Commenters and followers of my work have asked about multiple things over the last couple of weeks. When are you going to finish the free-to-play experiment? Are you going to do a monetary breakdown of the new Star Wars: The Old Republic
daily zone? What do you think about the sitting-in-chairs news revealed at the cantina tour? The unfortunate bit about all of those questions is that the answers are far too short to make up their own article and far too long to answer on Twitter
. So I've decided to answer all of these questions in one hodgepodge of an article that I'm calling nuna nuggets.
Credits earned: 55,989
Time: exactly 15 minutes
I have been a proponent of these dailies since I first tried them on the test center. In their first iteration to the final launch version, the developers seemed to focus on efficiency and value. Perhaps they read my review on the GSI dailies
, or perhaps they focused on the real reason people do dailies. Either way, BioWare
did it right this time.
When I started the dailies this time around, I wanted to make sure the experiment emulated a time when the quests in this area have become routine. Right now, CZ-198 is a bit over-crowded with players trying to gain reputation, run flashpoints, and of course, complete the dailies. If I had chosen to run these missions when the zones were jammed full of people, I don't think my timing would be accurate, so I was awake at 4 a.m. the other day doing missions. There were only five people on the Imperial side in the zone, and I believe I saw only two or three Republic players. I figured this would be an excellent time to test out how long it really takes to run these dailies and how many credits you actually earn from quest rewards and selling junk and useless armor drops.
Bear in mind, that efficiency was my key. I ran through the zones as quickly as I could, but I also had to kill a fair number of mobs because of the "Staff Cuts" mission, which happens automagically if you are doing the normal missions with little interference from other players. I was finished with the kill-35-Czerka-personnel mission at about the same time I looted the last biotoxin for the "What's yours is mine" mission. And I was quick-travelling back to the mission terminal at exactly the 15-minute mark.
When comparing these daily missions to the other dailies that I'm already a fan of, I found that they fall in between Ilum and the Black Hole missions in terms of credits per minute. Ilum earns a player approximately 63,000 credits in about 15 minutes, giving it an average of 4200 credits per minute. Black Hole earns players 47,939 credits in 25 minutes, giving it an average of 1917 credits per minute. With the average of CPM of 3732, the CZ-198 dailies fall in well above the Black Hole dailies and just below the Ilum dailies. That doesn't include the reputation items and basic comms that you earn from the missions, though. Given those factors, I think CZ-198 is now my go-to daily area above Ilum.
Time for honesty here: I could not finish leveling as a free-to-play character. The experience points I was earning versus the content I played did not balance each other out. I had to continually find ways to supplement my XP gain. I even tried leveling as a preferred player, but that obviously didn't change anything because the XP-gain-to-content disparity was still too great. So that part of the experiment was a bust.
I understand that part of it might have been my jaded view of the content. I've seen all of it before; playing through it for what would be the third time on the Republic side just was not appealing in and of itself. I already knew the storylines, and I didn't have to discover the character combat mechanics. Without the mystery to propel me to the next level or the desire to find out what happened next to my character, I couldn't bear the weight of repetition. And since the gameplay had to be completed solo, I lost all desire to do it. SWTOR
was a very lonely MMO, and I don't play an MMO for the solo content.
did many things right with the free-to-play model, in general, but I believe it lost sight of a staple of free-to-play.
There is an adage in "free" content design: If you are not the customer, you are the content. On websites like this one, the content is given to you for free; you do not pay a dime to read the wonderful articles on Massively. However, the staff members who run this site still get paid. How does that work? Advertising. It's obvious, right? You, the reader, are the content for the people who pay the bills, the advertisers. Now, I know that's over-simplifying everything, but you get the idea.
BioWare, on the other hand, seems to still view free players as customers. But in truth, if they are not paying anything, they are either freeloaders (a drain on the company's wallet) or they have to become content for those who are paying. Unfortunately, if the free players do not add to the overall value of the game, then they are not adding a service to the paying players. Taking away the free players' ability to level up with a subscriber adds to that drain on the overall value. It's great to see free players on lower worlds, making the zones feel full. That adds real value to the content. But in later worlds, when content starts to become a bit stale for even the subscriber, having a large chunk of "content" players drop off or not be able to group up with the subscribers destroys the free players' value.
However, that does not mean that BioWare's free-to-play model is complete crap. I was unable to touch the biggest complaint regarding the free-to-play model: the preferred-player limitations. In my guild, there is a player who has completely out-played BioWare's free-to-play model. He pays for absolutely nothing for the game yet does everything that a subscriber does. So to conclude my free-to-play experiment, I will discuss with him the ins-and-outs of exactly what he does and why it works in a future article, hopefully putting all the naysayers' complaints to rest. (Whom am I kidding? There will still be complaints.)
Lastly, I'd like to expound a bit on the article we ran on Saturday. Not the misspelling of Varactyl in the teaser video -- I'd like to give you details about sitting in chairs. Understand that my source of this information started with a phone call from a guildie while he was at the cantina tour. I could hear Community Manager Eric Musco
in the background, and it was obvious that drinking was involved. But as everyone knows, drinking loosens the lips of developers. My guildie took this opportunity to speak to Lead Designer Jesse Sky
about the situation regarding sitting in chairs.
Why can we sit in some of our ship chairs but not in the cantinas on the fleets? Jesse explained that sitting in chairs on your ship is actually a little bit broken. He suggested that we go to the ship and sit in a chair over and over. He explained that eventually, the chair on your ship wil break, and you will no longer be able to sit in it. If he divulged the details as to why this happened, my guildie couldn't describe them, but the fact of the matter is that it's broken. Jesse continued by saying that this bug can be overlooked on the ship because every time you board your ship, it's a brand-new instance of the ship, and the chairs have reset. However, if you take this bug to the open world where the instances might only be reset once a week when the servers restart, you have a real problem.
Jesse apologized for the relaxation unit (you know the chair you can sit in for only 15 seconds at a time). He said that it was never the designers' intent to mock roleplayers with that cartel item. And as if to make up for the misstep, Jesse explained that coming soon, players will gain an emote that will allow them to appear as if they are sitting in a chair. The details of this emote are as of yet unknown, but I know that I will be anxiously awaiting any future word on this story.
See you tomorrow at 9 p.m. EDT for my Raid Night livestream
. May the Force be with you, always.
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!