Hi there, Bioware.  It’s me again, with another open letter.

There are some things that you’re just going to have to give up on trying to charge F2P players for.  The PR cost is not worth it!

My List

Hide Helm.  If you want players to have “full access” to experience this awesome story, nothing kills the mood quite like your carefully-created toon making muffled Kenny-noises from behind a bucket-head.  Think about it this way: lack of hide helm discriminates against classes that don’t have unobtrusive circlet options.  (Cough trooper cough)

Quickslots.  Anyone who has played any MMO knows that two quickbars are just not enough.  If you get past level 10, you will need another bar.  Period.  Ok, don’t give them all 6, but a 3rd that you could purchase with credits wouldn’t kill y’all.

Some Inventory Unlocks (With Credits).  You’re going to need more inventory space before you even leave the starter planet.  It’s just going to turn people off the game if they boot up the game, play for a few hours (I mean, literally, to level 10 is a few hours) and they already find themselves needing to make a purchase.  Let them have the first inventory unlock for 5k in-game credits.  Trust me, they will still need more and they will still buy more.

One Cargo Bay (maybe with credits).  Seems to me that this is an integral part of having a ship.  Maybe lower the number of slots in the first cargo bay, but it seems ridiculous for C2-N2 to be giving the ship tour with the cargo bay and… oh wait, no cargo bay!  Not a big deal for the new player who has barely any stuff, but a huge deal for the returning player who will need at least some storage.

Guild Bank.  Way to make F2P people who are in guilds feel like second class citizens.  If the GM wants to restrict their bank access, that’s the GM’s business.  Don’t make it even harder for GM’s to run their guilds.

And then I have the “things people aren’t going to care enough about so you might as well give it to them because they’ll never pay for it” group.  For example: show titles, show legacy name.  I’d be more inclined to pay for the option to turn that crap off.

But WHY?

These are the few little things that are really pushing the community’s buttons and making a lot of people hugely irate, even subscribers, even though these little items aren’t that expensive.  The amount-of-money-earned to pissed-off ratio just doesn’t add up (yay, quasi-math).

Edit: Ah!  Noreek says that the former subscribers will get to keep their inventory and cargo bay slots, whew. New players will still need to buy it.  But my point about startup costs still applies: if you’re trying to lure people into the game, whether for the first time or for the second time, too many up-front costs are going to make them balk.  Later on, when they’re more invested in the game, they’re more likely and willing to start investing in their characters.  But when you’re first trying to see if you like a game and are going to stick with it (for the first or second time) you don’t want to outlay too much cash until you’re sure.  Hence, why some people choose the 1-month sub plan and later switch to a 3-month or 6-month plan (that’s what I do).

Another problem with these things is that at the very start of your experience, you’re going to need them – not necessarily for the fresh new account (they don’t even have hats), but for people with high level toons that you’re trying to lure back to the game.  Higher level characters will need support for their high-level lifestyle (such as inventory space, cargo space, and quick bars) right away.  And when you think about buying this laundry list of items in the first month, it really adds up.  Sure, you might not need to buy another thing for 3 months after, but the startup costs are going to be prohibitive.

In the big picture, there are going to be a lot of other things that people are falling over themselves to buy.  I am subscribing and I will still be paying extra money to y’all for crap that I suddenly decided I must have.  A dude commenting on my blog yesterday said he had already blown 100 REAL DOLLARS on cartel packs.  All that stuff will more than make up for the losses in giving a few extra freebies.

XOXO, me

P.S. After meeting all the super nice and awesome Bioware people last night, I feel like a total asshole posting this, but I did promise the twitterati that I would.


Things That Just Need To Be Free — 6 Comments

  1. I agree with you on most things, but the cargo bay doesn’t apply to players coming back that will have the preferred status. Preferred get one bank tab, and they keep whatever inventory/bank tab they bought with credits.

    AlixMV: if you’re a Premium Subscriber with Legacy racial unlocks and revert to a Free Account, what will have precedence, the f2p restrictions or the Legacy unlocks?

    Blaine: First off – if you change from being a subscriber to a Free-to-Play player, you will always go to Preferred status and will never become a Free Account, so you’ll have some features unlocked that you otherwise would not. Additionally, you will absolutely retain the Legacy unlocks that you earned/purchased as a subscriber. In almost all cases, if you have been a subscriber, you will find that things you purchased for in-game credits will be retained when you go down to Preferred. Including things like Cargo Hold access and Inventory Slots.

    Source: http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?p=5340746#edit5340746

  2. I was surprised at how much stuff wasn’t available to f2p players. I wouldn’t have known except that I have a friend who decided they wanted to play that way and they were listing the many things they couldn’t do/use anymore.

    I definitely see what you mean about wanting to make sure people are fully invested before charging them an arm and a leg.

    Also, you got to meet the Bioware people? What?

  3. I leveled my first character (Trooper) to 50 with only the first inventory bag unlock (5K credits) and only the first free cargo bay. Yes, I had crew skills, though probably the single combination with the lowest inventory impact. (Slicing, which I only ever use to loot or mission for credit boxes, bioanalysis – one stack of each material represents most of the stuff in my one cargo bay – and biochem). It’s not that hard to spare your companion for 60 seconds to dump your vendor trash (every time you have to run back out of a quest instance or take a taxi flight), and there are vendors in every quest hub for everything else. I hadn’t even bothered to pay the 5K credits on my low-mid-level alts, though I am going through and doing so now during my one-off month of sub time just because it will cost me real money if I want the space after the sub lapses.

    I also made poor Elara go through the entire game without a helmet, because they had not yet implemented hide companion helm and I felt that the increase in stats was not worth being unable to tell the difference between the cute medic my character was sleeping with and Fluffy Kitty McSniperPants. (Ironically, my Trooper does not have any in-game dark side points, though he – and/or myself – probably deserves some for doing this to his in-game bethrothed.) On the plus side, I will never notice that Mr. Furry Pewpew suddenly looks completely different under the buckethead because his skin got stripped off by the restriction on equipping customizations.

    Quibbles aside, I don’t disagree with your main assessment. There are a bunch of technically cosmetic unlocks that feel petty but aren’t worth paying for. (Also, I assume you will still get customizations for your first companion, even if you can’t equip them.) More concerning from my perspective are the things you can’t pay to unlock at any price as a subscriber – things like currency and commendation caps, the permanent penalty to vendor prices, emergency fleet pass/quick travel (no thanks for the one-time consumables at $1 per) and – if the matrix is correct – the ability to mail things to your legacy alts. Things will probably change, but for now it does not feel like EA wants non-subscription to be a viable option.

    • When I was hearing about F2P, I kind of hoped that it would allow me to consume content a la carte – to pick the aspects I wanted and ditch the ones I didn’t. For example, I never PvP and, as you may have read, fail at space. I would happily pay a lesser fee for simply doing ops and PvE content. But buying an ops pass every week, plus all the cash I’d have to spend on unlocks just to put me back where I currently am (like gear authorizations), it adds up very quickly to the price of a sub. You’re right: not subbing is not really a viable option, even for my limited needs.

  4. “Things will probably change, but for now it does not feel like EA wants non-subscription to be a viable option.”

    This absolutely.

    I just cannot imagine how they looked at sub numbers, found they were not high enough, did a F2P conversion and then… set it up as a giant punishment for not subbing. Uh, you’re wanting to lure back people who ALREADY didn’t find a sub worthwhile by penalizing them for failing to pay for something that they already decided wasn’t worth paying for?

    What genius thought that up?

    PS – WTB character slots.