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With All Due Respect, Bioware, I Feel You're Doing FTP Wrong. Here's My Input:

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > General Discussion > Suggestion Box
With All Due Respect, Bioware, I Feel You're Doing FTP Wrong. Here's My Input:

waterboytkd's Avatar

02.01.2013 , 03:00 PM | #1
As the title says, I mean this with all due respect. But I feel FTP and the cash shop (the Cartel Market) are being incorrectly implemented for Star Wars. Right now, the FTP experience and the cash shop are designed to encourage people to get a taste of the game and then subscribe, with some extra stuff thrown into the cash shop that even subscribers might spend $$$ to get. As for the latter, most of the subscribers that I know won't spend any real $$$ on the cash shop; they just use their monthly stipend to get stuff, or they're saving points in case something they really want shows up (with some of the items in the booster packs being highly desired, but not so highly that they'd gamble their money to try and get it).

As for the former, if we look to other successful FTP MMOs (since I'm very familiar with DDO, I'll be using that as a comparison quite a bit), they don't try and force people to sub; they instead used the cash market as an optional means for paying for the game. And this is where I feel Bioware should really look to revamp their Cartel Market.

Terminology of customers.

First, for most of this post to really make sense, some terminology for customers needs to be established. Obviously, there are the subscribers (hereafter referred to as subs). Then you get your non-subbed customers. Some aren't really customers at all. They're just browsing the wares. These are your true free-to-play people (referred to as FTP). Then you get your customers that do actually want to play and are willing to pay, they just don't like the feel of commitment that a sub can bring for them; these are the people who will "pay as you go" (referred to as PAYG), and will really drop money in the cash shop.

What Each Customer Should Get

1. FTP First, I feel it's important to define what you get for giving nothing back to the company that made the game. Really, the true FTP experience should just be a really awesome demo. It's really awesome in that you get the full game experience up to a point. Here's what I think the FTP should get:

- Both factions and all 8 classes. Give them the ability to start whatever character class they want.

- Limited Races. There's nothing wrong with making some races a "premium" account feature (as in, a feature you must spend real money to have). As such, the FTP people would only get a few races the select from. Human is an obvious one. I think also give them Twi'lek for an alien option, and the Zabraks so they can make a race that's appearance is unique to the Pubs/Imps.

- Homeworld and Capital World. Give them access to everything on the homeworlds for all the classes, and the capitol worlds. But once they've done everything on those worlds...well, now their out of free content to play. It's at this point the FTP player must choose whether they like the game enough to invest money in it, BUT, how much money and how they do it is still up to them. More on that later.

- No Gimped Basic Gameplay. Don't punish the FTP player for being FTP beyond limiting his content. XP penalties, chat channel gagging, gear restrictions, even Crew Skills restrictions*--it's all bad. Let them play the full game to a certain point. It's what will whet their appetite for more (it was during a free weekend back in April of '12 that got me sucked into the game). This includes full on partying, and access to the Heroics on the homeworlds and capital worlds.

Note: I'm not suggesting any kind of XP cap. Let them get as high level as they can by the end of the capital world. Don't give them the icky feeling of burning away XP. Let them do as much as possible, and when they can no longer level without spending money...they'll spend money if they care about their character that much.

- No Flashpoints, Restricted PvP, Restricted Space Combat. Heroics are like mini-flashpoints, so they can get their taste of hard, party-oriented content their. As for PvP, give them only a few Warzones a week (as it is now). Same with Space Combat. Let them run the first mission maybe 3 times per week. That lets them dabble, but not really commit.

2. Subs Since they are often committed to paying large sums for extended periods of game time, Subs should receive everything in the game for their subscription. All races, all content, yada yada. The only exception here is if a full-on expansion pack gets developed. Sure, subs can pay for that. As for what constitutes a full-on expansion, I will leave that up to the developers, the players, and the forum trolls.

3. PAYG The PAYG players start as FTP, but they get to that point where they realize they like this game and want more of it, so they shell out $$$. Where can they do that? All over the place.

- More Races. Make each non-free race (only humans, twi'leks, and zabrak would be free) an account unlock in the Cartel Market. Cost them right around $5 worth of coins to unlock, maybe a touch less. This gives you the race for its appropriate classes. To get the legacy unlock is a separate purchase (more on legacies and shortcuts below).

- More Worlds. After a player has gotten through the homeworld and capital world, they need to unlock other worlds to play through. Each world unlock would cost some amount of money in the Cartel Market, probably somewhere between $3-$6, depending on how much content that world has. For example, Quesh would be cheap, whereas Voss would probably be quite a bit more expensive.

