Ever since E3, rumors have surrounded Bioware and Star Wars: The Old Republic, chiefly in the department of switching to a free-to-play (F2P) format— or, at least a free-to-play-until-X-level model like WoW currently has.
This is music to a lot of gamers’ ears, including me. No, it’s not because “gamers just want everything for free.” While it’s nice to have a hobby that won’t leech your wallet at the same time, especially in this crappy economy, this has never been an issue of people throwing up their hands simply because they don’t want to pay anything.
When I participated in the stress test beta over Thanksgiving weekend last year, I was really excited for Bioware’s take on the MMO genre and liked what I saw. In fact, I liked it so much, I spent two extremely lengthy posts on my experiences with the game. Heck, when I got my job back in February, I almost considered picking up TOR with my first paycheck in over two years as a pat-on-the-back.
Up until I played Knights of the Old Republic, my gaming soul belonged to Blizzard and no one else. When Rifts and Aion came out, I felt no impetus to try them because they just didn’t intrigue me. Then I tried KotOR during the post-WotLK/pre-Cata lull. Bioware impressed me with their knack for story-driven gameplay and the idea that the player’s actions influence their personal experience of the game. I was so floored by Bioware’s take on gaming that I went on to play all three Mass Effect games, which I still play today.
So, when TOR was announced, I jumped at the opportunity to try it. It plays exactly like a Bioware game should, which is a rather good thing. But, that’s also where my problem lies: the company makes very good single-player games. All of the elements I liked about TOR were all of the single-player flavor. The only times I wanted to play with another person felt forced on me in the form of group quests. Even instances couldn’t lure me in, and I was very much an instance-oriented person in WoW, even before the LFD tool was a thought in a Blizz developer’s brain.
Fact of the matter is this: I’m not going to pay an MMO’s subscription to play a single-player game— even if it’s a very large single-player game— after coughing up $60 for the game itself.
Many other people who have played the full version and paid their dues in months of sub fees say the same thing: it’s a good game, but not a very good MMO. There are also others I know who still play the game just as happily as they did on launch. Bioware is obviously doing something right here, or they at least have the right idea.
A possible compromise is to pay the $60 for the game, as you would with any other game out there, but get rid of the subscription fee. Instead, use something like ME3’s multiplayer idea: turn the flashpoints into an isolated thing all on its own, separate from (or loosely associated with) the single-player campaign. Heck, give it its own option on the game menu. You could have waves of mobs with the occasional boss-like mob and objectives interspersed with the waves to retain that RPG feel.
Of course, I’m missing the PvP component, and I don’t know how that would be incorporated. Hell, it might even be axed. -Winces at the outraged cries of PvPers-
Obviously, my idea isn’t foolproof or even a very good one at that. But I also want to see TOR survive without having to give away their hard work. I don’t want Bioware to throw away what they have because it’s solid— just in need of some extra work to make it, well, work. We’ll just have to wait and see, I suppose. Here’s to hoping for the best.