I just posted this in the Bioware forums, and thought I would extend the discussion to the Darth Hater crowd, to see what everyone else thinks.
A long time ago in a Galaxy far far away, I had the expectation that SWTOR would not allow players to "pay to win".
When Free to Play was announced, I was fine with the idea. Afterall, allowing new players to experience the storyline of SWTOR might very well hook them on the game and increase subscriptions. The Cartel Market never worried me because I had seen similar ideas in other subscription MMOs, and buying from the online cash only store never affected your game play.
What I didn't expect was the ability to purchase items on the cash only store that could be sold on the GTN. In some games, even that would not have had as big an impact as in SWTOR, because in those other games there's an extremely limited amount of gear that is useful in end game content that can be purchased for in game currency.
In SWTOR, PVE content is completed using gear that can be purchased, in its entirety, from crafters selling on the GTN. What about the set bonus? Well, in other games with an armor set bonus, this would be a problem. In SWTOR, you are given commendations enough to purchase a complete set of Tionese gear at level 50, all of which can be upgraded to the latest standard of gear while maintaining the set bonus. Or you could get the same from running a week's worth of flashpoints and operations.
To summarize, in game currency is now sufficient to purchase the highest tier of gear for all PVE content. Since you can sell Cartel Market items for outlandish sums on the GTN, it is very easy for someone to turn real money into in game currency and then into in game items that improve their performance.
This is, of course, what is meant by Pay to Win. The only thing worse, and less subtle than the route Bioware has chosen to follow, would be to include the highest tier mods in the armor they sell on the Cartel Market. Bioware has chosen the smarter route, which is to allow players to handle the exchange themselves, thus avoiding the immediate ire of everyone who hates pay to win.
Bioware understands very well that if they were to make the cash shop items Bind on Pickup, rather than Bind on Equip, their revenue might drop. A significant portion of the purchases made on the Cartel Market go straight to the GTN, and that would no longer be possible. That said, as a counter argument, even more real money purchases might arise, because players in the game wouldn't be able to spend their in game credits to purchase them, and might actually want a lot of what is being offered, and therefore be forced to pay real money for it.
The Pay to Win practice pushes away players who play for the love of the game. It is especially disheartening when you see introductions to the GTN like the new speeder with protection against falling off that exceeds speeder piloting III. Only an incredibly small portion of the SWOTR population can receive a mount with a similar ability by playing the game (the NiM Denova Tank Mount), and even that is a matter of luck, since it is a rare drop.
As it now stands, you can purchase everything used for space content and PVE content using either directly or indirectly purchased goods. Only PVP gear is sacred at this point in time (other than the expertise crystal), and it would not surprise me to see the introduction of a Cartel Market item that allowed players to get around the valor limitation as well.
Furthermore, Cartel Market items tread on the corpse of Legacy, allowing players to purchase Legacy only unlocks using cartel coins instead of credits. I wouldn't mind this particularly if it wasn't for the fact that in doing so they also eliminated the requirement of Legacy Level to use these perks, and have not bothered to introduce any Legacy Level perks over level 25. Nor have they kept any of the Legacy level perks sacrosanct to Legacy. If you have money, rather than time, you can simply purchase them with cash and ignore the effort level normally required to earn such rewards.
This wholesale approach to this game via the Cartel Market has left a bitter taste in my mouth. I'm not ditching my subscription just yet. I've enjoyed previous Bioware games, and respect the quality they normally bring to the table. However, I am becoming more and more certain that the long time players, those who would pay a subscription for 10 years straight in return for quality, are not the players Bioware is currently catering to.
I could go on to list bug fixes left undone since launch, UI features that are so basic that they should never have left Beta without them, etc, but in reality, my chief complaint is the Cartel Market. I'm not interested in Pay to Win. The rest of the stuff, even a ready check, I can improvise around. I'm having difficulty coming to terms with a subscription game where you can simply buy your gear with real money.
I read this post on the swtor forums and Im glad youve posted it here as well. I share your sentiments.
I am surprised how so many people on the swtor forums argue that this is not pay2win. People are stuck on this notion that something is not pay2win if it is attainable in game. Giving people the ability to circumvent the grind/effort required to attain endgame gear with rl money is the very definition of pay2win.
Disturbing is the fact that people believe Bioware allows cartel items to be sold on the AH out of benevolence, when in reality they know they will reap greater profits by allowing those with excess dollars to churn these items out for credits. One person may be a single speeder for himself, while another buys twenty to sell for credits to buy mods from the AH.
The entire focus of the the games development now has devolved into designing new armor and cartel pack items. Since f2p, the only content that has been released is the piecemeal content that was meant for actual content patches. New cartel armor is a regularity, and still the punitive credit costs related to removing and purchasing high end mods remains.
So I read your review, and I came to the conclusion that Pay2Win doesn't bother me at all. Sure, someone can make up for hours grinding through content with a few Cartel purchases. That's fine with me. If time is money, what's the difference?
Then again, I don't play SWTOR to have the best gear or the coolest mount. I play because I enjoy the process of getting with a group and taking down a common enemy in a Star Wars world. In fact, if people want to spend their money on Cartel items, I encourage it. It makes the player happy, it ensures a better-funded and better-geared community.
The only major downside that I could see from Pay2Win is when buying Cartel items becomes the expectation when playing with others. At this point, everything on Cartel that I have ever needed can otherwise be acquired. If I am willing to put in the time and someone puts in the money, what's the difference?
Sure, Trezik, time is money. The difference is a matter of community. If you go to work and grind out the hours there, then come home and buy yourself some endgame gear, you didn't participate in the endgame community -- you didn't build relationships, you didn't stick with your group through 10 wipes in the hopes of a breakthrough. And by circumventing that progression path, you cheapened it; the more available a limited commodity is, the less it will tend to be valued. What's more, since you didn't invest much time in your new gear, you'll tend to find that you don't much care about it either.
I've played a P2W game before. The community was transient -- they came, they got hooked, they got their levels and their gear, and then they left.
Thanks for the post, Craftamancer. You've stated your case well. As for me, I used to participate in endgame PvE, but I've since shifted my focus. I like story, I like playing the different classes, and I'm looking forward to the content on Makeb.
I agree with you completely. I was an original beta player for SWTOR and right before the TFB expansion released I un-subbed. Just recently, about a week before RotHC, I re-subbed and realized just how much had changed. The Cartel Market doesn't seem any different to me then going to a credit farmer and paying for credits. Bioware was so against this in the past, but now you can spend over $60.00 to get a hypercrate of items and possibly sell those items on the GTN for over a million credits. What's the difference? People may say, "its only vanity items" but it is still selling to people with money to waste. If I wanted to spend millions of credits on the GTN, I would rather it go to crafters that had to put in hard work to get the schems and collect the mats, that way I would get re-payed when I did the same.