- More Gameplay. Getting Access to things like flashpoints could be done in bundles. Early level flashpoints could be one bundle, with mid and high level flashpoints being their own separate bundles. These would be costed somewhere in the $3-$5 range. Then Hardmode could be another unlock to purchase. Access to Warzones could be a comprehensive package that gives all maps and unlimited access like subs have, but it would be a heftier purchase (like around $20 worth of Coins). Operations would be another thing they would sell, probably as individual items. Again, around that $3-$5 range, and each purchase would unlock that operation for all difficulties. Space Combat would be another big purchase like PvP, but maybe not quite as big. Perhaps the $10-$15 range. Hell, maybe more if the development of new missions is costly.

With those costs, you'd be looking at a PAYG player shelling out about $120 to get what a Sub gets. Now, some of you might be wondering what makes a Sub even worth it if you could get the whole game for less than a year's sub fee. More on that below.

More Content for Everyone on the Cartel Market

There needs to be more content for everyone on the Cartel Market, but you need to avoid the "Pay 2 Win" pit fall. Now, no matter what you do, someone will shout "Pay 2 Win". It's just the nature of trolls. But when Pay 2 Win is really damaging is when you can get the best stuff ONLY by buying it for money. So the solution is easy: make sure nothing obtainable on the cash shop is better than the best stuff obtained by playing the game. However, a massive money maker is having the cash shop make the grind of the normal game less. So, to that end, the cash shop should focus on two things: shortcuts and cosmetics. For the PAYG crowd, there's a third thing that cash shop will focus on: game content.

1. Shortcuts This is the one that will mostly draw the "Pay 2 Win" cries. There tends to be a lot of grind in MMOs, and for people who work full time jobs, quite often their time is worth more than money. So giving them a way to reduce the grind by shelling out real money is a win-win for the game and the players who lack time. Ideas for great shortcuts are:

- XP boosts, Valor boosts, other reward boosters.

- earlier access to Legacy unlocks. Allow players to spend coins (maybe $10 worth) to unlock a legacy on their account prior to finishing chapter 1. Also, allow them to spend coins to unlock various legacy perks, as is already available on the Cartel Market. Getting a race access to every class right off the bat would have certainly gotten Bioware money had it been available when I first started playing (I love me my Chiss, but had no real interest in the Bounty Hunter or Imp Agent, yet I slogged through the campaign on an agent so I could make Chiss Jedi and Sith). Whatever perks exist as legacy perks should be purchasable on the cash shop if that player has already unlocked a Legacy (either by completing chapter 1 or purchasing it).

- level-appropriate gear. This one seems a bit sketchier, but we're talking sub-level cap gear. For the player who just wants to play through the story and just can't be bothered to get the mods for their gear, let them buy those mods on the cash shop. Especially if the cash shop had a bevy of empty shells with no minimum level for sale as well, and the mods were aggressively priced (maybe around $.10 per mod, maybe even less), I could see getting lazy from time to time and dropping a buck so I wouldn't have to craft up 9 new mods for a character I was leveling.

2. Cosmetics

This covers a broad range of stuff, but ultimately, it's all about making your character look the way you want. This is probably the most important facet of a cash shop, and desperately needs to be expanded! Stuff that should be in the cash shop include:

- rare color crystals. Let's face it, for the jedi/sith player, the color of your lightsaber is a huge sticking point. The shop needs more color crystals available, and they need to be AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE. Not only obtainable in booster packs--I'm not going to lie, this one is personal. If I could spend real money to get Blue-Cyan crystals, I would have, and Bioware would be richer. But I'm not willing to gamble money on booster packs to get them, and so Bioware got no money from me. Either way, more color crystals in the Cartel Shop, especially rare ones like low-level purple and orange, even black-core crystals, would be massive money makers. This can even be priced fairly high if they use the same mechanics they've been using for the booster pack crystals (min level 10, +41 stat), as a player will buy them then have his crystal. And by fairly high, I'm talking anywhere from the $10-$20 range per crystal.

- Empty Shells Adaptive Gear. Bioware has done a pretty good job of giving players a variety of appearances in adaptive armor, but there is one point I think Bioware is biffing on: the minimum level. Making these items min level 35 means a player plays a significant amount of time with his character in whatever appearance he found acceptable, and by 35, may no longer be interested in these items. If they were just empty shells, though, with no minimum level, you would get a lot more impulse purchases of people getting off their homeworld who want to trick out their character's appearance right away.

