SWTOR Free to Play and future content interview with Lead Designer Damion Schubert. As some of you recall, earlier in the week I was given the opportunity to for a written interview with the SWTOR developers regarding the F2P option launching this week. Here is the result of that interview, incorporating some of the questions I gathered from the readers on Dulfy.net! A big thank you to Eric Musco and Damion Schubert for taking the time out of their busy week to do this!
1. What was the biggest challenge in converting such a massive MMO into a FTP model?
It would have to be giving away as much as humanly possible to our free to play players, while still ensuring that our subscribers felt like they were getting a great value. Both populations of players are a key component to Star Wars: The Old Republic’s path forward, so getting this tricky balance correct is crucial.
2. Compared to other FTP MMO games in the market, what makes the SWTOR FTP model unique?
I think it really is the amount of free content that you get. We made the decision to allow players to reach level 50 without paying if they so desire, which means that they can play all of our core stories for free. This is a staggering amount of free content – roughly equal to more than 20 standalone Bioware games – and while free players will find that some light spending in the cartel market will make things easier or faster, they have the option of playing this content 100% for free.
3. Is there a dedicated team working on the Cartel Market items?
Absolutely! Breaking this off to be a separate team helps us to ensure that these resources are dedicated, and for example, to be sure that warzones and operations don’t have their people or resources stolen. We’re pretty committed to continuing to deliver quality content upgrades to all our players, and we want to be sure that that team can’t have its focus split.
4. How will future expansions for SWTOR work with the FTP option. Is it something that players can unlock via the Cartel Market or does it require a separate purchase?
We are still identifying the exact specifics of this, but should have an answer for this very, very soon.
5. Are there any content in the future (that are not part of a major expansion) that subscribers will have to make a purchase in the Cartel Market to gain access?
What we sell vs. what we give away will vary widely based on the sort of content we’re talking about. There will definitely be content that is only available for purchase – much of the contents in the Cartel Packs, for example, are not available in any other ways. However, we also definitely want to ensure that our subscription option is a good value, and have plans to make that richer over time.
6. During the livestream Q&A hosted before 1.4, it was mentioned that Cathar would be the first race available through Cartel Market. Will this be a Cartel Market exclusive or subscribers can unlock it via other means?
This will most likely be a Cartel Market exclusive. However, its price point will be reasonable, and subscribers wishing not to pay for it will have the option of storing up the Cartel Coins they earn for free through the Loyalty Program.
7. With regards to Makeb/Level cap increase and other stuff mentioned in E3 of this year, has the FTP launch affected the release timing of these new content? Is there an approximate date when we can expect the release of these?
The Free to Play option and Cartel Market were built by an entirely different team, in order to ensure the Makeb team remained completely focused on their target date. We definitely have a date in mind, and there should be news about that coming soon!
8. For those who have access to the VIP/Collectors Edition vendors, will we see any new items added to them in the future or is the focus primarily in the cartel market?
Most of our development effort will focus on keeping the cartel market fresh and full of awesome stuff to purchase. That being said, I definitely have it on my to-do list to revisit these secondary vendors in the future.
9. After the launch of FTP, will we see quality of life features as part of the 6 week content release schedule?
We will definitely see more quality of life features creep into the game as part of the regular updates. No ETA on specific ordering of them, but I can say that we play the game too and know which rough edges need to be filed off.
10. Once FTP launches, will there be options to purchase server transfers with Cartel Coins?
Not at that time, but server transfers are coming.
11. For subscribers with more than 12 characters due to the server consolidation, will they have to purchase character slots to unlock them once the character slot restrictions are put in place?
That is the current plan, yes. We don’t think it’s fair to everyone else who wasn’t lucky enough to get this accidental side benefit from server merges. However, those additional characters aren’t lost, and players will easily be able to unlock those characters. The timeline for this is TBD.
12. For FTP players looking to become a subscriber, will they have to purchase the game first or they can just sign up for a subscription/apply game time?
Nope, there is no longer any reason to purchase the box or pay any sort of up front cost. Players will be able to either buy the boxed product and get a month free of subscriber status (along with a faster install) OR they will be able to sign up for a subscription via the website without ever having to change out of their pajamas.
13. Are there any plans in the future to increase the credit cap for preferred status players via a purchase in the cartel market?
We are investigating, and considering this. The credit cap limitations are put in place to prevent free and preferred accounts from being abused by Credit Farmers. We will adjust these limitations based on how pervasive an issue they turn out to be. We know a substantial portion of our population will be free and preferred, and we will work to tweak their experience to find the best balance between giving them a positive gameplay experience, while protecting our in-game community and economy from unscrupulous elements.
14. Armor dyes can introduce a great detail of personalization and variety for players in addition to all the unique armor models. Is there a plan to introduce this feature in the Cartel Market or are there technical limitations that would prevent this?
No comment. Oh, how I would love to. But I can’t. Yet.
15. For the weekly passes you can purchase with flashpoints/operations/warzones etc, will there be discounts in the future for those who purchase multiple passes at once?
In the future, we plan to frequently leverage bundling to offer good deals to our players. That being said, the most price-effective bundling of these weekly passes will remain to pay for a monthly subscription. For those not wanting to buy a subscription they might forget about, we also have various game time card offerings.
16. For those who intend to play SWTOR for a very long time, will there be a lifetime subscription option or a discounted annual pass?
We plan to continue offering the 6-month subscriptions at a discount (and these subscribers also get a larger monthly allotment of cartel coins!) No comment on any additional payment plans planned.
17. With the introduction of unique color crystals in the Cartel Market, will players have the opportunity to purchase existing color crystals in the Cartel Market given that it is now considered a vanity item rather than a stat upgrade?
We’ve definitely talked about separating color from stats, and making these more freely available through the cartel market and other sources. There are some design questions that need to be answered before we can do anything like this, however, chief of which being how to ensure that the Artifice crew skill remains relevant.
18. Will be there any faction or Advanced Class change option available for purchase in the future?
We have had serious talks recently about offering an Advanced Class change option – I think that one will likely happen eventually. Species is likely as well. Doing a faction switch is considerably more difficult for us, though, due to the various quest flags set throughout the level up process, so this isn’t on the horizon anytime soon.
19. With the introduction of the Event Equipment Requisition authorization in the Cartel Market, will we see more frequent world events in the future?
We definitely have more events planned – we plan to introduce several in the next year. We also plan on bringing some old events back, so players should definitely see the pace of events accelerate considerably over the course of 2013.