The Old Republic's move into the free-to-play market lets players run through each of the game's class stories in their entirety without paying a single penny. The handouts end there, with free-to-play players being treated like third-class citizens in most areas of the MMO's systems. At times the restrictions can feel downright petty. Just look at the comparison chart . Want to sprint? Not till you're level 15. Want to revive in the field? You can do it five times per character, but then you have to pay.
But in a post on TOR's dev blog , Bioware are keen to stress that the restrictions on free-to-play and "preferred status" players - those who have bought an in-game item or own a physical copy of the game - are open to player feedback.
"One of the most important things to us is to hear player feedback on their game experience," writes Jeff Hickman, TOR's Executive Producer. "Our community team truly has an ear to the ground with community concerns and discussions and we often make changes based on player feedback ... We want you to know that this is an ongoing dialogue."
Previously, in the 1.5 patch, Bioware raised the number of quickbars for free-to-play players from one to two. Now, in a new update, they're tweaking that number again, giving preferred status players four quickbars, and refunding the Cartel Coins of anyone who previously purchased one.
The patch has also increased the number of Global Active Characters that subscribers can have. "If you wanted to, you can truly create your own army of Troopers or a legion of Sith Warriors."
These are all steps in the right direction, albeit small ones. Obviously Bioware need to give advantages to subscribers and players prepared to pay, and the free-to-play balance can be difficult to get right. But there's a difference between treating paying customers well and showing non-payers active disdain. Right now, TOR still feels more like it's doing the latter.