One of the biggest controversies surrounding Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade right now is the tremendous variance in what people call Pay to Win. To begin, let's define Pay to Win (PtW). The “Pay” part means that players can purchase items that will give them an advantage over players that choose not to purchase such items, usually via some sort of cash shop. An example of cut-and-dried PtW would be a game where the best weapon a character could equip in-game does 50 points of damage per attack, with an attack time of one second (50 PDS), but there is a weapon available in the cash shop that does the same 50 points of damage, with a swing time of one-half second (100 DPS). The second weapon has a tremendous advantage, hence the “Win” part, and quickly any player without that weapon becomes fodder for those who spent the money in the cash shop. This is a rather simplistic example, but it serves to define Pay to Win fairly well.
Behaviour has stated on several occasions that cash shop variants of common in-game weapons and armor will largely be alternate skins, and occasionally slightly rearranged statistics. Trading range for rate of fire, trading ammo capacity for reload time, things of that nature. No pure bonuses that are not balanced by some sort of offsetting penalty. Some players will argue that people will learn to compensate for the penalties or disadvantages, my counter-argument is that learning to compensate is called skill. Skilled players will counter the negatives and therefore benefit from the positives. Isn't that really “Skill to Win”? A player who uses his learned ability to compensate for disadvantages is a skilled player who deserves to win, no?
Some players believe that any difference in gear available to the players creates a “situational advantage”, an advantage that exists under a certain set of conditions, like having longer range on a wide-open battlefield, or having a larger clip size on a battlefield where reloads are limited. Other players feel that, as long as any advantage a weapon has comes with an equivalent disadvantage or limitation, that those weapons are defined as “different, but equal”. An example of weapons that would be considered different but equal would be one rifle that has a 100 meter range, but has a firing rate of one round every two seconds versus a rifle with only a 50 meter range, but this weapon fires one round every second. As long as the battle remains at long range the first weapon has a decided advantage, but if the battle moves to close range the second rifle has a tremendous advantage.
Game designers generally use these variances in weapon statistics to create a wide variety in weapons, giving players lots of options to find the weapon that suit their play-style best. Hopefully the game designers are also watching the actual game-play closely, so they can continue to tweak these variances, keeping the weapons roughly equal in overall value, but allowing for a wide variety of weapons.
In my opinion, a large part of a game like Eternal Crusade is how the players deal with adversity, how they adapt to the changing combat environment, and give themselves a chance at victory. Keep in mind that Bevaviour is looking to create asymmetric balance in this game, meaning that there might not be one to one balance, but rather faction to faction balance. The player will have to learn to read bad situations, find vulnerabilities in whatever their current match-up might be, and then use their current kit to exploit those vulnerabilities. To my mind that IS the game. It's not meant to be played as a series of vaguely-connected one-on-one duels, but rather as a concerted war effort, applying pressure where the enemy is weakest, forcing them to react to your attack, and then reinforcing your own weak spots. It's an ebb and flow, a series of actions and reactions. You are going to have to adjust to bad circumstances, whether that's being faced by hordes of enemies that outnumber you, or by having to use your sniper rifle to defend the corridors of your forward base as it is overrun.
So, what's your idea of Pay To Win? What is the line in the sand you're not willing to cross? What sort of game are you looking for? Let's discuss it, politely and civilly, in the comments.
Early Module Access =/= Beta Access
Lots of people having trouble with this one, getting upset thinking that people who are buying more expensive Founder Packs are getting earlier access to the alpha/beta. That is not the case at all. Alpha/beta access is entirely dependent on when you bought your package, first come, first served. Early module access is available to everyone who buys any Founder package, with Captains (and above) coming first, followed a month later by Sergeants, and one month after that, Warriors.
Alpha/beta is a relatively short, well-defined period of testing, usually focused on one particular area of gameplay, like a weekend test of jump pack mechanics. The dev team will determine how many people they need for this test, invites will be sent to Founders in first-come first served order, until they fill their test needs. Then those players will spend the test length, in this case one weekend, testing jump packs. At the end of the weekend the test will be taken down, the players will go back to the testing pool, and the devs will examine the data gathered. Rinse/repeat until all testing has been done.
Early module access is a different beat entirely. As the game develops certain aspects of it will be compartmentalized into “modules”. A firing range for testing ranged weapons, a combat cage for testing melee weapons, personal quarters to allow players their own “don-time” space, a briefing room to allow for battle planning, etc. These modules will be set up for Founders to use as they will, giving them a taste of whats to come. Access to these modules will be on-going, once Founders get access, barring unexpected events, they will retain access until the release.
Anything else about the Founders Program confounding and confusing you? Let me know, and I will try to answer as best I can