Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Star Wars: The Old Republic - Free 2 Play

A long time ago, in a Galaxy far, far away…

That’s what the opening line is to every film, and pretty much every game am I right? Yeah I am right. Probably. I can’t speak for the Clone Wars animated series, but I would have thought that for 20-25 minute episodes that they might forgo that one line that has become so synonymous with Star Wars it may as well just say “HEY LOOK IT’S STAR WARS!!!”

Well an earlier blog post that I put up on here told you all about the Top Ten Games from 2003, with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic coming top of the tree and with good reason to. Just thinking about the game was enough for me to rush completing Mass Effect 3 again (with the new Extended Cut) and dive into BioWare’s other amazing RPG from 9 years ago.

Being set so far back in the universe’s timeline gave the developers a lot more freedom to put their spin on a story, to not have to include as many things that needed to be approved by LucasArts – for they are famously protective of their storylines, and Star Wars Canon. However, Bioware and in particular Drew Karpyshyn, were given a lot more creative freedom to create their own Star Wars epic that wasn’t anything to do with the Rise and Fall of Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker.

Anyway I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, or behind myself, I can’t think which. To cut this long story short – for a KotOR review post will be coming in the weeks ahead – KotOR finished, then Obsidian picked up the pieces and made KotOR II: The Sith Lords, which was panned by a lot of people and loved by a lot as well, but the more I play through KotOR the more I want to sink my teeth into the sequel which I personally loved. KotOR2 was another phenomenal game – rushed in places yes, with a shit load of cut content, but still a brilliant game that improved a lot on some of the aspects of the first game.

Anyway for years, I – along with thousands of others – searched and digged for news of KotOR III, we had to have more. MORE! MOAR!!!!

We craved the trilogy, it’s Star Wars for shitssake! It’s an epic story for gossake! Give us No. 3!!!!

But no. Nothing, for a while hope was there with LucasArts confirming that a 3rd game was on the way, then Lucasarts had some money problems, and couldn’t finance it.

Hearts were broken, mine included. You might think that sounds a bit melodramatic, a bit much? It’s a computer game right? Well what if you said to one of the millions of horny housewives that the much loved 50 Shades of Grey wasn’t going to have its 3rd book. That after the second one, EL James said “Well, I was going to do the third one, I even had the storyline kinda figured out, but I just can’t commit myself to it” and then never spoke of it again. How would those women (my wife included) feel? I’ll ask her shall I?

“No ending??? No bum-flogging, arse-melting cane-whipping panty-ripping bra-pinging ending??? Seriously? If they had told me I had sat and read two books full of Sunday tea-time Grey porn, ‘cos lets face it, its only shocking the first time he ties her up in his Red-Room o’ pain and gets down to the kinky fuckery by eating her nipples and caking her bum in Nutella and sprinkling jelly babies on top, after that I was skipping ahead to see if he died a big sexy dramatic death!

“Anyways, forgetting all that, to be told that the trilogy you’re reading is mentioned, dangled like a carrot to be cruelly snatched away without so much as a by-your-leave, would be Hell!

“I want answers, and I want endings! because that’s why we love our books and our games isn’t it? As unlike in real Life, we actually get to see where our final decisions take us and leave us. We fall in love with characters in books and games, make them a little extension of ourselves, in books we give them life, we give them faces, and in games, we ARE those people, we are the ones fighting the battles, and to be told you have come this far with a character you love, for the writers to cruelly say ‘Nope, end of the line bud!’ is plain n simply like being ditched by a lover! Best thing to do when this happens, start shagging around, or in other words, play summat else and forget the cheating bitch!”

Shit isn’t it?

Well that is what basically happened to me and a whole lot of others. We were shat on.

Then hope. BioWare and LucasArts started stirring things, as did EA (who in the meantime had purchased BioWare). Things started circulating…was No. 3 in the pipeline?

YES! And no. YES in that BioWare were developing a new Star Wars game. YES in that it would be set in the “Old Republic” era. And finally YES in that it would be a sequel to the KotOR series.

No in that it wouldn’t be Knights of the Old Republic III. No in that it wasn’t to be a direct sequel per se. No in that it wouldn’t be an RPG as we have been used to from BioWare.

