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Apostrophe’s Adventures in Free-to-Play!!!

This won’t be one of my typical “PuG’ing” blog posts. It’s still SWTOR-related, but coming from a bit of a different angle of the game.

So… since life can be funny sometimes, this week I have the “opportunity” to experience a day in the life of a SWTOR Free-to-Play player. (Long story, kids are expensive and sometimes the “fun” budget gets cut out for more important things. It’s a temporary thing, but I figured that it would be a prime chance to see what the game is like from another point of view.)

So, I logged into the game last night and was first met with a decision: Which of my characters should I choose to activate? I can’t have them all as long as I am in “Preferred” status, so I have to be careful and only choose six. In the end, I decided for the time-being, to only activate my level 39 Operative healer, and use the time to work on finishing off her Chapter 2 storyline. (It’s not like I could log on one of my level 55 raiding characters, since I don’t have the unlock for Operations…)

Everything was fine! (Or so I thought…)

At first… I logged in and didn’t think too much was different. I realized that my UI had been reset to the default, so I simply opened the menu and set my UI back to my saved custom settings, and all was right with the world. (Or so I thought…. But I will get to that later.)

After fixing my interface, I took a moment to actually LOOK at my character and realized something wasn’t quite right….

I could not hide my headgear nor unify my gear colors to my chest. So, what I looked like was actually pretty funny, since my Operative is using the Mira’s Jacket for her chest, with the Relaxed Uniform belt and the Eradicator’s mask. It looked absolutely ridiculous. RIDICULOUS. My first shot was to hit the GTN to see how much the Hide Headslot and Unify Colors unlocks were, and they were each around 100k/credits each. I couldn’t really stomach the thought of dropping 200k on vanity options, when I’d rather use that money to add augments to her gear at 55, or buy my Speeder Rank 3 skill at level 40, so I left it alone, and figured I’d just have to run around looking “special.” Speaking of looking special, throughout looking over my character for her headgear/color matching, I also realized that I was unable to display any titles, or my Legacy name in any fashion…. Seems like a silly thing to lock down.

That’s when I realized that I ALSO didn’t have the Artifact Authorization unlock, which meant the purple earpiece I was wearing, per the message I received in game, was not giving my character any benefit. GRRRRrrrrrrrr…..

Fast forward a few minutes:

I joined the queue for my Daily PvP 0/2 Mission. It popped pretty quickly and before I knew it I was in an Ancient Hypergates match. At the beginning of the match, I HoT’d everyone up and decided to stealth to the opposing team’s pylon with another stealth player to be annoying and keep them from capping their pylon. This was a GREAT idea, until the match started and I began to run down the ramp, and realized that the quickbar that I have my Stealth, Sneak, Sleep Dart not to mention my Warzone Medpacks and Adrenals, and my “dump out of combat” ability on…. WASN’T THERE!!!! Which means that none of my keybinds to use any of those abilities worked. Needless to say, since I couldn’t stealth fast enough by going to find the skill in the abilities menu, our grand plan failed miserably. I felt like a COMPLETE noob. Finished out the warzone just hanging in the middle and doing nothing but healing, and then went about trying to rearrange my quickbars and re-map my keybinds.

After that, I figured I would head to Hoth to finish up my Chapter 2 Story. Easy enough. Hop on my ship, sputter over to the planet and start going about my business. That’s when I looked at my experience bar, and realized that the nearly full bar of Rested Experience that I had amassed prior, was GONE. (Free-to-Play do not generate Rest Exp.) I then read the fine print, which told me that not only was I not getting Rest Exp, but that I was also gaining experience at a reduced rate of 75%….. So popping an Experience Boost doesn’t in fact BOOST me, it just shifts me back up to the normal 100% rate I would get if I were still a subscriber.

It was at that moment that I realized, that I have great respect for the patience and determination required to level a character from 1 to 50 (or 55) purely as a Free-to-Play player.

I accepted the fact that I’d be gaining less experience for the missions I was doing, and moved on with my tasks at hand. YAY! I finished a mission! I used my Quick Travel ability to teleport back to the contact to turn it in, and realized that I was not able to select some of the mission rewards. I could choose a Planetary Commendation, or a Mod that was shown, but I was unable to select any of the lockboxes as the mission rewards without being a subscriber. No big deal I guess… I never choose those as mission rewards anyway, I almost always choose the commendations. Off I went to do another mission! I got sent miles and miles and miles into the frozen tundra to complete several missions, and when I was finished, I figured I would simply use my Quick Travel to get back to turn them in. I figured wrong. When you are Free-to-Play, your Quick Travel has a 2-hour cooldown, so back on my speeder I got, and sputtered back to turn the missions in.

While I was at the base turning in my missions, one of my guildmates asked me if I had an extra Major Experience Boost to send him. As fate would have it, I did, and he asked me to just send it to him CoD. So I hit up a mailbox, only to realize that while I could mail him the item, I could NOT send it CoD. After a little bit of thought, I realized this actually was a worthwhile limitation on Free-to-Play because of the potential for abuse by credit farmers, so I’ll not complain too much about that one.

All in all… After spending several hours in the shoes of a Free-to-Play player, I realized a few things:

  • Subscribers are actually getting decent benefits from being paying customers, compared to what the free players are getting. My $15/month makes the game a lot more FUN and easy to enjoy, and quite frankly, if I were faced with the notion of being a permanent “Preferred” status player, I would most likely just quit the game.
  • I think there are too many limitations that affect the ability to visually distinguish Free players from Subscribers. See someone who has ugly headgear and isn’t color matched? Doesn’t have a Legacy name or title displayed? They are OBVIOUSLY free players. I understand why certain conveniences like Quick Travel cooldown, or even the rate at which you gain experience would be limited, because there has to be some sort of carrot on the stick to entice the free players to become subscribers at some point, and to make sure that the subscribers don’t feel like they are paying for nothing. But locking down vanity/character display options? That just creates a class-system in the game community.
  •  I can’t wait until Friday when I can re-subscribe again. This Free-to-Play nonsense is making me itch!!!!

About Apostrophe

We already have enough youth, what we really need now is a Fountain of Smart.

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