Free to Play

I’ll be honest. I’ve never been a fan of the Free-to-Play model because it usually translates to Nickel-and-Dime-to-Play-via-Microtransactions model. I know myself. I’m a spender. I could definitely see myself paying more via microtransactions than a subscription. I also hate feeling penned in. The potential of data restrictions on my phone makes me bonkers, so I’ll be paying full price for phones as long as it means I can keep my unlimited data. Monitoring usage or spending is so not something I want to do with my fun time.

With Guild Wars 2 coming up, I had to start rethinking my stance on the issue. In GW2, there is no subscription model. It’s purely a purchase and play game, with the option of buying cosmetic items in the cash shop. I’m not sure yet how much I might be tempted by things in the cash shop of GW2. There’s plenty in the game to enjoy without paying for extras. I’ve been ready to accept this, especially since I think it will be a casual playground for me. I just want to run around in the game and explore all the beautiful world.

Then there was the rumor (now confirmed) that Star Wars: The Old Republic was going free to play (F2P). See, here’s where I had a problem. Usually when a previously subscription based game goes F2P, they completely convert over. You suddenly find yourself in a position of having to pay for things you didn’t have to think about before. This was the last thing I wanted for my current MMO of choice. It would be enough to drive me away.

But EA actually did something smart here. Instead of going pure F2P, like I had feared, they went for a hybrid. Customers can play to level 50 for free (with restrictions) but they can also choose to have a fully unlimited playing opportunity by subscribing (or remaining subscribed) to the game. There’s really a model for just about everyone (I’ll get to the exception shortly). I went from being very anti-F2P, to actually considering taking the F2P model in place of my subscription. All because they didn’t take my subscription away from me. Isn’t it crazy the way that works sometimes? I would have hated it if I didn’t have the option of keeping my subscription, but now I may happily give it up because the F2P model being offered covers most (if not all) of what I want to still enjoy in the game.

I can’t go into the all the details right now because my gaming news access is limited at work, but I will post some links later for those that want more information. However, here’s a brief rundown on the more pertinent details of the news:

Subscription: Remains $14.99 USD/month, and includes all current access, plus priority in login queues and bonus cash shop currency. As far as I can tell, subs lose nothing.

F2P: Unlimited class story content through level 50. Limited access during character creation, limited access to methods of travel, limited number of warzones, flashpoints and space missions each week. Extremely limited Galactic Trade Network access (to hinder F2P credit farmers I assume) and NO OPERATIONS.

Class story is, by far, the most important reason I play SWTOR, so I’m very happy to see that no matter which choice I make, I will be able to enjoy them fully. Character creation restrictions would bother me if I hadn’t already created most of my characters. This would only be an issue if for some reason they decided to retroactively restrict when an account goes F2P. I don’t see this happening, as I had actually been paying for a subscription during the time the characters were created. I’m not sure about limited travel options, but we’ll have to see on that one. As far as warzones, flashpoints and space missions go, I don’t see them as an issue for myself. Besides running new characters once or twice though The Esseles or Black Talon, I avoid all of the above. Limited access to the GTN may be an issue, just because I use it to unload my excess gear and mats. Again, not sure how severely restricted, but we’ll have to see.

By far the biggest limit on F2P accounts with the new model will be the zero access to Operations, which are SWTOR’s version of a raid and the primary endgame content. Now, this isn’t a big deal for me personally, because I’m not big on endgame anyway, but I know that there are many in the community that this will impact. They really only have two choices if Operations are the only thing they’re interested in: Subscribe or don’t play. Now, I don’t think there’s anything to say they couldn’t re-sub for new content, then drop back to a F2P model while waiting for new content. I think a lot of them will do this. However, I think most will just skip it and get their endgame content elsewhere. Again, it doesn’t affect me directly, but I do love to see others happy and excited to play the games I love.

Will I go F2P with SWTOR? I don’t know, yet, but the chances improved greatly today when I was able to find out more about it. I’m looking forward to playing both GW2 and SWTOR over the next few months. There’s also a chance we will pick up the Mists of Pandaria expansion, so being able to drop my 2nd sub (locked into Blizzard’s Annual Pass right now) would definitely be nice. Maybe play with the pandas for a couple of months, then drop that sub too and just play my free games.