It would be an MMORPG. You see, EA have been keen for quite some time to tap into the vast resource of devoted online gamers, much like with World of Warcraft. WoW have around 10million monthly subscribers, each paying around £9 a month to play the game with full access (you can play free, however you’re quite limited to the things you can do). Let me put it into context for you maths style. Let’s say that 9 million of the 10 million players pay their monthly fee, and don’t just go for the half access of the other millions. At £8.99 a month that equates to a monthly income of £80,910,000. No wonder EA wants a slice of that pie.

Anyway, with that The Old Republic was born. Promises from BioWare that the game in essence would be KotOR 3,4,5,6,7 and more with the amount of content. Reported the most expensive game ever made, with estimates placing the cost of development at anywhere betweem £150-200 million. It was always too much to hope that it would be F2P from the start.

“F2P” to those who don’t know stands for “Free to Play”. Focussing on micro-transactions in game to get by as opposed to a monthly subscription. Players will still have the option to pay monthly, if they play enough and get as much use out of the game as possible then why not? But if like me you don’t get all the time in the world to sit and play, then it’s a waste of money.

The Old Republic came out in December 2011 to a huge amount of fanfare and promise, with immediately around 1.7 million players the game looked set to be a winner. Then by May that figure had dropped to 1.3 million players, and in July that figure dropped to below 1 million.

EA had to take action, people were switching off in record numbers. I haven’t played the game yet, but from what I’ve read it’s not got enough about it to warrant people paying monthly for it. DLC is set to come periodically (the latest due to include HK-47 – meatbag killer extraordinaire!!) but will it be enough? Some people saying the game is too short to warrant paying monthly for it. Even if you can play through an entirely different storyline depending on whether you’re a Jedi or a bounty hunter or a Sith or a soldier or whatever. So EA has made the decision to go F2P from November 2012. And in November 2012 I will be getting my copy of The Old Republic – or I’ll wait for Christmas! I think Christmas. Read that WIFE!!

This has led to some bold predictions, with some theorising that TOR could attract as many as 50 million gamers. However, there is quite the caveat involved with this F2P…

Some might have gotten the impression from what I’ve written that the game will be free, much like Battlefield Heroes. Well no, you’ll still need to buy a copy like most other games, but to play it you won’t need a monthly subscription. Well you won’t if you only want to get to level 50 and have restrictions on some player features and new content.

With F2P comes Cartel Coins. Something that monthly subscribers will get 150 of a month, and that lowly F2P players will only get when they want them and pay per coin – I assume (I haven’t yet found a pricing structure, however I’m sure it’ll be lovely). Cartel Coins will be the virtual currency of TOR and will let players unlock in-game items and “convenience features” – whatever that will be.

Now I personally think that this is quite an unfair way of doing things, by all means enable the 150 Cartel Coins for the fee paying players, but to confine  the higher levels to those who pay monthly? Is that their way of sucking you in, only to say “oh yeah, if you want to reach a higher level to advance your charcter, we need your dosh.” I would hope that levels higher than 50 could be purchased maybe using the Cartel Coins, but even that makes me feel a bit desperate. The player would have paid out for the game, and shouldn’t be punished by having to pay a levy to play the game in full. Micro-transactions should be the only way they play it – you want this special lightsaber crystal? That’ll be 10 Cartel Coins. You want the ability to make grenades? That’ll be 15 Cartel Coins. You want this special armour? That’ll be 20 CC. Surely this would be the way to go, people will purchase these things. Some observers have predicted that using F2P for TOR, would result in such a higher number of gamers, that the losses they would make from the £8.99 a month subscription, would be more than offset by the millions of pounds going into the game from the Cartel Coin transactions.

Ever better though, I know – for a fact – that people buy characters. As in people will pay real money to buy an in-game character that is already a high level. An old friend of mine from college used to do this – not buy characters, but sell them! He’d level up characters to a nice high level, then put them up for sale, and he’d make quite a bit of dosh!

Why don’t EA/BioWare do this? You want to start the game with a Level 30 Jedi? That’ll be £xx please. The character itself could be whatever you wanted it to be, looks, personality the whole sha-bang. But would start at Lvl30 instead of Lvl1.

Anyway I’m rambling quite a lot.

The point is – SW:TOR from November 2012, 11 months after it’s world-wide release, will be F2P. However there will be restrictions on play and it could lead to some wanting to pay the sub fee after playing for free version for a while. By November/December time, TOR should be pretty cheap to buy anyway so should be well worth a punt.

More details should be forthcoming from EA and BioWare in the coming weeks and months. For more information, go to

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