Archive for the ‘f2p’ Tag

A Change in Site (sorta)   Leave a comment

For those who are not aware, I have been hired to write features for TORWars.com.  As such, from now on, many posts that feature content strictly about Star Wars: The Old Republic (or comparisons, such as my F2P blog), will be posted there first and with their gracious permission will then be linked in here.  My non-SWTOR commentary and blogs will still be here as always, but TOR content will show up there first, unless it’s a fluff piece that isn’t up to their standards.

That being said, I’m sooooo chuffed about the F2P transition, and HOLY CRAP, THERE ARE 194 PEOPLE ON DROMUND KAAS AT NEARLY 1AM EST!

(I think so far, so good.)

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Posted November 16, 2012 by druidsfire in Uncategorized

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Comparison Time: TOR’s F2P Model vs Other Games   2 comments

On November 15th, 2012, Star Wars: the Old Republic goes Free-to-Play (aka F2P, not FTP, which is Food Transfer Protocol, where you order a pizza through the internet).  Most of the commentary I’ve seen on the transition is mostly a bit of QQ about people ‘losing’ things, the new ‘massive’ amount of restrictions, the prices of the Cartel Coins, and the Preferred Status Player (PSP) accounts, and how it all works.  However, if all you look at is only what TOR is doing, you lose sight of the fact that other games are also F2P and have their own way of doing things.

I’d like to provide an illustration and comparison to allow TOR players to realize they may actually have a better deal than they think.  Other games have gone F2P in the past or have always been F2P.  I’ll focus on three other games with a substantial playerbase that made a transition, since the sheer amount of angst about F2P doesn’t tend to happen if a game was F2P to begin with.  These games I’ll compare TOR’s F2P model against are the two EverQuest franchises and Lord of the Rings Online.  EQ2 went F2P in November 2011, EQ1 just switched in March of this year, and LotRO switched in the fall of 2010.  Not too surprisingly, they’re all doing well, and LotRO’s Sapience (aka my friend Rick Heaton) once advised me that LotRO was doing better now that it was F2P than it had been doing as a subscription model.  To be fair, none of the trio of other games had a bit of a hole to dig out of in terms of PR and hemorrhaging subscribers, but their transitions seemed to go smoothly.

Now, let’s do some honest comparison about what is going on here.  All three of these games have cash or currency stores where you can buy stuff for your toons or your whole account. The two EQs have Station Cash, whereas LotRO has Turbine Points.  You can buy more mock-currency with real money, and depending on your subscription level, you can get a monthly allotment. Same basic model that TOR is going to cheerfully use (sometimes, there really is no sense in reinventing the wheel).

EQ1’s F2P comparison chart can be found at http://www.everquest.com/free

EQ2’s F2P comparison chart can be found at http://www.everquest2.com/free

LotRO’s F2P comparison chart can be found at http://www.lotro.com/free.php? (click on the tabs to check out the options)

TOR’s F2P comparison chart can be found at http://www.swtor.com/free/features

Let’s break this down, shall we?

