Star Wars: The Old Republic free-to-play model, but many people (mostly those who have not seen it in action) make it out to be something that it's not. But before I begin breaking down those misconceptions, I would like to talk about some cold hard facts. For Instance, completely free players do have a significant experience point penalty, so much so that I could not finish grinding my way to level 50 in my free-to-play experiment. It was a bust on that front. I believe that BioWare needs to work on changing that portion of SWTOR. However, the game changes when you hit maximum level; at that point, the free-to-play model becomes unlike any other F2P model I've ever seen.
In my guild, we have a couple of players who no longer pay for the game through a subscription. Most are raiders who do nothing but raid or roleplayers who are just interested in telling their characters' stories within the MMO. However, there is one member of my guild who I believe has truly beaten the free-to-play model. Surprisingly, he has spent nothing on the game since coming back a little more than a month ago. He has everything unlocked, a stockpile of bonuses and weekly passes, and about three million credits sitting in his bank that he can actually use despite the escrow limitation. During the next couple of editions of my free-to-play experiment, I will focus on his experience.
But first, let's debunk some misconceptions about F2P.
Misconception #1: I cannot wear my artifact (purple) gear.
Truth: If you are coming back to the game and your character is wearing a set of artifact gear, then you can absolutely continue to wear it. The only restriction regarding artifact gear has to do with newly acquired gear. Sometimes you just want to come back to try things out again, not wanting to commit to a subscription, yet. You will not have an issue if wish to keep the gear you have. I'll tell you about unlocking more gear in a little bit.
Misconception #2: I will not be able to run hard-mode or nightmare-mode operations.
Truth: While it is true that you are locked out of operations unless you have a weekly pass, if you do have a weekly pass on the account, there is no lock out for any level of operation. Somehow people got the impression that even with the weekly pass, preferred players were locked out of nightmare-mode operations. While they might not be able to wear the gear earned during the ops, they can most certainly participate. In fact, I tested it out this week to make sure that there wasn't something I was missing. One of our guildies is running operations on a preferred account, and she had run a nightmare mode the week before.
Misconception #3: I will not have enough toolbars for all my abilities.
Truth: It is true that free-to-play players are limited to two toolbars, and during my F2P experiment I quickly ran out of space for my abilities. However, preferred players have four toolbars, the same number we had when the game launched. I have found that to be more than enough space for my abilities, and I have one of the few classes that use nearly every ability on a regular basis. If for whatever reason that is not enough for you, then hang tight; I'll tell you how you can unlock more in just a bit.
Misconception #4: There is no way for me to earn Cartel Coins through gameplay.
Truth: This is emphatically not true. Just as in most free-to-play games, earning this kind of currency can be difficult at times, but it's not impossible, and it might not be as hard as you think. The best way to earn cartel coins without a monthly subscription is to attach a security code to your account. Now, I can confirm that just adding the security to your account will not automatically bump you up to preferred status from free-to-play. I can also confirm that even as a F2P player you will receive the monthly stipend. Getting coins without a security key is a bit more difficult but not impossible. Players get 20 CCs for completing certain achievements like reaching Social 1 or completing a chapter in a class story or clearing all flashpoints, normal or hard-mode. (Protip: Five out of six of the Bounty Contract week achievements give you 20 CCs.)
Misconception #5: I have to unlock everything through the Cartel Market.
Truth: While it's possible to unlock everything through the Cartel Market, it's not required. Many of the unlocks that free and preferred players need drop randomly in the Cartel Packs. I'm not saying that you should go buy the Cartel Packs to get your unlocks. The majority of Cartel Packs are actually bought by players who have already subscribed. They do not need these items, and instead of letting them go to waste, most players will throw them on the Galactic Trade Network.
Misconception #6: All the unlocks I need on the GTN are above the credit limit.
Truth: The vast majority of unlocks on nearly every server are below the preferred credit limit of 350k. That's not to say that you will not find some that sit higher, but those are usually put up by people who have no idea how then GTN market works. If you don't see the unlock you're looking for, then wait a bit; it will be there. Or wait until a new Cartel Pack drops. Usually you'll find a lot of "useless" unlocks on the market shortly after that.
I'll have more tips on dealing with this sort situation in a future article when I talk to Thallahan, my guildie, who has mastered F2P. In the meantime, are there any misconceptions that I missed? After you've heard the truth behind some of these misconceptions, does it change your mind about SWTOR's F2P model?
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!
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