Yesterday, Notch took to his well-worn soap box to pipe up about free-to-play games and how many of them are perhaps a wee bit dishonest. He also mentioned that Scrolls - while not free-to-play in the traditional sense - does allow players to buy new content with real money. Many gamers, however, read that as "Give us money and we'll hand you a silver platter covered in cards that will guarantee that you defeat your friends, get the girl, and overcome some crippling personality deficiency in a whirlwind montage of victory."
With that in mind, I asked the fine folks at Mojang if they could clear things up for me. Here's what they said:
"Scrolls will not be free to play," designer Jakob Porser told PC Gamer via email. "It will come with an initial cost. Yes, you will also be able to spend more money on it later by buying spell-books (carrying randomly inserted scrolls), but as we have an initial cost, we do not have to balance the game with the focus of people having to spend any more money on the game once they started playing it."
"The initial cost will not only give you a hefty portion of scrolls to build your decks with, it will also give you a life time subscription of spell-book, guaranteeing that you always will get new content for as long as you play the game (and longer). You will also get in-game currency as you win matches and with these you can buy spell-books. Same with single player. Advance your way through the world, and get in-game currency. On top of this, we will feature an auction house, letting the players buy/sell and trade their scrolls with one another."
Porser also explained precisely why Mojang took that route in the first place - as opposed to simply kicking the initial cost to the curb like so many other modern games.
"I agree with what Markus is saying about a 'Free to Play'-game being designed to make players spend money once they start playing the game. This isn't always a bad thing of course. You could argue that this is a service to the players as they actually get to play the game before they make the decision whether to spend money on it or not. But this type of development also comes with two major problems. First, the term 'Free to Play' lends itself to misinterpretation as the game really isn't all that Free. Second, a project like that will always bear the risk of ending up in a place where you chose to sacrifice game play in order to keep the income flowing. After all, game developers will want a return on their investment."
"Scrolls is a 'Collectible card game,' and as such it will never be 100% balanced without removing the 'Collectible'-part from the genre, which I would not want to do, as collecting scrolls is a key feature of the game. Having said that, I truly believe that Scrolls offers a great set of tools for playing the game without having to spend anything more than its initial cost. I believe this, because that is the way we want to design the game."
So yes, no pay-to-win shenanigans here. Now you need only worry if the game turns out to be even a tenth as addictive as Minecraft. I mean, I'm still paying off shady back alley folks after my fifth grade Pokemon TCG days. I've been clean for so many years. But, you know, one Scrolls booster pack can't hurt, right? Just one! Just... one .