Nice to feel like I have options.

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My Men of SWTOR

When I was a kid and my mom was a newly divorced young mother of four, she would take pictures of attractive men from magazines and tack them up on the wall in her room. None of it was obscene, but she enjoyed having some eye candy to look at. While my life right now is totally different than hers was at the time (I’m very happily married and have no kids), as a woman, I totally get it.

As a gamer, it takes on a whole other aspect. When I played World of Warcraft, I just could not get myself to play male characters. Every time I created a male character, they were almost guaranteed a sentence to the chopping block. There was Fynnigan (from my Fyn naming convention days), a male Human Warrior, that got rolled at least three times. Then deleted three times. He’s the one I liked the best. There were countless other male characters I created (mainly Death Knights) that only made it a few levels before being stripped of all their gear, their meager amount of silver mailed to another character, then never seen again. I think a huge part of it was that I didn’t roleplay or see that conglomeration of pixels as anything but that… pixels. I didn’t have a character to get into, to see past physical imperfections.

And let’s be honest. Male Humans (and a lot of the other races) just aren’t that nice to look at… or watch run… or watch swing a sword or cast a spell.

Enter Star Wars: The Old Republic

I’ll be the first to admit that Bioware has some awkward movement going on (have you seen the dances? /shudder) in the game. However, they did all kinds of things right with character creation customization options.

Hello gamer eye candy.

For the first time, I’m interested in playing male characters in a game. Most of that has to do with the fact that there’s a story, with fantastic dialogue and opportunities to develop my character’s personality through dialogue choices. I can’t even begin to tell you how much that alone has drawn me into SWTOR more than any other game. So, there I am, sitting at the character customization screen and I realize something else. I can make my character HAWT for extra incentive to play, beyond the story itself.

Thus began my first real foray in playing male characters in online games and I’m going to introduce you to my version of my mother’s Wall of Men. Here are My Men of SWTOR:

#5 Vrassek

So, not only did I create male characters, I created some non-human ones! Since they’re not my favorite, I almost left them out, but I figured it’s only fair to include my two Rattataki men. Vrassek is a little on the mean side and probably a real jerk, but there’s no denying that his intensity could be a fun in the right situations. He currently flings lightning from the shadows when he’s not cauterizing Republic innards with his double-bladed lightsaber on Juyo.
#4 Paxim

And here’s my other Rattataki. He’s also an example of something else I don’t normally do. He’s in the male body type 3. While I love the look (hunky, right?) I can’t help but give him the whole thick-necked, lunk-headed personality. I don’t know why. It just happens. But take a look at those smoldering eyes. Paxim might be a cold-blooded bounty-hunter, wading thick in the scum of Hutta on Sanctum of the Exalted, but he’s got those eyes, so he makes the list.
#3 Vextir

Oh Vex… my bad boy. Vextir is one of the few characters, whose personality really started forming before I ever made a decision in the beginning cutscene. Vextir only cares about two things: credits and more credits. Sure, he’s a little bit of a womanizer, but he’s never really cared. He’s there to do the job and get paid. Until a little slip of a slicer turns his head on Hutta. But that story is just beginning to unfold on Space Slug.
#2 Xinc

Xinc is a rake. There is no other word for it. If Vex is all about the credits, then Xinc is all about the ladies… all of them on Juyo. He thinks he’s debonair and dashing, but it’s really his boyish charm and easy attitude that bring all the girls to his ship. Whatever works right? His current lady? Beryl Thorne on Taris. Not that he has much competition, seeing as the place is swarming with Rakghouls. But don’t tell him that.
#1 Gavin

He’s my favorite. In case you couldn’t tell by the #1 ranking I gave him. As you see from all of the above, a part of me loves the little bit of cruelty, stoicism, bad boy and rake. But that’s the small part of me. When it really comes down to it, I want to know he’s got my back, no matter what. Gavin still looks young, but not boyish. He’s clean-cut, but not a pretty boy. He’s a little weathered despite his youth. He may not be hugely muscled, but he’s solid. That’s what I get from him and why he’s my favorite. He’s busy putting down Separatists in Ord Mantell on Juyo. But when he’s off duty? Let’s just say he’s got some real warmth too.

I mean really, take a look at those eyes. /melts