Dye hard – or die trying
The recent update of SWTOR brought things that were much anticipated, but missed the chance to establish a healthy Crew-Skill-Balance once again.
Passionate crafters in SWTOR had a hard time since the game went free to play. Bioware seemed to be so very busy patching in dozens and dozens of cartel packs and redesigns of armors, etc. that the crew skills were mostly put aside into uselessness. The only update for them before 2.0 was the possibility to craft augments and the corresponding slots. Eventhough that was a real improvement, it further destroyed the balance between the skills. We ended up having Armormech, Synthweaving and Armstech as Augment and Augment kit producers and Biochem as Stim-machines. But what is with Cybertech? What is with Artifice? Sure, they could produce some cool things like grenades or high-level lightsaber hilts, but the recipes were hard to get or the item was too useless to buy (why should anyone buy a one-time-use grenade on the GTN?).
Patch 2.0 promised to lead in a new era for the long neglected crew skills. Reverse Engineering got some attention again and promised to help balancing the skills. Especially Artifice got the cool ability to learn many of the color crystal recipes, while most of them could not be bought ingame from a vendor anymore. Nearly everything became learnable. Further on, there were new schematics that could be bought with commendations. But it was still more than obvious that the developers did not drop Biochem as their favorite crew skill. Not only could they craft a never-ending stim that had the same qualities as the one-use ones, they could craft epic implants that had better stats than the Black Market implants found in Flashpoints and that without collecting many many epic items just to reverse engineer them with the poor schematic-proc-chance of 20%.
The second turn was patch 2.1. The new customization options Bioware announced promised to become the grand uprising of artifice. For the very first time, Artifice seemed to become a useful crew skill on the long run. What artifice really got is nothing more than a bad joke.
(S)Crew skills? What for? We got the Cartel Market!
After I first logged in last Tuesday, I was very excited as my beloved crew skill was about to get useful. For the very first time. The first thing I that annoyed me a bit was that most of the learnable dye modules required low-level materials I just did not have anymore. The second thing that annoyed me was that those modules from the trainer were… well… ugly. I thought to myself that this was just due to my armor and that another armor would just look cool with those modules (optimists tend to stick to their hope very long). The third thing that annoyed me was that the more useable schematics required legendary reputation rank with the fractions. So Artifice is the only skill that requires that huge effort to get their stuff. Why did they not sell those schematics for basic commendations like the super-op biochem ones? And the fourth thing that annoyed me was that THE REAL COOL MODULES WERE SOLD THROUGH THE SHITTY CARTEL MARKET! I did never complain about the market. I did never find anything unfair or over the top. But that was too much. The craftable modules were nothing more than a mere alibi. Even the module you can get from the Security Token vendor fits to more armor pieces than the ones from artifice. Some of secondary slot modules from Artifice even destroy the “Unify Colors” feature.
Motivation motor economy
The real disaster here is not my personal disappointment. The real disaster is that Bioware seems to be unwilling (or unable) to establish a healthy economy within the game and thus another aspect for long-time-motivation for the sake of cartel market-gambling-items. The misperception from Bioware is that they make more money with the sale of items than with a crafting system that will produce those items without the involvement of real money. Okay, they maybe DO make more money with that. But they will earn less on the long run. That is because cartel market items just give a short kick of joy once you acquire them. A healthy crafting system will guarantee fun for weeks or even months. And here comes the catch: If Bioware focusses too much on features they can draw real money from, they will soon discover that people stop spending money and get bored. So they will find themselves confronted with a community that lingers for new content all the time and the money flow will stop as soon as you do not publish enough new stuff. It will cost tons of money to steadily develop this content just to keep earning money. A healthy crafting system will keep those nasty costumers entertained and you can create some options to gain money every here and there so the costumer will not even notice how much he really spends. That is how a free to play model should work.
Bioware tends to treat their community a bit heavy-handed when it comes down to money. I think many of us will remember the buyable Gree-Armor that appeared in the cartel market right after the first people were able to buy those things from the event just to get the money from those who did not have the time for the event. Or the more than ridiculous reputation “feature” for the cartel market. It is not like in other games, where every here and there the game tells you “of course you can have it. But you could have it right NOW with just a few dollars”. It’s like “Well, here are the super cool features that cost money. Free stuff? Ah, yeah, here is something. It’s not cool, but it is something, so you can’t complain. AND NOW BUY OUR STUFF.”
Because I am noticing that I am getting close to an enrage, I will just finish that post ;)
See ya soon folks!