- New Armor Designs. I know a lot of people have complained about recycling skins, and complaining on forums is rarely a cause for concern, but this one is legitimate. Give people the designs they want. For cosmetics, quantity is almost as important as quality. You could have the sweetest looking Jedi robe, but if it's hood is up, a lot of people won't be interested on that alone. It might be hard to justify paying designers when you can just recolor and recycle old skins, but new stuff will really make you bank. People will pay stupid amounts to make their characters look the way they want them to look.

- Makeovers. I've done it. Others have done it. And by it, I mean make a character, get far enough that re-rolling is painful, and realize that you wish you gave them different hair. Or a different nose. Whatever. Making someone re-roll just to change hair is really bad for the customer, and is costing you money on a perfect opportunity! Introduce Makeovers to the Cartel Market, something that allows you to go back to the appearance customization screen from character creation and move your sliders around. Players will love it, and you'll love the money you get from it.

- Name Changes. Like Makeovers, sometimes you get far enough with a character that re-rolling is painful, but you have grown to hate your name. And really, your name is just another cosmetic facet of your character. It impacts on how you view your character, and how others view him/her. The only possible problem with paid name changes is that problem players might switch a name to get off black lists, or if implemented poorly, a normal player who does a name change may find that he's no longer on his friends' friends lists. These problems, though, can be handled by the actual changing process. If the act of changing a name also has the system go through and find every instance on that server that your name appeared on a friends list or an ignore list, and change it there, too (maybe with a note of your old name that expires after period of time), then those problems are averted.

NOTE: This also includes Legacy name changes, which can be even worse for a player if he comes to loathe his legacy name...since that name is attached to every single character made on that server.

- Race and Gender Changes. These ones are a bit more immersion breaking, but I know I've twice now rerolled a character who I made a male to romance a female companion, then found I just don't like the way male characters look. So I rerolled into females. Also, since race in this game is just a cosmetic choice with very little impact on dialogue options, a paid option to change it would be a decent money-maker. Immersion breaking? Yup. Another way for players to dump money into cosmetics? You betcha.


When I say content, I don't mean anything that would be considered an expansion pack. I'm talking about little content additions. Things like the HK quest line. Write these into existing worlds (just adding new NPCs as needed), have them give unique and cool rewards, and charge PAYG players for them, but NOT subscribers. These little content packages are what subscribers feel their money is paying for. Don't make them shell out for them, but the PAYG should, and will. But remember, the rewards are what sell these packs! And I don't just mean items. The XP returns on these little sidequests should be the best available at that level to encourage people to run them.

Rewards should be unique-ish and desirable. Some of the following would work well:

- new companion (like HK)

- rare/high-level color crystal with a low minimum level from a low-level content pack (like a sidequest line meant for level 16 characters that gets you your choice of an orange, cyan, magenta, or purple crystal).

- brand new armor skins, either 3 news one with one of each armor type, or one new one with the adaptive armor type.

- brand new weapon skins/weapons that create cool visual effects. Something like the new weapons in the booster packs, for example.


There a few other things that a cash market can offer to make money that don't really fall into any category, but would be nice for players and money makers for Bioware.

1. Account Management Letting players move characters or whole legacies across servers is something that people have been clamoring for for quite some time now.

2. Advanced Class Change This is one the forum community seems split on. I've seen quite a few posts both demanding it and condemning it. Personally, I don't see the harm in it, really. The class story line won't change, so that won't become a problem, and to prevent abuse, make the cost hefty, like $20 worth of coins.

3. Booster Packs It is my personal opinion, and the personal opinion of every player I know in real life, that these booster packs are bad. Of the couple dozen people who play that I know, only 2 have spent actual money on coins to buy these packs. The others either just spend their monthly stipend on them for fun, while most simply find people selling the items they want in game and pay credits. In my estimation, these packs are costing Bioware tons of money. If the items in these packs were changed to Bound to Character on Acquire (or better Bound to Legacy on Acquire), and then sold on the Cartel Market directly, more people would buy them (and buy coins to get them). Especially some of the major vanity items like the thrones. The more rare Bioware wants an item to be, the more costly it is on the Market (like $20 for a throne or Darth Revan's helmet, $10 for a special color crystal, etc.).

Other cash shops in other games have shown that people will spend money like crazy on cosmetics, but I know almost no one who will spend money to buy a CHANCE at the item they want.

These suggestions were largely based on how DDO ran their cash shop. And say what you will about DDO itself, its model for FTP, PAYG, and micro transactions shifted that game from laying on Death's doorstep to vibrant, and in the last year, Turbine doubled the size of their development team for DDO. I really think their model is worth examining.

Hyfy's Avatar

02.01.2013 , 03:10 PM | #2
Talk about a War and Peace novel here.
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