Update: Star Wars: The Old Republic will turn free-to-play on 15th November simultaneously worldwide, EA has just announced.
Original story: Your character will earn experience more slowly if you pay nothing for Star Wars: The Old Republic when it turns free-to-play midway through this month (there's still no date). But you will be able to progress all the way to level 50 "without paying a cent", lead designer Damion Schubert declared.
To entice old players back, Complimentary Cartel Coins (paid-for currency) will be granted for the months you subscribed to SWTOR. Anyone who bought the Collector's Edition or Deluxe Edition will receive an additional grant on top. These Cartel Coins can be spent on all manner of level-me-faster or make-me-look-different items at the Cartel Market shop.
Returning players will also be automatically upgraded to Preferred Status, which removes or "greatly reduces" the limitations and restrictions free-to-play players face. Newcomers will have to pay $5 for the same privilege.
Free-to-play SWTOR is currently being alpha tested and all is well, according to BioWare.
"Early feedback has been extremely positive," sung Schubert, "from both die-hard Star Wars: The Old Republic fans as well as players who have never played the game before. We are now deep into a polish phase, working on bringing the complete experience up to the high quality level that our customers expect from a BioWare game."
The support of the "die-hard" SWTOR subscribers isn't being overlooked, stressed Schubert. One of his team's core rules is that "subscribers should not experience any degradation of their gameplay experience" when the MMO turns free-to-play.
"Those of you who are still paying a monthly fee should still get the same gameplay experience and you won't find anything taken away from you and the gameplay that you currently enjoy," he wrote. "Furthermore, we really wanted to be sure that in no way would subscribers feel they needed to make purchases from the Cartel Market in order to be competitive in the game."
"Early feedback has been extremely positive, from both die-hard Star Wars: The Old Republic fans as well as players who have never played the game before."
A monthly grant of Complimentary Cartel Coins will be given to subscribers, who also receive two extra quick-slot bars and a new purchasable Cargo Hold tab.
Schubert glossed over some of the other tfree-to-play SWTOR restrictions I reported last month. These include things like limited character creation options, non-priority in server queues and limited access to dungeons, raids and PVP arenas.
But SWTOR is roughly 24 times the size of BioWare's beloved single-player RPG Knights of the Old Republic, Schubert said, meaning you're getting loads of game for absolutely nothing so don't complain otherwise it's a force choke for you and off to spaceship-bed with no dinner.