The patch went live November 24th as per this post on their official site
There is of course a premium membership available. The differences between free and premium are outlined on their site. The game has lasted two years which is amazing to me as I have tried TWICE to give it a shot but just didn't get "it".
Perhaps this post on the game's forums sums it up?
It's a real tribute to the incompetence of the MMO gaming industry that POTBS is the only game that has really good ship combat.
And no, don't even bring up EVE. Of all the positive things to say about EVE, "good ship combat mechanics" is not one of them.
STO is a distant second place on this one. The shield arcs and 3-D combat were good but the over-reliance on magic abilities and arcade style speed did not appeal to many Star Trek fans.
DAOC does deserve an honorable mention for at least having large, sensible outdoor combat.
The latest WAR patch notes actually look really good but their initial design was unforgivably stupid.
Anyway, POTBS as a "classic"? I guess. In PC game terms, anything over 2 years old is either a classic or in the garbage bin.
edit: Oh wait, how could I forget Planetside? Now there was a game with some epic PvP combat. And maybe Battleground Europe, depending on how you feel about realistic simulators.
Notice Darkfall never makes the mention on any MMO site? That is because it is shit. Like Shadowbane. To be forgotten in the morass of failed MMO's.