There's even a video.
In short, there are three nested options, the more expensive containing all of the more inexpensive.
The Settler Pack costs $19.99 and grants you guaranteed, unlimited access to "Closed" Beta which will begin on or before 31 March 2014.
The Explorer Pack costs $59.99 for which you are guaranteed unlimited access to both the beta and the preceding Closed Alpha, which will start on or before February 28 2014.
The Trailblazer Pack weighs in at $99.99, bagging you exactly the same access rights as the Explorer, plus four time-limited (one week) Beta keys to hand out to
All three packs, of course, come with a range of in-game items, Titles and other perks.
Smedley said we'd have a new EQ game to buy this winter and he was telling no more than the bald truth. Okay, we probably weren't expecting we'd be buying an Alpha build, but money will change hands and there will be a game and it has EQ in the title so there you go...
And what, I hear you ask, about all that signing up we did back in the summer? Was that a complete and utter waste of our valuable time? Well no, not exactly. Signing up entitles you to a shot at a Time-Limited Beta Key as explained below:
I'm in several minds about all this. I don't have any particular objection to the concept of paid betas and the terms "alpha" and "beta" have long since lost their value in this context so that doesn't really come into it. Moreover, some of the items included do look genuinely useful, the kind of thing you might well choose to buy from the Cash Shop - extra bank space, bonuses to gathering and the like. Added to that, it's a game I will certainly be playing and which I would certainly have bought had it been offered as a box or Digital Download at the same price. Those are all good reasons to pony up.
On the other hand, there's the nature of the game to consider. It's a building game, primarily. I'm not even sure I'd want to spend much time in the Alpha or Beta of a game based around building structures, all the while knowing that any structures I build are themselves, in SOE's words, "Time-Limited". It's one thing to run around in a beta killing monsters and reporting bugs but entirely another to spend large amounts of time and creative energy on building something that will return to the void in a matter of weeks.
And then on the gripping hand, as Larry Niven or Zubon might say, there's the whole "help build Everquest Next" thing. Some people have already expressed considerable suspicion about the entire concept of players making items in their own time on behalf of a large commercial company that might or might not reimburse them for their trouble. Now we have moved into the area of players paying a huge corporate entity for the privilege not only of testing its current product but of supplying intellectual property for its next one, too.
It bears some thinking about. I'm not rushing to get my credit card out just yet. I'd like to see a bit more about just how persistent the progress we make in Alpha and Beta might be, for a start. And when the finished game might actually launch. February and March, though, are very good times for me and gaming. I always have a lot of holiday to use up around then.
And that Explorer Pack does look rather nice.