09/10/2013

The Galactic Starfighter "Expansion"

When Rise of the Hutt Cartel was turned into a free goodie for subscribers last month, I remember seeing a couple of people comment that this might be a sign of a) another expansion coming out soon, and b) Bioware considering giving away future expansions for free (or at least including them as part of the subscription). Personally I didn't think that either of those sounded particularly likely, but as it turns out these commenters were right. Last night a press release was posted on the official site to announce "Galactic Starfighter", a new expansion that is planned to release as early as December. And unlike Rise of the Hutt Cartel, it's going to be completely free from the start and available to everyone; release will just be staggered so that subscribers get access earlier.

Its main (and only, to be honest) selling point is 12 vs. 12 freeform space combat. Now, this is something that a lot of people have been asking for pretty much since the game's launch, and as a result, overall reactions to the announcement have been very positive from what I've seen. This is good! For me personally however... this whole thing is pretty meh to be honest. I've written about why I don't really do space combat, and it's got nothing to do with the current system being on rails. It's just not my cup of tea. I'll try to keep an open mind of course and will probably give the new space PvP a try at least... but I don't really expect it to grab me.

What I personally found the most interesting about this whole announcement are the semantics. Back when Rise of the Hutt Cartel was announced, I was already very sceptical about calling that an expansion, because it didn't seem to bring enough to the table to really be worthy of the title. (To be fair, in hindsight I feel that it did introduce enough changes to be indeed worthy of being called an expansion... though perhaps an "expansion light".) This Galactic Starfighter thing on the other hand... from everything I've read, the new space PvP is going to be all there is to it. More levels? Nope. Any PvE? Nope. How is that any different from a big patch then? In fact, as someone who isn't into space combat, this "expansion" will likely add less to the game for me than any of the major patches have done so far. Where's the distinction between patch and expansion then, other than semantics, especially if both are free?

I wonder if they are now trying to go for a model along the lines of EVE Online's, which releases free "expansions" all the time as well. (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about any of this, as I don't actually play EVE.) The important difference is of course that EVE is a sandbox game so expectations for what qualifies as a significant content addition are very different. I'm not sure that calling a big patch an expansion every now and then is going to do quite the same thing for a theme park MMO.

7 comments:

  1. I think you're right about the EVE model - free expansions with bonuses for subscribers makes a lot of sense. And while I'm personally excited about the space game, I can understand why it's not for everyone. I just hope they start adding more planet-based PvE to keep the remaining players interested and happy.

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  2. Sounds closer to the GW2 model of micro-expansions than the Eve model. Rift is actually fairly close to this - at least as far as I recall, it's been a while. Secret World is definitely built this way from what I've seen. You could also argue that WoW uses this with the x.y patches introducing new content over the life of the expansion.

    In each case accounting for the monetization-model induced differences.

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    1. I don't really see the similarity to GW2, Rift or WoW. They all have frequent (or less frequent) patches and either no (GW2) or big boxed expansions (Rift & WoW). That's how SWTOR was shaping up until now too - but the new model seems to present actual expansions as something that comes for free, which I've only heard of in EVE before.

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    2. Sure, but as you said - this is not really a full expansion. It seems to have a bit of content for a specific segment of the playerbase. Is this is the end of expansions for SW:ToR or the introduction of smaller free content patches between expansions?

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  3. I quite share your opinion and have very mixed feelings about this. I am excited to do space combat, but im kind of disappointed that it gets the expansion title. Probably as it was mentioned above, mini-expansion would sound better to me.
    Since the FTP players will not have access before February, it doesn't look like we should expect a proper expansion or somehing big the next 8+ months.
    I hope I'm also wrong, and the whole update is more than just 12vs12 pvp.

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  4. I think this is relatively consistent with Bioware's business model to date. If they were going to be in the business of selling content, they would have gone the DDO/LOTRO/DCUO/TSW/etc route and sold content piecemeal for $6-10 per planet. Bioware can't be in that business because they can't crank out content fast enough to pay the bills that way. So, they're in the business of promoting the subscription. Extra perks - cosmetics, early access, etc - for staying subscribed are exactly how they make that happen.

    As to "selling point" - I'd be shocked if we don't see ships, paint jobs, and other things for this system in the Cartel Market. The interesting question is going to be whether/how that is balanced with earning the stuff in-game.

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  5. My thoughts are kinda twofold on this. On the one hand, it adds a nice bit of space combat to the mix, something that so far has been kind of missing considering the Star Wars theme. I was not a fan of the space combat so far, mostly because it seems to just be a 3d version of games I played some 15-20 years ago, back in the time of good old Amiga Commodore 2000. Giving it a free flying model is definitely a good thing, but at the same time also unavoidable if it's supposed to be a PvP setting. I think exactly those controls may be what will do me in, in the end.
    I
    f I compare it to another game I play, there are similarities. That game being World of Tanks. You control the tank, which is basically along 2 axis. As a result, movement isn't hard, and neither is situational awareness. The same company also makes World of Warplanes, which is more of the same, except with warplanes instead of tanks (obviously). Suffice to say, I like the tanks very much, but totally suck at the warplanes game. It will probably go down the same route regarding space battle, which means that I'll give it a go, but will probably end up letting it be what it is and just focusing on the personal stuff.

    All that said, I am still looking forward to seeing what this expansion will bring. I do hope it will also include other things. If nothing else, then at least a few quests leading into the space battles, to provide some background of sorts.

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