Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Month Into Free To Play

Get it? Because EA/BW are trying to "smuggle" as much
money out of us as they can. Hah!

So we’re hitting up on a month since Star Wars: The Old Republic has gone free to play. Less than a year after its December release the game is struggling to maintain its subscription base. Millions of us signed up at release and yes, I gushed about it through multiple blog entries. Hey when the NDA lifted I went crazy. I admit it and I know quite a few people have found it helpful based on the messages I received.

But then it dropped. A lot of the promises BioWare had made regarding endgame, class diversity, and character selection fell flat. Many of the issues that we saw in the alpha and beta testing, and we kept harping on the development team about, were still there. It wasn’t that it was a glitch game. Any new MMO is going to have a few technical problems here and there, but nothing so extreme that it would distract from the game. There were just fundamental core problems that never were addressed. It probably started around the time EA took over and BW couldn’t stop boasting. This could explain what happened with Mass Effect 3. EA. Worse company of the year

Look. TOR is still a fun game in its own ways. BW has the ability to tell stories in a unique way that speaks to gamers. Mostly they are awesome at creating characters. Really weird, totally nonsensical, but somehow cohesive on a team, characters. Because of this, TOR suffers. The game is very much single player driven. You don’t have to group a single time throughout the entire experience in order to progress in the story. It’s forced upon you during the end, but even at that point it’s never mandatory. You can still do a bulk of the “end game” content without being in a group. Once you finish your class story, the appeal of the game falls off the side of a cliff. The drop is incredibly drastic. A number of people that I use to play with would agree with me. We were all hoping for this rekindling of Star Wars Galaxies, but with more character driven stories. Instead we got KOTOR online. Which isn’t bad, but defeats the purpose of an MMO.

I still play, in free-be mode now (which also means I can’t access 4 of my characters as only 2 are allowed on a free account). I still find enjoyment being my little renegade Twi’lik Imperial Agent. I said I was making one, and dangit, I was going to follow through on it. But the story that should have kept me going is long gone. Level 50 obtained. Epic gear has been received, and still looks like crap on the IA versus the Sith armor. What else is there to do then to shoot random Womp Rats on Tattoine? *shrugs*

When I saw this article on Gamasutra about how the FTP model is working with TOR I was a little bit surprised at how expensive and convoluted they were making the system. Yes I’m aware of the Cartel Coin system, and the restrictions on the “free” characters is a bit extreme. Even WoW’s 20 levels will give you a hot bar for your abilities. Try scrolling through all of your healing mechs as an Imperial Agent? Go ahead. Try. Your Sith tank will die in half a second while you’re still scrolling. So if you want that action bar, you need to buy it. $100+ dollars later you wonder if it was all worth it.

The FTP model is meant to help generate income. I get it. But usually this is done with micro transactions while still giving the gamers a good chunk of the content. TOR is lending itself to a much more restrictive model. Even the subscribers are expected to pay extra if they want to access all of the content. Those who are paying the $15.99 monthly fee receive a weekly stipend of Cartel Coins. This is enough for the basic stuff, but if you are an active player or even one who spends more than 4 hours a week in TOR, those coins can be eaten up fast. The coins allow access to missions, quests, group events, gear, pretty much all of the things you need to endure in TOR. Including the hot bars/action bars. Yep. You have to use coins to access those, a basic necessity in all MMO’s. So as a subscriber, when things should be open to you, you still have to pay more.

It’s backwards and confusing. Who would want to pay more when you’re already on a monthly fee? Not even WoW does this. Ok they sort of do this, but it’s for bonus items like a fire kitty, not to access quests and general gameplay. Seriously, they had a fire kitty on sale last week, where 100% of the proceeds went to the Red Cross. I was highly tempted to purchase it. One because of the donations to the Red Cross. Two, it was a kitty. On fire. But to spend money just to access a hot bar is, for lack of a better word,

I’m not sure what EA or BioWare plan to go from here. BW will be at the 2013 Game Developer’s Conference, where they will discuss their current stance on their products and what they hope to achieve in the coming year. One can hope that they will better map out the future of TOR. It won’t survive for much longer if this is their intended plan. Again I enjoy the story. But outside of a first person experience, it’s greatly lacking in content. So many high hopes, all dashed. Yes, I still blame EA but I do that for a lot of things that don’t quite go right. See Spore.

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