Things That Just Need To Be Free

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.

[Screenshots] I Went Cartel Shopping and Didn’t Break the Bank (Yet)

So far I have been restrained and only bought 2 shirts.

This is my current outfit:

RED RED RED RED RED!  Also, shut up.  I know it’s a skirt.  The sith marauders wear skirts too.  It’s fine.

If you are interested it’s:

Now, this is trickier than it seems.  First, no medium armor skirts except social gear.  And, trust me, you don’t want to wear pants with this shirt.  The hanging down THINGS stick unattractively to the backs of your legs.

Then there were colormatch issues.  Most boots and gloves pick up the gray color rather than the red color.  So I had to struggle to find boots and gloves that were not only marginally attractive but color matched to the right part of the outfit.  And by “struggle to find” I mean “make a copy of each set of synthweaving AND armormech medium armor boots and gloves and try the damn things on and then hit ‘match to chest’.”  My idiots are now farming to recover the mats I wasted in the name of fashion.

I also bought Saberist’s body armor (Cartel, 150 coins).  Goes great with the same boots and gloves, and I’m using the Sentinel’s Renowned Headgear (Legacy Gear), but I’m struggling on the pants issue.  Here I’m using the Corsec Pants (Social VI) but they have this weird two-toned thing going on:

Seriously, it’s impossible to find pants that don’t have embellishment on the butt or crotch… or faux holsters for my not-guns.  Let’s hope that the Cartel Market releases the matching pants.

Total spending: 300 Cartel Coins.  I’m being downright frugal (so far).

Free-To-Play Shopping List

Guys, this is serious.  Are YOU ready to spend all your cartel coins that you’re getting for being subbed this last… almost-year?  I sure as hell am.

Let’s. Go. Shopping!

Saberist’s body armor.  150 cartel coins.  (Dulfy has a screenie.)  It’s kinda gray and it has NO hoodie or doodads, so there’s probably already a crafted equivalent on the imp side.  Trust me, I can find pants and gloves and boots on my own, and they WILL match with colormatch.

Street Slicer’s Longcoat.  150 cartel coins.  Again, a totally imp item that I wants it, precious.  It’s for my smuggler.  A proper duster with no goggles around the neck.  Do you know how dumb it is to be wearing goggles on your face AND around your neck?  VERY DUMB.

Public Service announcement: Before buying a fashion item, do your research and make sure that it’s something you can’t get any other way.  Some of these things are unique, while many are identical to (cheap!) craftable items or items easily obtainable with comms.  You should consult tor-fashion.com to see what is out there (for your faction/armor class) before spending real money. I am also happy to answer questions about whether I recognize an item model.

Additional Cargo Bay, 1050 for entire account.  Hell. Yes. I am so out of space it’s not even FUNNY.  Yes, I can store stuff on my alts and mail it back to the appropriate crafter when it’s needed, but the pain in the ass factor on that is just terrible.  If I can get a 4th cargo bay, I’m all over that.

Now, there are things I will buy eventually, and not right now, but have plans for when I gather enough cartel coins by virtue of subscribing.

Invisible Shirt (Covert Torso Energy Armor).  Unfortunately, it comes in those silly random packs, and I’m not buying one of those anytime soon, I have too many other priorities.  I’m not sure which companion is going to wear it… with the belsavis slave collar.  I’m such a jerk.

Outlaw’s armor set, 1200 CC.  Pricey but hawt.  It seems to be a recolor of the corellia social gear, plus kneeboots, so in an ideal world I’d be able to buy the jacket separately for a reasonable price, and just colormatch the rest, but it’s a package deal (sulk).

Unlock Ship Mailbox (350 CC), Unlock Ship Vendor (250CC) , Galactic Market Kiosk (900 CC).  With all these things on my ship I’d never have to leave.  I will never ever grind enough cash for these in-game, but if I save up my cartel coins month to month, it’s doable.  Unless I blow it all on fashion first.

Want to be cool like me?  Make a wishlist on SWTOR SPY.  See, on the right, there are all the things I want.

And then the price tag.  Oh… 4000+ cartel coins?  Groaaaan.

