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Get to level 50 without paying a single cent? Yes, please.

Bioware, the developer behind Star Wars: The Old Republic, has just posted a fairly thorough explanation of what it’s doing to prepare its Star Wars-themed massively multiplayer online role-playing game for the free-to-play option that should hit next Thursday.

“The team developing this option has been working hard to hit this date,” writes Damion Schubert, the lead designer of the free-to-play option, “and as I write this, we have an alpha version of the complete experience up and running, and we have been running extensive play tests of the experience.”

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BioWare wanted to make sure that all free players could reach level 50 without paying any money, though it may take them longer to do so than paid subscribers.

“That’s not to say there won’t be restrictions,” he wrote. “Free-to-play players will earn experience more slowly, for example, and several aspects of the gameplay experience are limited.”

Still, fans of the game who were wary of the original $60 up-front cost and a monthly subscription should feel a lot more comfortable jumping into the massive amount of content that exists in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Subscribers shouldn’t notice anything different, either. “Those of you who are still paying a monthly fee should still get the same gameplay experience,” wrote Schubert, “and you won’t find anything taken away from you and the gameplay that you currently enjoy.”

Subscribers will get new benefits from the update as well, including two more quick slot bars, a new Cargo Hold tab for purchase, and a monthly amount of complementary Cartel coins to spend in the Cartel Market, a microtransaction cash shop that has items that aren’t dropped in game, like experience boosts, which enables players to advance much faster than typical.

BioWare has a new rewards program to thank current subscribers, which includes extra Cartel coins commensurate with the number of months subscribers have been paying for the game. Schubert wrote that they’re “literally granting millions of dollars worth of Complimentary Cartel Coins as part of this program,” but only if players stay subscribers during the transition.

Those players who cancelled their subscriptions are also being given an incentive to return. “Any player who has ever paid a monthly subscription fee will be given Preferred Status automatically when free-to-play option is launched,” wrote Schubert. Players with this new status won’t face all the limitations that just straight free-to-play members will. The You can also earn Preferred Status by spending $4.99 or more at the Star Wars: The Old Republic web store.

Source: BioWare

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