Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling reports from the front lines* of the Massively Multiplayer Multiverse.

Monday, April 23, 2012

30 Days—Or, Who Is Valuable?

When Mama Ain't Happy . . . ©BioWare
I hate when a game (or just the game company) forces me to play a certain way that is contrary to my normal gaming mode. When I reached endgame during Wrath of the Lich King, I ended up grinding dailies for reputation, rather than questing for new story content; and don't even get me started on the crapfest that is high-end raiding. Sometimes, as with this past week, it isn't so much my playstyle as the underlying motivation that changes.

So after the hubbub from the non-50s out there over the bestowal of 30 free days to SWTOR end-gamers, as the "most valuable players" in the game, Dr. Greg Zeschuk announced a revision of the "gift" to include people who had been playing a lot, but hadn't quite gotten to level 50 with any one character. All a player had to do was get their Legacy up to level 6. Since any activity with all characters in the Legacy gives Legacy XP,  this rewarded players with multiple alts. As of the time of the revision announcement, I was about 60% through Legacy 5, so last Sunday I played my highest level character (in theory, making the most progress per hour toward L-6), a mid-30s Sith Assassin on Taris. I hadn't been playing Tollkirsche much at all since achieving Legacy status in the first place. I am not fond of the game mechanics of the Assassin/Shadow advanced class. But on Sunday, I spent over eight hours leveling both Tollkisrche and my Legacy. I won't say it was unpleasant, the first part of the Inquisitor's Chapter 2 is interesting enough. and I am looking forward to having a new companion at the end of Taris. But I was playing to level, which is something I though I had gotten away from in SWTOR, what with BioWare's vaunted Fourth Pillar. As it turns out, I should perhaps have concentrated on helping Sctrz, because I ended up attaining L-7 this past Saturday, before the noon Sunday deadline.

Sctrz was not so lucky. On Saturday after some discussion, we started a character on Sctrz' account that I could play to help her level her Legacy, but that would not interfere with any of her existing characters for which she wants to know the story. Thus Serise was born, a tribute the drawings of  of Forceheal. I didn't start to actually play Serise until last Sunday evening, a week before the deadline, and then only got her up to about level 10, barely making a dent in Sctrz' Legacy. Sctrz had schoolwork far more important than any video game, while I have had some time both at home and while away on business to play plenty of SWTOR. She ended up playing quite a bit over the course of the week, and I never really got back on Serise to level her any further.  Right now, Sctrz' Legacy is almost 4, I believe. She just isn't that valuable to EA/BioWare.
"Serise." Drawing ©strawbeki
In the end, it's only 15 bucks, not that big a deal in the financial scheme of things. And it is nice that BioWare realized they had insulted a large chunk of their playerbase and tried to make amends. The problem, similar to En Masse's tone-deaf "MMO-FO" TERA campaign, is that EA Bioware seems to have forgotten who their long-term playerbase is or is going to be. Granted, this may be fan myopia on my part since I think of myself this way, but the long-term subscribers are going to be those that feel they are getting their money's worth out of the "leveling" game, not the PvP arenas or the end-game raids. Paraphrasing someone whose comments I've lost, it would be one thing if BioWare had said, "Hey level 50s, stick around for a bit, we've got some cool stuff for you to check out." Instead, by stating that those people milling about at "end-game"—and whom EA/BW were afraid on the brink of unsubbing—were BW's most valuable players, they implied that anyone else—including people who had been subscribing since before launch day, and were still leveling, however slowly—was "not as valuable." Even the adjusted requirements leave some out in the cold.

Those who didn't understand the outrage over the free month, versus the 7 free days for former players or the free weekend for anyone that just passed, didn't get that the offended players could tell these were obviously marketing ploys, phrased in a "please come back" sort of way. The free month could have been phrased that way, and I would have found it more palatable. I don't see the inconsistency in attitude from the slighted segment of the fanbase at all. Nor do I see the outrage at the outrage at all helpful. Those who were upset had a legitimate complaint, those that didn't have a dog in the fight had no business sitting in judgment of those that did. While I agree that people can be offended where no offense was intended, and sometimes that can seem silly, isn't that at the root of many harassment claims? The standard in those cases is not intent, but effect. EDIT: Sadly, many fans take things too far; I don't know if that happened here.

So going back to my original point in this post, in the end it is not the $15 saved or spent by my gameplay this week that peeves me. It is the fact that I shifted from enjoying the story of SWTOR to pursuing a certain level, just for some meta-game benefit. I felt I had to play, not that I wanted to play. It became a job of sorts rather than a source of relaxation, the way a hobby should be.

6 comments:

  1. "but the long-term subscribers are going to be those that feel they are getting their money's worth out of the "leveling" game, not the PvP arenas or the end-game raids"

    This. To have made the 4th pillar the primary innovation of their game, and then kind of spit on a lot of the players that that get it was shortsighted (to be polite). As you say, just phrasing it differently could have made a difference. As it stands, Bioware has shown once again that they are utter amateurs at managing an MMO, and apparently have no-one on board that has any experience at all at community management.

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    1. I think that they have decent a community management team. But it is likely this stuff was not run through them for input. I have been in similar situations inmy career, where my opinion (common sense?) was ignored by a train that was already leaving the station.

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  2. I got an email from them, giving me 7 free days, plus the free weekend and i would get 30 days free if i resubbed like a week ago. Best thing is, i had them delete my account totally. Meaning if i ever want to play TOR again i have to buy a whole new copy of the game. I sent them off a pretty hate filled letter since they said they deleted me, but obviously they didnt since they still emailed me. I dont know how anyone can stay subbed to that game, the game itself is ok, but the people running it are complete idiots.

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    1. I haven't had to deal directly with them, luckily the game runs reasonably smoothly for me.

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  3. I hate, hate, hate paying for time and the stupid effects it has on how you play a game. This is one of the biggest parts of the subscription model that pisses me off. Subs are bad value for me, but that's simple economic calculus, and it works out differently for others. The psychological effects are more subtle and pervasive, but they are really bad news, and they hit everyone. It's not quite as bad as a Farmville sort of scheme, but it really is the same underlying problem, where the game demands more time than it deserves. This is not only bad for players' real lives, but it also directly contributes to burnout.

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    1. I am coming around to your way of thinking, Tesh. SWTOR may be my last MMO subscription commitment. I am looking forward to GW2.

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