Dear Santa,

Please bring me the $40 cartel coin pack so my toons (and their companions) can look swanky.

XOXO, me

Do you have plans for Day 1 purchases?

Do Not Wear This

I was trying to log out the other night on the fleet, but I could not, because every time I turned around there was something to SCREENIE.

I call this one “blueberry in a bikini.” That much blue skin just looks WEIRD.

Consular Fail, a study in banana hands and lemon slice hat.

badhat

Despite the Absence Of Same-Gender Romances, I’m Still Popular With the (Evil) Ladies.

Did I mention how much fun I’m having smuggling again?  Welp, I’m on Tatooine minding my own business when this sith lady shows up out of nowhere in red clothes, of which color I am jealous.

Even her lipstick and hair accessories match. Damn, the sith have STYLE.

***SPOILER ALERT FOR SMUGGLER STORY ON TATOOINE***

Continue Reading »

Time Is Money: Making The Cartel Market Work For The Busy Subscriber

Now, I’m totally opposed to spending $15 on my subscription and THEN having to turn around and buy crap off the cartel market.  That is terribad.

However, I am not opposed to having the choice to buy something in-game or buying that same thing on the cartel market.  For someone who has a full-time job and a full-time kid and as much raiding schedule as I can possibly squeeze in, I don’t have a ton of time to be grinding crap.

For example, let’s talk cargo bays.  I am a crafter at heart.  Both my 50’s have all 3 cargo bays, the third costing 400k (barf).  But, when the cartel market arrives, I can buy an account-wide cargo bay expansion for – well I’m not sure what it is going to cost.  Dulfy says 1050 cartel coins, which should be about $10.50?

Dscount: If I purchase an “Account Wide” Cargo bay does it incrementally add one to each existing character and future characters I create? So my 50 with 3 bays would get a 4th, but my new character would get a complete 2nd bay and my other toon with 2 would get a 3rd bay. 

Blaine: Yes, you have it exactly right if you are a Subscriber. The main difference for a Free-to-Play Player is that you must purchase the ability to access the Cargo Hold before you can purchase additional bays, so you could be in a position where you have purchased the access on a character basis, but not an account basis, then if you purchase account wide expansion bays, they would only apply to characters that had purchased the Cargo Hold access first. And last, but not least, remember that Preferred Status players automatically get Cargo Hold access. *whew*

From the SWTOR dev interview.

For a crazy crafter like me, imagine the implications of an account-wide bay expansion.  Suppose I have 6 toons at level 20+ (I do), and I buy them all a 2nd cargo hold (for not too much, it’s 40k)  Instead of buying that third cargo bay for 400k EACH, I spend (whatever the hell it will cost), and bam!  It is 6x400k = 2.4 million credits saved.  Well, I don’t know about you, but I would take a long time to grind all those credits.  Going back a bit, notice how I wouldn’t use the account-wide unlock until I had used in-game credits to buy the first, cheaper, extra cargo bay.

The key to remember here is that when you buy cargo bays/inventory in the game, the price goes up with each subsequent bay/slot.  Whereas on the cartel market, the price is fixed, and does not depend on how many previous ones you’ve purchased.  Not to be captain obvious, but it is strategically efficient for busy subscribers to pay in-game cash for the early slots and cartel stuff for the really pricey later bays/slots.

And that’s all the math I can handle.

Get Thee To The Official Forums And Demand Fashion

The devs have asked:

Hey folks, the Cartel Market team wants your help and advice in determining possible future content.

Specifically, they want to hear about what current in-game outfits you’ve been envious of that you would love to see available for other classes as moddable outfits. Please post your thoughts and ideas below!

I am just at a loss because I want SO MANY THINGS.  I must formulate a cogent response!  Beyond wildest dreams, brain cannot think, have the dumb.

But you guys, I’m sure you don’t have an attack of the dumb.  So if there was ever a reason to brave the trollery and asshattery of the official forums, this would be that.

Go ask for your favorite fashions.

But no more bikinis, or I’ll blaster you to the face.

