Pre-order Star Wars: The Old Republic and you'll get 'early access' to the game.
That was the confirmed deal, but the specifics were left unclear. Now BioWare community man Stephen Reid has sought to bring us all up to speed.
Posting via the game's official forums, he explained that Early Access will be granted on a first-come-first-serve basis determined by when you redeemed your pre-order code (so you should do that sharp-ish).
Here's the full lowdown in Reid's words:
Nothing has actually changed since we announced pre-order access in July.
Everyone who pre-orders Star Wars: The Old Republic and redeems their pre-order code will get Early Game Access. Those who do this will be able to download the game client and play the game ahead of the release date.
While we aren't ready to talk about the exact timing of when Early Game Access starts (that depends on a number of factors including Game Testing and pre-order numbers), we'll announce that before the start date. Our planning accounts for allowing people to download the client before the Early Game Access start date, too.
However, when you actually gain admittance to Early Game Access will be determined in a first-come, first-served manner dependent on when you redeemed your pre-order code.
While we understand all of you want to be in Early Game Access on Day One, part of the point of a head start program like this one is to allow us to gradually ramp up the population of our servers so that on launch day, the general play experience is as pleasant as possible. While we're going to be allowing a lot of people into Early Game Access at regular intervals, we cannot allow everyone who pre-orders in at once. That would defeat the point of a gradual head start.
The next obvious question is "I pre-ordered on Day X, when do I get access?" While we cannot answer that for everyone, I will say (as I did in July) that those who pre-ordered early will be getting Early Game Access, well, earliest. At this point we still have pre-orders available and therefore, anyone who pre-orders will still gain Early Game Access, but as they're redeeming their code later, they'll get Early Game Access later. As I've said before the difference between 'early' and 'later' should be a matter of days, not weeks.