Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cathar Woes

Let’s compare this to the WoW model.  Subscribing is the only option.  Expansions are released every two years, and between expansions players get every new piece of content for the price of their subscription.  You pay for membership, and all the perks are included.   (Yes they also release a single mount and pet on their cash store with each expansion, but this is dwarfed by the huge volume of content only attainable in-game. )

When SWTOR was released it followed exactly the same model.  Subscribers were led to believe that if they continued their subscription, nothing would change for them.  They would be able to  “continue enjoying the game in the way that they always have.” 

Now let’s look at recent events.  We just had a major expansion of the game.  True, it’s only been a year later, not the two-year cycle of WoW, so we can understand that it might not be as far reaching as WoW’s expansions are. But when we actually evaluate what this expansion contains we see some obvious gaps:  notably no new flashpoints, no new classes, no new player races.

And then barely a month later the developers come out with new content that traditionally has been part of an expansion, new races, but now we’re going to pay extra for it.  Subscribers legitimately complain that this should have been included in the expansion. 

But wait.  We have our monthly allotment of cartel coins. What about that?  Our monthly allotment of cartel coins has now become the go-to excuse for every abuse and excess of the cartel market that we had misgivings about. 

Initially, it was billed as a little extra cash to spend on fun things at the game store – a perk of being a subscriber.  But soon we began to realize that our little influx of coins was actually pre-spent for our benefit.   Why wasn’t there a discount on the Cartel Market for subscribers?  Because we had our monthly allowance.  Why were we forced to pay for Holiday items?   At least you had your monthly allowance to help cover it.    Why are there few new speeders attainable in the game?  Your monthly allowance allows you to buy them.  Why do subscribers have to pay for expansion content like a new player race?  Your monthly allowance covers it.

Except that our monthly allowance is actually pitifully small.  Takes three months to buy most meaningful purchases  (armor sets, speeders).  So it turns out that subscribers don’t get any fun money at all.  They’ll need that monthly stipend just to afford the basics of the game.

Speaking of the basics.  So now we’re saying that a new playable race is being opened up and players are just supposed to embrace it like any other cosmetic skin.  New armor?  Check.  New speeder?  Check.  Cat suit? Check.

The true problem here is that we’re adding this new race without (apparently) any new narrative support.  No new lore, no new story, no new quests.  It’s just a skin.  And this feels wrong for a Bioware game that is supposed to champion that fourth pillar.  “Story-poor” Blizzard spends entire expansions to introduce and support new races like the Worgen or the Blood Elves.  Bioware just dumps them on the cash shop.

Or maybe there is a new story, and all kinds of narrative support.  Except that you can’t really appreciate it without paying extra for the race itself.  So we’re back to the argument that brought us here:  Subscribers having to pay for patches that should be part of their subscription.

Does this mean I’m going to quit the game in a rage?  Nope.  Still enjoying Makeb.  Still having a great time.  Just responding to a thought–provoking discussion.