Fall of the Republic
So SW:TOR has decided to go F2P. Ugh. If you want EvE stuff I promise there will be some later either today or tomorrow if I ever get happy with my BB38 entry, but this just has to be said.
SW:TOR is a perfect example of the kind of mismanagement that you can expect from people operating out of their specialty and without a good plan or the will to stick to it. I’m going to look at their key mistakes.
Listening to the PvP crowd
This is a rookie mistake. You hate to see it at the big-league level. I understand that PvPers are loud. We do that. We’re whiners. If rock paper scissors was a MMORPG the PvP forum would be rife with “PAPER IS OP, NERF PAPER SCISSORS IS BALANCED.” By embracing a WoW-esque instanced warzone model the devs assured themselves that every possible perception of imbalance would be held under a microscope in perpetuity. In itself this isn’t bad, but it can lead down a dark road.
Misapplication of resources
Oy. Three raids (sorry Operations) in beta, 2 at release, and those two buggy as hell. When did the third raid finally get released? Did they EVER fix the Soa bugs? Bioware poured more and more resources into “fixing” PvP while the “Story” (remember the 4th pillar of MMO gaming they touted so highly?) languished for MONTHS. There really wasn’t any new content, and what content there was came off as trivial. I leveled a tankasin pretty fast, found a good raiding guild, and main tanked both raids in one (short) night. The next day we did both hard modes, again with me main tanking. There was no particular challenge and any not terribly geared person could easily fill their role. That ended up being the state of the game until my unsub finally went through.
Treating forums as the end-all of player feedback
I don’t know how many surveys I filled out between the betas and the final unsub. My complaints stayed virtually the same the whole time. In particular I felt like I was always watching Luke, Ben & the bots walk from the cantina to docking bay 94 while leveling, even when I had a mount. Remember that part in the movies? Wasn’t it thrilling? The whole 20 minutes of them walking? Bugs in PvE hung around forever. Really painfully long. Look at the forums, a HUGE volume of posts in the PvP forums, and a lesser volume spread through the rest. It felt like Bioware was taking unsolicited feedback before solicited feedback.
No Urgency in Iteration
Again, how much new PvE content is there 6 months from release. 1 Raid. How much is on the horizon? Practically nothing. PvP has received a ton of iteration / new features and yet the subs keep tumbling. Why? Because there just aren’t enough pure PvP players to run a themepark MMO these days.
Now I want to talk about the model they seem to be going for.
This is doomed to be held up as an example of what NOT to do setting up an MMO for F2P. It really looks more like a demo against the full game. Which of course is what it is. If you want to see a great, nuanced, well designed F2P system look at Lord of the Rings Online. You can experience everything in the game without paying a dime, and you unlock more content either by paying cash for it, or playing the game more. This encourages people to play the game more, which means more players cooperating and creating more content for each other, something that EvE has turned into its core content creation method (see I worked EvE in.)
By going with two tiers, it creates a have and have not system, which is exactly what they will see. Haves are the people that plan on playing anyway, and Have-nots will only have a desire to drop money if there is something to push them beyond casual. There seems to be a cash-shop element as well, depending on what that has on offer it could give the have-nots a way to nuance their way in as paying players, but how well that is or isn’t set up is yet to be revealed.