Becoming a Preferred Player in SWTOR
A while ago I wrote on the blog about how I had become disenchanted with Star Wars: The Old Republic. I was no longer logging in and playing like I used to. I knew, eventually, that my account would go into the Preferred status, because I removed my payment information from my account before my subscription ran out to prevent it from auto-renewing. However, even though I knew it was coming, I was a bit shocked when I did finally log in, because my guild needed a fill-in for an operations group, and I was available.
Being a Preferred player means that I don’t pay monthly for a subscription, but because I had previously paid something into the game, I’m not a “Free-to-Play” player. There are some restrictions compared to being a subscribed player! This is not a comprehensive list of restrictions, but the ones I’ve run into doing my usual gameplay.
In order to even get into the Operation, I needed to consume an Operations Pass. No problem, I have millions of credits. I’ll just get one on the GTN—right? Well, on the GTN on the Harbinger that day, Operation passes were nearly 900k credits, which I could normally easily purchase, but because I was a Preferred player, my credits were placed into what’s called an Escrow, and I was limited to 350k credits. I tried to think of ways around it, like donating 350k credits at a time to my guild bank and getting my credits “refilled” from the escrow, but it absolutely does not work that way. Once you use the credits you have on hand, they’re gone, and the amount you have in escrow is still inaccessible unless you either subscribe or pay Cartel Coins to withdraw from it.
I ended up using 240 Cartel Coins, which I had saved up from when I was a Subscriber, to purchase the one-week consumable Operations pass. It is definitely not a sustainable system for someone that wants to run Operations every week, but as someone who hardly logs in, it wasn’t much to spend.
When I finally got into the Operation, my guildies warned me not to remove my gear. Why? I guess I can’t wear Artifact or “purple” grade gear. There is something you can buy in the Cartel Market that unlocks this for your character, but I think it’s about 1200 Cartel Coins. Down the line if I ever wanted to optimize my gear more or upgrade my gear, I’d probably buy it, but I don’t need to have better gear than what I already have for the current end-game content. I did test out the Outfit Designer, which still had all of the “looks” I saved for my character. I remember a Free-to-Play restriction being that you couldn’t color-match your armor to your chest piece.
Another restriction is that you don’t have as many hot bars as a Subscriber. This wasn’t noticeable to me though, since I had designed my UI in such a way that all my essential abilities were on the hot bars that were provided.
We did run into a bug during the Operator IX fight in the Terror From Beyond operation, where there was an error transitioning from one color to the next during the first phase. I was going to report it, but as a non-subscriber I’m unable to do that. I guess since I’m not paying, my complaints about bugs don’t matter. Anyway, one of my guildies put in the report for me, so at least it got done.
Preferred and Free-to-Play players also cannot play the story in Knights of the Fallen Empire. I did play chapters 10 and 11, since my subscription didn’t run out before the latest chapter had been released. I think I will want to play the rest of the story, but maybe when it’s all released so I don’t have to subscribe monthly to access it.
Obviously there are plenty of things I could’ve done to prepare for becoming a Preferred player, but I had no motivation to log in and do anything in-game. For now, I’m fine with how it is. If I do start playing on a regular basis again, I will subscribe. My guildies offered to pay for my subscription, but the money wasn’t the issue. I like to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak, so I will subscribe again when there is a new operation to play in SWTOR, which I’m guessing won’t happen until at least next year… or ever?