As we all know, freemium models tend to do more harm than good if they're not well designed. There's a very fine line between "wanting to monetize your game" and driving players away, and in the Canadian beta for Ultima Forever, producer Carrie Gouskos found that the latter was happening far too often -- so she did something about it.
In short, the gist of the model is that while the game is free, items break (decay) over time (ew). So to "save" certain items, you need to spend keys, which can either be obtained in-game, or purchased in bulk with real money. As a result of beta complaints, Gouskos has reduced the repair cost from 60 keys all the way down to "eight to ten" in an effort to not drive players away. To offset, the amount of keys required for higher tier chests has raised a bit.
The developers are thinking about providing a "buyout" fee that basically allows you to fully purchase the game (please do this), but it's not set in stone. As an Ultima fan since Ultima Online in the 90s, I'm really hoping this game is good by the time it hits a full release. Forever was supposed to get a ceremonious release date announcement at E3, but that hasn't happened yet, and we may actually get a delay due to everything that's happening with the beta.
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destructoid's previous coverage: Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar