Just Bad Mojo #SWTOR
When I heard that Star Wars: The Old Republic was going free to whatever, I thought it would be a good deal. I liked the game OK, but not enough to pay for it. But with no strings attached? I could meet up with friends, and we could casual-though it. I have some friends who don’t leap at any MMO in a skirt, especially ones with subscriptions, so it’s always a selling point when one rips out the turnstiles to let the masses in.
But…I should have known that not everything was going to go over well. It actually started back when the initial tsunami of SWTOR announcements were being made. I watched a video of some developer on the project talking about crafting and trade skills. I like crafting and trade skills when they’re more than just the “have mats; have recipe; mash em together in mass production; profit!” that you see in 99.9% of the MMOs out there, and really hoped that SWTOR would break out of that mold. Anyhow, said-developer didn’t seem too excited about talking up the crafting, because he fobbed it off with the (para)phrase “we’ll have crafting, because other games have it”. So, basically it was admitted that we couldn’t expect anything special, because crafting was being added to fulfill an MMO bullet-point, and for apparently no other reason.
Then, of course, the much lauded “fourth pillar” turned out to be a rotten timber holding up a rather weighty roof upon which the SWTOR hype machine was grinding away. Looking under the hood, then, revealed something that didn’t have any more depth than the loved/reviled World of Warcraft. Less, actually. Removing this pillar left us with nothing more than a trash-mob tower-defense game. We already know that crafting wouldn’t add a dimension to it, so in the end, a lot of people decided that SWTOR wasn’t worth the monthly sub, and turned their backs.
As much as I might have wanted to check it out once it went free to whatever, I’ve now decided that no, I’m not going near it, thanks to one sentence in this quote from a post mentioned in an article on Rock, Paper Shotgun:
One of our golden rules is that the Free-to-Play experience should not cheapen the experience for paying subscribers.
I get it. Subscribers come first. They pay the bills and that’s what keeps the lights on and the developers fed. I am 100% OK with giving subscribers the buffet, while the rest of us have to deal with the dollar menu.
But then the sentiment gets worse, IMO:
If it turns out that the Free-to-Play conversion results in a degraded Warzone experience once we go live for subscribers, you can rest assured that we will quickly make adjustments to the system to ensure that subscribers have an optimal experience.
Emphasis mine. People like free things. Make something free, and yes, you’ll get all kinds of people coming out of nowhere who want a free piece of something free, for free, no strings attached. And with no strings comes no responsibility, right? The popular corollary that you hear from subs in a free to whatever game is that once something goes free, it goes to hell because the “Free players” are all scumbag parasites who have no respect for the game because they’re not paying for it.
I expect this from players, because many gamers are blatantly elitist when they feel that they have the upper hand on whatever drives their ego that day, but we’re getting this from a company spokesperson in a public forum. Reading between the lines, BioWare-slash-EA is planting a boot to the stomach of a population they’re hoping to attract (read: convert to subscribers of a game most of them left in the first place because they decided it wasn’t worth paying for) by putting them in their place as second-class citizens in no uncertain terms.
Free to whatever players may cheapen the experience for their subscribers…how? Already, BioWare doesn’t think much of filthy freeloaders that they want to convert. Somehow, these free to whatever players will degrade the experience, apparently by fleshing out the ghost-towns they call servers, and possibly becoming attached enough to pass through the pearly gates of privilege, where they stop being the enemy and magically become a pampered and revered customer. It’s not so much that I disagree with giving perks and priority to paying customers; I don’t. At all. I do, however, think that the people they have talking for this game are either not very good a PR, and shouldn’t be talking, or are barely able to conceal their arrogance, and disdain for potential customers and/or the genre that this game inhabits. There are certainly better ways to say what was quoted above that didn’t make it obvious that free to play SWTOR players should expect to get pissed on as a right of the company, and the paying subscribers.
Here’s some free advice: a free player who’s a dick will still be a dick if they start paying. Treating potential customers like moustache-twirling villains who are looking to blow up the train tracks of fun being ridden by paying customers is a sure way to prove that the SWTOR machine has just given up hope of being as relevant as their PR machine wanted us to believe they would be back in the early days of the game. Personally, I was wary when I was given the impression, through an off-hand remark, that the game-to-be would only be paying lip-service to some mechanics “because other games have them”. I’m not a game designer, but if I were, and I saw that as a reason for adding a mechanic, I’d punch the person who rationalized it thusly in their donut-insertion hole. Add to that the storytelling “experience” that was supposedly so revolutionary, but which turned out to be basically a thin veneer on an otherwise rotten frame. Finally, using language in a public statement that pulls no punches in telling the people you hope to convert to paying customers that you think they’re blood-sucking freeloaders beneath reproach is really phoning it in.
Wow…Uh…I really just want to back off my statement, and to apologize for this rant because I violated the #1 rule of blogging: Don’t take your first source’s word for it, especially if it’s a quote of a quote.
Apparently Tramell’s comment is correct. This actually had nothing to do with F2P players “ruining” the warzone experience, but rather that subs converting to F2P would mean that warzones wouldn’t pop frequently enough for remaining subscribers. The “degraded warzone experience” being referred to is that: a poorer experience overall, and not because of an influx of F2P players. In that, I apologize.
But I still feel that F2P players are generally given the short end of the stick in terms of “class”, and that the overall SWTOR experience and presentation have been astoundingly lackluster.