  • All four games allow players to play up to level cap for free, but there are footnotes.  EQ1 requires the purchase of at least 1 expansion to get their last 5 levels.  EQ2 and LotRO claim level cap access, but you have to buy expansions to get all of the content and higher-level areas where you can grind to the cap.  To be fair, I fully expect TOR to follow this same method whenever they have their first full-on expansion.
  • All four games have a median level account status.  EQ1 & 2 calls theirs a ‘Silver’ subscription and they cost 5 bucks (USD) a month, LotRO’s call theirs a ‘Premium Player’, TOR has ‘Preferred Status Players’.  Both LotRO and TOR’s middle tier account are free and acquire this status if a full-on freeper makes one purchase in the in-game store.  Additionally, TOR will grandfather all lapsed and future-lapsed subscriptions to PSP status without a purchase.
  • LotRO is the only one that doesn’t restrict races (but then it only has 4 to start with anyway).  EQ1 and 2 allow 4 races, TOR allows 3.  The latter three games allow for the purchasing of races in their store.  And yes, generally it’s the cooler races that are locked away.
  • EQ, EQ2, and LotRO all restrict classes to non-subscribers. EQ1 only gives you a choice of 4 classes, EQ2 lets you play 8 classes.  LotRO lets you play 7 of their 9 total as F2P (and in fact you have to buy the last 2 even as a VIP/monthly subscriber via buying an expansion).  Naturally, they restrict all the really cool ones.  TOR lets you play all 8 classes.  To be fair, there really wasn’t a way to restrict them, since it’s really 4 mirrored classes (more or less).
  • All of the games restrict bag/vault/bank/cargo slots with varying numbers based on their games’ methodology.  EQ1 and 2 don’t allow for shared bank access unless you’re a subscriber.
  • All of the games limit in-game currency.  LotRO has a cap removal purchase available, the two EQs do not.  TOR will have an unlock available.
  • All of the games offer a monthly allotment of mock/store currency for full-on subscribers. EQs 1 & 2 require an auto-pay for theirs.  There was no backdated reward for former subscribers.  LotRO offered an up-front reward for subscribers when they converted but does not require an auto-pay to keep getting their monthly allotment.  TOR’s going to reward past subscribers as long as they’re actively subscribed at the time F2P goes live, and all subscribers after F2P will get a monthly allotment of cartel coins.  Bioware has also recently stated that subscribers who are on multi-month subscriptions (3, 6, 9 months) will get a larger allotment every month than 1-month subs.
  • There are equivalent limits on the use of mail and guild functions on all but LotRO, where they make no mention of guild restrictions.
  • Rest XP is only mentioned in LotRO’s commentary, and it’s only available to subscribers.  I recall from TOR’s PTS that rest XP was not available when the accounts were set to F2P, and Bioware’s already stated that F2P will not gain XP as quickly as subscribers.  Don’t recall the specifics of PSP XP.
  • All of the games limit character slots.  EQ1’s three tiers are 2/4/8 per server respectively.  EQ2 is 2/4/7 per account. LotRO is 1/3/5 for their three tiers per server. TOR will go with 2/2/12, although there is confirmation from Joveth Gonzalez that subscribers will eventually get more than 12 toons per server.  All of the games allow for the purchase of slots for non-subs.
  • All of the games lock out alts for former subscribers if they’re over the limit for their new account type.  EQ1 and 2 didn’t let you pick which alt(s) you got to keep and use (at least, EQ2 didn’t let me pick and choose, it just locked out >5 and I couldn’t access the neater ones at the bottom of the list until I deleted the less-liked ones on top).  Not sure how LotRO did it.  TOR will not initially restrict former subs from their toons even if they’re over the charslot limit, but Joveth did confirm recently that in a future patch, this will change and players will have to choose which toons to play or to resub to keep playing them all.
  • Customer service is limited on all of the games, although LotRO does offer tech support to all three tiers, just not in-game support.  EQ1 and 2 only offer support beyond transactional stuff to subscribers.
  • Forum access is limited for LotRO non-subs.
  • Both EQs and LotRO limit trait/alternate ability use.  Both EQs limit what kind of spell ranks you can use and also how many quests you can have going at the same time.
  • TOR doesn’t (yet) have proper housing, but both EQs limit it, while LotRO just lets everyone have it for in-game coin regardless of account type.
  • All four games limit use of the auction house and the use of higher-tier equipment.  LotRO has unlocks available for listing items for sale (freepers can’t even list anything without an unlock).  TOR will have unlocks reasonably-priced that will allow raiders to stay competitive. Interestingly enough, all PSPs will be able to retain any purples they’ve currently got equipped, but they just won’t be able to equip new ones until they purchase the unlock or resub.
  • For you crafters out there, LotRO doesn’t restrict crafting other than by which expansion(s) you have.  However, to join the crafting guilds (and thus get access to additional cool recipes) requires a store purchase or subscription. The two EQs don’t mention crafting, but TOR severely limits crafting (crew skills) in that you have fewer slots for skills if you’re PSP or F2P.
  • The two EQs don’t mention priority in queue (I’ve never been in queue for either of them), but LotRO and TOR both cite that subscribers will get priority, and median tiers will get secondary priority, with full F2Ps getting lowest priority.
  • LotRO has instanced repeatable content called skirmishes, similar to TOR’s warzones, ops, and flashpoints. Freepers and Premium players have limits, but can purchase more opportunities.  TOR’s going to have passes that can be bought to let Freepers have a higher allotment of this content per week or month.
  • LotRO also has ‘Monster Play’, where you play one of Sauron’s forces (affectionately referred to as ‘Creeps’) and PVP against regular players. This is also limited for non-subscribers, but unlocks are available to purchase.
  • All four games have an in-game store you can buy stuff in.  Right now, there’s a huuuuuge amount of grief going on in the LotRO forums/community about the prices of warsteeds, their gear, and dye packs for them.  Those of us playing on TOR’s PTS checking out the Cartel Packs you can buy and get random stuff in have been generally positive in response to what kind of stuff you get out of them. My sister spazzed out and demanded to know how she could have a Pink-Purple lightsaber when I showed her a screenie of the Pink-Purple Indestructible Crystal in action.  LotRO sure doesn’t offer a portable generic class trainer in their store, nor a throne that doubles as a mount (I’m totally going to run over Jawas on Tatooine with it when I get one). Most of their stuff is geared toward augmenting accounts and cosmetic gear, and even their subscribers have to buy stuff like added space in the bank or shared storage. Where TOR will totally clean up is in the pricing of items to buy and how cheap buying coins will be.  They’ve given us a few price points already, and they’re pretty generous compared to LotRO’s price points, and we’ll get more information in the future, I’m sure.

