With SWTOR seemingly near to a free-to-play switchover, I’m sure a lot of former or “on haitus” players such as myself are mulling over the question of returning. SOE’s John Smedley is not the only figure who’s stated that F2P could push SWTOR into a commanding spot in the industry, but I’ll just dither around the wishy-washy middle of general optimism with a side dish of who-the-heck-knows.
One thing everyone is pouring over is the cartel market (the item shop) and related costs. If you want to go back and stay free or mostly free — kind of like “mostly dead” I suppose — then there has to be an analysis of the F2P restrictions and potential costs for removing the most painful of those.
Dulfy has a good breakdown of the specific restrictions that BioWare didn’t feel like spelling out in its chart the other day. Some of it is pretty common sense, although there are a few items that just seem… petty. Like BioWare couldn’t think of other ways to milk us for money, so they’re restricting us to just one quickbar? Taking away the ability to remove our headgear visually? Making players pay just to receive rewards from missions and lockboxes from crew skills?
Dudes, why not just make us hop on on leg until we pay up? There are sensible business practices and then there’s just giving noogies to get the rest of our lunch money.
Let me reiterate: Part of this is perfectly okay with me. When it comes to F2P, anything more than “nothing” is a win for the cheapskate player. We’re getting a lot here, and while some of this is annoying, it’s nothing that can stop you from playing the game from 1 to 50 and enjoying most of it.
Darth Hater has a huge list of what’s on the cartel market on the PTS right now, and while it’s subject to change between now and release, it can’t hurt to peruse and pick out a few of the most important. For me, if I’m going to play at all, it’s going to be extremely casual and sporadic, so many of the restrictions aren’t a bother to me. Here are the ones I would pay for, however:
- Authorization: Artifact Equipment (1200 CC): Extremely pricey to be able to equip purples. You could survive just fine through the PvE story without it, although it would be painful to get purples and not be able to use them. Plus, dungeon running would be more challenging. I like purples.
- Unlock Cargo Hold Access (475 CC): I’m not 100% sure about how easy it’ll be to get back to the fleet to access your bank, and having it on your ship is a huge boon (especially with a limited inventory). Another one that I could live without if I had to, but I’d like to have it.
- Unlock Crew Skill Slot (420 CC): Free players only get one of these, but that’s pretty darn restrictive if you like to do any crafting or even crew gift hunting. I would really like a second.
- Unlock Additional Quickbar (250 CC): There is NO way I can play this game with just one quickbar and the ability window open all the time. I would rather have three quickbars, but I can make do with two.
Those four are the bare necessities, and they add up to 2345. The website informs me that I’ve got 2200 cartel coins coming to me, so I’m a bit short. I guess I could forgo either the cargo hold or crew skill slot — again, any play this game gets from me is going to be on the light side (not the Light Side), so I’m not going to cry if I can’t craft as much or what have you. I might consider dropping the cargo hold for bigger inventory (175 CC per 10 slots), although I would need to be vigilant with looting.
Now, it’s important to note that previous subscribers and anyone who gives BioWare money after F2P happens will get the nominal account bump to preferred status. From what I understand, that includes fewer chat restrictions, cargo hold access (but how much? Does that take away the 475 CC I was going to spend?), level 1 sprint, and higher login priority. I’ve heard/read that previously created characters can be grandfathered in, at least race-wise, without having to pay to unlock it, but there are still a lot of little questions regarding the switch from sub to F2P that haven’t been clarified yet.
There are a lot of attractive fluff items in the store, like pets and cosmetic gear, but uncrippling my character takes priority.
Anyway, there’s a lot of discussion going on over whether BioWare’s being too restrictive, overly generous, or Goldilocks just right. One big factor we don’t know is the exchange rate of real dollars to cartel coins, which will certainly have some say in the whole matter.
Update: BioWare responded to the backlash against some of these decisions and said that it is allowing a second free quickslot bar, 5 warzones a week instead of 3, and a more lenient cartel coin temporary bind timer.