Hmmm. Mmmmm. Ehhhhh. Errrrrr. Also harumph. Oh, hello, didn't see you there. When I enter my Contemplate-O-Sphere, I tend to just lose track of the world around me and emit a series of guttural droning sounds - eyes wide yet unseeing, as though I'm possessed by some kind of brain ghost. I believe many of you call it "having an idea." Only I'm having many ideas - mostly prompted by Star Wars: The Old Republic's fairly alarming approach to free-to-play. In short, if you're only playing for solo story, you're in luck. But, if not, well...
First, the good news: all story missions for every class will be completely free. If you're joining the fray for all the BioWare tales your bio-brain can bio-handle, you're in luck. Levels 1-50 will be yours, completely unfettered. Unfortunately, nearly everything else has some kind of arbitrary restriction attached, and you can only bypass with a new currency called "Cartel Coins" or a good old-fashioned subscription.
So, what kind of limits are we talking? Well, you can only enter three PVP warzones per week, flashpoints similarly stop giving you rewards after three visits, weekly passes are required to unlock operations and space missions, you can't equip most purple items, and you can't revive in the field more than five times - among other things, all of which you can see here. Meanwhile, you'll need to make at least one purchase to unlock "preferred" status, which gets you sprint (yes, sprint), more bank slots, and expanded access to chat channels.
There will also be a new Cartel Market that offers the usual suite of gear and "convenience features" - although BioWare's not discussing precisely what that'll entail just yet. Same goes for the Cartel Coin exchange rate, which remains similarly shrouded in mystery/mystical Force energies.
So then, thoughts: It's pretty neat that anyone will be able to experience SWTOR's main claim to fame from front to back, but all the other restrictions make about as much sense for an MMO as an insta-self-destruct exhaust port on a Death Star. I mean, this is pretty much Fragmenting Your Community 101. For instance, as a free player, why should I even give PVP a second thought when it's so locked down? Same with operations and flashpoints. Before this transition, it seemed like BioWare was really dedicated to giving SWTOR some long-term MMO appeal. Now I'm not even sure if it remembers it's working on a multiplayer game.
As a general rule, I'm actually pretty OK with F2P. But if you have to compromise many of the core pillars of your own game to make it work, you're clearly doing something wrong.