In the wake of ongoing layoffs and restructuring plans, Bioware Austin this week announced the departure of SWTOR executive producer Rich Vogel. Additionally, a recent update to the SWTOR launcher raises player’s concerns.

While it may seem strange to mention the departure of SWTOR executive producer Rich Vogel with the minor update to the SWTOR launcher but the startling announcement of Vogel’s departure and the added SWTOR launcher feature do raise one and the same question; is this the beginning of F2P?

READ MORE: Top SWTOR Predictions and Concerns pre-launch

Rich Vogel, a 20 year MMO industry veteran, was instrumental in the development of Star Wars: The Old Republic, supervising game mechanics and game content development. Bioware has yet to announce a replacement for Rich Vogel.

Losing an executive producer is usually not optimal for any company. Losing an executive producer like Rich Vogel with years of experience from Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies and Mass Effect is substantially worse than losing just another dime-a-dozen executive. The ousting of Rich Vogel preceding SOE’s release of the dreaded SWG NGE in 2005 is an excellent example of just how bad things can go wrong when an experienced game developer and producer leaves a project such as SWTOR. What Rich Vogel’s departure from SWTOR entails, one can only begin to imagine.

A recent update to the SWTOR launcher added a new feature (read: additional step to the logging in process) to the game launcher. While BioWare has neglected to comment on the new feature, the new launcher function sparked rumors of BioWare preparing the Star Wars MMO for a full F2P model.

UPDATE: Bioware confirms F2P for Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO

Rumors and predictions of SWTOR going F2P are nothing new. However, recent news and developments are pointing to SWTOR embracing a F2P business model this fall. Several subscription-based MMOs have gone the F2P route recently and even EA CEO John Riccitello spoke out on behalf of F2P earlier this summer. Even though F2P usually is frown upon, it could alleviate some of the immediate problems plaguing Star Wars: The Old Republic.