In case you missed the announcement, SWTOR is going to move to the Free to Play model in November (Official F2P FAQ). It’s an… interesting way to go about the F2P model that will be very appealing to some and possibly rather alienating to others. While I know every SWTOR blogger out there is going to blog about this as well, the whole point of blogging is sharing information and opinions so I’m going to add mine to the mix regardless of the other posts out there.
The “Details” of the F2P Model
Story Content: This is probably the best thing about this whole F2P situation because the story content in SWTOR is it’s largest draw. I think offering character stories for free is going to be the best thing that they have to offer to new players or to bring back people who have unsubscribed. With unlimited access to this I would be find moving to F2P.
Character Creation Choices: This will be one of the first things that pushes people away once we get the details. If what I’ve seen and heard this morning are actually true then this is not only going to restrict you from being able to create new characters but it will also remove your ability to play existing characters if their species ends up being locked. From the perspective of making this a good cash generating thing this is a good idea, but if they really do end up removing your access to characters you already have then this is going to piss some people off.
Warzones: Warzones are one of the best features of SWTOR in the 10-49 bracket. The level 50 bracket is garbage thanks to their ridiculous reliance on PvP gear, but sub-50 is one of the best PvP experiences in the MMO market right now. This is the one thing that makes me hesitate about going F2P personally rather than just keeping my subscription active. It’s going to come down to what kind of restriction it actually ends up being. If I can get enough PvP action in that I don’t mind not having full access then there’s no way I would waste money on the subscription.
Flashpoints: Flashpoints can be pretty fun and they do have a fair amount of lore hidden in them, but because of the lack of conversations after the initial flashpoints a lot of people don’t really care to run these until max level where they can help get themselves geared up. I don’t bother running anything other than Black Talon and Esseles myself anyway, so I couldn’t care less about this one.
Space Missions: Space Missions are one of those things that people either love or hate and there are few in between. I personally couldn’t care less about space missions, so I’ll wave bye-bye to them from here. They do great for boosting experience with small time investments and they can give you some decent credits, but unless I find my playtime suddenly restricted to the point that I need to use them then I won’t miss this at all.
Operations: This will be the most controversial point of them all. Cutting off people’s access to raiding all together unless they have a subscription has a lot of potential to backfire on them. I’m not a raider anymore, and never was in SWTOR, so this has no direct impact on me at all. However, I do have some guild members who really enjoy raiding and it’s entirely possible that this change will drive them away from the game which would impact my guild and that does have a direct impact on my enjoyment. We’ll have to see how this one turns out, but this is the main thing that concerns me about the whole F2P conversion.
Travel Features: I don’t know what to think about this one because they didn’t bother giving us any details. This one is probably going to suck for those of us who have been playing for a while where new players probably won’t care too much. Restricting travel does not sound like a good idea, but it really depends on which forms of travel are restricted and in what ways. We all dealt with plenty of crappy travel issues like having to go through 30+ clicks to get from one planet to another. It was annoying, but we still did it because we were having fun with the game play itself. If that’s the only kind of impact this has, is pushing people back to the old system who aren’t subscribed then it won’t be as big of a deal, but we just don’t know right now.
Game Login: Having priority on login queues in sort of odd. It makes sense, but I don’t know that it’s really going to be a deciding factor for anybody. Maybe my opinion on this is a bit skewed because it’s been so long since I’ve had the opportunity to play because of personal stuff that’s kept me off of the computer for weeks, but I’ve never had much trouble with login queues in SWTOR. I do have a queue every now and then with the merged servers, but it’s rarely more than 5-10 minutes and usually moves faster than the timer suggests. That being said, I’m not playing on every server so I don’t know what the queue times are on the others. It could be a big deal, but we’ll have to see how big of an advantage this actually provides. If it effectively removes the queue, then this could be big.
