What A Dollar Gets You

Syp has a good post on the F2P change for SWTOR.  The main argument is against the two main models of F2P – one that lets people play for free with add-ons paid for cash and another that provides huge restrictions and essentially works as a limited trial.

Rohan has a nice breakdown of the F2P components that bears repeating, where the main ones include:

  • Box
  • Access
  • Content
  • Cosmetic
  • Convenience
  • Power

The box is simple, access too.  Content can be pieced out, as Turbine does pretty well with DDO and LOTRO.  Cosmetic is the way for most Cryptic games, including most super hero variants.  Convenience speeds up portions of the game that are clearly tedious.  Faster mounts, bigger bags, experience potions et al.  Power is the most controversial but the most prominent in the F2P world of Asia.

TOR is clearly using Access, Cosmetic and Convenience as the main drivers for cash.  Content is simply much too expensive for TOR to sell piecemeal, what with the full voice over costs and high production values.  Power isn’t an option either as the pusback on this model in western games can destroy a game.

You are paying for access to raids and PvP and whatnot but the general agreement is that these portions are a much better value in other games.  The convenience issue is an interesting one.  There is no real challenge in TOR, at any given point.  1-50 can be completed, if slowly, for absolutely zero dollars.  For 20$, much less than anyone would pay for a box copy of a AAA single player game, gets you enough unlocks to may the game very playable.

Once you hit level 50 though, then it’s much less about convenience or access.  Nearly every single aspect of the game at that point is locked behind cash doors.  You need to pay to do anything, use the AH, truly craft or customize your character.  Heck, you need to pay to equip items.

Right now, you can buy KOTOR2 for 10$ (on sale for half for a few days), a game dating from nearly 8 years ago or you can pay 0 dollars for KOTOR3 that’s 1 year old.  If you only wanted the Single Player experience, I would say “good deal”.  If you’re looking for the social experience, I would say that the F2P option isn’t an option at all, subscription is the only way to go.

This essentially means that TOR is offering a free trial from 1-50, with the option to buy perks along the way.  Once you hit 50 though, it’s a subscription game like any other.

Not a Metaphor at All

Let’s say you’re looking at the vehicle market, trying to get in as a seller.  You notice that trucks are by far the largest return on your investment – half the components of a traditional car after all.  You say to yourself “that must be easy, I’ve driven a truck”.  You run around piling up some investors.  Let’s say you end up with $200 million, all with a pretty picture of a truck.

Next is the design phase.  You go and buy a couple trucks, pull them apart to see the pieces.  You copy as much as you can but change the overall aesthetic design.  You start early production and testing.  The people who are testing your truck are people you know and likely people who are willing to give you a break.  Best-case sort of thing.

You know there are a few issues but your deadline is coming along and you decide that they are minor enough that you can fix them in the next release. Launch day is here, there are massive line ups.  People think “wow, that looks cool” or “hey, I’m bored of my truck, let’s try this new one”.  You put up adds with words like “revolutionary” or “cutting edge” – even though it’s a clear copy + paste from what’s already out there.

A couple weeks go by.  Those minor defects that weren’t a huge problem now are a massive PR problem with 2 million people driving your truck.  All of a sudden, once the truck hits 30,000 kms, the steering wheel locks up.  The innovative wipers only wipe ¼ of the windshield.  The engine has trouble pulling even a half load, since you didn’t understand the mechanics of it.  You have a nice looking truck but once people start using it, they notice a lack of attention to detail and long term testing.  Your innovative pillar is a set of fuzzy dice that people are continuously trying to get out of their sphere of vision.

What do you do to get your money back?  Discounts.  Massive discounts.  Maybe even sell the truck at a loss then sell the parts they need (say seatbelts) for a premium.  Maybe you break even, maybe you don’t.

Is that the end of the truck market?  The end of you?  The end of simple straight up sales?

 

State of the Game Over

Syp has a post up in regards to the PR spin that SWTOR is giving before the F2P launch.  I tend to agree with the majority of his observations though with a few additions of my own.

Format

When I first read it, I thought” holy wall of text Batman!”  Then I thought “finally a state of the game, 1 month shy of the 1 year anniversary”.  The next, “Jeff Hickman is running the boat now?  Hmmm”.  Still, the format is solid, a quick intro and followed by a few items with descriptors.  I’m thinking it took him all of an hour to write that out and wondering why it took so damn long for this type of contact to occur.  +1

Content

Saying you were EP of Warhammer Online is not something to brag about unless you can speak to a specific feature set/time period of work.  The only thing I could think of that would be worse is introducing yourself as Bill Roper.

The issues stated don’t make sense.  If your game was awesome, people would be playing it.  They aren’t leaving because of the subscription fee.  These two items cannot be exclusive.  Slow updates is also a weird one.  They are certainly slower than Rift but they are lightyears faster than WoW.  If you bring a quality product to the table, that offers a superior experience to the free variants, people WILL PAY YOU FOR IT.  Hate WoW as much as you want but it’s the reason it can charge for money.  It’s the reason Rift and EvE do too.  If you’re going F2P, then you’re admitting you do not have the quality of game you think people should pay for.  Turbine admitted it (LOTRO, DDO), Cryptic as well.

Losing Devs

Balls-on for talking about it.  Shame the reasons given are as reasonable as pixie dust.  You don’t lose the owners, the EP, 90% of the content leads and 30% of all the staff when things are peachy.  Normal cycle is one thing (say a 10-20% turnover rate) but you don’t lose 5 big names in a week.  Whether they left on their own accord or were asked to leave, that’s a different matter.

Bugs all over the place

This was such a massive issue in beta, it’s a wonder that it’s still a problem in live.  Certainly the Hero Engine is partly to blame for this but jeebus, get some better testing practices ASAP.  BW games are traditionally riddled with bugs but you simply can’t afford that practice in an MMO.  At least not while people are paying you to fix it.

Server Population

Who in their right mind thinks this is an issue for the general public to see?  There’s no one left on these servers, consolidate them.  Done.

Summary

State of the Game addresses are supposed to talk about what’s happened between this one and the previous one.  They then state what’s planned in the near future and some vision statements.  Answering questions is good but it doesn’t belong here, it should be its own thing.  So a cheer for actually addressing your paying audience but boo for doing 2 weeks before they all decide to stop paying.

Knight of the Old Republic Free

See what I did there?  We’re a couple months away from SWTOR going F2P but we have more info about it now!

You get absolutely everything good about the game for free.  The story, the classes, the companions, the art.  You get what is arguably the best Star Wars game in 10 years for absolutely zero dollars.

What you do pay for is the MMO portion, the part that is pretty bad.  You pay for quick travel, you pay for purple item, you pay for bag space, you pay for crafting, you pay for PvP, you pay for dungeons, you pay for raids.  We don’t know how much, but it’s more than zero.

There’s still missing details on what exactly gets unlocked for the P2P players.  I personally cannot see why people would pay cash for a great game with crappy MMO components piece meal.  Either people will sub or they will play for free.  Hopefully we get more details down the road.

That being said, for anyone who has not had the change, KOTOR3 will be launching in a couple months.  FOR FREE.