don't yet know the full specifics of how a Stronghold PvP game will 'function', but I'm definitely intrigued by it. Speaking as someone whose guild once ran a "Hot Ball" event - AKA teams of four throwing the Custom Huttball to one another and the team it explodes on most loses - in their Tatooine Stronghold, a fresher take on this sort of event is something which I've been hoping to see again for some time..
We'll see exactly what they have planned in the next few months. I'm not expecting much, but I am still definitely interested.
We don't yet have any information on exactly what they're doing to explore options to allow players to choose which Unranked matches they're queuing for or what exactly they're exploring in depth about the Unranked matchmaking, but I'm still interested to see what their investigations result in.
September and Beyond
We'll be seeing more Companions and big updates to Guilds coming around this time of year, but it seems that 5.0 isn't going away as soon as the recently-released in-game story might have had us believe.
It's easy to miss, but before the main Roadmap itself begins, it's revealed that an explosive conflict - Kephess return confirmed! (I jest) - will begin next year, complete with "new characters to meet and new planets to explore".
5.0 isn't quite breaking Rise of the Hutt Cartel's record of lasting 602 days yet, although it will cross the threshold on the 23rd of July this year. Lasting into the new year will mean that 5.0 will have lasted for well over two years. That's a very long time for the majority of the endgame content to be where it is, especially with everything being Level-synced.
Basically, even if the new Multiplayer content promised for the end of this year is a full new Operation and not just another Flashpoint (and please, regardless of what comes, no more new Augments!), it's going to have required a lot of tenacity for people to have lasted the full way through without once faltering. Not that there aren't a lot of people who still won't be there at the end, but it will certainly have been a slog to get through when all is said and done.
It's not really worth me addressing what could have resulted in such a long expansion in any significant manner, simply because there are too many possible 'solutions'. Regardless, while I'm a bit disheartened to learn that the story of 5.0 isn't over despite the fact that 5.9 ended both Knights expansions in one go, I'm still looking forward to seeing what happens.
The direct mention of "new planets to explore" next year has definitely got me excited, though!
To conclude, I'm looking forward to seeing what exactly the July PvP update brings to the table and what the September story update includes. While it is definitely a shame to learn that 6.0 won't be until next year, I'm still very interested in seeing what it includes when it does finally arrive.
All that remains is to thank BioWare for releasing this Roadmap as a surprise. While I do have some issues with what's coming up, I still appreciate what they're trying to do and I look forward to seeing many of these things being implemented.