"They have more items than the rest of the players, that means they have an advantage."
In a traditional game, you're entirely correct. However, take everything you understand about traditional MMOs, and ignore that for a moment. There is no "gear race." No best in slot armor, no end-game bosses, no win conditions. You would be better off thinking of this game as a Survival game first, with thousands of people on the same server as me. In our private forums, we already (think we) know who one of the kings that bought into the $10,000 tier is. That player has a huge target on their back. Up-and-coming assassins' guilds, wannabe leaders, jealous ex-girlfriends all want to make sure that the king either loses their power or greases their palms. The pieces of land, mules, clothing, etc. that are being handed out in the lower tiers will have the same effect on those players owning those items, just on a smaller scale. Somebody out there wants the things that you have, and you're going to have to go the extra mile to protect your possessions. The point is that they aren't any better off than you are. Its the same reason why players that come into the world seven years after the game is released won't be at any kind of disadvantage. Simply because there is no real advantage. There are only players that are doing what they want to do, for now.
"Players with early access will know more about the world, which in itself is an advantage."
In whatever it is that they have focused their time and resources on, yes. That is an advantage. How would a new player learn how to play the game? This is a tricky one to answer, since we don't know if there will be a tutorial before a player jumps into the game. Teaching other players is a responsibility that will fall on the players. There is a handful of things that go into making sure players aren't totally selfish. The first is the family system. Players will have the choice to start a family, anybody in that family will pass down their skills (read: genetics) into their offspring. Even when the older members of the family teach the younger player, they will still knowledge in whatever it is they are teaching them. Much like I am learning even more about the game right now when I try to come up with ways to explain it. There are plenty of other family-based mechanics that promote them working together, which provides an incentive for players to make sure everybody in their family is strong. Then we have cities and towns. Each player will likely start in a city, the same place where the family lives. Here we get more into politics so I won't dwell on too much. But essentially, if the people in the kingdom aren't happy, then the leadership will know about it. Hopefully through democratic methods, before their heads are on a stake. Whether its 90 days or 4 years, these mechanics are going to be how a player learns how to play the game in the earlier portions.
Hopefully, that clears it up. All of the mechanics in the game work in tandem with each other to fix any issues they would have on their own. So I can totally understand how missing a couple pieces of the puzzle is what is confusing a lot of people. But I reiterate any question you come up with, Soulbound has heard them and have an answer to it.
The game becomes Pay to Win when we see a cash shop selling items that offer a bonus, improvements etc. Or starts selling currency. If the game becomes covered in microtransactions as well. However, we have been assured that this will not be the cause.For now, it's one nice guy, who happened to buy a personal vacation in a game. Everything he's bought can and most likely will be taken away in the future. It's called the dance of dynasties. I bought in as a Count. Sure I can buy Duke right now. I didn't because I felt Count was better for me.
Calling the game Pay to Win.......when it's clearly not...because one player has more money than you in real life... Is honestly petty. CoE is not a traditional MMO. It's not WoW. Stop judging a game that's has told you it's not traditional as a traditional MMO. At least put forth the effort to think outside of the box.
Just my 2 cents.