As some of you may have heard, we recently took the decision to make DarkSpace entirely free to play. This means that players are no longer required to subscribe in order to take advantage of the bigger ships, or to use thier earned ranks.
Although this is great news for our players, it leaves us with some serious considerations from a development perspective.
The obvious question is 'How do we aim to support the server running costs?'
As many of you may realise, bandwidth is definitely not free. Money to pay for this has to come from somewhere, which is why we are looking at implementing a system similar to DDO. However, our aims are slightly different, in that we are not looking at making any money for ourselves. It would be nice if we were ever in such a position, but realistically this is never going to happen. So for now, just keeping the game running so that we can continue working on it will be enough.
Our current plans are to offer several donation options:
The first option is for us to continue allowing players to subscribe if they wish to do so. This will be kept at the $9.99 monthly fee, and as a reward they will get a monthly credit allowance which they can use to purchase items in game. This would also be applied retroactively to all subscriptions paid to date. Considering the game has been running for 9 years, we are going to have some very wealthy individuals with plenty of credits to burn.
The second option is for one-off donations of between $4.99 to $39.99. Again, this would be rewarded with an amount of credits that can be used on ingame purchases, and donating over a certain threshold might give you a special badge that can be displayed on your player profile. In theory we could use these badges to allow access to some optional content in the release version, such as playing the game as a monster or pirate. The more you have paid (yes, subscriptions would count towards this also), the better the monsters are that you could access, although you would not be able to gain prestige (our version of experience) when using these. This feature would exist purely as a fun element and as a reward for our members continued support.
We also want to make it clear that you would still be able to earn a considerable amount in credits simply through playing the game normally, and that subscribing or donating would certainly not be required to be competetive. Given the heavy PvP focus of DarkSpace, we have to be sure that paying money will not give those players an unfair advantage over those who cannot afford to do so.
Anyway, these are just a few thoughts from my perspective with working on the game. I would be very interested in hearing your feedback.