11/08/2013

Casually Preferred

While my significant other and I had a lot of fun levelling together in SWTOR, he never really made in-game connections the way I did or got nearly as much into the endgame. So after over a year of being continually subscribed and levelling alts, he let his subscription lapse some time after the launch of Rise of the Hutt Cartel.

It was only this weekend that I nudged him to take another look at the game. In this regard free to play really is a boon, as it makes it easy to poke your head in on a whim, without necessarily having to commit to a full subscription. After downloading three patches worth of updates, he was ready to explore the world as a preferred status player.

Having been subscribed from launch myself, I was curious to see how it would pan out (and whether it would be nearly as bad as many people made it out to be). As usual with these things, the truth seems to lie somewhere in the middle.

We were off to a comically bad start when the "you now have preferred status" window that popped up when he first logged in had all the wrong information on it, which briefly managed to throw off even me. "Two character slots? Only two quickbars? That's not right, those sound like the restrictions for completely free players!" Smooth move there, Bioware, immediately making your restrictions sound much worse than they actually are...

Once in game, things didn't actually seem too bad. I was pleasantly surprised to see that his Sniper's artifact gear had been "grandfathered" in and that he could continue to use it as before. (Some posts that I had read online had given me the impression that this was not the case.) No restedness and generally reduced experience gains definitely have the potential to be very problematic while trying to quest with a subscriber, but considering that we started our play session with level fifty characters on Makeb and were in no particular hurry to get to the cap, it wasn't really an issue in this case.

Still, little annoyances kept rearing their heads as we progressed across the mesas. My SO's character was at the credit cap for preferred players right away, and kept getting one of those "you are at your cap" warning messages that you also get for commendations every time he looted something. It took all of five minutes until it drove him batty enough to make him hand over some of his credits to me, just so that I could hold them for him and make the warning spam stop.

The very first quest that we completed offered a green lockbox as a reward that he couldn't accept. When he went to scavenge something, he was told that he couldn't progress any of his crew skills until he either unlearned one of them or unlocked the third one (which prompted him to spend his last leftover Cartel Coins from his subscription days on doing the latter). When he tried to queue up a couple of things to craft, he learned that he could only craft one item at a time.

Even I had to agree that some of it seemed unnecessarily petty. It's a good thing that he was able to take things with a sense of humour instead of raging. When he discovered that most emotes were locked to non-subscribers, he just shook his head at his pet womp weasel and went: "I would cheer for you, Pinky, but I can't." I was also asked to "remember, my quick travel cooldown is two hours now, because I suck."


The couple that places orbital strikes plays together, stays together.

The thing is, all these things made us shake our heads a little, but the core gameplay was unchanged and no less fun. In fact, it was a nice change of pace for me too, seeing how I've been spending most of my playtime in a guild filled with relatively hardcore players. It's been a while since I haven't been rushing from one objective to the next while questing, took my time to calmly take in the environment, plan every pull carefully (even if it wasn't always needed) and got to enjoy turning every detour for gathering purposes into a little mini-adventure of its own.

I do think that preferred status is going to work well enough for my significant other's purposes if we're just going to stick to the occasional questing session together every now and then. I already bought him a couple of unlocks off the GTN as well, to alleviate at least some of the minor annoyances caused by not being subscribed. Having a subscriber who can "sponsor" you with credits should certainly help.

6 comments :

  1. On the one hand, I think SWTOR kinda went overboard on the free and preferred status restrictions, since they do have impact on how enjoyable the game is. On the other hand, the restrictions do mean that I'm perfectly willing to plunk down $15 a month not to have them. The other free to play MMO I play hasn't gotten anything past the purchase prices from me. (And technically not even that, since it was a gift.)

    I'm just not sure if people are more likely to buy unlocks or opt to subscribe, or if they're more likely to just walk away.

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  2. It's working so far for my leveling trio. We've each put down some cartel coins on some basics (crafting unlocks, vehicle+licence) but otherwise we do as your partner does and just laugh off the sillier restrictions like the lack of emotes.

    We've no subscriber to sponsor any of us, my level 50 main is completely bankrupt after training his biochem without paying attention to the costs! Oh and the spam over coin limits is so annoying! It starts when you're at 70% or something and hits your chat window every single time you loot.

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  3. I finally broke down and bought some Cartel Coins for the kids' account as I'd gotten tired of them having issues managing their inventories. Of course, by merely doing so a lot of the issues instantly disappeared, as their account became Preferred and got access to bank space and whatnot.

    I suppose they COULD use those coins to unlock a few other items, like some races....

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  4. I "sponsor" myself as a player who sometimes subscribes and sometimes does not. As a result, I'm free from all the restrictions I can buy my way out of (e.g. the 3rd crewskill slot) but stuck with the things you can't pay for (e.g. the crafting queue, permanently reduced reverse engineering success rates, not being able to mail your own alts credits, and the two stacking penalties to exp).

    It's definitely odd how out of date Bioware's info is - for example, the website states that non-subscribers can pay for a consumable to fix quick travel cooldowns permanently, when the only option available are consumable one-use passes.

    That said, at times I feel that the ability to get some non-zero money out of non-subscribers by annoying them into subscribing is almost incidental to the current business model. A few bucks here and there adds up, but with the current structure the subscription is still your biggest bang for the buck. The real money may be in the fact that people who were previously paying just the $15/month are now free to pay significantly more for Cartel/Contraband/Gambling packs, unlocks to re-sell to non-subscribers, and other cash store items.

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  5. I did the same as Green Armadillo. I subscribed for a few months and farmed millions of credits. Then with a month left, I bought the account wide unlocks for nearly everything. The only real restrictions I have are the reduced xp gains, reduced credit cap, and weekly limits on flashpoints, warzones, space battles, and operations. Those are the restrictions which cannot be removed permanently.

    I definitely don't like all the hoops you have to jump through to get to this point, but the system does work. You have to be willing to subscribe, grind daily quests, and diligently sell crafting mats on the GTN, but it can be done eventually.

    Now, just doing my daily quests each day is enough to have a permanent xp boost for a leveling alt and a few weekly passes per week. Since I don't get into the raiding stuff, it works out really well. The cost came out to about $60, the price of a new game, to see all the class stories and as many flashpoints or warzones that I want. I have the freedom to play when I want and not worry about losing prepaid time if I don't play for a few days or weeks.

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  6. Interestingly, my wife and I are in the same situation just with reversed roles. She was subscribed for one month but then something (server rollbacks) happened that caused her to furiously rage-quit and she has been “Preferred Status” ever since. It does, of course, help that she has her trusty and wealthy “sponsor” at the ready.

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