Marvel Heroes, the upcoming free-to-play action RPG based on the famous superhero universe, raised eyebrows recently when it announced a £130 Ultimate Pack players could buy ahead of launch.
The Ultimate Pack includes all the heroes, all the costumes, in-game currency and early access - all told it offers over £480 worth of content.
Some scoffed at the suggestion of paying so much up front for a supposed free-to-play game, but according to Dave Brevik, the boss of developer Gazillion and co-creator of Diablo 1 and 2, the huge fee is not unprecedented.
"If you stop to think about it, many people have spent way more than that on World of Warcraft or League of Legends," Brevik said.
"You have to realise how much you're getting for that Ultimate Pack. That's one of the packages available. We have other packages available as well that have a different price point." It should be noted the Ultimate Pack is one of three available Founders Program packs: the cheapest is the £13 Starter Pack, the other is the £40 Premium Pack.
"There have been other games that have done this," Brevik continued. "There are plenty of Collector's Edition-type things that are well over $100. This does happen. This is optional. You're getting over 20 heroes and all these costumes. It is an incredible amount of content you're getting for this."
Brevik agreed with the suggestion that the idea of paying money upfront for free-to-play games is becoming more accepted as the business model establishes itself. He called it an "upfront discount".
"League of Legends is a prime example of something where I personally have spent over a thousand dollars on that game," he said. "I've spent more than that on World of Warcraft. It's an upfront discount. That's why it seems expensive, but in the long run you'll save quite a bit of money."
It's an upfront discount. That's why it seems expensive, but in the long run you'll save quite a bit of money
Marvel Heroes dev Dave Bevik
On the Marvel Heroes website reads a description: "Players will be able to get nearly ALL heroes and costumes in the game for free, just by playing."
But what does this mean, exactly? What won't you be able to unlock if you refuse to pay a penny?
Brevik said players can unlock all heroes just by playing the game. You can also buy them individually, but Gazillion is yet to announce how much they will cost. Some costumes you have to pay for, including those exclusive to the Founders Program packs.
"In a lot of ways we're giving away almost everything," he said. "I would like to say everything, but it is technically not correct. But 99 per cent of everything is attainable in the game."
Marvel Heroes is in closed beta, with a spring 2013 release window currently targeted. The development team is working on a patch, scheduled for release in February, that will include new content, new chapters to play, four or five new heroes and new powers for existing heroes,
It will also revamp the user interface, criticised by some, so that the game has a "new graphic look" with new icons. Also added with the patch is new technology to improve latency and play responsiveness, and the ability to play on lower-end PCs.
Brevik insisted feedback from the beta has been positive, but said some have criticised the game's "discoveries", or events players come across. "We're trying to make those feel more realistic and more interactive than they are right now," he said. "We've got a good plan to make those feel more alive and more part of the world. We're excited about that."
Brevik said some have accused the story, "unfairly", of not making sense. "It's like reading a book halfway through development of the book. It may not make a whole bunch of sense yet. We haven't filled it all in, so it's not surprising the story doesn't make as much sense as it will. We'll be focused on that."
It's like reading a book halfway through development of the book. It may not make a whole bunch of sense yet
Another talking point has been Marvel Heroes' visuals, with some saying the graphics are poor.
"I'm happy with our graphics," Brevik countered. "We've had quite a few compliments on the way it looks. It stands up to any other real action RPG out there. The graphics haven't been that much of a problem. We're always working on them. There are things we tweak all the time. It's more competitive than any other F2P game. If you compare its graphic quality to any other F2P game it's right at the top. In an action RPG sense, the graphics here are much better than any other action RPG I've ever worked on.
"That's more than people can ask for when we're giving it all away for free."
Brevik called on players to wait until Marvel Heroes is out of beta before casting judgement. "People are going to judge it, fairly or unfairly. That's okay. We know that. That's fine. They have to realise it's not done yet. It is a beta. We have definitive plans. A lot of people don't know about or understand about where we're going, and how important some of these systems that are coming in are. Without having the whole picture it's hard to understand where it is, and you can only judge with the information you have.
"But again, I encourage people who are in the beta to come back and take a look after each patch and you'll see the progress and understand the picture better. By the time we launch then you can judge it for what it's worth."