Hyperspace Beacon: An open letter to the creators of the SWTOR Cartel Packs

    
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Dear BioWare,

First off, it might be unfair that I’m addressing this open letter to the whole staff of BioWare when I really should center it on the creators of Star Wars: The Old Republic. But I honestly don’t know how deep the problem goes. I might even be overshooting the problem still by addressing it to BioWare Austin, the creators of SWTOR. Maybe I should narrow it down to the designers and marketers of the BioWare’s cashshop. I’ve already made my complaints about the design and story of Chapter 10 of Knights of the Fallen Empire, but the issues with this latest update don’t end there.

I am disappointed by the execution of the latest cartel packs on many, many levels. It was difficult enough for me to accept these lottery boxes in the first place. It concerns me that the best looking and most desired items in the game do not come from hard work and dedication, but rather how much extra money you’ve thrown at the game (though I do realize you can make cartel coins by inadvertently becoming a part of the sales team, aka the refer-a-friend program). I don’t begrudge the developers and publishers of online video games the desire to make money. After all, their families have to eat, too. However, my acceptance has been pushed beyond its limit by two items: the Grand Chance Cube and the Unstable Arbiter’s Lightsaber.

hsb-mop-2016-money-grab-01

The items that rocked the game

Of course, BioWare, you know exactly what these two items are, but because this is an open letter, I should probably let those who aren’t in the know what these things are. You don’t mind, do you? If so, you can skip to the next section of this letter.

I’ll start with the Unstable Arbiter’s Lightsaber. It’s the simplest to understand. Hopefully, everyone reading this article has seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If not, I’m not going to spoil anything, but you really don’t get the full effect of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber without seeing the movie. Regardless, everyone who’s seen the trailers knows that the blade on Ren’s saber isn’t exactly steady. This is caused by a cracked kyber crystal buried under the hilt. (Not to be confused with the kaiburr crystal, Alan Dean Foster fans.) Kyber crystals were a type of lightsaber crystals, and Ren’s crystal in particular wasn’t pure, which causes the unstable look to the blade.

Ren’s saber has three blades coming off it, giving it an iconic look, but that didn’t stop the single-bladed or even the dual-bladed versions now found in SWTOR from becoming extremely popular. I’ll have more on that later.

The Grand Chance Cubes are lottery packs that are found in other lottery packs called cartel packs. Yo dawg… yeah, I don’t think I have to finish that statement; you get it. This extra lottery pack replaced all the possible bronze-level items in the latest Cartel Pack. This means that purchasers of the Anarchist Alliance packs were “treated” to at least one Grand Chance Cube in every one of the cartel packs, sometimes two.

hsb-mop-2016-money-grab-02What’s the big deal?

Hello, BioWare, are you back with me? You can start reading again; I’m done explaining the items. And I haven’t even complained about anything yet.

Do you know how much the Arbiter’s lightsaber goes for on my server? Of course you do. You know that it’s never dropped below 25 million credits on the GTN. You also know that the double-bladed version goes for about 15 million at its lowest. Most of the time, those two hilts run for about 35 and 20 million respectively. Granted, credits are a bit easier to come by now. But even if I had enough max-level characters, 35 million credits means that I would have to run 6 of them through every single heroic quest.

Of course, there are certainly other, possibly faster, ways of making that kind of money, but heroics are a consistent thing that everyone can do. It’s a good litmus test for earning money in game. Maybe you should use that to gauge how much you are going to charge for something or how rare to make an item. Ask yourself, “How many heroics would I have to run in order to purchase this item?”

At any rate, you knew that this was going to be a popular item because Kylo Ren is awesome, and you showed us your hand by advertising this specific item before the pack launched. So what did you do in the packs? Instead of letting this item drop like nearly every other item in the past, you made it an extremely rare drop. In fact, it’s so rare among the players in my circle that I’ve only heard of it dropping from the Grand Chance Cube, which we will talk about more later. This, of course, guaranteed sales of Cartel Packs and guaranteed the extreme frustration of many players who bought multiple crates of packs (an approximate $50 value each).

About that Grand Chance Cube: I’d like to quote a statement that you made on the official forums: “[Adding the Grand Chance Cubes] allows us to place more emphasis on the Silver and Gold items in each pack, as we are no longer building new Bronze items. Now, in place of Bronze items you will receive a Grand Chance Cube.” I don’t want to pick nits, but if you just replace the Bronze items with the Grand Chance Cubes, you are not adding more emphasis on the Silver and Gold items. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: You actually adding emphasis to your Grand Change Cube, which is full of items that people could have already received in past packs. So in reality, the cubes don’t contain “the rarest of Cartel Market selections.” They contain laziness.

Hopefully, you can see the players’ perspective on these items. Hopefully you can see my perspective here. And I hope, most of all, that you do something about it before the frustration of even your most adoring fans becomes resentment.

Sincerely,

Larry Everett

Every other week, Larry Everett jumps into his T-16 back home, rides through the hypergates of BioWare‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic, and posts his adventures in the Hyperspace Beacon. Drop him a holocom on Twitter @Shaddoe or send him a transmission at larry@massivelyop.com. Now strap yourself in, kid — we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!
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Purgatori
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Purgatori

Is there any way to up-vote this post for some kind of whiny post of the year contest? I know it’s only March, but I can’t imagine that there will be any stronger contenders further down the line. After all, it’s not every day that someone feels so incensed about items about strictly-cosmetic items in a videogame that they feel the need to write a sprawling, impassioned letter to the developers, so I feel like this is pretty special. 

