Holding Fun For Ransom or Why the SWTOR F2P Crushes My Spirit
Star Wars: The Old Republic came out towards the end of 2011 and I jumped in from the beginning. I loved Knights of the Old Republic, and I still had faith in Bioware at the time, so it was a sure deal. I spent several months playing it, getting two characters to level 50, and adding several alts.
The first story I completed was on my Sith Juggernaut, and it was awesome. I felt amazing. Then I played through as a Republic Gunslinger, and while it had its moments, including some of the best lines, it was overall a lot more meh.
Then the Mass Effect 3 furore happened last year, culminating in the release of the Extended Ending at which point I basically cut ties with Bioware. Finally cancelled my SWTOR subscription as well, though I hadn’t really played much in the couple of months leading up to that anyway.
My dear friend Tech convinced me lately to play the F2P, as a thing to do while watching anime and such. So I figured I’d give it a shot, so long as I didn’t have to pay them any money.
SWTOR launched with much fanfare and good reception, but the subscription numbers dropped fast, and it converted to F2P before a year was over. I figured it’d probably be a decent time-waster. I could never have imagined the state of it.
I mean, it started out alright, but then I got to level 10. As an early adopter and previous subscriber I was put in the “Preferred User” tier, but there’s still a lot of stuff locked away. Like, you want to use titles on your characters? You have to pay for it. Want to change crewmember appearance? Pay. Want additional action bars? Pay. Want normal experience gain after level 10? Buy experience boosters. Customise your gear appearance? Pay. Wear the best equipment? Pay. Whisper to anyone before level 10? Subscribe. Pick your own quest rewards? Subscribe.
And then the one that finally killed my desire to keep playing. If you want to have three crew skills, like you kinda need to to do crafting properly? Pay. I just… ugh!
And the game keeps slapping me in the face with messages and reminders that “if you would only subscribe, everything would be unlocked to you”. And it’s not so much the model I mind, as the presentation. The feeling the game gives off is very off-putting.
A good F2P game, like World of Tanks or League of Legends, or a buy-box, play-free game like Guild Wars 2 or The Secret World, will let you play and have fun without making you feel like you need to spend money. It will make you want to spend money, often on things you don’t really need, or just things that make playing a little more convenient.
The actual gameplay is still alright, and the story is still interesting, but the way it just keeps hitting me over the head with “GIVE US MONEY” messages is rather dispiriting. And I keep running into stuff I can no longer do, but that I used to be able to before, and that is really not helping.
I think we can safely assume at this point that EA just don’t understand games. And Bioware don’t understand F2P. Now I need something to recharge my morale on.