So, at the end of the day, if you really think about it and the various limits that will be imposed on TOR players when F2P launches on the 15th, the overall model is equivalent to three other games out there who have successfully transitioned from subscription-only to a choice of play models.  Each game offers unlocks based on which non-sub tier one is on, and all the major stuff is covered.  As you can see, the overall methodology isn’t freakishly restrictive compared to other games, and in fact, TOR’s F2P accounts will still be competitive against other games in terms of what a player gets to keep.

When TOR converts, it will have the advantage of more options for its F2P players than the other games. One big point here is that LotRO never grandfathered old subscriber accounts into their median tier that I’m aware of.  TOR’s PSP program is very generous as well.  The fact that they’re automatically grandfathering all former subs into this rather than asking for a purchase first, sure, it’s obviously a means to retain folks or entice former players into coming back, but the fact that they offered it up front rather than adding it after going live is pretty cool of Bioware.  The pricing of items and buying more cartel coins is actually very reasonable and improves on the model the other games provide, so I suspect Bioware and EA will be doing brisk business.  Just as I occasionally buy Turbine Points to buy a new mount for LotRO on my main, I fully expect to buy cartel coins even though I intend to stay a subscriber.  I’m really excited at the kinds of stuff they’re putting in the cartel store and with promises that they’re gonna rotate the stock as it were and add new items to the store periodically, I’m looking forward to seeing it for realsies.

The devs have said recently in posts, tweets, and whatever that they’re going to keep an eye on things and see how this all pans out.  If things aren’t working right, they’re going to tweak it to try and fix it.  They know they have a PR problem, and it’s clear that some of the options feel more like EA trying to nickel and dime people (i.e. paying to unlock hiding the head slot, really?), but when it all boils down, we have a solid game that is trying to survive in a saturated market.  Some of their choices aren’t popular or might feel like F2P players are getting the shaft, but if you really look at how other games do the same thing… no, we’re not.  Bioware’s actually making an honest effort to be competitive.

