Hyperspace Beacon: The SWTOR F2P experiment, closing chapter one

Hyperspace Beacon The SWTOR F2P experiment, closing chapter one
It's been a couple of weeks since I've covered anything dealing with my Star Wars: The Old Republic free-to-play experiment, so I should do a quick rundown of the rules. I believe that it is possible to play SWTOR from beginning to end, including endgame, without paying for anything. The SWTOR cash shop (Cartel Market) and auction house (Galactic Trade Network) are directly connected in a way that allows for nearly everything sold in the cash shop to be sold to other players with in-game credits. There are enough people who have more real-life money than time to support those who have more time than money. So during my experiment, I vowed I would not take any gifts from other players or my alts and I would buy all of my unlocks off the GTN.

So far, I've noticed little change from level 1 to 10. However, Coruscant started to get rough. I also learned that leveling alongside a subscriber turned out to be disappointing. Yet in general, the leveling process seemed to be right on par with the planet I was on. It was my theory after leaving Taris that although there is a F2P experience penalty, my XP placed me on-level with each planet. Subscribers had an advantage of rising above the recommended level for each planet.

Then I ran into Tatooine.

Hyperspace Beacon The SWTOR F2P experiment, closing chapter one
Prior to landing on Tatooine, I completed only the quests that I found on the planet. I did do some of the heroic quest, but for the most part, I had difficulty finding people to run them. I skipped most heroics on Nar Shaddaa. I also participated in zero warzones and flashpoints, even though BioWare granted me access to five warzones and three flashpoints per week.

I guess I can blame only myself for my frustration. Although I was above level when I completed the Nar Shaddaa storyline, I was grossly underleveled for Tatooine. I completed Nar Shaddaa at level 23. Most of the mobs were about level 22, and the interim story quest between Nar Shaddaa and Tatooine contained level 23 mobs. It was a shock that when I landed on Tatooine, most mobs were level 24 or 25 in Anchorhead. If I approached the mobs gingerly, I could take them out, but more than one quest had mobs jump out at me unexpectedly.

It annoyed me, so I quit playing for a week.

Update 2.1 launched, and my guild got serious with its endgame projects. My interest in continuing the F2P experiment waned. But if I had quit for good, it wouldn't have been fair to my readers or to BioWare. So I decided to kick leveling into high gear. I began running flashpoints and warzones. Over three days, I completed three flashpoint dailies and two warzone dailies before I was blocked from participating in either. Thankfully, I could still skip heroics and still stay on level if I couldn't find other players to run them.

Initially, I intended to do the Tatooine bonus series to skip most of Alderaan. The last two characters I leveled on my primary account were able to bypass this extraordinarily boring planet, but unfortunately, the Tatooine bonus series just helped me stay on par for Alderaan. Thankfully, the Alderaan storyline on the Republic side is a bit more interesting than the Imperial side. My Smuggler got to make out with two different nobles; that upped the entertainment value.

Hyperspace Beacon The SWTOR F2P experiment, closing chapter one
I remember the first speeder I bought in SWTOR's beta nearly two years ago. The speeder was the most expensive item I had bought up to that point, then come to find out that the piloting skill was three times more expensive than the speeder itself. I broke my wallet on that first speeder.
I thought I would have to do something very similar this time. I'm on a F2P account, remember. I don't have the digital deluxe or collector's edition perks. Then I remembered the GTN.

Many speeders drop from the Cartel Packs. In fact, that first Cartel Pack introduced so many new speeders that the market was literally flooded. My main character bought nearly every speeder for less than the cost of one speeder from the in-game vendor. Thanks to this practical demonstration of capitalist economics, I was able to purchase the first speeder for my F2P character at about 1,000 credits, barely making a dent in my savings account.

Hyperspace Beacon The SWTOR F2P experiment, closing chapter one
I received the "moderately wealthy" title about the time I left Tatooine. This means that I broke 100,000 in-game credits, woot! This also meant one other very important thing: I could now buy an unlock from the GTN.

A couple of weeks ago, I said that the average unlock ran about 78,000 credits. I also predicted that prices would increase because F2P players theoretically had access to more credits thanks to the new Cartel Market escrow unlocks. I'm happy to report that I was completely wrong. Many of the unlocks actually dropped in price the day I set out to purchase my first unlock.

I debated quite a bit about which unlock should be my first. Early on, inventory space really started taking its toll. The leveling process slowed considerably because I had to send my companion out to sell grey items often. I also earned more abilities than I had space for on my two quickbars. Which one do I choose: inventory unlock or quickbar unlock? Ultimately, I decided that inventory space was most important because if I ever jumped to preferred status, I would gain two more quickbars, but I would not get any more inventory space.

Boy, did those extra 10 slots make a difference. I still send my companions on grey-item runs, but they are fewer and farther between, never in the middle of an enemy base as I used to have to do.
Things are looking up. As long as I continue to do flashpoints and PvP, I should remain on track for level, and given the amount of credits I'm earning now, I think unlocks are more affordable. See you next week, when I defend Balmorra and stop the Hutts on Quesh.

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 larry@massively.com. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!

This article was originally published on Massively.