Devs Explain Dude, Where Were My Comms?

We Get Answers About Our Comms

You may recall my unseemly reaction to the removal of BH comms from story mode EC bosses and chests without so much as a peep.  Well, a the devs put out a statement finally explaining, dude, where were my comms. (Emphasis mine)

So let me step in here and explain why these changes were made and what we’ll be doing to improve the current situation.

When Explosive Conflict was released, it was stuffed full of Black Hole Commendations in all difficulty modes, which was not actually intentional. For some guilds, this setup heavily incentivized running a single Operation twice every week to maximize their accrual rate. For other guilds, this made the prospect of attempting hard mode risky and inefficient compared to sticking with story mode. It was awkward and puzzling, but it sort of worked, so we left it as is.

With the balance adjustments to Explosive Conflict in 1.4, we took the opportunity to correct the loot packages. Story mode is intended for players who want to run Operations in a more relaxed atmosphere; it’s not meant to replace or bypass hard modes, but it should offer incentives that smoothly segue into the higher difficulties. Unfortunately, we erred on the low side with those incentives and failed to communicate the changes for 1.4. We apologize for the oversight.

So here are the changes you’ll be seeing in 1.4.3:
– Increased Black Hole Commendations granted by [WEEKLY] Galactic Operations from 8 to 15.
– Increased Black Hole Commendations granted by [WEEKLY] Galactic Crisis Points from 8 to 20.
– The final boss of Terror From Beyond now drops additional Black Hole pieces in story mode. (+2 in 8-man, +4 in 16-man)
– The final boss of Explosive Conflict now drops additional Black Hole pieces in story mode. (+2 in 8-man, +4 in 16-man)

The key here is that guilds running story mode aren’t forced to play it safe every week, but it’s perfectly valid if they’d like to. The weekly missions should provide a good avenue for guilds gearing up for the recent hard modes, especially with the upcoming addition of Campaign Armorings to the Black Hole vendors in 1.5. It also makes more sense – Operations should be the best source of gear commendations regardless of difficulty mode.

As for nightmare mode Karagga’s Palace, the commendations were actually removed as a side-effect of migrating the chests out in favor of putting loot directly on the bosses; however, the updated boss loot did not make it into 1.4. In 1.4.3, the commendations will be migrated to the weekly mission, and the vanity items will be moved directly onto the bosses:

– [WEEKLY] Deadly Operations now grants 10 Black Hole Commendations.
– In nightmare mode, the Dessler Turbo is now guaranteed to drop directly from Karagga the Unyielding.
– In nightmare mode, most bosses in Karagga’s Palace now have a chance to drop the M0-GUL Thrall Droid or Karagga’s Unyielding Helm.

One of our top priorities for future updates is to shape the endgame gear progression into something more coherent. We’ll also be working harder to keep a dialogue open with you guys. Good hunting!

Jesse Sky
Flashpoint and Operations Team

Why I’m Overall Pretty Damn Happy

A lot of stuff in there to like.

Communication

Unfortunately, we erred on the low side with those incentives and failed to communicate the changes for 1.4. We apologize for the oversight… We’ll also be working harder to keep a dialogue open with you guys. 

I’m pretty damn happy that they owned up to it and explained what the hell was going on.  It makes a lot of sense how things occurred, when at the time we were quite baffled (and pissed).  I also like the communication.  Please, more communication like this.  Pretty please.

Story Mode As Step To Hard Mode

Story mode is intended for players who want to run Operations in a more relaxed atmosphere; it’s not meant to replace or bypass hard modes, but it should offer incentives that smoothly segue into the higher difficulties… The weekly missions should provide a good avenue for guilds gearing up for the recent hard modes, especially with the upcoming addition of Campaign Armorings to the Black Hole vendors in 1.5.

I’m pretty damn happy that they’re acknowledging (and supporting) story mode as an entry into hard mode for that same op.  That softens the story mode/hard mode divide that was widening, since most guilds don’t fit neatly into one category or the other.

Gearing For Ops By Running Ops

It also makes more sense – Operations should be the best source of gear commendations regardless of difficulty mode. 