I wish them well.

P.S. I’m totally buying the Chiss race as soon as I can log in on the 15th.

Posted November 9, 2012 by druidsfire in Uncategorized

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I’m Reminded of a Song…   Leave a comment

My friend Beth Kinderman and her band The Player Characters have a song out called Drinking Song, from her album More Songs About Robots and Death. The gist of the song is ‘why do you watch this show if you hate it so much?’  Recent commentary on TOR’s F2P transition have brought out the folks who hate how the F2P is being handled, with one blogger being very vocal in her opinion that EA is actively punishing free players, rather than encouraging them to subscribe.  I understand the opinions of folks who are cautious about returning, who intend to come back once F2P is live, who think EA is being too restrictive in the F2P/Preferred Status terms.

What I don’t understand are the folks who state that there’s nothing that could get them to re-up to the game… but still spend a good deal of time discussing the game anyway.  It’s very baffling to me to see multiple people still gnawing the bone of the various reasons why they don’t like the game or why F2P won’t bring them back.  Some of these conversations have the fervor of political ‘discussions’, where an advocate of one side is saying ‘this is good, this is bad, blah blah blah’ and the other person has their hands over their ears going ‘LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU, YOUR GUY IS BAD’.

I don’t get it.

If someone is that done with the game, why waste the time or brain cells talking about it?  Move on, yeah?

Posted October 29, 2012 by druidsfire in Uncategorized

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Well Played, Bioware   Leave a comment

Less than a half-hour after I post my previous rant about people whining about TOR ‘taking away their stuff’, Joveth Gonzalez posts a link to a beautiful announcement about Preferred Status Players, where Bioware cites this new class of player that retains /some/ benefits of paid status, but isn’t as ‘severe’ as many people perceive the full-on F2P status is.

So, now we have:

* Subscriber – Gets everything, gets a few extras we don’t have now (6 quickslot bars!)

* Preferred Status – Gets to keep lots of the things that subs get, but not everything, to keep sub status worthwhile (full details available here: http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?p=5324230#post5324230)

* Free-to-Play Status – All the restrictions that have been the cause of much teeth grinding and hairpulling.

Here’s one of the things that shouts clearly to the players: THEY ARE LISTENING TO US.

Sure, there are still many things that aren’t given to the new PSPs that subs will have, and that’s fine by me, there should be incentives to go (or stay) full-on subscriber. I don’t recall getting anything nearly this cool when my EQ2 sub lapsed to F2P. The way Bioware is working this is very appealing. Unless I’m misreading Damion Schubert’s post that Joveth linked in, it looks as if current and returning subscribers who revert to F2P get this PSP status.  That’ll be a ton of people. Also, one thing that’s incredible to me is the thing where a straight-up F2P account that never was a past sub gets upgraded to PSP if they make one purchase in the Store.  ONE PURCHASE.  Seriously? That’s amazing.

So, well played, Bioware.

Posted October 25, 2012 by druidsfire in Uncategorized

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Would You Like Cheese With That?   Leave a comment

Or, OMG, THEY’RE TAKING MY STUFF AWAY!

So, I work in a customer service industry. Customers pay us a monthly bill, they get services based on how much they pay.  When they choose to downgrade their bill due to cost, they get fewer services, or it’s not packaged up, so they pay for certain items a la carte.

Now, I talk to a large percentage of people who think their bills are too high and/or folks who are on limited budgets for whatever reason.

In over 15 years in this industry with two major companies, I have never once spoken to a customer who downgraded their service by their own choice for whatever reason (didn’t use, money was tight, whatever) who then complained that the companies I worked for were taking their stuff away.

Translate that into the MMO scene. Currently, people playing TOR are paying $15/mo for a fully-featured premium service, access to everything.  Soon, people will have the option of going F2P.  They, like the customer I’d speak to at work, can downgrade their service to better meet their needs, and then they will lose access to the features they’re no longer paying for.

