Aug 012012
 

By Geldarion

Briefing

Welcome to the war, comrades. We are taking a break from strategies this week because we have news from the front that more soldiers will be joining the fight for free. Let’s talk about what Free-to-Play might mean for PvP in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

More after the Jump…

 

Free-to-Play (f2p) has certain connotations that are not necessarily good. People often assume that f2p is the death blow to a game. The forums are a-buzz with people screaming the sky is falling, and columnists are writing about the “short life” of SWTOR.

But how bad is it really? I have been through this before, I played Lord of the Rings Online before it went f2p and for about a year afterwards as well. It is still going strong, they are doing better than ever, and they have released one expansion already and are about to come out with a new one in September.

PvP will be affected by f2p in some way, that is for sure. Here are the good things I think might happen.

 

The Good…

Old Friends

A lot of people are saying that they just don’t have the time to play SWTOR enough to justify the subscription. This change to f2p will enable a lot of people to get back into the game. I have seen multiple friends on Twitter saying that they will reinstall the game for this.

New, Good Players

There are some people who are really good at PvP in other games that will now be able to come to our game and give it a try. A lot of people were holding out if they didn’t want to pay a sub, and now they don’t have to.

Faster Content Updates

Here’s hoping that SWTOR uses the extra money from f2p (which should be a lot, if it goes like Lord of the Rings Online) to produce more content, more frequently. This can only mean good things for us if they do. They are already coming out with a new Warzone soon, so they may be able to give us more Warzones more often.

Ok, so with that note of optimism, what could go wrong?

 

The Bad…

Bad Players

Bad PUG groups could be made worse by the influx of players who have no idea what they are doing. I am going to hope that the relative concentration of good vs bad players will be the same, meaning that you will still have about two really good players per PUG, two that are ok, and four that are clueless, just like now.

P2W

Pay-to-win (P2W) items in the cash shop are a real danger, and SWTOR needs to be careful about this. If they offer items in their cash shop that provide a statistical advantage in PvP, then they could lose people who are disgusted with the prospect of paying real money for in-game items for the fights to be fair. It isn’t quite as bad if the items are available in the game itself, like Warzone Medpacs for example, but it still is annoying.

Queues

With the massive influx of new players, there will probably be queues to get into the servers again, diminishing the experience somewhat. That being said, I’ll take queues over empty servers.

 

The Ugly Details

Here are a few ways I think they might limit free players’ ability to PvP.

Individually Priced Warzones

This is pretty simple; if you want a Warzone, you have to pay for it. This may mean that certain Warzones may pop more frequently than others, causing a shift in the balance that we currently have right now.

Cap On Games Per Week

This would be harder to do, but there might be a limit on how many Warzones you can do per week as a free player. This could be removed by a sub, or the cap could be raised or eliminated through cash shop purchases.

PvP Locked At 50

This scheme also seems likely, as Operations are locked to free players. Level 50 PvP is a different bracket than the 10-49 bracket, so it seems feasible that level 50 free players will have to unlock level 50 PvP with a sub or in the cash shop.

 

So what do you think? Is f2p going to revitalize PvP or crash it to the ground? Let me know in the comments below, and till our next briefing, DISMISSED!

  4 Responses to “Tactical Strike: Free-to-play Conjectures”

  1. Like the article author I too have been through a F2P conversion and it was a nightmare (Cryptic with Star Trek: Online). That said, the population base is far larger after F2P and I’ve heard they’re making a lot more money as well which will ensure a future.

    I don’t think that bad players is really a concern, everyone starts out ignorant, then you learn. The actual quality and concentration of good/bad players will probably be the same. I haven’t encountered any complaints from current STO players about the new people who have come in.

    I agree with the author that pay to win is a huge danger, along with gambling (lockboxes) and currency devaluation / item price inflation. I disagree with the author that paying for items already in game that give combat advantages isn’t bad.

    Queues probably won’t be a problem, they could just reopen one of the currently locked servers to accomodate additional population if needed. Another solution is one that STO used, anyone who has or had a subscription gets priority access and only free players have to sit in queue.

    If they made people pay for warzones that would be a serious make as this is a real draw for the game. I would however support having subscription players getting more rewards than free players for a match, along with normal leveling xp bonuses, etc. Operations and ranked PvP I could support making paid however as you have to be a serious player to take part in those.

  2. First off, thanks for your comment! I think it is cool you are both a SWTOR fan and STO fan, as am I (though recently come to STO). And, yeah, the gambling aspect of the store exists in LOTRO as well. Funny that you mention that, those Tholian Lock Boxes in STO are annoying me right now because they take up space, without offering any benefit to people without Master Keys lol.

    I’m thinking that they won’t completely lock PvP, but Ranked will definitely be off limits.

    What happens with “bad” players is not necessarily an issue of skill, but more of laziness. I am not trying to be mean, but there are people out there who play free MMOs because they are lazy, don’t have a job, and don’t give a womp-rat’s furry butt about the people they meet in the game. It is only temporary, so why care? These people are luckily few and far between though.

    Thanks for your feedback, and I think you bring up some very good points 🙂

  3. Nice article and I agree with everything you said. I hope f2p also allows those who just like one aspect of the game to only pay for that.

    For example, if I like to just do operations allow me to purchase the ability to unlock operations for, let’s say, $5 per month instead of playing the full $15. Or you could just unlock pvp and ranked warzones for that price instead if that’s all you wanna play. I could see this drawing more people back that just liked doing one aspect, but didn’t feel it was worth paying the full $15/month to do only that 1 thing.

  4. I think Swtor is doing F2P a little too soon. Personally I think that F2P is negative thing. I was in the Lotro FTP and played to lvl 75 which is Isengard expansion. Free to play allowed new people to come in which was really cool. I got friends to try lotro because they didn’t want to pay to play. But Lotro streamlined the content so you could basically do everything solo til you hit close to max content. Which the new players once they came up to higher levels and grouping didn’t know how they class worked in a group setting. Also Turbine made the f2p toons pay to have class slots and virtue slots and legendary slots to be opened. Most opted not to buy them which in end game content is a bad blow to the group cause 1 person isn’t performing like he should be. Turbine did get more money but most of that money went into updating the store and a lot of the focus of the game went into how to make f2p to buy more items. The store also made the game turn into pay to win. For example in the opening of Isengard a few people bought scrolls to level faster which they did a 10 level jump in 24 hours. I think for mmos that the f2p system is double edged sword and depending on how Bioware maintain the game and the balancing of game updates to f2p/store updates it can be a life saver or a death blow.

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