Star Wars: The Old Republic isn’t exactly held up in most gaming circles as an example of free-to-play done right, in the same vein as games like League of Legends or Team Fortress 2. It makes you wonder how much the people who implemented its F2P design were aware of exactly what they were doing.
At least one person seems to be. Speaking at the recent Game Developers’ Conference, former SWTOR lead developer Damion Schubert had a few interesting things to say about free-to-play design that would seem to be at odds at the direction BioWare went with its MMO. According to Wired, Schubert understands how the market has largely shifted to free-to-play/freemium model, saying that “Not only is free coming, we’re going to see things get more free” and how “absurd” it seems these days that the majority of games used to charge up front for boxes.
But his most telling statements come near the end of the piece, a combination of paraphrasing by the article’s writer and a direct quote from Schubert:
…free-to-play evangelists… warn against going down the slippery slope of chasing microtransactions. In his talk, he emphasized the importance of free-to-play designers always having someone in the room to advocate for players’ interests; someone to ensure that conversations don’t shift too far into methods of squeezing players for every penny.
“You want people to feel good about every dollar they give you,” Schubert said.
It makes you wonder if there was that kind of “advocate” in the room when SWTOR’s F2P system was under discussion, or even whether Schubert took up that role. If he, or someone else did, it seems to have gone largely unheeded.