I’m gonna all-caps this.  Not so your eyes more easily see this, but because I really do want to shout this at the top of my lungs.

IN THE REAL WORLD, THIS IS HOW THIS SHIT WORKS.  IF YOU DON’T PAY FOR SOMETHING, YOU DON’T GET IT.

If you want the full ride, you pay for it. Simple as that. If you choose to downgrade, then you need accept the limitations of that choice.

STOP WHINING ABOUT THIS.

Seriously, I’m about to buy stock in a dairy farm so I can start making cheese to go with all this whine.

You want to complain about the price? Fine. That’s fair. Other MMOs have a $10/mo full-boat option.  You want to complain about how expensive things are a la carte, again, that’s fair, esp if you compare to other F2P games.   My real life customers can and do expect us to price our services to be able to beat our competition, but for the most part, they do recognize that they don’t get the full ride for free or even at a severe discount.

DON’T EXPECT TO GET THE FULL PREMIUM SERVICE IF YOU’RE NOT PAYING FOR IT.

NO ONE is taking your stuff away. It’s not your stuff if you’re not paying for it.

Look what you CAN get FOR FREE.  LOOK.  Seriously.  TOR is going to give every single player regardless of subscription full access to the entire rich story that was written and crafted by some amazing people.  That glorious story is what has always made TOR different from other MMOs. They’re giving their best feature away… FOR FREE.  In comparison, LotRO makes freeps pay for content beyond certain zones, even if they buy the expansions.  You can’t play two of the cooler classes without buying them.  People are going bananas about the cost of some of their Store prices (Warsteed dye packs, anyone? Poor Sapience had someone bombarding his live chat yesterday asking that question over and over again until the Massively mod finally asked the question to shut the person up).

So, in this case, I do have to say STFU if you’re complaining about losing stuff if you choose to downgrade from a paying subscription.

That’s how this thing works.  Get over it.

Posted October 25, 2012 by druidsfire in Uncategorized

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Everyone Spaz Over Cartel Coins!   Leave a comment

Seriously, I’m excited about the Cartel Shop in TOR. Finding some of the changes they’re going to implement make me REALLY REALLY eager to see them in Live.

Okay, so I’ve been in LotRO since day 1, so the notion of a ‘spend X currency to get Y thingies’ isn’t new to me. I have a VERY bad habit of spending my Turbine Points on mounts for my main, for example.  I bought the high elf race in EQ2 with Station Cash cos I was all /sadface when I couldn’t play my high elf pally after I let my EQ2 acct go to freep status.

So, the basic methodology here is the same. Nothing very innovative for /how/ the process works.  What’s making twitter spaz over things are the sorts of items that are available in the Cartel store and the prices of the items.  Bearing in mind that right now it’s only on the PTS, and the contents of what’s available to purchase might change, it would be something of a dick move on Bioware’s part and increase player frustration if they don’t keep the items available in live that they’re letting people get on the PTS. I’m not saying that every single item on the PTS should carry over to live, cos if they realize that something is whoa OP, of course for game balance blah blah blah. But in general, the same kinds of items should carry over, so players don’t feel like they got jerked around.

One of the most exciting things for me is the HUGE change that /all/ legacy perks will be available for purchase through the store. Here was my initial reaction:  HOLY CRAP BLUE JEDI HERE I COME!  Or a suitable muppetflail.gif.  Once they first announced the notion of leveling a toon to 50, you suddenly get that species available for any class, I’ve been in love with the notion of having a Chiss Jedi and a Sith Consular.  For someone like me who’s a slow leveler who doesn’t even have /one/ 50 (and my stranded main 44 JK is a human), this is a big deal.  

I’m going to have to go to the PTS and look at things more in-depth when I get a few minutes to spare, but that right there is worth the price of admission.  

Posted October 24, 2012 by druidsfire in Uncategorized

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