Damion Schubert on Cartel Packs

SWTOR Developer Damion Scubert sheds light on the Cartel Pack situation and how it is going for Bioware.

| I’m terribly disapointed by cartel packs. | 01.17.2013, 09:41 PM

Do you have a pre-set number of packs and items set up ahead of time for a certain period of time?

We develop a set of these packs (we call them a ‘Shipment’) at one time. Shipment 1 will have 4 packs associated with them (not counting the cheap pack), with one additional pack coming out before Rise of the Hutts. After that, a new shipment will come out, likely with a new name (instead of ‘Cartel Packs’, they will be ‘Contraband Packs’, for example).

Developing a shipment has a long lead time. Most of the art for shipment 2 is already complete, and we are currently in planning stages for shipment 3. This is not to say that we can’t slide things around, or pull something forward or get something in a hurry if we see a great idea or if something on the market really sells. But the capacity for this kind of movement is very limited.
We also want these packs to have a reasonable life post-removal. As a result, we philosophically resist actually adjusting the internal math of these packs (i.e. what’s in them, at what drop rate) after they’ve been released, so that the value of the packs is a known quantity. This is not to say we never would do so if there was a serious problem — but we really don’t want to. Short form: there likely will be a time in the future where the GTN is the ONLY place to buy a Skip Tracer’s Pack.

Are you afraid that greed will corrupt the game?

The cartel market funds the ability for players to play for free, which has allowed a huge number of players who couldn’t or wouldn’t play the game to do so now. This has resulted in more dev resources, and larger, more vibrant communities. And we’ve done so while still making market transactions mostly optional. I’m pretty much in the camp that we’re on the Light Side on this, so far at least.

Why do these items currently have a price if they are unsellable?

Some game systems require a value for parts of the game to work. As an example, the GTN needs it to know what base price to set things to (and IIRC, doesn’t let you put things up for sale that doesn’t have a value). These items are currently hardcoded to not be sold to NPC vendors, despite their internal credit value.

There are a few questions raised in this thread.

Do items put in the Galactic Trade Network sell?

Yes. We have metrics, as well, on what sells, and for what price, which we compare to their drop rates. This gives us a great idea on adjustments we should make for future packs (the drop rates and the pack contents themselves) – which means that our next round of packs will be better, and the ones after that will be better again.

Here are some fun stats
* The White indestructible crystal Median Buyout price = 1.4 million credits
* The Overlord’s Command Throne Median Buyout Price = 1.75 million credits
* The Dominator’s Command Throne Median buyout price = 1.50 million credits
* The imperial banner Median buyout price = 250 credits
* Ruddyscale Kowakian Monkey-Lizard median buyout price = 500,000 credits
* Elegant Loungewear Top median buyout price = 22,000 credits

This is interesting, in that the thrones are much less rare than the crystal. The metrics we have on what sells and what doesn’t are excellent, which means that we should get better and better at pushing our resources towards things that players actually want.

Are there any truly absurd prices out there?

Absolutely. I can tell you one person bought an Imperial Banner off the GTN for 310000 credits.

Are we aware that some items can’t be sold on the GTN (i.e. the game won’t let you)?

Yeah, those are bugs, and in the case of the lightsaber crystals, ones that we should have caught easily, since it’s happened multiple times. In every case I can think of off the top of my head, these are unintentional bugs, and should get fixed. It’s not our intention that people should be standing around spamming the fleet about these.

Are you guys aware that there’s a ton of dupe items clogging our inventory?
We totally are. This is particularly true of the more common bonus items that are repeated through multiple packs. We are constructing our next round of packs (i.e. the round that will start when Rise of the Hutt Cartel ships) with a definite eye on reducing this level of suck.

Why can’t I sell some of this junk that is worthless on the GTN?

We are examining that possibility, and even if we did so, we would likely make the sale price negligible, to avoid having too harsh an effect on the economy (I don’t want buying Cartel Packs to be a particularly effective and reliable way to get credits). That being said, there’s a very good chance that some of these items may be retired in the future – an Imperial Banner or Dominator Throne that enjoys a certain value now might find that value greatly increased once the packs that sell these disappear – so you might want to selectively choose some of these to bank, rather than junk. This retirement may be permanent, or a temporary removal from service (like the McRib or the Disney DvD releases) That being said, we are still developing our strategy for how these items are retired and/or cycled into service. Once we have a plan, I will be sure we communicate it to the community at large.

It sucks that the Cartel Market/Cartel Packs takes away resources that could be spent on (my pet feature)!

It’s quite the opposite, actually. The success of the market (and it has been quite successful) has given us the time and resources to do some ambitious things on Makeb, and plan some very ambitious things beyond. The success of the Cartel Market means that there will be more good stuff for ALL players, paying, subscribers, and free.

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