Gold Augments and a Brush with Pay-to-win

Last year I wrote a post about how I'd been making a lot of money in SWTOR by simply selling stuff on the GTN that I'd earned through normal gameplay. I also concluded that people's concerns about inflation were a bit overblown in my opinion, because there are ridiculously few situations in game that require you to spend an amount of credits that you'll even notice.

In recent weeks, a couple of things happened. Roger from Contains Moderate Peril wrote a few posts about being back in SWTOR, and one of them expressed annoyance about how he'd lost some money from going over the hardcoded credit cap (which is over four billion) without noticing. I was utterly baffled that this was an issue for him (and said as much in a comment) because as far as I can tell, Roger's relationship with the game is very casual (as in: he spends some time playing solo through the story once and that's it) and yet I, as an extremely invested player of more than a decade, have never run into the issue of having more money than the game is technically capable of letting you hold even once, never mind accidentally! He confirmed in a response to my comment that he'd merely purchased a few things from the Cartel Market and then sold them on the GTN.

On a similar note, Mr Commando was moaning recently that he was soon going to run out of money to pay for his repairs. Being a good wife, I told him that this was ridiculous because repairs are not expensive at all, and that he could solve the problem in mere minutes by simply selling some of the items he's been hoarding in his cargo bay and material storage for years. However, he considered that "work" and scoffed at the idea.

One of the other tanks in our ops progression team had different advice for him though. "Just do what I do," he said, "I buy a Hypercrate from the Cartel Market every so often and then just sell the contents. Covers everything easily." Mr Commando liked this idea since he had plenty of complementary coins to spare anyway, so he followed this advice and it pretty much worked as advertised. In fact, when he was done, he had about the same amount of credits as I'd slowly worked my way up to over the course of several years of GTN trading.

Now, I hesitate to call that "pay to win" because paying for repairs is actually not at all expensive, and most of those extra credits seemed pretty superfluous for both of us either way. But my pride was certainly a little stung, considering just how stark the contrast was between the amount of time I'd put in vs. his single Cartel Market purchase leading to more or less the same results.

I really don't like talking about pay-to-win in MMOs though, because it's one of those areas where people can never agree on a definition and will happily contradict even themselves. Not to mention that I've seen many a self-righteous commentator preach about the evils of pay-to-win just to be perfectly fine with partaking in such systems when it suits them.

Fortunately SWTOR has only really had light brushes with the subject in the past, such as when some of the earliest Cartel Market items had stats on them (even if they weren't particularly good), or when Galactic Command boosters were purchasable for real money back in 2016. However, none of these things lasted long in their original iterations, probably because Bioware saw that they were generating a lot of bad vibes for little profit.

Nowadays the devs are quite happy to focus on getting people to subscribe and buying cosmetics, and I'm fine with that myself. Speaking of cosmetics though, these also tend to be among the most expensive things to buy on the GTN, because the resale prices can be through the roof, which is something that critics of the game's economy often like to point to as evidence of inflation being a problem. For me this has always been kind of "meh" because there are plenty of good-looking and affordable outfits in the game, so who cares if there are some that are expensive? I don't really feel like I'm losing anything by not wearing the most expensive set of robes. Now, things that actually affect your stats are a different matter...

Which brings us to the subject of gold augments. I mentioned them very briefly in the post I linked at the start of this one, but brushed them off as pretty irrelevant at the time. With the way almost all max-level content was scaled and the stats on your gear were capped during Onslaught, trying to invest billions into tiny stat increases seemed like something for bored min-maxers with too much money on their hands and with nothing else to do.

Since 7.0, operations don't scale you down anymore though, yay! This means that you can actually see the effects of improving your gear, including augments, which means that gold augments - despite of being a relic from the last expansion since crafting hasn't received an update with 7.0 - are suddenly of a lot more interest now than they ever were when they were first introduced. Seriously, back then I didn't even look into what was required to get them. Everyone just said they were both ridiculously expensive to make and nearly useless, and that was enough for me to feel that I didn't need to know any more.

So imagine my shock when I actually looked into what's required to make a single one of these augments the other day: seven of a material that drops once per nightmare mode ops boss, and 14 of another material that comes from ranked PvP. Disregarding the chance of a lucky crit which can allow you to get multiple results from one craft, you need a set of these for every single augment, and a single player has fourteen item slots to augment. At the moment my guild's also not really killing any NiM bosses other than Nefra and sometimes Dash'roode, and I don't know anyone who regularly does ranked PvP. In short: It's hella expensive, and while augment prices on the GTN aren't the highest they've ever been, I still wouldn't be able to buy more than a couple of these even if I spent all of my hard-earned wealth at once.

Meaning of course that I thought of the whole "just sell Cartel items on the GTN" thing and how that would allow me to kit myself out in gold augments within days, which immediately made me uncomfortable. I didn't do it because I rather dislike this kind of thing, but if I'm being honest also because I don't think me as a healer not having full gold augments is what's holding our progression back at the moment. But it sure reminded me of SWTOR's previous brushes with pay-to-win and how this may very well be the closest yet, seeing how better augments don't make you "win" but provide a more tangible benefit than anything else ever did.

Of course, the funny thing is that where e.g. Galactic Command boosts were a clear attempt to make players spend money on the Cartel Market, this... doesn't seem like it was ever meant to be. After all, there is nothing about gold augments that can be acquired from the Cartel Market - each and every part of them needs to be earned by players actually playing the game. It's just that the primary sources of these materials are quite inaccessible to the average player, so people value them highly - and there's nothing else you can earn through gameplay that would make you rich enough to actually be able to pay that price, because the only other thing that players rate as similarly valuable is Cartel Market fashion. It's really a pretty bizarre situation if you think about it.

With that said, I'm glad that Bioware is planning to make changes to this system in the next patch, both by reducing the material requirements for gold augment crafting and by moving the rare materials from master mode operations and ranked PvP onto a vendor where they can be bought with tech fragments. (Note that the vendor is actually already an option right now, but much more expensive than it will be.) With that, these augments will still require a lot of effort to get, but I do expect the prices to go down with the increased accessibility, considering that tech fragments are something that anyone can earn over time, whether it's from Conquest or even dailies.


  1. Knowing that Bioware is going to update the crafting system (if only to increase the cap), I'm glad I'm just fine using purple augments. Not that I ever needed gold augments, but it was tempting to spend my otherwise untouched credits on them as something to casually pursue. (The curse of a long-time endgame player mindset -- everything must be optimized. ^_^)

    The change in pricing to make things more affordable just reminds me of when other MMOs would make things like this cheaper before introducing a higher level replacement set. I'd rather see if there's a higher ilevel purple set coming before thinking about chasing after this gold augments. Well, I'd probably just buy the materials and just resell them.

    1. Oh, I'm sure a new crafting tier will come eventually, but we haven't had any word from Bioware about it at all, so I wouldn't be surprised if we're on 7.2 by the time we get to that, which is likely many months away. Might as well make the most of what we've got right now while working on progression in the meantime.

    2. "so I wouldn't be surprised if we're on 7.2 by the time we get to that, which is likely many months away"

      They just announced that 7.0.2 is already "weeks" away. 7.1 will be months. I will not be surprised if 7.2 will be released in 2023.

  2. On the hand I'm thinking that every game with not-always-bound "cash shop" items has this, on the other hand it's just gotten out of hand. When I stopped playing last time my 65m were a sizable sum, when I briefly logged in when the expansion launched it was a joke.


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