In fact, I feel a little bit insecure now, because I spent all of my complimentary cartel coins on these packs and didn’t an unstable lightsaber either. Instead of reacting as passionately as Larry here, I shrugged my shoulders and kept on playing the game. Perhaps there is something broken inside, because after seeing this letter, and the replies that followed, I think that my reaction ought to have been to wail and gnash my teeth whilst calling for a pox upon Bioware’s offices.

Woetoo
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Woetoo

Larry, I think Bioware are trolling you…

wild_abyss
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wild_abyss

Ugh, I thought of this article again last night as I raged, going through the Cartel Market looking for a colour crystal. I just want to give them money and have them give me a crystal. I don’t want to have buy a gamble box and hope or wait the allotted amount of time, sell it on the GTN, then use the credits to buy one off someone else. That’s ridiculous.

Karl Maurer
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Karl Maurer

I hate grand chance cube SO very, very, very much. I LOVED the old Bronze Armor pack… where for 200 Cartel Coins I got a FULL set of armor. Usually it was some bronze thing, but it had a CHANCE of being a Silver suit or a Gold suit. I liked that. Same with the Bronze mount pack, and some of the others. They gave good value for a limited (you could buy 5 every 2 months with your cartel coin grant from being a subscriber. 6 if you also had a security key) amount of coin. And from that you could look different (mix and match!) and ride something different and use weapons that looked different. 
Now, those are gone. I have to put up with the latest 200 coin ‘box’ and it has 1 or 2 boxes in IT. Which USUALLY gives me crap. I want to at least be able to choose what category the random item is going to fall into at least.
Obviously someone thought this would be cool for Anarchist. Meh and Blech.

Greaterdivinity
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Greaterdivinity

Durenas BioWare had nothing to do with Mythic. EA slapped the BioWare label on Mythic and Victory Games in the hope that those studios and their games would benefit from the good cred BioWare had with gamers at the time. Nothing changed at the studios themselves other than their names. Mythic was still Mythic (till it closed), Victory Games was still Victory Games (till it closed) and BioWare is still BioWare.
Unless you’re talking about the ex-Mythic staff that got hired to work on SWTOR. In that case, the higher level folks have been gone for years now, they bailed around launch.

JakeDunnegan
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JakeDunnegan

thatchefdude JakeDunnegan Forgot to reply to this part. That’s your opinion. I happened to love ESO at launch and played the crap out of it for more than six months. 
Having said that – even a great game like ESO had to drop the sub model. WoW likely will as well, some day, though they have a lot of content and they have always been one of the very best game makers out there.
When Thieves’ Guild drops, I’ll probably go back and play ESO again.

darthmanwe
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darthmanwe

BryanCo SallyBowls1 I stopped playing SWTOR before KOTFE. Before that, I had a stable business empire with my crafting toons and rare schematics of raiding gear and much more.

I also had made a habit to devote at least 20M credits a month, not one of them earned by doing dailies, but by trading and crafting, to buy hypercrates other ppl bought. I’d hold onto valuable items for about 5-6 months, and sell for a lot more.

I seriously made a whole lot of money. Unlocked almost all outfits on collections. All items and shit.

I quit because KOTFE signified the intensifying RNG. When you remove raiding, remove PvP, remove even the old quests, you are left with one giant casual cash trap. I knew the drop rates would go down to hell.

So I bailed, sold my account for about 1200 Euros to an idiot with too much money, and pawned off my 1.3 billion credits to gold farmers who later got caught.

3.5 years of playtime and subbing netted me something close to 2500ish Euros. I devoted that to a new gaming system and funding my new MMO for at least 6 years to come. Fun fact, back then, I had sold my SWG account which had funded my initial 2 years of SWTOR.

Why did I type this long ass story?

Because there is a breaking point in all business ventures. It’s a ‘jumping the shark’ moment if you will, instead of like a TV show going crazy with its story, a company goes crazy with its product and just starts bleeding the customers for more money with less content. 

Bioware Austin has jumped the shark. They are dumping all other assets to bleed remaining customers dry. And they are intentionally killing SWTOR with a very slow death. They will make this an agonizing death of 2-3 years while another EA dev team somewhere is preparing the new Star Wars multiplayer title, probably another MMO.

SW: Battlefiel—eh, Battlefront taught EA one thing. If you give people less content, they pay a whole lot more.

Customers. Are. Stupid.

So this is the new SWTOR. Either get on with the program, or get the hell outta there like the rest of us sane people.

drockalexander
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drockalexander

god i agree with you so hard. this coming from someone who will always love this game, but may not always be playing because of things like this ;(

Pedge Jameson
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Pedge Jameson

BryanCo Greaterdivinity Pedge Jameson I think were mistaken here, i dont care about the lore i hate the lore i dont want any damn lore to be consistant because I dont’t care. And that Boba Fett escaping the sarlacc can kiss my ass.

Durenas
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Durenas

Some of the design decisions made by Mythic have soured my opinion of the Bioware label. Then I remind myself that this is the same studio that made Warhammer Online, and not the studio that made Star Wars Knights of The Old Republic.