We haven't been covering PlanetSide 2 a lot, due to it being kind of on the edge of our area of interest, but those of you who are interested in the title should probably give a read to this preview from GameSpy. Here's a snippet on the developers' approach to the free-to-play model:
All of that was done with a free account. Far too many free-to-play games are in the rude habit of making gamers feel like freeloading mooches for trying to get more than a couple of hours of enjoyable play out of them. PlanetSide 2, however, has the right idea: according to Creative Director Matt Higby, not only can you competitively play PlanetSide 2 for free, but just by showing up for one of its massive 64-square-kilometer, 2,000-player wars, you'll be doing Sony Online Entertainment a favor. "Lots of MMOs spend tons and tons of money building content. You have to populate a dungeon with lots of monsters and put loot on them and f***ing make dragons s**t. We don't have to do that, because players are our content. So all those dudes who are coming in and playing for free are helping us make the game better for the dudes who do decide they want to pay money." Damn straight.
That doesn't necessarily mean free players will be easy-to-kill fodder who live only to be hunted for sport by the monied elite. Higby, who acknowledges PlanetSide 2 can't work unless it attracts an audience by being playable and fun for free, pledges no more than a 20% power difference between the highest-level player and the lowliest, and what power-enhancing upgrades there are must be earned, not bought -- and that we won't have to grind to do it. "I've played Tribes: Ascend too. I see a lot of the complaints that people have about the amount of time it takes to unlock things as a free player as opposed to a paid player. Essentially the only real way to get stuff is to pay for it. We're absolutely not trying to do that," said Higby.
He added that paid players might respawn a little quicker, but the unpaid 10-second timer I had to wait out when I (frequently) ate it was hardly an eternity. Also, SOE doesn't plan on locking free players out of any gameplay -- a liberty that allows any player to jump into any land or air vehicle at any time and promptly crash it into a building because they can be tricky to get the hang of.