Monday, 14 March 2016

Star Stable Online: The Truth

I'm a 20 year old female that plays Star Stable Online. That could be seen as shameful as most of its players are aged 6-15 - yes, horrifyingly, 6 year olds have access to the Internet. For a short time, after I paid over fifty quid for it, I thought it was the wrong decision because of my age. However I've come across 32 year olds so that made me feel better and there are some relatively mature teenage girls on there. But when an argument breaks out, which is similar to children arguing over mud in a playground, I question my decision.

Star Stable Online, if you haven't already guessed, is all about horses - which I love. It's also a free to explore, RPG, something that I also love. Aside from some boring and simply childish quests, there are some cool characters and a lengthy story that's at the heart of everything. I also enjoy building things in quests and changing the virtual world around my Andalusian and I. No wonder it attracted me!

Obviously, SSO is out there to make money, primarily. Before you join, you can do a free trial but they give the impression that everything is better and you're more appreciated if you're a ‘Star Rider’ (someone who's paid for the game). In one sense, it is better as you get access to more parts of the really big map and loads more quests and horses, as well as items. But in another sense, you feel nothing more than a manipulated paying machine.

SSO know that their players are young. They're young, impressionable and very easy to manipulate. You often see a child saying how much they're trying to persuade their parents to pay for the game or how they're saving their pocket money to buy things! For me, fifty quid for the game is more than enough and I'm happy to wait MONTHS to save for a new horse. But for a young child, they can't wait and they have to fit in with their peers or get a certain type of horse or clothes ASAP.

I've only just scratched the surface here though. SSO is extremely stingy. They will try and squeeze every last penny out of you with false advertising. They make themselves appear very generous, such as right now, there's a rainbow event in which you collect gold and trade it for ‘gifts’. They made it out that you would receive loads of expensive gifts and I was quite excited, after all, I've paid good money, it's nice to get rewarded!

It was a lie and a lie that aggravated many.

Unless you count loads of horse food, ‘gifts’, then you'd be incredibly disappointed. Having horse food can save you shillings but that's about it. After a while though, I got a very ugly saddle, blanket and leg wraps, along with two scary leprechaun masks and a decent four leaf clover tail decoration. It sounds a lot but it really isn't when you find out the saddle (usually the most expensive item) only sells for 25 ‘shillings’. Compare that to thousands of shillings for a saddle or the food that costs more than 25 shillings just to feed your horses! SSO are about as generous as rich tax men.

The more annoying part is when you want to sell a horse. To buy a horse or pony, it can cost 200 (lower end horse) to more than 900 ‘star coins’ / SC (currency you have to pay for or you receive weekly). I believe it costs £30 for about 1500 star coins or something ridiculous like that. In short, it costs more than half the game price to get enough star coins to buy a horse or two or a horse and some items for it! They've overpriced everything.

Then you have shillings which you don't pay for, you earn through quests. You can't buy shillings and they don't let you buy everything in the game (only star coins can buy everything, of course). If you want to sell the horse you've paid for with your real money, they give you a measly 2500 shillings which wouldn't even be enough for a decent saddle! It would be fair to give a portion of the star coins back but no, they want you to keep buying and they do double star coin weekends to encourage more buying. Plenty of people complain about the sale price but SSO turns a blind eye. You receive 100 SC a week which is absolutely nothing and if you chose to save it for the most expensive horse in the game, it would take you two and a half months of saving.

I paid £53 for the entire game (lifetime membership) and only received 1200 star coins, only for them to offer 3000 coins a month or so after with the lifetime membership which drove me insane. I messaged them about this, only to discover another drawback - they don't reply.

On their website, it states that they will get back to you within 48 hours in a work week. What it should say is “we only respond to reports of players with the same copied and pasted message and all complaints or constructive criticisms will be ignored and deleted.” How unprofessional of them! I've been tempted to contact them asking them to respond to my numerous emails which I sent weeks ago but that'll probably be ignored too.

All in all, the game is good but it's a shame about the company running it. The game on its own is enough to make people want to pay; you don't need false advertising and hidden manipulation to sell it.

If you're thinking about buying this game, ask yourself if you're okay with a company constantly trying to squeeze money out of you at every opportunity and being stingy in return. I'm a lifetime star rider, I should be at the top of the game; the most privileged, yet I'm still made to feel like I need to buy more or that I'm still limited in what I can do.

If you're a parent reading this, teach your kids about peer pressure to fit in not being important, to save your money, as there's a ridiculous amount of competition going on and rivalry between players; “I've got 20 horses, I'm better than you”. SSO also seemed to have employees in game that would keep an eye on things and mingle with everyone but I've never seen one, so don't believe that.

Extra info for parents:
There are a surprisingly high number of young boys that play this game, despite no option to play as a male character or use a male name. I met one 12 year old boy, I let him know I was 20 years old but he clung to me like glue. Followed me everywhere and admired all of my things, and within ten minutes, he told me he loved me which was just ridiculous (I got away ASAP). I've met 30 year old women on there so there's a chance of old men using it too for more than horses. Us adults have money to spend on nice horses and things which attracts young and naive children, so it's something to think about.

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