If you’re thinking of delving into the groundbreaking F2P world of Dust 514 (and therefore that of Eve Online if we want to be technical), then you might be pleasantly surprised at the pricing.
A top-spec load-will set you back around 24 cents, so says CCP vice president of Art and Dust top dog Morgan Godat.
And the reasoning behind this? They’re disposable. Every time you die you’ll lose the equipment you’re carrying. All of it.
"There's a thing about Dust, which is every time you die, you lose your items, so we're talking about relatively small amounts of money," said Godat. "You can buy 100 copies of this gun, you can buy 100 copies of this suit of armour. We've got to make sure we're pricing things at the right level, because if you die [you lose these things].
"We're still tuning prices - the costs will change according to the feedback we get on the beta - but I believe when I calculated it last, at its most high-end - if you assume that somebody came in and had to buy, with real-world money, the best gear for a serious throw down - (they already had the skills, which by the way you have to build up and work up to be able to use the equipment) it was like a 24-cent thing," Godat explained.
"That's assuming every piece of your equipment, including your dropsuit, was purchased with real-world money, and every time you died, it was a 24-cent cost to assemble your entire fit."
This is "the very, very top end of the gear progression" mind. But it’s not beginners’ stuff, you’ll need to spend time learning how to use the game’s weaponry before you use these items.
"It's a little hard to believe that that cost would be something that somebody was reoccurring on a regular basis," admitted Godat.
Dust 514 is currently running in closed beta, but despite this, IRL money is being used.
"One of the reasons we're having a really extensive closed and then open beta is that we need to work out exactly what [the pricing will be]," added Eve Online producer John Lander. "We've got players who are paying money in the closed beta right now to actually get these items, and we're looking at are the price points correct? Are they not?
"Off the top of my head," Morgan Godat chimed in, "I don't know exactly what they are. But the feedback that we're getting is that they seem to be broadly in the right area."
Don’t have too much sympathy for the lucky beta testers though; A: They’re exactly that (lucky) and B: the money’s being refunded at the end of the test.
Soon, Dust 514 will move from its closed beta stage and into open, at which point the server will be connected to the Eve Online test server. When this happens, the Dust 514 beta proper will begin.
When this happens on 29th June, it marks what will be a relatively monumental moment in gaming, the collision of two rich gaming worlds. Though still at beta stage, and not on Eve’s live server, Tranquility, the enormity of this grand idea being put into practice is something of a marked occasion.
"And what's going to happen?" asked John Lander himself.
"Somebody said the other day that there's a huge amount of in-game currency in Eve. Could you just throw all that money at a Dust player and buy everything?
"Do we need a dial that says there's some sort of exchange rate so that you can't throw billions of billions of ISK at people to enable them to buy everything in the game? Because that would ruin it. So we need to look at that."
"We will be watching very, very carefully when Eve players are suddenly flying around and playing with Dust players," came Lander.
There are some very wealthy Eve players that could really cause things to get a little crazy but this is exactly the kind of player-controlled madness that CCP love to watch evolve.
"We absolutely want Eve players funding the wars for the Dust players," Morgan Godat said. "We want an Eve player to go to their friend, who's a first-person shooter fan, and say, 'Here's 50 billion ISK, I'm going to fund your army - you go find people."
We still don’t know when we’ll be seeing the full release of free-to-play Dust 514.
"We're planning right now to get it live on Tranquility this year," explained Lander. But CCP wants proper feedback from the beta first.
"No one's ever done this before, never, ever, ever," Lander emphasized. "This is so out of leftfield that we honestly don't know what's going to happen. So we need to take that feedback, we need to be flexible at that point, because anything can happen. Because we don't want to screw up Eve, we don't want to screw up Dust.
"If we get it right - when we get it right - the combination of those two games is going to make an amazing universe."