Galactic Trade Network: Restricted access to the GTN could be kind of important, but we still don’t know the details of it so it’s really too early to say how good or bad this is going to be. I never liked the whole 50 auctions limit thing anyway, so I’m sort of bummed that they aren’t increasing it for subscribers and decreasing it for F2P.
Cartel Coins & Rewards
Cartel Coins are going to become the cash shop currency of choice allowing you to buy “convenience items, boosts, visually unique gear, collectibles, and more.” Right now the only way for you to earn these coins is by having a subscription and buy purchasing the collector’s edition of the game.
These are some examples of the items that they are offering for the coins. Pets are always a hit in any MMO, so the Kowakian Monkey Lizard will have a lot of fans. I have no idea what the crap a Sith Meditation Throne is, but my assumption is that it will probably be added to our ships. Then you have the Lost Help of Darth Nihilus which is supposed to be scary from that description. I’m think this one will probably be a customizable helm, hopefully one that adjusts its armor type like social gear.
Here is a table showing you how you can earn those Cartel Coins:
|Reward||Current/Previous Players||New Players|
|150 Cartel Coins
Each paid month prior to 7/31/12
|1,000 Cartel Coins
Purchasers of the Collector’s Edition
Purchasers of the Collector’s Edition
|Fan’s Choice in-game Item
Subscribers before 8/1/12 to F2P option launch
|200 Cartel Coins
Each paid month from 8/1/12 to F2P launch
|250 Cartel Coins
All active players from 8/1/12 to F2P launch
Every one of those rewards has an asterisk (or five) next to it, so if you want to read more on the details of whether or not you would qualify for that reward then you’ll want to follow this link to the SWTOR official site to read up on that fine print.
The Fan’s Choice item is apparently one of these three rewards which will be determined by votes on Facebook. I can’t really say that any of them particularly appeal to me, though the Carbonite Hibernation Capsule could be fun for the sake of screen shots and the Party Jawa might be able to liven up some guild events or something.
What These Changes Mean
I think that moving to the F2P model will successfully increase their player base. It will drive some people away, but I think it will bring more in (and back) overall. I think we’re going to see an even larger reduction in the number of people who are running operations and those people who have stated that SWTOR feels like a single player game are actually going to be correct now. I think there are going to be a lot of people who will have similar plans to what my wife and I have, which is to level characters to see all of the stories and then mostly call it quits.
Moving forward, I think their biggest challenge for keeping SWTOR players engage is going to be whether or not they can really live up to their claim that they are going to frequently introduce new content. I think they’re going to have to seriously increase the quality of their operations if they want to keep a lively endgame player base, and I think they’re going to have to add more things like mini games to keep non-Ops players engaged as well. Right now warzones and space combat are the only mini games that existence in SWTOR and with those being restricted for F2P I think they need to step those up a bit, and not just for level 50 characters.
I do not feel that there is enough content in the game to keep people playing for an extended period of time as the game stands right now because of how they went about establishing each of the planets for leveling. Since the entire leveling process is railroaded, you essentially get no new content while you are leveling an alt beyond the differences in class stories themselves. There are only eight different class stories and while there is variation in them based on light or dark choices, and minor differences based on gender and species, the current state of the game is such that content is literally capped so after leveling only a couple of alts you have experienced the entirety of the game outside of class quests.
I know that’s kind of a mixed bag of positive and negative opinions, but there it is. I do feel that this will be a positive change for them in the long run, I just hope that they can live up to their promises of new content so that the game actually has potential to grow rather than simply increasing it’s lifespan due to the F2P versus subscription changes. I do not in any way see that this will kill the game and I do not think that it will have a negative impact overall either, I still believe that this is a fantastic game and one that I still enjoy playing and will continue to enjoy playing future. Right now, I think that most likely I will switch to the F2P option since the only thing that would really cause me to hesitate doing so is the restriction on warzones. But, with Guild Wars 2 coming out in three weeks I don’t think I will have any real need to bother with SWTOR’s warzones beyond the F2P allotment.