This week Bioware delivered news of what to expect in the next game update as 64-bit testing continues on the PTS. It looks like the next Galactic and PVP Seasons will launch hot on the heels of the update. The controversy roiling the community seems to be the news of changes to SWTOR’s hyper-inflated economy. Among others, the SWTOR Escape Pod Cast and Shintar have chimed in, and I thought I’d add my two credits as well.
Bioware has been slowly making adjustments over the last couple of years, but the next update includes adding a credit cost to Quick Travel and other travel conveniences. I’ve discussed the economy in SWTOR before, and I support any steps to cool off the game’s white-hot inflation.
First and foremost, let me say this: credits are pretend money. They are meant to be spent. We should want to spend our credits!
For much of SWTOR‘s history, players have been easily able to accumulate far, far more credits than they’ll ever need to spend. The root cause of SWTOR’s inflation is that over the years Bioware has added more and more ways for players to generate credits while reducing the need to actually spend them. For example, training costs, which frequently left my first characters nearly broke as they leveled, have been removed altogether.
While purchasing gear upgrades from this expansion’s various vendors has some associated costs, they stop being a concern once we reach the gear ceiling. Repair costs are considerable if you participate in progression raiding, but for the majority of players who do not, repairs are a minor expense.
In my previous post I speculated that day-to-day expenses would increase in Legacy of the Sith, but I think they’ve actually gone down. Attaching a modest credit cost to Quick Travel is a start. Everyone who goes out into the game world to quest, explore or run dailies will have to pay a little more now. That’s okay.
In his post discussing the changes, Eric Musco wrote that Bioware wants to take it slow and adjust the levers of the economy as gently as they can.
Pricy and lavish credit sinks are great, and it’s fun to speculate about what people would spend a billion credits on. I would gladly purchase fun Legacy unlocks and new cosmetics, but optional, one time purchases won’t fix the economy if the root cause of the inflation is ignored. The place to start is to balance how much we earn with how much we spend.
Of course long time players won’t notice paying a few thousand credits to criss-cross the galaxy via Quick Travel, but I also don’t think it will adversely affect new players as much as people claim.
I created a new character on the PTS last weekend. I ran through the Sith Warrior Origin Story on Korriban doing only the class story, the two heroics, and Quick Travelling back to the academy after completing each quest; this earned me around 5500 credits, enough to pick up mods for my main hand weapon and a newly purchased modable off-hand on Fleet. By the time I’d finished Dromund Kaas (Quick Travelling back to the city after each story quest), I’d completed Conquest and arrived on my ship with more than 35,000 credits. This is by no means extravagant wealth, but it is enough to play as I would on a character with access to my main Legacy. Further I suspect new players would be doing side quests that would net them more credits and vendor trash. And that’s not even considering Log In rewards, which we can often sell for hundreds or thousands of credits, or Galactic Season rewards, which we can post on the GTN for a few million.
That said, I do think the travel costs on the starter planets should be cheaper; my very first Quick Travel nearly wiped me out completely! I think it’s reasonable that new players should arrive on Fleet with enough credits to spend on a mount, adaptive gear, mods for that gear, crew skill missions, and the freedom to fully deck out their first slot in the Outfit Designer.
There is no magic bullet to fix MMO inflation where credits are generated out of thin air and, to be sure, there is much more to be done. There are trillions upon trillions of credits floating around SWTOR. I don’t imagine they’re going away soon if at all, but I think it’s in the player’s interests if the nozzle of the hose that is blasting endless credits into the game got turned down a notch or two.
Another point I want to reiterate from my previous post is that I would be very reluctant to see any kind of way to directly turn credits into Cartel Coins. Yes, we can turn Cartel purchases into credits via trade or the GTN, but I don’t want to see the process reversed. Credits are Monopoly money and I don’t think Bioware should support a means to attach a real world cash value to them.
Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Finally, although it does look like both the fourth Galactic Season and second PVP season will be launching with the next game update, I again want to say I wish there were separation between seasons of all kinds. We don’t have a time frame for when the next update will launch, and my general impression from the PTS is that it is still a ways out, but I would prefer a break to do other things for a bit and not have to think about filling bars every time I play. It’s hard to know how long Bioware would like to go between seasons. Season two was pushed back by Legacy of the Sith‘s delayed launch, and it feels to me like Season three would’ve paired well with last summer’s Nightlife event, but instead was moved to fall to not overlap with the previous season.
The gap between the start of Season two and three was roughly 8 months, but it seems likely that there will be less time between the current season and the next, perhaps 6 months. To me, participating in the concurrent PVP season has meant I don’t feel like I got much of a break. Perhaps Bioware’s intent is that there should always be some kind of seasonal event going, whether it’s a Galactic or PVP season.Ideally I’d like to start a new season ready to get back at it rather than feeling like “Here we go again…” I know Battle passes are the new hotness in online games, but nothing turns optional content into a grind faster than constantly hitting players with the Fear of Missing Out when there are other things they might want to do sometimes both inside and outside the game.