As I’ve been saying all along, it makes no earthly sense that the best way to get ops-geared would be by doing non-ops activities.  And now the devs are saying the same! Non-ops activities should be a supplement or an alternate path, but not mandatory.  That’s something that Blizzard needs to learn to the face.

There’s Always A “But”…

Having said that, it has taken way longer than it should have for them to “get” some basics of the MMO playerbase.

The most obvious principle, in my mind, is “don’t take things away or people get mad.”  Whatever it is, people hate it.  Would you QQ more if your class were nerfed or if other classes were buffed?  Same effect of class balancing, but it doesn’t feel like punishment or loss if, instead of taking away your cookie, someone else simply gets an extra cookie.

Another thing I’m seeing in this post is essentially “we intended players to do X and instead players are doing Y, and we don’t want them to do that (or to have to do that) – and we did not anticipate them doing it.”  While it’s a noble goal to make sure players are having fun rather than mindlessly grinding, I’ve seen many similar statements like this where bioware underestimated the playerbase.  Remember at launch: “we didn’t expect people to get to 50 so fast!”  Welcome to the MMO world.  If it is remotely possible, some moron will do it.

In conclusion, I like this new trend of honesty and communication, but bioware needs to learn (fast) the basics of the MMO playerbase that have been established over the last 10 years or so.  The information is out there, get to it!

Bonus Content: My Profanity-Laden Knee Jerk Reaction

When I first read the above dev communication, I let forth a string of profanity on the guild forums to get it out of my system,  rather than being a jerk and posting it here.  But the guildies prevailed upon me to share this ill-thought out impertinent statement with the world at large, so here it is anyway.

Let me translate from Bioware bullshit into English:

“We fucked up and gave you way too many comms in 1.3. So we let 3 months go by without fixing it. When we finally had the opportunity to fix it, we did, without any warning or explanation, because that’s fair right? Why should you rely on a feature that’s been there for 3 months?

“But now, it’s a complete and total fucking shocker to us that you were pissed about it!  Incidentally, you get to not get comms and stew with anger for a full 4 weeks before we even acknowledge that we removed those comms without saying a fucking word to you guys, OOPS!

“But you casual assholes pay us and well, apparently we aren’t making a whole lot of money. So we’ll give you more comms, I guess, but not as many as before, because you story mode fuckers aren’t real raiders and just want to drink and joke around and not actually do anything useful. Go the fuck away. Wait, I mean pay us, then stfu, and go away, right?

“We promise to announce things better in the future. We don’t promise not to fuck them up in the first place.

“XOXO Bioware”

Like I said, I tried to keep my ranting (that really lacked editing) to myself, but I just can’t say no to the guild.

Attempts To Mug Sith For Outfits Largely Unsuccessful

Fortunately, we’re getting the cartel market.

I have no research knowledge because I’ve had approximately zero hours this week to log in, let alone get on the PTS (har har).  If you want the “facts”, go see Dulfy or Darth Hater.

Now, I get to highlight the frivolous crap that I live for.

Full, matching outfits, available to any class, either faction.  Look, I don’t care about the stupid stats (level 30, yawn), but  it’s sith fashion with colors.  I’d prefer to be able to buy the pieces separately, as the full set is pricey.  As far as I can tell, the sets are identical to the level 39 orange shells that are crafted by synthweavers and armormechs.

Shirts, available to any class, either faction.  These are also based on current craftable armormech and synthweaving oranges, the level 23 orange shells to be precise.  However, “just the shirt” isn’t an impediment because, hello! match to chest.  I probably wouldn’t buy the rest of the pieces even if they existed.  Especially not the hat.

More bikinis.  OK, I lied, I don’t love this.  I opposite of love this.  We totally need more idiots dressing their companions in bikinis.  But that’s ok, because finally, sweet revenge…

Invisible chestpiece.  Y’all heard me right.  You can now dress your favorite male companion in an invisible shirt, and he can follow you around in all his Incredible Hulk glory.  I’m looking at you, Scourge.

What are your favorite (preferably frivolous) parts of the cartel market?